Christianity 201

February 3, 2019

Worship Quotations

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Today something different: We’re combining our recurring quotations series with our weekly Sunday worship series. These were chosen on the basis of the thoughts that they offered, and also to present a variety of writers. They are in no particular order.

“I need to worship because without it I can forget that I have a big God beside me and live in fear. I need to worship because without it I can forget his calling and begin to live in a spirit of self-preoccupation. I need to worship because without it I lose a sense of wonder and gratitude and plod through life with blinders on. I need worship because my natural tendency is toward self-reliance and stubborn independence.”John Ortberg

“When you consider all of the words used for worship in both the Old and New Testaments, and when you put the meanings together, you find that worship involves both attitudes (awe, reverence, respect) and actions (bowing, praising, serving). It is both a subjective experience and an objective activity. Worship is not an unexpressed feeling, nor is it an empty formality. True worship is balanced and involves the mind, the emotions, and the will. It must be intelligent; it must reach deep within and be motivated by love; and it must lead to obedient actions that glorify God.” — Warren Weirsbe

“…Day and night they never stop saying: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” Revelation 4:8

“I can safely say, on the authority of all that is revealed in the Word of God, that any man or woman on this earth who is bored and turned off by worship is not ready for heaven.” A.W. Tozer

“It’s not out of a compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are. The delight is incomplete until it is expressed. In the same way, we delight to praise God because our praise of him not merely expresses, but it completes our enjoyment.” – C. S. Lewis

“An unschooled man who knows how to meditate upon the Lord has learned far more than the man with the highest education who does not know how to meditate.” Charles Stanley

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” – John 4: 23-24

“Many Spirit-filled authors have exhausted the thesaurus in order to describe God with the glory He deserves. His perfect holiness, by definition, assures us that our words can’t contain Him. Isn’t it a comfort to worship a God we cannot exaggerate?” Francis Chan

“God directs his people not simply to worship but to sing his praises ‘before the nations.’ We are called not simply to communicate the Gospel to nonbelievers; we must also intentionally celebrate the Gospel before them.” Tim Keller

 The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught. Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.” – Isaiah 29: 13-14

“Worship has been misunderstood as something that arises from a feeling which ‘comes upon you,’ but it is vital that we understand that it is rooted in a conscious act of the will, to serve and obey the Lord Jesus Christ.”  — Graham Kendrick

“Forms and rituals do not produce worship, nor does the disuse of forms and rituals. We can use all the right techniques and methods, we can have the best possible liturgy, but we have not worshipped the Lord until Spirit touches spirit.” Richard J. Foster

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” – Hebrews 12: 28-29

“If your idea of God, if your idea of the salvation offered in Christ, is vague or remote, your idea of worship will be fuzzy and ill-formed. The closer you get to the truth, the clearer becomes the beauty, and the more you will find worship welling up within you. That’s why theology and worship belong together. The one isn’t just a headtrip; the other isn’t just emotion.”—N.T. Wright

“Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing Him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he comes in the clouds of heaven.” – John Wesley

 


Sources:

August 12, 2016

3 Types of Righteousness

Today, we’re paying a return visit to Wade Burleson at Istoria Ministries. Click the title below to read at source.

Imputed, Imparted, and Imbedded Righteousness

Righteousness is a big, important word that  conveys one of the life’s most vital concepts.

The Bible declares that God is righteous.  “O LORD, God of Israel, You are righteous!” (Ezra 9:15). “The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion” (Psalms 116:5). The LORD is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made” (Psalms 145:17).

The Hebrew word translated righteousness has as its root the meaning of “right” or “straight.” The Old English word used to translate the Hebrew word was “oughtness.” God is right. God is straight. God is as He ought to be.

To be righteous is to be right. It is to be a person who is not crooked in character or conduct. However, because of sin in all of us, there is “no one righteous, no not one.” (Romans 3:10). Nobody is as we ought to be. We are not righteous in character, and we are not holy in conduct. Holiness is but the outward expression of internal righteousness, and without holiness “no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrew 12:14).

How then, does a sinner become righteous in the eyes of God?

Imputed Righteousness

The word “impute” means to “credit to an account” of another. It is an accounting term. When God imputes righteousness, it means that God credits “righteousness” to the account of a sinner. How can I be seen by God as “righteous” when both God and I know that that I’m a sinner.

“This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:22).

God credits me with perfect righteousness when I believe in Christ. My trust (faith) is credited as righteousness to me” (Romans 4:22).

“I am found in Christ, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” (Philippians 3:9).

“For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17).

You are declared righteous by God through the gift of His righteousness given to all those with faith in Christ.

Imparted Righteousness

“Imparted righteousness” identifies the internal work of God when He regenerates those who trust in Christ. Believers in Christ become “partakers of the divine nature” (cf. 2 Peter 1:4). It is this principle of righteousness imparted to men in regeneration which is ever in conflict with the old Adamic nature.

It is critical, however, to maintain the distinction between the “imputed righteousness” of Christ which is the basis for justification and this “imparted righteousness” which may be seen as the basis for subsequent sanctification.

Imbedded Righteousness

For all you English majors out there, imbedded is a legitimate variant spelling of embedded.

To be imedded means “to fix into a surrounding mass; or to incorporate as an essential part or characteristic.” 

