Christianity 201

January 15, 2018

Increasing Your Measure of Faith

We’re paying our third annual visit to radio preacher, pastor and author James MacDonald and their devotional from the radio show Walk In The Word titled Our Journey. The devotional is also available as an online resource. Click the title below to read at source.

Growing Faith

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5, ESV)!

Ever feel like your faith is small? Perhaps you wish you could do more or be more. Maybe when you look around you, it seems as if everyone else has BIG BOLD FAITH, while yours is just . . . tiny.

If that’s you, then consider these three things you can do that will immediately begin to grow your faith.

1. Believe that your faith can increase.

Every Christian has been given a measure of faith (Romans 12:3). While each of us has been given a certain capacity to believe, it can increase. Isn’t that great news? Exhibit A for growing faith is the Apostle Peter. Remember what Peter was like in the Gospels? He tried hard but failed, said the wrong thing at the wrong time, and kept messing up at critical moments. Peter was the one who swore loyalty to Jesus then denied even knowing Him (Mark 14:26–31, 66–72). Peter was the one who followed Jesus after His arrest but only from a safe distance (Mark 14:54). When Peter tried walking on the water, he sank, and Jesus called him, O you of little faith (Matthew 14:31). Ouch.

Yes, Peter had little faith and a lot of growing to do, but he made one good decision: He followed Jesus’ instructions, went to that upper room, and waited for the Holy Spirit to come and fill him. When the Spirit of God filled Peter in response to his faith, he was transformed. He preached boldly, and three thousand people were saved. Peter became such a powerful, faith-filled man that Acts 5:15 reports that people 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.

Peter was a changed man, transformed by the power of the Spirit through faith. Do you want Peter-size faith? Believe that your faith can increase, and then . . .

2. Expose your mind to God’s Word.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). Faith can’t grow without the soil of God’s Word.

Have you learned yet to love the Word of God? Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts (Jeremiah 15:16). Is your mind steeped in God’s Word? Have you gotten past the discipline stage of reading the Bible (gutting it out because you know you should) to the delighted stage (actually wanting to read it, even craving it)?

The more we wash our minds with God’s Word, the more our faith can grow. When we fill our minds with trash—or with everything but God’s Word—what happens to our faith? It falters and even withers. According to Romans 12:2, your transformation comes by the renewal of your mind. So what are you putting into your mind?

We must read the Word, study it, memorize it, meditate on it. Human words don’t build faith; God’s do. And as you immerse yourself in God’s Word, you’ll also learn to . . .

3. Practice genuine prayer.

Faith comes through genuine prayer. Not rote repetition of empty words but genuine, on-your-knees, heartfelt prayer, laying hold of God by faith.

“Hmmm,” you might say, “I’m not very good at that. Where’s the seminar on genuine prayer?” The seminar is conducted in your home daily in a private place where you can kneel down. The seminar is given by the Holy Spirit Himself and is available 24/7. If you want to learn how to pray, get on your knees, open your heart, and ask, “Lord, teach me to pray.”

Prayer has incredible power to build your faith. When you are filled with anxiety, concerns, or burdens, pray. Get by yourself, kneel in humility before God, and in the simplest language you know, talk to your Father about it. Through genuine, heartfelt prayer, you can exchange your anxiety for faith.

So for all those who want their faith to keep growing—believe that your faith can increase, expose your mind to God’s Word, and genuinely pray.

And ask the Lord—as the apostles did—Increase our faith (Luke 17:5)!

Journal

  • Have you gotten past the discipline stage of reading the Bible (gutting it out because you know you should) to the delighted stage (actually wanting to read it, even craving it)?
  • What are you putting into your mind? Survey the scene; what is your “dose” of God’s Word vs. entertainment, social media, etc.?

Pray
Lord God, I know that You are wholly faithful and worthy of all my trust. Thank You for patiently growing me. I confess that my faith can be weak and my heart is prone to give way to fear and anxiety. I do believe, and I humbly ask You to help my unbelief. Thank You for the precious gift of Your Word and the privilege of prayer. Please help me to fix my eyes on You, and stir my heart to get and stay in the Scriptures. Grow in me genuine delight and deep faith in You. Lord, teach me to pray. I admit that I am dependent upon You for these gifts, and I trust You for them, praying this in the worthy name of Your Son, Jesus. Amen.

