Christianity 201

May 17, 2019

Don’t Allow it to Grow and Develop: Cut it Down

NIV.John.8.34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.


NLT.Heb.10.26 Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. 27 There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies. 28 For anyone who refused to obey the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us. 30 For we know the one who said,

“I will take revenge.
    I will pay them back.”

He also said,

“The Lord will judge his own people.”


NLT.Rom.6.1. Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?

We’re back once again with pastor and counselor Josh Ketchum who writes at Life in the Kingdom. Click the header below to read at source. (Scriptures cited in today’s reading are quoted above.)

Letting Trees Grow

I have one small tree that grows on my pond bank. I have cut it down before, but because the roots are still there it comes back and grows quickly. It doesn’t really bother me that it is growing. It is not in a place where the roots will damage the pond and I have just let it grow. I know I have a chain saw! In fact, I let numerous undesirable trees and branches grow on my farm.

I don’t look at those trees and worry about how I am going to get rid of them, which was a former concern of mine. If I had access to a saw, I would vigorously cut any tree or branch I thought I may ever want down. But now, I am empowered because of my saw. I brazenly say to the tree, “Grow if you want, I can cut you down whenever I am good and ready!”

My little power trip may sound silly to you. But I bet you have something that is similar. Some issue you used to feel pressure to deal with, but now because you can easily handle it you just let it go for now.

I think we often do the same thing in our lives with sin. We know, it should be cut down. We know, we shouldn’t allow it to continue to grow and develop. It is undesirable and isn’t going to produce anything good in our lives, but we feel empowered. We feel like we are in control. We can handle it! So we let it grow, thinking we can whip out a chainsaw and wack it down anytime we want.

Unfortunately sin doesn’t work that way. There are some real dangers and problems with letting sin just grow and hang around in your life.

First, it will deceive you. You don’t really really have control over sin, you are really a slave to it (John 8:34). If you don’t cut it down when it is small, it will grow and overtake you so that you will have great difficulty cutting it down.

Second, even though sin can always be cut out by the power of Christ, it will forever leave a stump. It will leave a permanent scar in your life. It leaves shame, regret, and consequences.

Third, if you know the tree is sin and you are letting it grow in your life, then you are insulting the grace of God (Heb. 10:26-30). The blood of Christ is not a chainsaw to be left in our garage and pulled out when we need it to forgive our sins. God forbid! (Rom. 6:1-2). Christians should hate sin! When we know of sin in our lives, we should want to get it out of our lives as quickly as possible.

Do you have some trees growing in your life that you are neglecting to cut down? Are you thinking you don’t really have to quit those sins, because anytime you want you can turn to Jesus for forgiveness? Don’t be foolish! Repent today.

May 6, 2019

Peacemakers are Forgiveness People

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Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children. – Matthew 5:9

Once again today we’re highlighting Mark McIntyre at the blog Attempts at Honesty. Click the header below to read at source. (The site now has authentication for viewing. Many blogs are adding this.)

Thoughts on Forgiveness

Isaiah’s cry, “I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5) resonates with me this morning. I have wounded others and have been wounded by others through both speech and action.

The question arises as to how to respond to the wounds. There are three possible responses to being hurt by someone.

  1. Pretend that it didn’t hurt
  2. Respond in anger
  3. Forgive

There are variations within each of these responses. For example, we can try to ignore the behavior which is also a form of pretense. This response potentially destroys any relationship that was there.

Another variation of responding in anger is to gossip about the other person in an attempt to destroy their reputation. The internet is ablaze with this form of response.

The third option is the best of the three for two reasons.

Pragmatically, it is the only one that allows for restoration of the relationship.

Theologically, Jesus tells us that our forgiving others is an indication that we realize how much we have been forgiven.

I have found it helpful to look at the root meaning of the word translated “forgive” in the New Testament. At its root, the word means to let go, to send off. In other words, to forgive is to let go of the need to retaliate or seek restitution for the offense.

As Christians, we are not only letting go of the offense but we are leaving it in God’s hands. God is better able to bring the offender to repentance and will ultimately call them to account for their behavior.

Jesus tells us that peacemakers are blessed by God (Matt 5:9). To be good at making peace requires that we be good at forgiveness. To truly forgive an offense is the best (and perhaps only) way to lasting peace.

On the cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). From this, we learn that those we forgive may not be wanting forgiveness or even understand that they need forgiveness. In other words, our forgiveness does not depend upon the offender’s response.

I realize that to forgive is a difficult and messy process. The deeper the hurt, the harder it is to come to the point of forgiving the perpetrator of that hurt.

But forgiveness should be our goal.


For all articles here using the tag forgiveness, click this link.


Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times… Matthew 18:21-22.


“For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” – Psalm 61:16-17 ESV

April 26, 2019

Thinking We’re Playing it Safe

For the first time this month, we’re introducing a blog which is new to us, Just Thinkin’. The site uses several different writers, this piece is by Crystal Brashear. As always, click the header below to read the complete article at source.

Love Over Rules

… It was a rude awakening to realize that I could do what I believed was right and still be hurt. Still grieve. Still be taken off guard.

I wonder if that’s what Jesus’ disciples thought, staring up at him as he hung on the cross. “I did what I thought was right. I left my job, my family and friends, to follow this man. I thought he was the One. I thought he was the Christ. How could I have missed it? How could I have been so wrong?”

How could they have missed it? They saw more than most. They saw Jesus heal people nobody else could help. They saw him teach as one who had a direct line to the Father. They saw him calm storms, walk on water and raise dead people. They saw more than most.

But somehow, they missed what was right in front of them. Isaiah had prophesied:

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. — Isaiah 53:10–12

Many years earlier, a prophet had predicted exactly what would happen to their Christ. Isaiah had revealed not only the purpose of the crucifixion, but also the glorious end to the story! By the inspiration of God, Isaiah had written, “He shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days.” Before Jesus was ever born as a human baby, he was destined not only to die, but also to be raised to life again. But they missed it.

I can relate. Sometimes I look for what will make me feel safe and protected, and I miss what is right in front of me. Maybe we are all guilty of that when we are young and naive.

