Christianity 201

November 9, 2018

God is Listening

112413We live in a world where everything we say has the potential to be recorded and analyzed by others. Since September 11th, 2001, technology is being employed which tracks both your online and verbal communication. Phone calls which use certain key words trigger further attention. We love the benefits of that technology offers, but we often forget the loss of freedom the constant monitoring creates.

For the Christ-follower, this isn’t a big deal, since we’ve always believed in a God who is omniscient and omnipresent, as we have equally believed in the possibility of a judgment where every idle word will be brought into account.

Still, it was arresting over the weekend to hear someone speak of “God listening in to our conversations.” The host of the talk show I was tuned into was equally surprised. The phrase is taken from Jeremiah 8:6 (NLT). Here is the full context:

4 “Jeremiah, say to the people, ‘This is what the Lord says:

“‘When people fall down, don’t they get up again?
When they discover they’re on the wrong road, don’t they turn back?
5 Then why do these people stay on their self-destructive path?
Why do the people of Jerusalem refuse to turn back?
They cling tightly to their lies
and will not turn around.
6 I listen to their conversations
and don’t hear a word of truth.
Is anyone sorry for doing wrong?
Does anyone say, “What a terrible thing I have done”?
No! All are running down the path of sin
as swiftly as a horse galloping into battle!
7 Even the stork that flies across the sky
knows the time of her migration,
as do the turtledove, the swallow, and the crane.
They all return at the proper time each year.
But not my people!
They do not know the Lord’s laws.

8 “‘How can you say, “We are wise because we have the word of the Lord,”
when your teachers have twisted it by writing lies?
9 These wise teachers will fall
into the trap of their own foolishness,
for they have rejected the word of the Lord.
Are they so wise after all?

The idea of God listening, in and of itself, is not a concern. When we pray, we want to think that God not only hears our prayers, but is positively disposed and favorable inclined to respond. But God listening in on our conversations? Why does that seem inappropriate, as though the person in the restaurant booth next to us is locked in on everything we’re saying?

The broader context here is Israel turning its back on God; a recurring theme among the prophets both major and minor. (We have to be careful that no one reading this tries to turn this passage — or thinks I am turning it — into something derived from a secondary or tertiary emphasis.)

The NLT is alone in using the word conversations in this verse, however. But try to remove the sense of God ‘eavesdropping’ or ‘listening in,’ on all we say, and you diminish both God’s all-knowingness (his omniscience) and his desire to commune with us and have us desire to commune with him.

The radio show guest went on to say that since God hears every word we speak, there is a sense in which every word of concern for a particular individual or situation, is in itself a form of prayer. I’ve heard this before; in fact, a long time ago, after a long time in which I was discussing a concern with a friend, he suggested that it would be good if we were to take some time to pray about it. Without thinking, I said, “I think we just did.” In the sense that God was with us and hearing our focused thoughts toward whatever it was we were discussing all those years ago, we were indeed bringing it before the throne of grace. (I think we ended with a brief, “God you’ve heard our thoughts on this and you know the need; please accept our prayer.”)

The problem is that in our security-conscious world, we look at ‘listening in’ as invasive, or even creepy, or an affront to perceived rights of privacy. But if the high-tech monitoring of our online or verbal thoughts is for our good, we have to believe that a God who is taking the time to monitor those same communications is doing so for our good as well.

July 1, 2017

God’s Direction for the Rest of Your Year

Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left. Isaiah 30: 20-21 (NLT)

The year is half over. What’s next? Ever wish you could see God’s entire plan for your life like a giant road map?

Back in the day, if you were heading on a vacation trip to a place in the U.S. or Canada where you’d never been before, if you were a member of AAA (or CAA) you could request a trip guidebook. Using previously printed pages representing different highway sections, someone would assemble a series of these ‘strip maps’ into a booklet that also provided commentary on places of interest, restaurants and motels.

Hard to imagine in a world of MapQuest and GPS tracking.

These ‘strip maps’ are a closer representation as to how life presents itself to us. We’re given direction that is sufficient for the day, but don’t always know how the pieces of the journey are going to form an overall story. It’s not unlike walking across a stream using stepping stones, and stopping on each to determine where to put your feet next.

Chuck Smith says of our key verse: “How glorious to be led of the Spirit and having God say, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’ What is the way? The way of waiting upon God and trusting in Him.”

As C.S. Lewis once suggested, to understand how God sees time, draw a line with two ends in a blank sheet of paper, then look at the entire paper. We see the line as a progression, but God sees it as a whole. We live within time, but God is eternal and separate.

Another way to say this is that the difference between our perception of time and God’s might be compared to having a travel atlas where the journey across a country or a continent reveals the beginning and the end. This is the type of “big picture” that God has. Our perception would be more flipping through the strip map, getting the journey in small bite size pieces.

I’m told Lewis also compares our perception and God’s perception to the difference between sitting at a level crossing waiting for a long train to pass by. Each car passes sequentially, one after the other. But miles above, as seen from an airplane, the entire train is visible from beginning to end, and as it slowly snakes its way through the mountains and valleys, seems to almost be standing still.

The problem is, we want the big picture. We want to know where the story is going. But often information is supplied on a day-to-day, hour-by-hour and even minute-by-minute basis.

And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness. Evil-minded people will never travel on it. It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways; fools will never walk there. Isaiah 35:8 NLT


I heard a story once from someone who was unimpressed with the Christian bumper stickers which proclaimed, “God is my Co-Pilot.” He proposed this amendment: “If God is your Co-Pilot, you need to switch seats.”