October 31, 2015

Being Light on Dark Days

“Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead” (Deuteronomy 18:10,11)

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.  Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:8-11)

With today being Halloween, I looked for something appropriate and found a post from Daily Encouragement. Actually I found two. The scriptures above are taken from this post, Go Light Your World, as is the song at the bottom; and what follows is linked from the title below.

Exposing Darkness With Light

“The light shines in the darkness” (John 1:5).

“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11).

For about 7½ years we served the Lord Jesus Christ in New England, pastoring a church about 35 miles south of Boston in Taunton, Massachusetts. Only once did we drive through Salem which is about 16 miles north of Boston. This historic town is best known for the witch trials held in the late 1600’s. It is still a center for witchcraft and other deeds of darkness. In fact it proudly promotes its reputation as the “witch city”.   I recall sensing the spiritual darkness even as we drove through.

There are several Bible-preaching churches in the city and certainly in the surrounding area. What a mighty job they have in letting the light of Christ shine through them to the darkness that pervades that area. Halloween is a very significant day for witchcraft and other satanic activities in Salem (and elsewhere), and yet the true church will have mission outreaches.

The light of Christ will shine as they expose the fruitless deeds of darkness. May the Lord bless these worthwhile efforts! Thankfully, God has a light shining in the midst of this darkness and the true church has seen many people turn from fruitless deeds of darkness to God’s marvelous light.

The first daily verse fundamentally speaks of Christ. He is the Light and indeed He shines in the darkness. Wherever you live there is darkness, although some places are certainly much more spiritually dark. We noted such a difference in this regard when we moved from Northern Pennsylvania to New England and now to Lancaster County.  But when we compare our Christianized nation to dark places such as Papua New Guinea and other unreached tribal regions the darkness is even more pervasive.  (We do thank God for Bible translators and missionaries who are going into these dark strongholds and reaching these souls for Christ.)

“The light shines in the darkness.”  The verb “shines” is in the present tense and can be understood as “the light keeps on shining.” Jesus teaches His followers. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

In our second daily verse the Apostle Paul makes a very unambiguous statement: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”  It’s a call desperately needed in our culture and increasingly so in the Church but it will subject us to ridicule among many who “love the darkness rather than the light” (John 3:19).  In fact the world wants to silence those who speak out for truth exposing darkness with the Light of His Word.

You see, when we become accustomed to the darkness it just may not seem as dark anymore.  When we were children playing at dusk our moms would call out, “Come into the house.  It’s dark outside.”  But we’d continue to play since we could still see.  A few days ago I was mowing my lawn in the early evening. Afterward I entered the house and looked out the window and it was dark. But while I was mowing my eyes got used to the dark since the dimness was gradual. I believe that can be true of our spiritual eyes as well and all the more reason why we must be on guard.

Today, all over the world serious believers are allowing the light of Christ to shine through them. This light exposes the fruitless deeds of darkness and this is the essence of spiritual warfare. Darkness hates the light. Yet faithful followers of Christ will continue to let their light shine, essentially reflecting the true Light, who is Christ.

May each reader today shine brightly.  As for me and my house we will stand up for the One True God today and seek to let His light shine through us!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily Prayer: Father, You created us to be people who function and thrive by light.  Your placement of the sun by day and the moon by night is the way You provide for our physical needs enabling us to see as we carry out our multitude of duties.  As important as light is for the eyes to see, it is even more essential that the eyes of our heart see the magnificent light of Your glory.  As we walk in Your light we will be able to discern that which is evil from that which is good.  Jesus, we know that goodness cannot partner with wickedness for there is no harmony between You and the devil. We are one with You as we walk in Your truth and dispel the darkness everywhere we go, for greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world. Amen.

 

October 4, 2015

The Certainty of a Conditional Promise: If We _____, Then God Will _____.

Just a few weeks ago we looked at this verse:

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)

Years ago churches would sing a hymn titled Standing On The Promises. (If you’re above a certain age, you’ll remember it like this.) The second verse begins with our trust in the promises themselves:

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
by the living Word of God I shall prevail,
standing on the promises of God.

