Christianity 201

September 11, 2019

Jarrid Wilson: Love Jesus More Than Anything

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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For many of us, our world was rocked this week to learn of the untimely death of Jarrid Wilson, a longtime outspoken voice for mental health, by suicide at age 30. Jarrid was an associate pastor at Harvest Church in Riverside, California. (Read more at Religion News Service.)

The article below contains a section which he tweeted not long ago, which has now been shared online countless times. Taken from his blog, this gives the full context.

He ended with a link to Romans 12:2

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Love Jesus More Than Anything

The great Charles Spurgeon once said, “If Christ is anything, He must be everything.” And over one-hundred years after these powerful words were written, I believe Spurgeon’s writings are now more than ever, a vibrant truth needed in today’s spiritual climate.

And while many Christians claim this is, in fact, the way they are living, I believe their actions, words, and social media feeds speak differently, even if they’re not necessarily intended to speak this way.

We read throughout the Bible that anything raised above that of Christ is an idol that must be lowered back to its rightful place. Why one may ask? Because the moment we find ourselves talking more about our political party, sexual identity, or possessions more than you do about Christ, we’ve officially made that “thing” a god in your life. It’s become the very thing we worship. It’s become the who and/or what we’ve decided to place our identity in. And that my friends will lead us all down a road of disappointment and brokenness.

The story of Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22) is a perfect example of this. God saw how much of an idol Isaac had become in Abraham’s life, so God asks him to prove his loyalty to by sacrificing his son. God, being sovereign and forgiving, stopped Abraham before he could go through with the act, but this wasn’t before he saw Abraham’s heart change and put God back in the rightful place he deserved; above anyone/everything else. God is jealous for us, and he yearns to be our number one priority in life.

If Jesus is really who you call Lord, then shouldn’t he be the very person we talk most about, and live most for? Idols come in various shapes and forms. And we must learn to love Jesus more than anything else in the world, no matter how important or awesome these “other” things might be to us.

Love Jesus More:

  • Love Jesus more than your job.
  • Love Jesus more than your finances.
  • Love Jesus more than your possessions.
  • Love Jesus more than your family.
  • Love Jesus more than your spouse.
  • Love Jesus more than your kids.
  • Love Jesus more than your church.
  • Love Jesus more than your pastor.
  • Love Jesus more than your political party.
  • Love Jesus more than your country.
  • Love Jesus more than your president.
  • Love Jesus more than your ethnicity.
  • Love Jesus more than your sexuality.
  • Love Jesus more than your sexual identity.
  • Love Jesus more than your opinions.
  • Love Jesus more than you love yourself.

This type of ideology might not be very popular, but this doesn’t mean it’s not the reality of the Christian life. This is how Jesus intended his followers to live. And the beautiful thing is how fulfilling life becomes when we actually choose to put Jesus over everything and anyone.

Yes, I’m aware it’s quite opposite of what culture and society tell us about living, but remember, we were never called to look or live like the world in the first place. This is Christianity 101. We’re called to be different, look different, shop different, vote different, love different, speak differently, and act differently. We’re called to move contrary to that of the world’s flow. (Romans 12:2)

Put Jesus over everything.

—Jarrid Wilson

 

 

 

September 9, 2019

Restraint and Self Control

Six months ago, on our nine year anniversary weekend, we introduced you to the writing of Tonia Slimm at the site Growing with God. Let me say that I really like what’s being presented on this site. She’s in the middle of a series from Proverbs, and while I considered one of the introductory posts, this one was too good to pass up.

Use Caution and Restraint–Proverbs 23:1-3

Proverbs 23:1-3 (NIV)
When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony. Do not crave his delicacies, for that food is deceptive.

Proverbs 23:1-3 (MSG)
When you go out to dinner with an influential person, mind your manners:
Don’t gobble your food, don’t talk with your mouth full. And don’t stuff yourself; bridle your appetite.