If anyone can find a link to the Lewis/train story, or knows an equally good time analogy, feel free to add it in the comments.

November 23, 2015

The Suffering Church

Today’s thoughts are from a North Carolina author who came recommended to us. Matt Capps posted this sermon excerpt in September, but it seems even more timely with each passing day. There is a link to watch the sermon in full; click the image to read at source. (This is one of a series on The Church in Exile.)

Matt CappsThe Suffering of the Church (1 Peter 3:13-4:6)

This is an excerpt from a sermon I recently preached at Fairview Baptist Church. You can watch the whole thing online.

In John 17, Jesus prayed that the Father would protect his own from the evil one. But, he did not pray that we would be removed from this world, and by implication – the suffering of this world.

We will suffer in this life. Suffering is comprehensive, and is a no respecter of persons. While the Bible covers various ways to suffer in this life, this passage is specifically concerned with distinctively Christian suffering. In other words, suffering that may come to us precisely because we are Christians.

Suffering will drive us to our knees, and at the same time it can be a powerful reminder that Jesus is King. Through suffering God brings us to Himself. Consider the words of 1 Peter 3:13-15

“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…”

Peter is preparing the church, not just to endure suffering – but to find in their suffering an opportunity for witness.

You can imagine that some of the Christians in which this letter was first directed to had seen the suffering of their fellow believers, and fear of that suffering had the potential of halting their desire to publicly live out their faith.

But Peter responds with strange wording – “suffering brings about blessing”. When the world sees that you are – to use the words of 2 Corinthians 4:8-9:

  • Afflicted in every way, but not crushed.
  • Perplexed, but not driven to despair.
  • Persecuted, but not forsaken.
  • Struck down, but not destroyed.

They think, what is it with these people? What is this hope that is within them? This hope is a frame of mind achieved by setting apart – literally, sanctifying – Christ as Lord.

Our courage is born out of a belief that Christ is king even when things look hopeless. Moreover, in Christ we have a sure hope in the coming blessing. Hope is not wishful thinking, but true faith under pressure. Assurance of our future resurrection in Christ will not only give us courage and comfort, but will also put those who revile us to shame.

When you suffer, suffer with hope. This is the Blessing of Suffering for Christ. In suffering, we can find an opportunity for witness. In suffering, we also realize that God is bringing you to himself.

November 21, 2015

Forgiveness for All

When the host of the party is outraged that a woman of sketchy reputation is devoting so much attention to the rabbi Jesus, the teacher launches into a parable

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Most people reading this know this story, and understand the parable, which sort of quantifies degrees of forgiveness. Debts do, after all, come in various sizes.

The parable itself comprises only two verses, 41 and 42, but it contains a foregone conclusion of a forgiveness that doesn’t take place until verse 48. The woman knows who she is, the life she’s lived, and her need of repentance. Jesus responds to the contriteness of her heart and tells her that her sins are forgiven.

But who else needs forgiving in this story?

Simon has not been very accommodating to Jesus, he has not acted as a host should, especially if we see this in light of 36 which seems to paint Jesus as the guest of honor. I’ve often wondered then, how this woman of ill repute gets in, but some suggest that certain occasions might have been open to a wider swath of people, not unlike a situation where a British lord might invite the villagers to a type of open house at the manor. By whatever means she gets in.

But Simon seems to have snubbed Jesus somewhat, and his outrage at the interaction between the woman and Jesus provides Jesus with a context to note Simon’s lack of social graces.

Clearly, Simon is also in need of forgiveness.

But here’s the good news: In the parable Jesus tells, two people are forgiven!

At this point, I need to acknowledge a footnote in Ann Spangler’s telling of the story in the recently released Wicked Women of the Bible:

I am indebted to Kenneth E. Baily for his fascinating interpretation of this story in his book Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes (IVP, 2008, pp 239-60). Though Baily does not speculate on whether Simon showed signs of repentance as I have done… he does make it clear that the story Jesus tells Simon speaks of forgiveness that is extended to both people, the one with the large debt and the one with the small one, implying that Simon is the person with the smaller debt.

It must be said however that there’s nothing in the text to suggest Simon enters a posture of penitence. But the parable leaves the potential there for both the one with the great debt and the smaller debt to have the same opportunity to begin with a fresh slate.

How many people do you think were forgiven that day?

 

November 2, 2015

When to Speak, And When Not To

Several years ago at Thinking Out Loud we linked to Carole McDonnell’s blog; it’s always great to return years and years later and find people faithfully writing.  This piece stood out from a number she’s written over the past months. I later discovered this will be her third piece here at Christianity 201. Click the title below to read this at source.

A soft answer turns away wrath

 A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.  Proverbs 15:1

This is a verse that has saved the lives, reputation, and livelihood of many people throughout the ages. It is found in the Book of Proverbs,  book of great wisdom that is designed to protect its reader from sin, shame, poverty, and death. There is much in Proverbs about anger, and it behoves the reader to take these admonition to heart.

It is generally a part of human nature to defend itself, whether the “self” is right or wrong. It is also generally a part of human nature not to allow one’s self to be intimidated. Humans are also insightful. They can perceive egotistical and subtle human pride in the rebukes, corrections, and scoldings they receive from when certain teachers, officers of the law, pastors or others use or abuse their “authority” to lecture them and triumph over them.  Rebukes can be given at the correct or incorrect time, with the wrong or right attitude, with a desire to help or a desire to assert the rebuker’s pride. Those with power, however, often become so identified with their power that they do not wish to be challenged.