The fourth verse begins with what that says for us in our Christian pilgrimage:

Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
listening every moment to the Spirit’s call,
resting in my Savior as my all in all,
standing on the promises of God.

The promises themselves are sure and trustworthy, and by them — if I live out any conditions set forth — I am assured of spiritual victory. The Reformation Study Bible* is consistent with this interpretation:

Christ fulfills all the promises of God to us, and all our confidence in God’s promises must come from our trust in Jesus Christ as a person whom we know and can rely on.

The Dictionary of Bible Themes* has a long section about “Divine Promises” which begins:

The promises of God reveal his particular and eternal purposes to which he is unchangeably committed and upon which believers can totally depend. These promises are, however, conditional upon obedience on the part of believers.

God’s promises are irrevocable

He is absolutely trustworthy Nu 23:19 See also Tit 1:2; Heb 6:13-18

He is unchanging Ps 110:4; Mal 3:6-7; Jas 1:17-18

He has the power and will to fulfill his promises Isa 55:11 See also Ro 4:21

He is faithful in keeping all his promises Jos 21:45; Jos 23:14-15; 1Ki 8:56; Ps 145:13; Heb 10:23

His promises stem from his goodness and glory 2Pe 1:3-4

God may confirm his promises with an oath Ge 22:15-18 See also Ge 26:3; Isa 45:23; Am 6:8; Am 8:7

But what is meant by “yes and amen?” At the blog The River Walk we read the following:

2 Corinthians 1:20 (Yes And Amen)

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)

Read: Job 23:1 – 27:23, 2 Corinthians 1:12 – 2:11, Psalm 41:1-13, Proverbs 22:5-6

[all of the listed passages appear at the above link]

Relate: Depending on who is counting there is roughly three thousand to thirty-five hundred promises made by God in the Bible. Granted, many of them are situational, person specific, and time limited, but that is a minority. Even if more than half were to fall into one of these categories, we have well over a thousand remaining. A significant number of God’s promises are “If… then…” promises. For example, IF we keep our mind focused on Him THEN God has promised to give us perfect peace. (Isaiah 26:3) Some might complain that all of these are conditional. Well duh. I for one am glad. I wouldn’t want to be living in perfect peace if my mind keeps wandering off in sinful directions. I would rather have a divine discontent that would force me to repent.

Even with these conditional promises, it is important to remember that all scripture, especially the Word of God, is authoritative and infallible. What we mean by that is first that scripture has the right and the power to be our authority in life. We have a responsibility to order our life based on its teachings. The second half of that, infallible, means that scripture cannot fail. When we live based on its rules of faith and conduct it will not, it cannot fail us. In other words, when we hold up our IF part of the promise, the THEN is a guarantee. You can bank on it. It is yes and amen. That is my promise to you.

React: So what are some of God’s promises? There are so many, it is hard to limit it, but here are my top 20(ish)

1. God will always be with us wherever we go (Joshua 1:9) even to the end of time. (Matthew 28:20)
2. God will never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5)
3. God cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7)
4. I am justified freely by God’s grace (Romans 3:24) that I have access to (Romans 5:2) and that is sufficient (2 Corinthains 12:9)
5. The incomprehensible peace of God will guard our hearts and minds. (Philippians 4:7)
6. If I love and am called by God, Then all things work for my good. (Romans 8:28)
7. If I ask, Then God will provide. (James 4:2)
8. If I resist the devil, Then he will run away. (James 4:7)
9. Nothing can separate me from God’s love. (Romans 8:35)
10. If I am God’s sheep (I hear and follow Him), Then nothing can snatch me from His (Father and Son) hand. (John 10:27-29)
11. The Holy Spirit will help me to pray effectively. (Romans 8:26-27)
12. God will not lie to me because He cannot lie. (Titus 1:2)
13. The Holy Spirit will lead me into all truth (John 16:3) and give me the right words to say. (Mark 13:11)
14. God will supply all my needs. (Philippians 4:19)
15. If I sow, Then I will reap. (Galatians 6:7)
16. If I labor in the Lord, Then it will not be fruitless. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
17. If I approach the throne of grace, Then I will receive mercy and find grace to help in my time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
18. I have an inheritance. (Ephesians 1:14)
19. I am being transformed into God’s image. (Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:17)
20. Christ is in me. (Colossians 1:27)

