Christianity 201

June 15, 2018

Defending Yourself and Protecting the Attacker: Are Both Possible?

Keith Giles is the author of several books, including the forthcoming Jesus Unbound: How the Bible Keeps Us From Hearing the Word of God, available July 4th, 2018. He is also the author of the best-seller, Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb. He is the co-host of the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean. He and his wife live in California. This is his second time featured here at C201. Click the title below to read this at his Patheos blog and check out other articles.

The Aikido Spirit of God

If you’re not familiar with Aikido, it’s a style of martial arts that uses an opponent’s energy against them to redirect their kinetic force to turn it back upon them.

Or, as the Wikipedia entry explains:

Aikido’s techniques include irimi (entering), and tenkan (turning) movements that redirect the opponent’s attack momentum.

The man who invented this style of martial arts created for one purpose:

“to create an art that practitioners could use to defend themselves while also protecting their attacker from injury”.

This is exactly what God does.

Consider that God never wanted anyone to rule His people other than Himself. God wanted a people who would look to Him as their King. But, unfortunately, His people wanted “a King like all the other nations have” and even though He was grieved by their choice, He gave them what they asked for.

After giving them a King, God told them that He would send them a Messiah who would rule on David’s throne forever. But notice, it was never God’s desire for King David to have any throne at all. Yet, God used the disobedience and rejection of His people and redirected it to the Messiah to come.

God also never asked anyone to build Him a temple. When King David set out to build one for God, His response was: “Heaven is my throne and Earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me?” and then promises that, instead, God will build a house for David which, again, is a nod to the coming Messiah who would build a Temple not made with human hands but from human hearts that are surrendered to God [the Ekklesia where God lives by His Spirit – the Church].

So, once again, God takes our mistakes and turns them around to bless us anyway.

As Joseph told his brothers who had sold him into slavery out of jealousy: “What you intended for evil, God meant for good.

This is the Aikido way of God.

Another example of this is animal sacrifice.

Moses knew of no other way to worship a god [any god] other than a blood sacrifice. There simply wasn’t any other form of worship known to mankind in that ancient world. So, Moses assumes that to worship Yahweh, something must be slain on an altar to please God.

But, according to Jeremiah, God never wanted animal sacrifices in the first place:

For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices.  But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.’  Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.” [Jeremiah 7:22-24]

Again, God did not want animal sacrifices. Moses did.

But, God allowed this to be practiced in spite of this and, instead, used this misunderstanding to point to Christ who would come and fulfill this picture of the scapegoat and redeem the barbaric practice of sacrifice to liberate us from the bondage of guilt and sin.

This is why Jesus echoes the prophet Hosea and says:

“Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” [Matt 9:13; 12:7]

God is always taking our disobedience, our misunderstandings, our limited vision, even our total rejection of Him, to redirect it back around to bless us and redeem us and draw us nearer to Himself.

God uses everything – all wisdom, all knowledge, all ignorance, all disobedience, all rejection, all striving – to declare His love to us and to set us free from everything that entangles us.

This is who God is. This is who God has always been. This is who God will always be.

His love endures forever.

 

June 12, 2018

Time Will Tell

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:51 pm
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But if you fail to keep your word, then you will have sinned against the LORD, and you may be sure that your sin will find you out. – Numbers 32:23 NLT

In preparation for something else I came across this verse a few weeks ago:

I Timothy 5:24

The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. (NIV)

Remember, the sins of some people are obvious, leading them to certain judgment. But there are others whose sins will not be revealed until later. (NLT)

The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. (ESV)

As a matter of general principle this is true. But the Christian Courier notes the context, which is setting people aside for church leadership:

The thrust of the first half of the passage, therefore, seems to be this: Some men’s sins are so evident (open, unconcealed, obvious), that their possible appointment to a leadership role may be dismissed immediately. In such a situation, “judgment” (opinion, determination) can be made early-on; the issue, then, will not have to be dealt with in a more open forum later. There is no need to proceed further in the case of well-known transgressors.

On the other hand, the “problems” with others may not be so apparent initially. A man may be appointed to an important role, only to have his serious character flaws revealed at a later time. Therefore, be deliberate and cautious in the appointments made for leadership roles in the church.

Barnes Notes says,

They conceal their plans. They practice deception. They appear different from what they really are. But the character of such people will be developed, and they will be judged according to their works. They cannot hope to escape with impunity. Though they have endeavored to hide their evil deeds, yet they will follow after them to the judgment-bar, and will meet them there. The meaning, in this connection, seems to be, that there ought to be circumspection in judging of the qualifications of men for the office of the ministry. It ought not to be inferred from favorable appearances at once, or on slight acquaintance, that they are qualified for the office – for they may be of the number of those whose characters, now concealed or misunderstood, will be developed only on the final trial.

William Barclay’s Commentary notes the sovereignty of God in all this. His words remind me of Jesus speaking of letting wheat and weeds grow side-by-side:

This saying bids us leave things to God and be content. There are obvious sinners, whose sins are clearly leading to their disaster and their punishment; and there are secret sinners who, behind a front of unimpeachable rectitude, live a life that is in essence evil and ugly. What man cannot see, God does. “Man sees the deed, but God sees the intention.” There is no escape from the ultimate confrontation with the God who sees and knows everything.

There are some whose good deeds are plain for all to see, and who have already won the praise and thanks and congratulations of men. There are some whose good deeds have never been noticed, never appreciated, never thanked, never praised, never valued as they ought to have been. They need not feel either disappointed or embittered. God knows the good deed also, and he will repay, for he is never in any man’s debt.

Here we are told that we must neither grow angry at the apparent escape of others nor embittered at the apparent thanklessness of men, but that we must be content to leave all things to the ultimate judgment of God.

Matthew Henry covers verses 24 and 25 together:

Observe, Ministers have need of a great deal of wisdom, to know how to accommodate themselves to the variety of offences and offenders that they have occasion to deal with. Some men’s sins are so plain and obvious, and not found by secret search, that there is no dispute concerning the bringing of them under the censures of the church; they go before to judgment, to lead them to censure.—Others they follow after; that is, their wickedness does not presently appear, nor till after a due search has been made concerning it. Or, as some understand it, some men’s sins continue after they are censured; they are not reformed by the censure, and in that case there must be no absolution. So, also, as to the evidences of repentance: The good works of some are manifest beforehand. And those that are otherwise, whose good works do not appear, their wickedness cannot be hid, and so it will be easy to discern who are to be absolved, and who are not.