When something is imbedded, it cannot be removed. The characteristics of that which is imbedded are seen in the mass in which it is imbedded. For example, when red dye is imbedded into plastic, you have red plastic. When paint is imbedded into canvas, you have art. When righteousness is imbedded into a sinner, you have a person who begins to pursue what is right.

In essence, nobody has warrant to say they have been given the gift of imputed righteousness, and have in them the presence of imparted righteousness, until they life a life that shows evidence of imbedded righteousness. 

Nobody who knows Christ continues in their sin. We all sin. We who have received the righteousness of Christ have righteousness imbedded within us, and therefore, the characteristics of living right are always present – for we can’t help it.

It’s imbedded within our DNA as followers of Jesus.

July 5, 2016

Blessing: Favored by God

I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. – Genesis 12:3 NIV

blessingOver the weekend, I wrote a very short story at Thinking Out Loud about what I felt was unnecessary use of the word blessing. In the course of writing, I decided to investigate how Biblical dictionaries define the word.

In terms of reliability, my default choice was an entry from Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology as sourced at BibleStudyTools.com and partially reprinted below (their rather stern copyright statement prevented us from using it in full as I would have preferred):

God’s intention and desire to bless humanity is a central focus of his covenant relationships. For this reason, the concept of blessing pervades the biblical record. Two distinct ideas are present. First, a blessing was a public declaration of a favored status with God. Second, the blessing endowed power for prosperity and success. In all cases, the blessing served as a guide and motivation to pursue a course of life within the blessing.

The Old Testament Terms for blessing abound in the Old Testament, occurring over 600 times. The major terms are related to the word meaning “to kneel, ” since in earlier times one would kneel to receive a blessing…

…Three common themes are present in formal Old Testament blessings. First, the greater blesses the lesser, a fact picked up by the writer of Hebrews to demonstrate the superiority of Melchizedek to Abraham ( Heb 7:6-7 ). Second, the blessing is a sign of special favor that is intended to result in prosperity and success ( Deu 28:3-7 ). Third, the blessing is actually an invocation for God’s blessing: “May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful” ( Gen 28:3 )…

The New Testament The parallels between the Old and New Testament usages of blessing are striking. To be blessed is to be granted special favor by God with resulting joy and prosperity. In the New Testament, however, the emphasis is more on spiritual rather than on material blessings…

…In a general sense, the terms for blessing in the New Testament are used to designate that one is favored by God. Included among these are Jesus ( Mark 11:9-10 ); children ( Mark 10:13-16 ); Mary ( Luke 1:42 Luke 1:48 ); the disciples ( Luke 24:50 ); those who “have not seen and yet have believed” ( John 20:29 ); and those who endure trials ( James 1:12 ; 5:11 ). As in the Old Testament, when these words are ascribed to God they are rendered “praise” ( Rom 1:25 ; 9:5 ; 2 Cor 11:31 )…

William E. Brown

The website CompellingTruth.org provided more background:

Perhaps the meaning of the word blessing can be most accurately understood when these three etymological meanings—blood consecration, praise, and good fortune—are taken in concert. For example, in Genesis 12:1-3, God makes a promise to Abram, saying, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” God is promising good fortune, and a good future, to the descendants of Abram, and He is saying that others will gain good fortune through him. It can be said that the nation of Israel, and all who believe in the God of Israel, are consecrated with blood—the blood of Jesus Christ—through faith. The Hebrew word barak means literally “to kneel” and when used in this context, it indicates a relationship between man, who adores God by kneeling, and God, who benefits men with His presence.

One of the best known blessing in the Bible is the Aaronic blessing, as found in Numbers 6: 22-27. Since this is quite familiar to many of you in its original form, here is how Eugene Peterson translates it:

22-23 God spoke to Moses: “Tell Aaron and his sons, This is how you are to bless the People of Israel. Say to them,

24 God bless you and keep you,

25 God smile on you and gift you,

26 God look you full in the face
    and make you prosper.

27 In so doing, they will place my name on the People of Israel—

I will confirm it by blessing them.”

 


Some background about today’s graphic image. It was found at the blog So What Faith, by Greg Smith, where he describes an unusual blessing:

In the April 16, 2014 edition of The Christian Century, a challenging blessing appears (p.9).  It was originally given to Brennan Manning by his spiritual director, Larry Hine, on the occasion of his ordination.

May all of your expectations be frustrated,
May all of your plans be thwarted,
May all of your desires be withered into nothingness,
That you may experience the powerlessness and poverty of a child and can sing and dance in the love of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

 

 

April 29, 2016

Not Conformed, But Transformed

For today’s thoughts, we’re showcasing a devotional site that is new to us, StudyLight.org and in particular two word studies based on the same passage from Today’s Word with Skip Moen. For those of you who like to dig a little bit deeper, this is a webpage you should plan on returning to often. Clicking this link will take you the page, which shows the reading for that day, but you use a calendar to navigate to other days’ devotionals.

“Today’s Word” with Skip Moen

“and do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2

Conformed – The word Paul uses for “conformed” is suschematizesthe. A mouthful, for sure. But if we break it down, you will see parts you already know. Sus comes from sum. Of course, it means “with” in the sense of added together. Schematizo is the root verb. We get “schematic” a plan or diagram. Because it’s a verb, the sense is “to make according to a design” or “to fashion like a pattern”. So, we have the meaning. Now we need the tense. That will tell us the “who” and the “when” of this verb. It is plural (all of you), imperative (a command), present tense (an action to do right now), passive (do it to yourself). So, “do not be conformed” is really “every moment, don’t make yourself into a person that is patterned after the world”.