Now I know differently. Playing by the rules doesn’t keep me safe. Following Jesus didn’t keep his disciples safe. In fact, it put them in mortal danger. It caused them immense pain. Their friend suffered, even though he had never done anything wrong. The bravest of them stood paralyzed in confusion. The most fearful of them denied they even knew him.

And yet…

The God we love is not confined by man-made rules. He does not keep himself safe by them. Instead, Jesus suffered loneliness, betrayal, embarrassment, abandonment and excruciating pain, all because of his great love. This love, this all-consuming love, surpassed human understanding on its way to ultimate sacrifice.

Nothing in this world will keep me safe from hurt. But Love, true Love, will risk everything to ensure my salvation. Jesus Christ broke even the rule of death on his quest to save what was lost.

If you have been playing by man-made rules hoping to be safe, I have beautifully devastating news. Following all the rules won’t protect you from hurt. But you are truly, dearly, deeply loved by Jesus. The God of the universe gave his life to make you his own. Today, in this moment, he is calling you to what is next. His victory over sin and the grave is yours too. Take hold of it, and live!

 

April 23, 2019

A Willing Sacrifice

Paula Maillet has been blogging at Along Emaus Road since 2005, and we first introduced her here six months ago. Her pieces are shorter so I’ve posted two Easter-themed articles below.

The Deliberateness Of The Crucifixion Of Jesus 

“Then Jesus said to them,
‘All of you will be made to stumble because of me this night,
for it is written: “I will strike the Shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’”
Matthew 26:31-32

What is notable in the story of Jesus’s crucifixion is that he was in control of it from start to finish. He knew in advance every detail of the story before it happened. He knew Judas would betray him. He knew he would be condemned to die, and THAT – by human beings that he himself had brought into the world! He knew that the disciples would be scattered. When Satan had previously made attempts to do away with him, he would disappear into the crowd. He would not die until the determined time, and that was totally under his control.

“Therefore my Father loves me,
because I lay down my life that I may take it again.
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself.
I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”
John 10:17-18

Pope Francis said that Jesus’s life ended in failure, “the failure of the Cross.” What heresy! ON THE CONTRARY -the Cross is the very foundation of the faith. His “failure” opened to us entry into heaven. His “failure” provides us eternal life.Through his “failure” alone is there forgiveness of sins. No, there is no failure in the atonement made by Christ for us, rather it is the single most triumphant accomplishment of God on behalf of lost mankind. From start to finish -he was in control of every detail.

The story of the Cross is the pre-planned work of God and Jesus did it deliberately.

The Cross of Jesus Christ was not a failure, it was the greatest act of love ever performed, through which God has provided salvation to mankind.

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
John 15:13

The Irony Of It – The Humility Of Jesus Christ

“And when they had come to the place called Calvary,
there they crucified him”
Luke 23:33

One of the most profound elements in this story is the irony. Jesus Christ ALLOWED himself to be tortured and crucified. He did not resist:

“He was oppressed and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth.
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.”
Isaiah 53:7

The men who crucified him were dependent on God for their next breath. Imagine it! This is the Son of God who created the universe:

“For by him all things were created
that are in heaven and that are on earth,
visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.
All things were created through him and for him.
And he is before all things, and IN HIM ALL THINGS CONSIST.”
Colossians 1:16

He created and sustains the universe, yet he allowed men which he had made -to torture and crucify him. Oh the irony! Oh the condescension!

“He came to die on a cross of wood,
who made the hill on which it stood.”

In this the love of God is shown, because he condescended to do this FOR US. On that Cross, he received in himself the judgment upon all our sin. He did for us what we could never have done for ourselves because we are sinners, but he was not. The following is the most awesome clip I have ever seen. It’s short, take the time to see it. Then forward it, share it with others. It could change a person’s destiny.

In Christ All Things Consist

April 9, 2019

Judging Others

by Russell Young

The Lord cautioned, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others you will be judged, and with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Mt 7:1−2) Similar sentiments have been presented elsewhere. (Rom 2:1, 14:4) In this passage “judge” means to distinguish as to condemn in some sense, to call into question or to think negatively about another.

Judging others may be more prevalent in our lives that we would like to admit. Condemning thoughts that are not so frequently voiced are judgments concerning another and the Lord will judge the thoughts of the heart as well as the spoken word. “This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.” (Rom 2:16) Every person has “planks in his or her eyes” and needs to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12); careful attention needs to be given to one’s own issues. The Lord desires for his brothers to have hearts like his own, committed to care and concern for others.

The first problem with judging is an attitude of pride and superiority concerning the issue at hand. That is, those who judge condemn the other for not reaching their standard. Christ is the standard and his conviction in the believer’s life is to address their righteous requirements. The second problem is that all believers are a work in progress. It is the Lord who is making his brothers the product that he would have them be. (Eph 2:10) He is conforming those who will dwell with him into his own likeness. (Rom 8:29) To accomplish this transformation he works individually in the lives of his own concerning specific issues that according to his determination need to be addressed. While he is changing a practice in one person’s life, he may be working on a different one in another’s, however in the end the obedient will have fully achieved God’s righteous requirements (Rom 8:4) and they will have been made offerings suitable for his kingdom. (Rom 15:16)

To judge another is to judge the Lord himself, to contest his wisdom. That is, in effect the person judging is saying that the other’s inappropriate behavior is the one that the Lord should be addressing. He knows the heart and the need of each of his own better than they even know their own hearts and needs. Rather than being focussed on the issues of the other, it would be more glorifying to praise God for the spiritual progress that is seen being made in the lives of others and to pray that the Lord will forgive them when a sin is seen being committed. (1 Jn 5:16) The admonition of Paul is to “build up” one another (Rom 15:2; 1 Thess 5:11) and everyone needs encouragement.

Paul wrote, “Who are you to judge someone else ’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (Rom 14:4) Every believer is a servant of Christ. He or she was purchased by him and has been redeemed for his good pleasure and service. Judgment comes from a hard heart and the Lord has made it clear that the same manner and measure used to judge others will be applied to those who practice judging.