This brings us to case discussed in verse 25 which perhaps we will look at another time:

In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever.

I encourage you to read the whole chapter.

June 5, 2018

God’s Requirement of a New Creation

by Russell Young

Much is made of the fact that the confessor is a “new creation,” but what is meant by that? Paul told the Corinthians, “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation.” (2 Cor 5:17) A new creation is an “original formation” according to translation from the Greek. (Strong’s Greek Dictionary #2937) He or she has become something that they were not before. They have been cleansed from sin and are now in possession of the Holy Spirit whom they did not have in their previous birth. That is, they have the same advantages in Christ as he had. Paul wrote, “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.” (Gal 6:15) The need for this newness has been revealed in Genesis. “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that the inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” (Gen 6:5─6) The new creation is needed to destroy evil inclinations and by doing so to conform a person to the likeness of Christ. Although the creation is new, conformity or refinement must yet be achieved through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

How do people become a new or an original formation? To be “in Christ” they must first have been cleansed of any existing sins. The writer of Hebrews has stated that they “have been set free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” (Heb 9:15) But, in their new formation they now possess the Holy Spirit, who is Christ in them (Col 1:27; 2 Cor 3:17, 18) The whole purpose of the believer’s redemption was so that he or she might gain the Spirit. “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” (Gal 3:14 Italics added) Being a descendant of Adam, humankind possess the natural or evil spirit that entertains sinful practices and fills God’s heart with pain. It is freed from the encumbrances of past sins that bring death and it houses the Holy Spirit. Although confessors still have the flesh and the spirit from their natural birth to contend with, they have been given all that is necessary for life and godliness through Christ’s presence in them (Col 1:27), the Holy Spirit.

Being a new creation, possessing the Spirit, does not mean that the believer has been renewed however. The new creation is a new birth, a new beginning. The Spirit must be obeyed. (Heb 5:9) “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (Col 3:9─10 Italics added) Paul also wrote, “You were taught with regard to your former way of life to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made knew in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph 4:22─24) The confessor has something to do, to put off his or her old self; they must live in obedience to the Spirit’s leading. “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Gal 5:18 NIV) “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:14) A person who is being led is an obedient follower.

The “renewal,” refining, or “conforming to the likeness of Christ” is not done instantaneously. It often requires discipline, punishment, and hardships. (Heb 12:5─7, Rev 3:19) A new birth is the first stage of the creation that God requires, but it begins with incorruptible parentage providing better hope. The new creation through a new birth makes the confessor into a new spiritual baby. He or she must mature to become the person or offering that God requires, sanctified by the Spirit. (Rom 15:16) Hebrews cautions about “falling away” during this process. (Heb 6:1-12)

Many take the believer’s transformation as being a unilateral act of God, a gift of grace; however, the believer’s –a confessor makes the pledge of Christ’s lordship, but a believer lives it out–transformation is an exercise of his or her will, or of their choices. The Spirit is a helper only. He enlightens, leads and empowers, but must be obeyed. Those who thwart, deny, or quench him will not enjoy the hope of God’s heavenly kingdom. These are the hypocrites who blaspheme the Spirit—”sin defiantly.” (Num 15:30) They will never be forgiven. (Lk 12:10)

Peter wrote, “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Pet 4:13) Christ suffered when he was tempted (Heb 2:18) and believers are to join him in his suffering. Further, John wrote, “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 Jn 2:6) The mature new creation will be a revelation of Christ as he is willed to live in the body of the believer.

(Unless otherwise noted, all scriptures are quoted from the NIV)


Author Russell Young lives in Ontario, Canada and is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  His column appears here every other Tuesday.  To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.  There is also a feature-length article at this link.

 

May 26, 2018

Covenant: Past, Present and Future

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Today we’re paying a return visit to Clergy Stuff, which offers daily devotionals following the Narrative Lectionary. This one is actually the reading for tomorrow. (The text follows at the bottom.)

What God Has Done

by Kace Leetch

Several times throughout the Bible, God enters a covenant with people. First with Noah and his family, then with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Here God enters a covenant, not with individuals, but with an entire nation. God’s covenant with the Israelites is this: God will be their God, and they will be God’s people.

True to form, God enters the covenant with a promise—past, “I… brought you… out of the house of slavery;” present, “I am the Lord your God;” and future, “You shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples.” God is a leader before God requires people to be led.

I am a binge-watching fool when it comes to reality TV about small businesses. Often, rich entrepreneurs step in, either to invest in start-ups, or to rescue failing small businesses. What regularly strikes me is that the failing businesses are often run by people who just don’t have adequate leadership skills. Some are pretty snooty, thinking they are above the menial tasks of their employees. Others are too passive, letting their employees walk all over them. Still others are so stuck in their ways, their aversion to change is killing the business.

God is the opposite of all of these struggling leaders. God is not above getting God’s hands dirty in order to lead. God did some difficult and horrendous—yet necessary—things to rescue the Israelites from slavery. God is certainly not passive. God stood toe to toe with Pharaoh, challenging his reign, his stubbornness, and his cruelty.

God also showed a willingness to grow, renewing the covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, by reestablishing a new relationship with Moses and Moses’ people. As the people and the relationships changed, so did God’s terms of the covenant.

With Noah, the covenant was between God and all of God’s creation. God promised never to destroy the planet by flood. Noah had no commitment in this covenant.

With Abraham, the covenant was that God would bless the earth by blessing Abraham. Again, there was no commitment by Abraham for this blessing. Later, however, God did require Abraham to circumcise his descendants as a sign of their covenant that Abraham would be father of a great nation.

With Moses and the Israelites, God included in the covenant a more defined role for the Israelites to play. They would have to put God above all else. They would have to follow God’s commandments. As the conditions and the people changed, so did God’s requirement of them and God’s promises to them. Despite people’s failures, God continued to establish, reestablish, and recreate the covenants, always starting with and fulfilling God’s commitment.

Narrative Lectionary Text: Exodus 19:1-6; 20:1-2

On the third new moon after the Israelites had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day, they came into the wilderness of Sinai. They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain. Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.”

Then God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

May 23, 2018

The Love of Money and the Teaching of False Doctrine

Today’s devotional’s title is actually a new title for something which appeared here five years ago. I re-titled it because I wanted you to see that there might be more than a casual connection between the two. Yes, false teachers teach falsely about many subjects — not just finances — but the often-quoted verse about the love of money is found in a larger context of something different: False doctrine.