My wife has been sewing since she was a child. In her sewing room are many envelopes with patterns in them. When she uses a skirt pattern, even if the material is different in each skirt, the design follows the same pattern. This is what Paul has in mind. He is telling us that the world has a pattern. Even if we make things look different on the outside, that inner pattern will dictate the shape of our lives. Sometimes we aren’t even aware of that design because it has actually formed the way that we think. Let me give you some examples: Do you place a higher value on gaining knowledge than you do on submitting to God’s wisdom?

Perhaps you will say, “Oh, no. I don’t do that. I want to serve God’s purposes”. But see how you respond to these implications. How often have you shortened your time studying God’s word so that you could get to a training class for work? How many times have you missed a Bible study because you got too busy with ordinary things? Do you tell your children that the way to success is by getting a college degree? How much emphasis do you and your family put on understanding God’s precise purpose for your daily life or do you “assume” it while you rush to get to work or school?

Do you measure achievements according to the standards of your career instead of according to God’s revelation?

I have many college degrees. They are displayed on my wall. Do you think that they make me a better person? When you meet someone, do you judge him or her by their accomplishments before you know if they have submitted their lives to God? If someone asks you what you do, is God’s purpose part of your answer? How many times have you turned down a business deal that looked good just because the other party was not a believer and had motivations that were not in the Christian pattern? How often have you measured your success by the number of converts, the size of the choir, the people in the pews or the budget for the building?

Patterns run deep.


Transformed – In Greek, metamorphousthe. Another big word, but this one we have in English. Metamorphosis. To change from one thing into another. Caterpillar to butterfly. The two words that make up this concept literally mean to move from one place to another. It is the same word that is used to describe Jesus when he was transfigured from the earthly human form into the divine form of glory in that brief moment on the mountain. Much better than caterpillar to butterfly. From this earthly body to a shape fit for glory.

Isn’t that what we want? We want to leave behind this world of toil and care. We want to quit the tears, sorrows and struggles. We want the shape of glory, the everlasting peace of God’s presence. To be really free. Just writing these words brings tears to my eyes. There is something in my soul that longs to be released, to be reunited with my Creator.

This word is so much more than the natural process of becoming a butterfly. It is a divine process of the Holy Spirit as I am transformed into the image of Christ. There is nothing on earth like it.

And the most amazing thing is that it is happening right now. We don’t to wait until we die to get it started. It won’t be finished until death, but we are already being moved from one place to another right now. The trials of this world don’t disturb me as much as they used to. The sorrows find comfort. The pains find fellowship. My purpose looks forward. God is changing the shape of my pattern.

But there is something important hidden in the verb tense. Paul is saying we have to do something. We don’t just sit back and let God work. This is active engagement. Transformation requires participation. Look for the new pattern. Let it sink in. Then, just do it!


“Today’s Word” devotional, from Skip Moen . © 2008 is used by permission. All rights reserved.

March 19, 2016

Breath of God

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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The writers of scripture constantly search for imagery and metaphors to help us understand our God, and yet I suspect none of these comes even remotely close to a complete picture of who God is. Today we pay a return visit to Leon Dean at the blog Come See A Man. Click the title below to read at source.

God’s breath: how powerful?

A few days ago, I was chatting with some buddies about the Bible and we came upon the topic of the breath of God. I walked away from that conversation with a deeper appreciation of the sheer power of God’s breath. God is omnipotent. We are not. I can’t do much with my breath than spread a few dandelion seeds around my lawn.

God can do much more with His breath. Let’s look at a few examples from the Bible:

1. With His breath, God created man.

Gen. 2:7 – “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

Adam was formed out of the dust of the ground, but he was just a lifeless piece of earth until God breathed into him. When God breathed into him, Adam became a living soul. Adam became a human, the most complicated and sophisticated of all God’s creatures.

2. With His breath, God wrote the Bible.

2 Timothy 3:16 – “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,”

Physically, it seems that Bible was written by more than 40 different authors over a period of more than 1,500 years. But in reality, the Bible was written by God exhaling. Because God breathed out the Bible, there are deeper spiritual realities behind the physical words on its pages.

3. With His breath, God destroys His enemies.

The Bible contains numerous cases of God defeating His enemies simply by breathing on them. For example, Job 4:9 speaks of the consequences for those who plow iniquity: “By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of his anger they are consumed.”

The most poignant example of victory by breath, however, is still to come. 2 Thessalonians 2:8 describes the fate of the man of lawlessness (Antichrist): “Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth… Antichrist will fight with all his might and all his armies, but he will be slain by nothing more than a gentle puff from the the Lord’s mouth. Kind of anticlimactic.

4. With His breath, God gave us the Holy Spirit.

John 20:22 – “And when He had said this, He breathed into them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Of all the things that God has done and will do with His breath, this is my favorite. After the resurrection, when the Lord breathed on His disciples, they didn’t just smell the fish He was preparing for them. Through the Lord’s breath, the disciples actually received the Holy Spirit. Today, it is the same. The Lord desires to breathe the Holy Spirit into people. All we have to do is open up and receive.