Paul presented some words that seem to contradict the Lord’s teaching. He wrote, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” (1 Cor 5:12) Paul is presenting this teaching as their spiritual leader and he is expanding on his teaching concerning associating with those who are living apart from truth while claiming to be brothers. For the preservation of the integrity of the Lord’s teachings and of the church body those who are deliberately defying truth need to be confronted so that their influence is not felt and so that correction can take place, and this does require personal judgment and wisdom. Even in this, caution needs to be taken and the one defying the Lord needs to be admonished by those who are humble and spiritually mature and those exercising this responsibility need to appreciate that they too will be judged with the same measure.

Motivation of the heart is important, and it is according to a person’s motivation in relation to the other that he or she will be judged. (1 Cor 4:5) The Lord is building a righteous kingdom and believers are to assist in that process as they attend to their own needs and humbly appreciate that others are on the same journey and need assistance in their walk, free from judgment and condemnation. Prayer for those in need should never be neglected. It is easier to judge than to assist.

All believers living on this earth are on a similar journey. They are leaving the place of defilement and disobedience, with evil hearts and minds, to become conformed to the likeness of the Son of God attaining his heart of holiness and love.

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” (Rom 2:1) Pray for and encourage the weak and needy. Perhaps they are praying for you on another issue.



Russell Young’s column appears here on alternate Tuesdays. His book, Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? is available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link. There is also an extended article at this link.

March 27, 2019

Living in Distracting Times

Biblical writers never knew the degree of distraction which we face in the 21st Century. We are bombarded with input of all types: advertising, road signs, warning lights, notifications, etc.; even as we must remember PINs and user names and passwords.

However, their world was not as different as we might think. They were still aware that all manner of things could appear before them and prove not only distracting, but also destructive.

When our oldest son was 21, he became convinced he was spending too much time watching videos on YouTube. So he simply uninstalled Flash player in his computer. (Yes. Seriously, he really did that.)

In Matthew 5:29 we read Jesus words:

29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. (NIV)

but Jesus apparently repeated these words, as Matthew records them again at 18:9

9 If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell. (NASB)

…To which we might add the following paraphrase:

If part of your computer causes you to waste time, disable it.

Some would argue that the words of Jesus were never intended to be taken literally, but the radical degree of his teaching was fully intentional. Call it hyberbole if you will, but Jesus was saying that it’s going to take doing something extreme in order to be where he wants us to be.

In the past I’ve written many times about controlling our thought life. You can read those at this link. One of my favorite graphic images (that we’ve used in the sidebar of this blog in the past) is this “eye chart” version of some words of Jesus from Luke:

Luke 11:34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy,your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. 35 See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. 36 Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.”

There is certainly a “garbage in / garbage out” effect that takes place depending on what we allow our eyes to see. Jesus also said, “It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” (Matthew 15:11)

Contextually, I know Jesus was making a whole other point, but if we can take some liberty here, we could also follow the pattern and say “It’s not what goes into your eyes that defiles you; you are defiled by the images you allow to dwell there.”

In other words, you may not have the luxury of editing or filtering every image. There may be times when you say,

“It’s too late, I can’t un-see that.”

However you can decide which images are going to stay with you and which you are work diligently to forget. Martin Luther put it this way:

“You cannot keep birds from flying over your head
but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair”

Or, to use another graphic image we’ve used here before:

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Phil 4:8 NLT)

…The point is that scripture speaks to these issues. What is very real to us in a world of distraction was very real to them.

Do what you need to do. It may require something like disabling a part of your computer. But if that is what it takes, don’t ignore the possibility!

~PW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 3, 2019

The Father of all Musicians

Today we’re combining two popular features into one: The devotional writing of Charles Price, and our weekly Sunday Worship article. After a fruitful season as the teaching pastor at The Peoples Church in Toronto, Charles is now Minister-at-Large which frees him to speak in locations around Canada and the world.

Jubal the Musician

“His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes.”  —Genesis 4:21

The second of Cain’s seventh-generation descendants was Jubal, the first to play stringed instruments and pipes. This makes him the father of the arts, and particularly music. Music is the language of the heart, and God loves when we praise Him in song. As Johann Sebastian Bach said, “All music should have no other end and aim than the glory of God and the soul’s refreshment.”

Unfortunately, the Christian church has had a mixed relationship with the arts. There was a time when almost every piece of art and music in the west was inspired by or alluded to Christian themes, but as secularism grew, the arts began to fall into a category that most Christians called “worldly.” Worldliness is doing as the world does, and it became common for Christians to think that outside specific parameters within the church, art and music were to be avoided at all costs. For a long time, many Christians did not go to the theatre, cinema or concerts. Some were criticized for reading novels, and much music and art went unappreciated.

It has taken brave souls being willing to break the mould for certain musical trends to become accepted in the church. Charles Wesley, brother of the great seventeenth-century evangelist John Wesley, wrote numerous hymns, but his songs were initially controversial because they put Christian words to secular tunes. Ira Sankey, song leader for evangelist D.L. Moody, was also thought to be making a worldly compromise when he first introduced the wind organ to Christian worship. The irony is these once highly criticized hymns and instruments are now the standard to which some Christians wish modern worship would return.

We all have our own tastes for music, but in Scripture, all kinds of music are used to worship God. Psalm 150 is about how we are to praise God at all times in all places in all ways. The psalmist lists a series of instruments used to praise God. There are trumpets, the brass instruments; harps and lyres, the string instruments; tambourines and cymbals, the percussion instruments; and even dancing! The psalmist then concludes, “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD” (Psalm 150:6).

It is usually the heart, not the head, that connects with God. Propositional belief is important for knowing truths about Him, but the Christian life becomes a dull routine if that is all we have. This is why we should be deeply thankful for what Jubal’s discovery of music and the arts have contributed to our relationship with God. As we worship God in music and song, we stoke the fire of our love for Him.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for music and especially the way it enables me to worship. May my songs of praise be pleasing to You.

 

February 22, 2019

Themes in James are Relatable Today

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  (5:16)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds. (1:2)

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (1:5)

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (1:17)

Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. (5:14)

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if people claim to have faith but have no deeds? Can such faith save them? (2:14)

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (1:27)

Today again we’re back with Wes McAdams’ blog Radically Christian. He’s nearing the end of a series posting overall impressions from reading entire books. Click the title below to read at its original source.