In American culture, there have been many instances of cruelty done by police, slaveholders, financiers, and others in some kind of authority. Sadly, those in power have often won, especially when there was no videotape or fair-minded judge to challenge them. The guilty have often triumphed over the weak even when the laws were fair.

The Preacher writes in Ecclesiastes 4:1, “Again, I observed all the oppression that takes place under the sun. I saw the tears of the oppressed, with no one to comfort them. The oppressors have great power, and their victims are helpless.”

The Preacher also writes in Ecclesiastes 7:17, “Do not be excessively righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself? Do not be excessively wicked and do not be a fool. Why should you die before your time? It is good that you grasp one thing and also not let go of the other; for the one who fears God comes forth with both of them.”

Those who believe in God trust God to defend them and to show them when to speak and when to be silent.

The Psalmist writes: “How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?” Psalm 13:2

He also writes: “O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.”  Psalm 25:2

The Preacher also states, “I said to myself, ‘In due season God will judge everyone, both good and bad, for all their deeds.'”

A victim might or might not get justice inside a court of law, but learning to answer one’s oppressor carefully by “biting one’s lip” can protect one’s life, livelihood and health. As the Preacher says in Ecclesiates 9:4, “There is hope only for the living. As they say, ‘It’s better to be a live dog than a dead lion!'” The victims of oppression in many countries have learned to survive the unjust authorities over them by knowing when to use gentle –if cowardly– answers. This is how the ancestors of Black people survived during the early days of lynching and perhaps this will be necessary in the modern day when the counterpart of lynching is also prevalent.

October 23, 2015

The Weeds in Our Souls

dandelions

Today we pay a return visit to Donna Wood from the blog Food For the Journey. Click the title below to read this at source and then look around (we had a tough time choosing which piece to use for this re-visit!)

The Dandelion Says….

The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.” ~ Matthew 13:24-26

About two weeks ago, I attended the annual retreat for spiritual directors.  The topic was Soul Gardening, so we meditated on the soul plants we had been given as gifts from God and weeds in our garden which might need to be eliminated. I thought about weeds.  What if the weeds in my soul are gifts, too and not something to pulled up or sprayed dead? Maybe, we should listen to them before we decide.

I love happy yellow dandelions.  About the first plant to bloom in the spring, dandelions are the first food available to bees.  Children make bouquets from them for their mothers and bracelets, necklaces and crowns for fun.  When dandelions go to seed and we blow on them, fluffy seedlings float into the sky to spread the joy.  When young, the leaves can be good for eating, and dandelion blooms make fairly good wine. I read that if we kill all the dandelions, the population of bees will be greatly reduced which would be disastrous for our food supply.  In spite of this, most often, we get rid of them.  We don’t want them were they are, because they are weeds…. Or are they?

Perhaps, the weeds are in my soul, along with spirit gifts, to give me something or teach me something—for my benefit and the benefit of others.  If I sit with my dandelions and listen to them, what might they tell me? I’ll share one story. I have listened long to it.

I have a genetic tendency to clinical depression and panic attacks. I don’t have them, now, but there is always a possibility if I don’t pay attention to my life.  There was an extended period, as a young woman, when I was almost totally incapacitated by fear. I couldn’t leave the house; sometimes I couldn’t get out of bed, and I was afraid of everything including God.

It is very unfortunate, I believe, that this weed growth took place when my children were little.  I wasn’t available to them when they most needed me. I drank too much to mask the fear and pain because I didn’t know what else to do. God was eventually able to break in, providing a diagnosis and assuring me of his love, and healing began. I believed that the best thing I could do for my children, first of all, was to get healed myself and so I began the long journey of recovery. I needed medication and therapy for a time and our Christian community was available to pray for me and help when I was ready to panic. So – Gift or Weed?

Rather than zapping me well, God impelled me to become well. I wanted this weed to be pulled up or killed immediately, but it wasn’t time for that.  There were lessons to be learned about me and about God that I would have missed.  The ensuing healings, redemption and transformation are part of my story. Some healing still needs to happen in my family, but God isn’t finished with us yet.

Perhaps, the point of the weeds in our souls is to get us in touch with the One who grows and heals and who turns what appears to be supposedly noxious weeds into lovely trees. Do I love this process?  No.  But I’m so, so grateful for it.

We are the broken,
you are the healer,
Jesus, Redeemer, mighty to save.
You are the love song
we’ll sing forever,
bowing before you, blessing your name.

~ Lynn DeShazo; Gary Sadler

September 23, 2015

Peace for Your Soul

by Clarke Dixon

Rest in Peace. A Reflection on Psalm 116

Rest in peace” is a statement we often use for the dead which unfortunately we rarely use for the living. We are restless souls with our worries and concerns, with our fights and contentions. We rarely rest. We rarely know peace. Even when our bodies find rest, our souls often do not. Ironically, one thing our souls can fret over is death itself, the very thing that causes “rest in peace” to fall so easily from our lips. We have great difficulty in saying “rest in peace” to our own souls. In Psalm 116 we find someone who does in fact call upon his soul to rest:

7 Return, O my soul, to your rest,
for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you
(Psalms 116:7)

How did the Psalmist break through to finding a place of rest for his soul? How can we get there? Let us turn to the rest of the Psalm to find out:

The journey to a place of rest for our souls begins with prayer. We do not know the exact nature of the Psalmist’s prayer request, but we do know that his life seemed to be in danger in some way and he is grateful to God for a rescue, for answering his prayer.