Today we end with the classic hymn Breathe On Me Breath of God. After considering various versions we went with something traditional.

 

May 20, 2014

Only By Grace

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So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel by the power of God who has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time who has saved us and called us to a holy life — not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. II Tim. 1:8-10 NIV

Today’s devotional is another in our series of worship songs. You’re encouraged to use the menu in the left margin to explore other songs we’ve considered here.

The song highlights that not only does the grace of God save us, but it is by the grace of God that we are acceptable to enter into his presence. A 1949 text, Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhoff (accessed at Bible Researcher) states:

The word “grace” is not always used in the same sense in Scripture, but has a variety of meanings. In the Old Testament we have the word chen (adj. chanun), from the root chanan. The noun may denote gracefulness or beauty, Prov. 22:11; 31:30, but most generally means favour or good-will. The Old Testament repeatedly speaks of finding favour in the eyes of God or of man. The favour so found carries with it the bestowal of favours or blessings. This means that grace is not an abstract quality, but is an active, working principle, manifesting itself in beneficent acts, Gen. 6:8; 19:19; 33:15; Ex. 33:12; 34:9; I Sam 1:18; 27:5; Esth. 2:7. The fundamental idea is, that the blessings graciously bestowed are freely given, and not in consideration of any claim or merit.

The New Testament word charis, from chairein, “to rejoice,” denotes first of all a pleasant external appearance, “loveliness,” “agreeableness,” “acceptableness,” and has some such meaning in Luke 4:22; Col. 4:6. A more prominent meaning of the word, however, is favour or good-will, Luke 1:30; 2:40, 52; Acts 2:47; 7:46; 24:27; 25:9. It may denote the kindness of beneficence of our Lord, II Cor. 8:9, or the favour manifested or bestowed by God, II Cor. 9:8 (referring to material blessings); I Pet. 5:10. Furthermore, the word is expressive of the emotion awakened in the heart of the recipient of such favour, and thus acquires the meaning “gratitude” or “thankfulness,” Luke 4:22; I Cor. 10:30; 15:57; II Cor. 2:14; 8:16; I Tim. 1:12.

In most of the passages, however, in which the word charis is used in the New Testament, it signifies the unmerited operation of God in the heart of man, affected through the agency of the Holy Spirit. While we sometimes speak of grace as an inherent quality, it is in reality the active communication of divine blessings by the inworking of the Holy Spirit, out of the fulness of Him who is “full of grace and truth,” Rom. 3:24; 5:2, 15; 17:20; 6:1; I Cor. 1:4; II Cor. 6:1; 8:9; Eph. 1:7; 2:5, 8; 3:7; I Pet. 3:7; 5:12.

More resources on the topic of grace are available at Bible Study Tools.

The verse I opened with echos in the song lyric, “Not by our human endeavor.”  Although we’ve studied it before, I want to end with a similar sentiment that Paul writes to Titus, and  to preserve the phrase that occurs in the first verse, I want to use the KJV:

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;

That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.   Titus 3:5-7

 

song lyrics by Gerrit Gustafson, music by Don Moen; another version on this video.

 

April 16, 2013

Slave: A Bible Word Study

Lots of text today, but you need to click through to read it. This is from the blog of Clay Gentry where it appeared under the title Slave: The Christian’s Identity in Christ. Note the difference between the way the word was understood then as compared with today.


I recently presented a lesson to a small group on the slave metaphor used in the New Testament that describes Christians as Slaves of Christ. Below is my PowerPoint outline from that presentation. I did not intend for this to be an exhaustive study. Rather I hope that it will wet ones apatite to study this rich metaphor even further.

Several Metaphors Used to Describe Christians:

  • Sheep,
  • Soldiers,
  • Athletes,
  • Brothers, and
  • Workers.
  • However, Slaves is the most common…

Two Primary Greek Words Establish Christians as Slaves:

(1) kyrios: “master and Lord.” To confess Jesus as your “Lord” is to say He is your “master” and “owner” and you are His slave.

(2) doulos: “slave.” The Primary word used in the NT to describe Christians as slaves of Christ (124x). For the most part it is missing from the pages KJV and to a certain extent the NKJV, ESV, NASB and HCSB. Often times doulos, or its congugents is simply translated servant, or serve. In this lesson well jump around between various translations to show slave language.

American Verses Roman Slavery:

(1) Roman Slavery:

  • Non Racially Based,
  • Encompassed All Professions,
  • Everywhere in the Empire,
  • Hope of Freedom

 (2) American Slavery:

  • Race Based,
  • Primarily Agrarian in Nature,
  • Geographically Limited to the South,
  • Little/No Hope of Freedom

(3) Similarities Between the Two

  • Exclusive Ownership by the Master,
  • Complete Submission to the Master,
  • Total Dependence on the Master.
  • These are true of physical and/or spiritual slaves

Slaves of God in the Old Testament

Slaves in Jesus’ Teaching:

(1) An Element in 13 Parables (Here’s a sampling):

 (2) An Aspect of His Commands:

Slaves of Christ in the Epistles:

(1) Self Descriptions:

(2) Teachings Concerning Slavery:

(3) Various Verses:

Slaves of Christ in Revelation:

Suggested Reading:

February 10, 2013

Spurgeon: Parallels Between Grace and Rain

This was posted in September at the blog Grace Guy, and turned up on my screen just yesterday.  In many denominational circles, C. H. Spurgeon is a most-quoted classic author; you can read more about him here.

Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder; To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein there is no man; To satisfy the desolate and waste ground; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth? Job 38:25-27

God challenges man to compare with his Maker even in the one matter of the rain. Can he create it? Can he send a shower upon the desert, to water the lone herbs which else would perish in the burning heat? No, he would not even think of doing such a thing. That generous act comes of the Lord alone.

We shall work out a parallel between grace and rain.

I. GOD ALONE GIVES RAIN, AND THE SAME IS TRUE OF GRACE.

  • We say of rain and of grace, God is the sole Author of it.
  • He devised and prepared the channel by which it comes to earth. He hath “divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters.” The Lord makes a way for grace to reach his people.
  • He directs each drop, and gives each blade of grass its own drop of dew, to every believer his portion of grace.
  • He moderates the force, so that it does not beat down or drown the tender herb. Grace comes in its own gentle way. Conviction, enlightenment, etc., are sent in due measure.
  • He holds it in his power. Absolutely at his own will does God bestow either rain for the earth, or grace for the soul.

II. RAIN FALLS IRRESPECTIVE OF MEN, AND SO DOES GRACE.

  • Grace waits not man’s observation. As the rain falls where no man is, so grace courts not publicity.
  • Nor his cooperation. It ”tarries not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men” (Mic. 5:7).
  • Nor his prayers. Grass calls not for rain, yet it comes. ”I am found of them that sought me not” (Isa. 65:1).
  • Nor his merits. Rain falls on the waste ground.
  • “Ah, grace, into unlikeliest hearts, It is thy wont to come; The glory of thy light to find; In darkest spots a home.”

III. RAIN FALLS WHERE WE MIGHT LEAST HAVE EXPECTED IT.

  • It falls where there is no trace of former showers, even upon the desolate wilderness: so does grace enter hearts which had hitherto been unblessed, where great need was the only plea which rose to heaven (Isa. 35:7).
  • It falls where there seems nothing to repay the boon. Many hearts are naturally as barren as the desert (Isa. 35:6).
  • It falls where the need seems insatiable, “to satisfy the desolate.” Some cases seem to demand an ocean of grace, but the Lord meets the need; and his grace falls where the joy and glory are all directed to God by grateful hearts. Twice we are told that the rain falls “where no man is.” When conversion is wrought of the Lord, no man is seen. The Lord alone is exalted.

IV. THIS RAIN IS MOST VALUED BY LIFE.

  • The rain gives joy to seeds and plants in which there is life. Budding life knows of it; the tenderest herb rejoices in it. So is it with those who begin to repent, who feebly believe, and thus are just alive.
  • The rain causes development. Grace also perfects grace. Buds of hope grow into strong faith. Buds of feeling expand into love. Buds of desire rise to resolve. Buds of confession come to open avowal. Buds of usefulness swell into fruit.
  • The rain causes health and vigour of life. Is it not so with grace?
  • The rain creates the flower with its colour and perfume, and God is pleased. The full outgrowth of renewed nature comes of grace, and the Lord is well pleased therewith.
  • Let us acknowledge the sovereignty of God as to grace.
  • Let us cry to him for grace.
  • Let us expect him to send it, though we may feel sadly barren, and quite out of the way of the usual means of grace.

~ Charles Spurgeon

February 8, 2013

The Sea Was No More

The Sea

Appropriately enough, today’s study is from the blog Cindy By The Sea. That sounds so relaxing right now, doesn’t it?  This is her third selection at C201 — see below for other links — and appeared recently at her blog under the title And There Was No More Sea.

And, I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and, there was no more sea.”  Revelation 21:1

No more sea! Can you imagine that! For those of us who live on or near the ocean, it’s a hard concept to imagine. No more sea. But, that’s what the Bible says.

With three-quarters of the earth made up of water, it’s hard to imagine life without these beautiful and petulant bodies of water; a particularly disappointing thought to those of us who enjoy swimming, surfing, fishing, sailing on or just sitting beach side along one of their beautiful shores.

So, why, no more sea?

I was talking to my daughter Seven Stars the other day, when she brought the subject to my attention. For some reason, she had been giving it some serious thought and had a number of insights with which to share with me.  After our discussion, I suddenly understood, why, there will be no more sea. Something I had never really understood or thought much about before.

The Bible has a lot to say about water – both rivers and seas. And, there seems to be a clearly defined differentiation between the two.  For you will notice, while there is no more sea in the new heaven and earth, there is a river. A crystal clear river that flows from the throne of God.

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the lamb.” Revelation 22:1

Now, why might this be, rivers, but, no seas?

Let’s look at a few examples.

Moses was drawn out of the water in a basket which was floated on top of the waters of the Red Sea.

Jesus walked on the water at the sea of Galilee.

Noah’s ark was lifted up and floated on the waters, which covered the earth.

Where does Leviathan reside?  In the sea.

Where does the beast of Revelation rise up from?  The sea.

Do you see a pattern developing? There appears to be a clearly defined difference in the Bible between that which is in the sea  from that which is on the sea?  A difference, which, I believe is key to understanding, why, in heaven, there will be no sea.

