Christianity 201

September 28, 2021

A Friend Will Challenge You

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. – Galatians 6:1 NIV

While rummaging through the book listings at a large online Christian bookstore a few hours ago, I came across a title which intrigued me: The 7 Friendships That Everyone Needs by Justin Erickson. The advertising blurb listed these:

7 Types of Friendships Every Man Needs:

  1. Godly mentor to Disciple you
  2. Faithful Disciple to follow you
  3. Solid Peer to Encourage you
  4. Best Friend to uphold you
  5. Courageous Brother to confront you
  6. Lost Seeker to hear you
  7. Gracious Savior to redeem you

My mind immediately jumped to Proverbs 27:17

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.  (NLT)

Of course the opposite is also true, as seen in Proverbs 13:20

Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm. (NIV)

The other thing my mind immediately jumped to is the title of a popular Christian book from years back, Caring Enough to Confront. It’s one of those “Snakes on a plane” type of book titles that, once you’ve read the title, you’ve got the premise. If we care enough about people we will not be afraid to stand in their way when they’re going off the rails.

The principle is also in Proverbs 15:31

If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. (NLT) The NIV has heeds life-giving correction and the NASB renders it as listens to the life-giving reproof.

I was somewhat horrified to discover that in 11 years, the phrase “caring enough to confront” has never surfaced here. So today we correct that with a short devotional from 2006 published in Today the daily reading booklet given out by the Christian Reformed Church (CRC). The author is retired CRC pastor Arthur Schoonveld

Caring Enough to Confront

2 Samuel 12:1-7 ERV

The LORD sent Nathan to David. Nathan went to him and said, “There were two men in a city. One man was rich, but the other man was poor. The rich man had lots of sheep and cattle. But the poor man had nothing except one little female lamb that he bought. The poor man fed the lamb, and the lamb grew up with this poor man and his children. She ate from the poor man’s food and drank from his cup. The lamb slept on the poor man’s chest. The lamb was like a daughter to the poor man. “Then a traveler stopped to visit the rich man. The rich man wanted to give food to the traveler, but he did not want to take any of his own sheep or cattle to feed the traveler. No, the rich man took the lamb from the poor man and cooked it for his visitor.”

David became very angry with the rich man. He said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who did this should die! He must pay four times the price of the lamb because he did this terrible thing and because he had no mercy.” Then Nathan said to David, “You are that rich man! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I chose you to be the king of Israel. I saved you from Saul.

Key verse: Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” 2 Samuel 12:7

Sometimes we are almost completely blind to our own sins and shortcomings. It’s so much easier to see the faults and failures of others. And sometimes it takes someone else to make us see our sin. That’s how it was with David. When the prophet Nathan told him a story about a rich man who stole a poor man’s lamb, David was outraged. He could clearly see what the rich man had done, but he failed to see his own sin. The prophet needed to confront David before he realized that Nathan was talking about him.

In the book Caring Enough to Confront, David Augsburger talks about the importance of confronting people who live in sin. Sometimes we need to confront, and sometimes we need to be confronted. It’s not easy to confront a family member, a friend, or a coworker. Sometimes it’s easier to look the other way. Besides, we ourselves don’t like to be confronted. When someone cares enough to confront us, often our first response is “Who do you think you are? You’re not perfect either!”

God calls us to confront others who are in sin, and we need to learn to do so with gentleness (Galatians 6:1). We must also be willing to be confronted when we are blind to our own sins. God wants us all to help remove the barrier of sin that keeps us far from God.

Prayer

Father in heaven, make us caring enough to confront someone who is living in sin, and give us the grace to accept those who confront us. We ask all this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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July 10, 2021

Why Did David Run?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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It’s been awhile since we’ve heard from Ruth Wilkinson. Armed with a Samsung phone and a strong desire to delve deeper into the Psalms, she’s been making teaching videos for a small church about an hour east of Toronto, Canada. The one we’re featuring today is part five in a series.

It’s impossible to copy and paste from a video, so I’m hoping that all of you will click through and watch this in full. It runs about 11 minutes.

Teaching notes for the video:

LORD, how my enemies increase!
There are so many who attack me.
So many who talk about me, saying, “There is no help for him in God.”
Selah

But You, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, and the One who lifts up my head.
In full voice I cry to Yahweh, and He answers me from His holy mountain.
Selah

I can lie down and sleep; I can wake again because Yahweh sustains me.
I do not fear the arrows that fly against me on every side.

Rise up, Yahweh! Save me, my God!
Oh, that you would strike my enemies on the jaw; that you would break the teeth of the wicked.
Oh, Yahweh–Salvation!
Oh, Yahweh–on Your people, Blessing!
Selah

__________

Psalm 3 written about arguably the worst day of David’s life.
-running from Absalom
—asked before… David is brave. David is strong. David is a fighter.
Then why did David run?