Stop Talking and Start Doing: What I Noticed Reading James

The book of James might be one of the easiest books for Christians to understand, regardless of time and culture. It deals with the sort of issues and behaviors that are common to religious people of every era, and there is really no misunderstanding what James is telling his audience to do and not to do. I always end up feeling incredibly convicted by this short little book.

The Audience

James simply addresses this book to, “the twelve tribes in the Dispersion.” This could mean he is writing to Jewish Christians, or he could be referring to all Christians as part of the new Israel. The book doesn’t seem to be a letter intended for a specific church. In fact, it doesn’t really seem to be a letter at all, because there is no formal greeting in the beginning or the end.

James seems to be writing to the kind of Christians who think very highly of themselves; the kind of people who consider themselves to be wise, religious, and capable teachers. They are critical and judgmental. They want to live comfortable lives. They envy wealth and scorn poverty. They believe themselves to have a lot of faith and a lot of wisdom, but what they really have is a lot of words.

Be Quiet and Listen

It’s interesting to me how often James’ words, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” are taken out of context. People typically quote these words as a strategy for interpersonal relationships. They say things like, “God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we should always do twice as much listening as we do talking.” Certainly, it’s good advice to listen more than you talk, but James has a specific kind of listening in mind.

In the same context, James writes, “put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” Too often, when someone is trying to share a word which is able to save our souls, we get angry and defensive. James tells his audience to “receive with meekness the implanted word.” It is almost always a good idea to be quiet and listen, but especially when someone is trying to correct our “filthiness” and “wickedness.”

How often do we get defensive when someone shares the word of truth with us? How often do we get angry at those who are trying to help us? How often do we say, “I disagree,” when we ought to say, “You might be right, let me think about that”?

Faith, Religion, and Wisdom Can Be Seen

James touches on various issues throughout this short book, but they all seem to revolve around the idea that it is not enough to say we are religious people, people of faith, or people with wisdom. We must prove our faith, religion, and wisdom by what we do. Words do not prove what is in our hearts, action proves what is in our hearts.

James tells his audience to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only.” He tells them that real religion is about helping widows and orphans. He tells them faith without works is as useless as wishing someone well who has no clothes or food.

To those who think they are wise, James says that their “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition” prove their wisdom is “earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” Real wisdom isn’t about the ability to conjure up the right words to put opponents in their place. Real wisdom is proven by good conduct and meekness. Real wisdom, wisdom from God, is:

  • pure
  • peaceable
  • gentle
  • open to reason
  • full of mercy
  • full of good fruits
  • impartial
  • sincere

In all of these areas, James invites his readers to prove they are wise, religious, and faithful by living lives of humble and loving service to others.

Poverty and Suffering

Like his brother Jesus, James warns about the dangers of comfort and wealth. He encourages his audience to be content with poverty and trials. The book begins by encouraging people to, “Count it all joy,” when they, “meet trials of various kinds.” He promises that patiently enduring trials will result in being, “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

He warns them not to give preference to rich people, above poor people, who visit their assemblies. He implies that riches do not make someone admirable, reminding that the rich are the ones who “oppress you,” the ones who “drag you into court,” and the ones who “blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called.”

James includes one of the strongest warnings and condemnations of those who live their lives in self-indulgence, taking advantage of others:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you

James closes the book by encouraging his readers to think of themselves as farmers. As farmers wait patiently for the harvest, Christians wait patiently, “for the coming of the Lord.” We live our lives not based on what we can see, but in confident expectation about what is to come.


Selected verses located at TopVerses.com

February 20, 2019

God’s Plan and Purpose

About a year ago I noticed that one of the most frequent post tags here was “trials and tribulation.” I went back through past posts and created a scripture medley of all the verses which appeared in the various articles.

Another one which occurs in various forms is “God’s Plans and Purposes” or “God’s Plan and Purpose.” This can include God’s overall plan; the master story arc that he is writing. This can also include the purpose for which Christ came. Or we can also think of it in terms of what God is doing in my life; his plan for my life; his purpose for my life. Remember though, that his will for each of us individually must conform to that broader, master plan.

Today we’re doing the same thing as we did with “trials and tribulations” but this one is tagged several different ways, plus I wanted to be able to limit the number of verses.

As yourself, (a) what is specifically being referenced and (b) how do I live my life in the light of God’s greater plan; God’s master plan.


God, for whom and through whom everything was made, chose to bring many children into glory. And it was only right that he should make Jesus, through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation. Hebrews 2:10


But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir  Galatians 4:4-7


For who has known or understood the mind (the counsels and purposes) of the Lord, so as to guide and instruct (Him) and give Him knowledge? But we have the mind of Christ, the Messiah, and do hold the thoughts (feelings and purposes) of His heart. 1 Corinthians 2:16 Amp.


But he said to them, “It is necessary for me to proclaim the good news about the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because I was sent for this purpose.”
 – Luke 4:43  Christian Standard Bible


In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. Heb. 1:1-2 NIV


For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:18-25 ESV


Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
Romans 8:26 27 KJV


But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter, and we all are the work of thy hand. Isaiah 64:8  KJV


When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed. Acts 13:36


I pray with great faith for you, because I’m fully convinced that the One who began this glorious work in you will faithfully continue the process of maturing you and will put his finishing touches to it until the unveiling of our Lord Jesus Christ! Phil. 1:6 The Passion Translation


…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2:13


For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9 NLT


But as it is written, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 ISV


And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. ESV Rev 21:3

 

 

February 13, 2019

Prayer Attention Deficit

A few months ago we introduced you to whose site is called Feeding on Jesus. The title of this one really caught my eye. Ever tried to start out on a serious prayer quest only to find yourself chasing squirrels?

As usual, click the header below to read this at source.

Overcoming Prayer ADHD

I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me… (Hab. 2:1, ESV).

The other day, I saw a Facebook post that made me smile. It went something along the lines of, “Does anyone else have prayer ADHD? I’m trying to talk to God, my mind wanders, and then I’m like, ‘I’m sorry God, where was I?’”