It’s always good to frequently remind people in your sphere of influence that the chapter headers and paragraph headers in modern Bibles are not in any way part of the text. A few days ago here, I learned that when you create a particular headline, you send peoples’ thoughts in a particular direction that doesn’t allow what is written to speak for itself. It’s the same with the publishers of Bibles.

I Timothy 6 (NIV sans header) begins:

6 All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. 2 Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. Instead, they should serve them even better because their masters are dear to them as fellow believers and are devoted to the welfare[a] of their slaves.

These are the things you are to teach and insist on. 3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

In the Full-Color Bible edition of the NIV (a newer Bible from Standard Publishing formatted similar to the Rainbow Study Bible) there is a header that says,

Danger of loving money

That header tends to funnel us directly to the “love of money” section at the expense of the earlier verses, at the expense of what precedes it.

Here is how some of today’s popular Bibles highlight this passage:

False Teachers and the Love of Money (NIV – middle of vs. 2)
False Teaching and True Riches (NLT – middle of vs. 2)
False Teaching and True Riches (NRSV – middle of vs. 2)
False Teachers and True Contentment (ESV – middle of vs. 2)
Instructions to Those Who Minister (NASB – start of entire chapter)
Warning about false teachers (CEB – start of vs. 3)
The Lust for Money (MSG – start of vs. 2)
The dangers of false doctrine and the love of money (Phillips – start of vs. 3)
False Doctrine and Human Greed (HCSB – middle of vs. 2)

The second part of verse five is the pivot around which the text moves into a discussion of finances, but we emphasize those verses about the love of money to the point of neglecting the section about those who teach false doctrine, especially as described in verse 4 and 5a.

  • he is conceited, understanding nothing, but has a sick interest in disputes and arguments over words. (HCSB)
  • …has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words… (NRSV)
  • …has an unhealthy craving for controversy… (ESV)
  • …He is puffed up with pride and stupefied with conceit, [although he is] woefully ignorant. He has a morbid fondness for controversy and disputes and strife about words… (AMP)
  • They don’t understand anything but have a sick obsession with debates and arguments. (CEB)
  • …he is a conceited idiot! His mind is a morbid jumble of disputation and argument, things which lead to nothing but jealousy, quarreling, insults and malicious innuendos—continual wrangling (Phillips)
  • If others are teaching otherwise and bringing unhealthy conversations to the community, if they are not sticking to the sound words in the teaching of our Lord Jesus the Anointed, if they are not teaching godly principles— 4 then they are swollen with conceit, filled with self-importance, and without any proper understanding. They probably have a gross infatuation with controversy and will endlessly debate meanings of words. (The Voice)

Certainly any look at what takes placed in the Christian blogosphere and in the comments section on news websites dealing with religion stories shows the preoccupation for words and controversy. Many of those writing are simply not qualified to make blanket, authoritative pronouncements.

But it’s interesting that many of these very people are also called out for their preoccupation with money. It is as though the two conditions go hand in hand.

The second half of vs. 5 in the NIV also needs to be considered in the light of prosperity teaching:

“…who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.”

This is the message of many faith teachers; that living life God’s way will result in financial gain, whereas the scriptures teach God’s provision for needs. Matthew 6:33 says that if we seek God’s kingdom “all these things” will be “added” to us, but the “things” referred to in the preceding verses are food, drink, and clothing; in other words physical necessities.

Does this work both ways? If the unhealthy obsession with doctrinal controversy leads to wrong teaching and wrong prioritization about finances, can a wrong attitude about money also warp our reading of scriptural truth that impacts our core theology? It would be hard to make a case that one causes the other, but the characteristics we see in people on particular issue “A” often indicate a potential for problems with topic “B” …or “C” or “D” or “X.”

Philippians 4:19 (NIV)

19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Don’t let the Bible’s teaching about the love of money in I Timothy 6 cause you to miss that money issues are often part of a larger issue, either in someone’s character or in their methodology for interpreting the Bible.

 

 

May 16, 2018

Trying to Do it All

Part of our mandate here at C201 is to present you with devotionals across a broad spectrum of Christian writers. You might have noticed that many of our writers are women, but periodically, I like to include visits to websites written specifically to women, rather than just having women writers.

Biblical Woman is one such site which we’re showcasing today. You may find articles which are written specifically addressing ‘Ladies’ or ‘Sisters’ but I hope the guys reading today will derive benefit from this as well. As always, click the title below to read at source.

Maybe You’re {NOT} Supposed to Do It All

by

“Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”

~Colossians 4:9

In our culture, moms are called on to do more than they have ever had to do before. While we also have more help with smartphones and fast food and efficient appliances, most moms feel the pressure of being spread too thin. The commitment to raise children, the commitment to our jobs (professional, volunteer, home-based, etc.) the commitment to our marriages, and the commitment to our homes can leave even the most organized woman drowning in over commitment.

At the very end of Colossians, almost as an aside, Paul adds a note to a fellow brother in Christ, Archippus. Paul addresses him by name and says to “take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” This Archippus is thought to be Philemon’s son that is mentioned in Philemon 2, so it’s likely that he routinely hosted the church in his home and he was more than likely very involved in the church body overall. We are only left to speculate what Paul meant with this challenge to Archippus, but I do believe there are specific things that we, as moms, can glean from a simple statement by Paul.

Take heed or pay attention…

I know, as a mom, I can allow myself to be greatly distracted by everything. Without a plan, I can spend my day chasing rabbits or following the demand of the urgent. However, in our schedules, Paul reminds us to pay attention. We have to discipline ourselves to focus on what we are called to do.

To your ministry…

What are you called by God to do? We are most effective when we have a clear purpose and a clear goal. Take the time to pray about what God would have you to do. Discuss it with your husband. Without clear purpose, we leave ourselves open to the waves of whatever comes our way.

Which you have received in the Lord…

Where did you receive the call to do all the things you are trying to do? Ladies, this one is hard to accept, but it is imperative that we listen to what Paul is trying to say here. We can receive our “duties” from many different places, mainly other people, our kids, or our own selfish aspirations, just to name a few. But if we attempt to put on our plate every job that comes our way from any source, then we will be too tired and too distracted to actually hear what God is calling us to do. Make a list of all the responsibilities you have. Then, beside each responsibility write who gave you that job. If you ultimately did not receive it from the Lord, then, with much prayer and trust, begin working on releasing that job.