The Abyss

There was a movie by this name a few years ago, The Abyss.  The abyss referring to the deepest, darkest part of the sea. But, in the Bible it is a word which refers to the bottomless pit, the underworld, the deepest part of the ocean or hell. This is the place where in Jude 1:6,7 the angels who left their first estate are held in chains. And, it is the sea that is the burial place of the wicked, who died in Noah’s flood, as well as the Egyptians who pursued Moses and the Israelites as they fled Egypt.

It is against this backdrop that we see and understand the importance of Jesus walking on the water in Matthew 14:22-33. For in walking on the water, Jesus demonstrated his power not only over nature but, more importantly over the sea itself.  For to place feet on is to claim dominion. And, in this instance, Jesus clearly demonstrates his power over the sea and over everything in and under it, including the abyss.

But, rivers are something else. Rivers begin high in the mountains (mountain heights are always synonymous with the dwelling place of God).  And, streams like God’s grace flow downward until they reach the hills and valleys below providing life to all living things as they rush along their course.  Jesus was baptized in the Jordan river and it was this same river that Joshua and the Israelites passed over in order to come into the promised land.

Yes, the sea teems with life and, we glorify God for his stunning creation. But, for all their beauty, they will not be found in heaven – for nothing sin stained will  – and while, the sea in and of itself is not evil, from what we are told in scripture, those found within the confines of her deepest regions are …..

“In that day, the Lord will punish with his sword — his fierce, great and powerful sword, Leviathan the gliding serpent, Leviathan the coiling serpent; he will slay the monster of the sea.”   Isaiah 27:1

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, they shall prosper who love thee” Psalm 122:6

Watching and waiting with YOU for the soon return of Jesus!   ~ Cindy

Previous articles here at C201  from Cindy By The Sea:

October 2010 — Two Headlines, Two Choices (The Dividing  Line)
June 2011 — After That He Took The Cup
April 2012 — Zombies In The Bible

Also, click through to the original link for this story to see a reader comment with a different interpretation of what is meant by sea in this verse.  There is a lot more depth you can get into on this particular word study; as you begin to explore more references it keeps getting more interesting!

December 13, 2012

The Yoke’s On You

Back in June we introduced the blog ministry of Scott Daniels at The Rest That Works. Today’s post appeared there a few weeks ago under the title, Yoking around with Jesus

 You’re gonna have to serve somebody.
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord,
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.
~ Bob Dylan

   
       Not to say that we’re a bunch of cattle, but the yoke thing is growing on me (a typical Jesus paradox).

        I knew the yoke was often used in the Bible to talk about servitude and oppression, but before researching for the rest that works, I wasn’t very familiar with it as a positive image other than when Jesus used it in Matthew 11:28-30:

“Come to me . . . Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me . . . For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Turns out, the image is common in rabbinic teaching, both from Jesus’ day and ever since. One popular teaching is: “Whoever takes upon himself the yoke of the Torah (The Judaic Law), they remove from him the yoke of government and the yoke of worldly concerns, and whoever breaks off the yoke of the Torah, they place on him the yoke of government and the yoke of worldly concerns” (Avot 3:5). According to this teaching, it’s one or the other—the ways of God or of the world, the yoke of fear or the yoke of Divine Love. As Bob Dylan says, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna serve somebody.

Jesus Teaching Yoke Is EasySo it’s very interesting that Jesus used the image to talk about rest — it’s such a contrast, even with much of Judaism. He was standing within Jewish tradition but saying that his work leads to relief from both the ways of the world and a burdensome experience of religious Law—and that’s exactly what I have experienced by aligning with him through the rest that works. Aligning with his “yoke” frees me to flow with Divine Love. It has the opposite effect of what one expects from the image (servitude and labor).

Jesus was saying many things in using the yoke image: First, he was saying, “Do what it takes to come into alignment with me and Divine Love. It will take some effort, but doing so will free you internally. You’ll learn to keep the conditional ways of the world where they belong—in the world. This will free you to work in a whole new way.” Second, he was saying that as we learn to settle into God’s love with him and work from there, we’ll finally experience a sense of relief inside that the ways of the world or dogmatic religion cannot give—peace that passes human understanding. There is a precious gift involved. There is a pearl of great price.

By definition, condition-based ways of doing things simply do not work to give what we really want—the inner peace and meaning found in being loved and loving unconditionally with God. When we align with and settle into unconditional love, we are freed to move freely and lightly in the world without being burdened inside with whether or not we “make the cut” or “are good enough.” We also become better able to free others from those conditions—- that’s love.

Almost everything in the world is conditional. That’s how things work in the world. It’s how society is organized. It’s how things are governed. Meet the conditions, and you’re in. Fail, and you’re out. Challenge them, and you’re threatened until you get back in line—back into the yoke of fear that governs most things in our world. It’s the cycle of how things work. We’re always moving in and out of the fears of that cycle, and until we come home to God’s unconditional love, those fears govern us inside. They govern our minds. They rule us. That’s just no fun. It’s a continual burden that wears our souls down.

It takes work to move into alignment with Divine Love, but it’s always worth it deep down inside. It feels so much better to feel an unconditionally loving spirit moving in us instead of fear, evaluations, accusations or threats. When those movements of spirit are dominant, we end up not liking or even respecting ourselves. We may be successful in the eyes of the world, but not our souls. We cannot be at peace inside when that is the case. We’re like the push-me-pull-you of Dr. Doolittle fame.