1 I love the Lord, because he has heard
my voice and my supplications.
2 Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
3 The snares of death encompassed me;
the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
4 Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“O Lord, I pray, save my life
(Psalms 116:1-4)

Something we should note here is that the Psalmist does not say “someone out there is looking out for me“. His prayer for deliverance would hardly have been “If something or someone is out there could you please . . . “. Rather the Psalmist’s prayers are specifically to the LORD, God, Creator of the universe, Who has revealed Himself to humanity. The Psalmist does not have some generic idea of God in mind, but The LORD. In fact in this Psalm he uses God’s specific name, represented in many English translations by LORD, fifteen times. The Psalmist is praying to a God he knows, something he can do because God has made Himself known. Which leads us to our next thought.

The journey to a place of rest for our souls begins not with our prayers, but with a God Who hears prayer. Prayer works because God works with grace and mercy toward us:

5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
our God is merciful.
6 The Lord protects the simple;
when I was brought low, he saved me
(Psalms 116:5-6)

We think we are taking a low view of ourselves when we think God does not hear our prayers. “Why should He care about and listen to us? Should we not be nothing to him?” But really we are guilty of taking a low view of God. We are doubting the scope of His love.

Psalm 116 has a caution: Watch out for the dead end roads on your search for a  resting place for your soul. Prayer sounds like a very religious thing to do, and many people assume that religion is the path one should take in seeking rest for one’s soul. However there is a very grave danger here, one made worse by a temporary feeling of peace that most religions can provide. Let us take an extreme example of a man who feels he has made peace with God, and can serve God best by blowing himself up and taking out God’s enemies with him. This man says to his soul “return, O my soul, to your resting place, you are doing the right thing and God will be pleased.” However, what will he say before the judgement seat of Christ when he realizes his religion has failed him? Religion has the horrible habit of giving people some sense of relief for their souls, when really they ought to keep seeking. Likewise, many turn to “non-religions” like Darwinism and Secular Humanism in a search for rest for their souls. Remember the bus signs which said “God probably does not exist. So stop worrying and enjoy your life”? These signs appeal to a sense of rest from worry about the afterlife. People who believe signs like these shall also stand before the judgement seat of Christ but with the realization that their non-religion has failed them every bit as much as the religion of the religious.

So it is the Christian religion which brings true peace to the soul then? No, that is not it either. Our Psalmist does not refer to religion as the reason his soul can rest. It is not religion but the LORD, God Himself Who is the reason for rest.

5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
our God is merciful.
6 The Lord protects the simple;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
7 Return, O my soul, to your rest,
for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
8 For you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling
(Psalms 116:5-8)

Religion is something we do. Rescue and salvation is something God does. We get the cart before the horse when we subscribe to religion or do religious things to make God like us, to get Him to save us. Too late for that, He already loves us and has offered the rescue. Our “religion” is an expression of worship which flows out of our knowledge of God and His salvation, it is not a precursor to it. The Psalmist commits to religious activity in response to rescue, not in order to obtain it:

12 What shall I return to the Lord
for all his bounty to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the Lord,
14 I will pay my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people
(Psalms 116:12-14)

It is not religion that leads to a resting place for our souls, but a Person, God Himself.

There is one final thing to note about the Psalmist’s prayer. Note how different this Psalm is from the prayers of Jesus in Gethsemane and at the cross. The Psalmist is pleased about being rescued. Jesus, however, wants the cup of suffering to be taken from Him. The psalmist is rescued and can say “return, O my soul, to your resting place,” Jesus says “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” There was no rescue on that day, at least not for Jesus. However, there was the greatest rescue of all that day, for people like you and me, people who are willing to turn from sin and turn to God. A rescue from sin, from the root cause of the death and destruction that lay around us. Death may lay ahead of us, but only the death of our earthly bodies, not the death of our hope of salvation in God.

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ
(1 Corinthians 15:55-57)

We may die someday, but we can yet say “Return, O my soul, to your rest, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.” Is there something you want to say to your soul?

All Bible references are taken from the NRSV


Clarke Dixon is a Baptist pastor in Ontario, Canada; read more at his blog, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon.

July 11, 2015

Reverse Engineering The Promises

For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.
 2 Corinthians 1:20 NLT

Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God’s Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete. (same verse + 21 and 22, The Message)

A few days ago, we re-ran a piece on Thinking Out Loud that has also appeared twice here at C201, though not for three years. Apparently this time around, it really resonated with some people.

The idea was to look at areas in my life where it might seem like “it’s not working” and ask ourselves if maybe we’re doing something wrong.

We need to watch the logic of this however. A Biblical statement of promise such as, “If you do _____, then I [God] will do ______ …” is of the form “If ‘A” then ‘B’.” But we can’t logically automatically assume from that, “If ‘not-B’ then ‘not-A.” Moreover, some of the promises in scripture are guiding principles of how things work. For example, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it;” is a statement of general principle, but not an iron-clad assurance that every child raised in the love of Christ will not wander from the faith. Clearly, some do. (I realize some will say, ‘I have to believe that eventually they find their way back, or the Bible isn’t true.’ I guess we can debate that some time!)

All that to say, here’s what I wrote as it appeared (without this long introduction) a few days ago…
 
 

If I’m not getting the desires of my heart,

Maybe I’m not delighting myself in the Lord


If I’m not finding my paths being made straight,

Maybe I’m not trusting in the Lord with all my heart.


If I’m not finding God is adding good things to my life,

Maybe I’m not seeking first His Kingdom.


If it doesn’t seem like God is working in all things for His glory,

Maybe I’m not loving God or trying to live according to His purpose.


