Christianity 201

February 11, 2019

Redeeming the Irredeemable

Today we’re back for the second time at across Awakened to Grace, which features the writing of Joy Bollinger. Click the title below to read at source and then explore other articles on her site.

May 8, 2013

John The Baptist: A Character Study

Jeremy is the author of a now inactive blog, Serving The Purposes of God In My Generation. Love that name. This November, 2012 post is the last item there; the original title was A Life Devoted.

 He never did a miracle, but…

He was a ‘Soul-winner’
People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan river. Matthew 3:5-6

He was filled with the Spirit
… and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. Luke 1:15

He was humble 
After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. Mark 1:7

He pointed to Jesus 
The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, ‘Look the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ John 1:29

He knew who he was
‘Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you a prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ Finally they said, ‘Who are you?…’ John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, ‘I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, make straight the way for the Lord.’ John 1:21-23

He was holy
But… John rebuked Herod… because of his marriage to Herodias, his brothers wife, and all the other evil things he had done. Luke 3:19

He fasted and prayed
They said to him, ‘John’s disciples often fast and pray…’ Luke 5:33

He preached fearlessly
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?’ Matthew 3:7

He answered the world’s questions
‘What should we do then?’ the crowd asked. John answered… Even tax collectors came to be baptized. ‘Teacher’ they asked ‘What should we do’… then some soldiers asked him ‘What should we do?’ Luke 3:10-14

He was imprisoned 
Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison… Matthew 14:3

He finished his race 
He ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in prison…. Matthew 14:10

Reference: Notes taken from talk by B.Varghese, 08.11.12.

March 26, 2012

A Legacy That Lives On

Our non-stop tour of the Christian internet today lands on Jonathan Stone’s blog StoneWritten.  I can’t think of a better place to begin the week than with this piece, originally titled Legacy.  (Remember, you’re encouraged to read these daily posts at their original source.*)

Everyone wants to leave a legacy. Everyone wants to be remembered for something, and to leave something in the hands of those who come after them. Teddy Roosevelt used the slogan, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Likewise, we all hope to leave some sort of lasting impact. We do not necessarily want to have to shout it out to people. We just want it to pack some punch in the end. Perhaps we would hope others would adapt Roosevelt’s slogan in describing us after we are gone. Something like, “He lived quietly and left a long shadow.”

One person from Scripture that comes to mind when thinking of legacies is Elijah. Calling fire down from Heaven is kind of an automatic qualifier for leaving a legacy (1 Kings 18:38). As if that were not enough he left earth on a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11). The Old Testament ends with a promise that God would send Elijah back (Mal 4:5-6). John the Baptist is compared to Elijah (Luke 1:17). And Elijah appeared to Jesus along with Moses on the so-called Mount of Transfiguration (Matt 17:3). After that impressive resume James felt the need to remind all of us that Elijah actually was human (James 5:17).

It is hard to imagine a much more impressive legacy. However, there is one aspect of his legacy that is often overlooked. We are probably all aware that after Elijah’s fire-calling victory on Mt. Carmel he got scared and ran for his life into the wilderness. He eventually ended up in a cave on the side of Mt. Horeb. There was a wind and an earthquake and a fire, but God was not in any of those. God was in a still small voice. And after a few words were exchanged God instructed Elijah to go back and do three specific things:

The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 1 Kings 19:15-17 

So, Elijah was commanded to go and anoint three people–Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha. How long do you think it took Elijah to do those three things? Okay, okay. That is a trick question. It is a trick question because Elijah never completed the commission that God gave him to do. In fact, he only did one of the three things that God instructed him to do. That is pretty amazing coming from this prophet that left a very long shadow. I have seen a lot of different grading scales. But in every grading scale that I have ever seen thirty three percent is failing. Elijah? Failing? What gives?

The one thing that Elijah did do was anoint Elisha as prophet. They spent a lot of time together, and when Elijah was taken up into Heaven Elisha received a double portion of Elijah’s anointing. Scripture records Elisha performing exactly twice as many miracles as Elijah. And interestingly enough, Scripture also records Elisha eventually fulfilling the rest of that commission that had been given to Elijah. That is, Elisha sees that Hazael and Jehu are anointed as kings. Hmmm. What does that mean?

I often get the opportunity to speak with other ministers about their ministries. Sometimes I am speaking with elders who are seeing their ministry wind down. Sometimes I am speaking with peers who are in the middle of their ministries, and often still struggling to see their vision come to pass. Sometimes I am speaking with young ministers-in-training who are still dreaming about what God might be calling them to do. But this is not restricted to licensed ministers. For all of us have a ministry, a calling and commission from God. Each of us is trying to be faithful to fulfill those things that we understand God to have commanded us to do.

But when I look at Elijah I realize that most of the visions that I have ever heard are way too small. I have heard a lot of visions that sound big because they include some pretty big things. I have heard visions that look to impact entire nations. Visions that require enough money to run a small government. Visions that have the potential to change the destiny of entire people groups. Visions that could bring about global revival. Despite the grandeur of all of these visions it seems that all of them are limited in one critical way. That is, all of the visions assume that the vision will take place in the lifetime of the one casting the vision.

Consider Elijah. And then consider this. If the vision/purpose that you understand God to have for your life is limited to the number of days that you will walk this earth, then your vision is too small.

Elijah understood that out of the three things that God instructed him to do one of them was mission-critical. If nothing else he had to pour his vision into the prophet who would succeed him. Elijah was not the only great one in Scripture to realize this spiritual truth. Abraham needed Isaac, and the rest of his progeny, for the promise to be fulfilled. Moses needed Joshua to get the Israelites into the promised land. David needed Solomon to get the temple built. Jesus needed His disciples to establish the church. Paul needed Timothy to strengthen the foundation that he had laid.

I worry that we have gotten this almost completely backwards. We hear the three commands and put Elisha last on the list. We seek out Hazael and Jehu, when we should be pouring into Elisha. We are unwilling to accept that our life is like a mist that appears for a while and then suddenly vanishes (James 4:14). Consider your purpose today. And then ask yourself, “What changes if I realize that God intends to do none of this in my lifetime, but in the lifetime of those who I pour the vision into?”

~Jonathan Stone


*Reader mini-survey:

Just curious… Have blog posts here resulted in you making the author’s blog part of your daily or weekly routine?  My hope is that in introducing you to a wide variety of Christian devotional and Bible-teaching bloggers, some of them will resonate with you to the point you bookmark their sites and/or subscribe, making their writing a regular habit. 

And remember, while C201 is a repository of some great Christian writing, please read the blog posts at source.