Finally, the IVP New Testament Commentary affirms:

…God’s faithfulness in and through Jesus was preached by Paul without any wavering or inconsistency, so that the consistency of his message ensured the consistent character of his motives and actions. As the Corinthians themselves could verify, there was no “yes” and “no” about the Son whom Paul and his colleagues preached. His consistency in the greater matters ensured his reliability in the comparatively lesser matters.

Music resource: Click the link above for the River Walk blog, or listen to Your Promises by Elevation Worship at this link.


*Click the “Study This” tab for this verse at BibleGateway.com

 

 

March 21, 2013

The Vulnerability of God

The Parable of the Lost Son – Luke 15 (NIV)

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living….

…17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ ,,,

…“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate…

Today’s reading is an excerpt from a sermon by a radical Lutheran pastor, Nadia Bolz-Weber. Radical is a bit of an understatement; you can read more about her and watch a video of her speaking to a youth rally at this Thinking Out Loud article from last July.   Nadia blogs at The Sarcastic Lutheran, where you can not only read today’s full text, but also listen to this brief sermon (about ten minutes) on audio. To do both, click here.  Nadia begins with a story of a time she thought her child was missing; and continues…

…[I]t’s vulnerable to have a child.  To create or adopt a child is to leave yourself vulnerable to a broken heart in the way nothing else can.  Which is why I started wondering this week about the vulnerability of God.

There is much talk out there about the strength of God and the mightiness of God and the awesomeness of God.  But what of the vulnerability of God?

That God would breath into dust and create us in God’s own image….that God would bring humanity into being as God’s own beloved children was to leave God’s self vulnerable to a broken heart in a way nothing else could have. What a risk God took creating us. Giving us enough freedom to be creators and destroyers.  Giving us enough freedom for us to make a mess of everything and act as our own Gods and to also trust in God and love each other…

…I’ve always heard this parable, one of the most famous stories in the Gospel, titled the Parable of the Prodigal son.  But out of everything we could say this story is about – why do we say it’s about the wasteful extravagance of the younger son? Why is that the focus when it’s not even that interesting?

I mean, It’s actually common for young people to leave home, waste their lives and their money for awhile until they have no other option but to come home to the parents they didn’t treat very well when they were leaving in the first place. Maybe we make this a story about the wasteful stupidity of the younger son because it’s a story we are more familiar with than the alternative, which is this: if the word prodigal means wasteful extravagance, then isn’t it really the story of the prodigal father?

Isn’t it wastefully extravagant for the Father to give his children so much freedom?  Isn’t it wastefully extravagant for the Father to discard his dignity and run into the street toward a foolish and immature son who squandered their fortune? Isn’t it wastefully extravagant for the father to throw such a raging party for this kind of wayward son?

But, see, I love that kind of grace.

I personally love that Jesus tells this story of the prodigal father in response the to Pharisee’s indignation that Jesus would eat with tax collectors and prostitutes because, when it comes down to it, give me a church filled with awful sinners over a church filled with pious Pharisees any time.

Some of us might find the grace the father shows to the younger son to boarder on offensive, but the thing that really gets me in this story is how wastefully extravagant the Father is toward the older son.  The kid who never left him.  The one who has always done everything right.  The kid who is clean cut and went to college right out of high school and came back to work in his father’s business.  The kid who always signs up to do jobs at synagogue but resentfully notices all the slackers who show up and never help at all.  The kid who feels entitled. The kid who can’t stomach going into a party to celebrate the return of his screw-up of a brother.  I can’t stand that older brother even as I cringe at the ways I may be a little bit like him.  You know what’s wastefully extravagant in my book?: the fact that the Father says to that kid “all that is mine is yours”.

What risk God takes on us. Children who waste everything in dissolute living.  Children who begrudge grace being extended to people who so clearly don’t deserve it. But this is a risk born of love. God risks so much by loving us which is why, tonight anyway,  I prefer calling this the Parable of the Prodigal Father.