But there’s more at stake than just inner peace. We have so much more to offer others when we live in alignment with God’s love. The most loving thing we can do for others at any given time is to check our internal alignment and be moving with Divine Love. It’s for us, but not just for us. It’s for our world, starting with our families, friends, co-workers and neighbors—whoever we are with. For this is how the kingdom comes, heart to heart, one heart at a time.

Jesus’ invitation to enter the rest that works is a sweeping one. It’s a big deal. Coming into alignment with him and working with him in his “yoke” delivers us from fears and veiled threats, inside and out. But it does more than that. The discipline involved takes us beyond pie-in-the-sky hippie thinking. It’s not just about rest, but also what works. In this sense, it is hard work—checking our internal alignment as we go takes a lot of spiritual discipline. But the rewards of moving with Divine Love so exceed the rewards of any other way of living, there’s no question it’s worth it. Divine Love means so much to us that there’s no comparison with anything else. When we’re in the zone—feeling Divine, Creative Energy flowing in and out—we laugh at ourselves for ever valuing anything more.

Jesus’ way and truth really does set us free from the burdens that wear us down in the most spiritually serious ways. We need to work in the world, and want to, because there’s work well worth doing with our Creator who is creating out of Divine Love. We want to create good things, we want to keep our families safe, we want to do what’s right, but not because of threats, not because someone will get us if we don’t. We want to do what Love beckons us to do with God because it’s our innermost desire, for ourselves and for others. When we’re working in that zone, we know that we’re fulfilling out purpose on the planet. It feels right deep down inside, even if there is hard work involved. It’s work worth doing. In fact, it’s worth everything and our souls know it.

And that’s no yoke.

More power to you in escaping the yoke of fear and settling into the unforced rhythms of Divine Love with Jesus. He will work with you if you’ll let him. He’s saved me in ways I can’t even begin to explain—especially from myself. Just ask him for help and guidance and pay attention. Look to align with Divine Love and look for leads, inside and out. He’ll work with you from there.

November 17, 2012

Did God Reveal it To You, Or In You?

The beauty of scripture is that no small detail has been omitted and nothing has been included by accident. This discovery was taken from the blog of Baptist pastor Brad Whitt where it appeared under the title, The Location of Revelation.

“…to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles…” Galatians 1:16

Paul is describing for us the process of his personal salvation – the light of His Lord that he saw from heaven on the road to Damascus. In doing so he gives us a very unique insight regarding the location of that revelation. He tells us that it pleased God “to reveal His son in me.”

Why did he say “in me”? Why didn’t he say “to me”? Wasn’t the light that blinded him and arrested him on that dusty Damascus road an outer vision? Didn’t it stop him in his tracks with a brilliance that was brighter than any noonday sun? Didn’t it block the way to his old nature and cause his life to halt in the middle of its journey? Absolutely. Surely then, this was a vision of his Lord that was presented as a picture to his eye. Not at all. Because you see, no picture can only be a picture to the eye. A thing can only be revealed to me if it has first been revealed in me.

Are the beautiful mountains I am so blessed to see simply a picture that is presented only to my outward vision? Again, no. You see, there could in reality be no beauty without if there was not first revealed a sense of beauty within. Is the music that I hear only revealed to my ear? No, or I would always be deaf to its beauty. There would be no harmony without if there was not first a sense of harmony within. Such is it with the one described as “the fairest of ten thousand.’

I must confess. Many times I have secretly envied those who were permitted to look upon the bodily form, the physical person of Jesus. I have found myself jealous of those who were able to see the smile on His face, to hear the encouragement and comfort in His voice. Yet, wasn’t it those very ones of whom it was said, “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you.” So, in reality it was not the eye who saw the smile or the ear which heard the comfort. It was the heart, the life, the soul. It was the responsive spirit that was bearing witness with His Spirit. The open heart that ran out to meet its completion and found in Him the fulfillment of its salvation because it found in Him all that it ever desired.

That’s why God had to reveal His son in me. You see, I needed more than an audible voice, for I might mistake it for another. I needed more than to simply see handwriting in the clouds, because I might have been like a child who can’t read looking at letters in a book. I needed Him to reveal Himself in me.

You see, not even the most accurate description of a sunset could declare its splendor to one born blind, and likewise no description of Jesus could properly present His glory to a loveless soul. That’s why the Spirit of love must breathe into the heart the new sensation of loving, the new experience of being loved. He must unseal the soul’s eye, unclog the spiritual ear, so that the harmonies and symmetries of His creation might be revealed. It is only in His light that we will firstly and fully see light. Only when we are rooted and grounded in love will we be able to understand His love. That love, though revealed and familiar to all those who belong to Him, is still beyond our finite comprehension.

So, Paul says to you, “You will see the King in all of His glory and beauty when His glory and beauty is revealed in you.”

 

~Brad Whitt

Image source

November 3, 2012

Giving Your Best to God

Just as parts of the southern hemisphere are, I’m sure, switching to “summer time,” as it’s called in many places, we here in North American are changing from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time tomorrow morning. The graphic above infers that people who chronically arrive late for church may experience the horror of arriving early.

I don’t know why it is, but some people who would never for a moment consider arriving late for work think nothing of arriving late for church. We touched on this very briefly here once before, but I want to look at it more closely this time.