Fellow mommas, the Lord has called us to great ministries and responsibilities. Only those that we receive from Him have eternal consequences. If God did not call you to a job, the stretch of your influence will be stunted in that position. Release it and take heed to those we have received from Him.

That you may fulfill it…

Doesn’t it feel good to complete something? For a mom, it’s a special treat. The only reason I like laundry is because there is a beginning (dirty clothes) and an end (clean clothes). It is a great feeling to see a job to its completion. God desires us to accomplish something, not to work aimlessly chasing everything that comes our way. If we will pay attention to only the ministry that we receive from God, then the feeling of accomplishment is within our grasp. Are you always starting and never completing anything? Maybe you are trying to do more than what the Lord has planned for you right now.

One of the biggest lies our culture tells us is that we can do it all and have it all right now.

I know sometimes I listen to this lie and before I even realize it, I am working myself into a frenzy. As moms, the cost is too precious to waste our energy on tasks that are not from the Lord. I encourage you to join me in examining my own life and discipline myself to only heed the ministries that the Lord has given me that I might fulfill them to His glory.

May 15, 2018

The Reluctance of Moses to Serve

Today we’re back at Lightsource, but this time on the page for the In His Grip Devotional, which features the writing of Dr. Chuck Betters from MarkInc.

…God’s confrontation with the Old Testament patriarch, Moses, gives us a glimpse into our own hearts and often excuses for turning down God’s invitation to partner with Him by using our own gifts to introduce others to His son, Jesus.

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

Moses, when given the task of leading the Israelites out of Egypt, objected strenuously (Exodus 3:1-4:17). First, Moses questioned, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

God responded, “I will be with you,” the very promise He made to Abraham (and to us, Matthew 28:28).

Second, Moses objected, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is Him name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

God responded, in effect, “Tell them that Jehovah, the faithful and trustworthy God of their fathers, has sent you.”

Third, Moses doubted. “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” Moses probably remembered his earlier rejection by his people and questioned why this time would be any different.

Throw Down Your Staff

God responded that Moses should throw down his staff, the symbol of his identity as a working shepherd. Without his staff he could not take care of the sheep or protect himself. God changed the staff into a snake, the national symbol of Pharaoh’s alleged sovereign power. God changed it back into a staff when Moses obediently picked it up. This was no magic trick; it underscored God’s power and authority over Pharaoh. Moses had to surrender his shepherd’s calling in order to accept God’s commissioning. Though Moses carried the simple staff of a shepherd, God had invested it, as indeed He had invested Moses, with a power far beyond its humble appearance.

Fourth, Moses continued to object, claiming he was not a man of words. “O Lord,” he complained, “I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since You have spoken to Your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

God responded, reassuring Moses and promising him that the Lord Himself would help him speak and teach him what to say. As with Moses, God also promises to give us the strength and abilities we need. As it says in the book of Ephesians, every child of God is “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (2:10).

Fifth, Moses decided he wasn’t the best man for the job. God’s promise of His presence, power, and authority was apparently not enough for Moses. He desperately exclaimed, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it(Exodus 4:13).

This is the first time during this encounter that God actually became angry with Moses. He bluntly told Moses that his eloquent brother Aaron would serve as Moses’ spokesman.

Moses at last acquiesced and obeyed. On his long journey back to Egypt and into the jaws of his enemy, however, Moses did not travel alone, for God was with him.

Since then no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt – to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. (Deuteronomy 34:10-12)

Everyone who answers God’s call to know Him intimately must confront His call to courageously serve as Moses did.

Look around your local church. Are you the missing piece needed to reflect God’s compassion and mercy in a broken world? Which of Moses’ excuses is your favorite one behind which you hide?

What gift, talent, or resource are you hiding in your pocket?

Are YOU the missing piece in your local church? Share the love of Jesus in you, by sharing the gifts He has given to you!

May 14, 2018

Having a Revival in the Parking Lot of Another Church

Today we’re back at Dust Off The Bible, a website I first introduced you to at the time last year and this entry features the writing of Justin and Lydia who are working their way through the Revised Common Lectionary.

Apostles Do Many Signs and Wonders

Text: Acts 5: 12-16

Apostles Do Many Signs and Wonders


12 Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.


Observations and Reflections


It appears that the apostles are continuing to preach and heal people and what’s even more impressive is that it’s happening in Solomon’s Portico, right inside of the Temple walls. This would be the equivalent of having a revival in the parking lot of another church. I would imagine that most pastors would not be impressed with people trying to steal the attention of church-goers as they entered into the church. It’s likely that this enraged the religious leaders and the temple guard even more so than before.

However, since Peter was healing people and displaying great signs, a renewed interest in traveling to the Temple in Jerusalem was revived, as people would travel from afar to seek healing. It would seems as though Peter’s ministry was mimicking Jesus’, right in the face of the Jewish leaders. But, many of those same people would have likely also participated in the temple services so there is a possibility that it was not all negative for the Jewish leaders. Is it possible that the ministry of Peter and the apostles could have provided a side benefit to the Jews? It’s is possible but the religious leaders would have still been bothered at the notion that Jesus was being preached and the narrative that the religious leaders killed the messiah. Any side benefits would have been negated by such preaching.

The only answer to this problem is to get rid of the apostles, which will be the subject of the next passage.

– Justin


The Church is on the move to spread the Gospel and serve others. Peter and the rest of the apostles are standing strong despite the previous attempts to stop them and scare them from speaking the name of Jesus Christ. It is a beautiful display we see of faith and devotion to doing God’s work. The Holy Spirit is pricking at the hearts of many believers and lost souls are being saved.

Preaching the Gospel is so much more then just using words. It is absolutely necessary to speak the truth and yet is still just as important to follow up with action. Peter and His apostles are putting their words of Jesus’s love on fully display. In healing the sick and freeing those of unclean spirits, they are showcasing the truth of God’s power and love at work.

Their actions are not of their own doing and accord. It is what God has called them to do and it is by His power alone that they are able to do these things.

Being bold for the name of Jesus Christ can create and amazing ripple affect. The healing of the crippled man in the previous chapter set off a widespread eagerness to many who sought to follow after Jesus Christ. It stirred up a hunger in those who were seeking to know more about Jesus and the price He paid on the cross for our sins.