Because it is here we see that your relationship to God is simply not defined by your really bad decisions or your squandering of resources.  But also your relationship to God is not determined by your virtue.  It is not determined by being nice, or being good or even, and I struggle with this, but it’s not even determined by how much you do at church.  Your relationship to God is simply determined by the wastefully extravagant love of God.  A God who takes no account of risk but runs toward you no matter what saying all that is mine is yours. Amen.

Related posts at C201:

December 3, 2012

Describing Christ-Following in terms of The Narrow Road

Almost exactly a year ago we visited the Orthodox blog written by Fr. Stephen Freeman, Glory to God for All Things. That’s our source for today’s excellent post The Narrow Road. You can read it here, but you’re encouraged to click the title and read it at source.

There is a small collection of Christ’s sayings that center on the topic of the “narrow road.” The heart of the topic is that the way into the kingdom of God is difficult and very few will find it. The sayings are troubling.

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:13-14)

So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen (Matthew 2o:16).

Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to will, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:23-24).

“And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.”  When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:24-26).

The sayings are troubling because we think about the Kingdom of God in a passive manner. Heaven has become forensic – a legal reward for a life that meets the religious/moral requirements. These verses seem to indicate that the standard requirement might be quite strict and that very few will qualify.

Narrow RoadIn such a forensic model – the problem lies within the standard. God is looking for a “few, good men.” Deeper than the standard – the problem lies within God. In this model, we have been created by a very strict God, exacting in His demands, unwilling to yield to the weaknesses of human nature. Not just the universe, but the God behind the universe is stacked against us. Who then can be saved?

The difficulties presented by these sayings reveal difficulties with the Kingdom of God when it is misunderstood in a forensic or legal manner. If the Kingdom of God is just one more thing that we get into – in which simply being-there-as-a-reward is the point – the gospel becomes rather pathetic and the God behind it, alarming.

The way into the Kingdom is difficult, the path narrow, because the way itself is actually difficult and the path is actually narrow. These things are not true because God wants it to be hard for us to enter the Kingdom – they are hard on account of the nature of the spiritual disease that afflicts us.

No one is surprised to be told that the path to the remission of their cancer will be difficult (generally we are simply glad to hear that there is any path at all!). Nor do we blame the doctor for the difficulty of our treatment.

The spiritual disease (sin) that afflicts us stikes at the very fiber of our humanity, the very mode of our being. St. Paul describes sin as corruption (φθορὰ), a word that essentially means “rot.” It is what happens when the process of death works in us unchecked. Death corrupts us, body, soul and spirit.

The teaching of the New Testament is not about how to be admitted to paradise – it is about how to become the kind of human who can actually live in paradise. Paradise is not a moral achievement – it is an ontological change.

I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does corruption inherit incorruption. (1Co 15:50)

The life of change and healing (being transformed from glory to glory into the image of Christ) is the narrow way. The borders of the road are marked with radical honesty and a willingness to endure and engage whatever is required for the transformation. We move from the fragmentation of our individual life towards the integration and wholeness of life in Christ, characterized by the fullness of self-emptying love. This is the life of grace – but grace can be painful and will take us down the difficult path. St. Paul was knocked off a horse and blinded by grace. Works would be easier!

Christ is quite clear about the narrow path – there are very few who find it. The conversion of Christianity from the narrow path to world-wide religion is the elevation of the wide-road of destruction to the place of a false salvation. The Christianity of ideas and arguments, entertainment as worship, morality as asceticism, is the path found by the many. It is an adaptation and misuse of certain ideas associated with Christ. It was not created by saints nor built on the blood of martyrs. It will run continue until its cultural usefulness has run its course. It will serve as an inoculation for many – making them immune to the grace of the narrow way. They will want nothing to do with Christianity.

If this is true, will only a few be saved?

In this lifetime, only a few will be saved. Only a few will live a life of self-emptying love. Only a few will endure the humiliation of honesty. Only a few will face the despair of hell and give thanks. Only a few will forgive everyone for everything.