If it doesn’t feel like God is hearing from heaven, healing the land and forgiving sin,

Maybe it’s because as His people, we’re not humbling ourselves, seeking his face and turning from our wicked ways.


If it doesn’t seem like God is lifting me up,

Maybe I’m not humbling myself in His sight.

 

July 3, 2015

Come, O Lord

Rev. 22:20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus

I Cor 16:22b …Come, Lord! 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

In the early days of the Jesus People movement, Calvary Chapel had a record label called Maranatha! Music, which meant people often knew more about the meaning of the word discussed in today’s Bible study than they do presently. (The company still exists, mostly producing worship compilations.)

Today’s writer is Jeff Loach, who I’ve gotten to know online over the years at Thinking Out Loud. His blog is called Passionately His, and to read today’s post online, you’re invited to click the title link below to read at source, and then look around at other articles.

Marana tha!

Marana tha. It’s not a phrase we hear tossed around much anymore, even in the church.

Marana tha. Even though it’s alluded to among the very last words of the Bible, most of us aren’t acquainted with it.

Marana tha. Interestingly, I have heard several people speak about it in the past few weeks, given all that’s going on in the world.

Marana tha. “Come, O Lord.” It’s becoming a popular prayer again.

Marana tha. This simple Aramaic prayer, uttered by Paul in 1 Corinthians 16 and hinted at by John in Revelation 22, says so much in so little space.

Marana tha. It’s a term of submission, in which we name Jesus as Lord, suggesting we ourselves are not Lord. It’s a term of hope, in which we look to the future we know God has in store for all who love him. It’s a term of desire, in which we long for Jesus to make right what the human race has made wrong. It’s a yearning for order, a yearning for peace, a yearning for justice.

Marana tha. We are invited to pray that prayer, for the restoration of God’s world and the meting of God’s justice. And while we wait for the wonderful return of our Lord, he invites us to answer our prayer with action on his behalf.

We can’t hasten the second coming. But we can help to prepare the world for it.

For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.  And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed (Titus 2.11-13, NLT).


Speaking of the classic Jesus Music days, you can’t go back any further than the band Love Song, considered to be among the first who pioneered what is today called Contemporary Christian Music. This song is simply titled Maranatha.

June 25, 2015

When the Parables Come Home to Roost

“And I remembered the word of the Lord…”  Acts 11:16a

Many of us who grew up in church learned the various parables and teachings of Jesus and then simply filed them away in the back of our minds somewhere. However, there are times when things happen in life and you find yourself saying; “Oh, so that’s what Jesus was talking about!”

So it was with me this week, with the parable of the wages.

Matthew 20:1 For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

This week I found myself in a situation where I assumed that somebody was receiving a whole lot of money that, as it turns out, was not the case. It took about 24 hours, but in the in-between time I was feeling both bitter and angry. In the parable above, it’s a story about someone getting eleven-times the amount. The workers in the early morning, or the first hour (sunrise or about six in the morning) are paid the same as those as those hired late in the day (or five in the afternoon).

In my story, the person was claiming to be the beneficiary of an amount about five hundred times more than I was paid for a similar project with the same employer. I knew that the situation was more complex than that, but the economies of scale were completely out of line with a more meager amount I had agreed for doing something similar.

And there’s the key phrase: I had agreed.

Tempering all my frustration was the parable from Matthew 20, parked in the back of my mind. I had agreed. The workers in the parable cried, ‘Unfair!’ But I had agreed. The landowner finds himself in a position to be generous with those who had been waiting to work but were not hired. (Interesting to note that they were still available for work, they hadn’t given up and gone home even thought it was 5:00 PM.) I had agreed. The employer in my story has restructured some of their affairs and perhaps now is in a better position to be more generous. I had agreed.

In the end, the other person in my story is probably considered more qualified, deemed to have paid more dues and has more platform.

And in the end, as it turns out, they are not on the receiving end of anything close to five hundred times the amount I was paid.

The parable suddenly jumped from a back-of-mind story to something with immediate relevance to my life; my world.

The parables do that. The teachings of Jesus do that. The words of scripture do that. In the full verse of Acts 11:16 (above) Peter specifically remembers something that Jesus has said and quotes the passage. Here’s the full context.

At C201 we put scripture verses in green to remind us that, just like a branch that is alive is green inside, so it is that the scriptures have life.

Watch out for those Bible passages you filed away in your memory bank a long time ago. When you’re feeling angry, or frustrated, or bitter, or disappointed; the parables suddenly spring to life. They come back to humble you, to correct you, to lead you to healthier thinking, to spur you to right actions.

All scripture is God breathed

 

April 11, 2015

Surrender Entails Pain

A year ago we introduced you to Jennifer, one of the writers at the devotional blog Get Along With God. Choosing a selection for today wasn’t easy; there were many to choose from. Click the title below, then click on ‘home’ to visit other articles at the site.

Our Pain Belongs to God

I was reading Jeremiah when I was struck by the following passage.

Your words were found, and I ate them.
Your words became a delight to me
and the joy of my heart,
for I am called by Your name,
Yahweh God of Hosts.
I never sat with the band of revelers,
and I did not celebrate with them.
Because Your hand was on me, I sat alone,
for You filled me with indignation.
Why has my pain become unending,
my wound incurable,
refusing to be healed?
You truly have become like a mirage to me—
water that is not reliable.