The only way in which the disciples were able to do this successfully was through faith and prayer. As the Church it was their role to continually seek God’s hand in all that they do and here we are witnessing faith and prayer at work.

– Lydia


Apologies to subscribers for the confusion on the weekend. Saturday and Sunday’s devotions got posted 2-minutes apart. Not noticing this until Sunday morning, I re-released Sunday’s devotional at the regular time. I’m just curious if any of you received it twice. Let me know.

 

May 10, 2018

Helping People Walk with Jesus In Faith

(This is part four in a series based on the tagline of our church: “To the Glory of God, Helping People Walk with Jesus in Faith, Hope, and Love”)

Who will take the first step? Who will trust God? I like to imagine the conversation among the Hebrew men as they stood before a divided Red Sea, with walls of water to the left and to the right. Sure, God did made that happen. But can God be trusted? Who will take that first step of trust? I can also imagine one of them saying, “since this is a rescue operation, perhaps it should be women and children first?”

There were already trust issues when God’s people stood between the Egyptian army and the sea;

As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Exodus 14:10-11

Moses encourages the people to trust in God;

But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.” Exodus 14:13-14

But even Moses himself seems to have some trouble trusting;

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. Exodus 14:15

The sea divides. They are to walk through! But who will take that first step? Will they trust God? This is not exactly a trip through Ripley’s Aquarium! They all took the step and walked through in faith.

When we invite people to walk with Jesus, we encourage them to trust God every step of the way. It may sometimes feel like there are walls of water to the left and right and an army behind. The Christian may endure suffering, trials and tribulations. Is God really with me as I keep plodding along the bottom of the sea? For someone who is not a Christian, the first step of faith may feel like the hardest. ‘I will be misunderstood and mocked. People will think I have lost my mind.’ A person on the verge of faith may feel like they are standing at the sea with a very scary fist step ahead. As a church family, we are to help people walk with Jesus in faith whether they have been walking with Him for a long time, or considering a first step. Each step with Jesus is the very best next step you could take no matter where you are right now.

Walking in faith means we trust in the promises of God the Father. Like God’s people feeling trapped at the sea with the promise of a rescue, we have promises to hang onto. Walking in faith means we trust in the work of God the Son. Like Moses, we don’t need to cry out for what has already been promised. Our reconciliation has been accomplished in Jesus. Our part is not to ask over and over again for God to save us, like a child begging and pleading with an unwilling parent. Our part is to keep walking with Jesus. Walking in faith means we trust God to be present though the Holy Spirit. Just as God’s people walked through the Sea while God’s presence kept the Egyptians back, we can trust that God is not going to suddenly change his mind and leave us to the enemy. As a church family, we are to help people trust God, Father, Son, & Holy Spirit, with every step.

When some hear “faith” they think “blind faith, belief without any evidence, or belief despite the evidence”. Those outside the church may think of church as helping you maintain a blind faith and will say no, thank you. Those within the church may respond with “you just gotta believe” and quote Hebrews 11:1:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

But are we really to help people with a “blind faith”? We should ask what is “unseen” in Hebrews 11? What can’t be seen is the future. When the people walked through the Red Sea, they could not see the future, but they took the step of faith, trusting that God would rescue them.

Faith in Hebrews 11 It is referring to what we have not seen fulfilled yet, what God has yet to do. Before God’s people stood before a divided sea with a decision to make, they had known the works of God. They saw what God did to the Egyptians. They had evidence upon which to take a reasonable step of faith. They had not yet seen what God was going to do, but they had seen what God had already done.

We are not called to help people believe something despite a lack of evidence. We are called to help people trust Someone because of the evidence. We do well to step into the world of apologetics and become familiar with that evidence. In addition to the lines of evidence which we can present to others, there is evidence that is personal to us. We know the presence of God through the Holy Spirit. Moses had his own burning bush experience which he could tell others about, but which some might have trouble believing. However, he could also point to the evidence of God’s hand at work which the others had seen with their own eyes. In the same way we can each have and speak about our own personal experiences of God which others have not seen or experienced. But we can also point to those lines of evidence which can be seen.

The people did trust God:

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. Hebrews 11:29

To the glory of God, may we help people walk with Jesus, may we help them trust Him every step of the way, knowing that every step with Jesus is always the next best step.


All scriptures NRSV.  Clarke Dixon is the Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Cobourg, Ontario.

Listen to the audio of the full sermon on which this based (26 minutes).

clarkedixon.wordpress.com

May 8, 2018

Jesus’ Love Saved Him

by Russell Young

All believers accept Jesus as the God-Man. Care must be taken to distinguish these two aspects of our Lord as he walked this earth, however. Before the descent of the Holy Spirit upon him, he was made in every aspect as we are. “For this reason (to help Abraham’s descendants) he had to be made like his brothers in every way.” (Heb 2:17) That is, he was created in the womb just as you and I are created with the same possibilities and limitations. No special consideration or privilege had been granted him, although he had inherited the soul of his Father.

This reality should give us pause. The writer of Hebrews states, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” (Heb 4:15) He suffered the same temptations that are presented to all humans and was able to overcome them. His victory should not be taken as being availed through supernatural provision. Again, we are told, “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he I able to help those who are being tempted.” (Heb 2:18) Why is it that Jesus prevailed while humankind fall prey to temptations and sin?

The answer rests in the love relationship that Christ practiced and enjoyed with his Father. He was committed to obedience and to maintaining the relationship. Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” (Jn 6:38) He came to “finish [God’s] work” (Jn 4:34) which was to “destroy the devil’s work.” (1 Jn 3:8 ) He did not come to destroy the devil’s power—which existed in the law, but to destroy his work in this world, the manifestation of evil, of unrighteousness.

Could Christ have died? Yes! If he had died, so would have hope for all humankind. “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (Heb 5:7) Christ was fully committed to the task given him and suffered through temptations just as you and I might. He was heard because of his prayers and petitions and because of his reverent submission to his Father. Through singleness of mind and heart he overcame temptations and death.