I am absolutely certain that every single one of us working on growing in spiritual disciplines has experienced this. It can be quite frustrating when our spirit is hungry for God, but our mind seems to have a mind of its own! Daddy God is exceedingly patient with our frailty as beings made from dust. However, if we yearn to hear from Him more regularly, training our mind to focus will be an essential component of our growth towards this goal.

Our verse today from Habakkuk reveals a vital key as we move forward in our listening journey. Here the prophet shares with us his approach to leaning in for God’s voice. We can gather from his description how important our spiritual posture is for maximizing our listening focus. Stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower depicts the attitude of a watchman. The person in this position is alert and on the lookout. He or she is scanning the horizon, watchful. All senses are sharpened in anticipation of some expected sign.

This is how we are to wait on the Lord. With anticipation. Alert. Focused. Leaning in. Eager and expectant. Our spirit says, “I will look out… to see what he will say to me.” Not, “Maybe He’ll feel like communicating with me today. Maybe not. We’ll see.” This kind of biblical posture is not wistful wishing. Rather, it’s full-on expectancy.

Every day of our lives, Daddy wants to impart something to our spirit. What delights His soul the most is to be with us, to commune with us. When we deeply internalize this truth, we will draw near to Him accordingly. The eager willingness of a beloved child who knows she is wanted and welcomed will mark our approach and our listening posture.

This, in turn, will enhance our focus and aid us in our efforts to grow in prayer and concentration. For this reason, Hebrews 11:6 expresses, Anyone who comes to God must believe that he is real and that he rewards those who truly want to find him” (NCV). Daddy wants to gift us with profound conviction of His longing to reward our seeking with more and more of Him.

As you press into His presence, I want to share with you two exercises that have aided me in the process of sharpening and training my listening focus:

  • Ten minutes of silence. You set a timer for the allotted time. Close your eyes. Work on focusing in on the truth that He is real, He is intimately close, and He loves to reward those who yearn to find Him. Ask Him for heightened awareness of His presence. Don’t spend the minutes going through requests or even saying much. Just focus on Him being there with you. On Him as a beautifully attentive Person, as an intimately present Friend. Enjoy Him. Drink Him in. (Sometimes when I do this, I curl up against a back support pillow on my bed, visualizing myself cuddling into His embrace.)
  • Worship song on repeat. Pick a worship song that Holy Spirit is currently using to speak to your heart. Maybe something from the service on Sunday that you really connected with. Or one that you “randomly” woke up hearing in your head (hint: it’s not actually random. It’s Holy Spirit). Put it on and settle into your listening posture. Intentionally push all the noise in your head aside. Aggressively focus into every single word being sung. Oftentimes, joining in with the music and singing along will help you focus. So sing with your entire being to Him. Imagine His eyes gazing on you with deep love as you sing your adoration right to Him.

I find many times that when I am starting out my quiet time, my mind resists coming into focus. This last exercise helps me force it to get into gear. If the whole song went by and I wasn’t able to focus much, I don’t get down on myself. I simply put it on again, and repeat the effort.

Sometimes I will play the same song five or six times, for two possible reasons: One, because I just needed that much help getting focused. Or two, because once I do get focused, Holy Spirit comes in powerfully on that song. It begins to go so deeply inside of me, that I don’t want to stop. His intimacy shows up in a breathtaking way that gets more and more intense with each repetition.

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What about you? What have been some strategies that have helped bring your mind back to center from its wandering ways?


Tomorrow’s blog post doesn’t acknowledge February 14th, so for those of you who are new and may have missed these, here’s a recap of previous Valentine’s Day Devotionals:

January 30, 2019

“Their Waves Cast Up Mud”

It’s rare that I get to use the writing of people who I know personally, but this is an exception. Eric Wright is the author of both fiction and non-fiction Christian books, and is also a former missionary to Pakistan and local church pastor. This post appeared on his blog Country Inspiration. Learn more about his books at this link. Click the title below to read at source.

Our Restless, Unhappy Culture

by Eric E. Wright

The ocean is never still. Its tides rise and fall, its breakers crest and dissipate, and its waves roll on and on until they crash against a rocky shore or roll up on a sandy beach. Its waters collect and propel unto the world’s beaches all the flotsam and jetsam of the ocean world: broken shells, shattered boats, bottles, broken plastic spoons, splintered trees and cast-off Styrofoam. The more agitated the ocean becomes, the more it stirs up the whole mix of broken shells and mud that in calmer times settles to the ocean floor. After storms shorelines are littered with mud and debris.

How appropriate that the prophet used this image to describe the condition of men and women who jettison God and His moral standards in their struggle to find their personal nirvana. “‘The wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. There is no peace,’ says my God. ‘for the wicked’”(Isaiah 57:20,21).

We cannot expect a tranquil mind if our lives are a graveyard of broken promises, shattered morals, and shady practices. Instead, nefarious schemes will occupy our minds. Thoughts of past dealings with others will provoke bitterness, anger and thoughts of revenge. Unless we have denied the voice of our consciences long enough to dull their injured cries, we will be fretful, restless, and unhappy.

God has given everyone a conscience imprinted with a set of moral principles. But the more we listen to the siren song of our culture’s ‘new morality,’ the more our innate sense of right and wrong will be blunted and distorted. Sadly, our culture has jettisoned belief in absolute truth. Truth has become what is true to me. But this does not jibe with reality. Whatever we think, two plus two equal four, not five. Nor can we suspend the law of gravity and jump from a building. Nor can we deny spiritual the spiritual reality enshrined in the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. If deny real truth, the result will be: restlessness. Inability to find peace of heart. Broken relationships. Emptiness. And tragically, the epidemic of suicide we read about in our papers.

Paul writes, “My conscience is clear” (1 Cor. 4:4). Can you and I say that? If not, the only remedy is to bow to Jesus Christ, confessing our moral failures, and asking him to forgive us our sins and bring peace of heart. Jesus promised, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

When we confess our moral failures to Jesus Christ, He will forgive us and soothe our troubled hearts. Then the Storm-Calmer will reside in our hearts to calm the storms that sweep through our lives.