Maybe it’s because Christianity is all about grace, but we tend to have a rather casual approach to worship, to scriptures, and to God Himself. I’ve quoted this before: “It is said that of all the major religions of the world, Christians are the least acquainted with their own scriptures.” We hear stories of evangelical church buildings in disrepair, of ministry organizations that don’t return calls or emails, and of Sunday School teachers who don’t prepare their lessons, opting instead to ‘wing it’ each week.

While the idea that we should “give our best to God” is well known, it is not well practiced. The Bible tends not to talk about “best” so much, but adheres to the more agrarian language of “giving our firstfruits.”

Proverbs 3:9
Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops

This nomenclature is unfamiliar to most of us; but my first observation is to note that the NIV (and other translations) don’t treat this as an adjective followed by a plural noun (as in “first fruits”) but as an entity onto itself, as one word, “firstfruits.”

Related to this is the similarity in scripture to the concept of “firstborn.”

Psalm 105:36
Then he struck down all the firstborn in their land, the firstfruits of all their manhood.

Unfortunately today, there is a great cognitive distance from thinking of our firstborn children, to setting aside the first part of our “increase” (which today is mostly wages, but could be investment earnings or business transaction profits) to God. Our offspring are extremely personal, but the value of our firstfruits isn’t highly regarded.

In fact, we tend to look an opt-out wherever possible.

  • Should I tithe on the gross income or the net income?
  • Isn’t tithing an Old Testament concept?
  • Is God interested in excellence, or does he just want our hearts?
  • Isn’t requiring weekly church attendance more about law than grace?

There’s a lot of opting out going on right now. Has God changed his mind on ideas like,

Exodus 23:19
“Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God.

The term fristfruits doesn’t appear in the New Testament, but there are more than hints of excellence in worship and life:

1 Corinthians 14:40
But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

1 Corinthians 16:14
Do everything in love.

Colossians 3:23
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters

Personally, I think that arriving late for church is symptomatic of a greater problem. Or several problems. The same goes for halfhearted singing, preaching, praying and serving.

We should approach weekend worship as though we are coming directly into the presence of God because, well, we are.

~Paul Wilkinson

February 1, 2011

Discouragement: A Subtle Tactic in Spiritual Warfare

But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus.  (II  Cor 7:6)

Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement.  (II Cor 2: 7)

“Why do you want to discourage the rest of the people of Israel from going across to the land the Lord has given them?  (Num 32:7)

Then the local residents tried to discourage and frighten the people of Judah to keep them from their work. (Ezra 4:4)

They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So I continued the work with even greater determination. (Neh. 6:9)

So Moses told the people of Israel what the Lord had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery. (Ex. 6:9)

After they went up to the valley of Eshcol and explored the land, they discouraged the people of Israel from entering the land the Lord was giving them. (Num. 32:9)

Look! He has placed the land in front of you. Go and occupy it as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. Don’t be afraid! Don’t be discouraged!’ (Deut. 1:21)

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”  (Deut 31:8)

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Josh 1:9)

Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid or discouraged. Take all your fighting men and attack Ai, for I have given you the king of Ai, his people, his town, and his land. (Josh 8:1)

“Don’t ever be afraid or discouraged,” Joshua told his men. “Be strong and courageous, for the Lord is going to do this to all of your enemies.” (Josh 10:25)

Then David continued, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. He will see to it that all the work related to the Temple of the Lord is finished correctly.  (I Chr. 28:20)

He said, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.  (II Chr.20:15)

“Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side! (II Chr. 32:7)

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.I will strengthen you and help you.I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.  (Is. 41:10)

Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!  (Ps: 42:11 and Ps. 43:5; same lyric)

Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged. (Col 3:21)

I am convinced that one of the subtle schemes of the enemy is to bring discouragement to God’s people.  Most of us are familiar with the many “Do not be afraid” or “fear not” verses, but there are many scriptures — 28 in the New Living Translation (NLT) reference discouragement in one way or another, the translation used for the above verses.  (18 in the new NIV, 6 in the ESV, 5 in the NASB.)

I also wonder if much of our modern-day depression is really spiritual-warfare.  Depression and discouragement seem to go hand-in-hand.  The word depression is used sparingly in the above-mentioned translations…

After that, whenever the bad depression from God tormented Saul, David got out his harp and played. That would calm Saul down, and he would feel better as the moodiness lifted. (I Sam. 16:23, The Message)

…though the Bible being more literary and poetic than most other books, often refers to a broken heart:

I have cried until the tears no longer come; my heart is broken.My spirit is poured out in agony as I see the desperate plight of my people.Little children and tiny babies are fainting and dying in the streets.  (Lamentations 2:11, NLT)

A glad heart makes a happy face;a broken heart crushes the spirit. (Prov 15:30 NLT)

Their insults have broken my heart,and I am in despair.If only one person would show some pity;if only one would turn and comfort me.  (Ps. 69:20 NLT)

My heart is broken because of the false prophets,and my bones tremble.I stagger like a drunkard,like someone overcome by wine,because of the holy wordsthe Lord has spoken against them.  (Jer. 23:9 NLT)

For myself, today an element of spiritual warfare to it which was more overt, but the feeling I was left with — or the thing that my emotions connected the dots to, the way you attribute someone in a dream to someone you know — was that of discouragement.

It can really eat away at you if you let it.

So don’t.