I am doing just what the Father commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” (Jn 14:31 NET) Jesus clearly made it known that his obedience was due to his love for his Father. It has also been revealed that those who seek his kingdom are to love Christ, and he defines love in the same manner, the practice of obedience. Jesus said, “If you love me you will obey what I command” (Jn 14:15) and promised that “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (Jn 15:10)

The Lord (sovereign authority) spoke much of the need for a love relationship with him, with the Father, and with others. His kingdom will be comprised of those who have reverently submitted to him, not with those who have made an empty pledge to do so. Unless the attitude of reverent submission based on a love relationship is the nature of those who would be in the kingdom of heaven, strife turmoil, and friction would remain a constant presence, even in his eternal kingdom. Peace would not exist, and the Lord’s work would never be completed. Believers are to be conformed to the likeness of Christ (Rom 8:29), having the same heart, committed to love through obedience.

Some promise the realization of an eternal hope by allowing that God’s grace will cover their sinful practices. However, Christ said, “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” (Mt 13:41) Their having been weeded out will be because of their practices–defiance of the Lord’s commands. Christ did not sin, and he will not sin while present in the believer (Col 1:27). John has recorded, “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.” (1 Jn 3:6) They do not appreciate who he is or what he is about. Further, john has written, “But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 Jn 2:56)

The love of Christ for the Father saved him from death and the love of people for Christ will also save them from death. As in Jesus’ case, that love is expressed through obedience. “[W]ork out (finish) your own salvation through fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Phil 2:1213) Love brings victory over death.

All scriptures NIV except as noted


Author Russell Young lives in Ontario, Canada and is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  His column appears here every other Tuesday.  To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.  There is also a feature-length article at this link.

 

May 7, 2018

The Gifts of Christ

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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Today we’re again featuring the writing of Smith Wigglesworth. (It would be a great name for a character in a children’s TV show, but it’s real!) Smith is best known in Britain where he was a Pentecostal evangelist. He died in 1947, but he was a prolific writer and his work continues in print in a long list of books. In 2013, we did an entry on him in our quotations series which you can find at this link. The following is the July 3rd entry in Smith Wigglesworth Devotional (Whitaker House).

The Gifts of Christ

To each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  — Ephesians 4:7

Scripture reading: Ephesians 4:1-16

The apostle Paul spoke about the grace and the gifts of Christ – not the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but the gifts of Christ. You are joined to Christ’s body the moment you believe. For instance, some of you may have children, and they have different names, but the moment they appeared in the world, they were in your family. The moment they were born, they became a part of your family.

The moment you are born of God, you are in the family, and you are in the body, as He is in the body, and you are in the body collectively and particularly. After you come into the body, then the body has to receive the sealing of the promise, or the fulfillment of promise, that Christ will be in you, reigning in you mightily. The Holy Spirit will come to unveil the King in all His glory so that He might reign as King there, the Holy Spirit serving in every way to make Him King.

You are in the body. The Holy Spirit gives gifts in the body. Living in this holy order, you may find that revelation comes to you and makes you a prophet. Some of you may have a clear understanding that you have been called into apostleship. Some of you may have perfect knowledge that you are to be pastors. When you come to be sealed with the Spirit of promise, then you find out that Jesus is pleased and gives gifts in order that the church might come into a perfect position of being so blended together that there could be no division. Jesus wants His church to be a perfect body–perfect in stature, perfect in oneness in Him.

I have been speaking to this end: that you may see the calling that Paul was speaking about — humility of mind, meekness of spirit, knowing that God is in you and through you, knowing that the power of the Spirit is mightily bringing you to the place where not only the gifts of the Spirit but also the gifts of Christ have been given to you, making you eligible for the great work you have to do.

My purpose is not to tell what God has for you in the future. Press in now, and claim your rights. Let the Lord Jesus be so glorified that He will make you fruit-bearers — strong in power, giving glory to God, having no confidence in the flesh (Phil 3:3) but being separated from natural things, now in the Spirit, living fully in the will of God.

Thought for today: Let your whole soul reach out unto God; dare to breathe in heaven; dare to be awakened to all God’s mind; listen to the language of the Holy Spirit.

May 5, 2018

Don’t Ask God for Patience!

Once again we’re back with Elsie Montgomery who, as I mentioned previously, is one of the most faithful devotional writers I’ve encountered online. Click the title below to read this on her blog, Practical Faith.

Be careful what you pray for!

Many of my friends who have small children complain that they need patience. Those who know the Scriptures often say, “Do not pray for patience” because we know how God develops it from this verse:

“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience . . .” (Romans 5:3, KJV)

Praying for patience (or persevering endurance) is asking for trouble! James also wrote that we need to be joyful in trials because this is how we become fully mature — and patient. No wonder I’ve often heard, “Be careful what you pray for!”

From personal experience, I have another example. This one is asking God to reveal what stands in the way of being more like Jesus. I will pray that prayer, but I also know that I need to duck after praying it. He answers quickly and the truth is often painful. This indicates that my heart is not quite as contrite as God wants it to be. Instead of wanting to hide, I need to always be glad that God is dealing with my sin. Not only that, this is the attitude to have. With this willingness to see me sin, I know God is with me . . .

“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.” (Isaiah 57:15)

Contrite’ comes from an English word that means bruised, feeling and showing sorrow for sin or shortcomings. It means the same in Hebrew and is associated with repentance. At times I’ve identified annoyingly over-confident people as having a need for brokenness. I’m often in that place myself. Unless there is brokenness and a contrite heart, I am in a state of trying to do things myself without relying on God.

Yesterday was filled with examples. Sigh. It was one of those days where I realized God is teaching me to go to Him for help and wisdom for even those tasks that I’ve done all my life without prayer or faith. Even knowing what was going on wasn’t much comfort. I was impatient with me instead of seeking the Lord. Finally, in the late afternoon my prayers of ‘help me’ started to go up and God showed me that this was His intention as I struggled. I just need to trust Him with everything, even the simple stuff.

Tozer writes today of people who only pray for revival when they feel weak and unable, when they deeply desire it. Sometimes those prayers are prompted by corruption in our society, but they ought to be the prayer of those whose hearts are broken over their own sin. I cannot speak for others or motivate them to seek God, only myself. At the same time, I know the cost and challenge of revival. When I pray for it, do I really want it?

Tozer says, “It may be said without qualification that every man is as holy and as full of the Spirit as he wants to be.” That is true, yet I cannot make Him fill me. I can only block Him, turn Him aside, say NO to the voice of God.

What kind of person would I be if I was more cooperative? Perhaps that is the problem. I’ve a notion of how a revived Christian would act, and what changes could happen. Revival seems to involve more change, more unselfishly directed energy, and a deeper trust that I can imagine myself having. This is one more situation where I am careful what I pray for!