Used by permission.  Twitter: @EricEWright1

January 24, 2019

A Compelling Cosmos

by Clarke Dixon

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19:1 (NIV)

You can imagine the Psalmist looking up to the stars in awe, praising God for all creation. But do the heaven’s still declare the glory of God in our day? Do the skies still proclaim the work of his hands to a people as sophisticated and learned as we are? The heavens would compel the ancients to glorify God as Creator. But are we compelled by them today?

It turns out that the heavens still speak. Philosophers and scientists do the talking, but through the study of “the heavens,” the cosmos, we can learn something about the existence and nature of God.

Let us look to three questions inspired by the heavens. Please note that this is all very introductory.

What is behind the beginning of the universe?

Beginning in the last century a majority of scientists have been won over to the view that our universe had a beginning. While some Christians balked at the “Big Bang” theory, others saw the implications for theology. After all, we people of the Jurdeo-Christian tradition have long been saying that the universe had a beginning. William Lane Craig lays out what he calls the Kalam Cosmological argument in this way:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Further, the cause “must be spaceless, timeless, immaterial, uncaused, and powerful.” Sound like anyone you know? God, as revealed in the Bible, fits this cause of the universe perfectly. But then you might object with “who created God?” Consider the first premise, and then note that God does not begin to exist, therefore we do not need to consider what caused his existence. Again, this is all very introductory, but here is a short video from William Lane Craig which explains it in a much better way.

Why are the conditions just right at the beginning of the universe for it to be life permitting?

Scientists tell us that certain physical constants, like the force of gravity, are so very specific, that if they were just slightly different at the beginning, the universe would not exist as we know it. It would not be life permitting. This is commonly called the Fine Tuning Argument.

Just how specific must these constants be? The web resource godandscience.org quotes Dr. Hugh Ross from his book, The Creator and the Cosmos, on one such constant, the ratio of electrons to protons:

One part in 1037 is such an incredibly sensitive balance that it is hard to visualize. The following analogy might help: Cover the entire North American continent in dimes all the way up to the moon, a height of about 239,000 miles . . . Next, pile dimes from here to the moon on a billion other continents the same size as North America. Paint one dime red and mix it into the billions of piles of dimes. Blindfold a friend and ask him to pick out one dime. The odds that he will pick the red dime are one in 1037. (p. 115)

Did this degree of fine tuning happen by necessity, chance, or by design? Design can be shown to be the most reasonable alternative. I am only scratching the surface, but here is another short video from William Lane Craig to give you a better handle on the fine tuning argument.

Why does anything exist at all?

Looking up to the heavens above on a starry night, we might ask not just how this all began, or how it ended up being so delicately balanced for life, but why is there anything at all? Gottfried Leibniz asked “why is there something rather than nothing?”. He then went on to show how God is the answer. William Lane Craig has formulated Leibniz’s thinking using the following premises:

  1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence (either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause).
  2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
  3. The universe exists.
  4. The explanation of the universe’s existence is God.

This can be a tricky one to wrap our minds around, but basically the idea is that the universe is contingent, that is, something else was required for its existence. We experience this in daily life as we see that all things have some cause behind them. There is a computer here in front of me because someone built it, and I bought it. This computer did not need to exist, nor did I have to buy it. Its existence and placement is contingent on many things. However, God exists necessarily. Nothing caused God to exist. The only way a contingent universe could exist is if something which existed necessarily caused it to exist. This is consistent with what the Bible teaches.

Here is one more short video from William Lane Craig to help you better understand the Leibniz contingency argument.

Some observations.

  • Some might wonder why not just read the Bible and not concern ourselves with such philosophical pursuits. However, the Bible itself says “The heavens declare the glory of God,” therefore it is worth hearing what the heavens declare. We do this through science and philosophy.
  • The fact that science and philosophy can be found to be in sync with theology reminds us that we need neither leave our brains at the door of the church, nor leave our faith in the parking lot of the university. This in itself is something compelling about Christianity. Many of us would find an “everything you know from anywhere else is wrong” kind of attitude to be off-putting.
  • Each of these arguments from philosophy and science are not a knock down argument for Christianity on their own. However, they are part of a larger cumulative case for the truth of Christianity which goes well beyond thinking about the cosmos.
  • You may feel like you can’t wrap your head around these arguments. As J. Warner Wallace points out, jurors in murder cases make decisions that affect the future of an individual in drastic ways, yet they don’t need to be experts. The jurors listen to the testimony of expert witnesses and consider all the evidence without becoming experts in any one part.

It is compelling that what was written so long ago in the Bible should provide answers consistent with what is being learned in our day. Christianity provides compelling answers to philosophical questions inspired by the cosmos, but far more than that, it speaks about God who loves! May you have confidence that Christianity is true. May you have confidence that God loves you in Christ!


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Ontario, Canada.

All Scripture references are taken from the NLT. This is part of a series called “Compelling” which begins here. The full 36-minute sermon can be heard on the podcast here.

January 18, 2019

Our Need to ‘Fix’ People

The second and third sections today are only quoted in part. You’re strongly encouraged to use the links.

Earlier this week, author Jentezen Franklin wrote:

“Pick me up and throw me into the sea…and it will become calm.” John 1:12 NIV

When Jonah boarded a ship going in the opposite direction to God’s will, the crew discovered there’s a high price to pay for allowing the wrong person into your life. So what’s the point? It’s this: God hasn’t authorized you to be somebody else’s life support system. Especially if they’re running from Him, and using you to do it! With Jesus on board you’ll make it through any storm. But when you allow Jonah on board he’ll turn your life upside down, and before it’s over you’ll risk losing everything. Do you seriously think you can fix your Jonah? No. “The Lord…prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah” (v. 17).

Sometimes the best thing you can do for someone is to wake them up and throw them overboard. As long as you keep rescuing them, you get in God’s way. It’s pride that makes us think we can do what only God can do! Look at Jonah—while the crew was desperately throwing stuff overboard, he was sleeping! He didn’t want to be corrected, he wanted to be comfortable! Do you know someone like that? The reason they haven’t changed is because they’re not ready to! Jonah was so stubborn that he stayed in the belly of the huge fish for three days before he prayed. If that had been you, the moment you spotted “Jaws” you’d have been on your knees calling on God, right?