___________________________________

If I were making that movie…
**opening shots:
-messenger running up the hill, into the palace, shouting.
-out of breath, panting out his warning “Absalom is coming!”
-David, after the first shock, looking out the window of his palace, the hills beyond… Any sign yet?
-then down over the streets, the markets, the homes.
-women carrying water, the children playing and learning, the men working.
-what Absalom’s army will do to the city in order to get to David.

My movie…
-David walking fast, giving orders.
-first stunned silences, then moving on… explosion of organization…
-packing… rounding up kids… directing servants….
-what and who to leave behind.

My movie…
-overhead travelling shot…
-David at the head of the evacuation, leading his people through the city,
-still giving orders, making plans, staying at the front…
-guessing, maybe, that if Absalom might try to block the exit (David needs to be first to meet him.)
-guessing, maybe, that in the narrow streets of the city, his people are safest behind him.
-guessing, maybe, that most people didn’t know why the king is leaving, and it’s better that way.

-David leading his wives, children, servants and supporters, military forces to the gates, the way out.
-open space, wilderness, salt flats, Jordan River, a chance at survival.
-hoping Absalom doesn’t get there first.

My movie…
-David passing through the gate, looking around, walking to the last house on the edge of town and stopping. Stepping off the road.
-looking around for any sign of ambush, seeing nothing.
-gathering his courage, taking a deep breath and smiling as he waves on past–wives and children to keep on down the road.
-waving past his servants, his armed men – go – go – go –

-David waiting until the last straggler, last soldier has gone ahead, before he follows, watching over his shoulder.
-guessing, maybe, that once out of the city, Absalom is more likely to catch up from behind.
-David needs to be last in line to meet him.
_________________________

First time we meet David, he’s a shepherd. Called in by his dad from the fields with sling tucked into his belt, oil under his fingernails, dust in his hair, smelling like sheep.

Now years later, decades from those pastures,
—–King David, husband, father, soldier, killer David is still a shepherd.
Providing for his flock.

Why did David run? So that he would be followed.
Shepherd. Sheep knew his voice, and they followed.

Knew David would lead.
-Bringing up the rear when the rear is where the danger lies.
-Standing between them and the predator.
-Being the target. Being the bait.

________________________

My movie…
-David walking, weeping, barefoot, breathing in the dust raised by those who relied on him.
-down into the Kidron Valley – down away from the holy mountain, where God’s presence.
-up the Mount of Olives where once he had worshipped YHWH God, but where he cannot stop.
-again down and down and down into the dusk and the sunset, his mind full of words.
-until finally he has to pull himself together, walk back in among his people, and be their shepherd.

____________

My movie…
-closing scene for that day….
-stars in the sky, sound of the Jordan River, the comfort of the narrow green strip between the burning hot salt flats and the cool of the water; smells of food and a fire burning, encircled by exhausted people with just enough energy to eat, and to worry.

Out of the darkness
-David would walk into the crowd, through the circle of people who were here because of him, carrying his harp. and carrying his courage.
-He would stand where everyone could see him and he would sing.
-He would sing his fear – enemies, and what if God doesn’t help?
-He would sing his faith – His shield, his hope, and the voice that echoes still from that far-away high and holy place.
-He would sing in the knowledge that Absalom and his troops were in the city, taking over everything and everyone that David’s people had had to leave behind.
-He would sing his trust into the shaken hearts of those who trusted him…

“I can lie down and sleep. I will awake again.”
“I can lie down and sleep. I will awake again.”
“I can lie down and sleep. I will awake again. Because YHWH sustains me.”

My movie…
-David the shepherd sings his exhausted flock to their rest.

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June 11, 2019

Those Who Don’t Share Show by Their Actions They Don’t Know Him

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
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It was either an email or a referral from another writer we feature here, but sometime late last week we got connected to the website Generosity Monk. Author and teacher Gary Hoag has curated an amazing collection of excerpts from scholarly books and commentaries — including some obscure sources — and runs the excerpt followed by some observations on what makes this personal to him.

There are similarities to C201, as he’s been doing this faithfully on a daily basis since June, 2009. The site is a goldmine of devotional and study resources.  Because of that, we’ve featured it both yesterday and today. Click the header below to read this at source.

A.W. Tozer: Abundant Goodness

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends Your works to another; they tell of Your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of Your majesty—and I will meditate on Your wonderful works. They tell of the power of Your awesome works—and I will proclaim Your great deeds. They celebrate Your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of Your righteousness. The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made. Psalm 145:3-9

“The goodness of God is that which disposes Him to be kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men. He is tenderhearted and of quick sympathy, and His unfailing attitude toward all moral beings is open, frank, and friendly. By His nature He is inclined to bestow blessedness and He takes holy pleasure in the happiness of His people.