^^^^^^^^

Lord Jesus, when You ask me to trust You and I simply forget, or forge ahead thinking I can do things apart from total reliance on You, it reveals my need for a more contrite heart, a lowly spirit, a greater filling by Your Spirit. When I feel weak and unable and still refuse to pray, my need for those things intensifies. When I would rather sleep than pray, waste time than follow Your leading, I learn that I’m not even close to the trusting, revived person that You want me to be.

May 3, 2018

Walk with Jesus

by Clarke Dixon

(This is part three in a series based on the tagline of our church: “To the Glory of God, Helping People Walk with Jesus in Faith, Hope, and Love”)

One of the best “taglines” I’ve heard for a church is “To Know Jesus, and to make Him known.” So why would we go with something more wordy? Why walk with Jesus rather than simply know Him? There are several reasons:

When we walk, there is in mind a destination, a goal. We are implying that we are going somewhere, we are becoming something. We are on a journey of becoming mature in Christ:

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13 (NRSV emphasis added)

As a church family, we want to keep our eyes on this amazing destination. We want to keep this goal of becoming mature in mind.

If we are walking, then we have not yet reached our destination! We recognize that have not arrived, but we are making progress. This is an echo of Paul:

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.   Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14 (NRSV emphasis added)

Walking with Jesus happens one step at a time. This should help keep us from a legalistic style of Christianity which assumes everyone should be equally ready to cross the finish line on the very next step. That is not the kind of church I want to be a member of. We all start at different times, and have different capacities. We are not all going to be at the same level of maturity, though we can have that same goal and do have the same Spirit helping us reach the goal.

It is a walk and not a run. The journey is long, the Christian life is not a sprint. Also, walking is an everyday part of life, rather than a special occasion. If you are a runner, you probably schedule in running. However, walking is something we do everyday very naturally. It might just be walking from the couch to the fridge and back, but it happens. Walking with Jesus is like that, an everyday thing. We might schedule in spiritual training like a runner schedules physical training. We schedule worship and times of devotion. But we don’t schedule in putting another person before ourselves, being patient, being generous, forgiving someone, having compassion, or spontaneously praying for someone.

You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts,  and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24 (NRSV)

Being clothed with “the new self” is an everyday thing, like walking, and not a scheduled thing, or worse, a good-intentions-to-set-aside-the-time-if-I-ever-get-the-time thing, like running! We want to be a people who walk the walk, everyday.

When we walk there is the possibility of stumbling. Christian celebrities, pastors and artists alike, face the pressure of being pretty-near-perfect. The band DC Talk came up with these lyrics:

What if I stumble, what if I fall?
What if I lose my step and I make fools of us all?
Will the love continue when my walk becomes a crawl?
What if I stumble, and what if I fall? (Daniel Joseph / Toby Mckeehan)

The song goes on to speak about God not turning away from from us when we stumble.  But do we turn away from each other? What if a member of our church commits a terrible crime this week? There would be discipline and a statement that the perpetrator’s actions do not represent us. But will we go to that person and ask how we can help him or her take a step toward Jesus? “Walk with Jesus” recognizes the possibility of stumbling. It might be you. Or me.

Why walk with Jesus? Who else?! Who else can be an anchor for our souls? Who else sees us at our absolute worst and yet offers His absolute best? Who else does the evidence lead to? Who else has had such an impact on the world and on individuals? Who else walks with us in our suffering having endured suffering Himself? Who else offers His Holy Spirit?  Who else reconciles sinful people to a holy God?

let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead.
This Jesus is
‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;
it has become the cornerstone.’
There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:10-12 (NRSV emphasis added)

When Peter said there is no name given under heaven by which we must be saved, he was not saying that the Christian religion is better religion than any other. He was simply stating a fact; there really is no one else through whom, or no other way by which, we can have a relationship with the Creator. There is no other way for the justice of God and the mercy of God to come together. Only God the Son could endure the consequence of sin so that justice could be served, yet people could be forgiven. Who else would we walk with?

As a church family, we have the privilege, the opportunity, the calling, to walk with Jesus and help others do the same.


Clarke Dixon is the Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Cobourg, Ontario.

Listen to the audio of the full sermon on which this based (33 minutes).

clarkedixon.wordpress.com

April 26, 2018

The Purpose of a Church: Helping People

by Clarke Dixon

(This is part two in a series based on the tagline of our church: “To the Glory of God, Helping People Walk with Jesus in Faith, Hope, and Love”)

Why “Helping People”?

When we want as few words as possible in our tagline, why should “Helping People” make the cut? In reading the Bible we learn that God has always had a focus on helping people. One example is the giving of the the law. Consider the words of Jesus:

The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath” Mark 2:27 (NLT).

When God gave the law He was not arbitrary in choosing its commandments. The law helped people. A day off for rest is helpful. It still is! We choose many other examples. If you were keeping God’s law, you were forbidden from sacrificing your child in fire as some religions from Biblical times required. That too, is helpful! God’s law also helped people to realize their need for grace which brings us to Jesus. He was always helping people through his teaching and miracles. However, Jesus also helped us with our greatest need, reconciliation to God. In Jesus God offers the grace we need. That too, is helpful! Since God has always had a focus on helping people we can expect that His Church will be called to help people also.

What are we helping people with?

Consider the story of Jesus helping a man and his son:

21 He replied, “Since he was a little boy. 22 The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”
23 “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”
24 The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:21-24 (NLT)

Jesus is asked for help in a very practical way, the curing of the child through the casting out of the demon. However, the father also asks for a help with his spirituality: “I believe, help my unbelief”.  Churches may help people with very practical things, helping with food, clothing, shelter, and the like. But there is a spiritual help that will only come through the Church. Jesus spent three years helping people by working miracles, but it was only three years, and it was only in a small corner of the world.  However, Jesus has helped people across the world and throughout the generations by offering the cure for what alienates us from God. We do good works as Christian people, but they are not the core of what we are about. We are to do something that only we as Christians will do; that is, point people to God in Jesus Christ. If all heaven rejoices over the repentance of one sinner, then the people called the Church will be reaching out to that sinner. If the Father runs to welcome home the prodigal son, then we want to call the son home.  While helping people with the practical stuff of life is important, our main focus is on helping people to connect with the Giver of Life Himself, to help people walk with Jesus.