Jeremiah 15:16-18 HCSB

There’s a great deal going on here, but I was pierced by two things in particular. First, Jeremiah is telling the Lord just how much joy he’s had in being His. Yahweh is a delight to Jeremiah’s heart. Second, Jeremiah is in great pain because he took God’s side. So why isn’t God taking his side by healing him? Jeremiah didn’t forsake God when he was wounded, but he absolutely took his pain and doubt and anger and bewilderment straight to the One he loved. Why? Because our pain belongs to God.

If our pain belongs to God, why am I always talking?

I once took great satisfaction in sharing not only my pain, but in broadcasting the pain and injustice I’d encountered or learned from the news as well. I even attempted to make it entertaining. There was nothing benign about this either. The spirit behind it was a malevolent hatred of God.

I can see so clearly now that I used my pain and the pain of others to campaign against God. “God is NOT good. Look what He did to me! Look what He’s done to the world!” My tales of woe were an underhanded, cowardly blame-game that invited the listener to pity me in my pain and tried to inflame them with righteous indignation at the uncaring God who let it all happen. Was I really wounded? Yes, but my desire to be free of the pain was not stronger than my anger at being hurt in the first place. I wanted to fight God far more than I wanted to be healed by Him.

Because I have seen so clearly just how vile and septic my hatred and blame of God was, I am very aware when I share my pain with others. I realize that, in fact, I share very little of it any more, but until I read Jeremiah, I didn’t know why exactly. I was beginning to wonder if I was trying to parent myself and keep myself from backsliding into old habits. Instead the Spirit showed me a picture, in Jeremiah, of how God wants us to deal with our pain.

Our pain belongs to God when we do.

Jeremiah gave God and God alone his burgeoning doubt and frustration and suffering. He took his hurt directly to God, and God responded to Jeremiah’s cry with the solution to his pain. Jeremiah belonged to God, and so did his pain. Jesus in Gethsemane is another picture of this. Gethsemane isn’t just about surrender; it’s a picture of what surrender entails: pain. Jesus was in the last stretch of His race, and He begged the Father to spare Him the unspeakable agony that dawn would bring. He brought the anguish of His heart directly to God. And the Father DID respond. Jesus wasn’t spared Calvary, but when the soldiers came for Him, He’d been given the grace to meet them.

I don’t belong to myself anymore—I belong to Jesus. So my pain belongs to God, too. The pain that I share with other people now is usually the tip of the iceberg, because the hidden bulk is for God alone. I reserve the highest of my love and joy for Him, and the lowest and most agonizing pain is His, too. The deepest recesses of my heart and the wildest bliss and exhilaration of my spirit are the most intimate parts of me. And I want to give them to my Lord.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
Psalm 51:17 KJV

February 13, 2015

God: From A to Z

Scripture verse in greenAt first, I thought this was a rather contrived premise for an article, but then, the more I thought about it, it’s all scripture so it’s all good. We put scripture verses in green here as a reminder that God’s word is life. Today, the entire article is in green.  (I know, I should have saved it for St. Patrick’s Day.) This is from the blog Abundant Life Now by Robert Lloyd Russell, click the title below to read at source and look around the rest of the site.  Oh… and slow down as you read each verse; think of the theme and what this reveals of God’s nature and His character.

God Alphabet

~ God’s Interactions with His People ~

Almighty God (to bless us) ~ “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless’” (Genesis 17:1).

Blessed God (to cheer us) ~ “According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust” (1 Timothy 1:11).

Compassionate God (to bear with us) ~ “For the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the place of His inheritance. He found him in a desert land and in the wasteland, a howling wilderness; He encircled him, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye. As an eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its young, spreading out its wings, taking them up, carrying them on its wings, so the Lord alone led him, and there was no foreign god with him. He made him ride in the heights of the earth, that he might eat the produce of the fields; He made him draw honey from the rock, and oil from the flinty rock” (Deuteronomy 32:9-13).

Defending God (to protect us) ~ “The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; my father’s God, and I will exalt Him. The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is His name” (Exodus 15:2-3).

Eternal God (to secure us) ~ “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you, and will say, ‘Destroy!’” (Deuteronomy 33:27).

Faithful God (to assure us) ~ “By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised” (Hebrews 11:11).

Gracious God (to bless us) ~ “So he prayed to the Lord, and said, ‘Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm’” (Jonah 4:2).

Holy God (to sanctify us) ~ “I will not execute the fierceness of My anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim. For I am God, and not man, the Holy One in your midst; and I will not come with terror” (Hosea 11:9).

Indwelling God (to establish/guide us) – “God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn” (Psalm 46:5). “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

Just God (to clear us) ~ “Tell and bring forth your case; yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the Lord? And there is no other God besides Me, a just God and a Savior; there is none besides Me” (Isaiah 45:21).

Kind God (to supply us) ~ “Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies” (Psalm 103:4).

Loving God (to cherish us) ~ “The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you’” (Jeremiah 31:3).

Mighty God (to deliver us) ~ “And because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them; and He brought you out of Egypt with His Presence, with His mighty power” (Deuteronomy 4:37). “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Near God (to sustain/comfort us) ~ “He is near who justifies Me; who will contend with Me? Let us stand together. Who is My adversary?” (Isaiah 50:8). “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6).

Omniscient God (to watch over us) ~ “Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul” (Psalm 121:4-7).

Powerful God (to strengthen us) ~ “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion” (2 Timothy 4:17).

Quickening God (to change us) ~ “Even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Ephesians 2:5).

Righteous God (to justify us) ~ “Oh, let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, but establish the just; for the righteous God tests the hearts and minds” (Psalm 7:9). “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Romans 5:9).

Saving God (to free us) ~ “And it will be said in that day: ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation’” (Isaiah 25:9).