That God is good is taught or implied on every page of the Bible and must be received as an article of faith as impregnable as the throne of God. It is a foundation stone for all sound thought about God and is necessary to moral sanity. To allow that God could be other than good is to deny the validity of all thought and end ill the negation of every moral judgment.

If God is not good, then there can be no distinction between kindness and cruelty, and heaven can be hell and hell, heaven. The goodness of God is the drive behind all the blessings He daily bestows upon us. God created us because He felt good in His heart and He redeemed us for the same reason.

Julian of Norwich, who lived six hundred years ago, saw clearly that the ground of all blessedness is the goodness of God. Chapter six of her incredibly beautiful and perceptive little classic, Revelations of Divine Love, begins, “This showing was made to learn our souls to cleave wisely to the goodness of God.”

Then she lists some of the mighty deeds God has wrought in our behalf, and after each one she adds “of His goodness.” She saw that all our religious activities and every means of grace, however right and useful they may be, are nothing until we understand that the unmerited, spontaneous goodness of God is back of all.”

A. W. Tozer (1897-1963) in “The Goodness of God” in Knowledge of the Holy, 57.

God’s abundant goodness serves as the basis or foundation for all of our living, giving, serving, and loving. See for yourself. Read Psalm 145. Consider verse 16, in which David proclaims: You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. The reason we live with openhanded generosity is because that’s God’s posture toward every living thing. Those who know and understand Him for who He is will enjoy and share His goodness and kindness.

The sobering truth is that those who don’t share, show by their actions that they don’t know Him.

This thinking is echoed much later by Julian of Norwich, an anchoress, who (of course) reminds me of my wife, Jenni, who serves God as the Soulcare Anchoress. Those who adopt the title “anchoress” (or anchorite) imply that they have discovered by knowledge and experience that all of life must be anchored in one thing alone, the goodness of God, which is why relationship with Him (and obedience to Him) must be pursued above all else.

Rather than lose you with what sounds like lofty thinking, let me make my point.

Because of the abundant goodness of God, we can be kind and generous. But will we be kind and generous? As His blessings flow to us, the only way to rightly receive and share them is to know and have a deep relationship with Him. Out of that anchored relationship, we become like Him when we walk in obedience, and then with righteousness, justice, and open hands, we dispense His abundant goodness and kindness.

If that went over your head, then read Psalm 145, count your blessings, and think how you can bless others today and this week as a result.

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January 5, 2019

Relationship Imperfections Remind Us of What Only God Can Fill

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Today we’re back with Gary Henry at WordPoints. After a long internal debate as to which of these I should run, I decided to use both of them — Gary presented them both the same day — as I felt that the subjects were integrated. Click the title to read either at source and then navigate from there to check out the other great topics on the site.

Our Need for Relationship

“That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).

A NEED FOR RICH PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP IS DEEPLY EMBEDDED IN OUR CREATED NATURE

We owe our existence not to impersonal forces, but to a personal Creator, and it was the Creator Himself who said, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). We are personal beings, and we were designed for full, vibrant relationship.

But sin destroys relationship. It severs us from God and from others, cutting us off from this thing that is so necessary to our na­ture. So there is perhaps no sy­mptom of sin any more obvious than the deep, gnawing pain of isolation. And in sin, there is no groaning more desperate than to be freed from our loneliness.

But however much we need relationship in general, our most vital need, the only one we can’t survive without, is our need for relationship with God.

“In every man there is a loneliness, an inner chamber of peculiar life into which God only can enter.”
(George MacDonald)

Our craving for God is a dependency we were meant to have. It is a profound need for perfect relationship, and to try to fill this need with our flawed connection to other human beings is not only wrong; it is hopeless.

If we fail to let God fill our need for love — if it is not in Him that our loneliness is taken away — then we will force an impossible mandate on the imperfect people around us. We will demand from others a satisfaction they aren’t capable of providing for us in this broken world. Only the infinite God is able to relate to us perfectly. And even with God, what we can have in this life is only a foretaste of the perfect union that heaven will provide.

When we find that even our most intimate earthly companions can’t provide the depth of relationship for which we were created, bitterness may be the tempting reaction. Yet there is a healthier response. We can see the imperfections in our own relationships as a salutary reminder. God alone is the One to whom we must look for life and unfailing love. To forget that is to lose the path that leads back home.