This may be hard to hear, but sometimes the best thing you can do for your Jonah—and yourself—is to throw them overboard and let God rescue them.

In 2014, Jenny Rae Armstrong wrote at Red Letter Christians:

…[N]one of us really know what another person is going through. We’re all in process, and none of us are perfect yet. I remember hearing Brennan Manning speak years ago. He pointed out that that runaway teen turning tricks on the street, who falls asleep with the name of Jesus on his lips, may in fact have made a lot more spiritual progress than a milktoast Christian who came from a happy home.

It’s like Paul Hiebert’s evangelism paradigm, bounded sets vs. centered sets. Maybe one person seems closer to Christ than another, but what is their trajectory? Are they moving toward Christ or away from him? Are they stagnant and complacent?

We should be helping people move toward Christ, not shoving them into the position we think they should inhabit.

Second, it’s not our job to change, convict, or transform people. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job.

I think parents can be especially guilty of this mindset, because we want to raise our kids well, instill healthy habits and beliefs. But that wears thin after twenty years or so, and attempting to police someone’s speech, behavior, and lifestyle can push them further away,  because who wants to be manipulated and controlled?

We also need to look at our motives for pushing people. While we may worry about destructive choices, oftentimes, a good part of our concern is about how WE want people to live their lives, how their choices make us feel. We’re worried about how their behavior reflects on us, and our attempts to change them are motivated by shame. C O – D E P E N D E N T. We can’t love freely when our self-worth is tangled up in someone else’s free will.

We need to get better at loving people where they are at, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Love should never include disclaimers.

So should we just let people do whatever they want to do, live however they want to live? …

It’s not our job to fix people’s behavior. It is our job to love them, pray for them, and point them toward Christ, in whatever way we can.

In order to do that, we’re going to need to offer a lot of grace. And in order to offer grace, we need to let go of the shame, perfectionism, and fear that drives us and accept that grace for ourselves.

Finally, to those of you in leadership or currently walking alongside a “Jonah,” in an undated article at Rick Thomas’s blog, Fernando Serna writes to biblical counselors, pastors, parents, missionaries, and teachers:

[T]he sting of not seeing results can be even sharper as we are ministers of God’s Word offered into the lives of people, and we expect change and a demonstration of the effective Word of God.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)

So, what is the deeper learning and formation made available to us through the pointed experience of limitation and even apparent failure in ministry?

One of the elements that attracted me to chaplaincy ministry is what is called a ministry of presence.

Presence has to do with availability at the level of the heart and mind, deep listening, empathy, connection, coming along side, walking with, and accompanying.

My theology of ministry is informed by Trinitarian theology that accentuates mutual relationship and respectful, non-coercive presence…

My point is that the primary element in biblical counseling and other forms of ministry is to be an agent of God’s presence to the other person, rather than an agent of our own anxious agenda to fix the other person…

…This fix-it mentality has a dimension of coercion and subtle violence that is not of God. It is success oriented rather than Spirit oriented. This requires humility and sobriety on the part of the counselor or minister.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.Mark 10:45 (ESV)

As counselors we are mere servants of the Word, and our measure of success is not the world’s. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has a different logic and grammar…

The Divine Physician is the one who completes, who fixes, who brings to completion the shattered and broken human heart. We have been given the dignity to be called into ministry by the Spirit and to be ambassadors of Christ.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.2 Corinthians 5:20 (ESV)

There is good news here: we do not need to be God! The dignified service God has given us, His sons and daughters, is to plant and water the seed of His Word in the lives of others, and He will give the growth (1 Corinthians 3:7).

This is a liberating message that frees us to be present to others in ministry, not for our sense of accomplishment, but for the love of the Father, whose Spirit will blow when and as it wills, over the lives of the those who He has placed in our path.

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.John 3:8 (ESV)

 

January 16, 2019

Five Practices Needed to Ward Off Lack of Faith

The major takeaway I took from today’s devotional is that spiritual warfare is not always an external battle; it may begin with an inner fight.

Today we’re paying a return visit to the devotional page at Daily Paradigm Shift. We visit these blogs either annually or every six months in the hope that at some of them you’ll see writing which resonates and want to bookmark or subscribe to their sites.

Today’s writer is Brian Maisch.

5 Tactics for Fighting Unbelief

It could be argued that the greatest enemy in our spiritual walk is unbelief. Someone might say, “No, it’s Satan.” However, as one of my favorite Christian teachers likes to say, “The bible doesn’t say, ‘pick up your cross, deny the devil, and follow Jesus.’ It says, ‘Deny yourself, and follow Jesus‘ (Matthew 16:24 NIV emphasis added.)

In Mark Chapter 9, Jesus’ disciples are unable to cast a demon out of a boy. Then Jesus shows up on the scene and is able to cast it out. When they get alone with Jesus, the disciples ask Him why they couldn’t cast out the demon, and Jesus tells them that it is because of their unbelief. Jesus’ exact answer to the disciples is, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20 NIV).

Related Post: 4 Ways to Remain Grounded and Steadfast in Your Faith

Brothers and sisters, we live under an open heaven! Satan has already been defeated. Jesus has given us the authority in the heavenly realms to unlock any door that needs to be unlocked in order to carry out His will on this earth. Matthew 18:18 NIV says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” The only battle left to fight is the one we fight with ourselves to dispel unbelief and to trust God!

If the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in us, then there is absolutely nothing the enemy can put in front of us that is more powerful than that Spirit. It’s not even a competition! Therefore, the enemy’s main tactic is to get us to doubt. He is constantly trying to instill unbelief, while the Holy Spirit is constantly working to instill faith. The enemy’s main tactic is to twist the truth in such a way that we begin believing things that are incorrect about God and incorrect about ourselves. Sometimes it seems like the enemy’s main weapon is the Bible itself! He twists and distorts scripture to confuse people and keep their lives from bearing fruit for the Kingdom.

So how do we practically fight? I wanted to provide a quick list of things that have helped me experience victories in fighting unbelief:

#1. Spending intimate and meaningful time in the presence of God.

Spending intimate and meaningful time in the presence of God is the most important activity in our lives. It helps us to establish a relationship with our creator. It is where we learn His nature, His voice, His touch and His will. This is how we practically allow Jesus to teach us and guide us in every step of our lives.