Christ said that with men this is impossible. The very few who walk this path are living proof of the existence of God – for with God this path is possible. In Orthodoxy, we call these few, “saints.” They are signposts and an assurance that our own struggles are never wasted. The narrow path is not a delusion – it is an awakening.

If only a few are saved in this lifetime – will many be saved beyond? The gospel contains a paradox on this very matter. As clearly as Christ teaches that the way is narrow and that very few find it, He also clearly teaches a universal proclamation of the good will of God.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:16-17).

In the words of St. Peter:

“God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to eternal life” (2 Peter 3:9).

The paradox rests between the few and the all. The temptation for many has been to reinvent Christianity as a religious shortcut for the all. In the shortcut, the narrow way is lost, and with it, the saints. One of the desert fathers said, “Prayer is struggle ’til a man’s dying breath.” This is the truth about true prayer (and true salvation) – but now we are told not only how easy prayer is, but even how easy it is to hear God (cf. When God Talks Back). On the narrow path most of the time is marked by silence.

Nevertheless, the paradox remains. I am confident of the good will of God and that His desire for all will be fulfilled in the mystery of His love. But to create a false paradise – a Christianity of the all in which no one is saved – is the path of destruction.

Strive to enter at the narrow door.

~ Fr. Stephen Freeman

October 8, 2012

God Gives Us Boundaries

Today we return to our online friends, Stephen and Brooksyne Weber at the blog Daily Encouragement, where this appeared last week under the title, The Blessing Of The Ancient Landmarks.

“Set up signposts, make landmarks; set your heart toward the highway, the way in which you went” (Jeremiah 31:21). “Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set” (Proverbs 22:28).

Back in the 90’s we pastored in Taunton, Massachusetts and lived in a parsonage that was only about 15 feet from a major highway, Route 44 which goes from Plymouth, MA to Providence, RI. The heavy traffic and steady stream of strangers who walked in front of our house posed danger to [our daughter] Ester.

The church generously built a fenced deck on the side of the parsonage which gave Ester some “safe territory” for play. I also drew an invisible line from the parsonage driveway to the church entrance where she was allowed to walk without our being present. Ester still refers to the boundary lines and does so with fond memories. The safety zone gave her a sense of security and I believe she remembers it as a visible reminder of our genuine love and concern for her well-being.

It’s interesting to pause a moment and consider the many boundaries we had as children and the many we still have as adults. It’s not uncommon to use a stone to mark the boundary between properties. These landmarks (generally stones in the Biblical period) testify to a great Biblical principle first articulated by Moses in the law in Deuteronomy 19:14.* This law is a practical expression of the eighth commandment which states, “Thou shalt not steal.”

Proverbs 22:28 alludes to this verse but I believe this text has a powerful spiritual application as well. “Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set.” In the entire area of faith and morality God has established what we may call “ancient landmarks” in His Word. These ancient landmarks are primarily found in the Law, but are repeated and elaborated on throughout the entire Bible.

Our spiritual ancestors through the history of the Church have set a pattern for living by seeking to express these ancient landmarks. These landmarks may be our fundamental doctrines, our Biblical pattern for living and standards of holiness or deeply held spiritual convictions.

In ancient Israel landmarks were sacred because all property was a gift from the Lord. A timeless application is that life is a gift from the Lord and He has set forth His landmarks for our good. These landmarks are sacred.

But people have always meddled with these ancient landmarks. They’re tampered with today, moved and even removed in ways that our forefathers would never have imagined. Many are being seduced and deceived by radical, revisionist, blasphemous attempts to reinvent Jesus, reinterpret the Bible and redefine marriage. Would anybody have believed when I was born in 1954 that within the next 50 years homosexual “marriage” would actually be a source of serious debate?

Man has always been tampering with landmarks, moving them one way or another to suit his whims, sometimes removing them altogether. The cultural and intellectual elite purport to know best and so many of the undiscerning masses follow. “Get rid of that ancient landmark”, many shout, “we don’t need it anymore”.

I appreciate this note from a study Bible. “The ‘landmark’ may be a spiritual standard, established by our spiritual forefathers, God-honoring and God-blessed. There is a tendency for each new generation to try to modernize the ways of their fathers and, in view of the universal law of decay, this is more often a mistake.”