“Didst thou give me this inescapable loneliness so that it would be easier for me to give thee all?”
(Dag Hammarskjöld)

Refuge

“It was a dark and stormy night.”
(Edward Bulwer-Lytton)

TWO DIFFERENT TIMES COME AROUND SOONER OR LATER: (1) TIMES WHEN WE NEED A REFUGE, AND (2) TIMES WHEN SOMEONE ELSE NEEDS A REFUGE WE CAN PROVIDE

“Dark and stormy nights” are a fact of life, and when we find ourselves in the middle of one, our hearts need a safe place in which to shelter. It’s important to appreciate the shelter that others have given us in the past, and even more important to make our hearts a place where they’ll find a welcome when they’re the ones who are scared of the storm.

Having a heart that provides refuge for others takes some learning. Not many of us have such a heart naturally. Caring perhaps comes naturally, but showing compassion in ways that actually do some good is a skill that has to be learned. It’s not rocket science, maybe, but it does take a little education in the school of caregiving. We have to watch and listen. We have to apply good judgment. We have to learn from well-intentioned mistakes that we’ve made. In short, we have to grow in the quality of the mercy that we extend.

Men, especially, have to learn how to be a refuge to others. Since the simple gift of “nurturance” is not normally our strong suit, we have to exert extra effort to learn it. The strong masculine tendency to “fix” whatever’s wrong has to be reined in. To have hearts in which others find refuge, we must learn to see when a safe harbor is all that’s needed — and not a dry-dock facility for ship repair.

Who are those that need from you the gift of refuge? The answer would probably surprise you. If you knew the hurts that those around you carry with them every day, you would be astonished. You may never know those hurts. Your friends may never choose to confide in you about them. But you would do well to assume that most of the people you deal with are hurting. Be ready. Be prepared for the time when they might consider seeking some safety in their relationship with you. If that time ever comes, you will have bestowed on you one of life’s greatest privileges: the privilege of showing compassion.

“Discouraged people don’t need critics. They hurt enough already. They don’t need more guilt or piled-on distress. They need encouragement. They need a refuge. A willing, caring, available someone.”
(Charles R. Swindoll)


Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
  Colossians 3:12 NIV

We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love.
 2 Corinthians 6:6 NLT

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September 7, 2014

Helped a Needy Person: Check

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:39 pm
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If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?  I John 3:17
 

Each month we refer back to the same month of the previous year to see what various writers we introduced here are currently thinking about.  This one is from Dwight L. MacPherson who blogs at Son of a Parson Ministries with something you just might want to forward to others.  To read this at source, click the title below.

Checking the Box Doesn’t Cut It

One of my childhood buddies shared a story with me about his church that punched me in the gut. It moved my heart. It convicted me. It made me think. So I’ve decided to share it with you…

My friend told me that at an evening service, the pastor asked every church member to write a need they’ve been praying about along with their name and phone number on a piece of paper. The pastor then had the members come to the altar and leave their written needs there. Then, at the conclusion of the sermon, he told the congregation to go to the altar and take someone else’s need… and meet it.

Wow.

One problem I’ve had with the Church is that I don’t think we do enough to meet the needs of our congregations. Sure, we anoint them, pray with them, but how often do we directly meet their needs? As a former church administrative assistant, Rebecca can attest to the fact that church offices are usually jam-packed with people who have very real and pressing needs. So this made me wonder… how often are church offices jam-packed with people desiring to meet the needs of others?

Feeling convicted yet? I know I am.

Thinking of my buddy’s story, I looked around at the congregation at our home church. I saw two men seated a couple of feet apart. I wondered… I could imagine one man crying out to God desperately for $50 to fill his gas tank for work the next week. The man beside him I imagined calling out to God asking Him how he could use the finances God had blessed him with to be a blessing to others.

The Bible tells us that the early Church met the needs of their members internally.Red-Pencil-checking-off-Boxes Acts 2:44, for example, tells us, “And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.” Now before anyone draws from their extensive church history knowledge to tell me that the Jerusalem church was basically a commune due to persecution, my point still stands. The Church didn’t direct their Christian brothers and sisters to secular public programs, or simply give them a bag of groceries or gas voucher so they could check off a box for helping the needy. No, they genuinely helped one another and made sure everyone’s needs were met. Are we honestly doing this today?

So what’s the answer for the modern Church? Well, I think my buddy’s pastor has the right idea. We need to be more open with our brothers and sisters that we see Sundays and Wednesday nights. This requires for us to be intentional, willing to go out of our way to help others, and open to hear one another’s needs without judging them. I think this would be much easier in small churches, but in big churches, it could be tough. I love the idea of small groups meeting in homes during the week. I think this gives us a much better opportunity to cultivate healthy, “real” relationships. I think it could also give us wonderful opportunities to use our God-given resources and talents to help others. The thing is, it’s hard, and it can be downright messy. The question is: are we truly willing to roll up our sleeves and help our brothers and sisters in need?

In Christ’s perfect love,

Dwight

The Parson

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