Whom are we helping?

Jesus teaches us to love our neighbor, and through the parable of the Good Samaritan we learn that our neighbor is anyone and everyone. But are we to focus on helping the people who are the Church, or people beyond the Church? Our neighbor includes both. Churches which do not help Christian people walk further with Jesus have a wide open back door. Churches which do not help non-Christian people begin, or at least consider, walking with Jesus do not have a front door.

Who is helping?

We could phrase this question another way. Is the task of Christians to support the church financially, then the staff of the church will help people? Ephesians 4 will bring some clarity:

11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13 (NRSV emphasis added)

The entire church body is involved in ministry, the entire church is to be involved in helping others. The people of our church family have passions and gifts which I, the pastor, do not, so they can be of greater help to a greater number of people. They also have connections with neighbours and friends and acquaintances which I do not. Any church which limits its helping of others to its staff is severely limiting its capacity to help people. The mission of the Church is always to be carried out by all the people of the church.

Are there any icebergs ahead? Is there anything that might sink a church in helping people?

There is a subtle slide that can happen.

15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love. Ephesians 4:15-16 (NRSV emphasis added)

Here we read about “the body’s growth”. We might, therefore, try every trick in the book to “grow” our church. However, we can lose sight of the fact this passage is about people. Just as we saw last week that the church is the people, not the building, so too we must realize that each church is the people, not the organization.  Just as the Sabbath exists for people and not people for the Sabbath, the organization exists for people, rather than people existing for the organization. There is a subtle difference.

Conclusion

It has always been about the people. When God introduced religion, it was about the people; a better way to live, a way to live that pointed to the need for a better way to relate to God. Now that God has come to us in Jesus and we relate to him, not through religion, but through relationship by His grace and through faith – it brings glory to God, but it helps people.

To the glory of God, may the people called “Church” always be helping people.


Clarke Dixon is the Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Cobourg, Ontario.

clarkedixon.wordpress.com

 

April 24, 2018

The Unrecognized Christ

by Russell Young

Who is Christ? This might sound like an unnecessary question to pose to Christians, however an understanding of who he is to the extent that his ministry can be fully accomplished is seldom appreciated.

Many years ago, through research and prayer I had sought to gain insight concerning the evolution of Canada from a country that had once elevated Christ to one that can be termed “a post-Christian.” Most Canadians would have identified themselves as supporting Christian principles and most would have identified themselves as being of this world view. Although many would accept the designation, commitment to Christian principles in life has become lacking, is often ridiculed, and for political-correctness has been discarded. Late one night, having doggedly pursued my query for most of a year, a vision came to me and I was overwhelmed with a great sense of peace. (This has been the only one that I can recall.) It was of a whiteboard with the wording printed, “They must know him.” At the time, I accepted this to represent the need for evangelism and gave it little more thought.

Recently, in prayer, while seeking knowledge of God’s will, the realization came to me that “knowing him” meant knowing him as Holy Spirit. Although I had written on the fact that eternal salvation comes through Christ as the Holy Spirit (2 Thess 2:13, Titus 3:5; Gal 6:8), I had not connected it to my earlier vision until this day. That is, “They need to know Christ, as Holy Spirit.” This appreciation is not common even among spiritual leaders.

Paul made the association clear to the Corinthians. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:1718 NIV Italics added) Paul has also made this revelation to the Colossians and to the Galatians. “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col 1:27 NIV Italics added) “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but, Christ lives in me.” (Gal 2:20 NIV Italics added) Note that it is Christ in the believer that is his or her hope of glory, not Christ on the cross, although his life-offering is essential.

Who is Christ? He is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He not only offered his life a sacrifice on the cross to complete the covenant of the law and as a propitiation for sins (Heb 9:15), he was resurrected so that we might be given his Spirit to lead a righteous life. (Gal 3:14, 6:78; Rom 8:4, 1314)

Knowing who Christ is requires knowing him as Spirit since the fullness of his ministry is also defined by the Spirit’s ministry. It is this aspect of Christ that needs to be known. It is Christ as Spirit who enlightens (Jn 16:13), leads (Jn 10:27, 16:8; Rom 8:14), and empowers (Rom 15:13; 2 Tim 1:7) for righteousness. (Gal 5:5) The warning has been given that those who blaspheme the Spirit will never be forgiven. (Mk 3:29; Lk 12:10; Heb 10:26) Blaspheme means to sin defiantly. “But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native born or alien, blasphemes the LORD.” (Num 15:30 NIV) The writer of Hebrews has also revealed an “expectation of judgment and of raging fire” for those who “deliberately keep on sinning.” (Heb 10:2627 NIV) The person who would be “eternally” saved must obey Christ (Heb 5:9) and do the will of the Father. (Mt 7:21)

Knowing Christ requires recognizing his holiness and authority and honoring it. Christ said that he was the way, the truth, and the life (Jn 14:6). The Spirit is his life. It is this aspect of Christ that seems to have been missed and it is through honoring this person that commitment and self-discipline are required. Neglect of his life has resulted in Canada becoming a post-Christian nation. The power of Christ for eternal salvation and for ministry is being lost.

The Spirit was sent to “convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (Jn 16:8 NIV), however tradition has carried the church in Canada more than conviction by the Spirit and without conviction truths become cast aside and are lost. Without conviction people do not contend for the faith. Without conviction the righteous requirements of God are replaced with personal interests and desires. Without conviction, the Spirit, Christ in us, will not be honored as our lord or sovereign and cannot minister for the confessor. Many accept the designation of being Christians, but do not live his life. They have hearts, attitudes, and practices that are difficult to distinguish from the multitudes that surround them; consequently, Christian values have been replaced by those of the worldly multitudes and Canada has lost its Christian identity. The power of God has been usurped by the prince of the power of the air.

Concerning the last days Paul wrote that people would have “a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” (2 Tim 3:5 NIV) The power of God is exercised through his Spirit. The sovereignty of God as Lord and King is seldom acknowledged, even from pulpits, and his lordship other than as a title.

Jesus Christ as Holy Spirit is the unrecognized Christ, and he needs to be honored through obedience for those seeking his eternal kingdom. “He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Heb 5:9 NIV) People need to know who he is, that he is the Spirit. His reality needs to be recognized.)


Author Russell Young lives in Ontario, Canada and is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  His column appears here every other Tuesday.  To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.  There is also a feature-length article at this link.

 

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