#2. Reading God’s word.

Maybe it would be better to say falling in love with God’s word. This goes right along with the first point. God’s word brings clarity and insight into the things that God is saying to us. It shows us God’s nature, and helps us to understand His will.

#3. Guarding our hearts and minds.

The enemy has set up the world system to fight for our affection. It will constantly try to turn us away from Jesus, and towards our own selfish desires. Therefore, we have to draw lines in the sand. We have to protect ourselves from destructive mindsets and behaviors. Part of that process is controlling what we allow into our minds. Over the years, I have had to stop watching certain television shows that I knew were destructive, distance myself from certain friends who were pulling me in the wrong direction, and surround myself with people who would hold me accountable in my areas of struggle.

#4. Hanging around people with outrageous faith.

Bill Johnson, senior pastor of Bethel Church, always says, “If you want to slay giants, then hang around a giant slayer.” We all need people in our lives who stretch our faith and compel us to deeper levels of reality in the Kingdom!

#5. Fasting.

There have been so many times where I could feel the snares of the world getting a hold of me and smothering the faith in my life. Declaring a fast is a way to draw a strict line in the sand, and to separate ourselves from the worldly things that have become louder than heavenly things. Whether it is food, social media, television, or all the above, fasting is great way to unplug from the world and get plugged back into God.

These are just a few tools that have helped me in my journey. The bible provides many weapons for fighting unbelief. No matter what weapon you choose, the most important thing is engaging in the fight! Instead of rolling over and giving in to yourself, make the choice to proactively fight to dispel unbelief!

January 15, 2019

Observations from the Parable of the Wedding Banquet

by Russell Young

The parable of the wedding banquet as spoken by the Lord was to reveal some aspects of the kingdom of God to his Jewish listeners. It is recorded in Matthew 22:2─14 and in Luke 14:16─24. Those in attendance would have understood the nature of a Jewish wedding. Guests enjoyed a lavish feast and merriment that went on for seven days and would have been given in honor of the son. This banquet would have been particularly important because it was being hosted by the king. Both the importance of the invitation and the insult of its rejection could not have been missed.

Invitations delivered by the king’s servants to his chosen guests had all been rejected. Their excuses were offensive and humiliating to the ruler who had endeavored to honor both his son and those he wanted to attend. The called had considered the daily issues of life to be of greater importance than honoring their king or his son. The invitees did not have interest in the wedding nor time to show respect. Some even seized his servants, mistreating and killing them.

In anger the king destroyed their city then invited those of no significance: anyone they could find, the poor, the lame, the blind, and the weak. To his Jewish listeners such an opportunity could never have been realized by such a collection. The king had invited the lost and unlovely into his royal presence. The attitudes of the privileged and their rejection of the king’s invitation would not have been missed.

However, the parable offers insight into some other interesting observations. Many of those who had been called had rejected the invitation and not all of those who attended could remain since at least one had been thrown out.

The king’s calling can be refused! Consider the implications. The king, who represents the Lord, did not exercise absolute power over those whom he had called but had allowed them freedom of choice and had honored their decisions. In this case the Jews, those of the house of Israel, had rejected the King and his Son. According to this parable, the exercise of free-will has not been removed and all have the option to reject the king’s pleasure at their own loss. Some suppose that God’s will is absolute and beyond being refuted by mere humankind; however, people have been gifted with the ability to make choices and they will be honored.

The rejected guest was found startled or “speechless” when the king had him bound hand and foot and thrown outside. He did not expect to be denied right to the feast; after all, he had been invited. He had anticipated the occasion. Surely such a reaction would have startled Christ’s listeners as well. Why would the king have done such a thing? The guest lacked wealth, and the king had known this but had still encouraged the calling. The invitee ended up bound and in the darkness. What does this tell us?

According to the parable, his ejection was due to his lack of wedding clothes. Clearly, the guest’s attire had not been acceptable for the presence of the king or of his son and did not bring honor to the occasion. However, there were many like this guest who when called were poor, blind, lame and weak and they had managed proper clothing even in their poverty.

The parable should be carefully considered, there will be many called to the Son’s wedding banquet but not all will be chosen to attend. Only those who are appropriately dressed and who through their presentation, the testimony of their covering, will enjoy the celebration.

In speaking of faith and of the “feast”, in another place the Lord said, “I say to you many will come from the east and the west and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside into the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mt 8:1112) The ISV translates “subjects” as “the unfaithful heirs of that kingdom,” while the Contemporary English Version presents as “the ones who should have been in the kingdom.” The Greek uses the word huios for “subjects” which means sons and refers to both Gentiles and Jews. Although the huios have been called, they must attend the wedding feast with the proper garments. (For a more detailed examination of “subjects of the kingdom” see a previous writing: “The Subjects of the Kingdom Will be Thrown Outside”.)

Many will respond to the calling with expectation and enthusiasm only to find that upon entrance, they will be bound and thrown outside because their testimony; their attire, their lack of preparation or righteousness, will not be found acceptable for the occasion.

Those not clothed in righteousness will be found “naked”. The angel to the church in Laodicea admonished, But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see, (Rev 3:17─18) Concerning the bride of Christ we are told, “his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)” (Rev 19: 7─ 8) According to the book of Hebrews, “Without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14) Although many have been called, few will be chosen (Mt 22:14) for lacking a testimony of righteousness. Many will be startled and speechless and thrown outside.

The called need to recognize their poverty and to use the resources available to “purchase” white clothing. Those who carry the stains of sin will be cast out.

The Lord also addressed the matter when he stated that “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Mt 7:22─23 Italics added) They were thrown outside because of their “doing” and were not allowed in through a confession once made or an invitation accepted. Their garments were stained and dirty. They needed proper wedding clothes.

The parable revealed the Lord’s perception of Israel and that nation’s rejection of him as the Son of the King. It also made known that there are expectations for those who will celebrate his Son with him and that they can either reject their calling or prepare for his kingdom. “Evil-doers” will not be welcome.



Russell Young’s column appears here on alternate Tuesdays. His book, Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? is available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

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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