Truth-keeping God (to encourage us) ~ “Who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; Who keeps truth forever” (Psalm 146:6).

Unchanging God (to secure us) ~ “For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob” (Malachi 3:6).

Victorious God (to overcome for us) ~ “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Wise God (to enlighten us) ~ “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

Xcellent God (to be our example) ~ “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth, who have set Your glory above the heavens!” (Psalm 8:1).

Yearning God (to look after us) ~ “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me” (Isaiah 49:15-16).

Zealous God (to keep us) ~ “As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3).

~ Robert Lloyd Russell

February 6, 2015

The Gospel Points in Three Directions

NIV Rom. 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

J.D. Greear wrote a book on the subject of assurance, Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart, which I enjoyed reading and I always make a point of tracking his blog.  This article appeared recently and I felt it would be a good fit here at C201.  To read at source click the title below.

The Gospel in Three Directions

If you were to ask the average Christian, “How can you become more self-controlled, more upright—essentially, more in line with God’s will?” what would the answer be? Greater will power, perhaps. Or maybe more theological knowledge. Having accountability partners. Maintaining a consistent quiet time. The list goes on.

What if you asked the Apostle Paul? His answer would be clear: you change when you experience the grace of God. “The grace of God,” Paul says, “train[s] us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives” (Titus 2:11–12). How does God’s grace do this? By focusing our attention in three directions:

Upward Backward Forward - The GospelThe gospel points UPWARD, redirecting our worship.

Sin problems don’t start as sin problems. They start as worship problems. At the root of all sin, as the Apostle Paul explains, is the colossal mistake of “giving the glory of God to created things” (Romans 1:23). The Hebrew word for glory (kabod) carried the connotation of “weight.” The Greek word for glory (doxa) hints at ideas of majesty and beauty. Put the two together and you get a good idea of the problem: we gave a weightiness and a beauty to things more than we gave to God. As Matt Papa says in Look and Live, sin is simply worship misdirected.

To change sin at the heart level, which is where God wants to change it, he has to change what we worship. As Paul Tripp puts it, “If we worship our way into sin, we have to worship our way out.” The gospel, and the gospel alone, does that, redirecting our worship and reigniting our passions. It points us upward to a God who is better and more glorious and more satisfying than any of our pathetic idols.

The gospel points BACKWARD, restoring our gratefulness.

Every now and then, someone tries to identify one sin as the core sin, the one really bad guy that leads to everything else. I’ve seen people point the finger at pride, at lust, at envy. What I hardly ever hear is what Paul says in Romans 1:21: “They did not honor God as God or give thanks to him.” Thanklessness! Did I hear you right, Paul?

This may not seem obvious at first, but think about it. When you lack gratitude, not only do you rob someone of the glory that belongs to them; you also convince yourself that you could have gotten on fine without them. I’ve heard Tim Keller describe it like plagiarism. When you plagiarize, you steal credit that belongs to someone else. But that’s only half of the problem. The other half is that you also deceive others into thinking you’re someone you aren’t. If I were to find some lost C.S. Lewis book manuscript in a relative’s attic and publish it as my own, that may impress some folks. But when the publisher comes asking for more, I’m in a bind.

This is the situation thanklessness puts us in toward God. We rob his glory, which is bad enough. But then we also parade around as if we’re self-sufficient. We forget that every breath we have comes from God. And that thankless spirit leads to bitterness, pride, and a host of other sins.

The gospel gives us a reason to be thankful, eternally thankful. It transforms us by reminding us that as much as we’ve dishonored God, he still came for us. And as we reflect on what he did for us, it begins to change what we do today.

The gospel points FORWARD, raising our expectations.

In the gospel, we see what God is making us and the future he has for us. He puts in us a taste, a hunger, for the perfection he’s creating in us. My wife was at a conference recently with an older Christian leader. Reflecting on his life—and knowing he didn’t have many years left—he said, “What am I looking forward to? Sinlessness. I can almost taste it.” When this man looked forward to the future, he didn’t grow frustrated because his youth was gone. He trembled in anticipation of seeing his God face to face, of having all of the poison of sin once and for all taken away.

Is that what you’re excites you about heaven? If it is, you long for it and move toward that now. You work against injustice. You battle sin in your own life. You become eager to do good works (Titus 2:14), not because they save you, but because what God has shown you about the future is so beautiful that you can almost taste it.

In contrast, religion points INWARD, toward our failures.

The gospel points us upward to a God who gave himself for us, backward to the price he paid for our sin, and forward to what he’s making us into. Religion can point, too. But instead of point out toward what God has done, it points a finger at us, telling us to try harder.

As Tim Chester puts it, religion says you should not, while the gospel says you need not. Religion is constantly shouting, “You shouldn’t sleep with your boyfriend! You shouldn’t get drunk! You shouldn’t lose your temper!” That’s not good news to people struggling with those issues. That’s condemnation. But the gospel says, “You need not give yourself to your boyfriend, because God’s love will never fail you. You need not get drunk, because Jesus offers a more sure refuge. You need not lose your temper, because God is in control.”

Sin is always making promises it can’t keep. Religion doesn’t do anything to expose them; it just adds more false promises. But the gospel exposes every lie by showing us a God who is better. As Charles Spurgeon wrote, “When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could ever have rebelled against One who loved me so, and sought my good.”

 


 

For more on this, be sure to listen to the entire message here.