I thank God for the ancient landmarks expressed in His Word. Psalm 119 is best known as the longest chapter in the Bible, but it’s also a chapter that constantly reinforces the Psalmist’s love for God’s spiritual landmarks with verses such as, “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long” (v. 97).

May the Lord give us a love for His Word and His landmarks along with a resolve to abide by them even when others seek to move or completely remove them. In fact I expect humankind to keep moving and removing them until the inevitable judgment. But as for me, I’ll leave them alone.

Prayer: Father, there is no limit to all that You have provided for us such as material blessings, physical health, the love of family and unending promises that You have already fulfilled or that are yet to be fulfilled. But You have also set visible and well-defined boundaries that are for our own good.

Temptations to either toe the boundary line or cross over into enemy territory will always be there, but You give us the power to resist and discernment to recognize the alluring deceit of the evil one. Help our eyes and hearts to remain focused on Your innumerable blessings and provisions as we stand against the god of this age who seeks to destroy us.

May we not move the landmark of the faithful to join with the ranks of the faithless. In Your name, Jesus, we pray. Amen.

~Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

October 7, 2012

Surprised By Spiritual Defeat

Today’s teaching is from Created to Give God Glory, the blog of Prentis McGoldrick, where it appeared under the title, How Does Satan Defeat Us?

1 Peter 5:8 (NIV)   Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Satan is sly. He roams the earth. (Job 1:7) He gets permission to work against God’s servants. (Luke 22: 31). He is a murderer and liar (John 8:44) He is the the ruler of this world (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11) He brings calamity on property, health and family (Look at the Book of Job). He tempts (Matthew 4:3). He deceives (Genesis 3:13) He accuses (Revelation 12:10). He wishes to devour us.

He uses all his evil tools to get us to doubt. He seeks to have us curse God. He wants us to deny our faith. He wants us to run from him in fear. What hope do we have against him?

Peter knows who Satan is. Peter has been sifted like wheat because Satan got permission. Peter ran, hid and denied his Lord. He knows how it happened. He knows what he said the night before he abandoned his faith. Peter was neither self-controlled nor alert.

Peter was sure that he would never deny Jesus. He was sure of it because he knew who Jesus is. He was sure because he had never backed down from a fight. He was sure because he was Peter. He was full of himself. He lacked self-control. Self-control has nothing to do with your conduct when everything is fine. Self-control takes place when you can still think through each thing which happens when your world is upset. It is remaining steadfast when emotions are running high. It is being prepared for the storm.

Peter never expected to come to a moment when he was so outmanned. He intended to fight his way our of any and every situation. He didn’t know what to do when Jesus told him to put up his sword. He ran.

Peter watched from a distance to see what would happen to Jesus. His fear was greater than his convictions. He moved farther away each time he was accused of having been with Jesus. Finally, he severed his connection with Jesus with a curse. His denial was so demonstrative that Jesus heard it. He went out and wept. He was sifted through and through.

Self-control must always be accompanied by being alert. Peter was not alert at the time of Jesus arrest. He didn’t even stay away and pray when Jesus needed him. He had been warned but complacency left him unguarded.

Satan did not have much of a challenge with him. He loves to roan and devour Christians who are neither self-controlled nor alert. He scatters them like fox scatters chickens. Some are eaten but most just run and hide.

We will never be much of a challenge for Satan if we do not prepare ourselves for the battle. We must put on the full armor of God. We must have our time of prayer. We must have our time with God each day. We must look at how Satan is trying to defeat us.

Is he after you? Is he bringing people into your life who are causing you to doubt your faith? Is he bringing calamity in property, family and health to get you to deny God? Is he telling you lies to get you to believe something is not true? Is he turning you against someone or having someone turn against you?

If he isn’t now; he will.

Today is a day to renew our resolve against him. We must stand firm. We must recite and renew our faith in Jesus.

If we don’t, he’ll eat us up.

1 Peter 5:9 (NIV)   Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

~Prentis McGoldrick


Choosing a post from this blogger’s writing wasn’t easy. Here’s another fine article about spiritual wisdom.