February 2, 2015

Marching in the Trees

II Samuel 5:24 And when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then rouse yourself, for then the Lord has gone out before you to strike down the army of the Philistines.” (ESV)

Angels tread light, and he that can walk upon the clouds can, when he pleases, walk on the tops of trees, or (as bishop Patrick understands it) at the head of the mulberry-trees, that is, of the wood, or hedge-row of those trees. ~ Matthew Henry

Today we pay a return visit to Alistair Begg, pastor and host of the Christian radio program Truth for Life.  He writes and broadcasts to a much older audience than most readers here, but I believe we can learn much from the writings of another generation if we just slow down enough to take in what they have to teach us.

First, a definition of a term in the first sentence that is not used as much in the modern church:

Unction = ( 1 John 2:20 1 John 2:27 ; RSV, “anointing”)  Kings, prophets, and priests were anointed, in token of receiving divine grace. All believers are, in a secondary sense, what Christ was in a primary sense, “the Lord’s anointed.”  (Easton’s Bible Dictionary sourced at Bible Study Tools.)

Here I would add that this should not be confused with the Roman Catholic sacrament of the same name. If your background is Catholic Church, you may find the use of term confusing.

To read the devotional at source, and see others by the same author, click the title below.

Be Prepared

The members of Christ’s Church should be very prayerful, always seeking the unction of the Holy One to rest upon their hearts, that the kingdom of Christ may come, and that His “will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”1 But there are times when God seems especially to favor Zion; such seasons ought to be to them like “the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees.”

We ought then to be doubly prayerful, doubly earnest, wrestling more at the throne than we have been used to do. Action should then be prompt and vigorous. The tide is flowing–now let us pull manfully for the shore. Oh, for Pentecostal outpourings and Pentecostal labors.

Christian, in yourself there are times “when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees.” You have a peculiar power in prayer; the Spirit of God gives you joy and gladness; the Scripture is open to you; the promises are applied; you walk in the light of God’s countenance; you have peculiar freedom and liberty in devotion, and more closeness of communion with Christ than before. Now, at such joyous periods when you hear the “sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees,” is the time to rouse yourself; now is the time to get rid of any evil habit, while God the Spirit helps your infirmities. Spread your sail; but remember what you sometimes sing…

I can only spread the sail;
But God must breathe the auspicious gale.

Only be sure you have the sail up. Do not miss the gale for want of preparation for it. Seek help from God, that you may be more earnest in duty when made more strong in faith, that you may be more constant in prayer when you have more liberty at the throne, that you may be more holy in your conversation while you live more closely with Christ.

1Matthew 6:10


I John 2:27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit–just as it has taught you, remain in him.

January 20, 2015

Keep Your Love Alive…And the Gospel Will Be Preached

We used a brief excerpt a year ago from the daily devotional Johnny B. Daily. Sometimes we return to a previous source only to find that they’ve stopped writing, or have lost the focus that we saw evident at an earlier stage. So it’s nice to go back and see someone faithfully writing, in this case since June, 2006.  For our return visit we find Johnny going verse-by-verse through Matthew. This is actually two posts, and our headline above is our attempt to link the two thoughts in the consecutive verses.

But first, Johnny always starts each day to his readers with these words:

God is good all the time, all the time God is good.  TOO BLESSED TO BE STRESSED!!!!

I love his passion and the personal tone with which he writes to his readers. To reach each piece below at source, click the individual titles:

Is your love cold? Is your love all about you? Matthew 24:12,13

Yesterday I visited with you about false prophets. Do not get me wrong, many preachers on the radio and TV are good God fearing Bible teaching men; just be aware of the ones that are not. Johnny, are you judging them. No, but the Bible says to test them by the word. Do this and see for yourself.

Matthew 24: 12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

Jesus is telling us here that with false teachings and loose morals comes a very destructive element. What is this element? LOVE that IS NO MORE! Huh? Because of false teachings, or teaching about caring for yourself, that you will prosper and do well and loose morals we lose the love for God and the love for anything except SELF!!

Look around, where is your focus? Are you thinking only of yourself? If so, you love is not for God first; then love neighbors and family. Hmmm! Something to think about. If you are #1 then you cannot truly love.

13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

However, with Jesus there is always hope. If you endure, don’t compromise your Christian beliefs, stay true to the one true living GOD, then you shall be saved. These are Jesus’ words.

Come my friend, now, take time this very moment to pray, asking God to make you strong and a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ. Love you all.


The song, “Just spreadin’ the news” should be our theme song. Matthew 24:14

Matthew 24:14 tells us that before Jesus returns, the Good News about the Kingdom, the message of salvation, would be preached throughout the world.

This was the disciples mission. This is your mission. To take the Good News to others worldwide. Are you sharing the word with others? How can you more effectively share the good news where ever you walk? A man had lots of little small crosses and he would lay one on the sidewalk of businesses he entered when the Spirit moved him. He said he has yet to exit and the cross still be there — YES, someone picked it up. A great way to stir the curiosity and move people. What way can you leave small subtle hints? Hints to stir people and get them to thinking about Jesus, about salvation, about eternity after death.

Your walk in life should be one way to share the gospel. So others look and say what does he/she have that I don’t have? Hmmm!

Jesus talked about the end times and final judgment to show his followers the urgency of spreading the Good News of salvation to everyone.

Here are Jesus’ words: 14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

May your day be filled with glory from our Father in Heaven. Love you all.


I’m not sure that the original text is meant to read this way, as a conditional promise, but as we join the two verses we could say: Kindling our love for God and faithfully enduring means that the gospel will go out into the world.

Oh, and I almost forgot, Johnny ends each day’s writing with these words:

In Christ’s Love and Grace

To which we add, Amen!

Next Page »