Proverbs 23:1-3 (AMPLIFIED)
“When you sit down to dine with a ruler, consider carefully what is [set] before you; for you will put a knife to your throat if you are a man of great appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for it is deceptive food [offered to you with questionable motives].”


“Self-control is the exercise of inner strength under the direction of sound judgement that enables us to do, think, and say the things that are pleasing to God.” ~Jerry Bridges

Restraint and self-control are synonymous. They both imply the need to control, hold back, or check oneself. They involve harnessing one’s body, emotions, and appetites.

In principle six we find Solomon giving warning for the need to be cautious and using restraint. We will find in life that there may be times in a relationship or situation that the other party involved may have an ulterior motive in “wining and dining” us.

BEWARE OF THE FLATTERER!

Solomon admonishes us that not everyone can be taken at face value. Be cautious and use restraint.

“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” ~Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism

Principle 6:

“When sitting down to eat with a ruler, take a moment to think about who you are with and what you are doing. If you are the type who eats too much too fast, do whatever is necessary to curb your enthusiasm for food. Also, do not eye the ruler’s delicacies, for the food may not be what it seems.” -(VOICE)

Solomon tells us that when we are invited to the home of a ruler, leader, or influential person that we need to be cautious. Consider what is before you and why. Consider the moral, ethical and spiritual precepts that might be affected by your proximity to this person in authority. Ask yourself a few questions:
1.) Why am I here?
2.) What is the motivation of the person who invited me?
3.) What are my boundary lines?
4.) Will I remain true to God’s standards?

The first two questions will need to be answered as you sit in the presence of this person. The last two questions should have already been decided before you arrived to sit at their table.

“When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, with a person of influence and power, consider diligently what is before thee, keeping in mind throughout the dinner that it is a mightier and loftier one at whose invitation one is present, and put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite, keeping the usual gluttonous appetite in leash by the strongest warnings and threats, restraining the least sign of self-indulgence. Be not desirous of his dainties, craving the finest food on the table; for they are deceitful meat, literally, “bread of deception,” it is a deceptive meal, the object of the powerful person not being to dispense free hospitality, but to make use of his guest in some manner.” ~ Paul E. Kretzmann (The Popular Commentary)

We need to notice Solomon’s warning against gluttony as well. Do not go into this situation blindly, focused only on what is immediately before you, food, and making a pig of yourself. The tasty morsels before you may in fact be a way to compel you to become obligated to this crooked leader. BEWARE! Take Caution! Use restraint.

“Therefore see that you walk carefully [living life with honor, purpose, and courage; shunning those who tolerate and enable evil], not as the unwise, but as wise [sensible, intelligent, discerning people], making the very most of your time [on earth, recognizing and taking advantage of each opportunity and using it with wisdom and diligence], because the days are [filled with] evil.” -Paul Ephesians 5:15-16 (AMP)

There is wisdom in using caution and restrain. This does not mean that we should be questioning everyone’s motives. But it does mean that we need to be careful to in tune with the Holy Spirit’s leading. It does mean that we need to know where we stand, at all times, and why. It does mean that we need to be in the Word and know what God’s standards and boundaries are so that we are not over stepping them.

“If we know that the aim of the Holy Spirit is to lead man to the place of self-control, we shall not fall into passivity but shall make good progress in spiritual life. “The fruit of the Spirit is self-control” ~Watchman Nee

My Prayer:
Lord, I have fallen victim to those smooth talkers before. I have ignored the still, small voice within and rushed in to areas that angels fear to tread. Forgive me, please. Help me to learn self-control and caution. Help me to constantly listening to the promptings of your Holy Spirit and being obedient too. Give me your wisdom in all situations, so that I can stay within your boundaries, I pray.

September 1, 2019

All Types of Prayers; All Kinds of Requests

We begin today with my wife’s paraphrase of some verse from Romans 8, which is then paired with an article I wrote for our 1,600th post in 2014. (If you’re keeping score, tomorrow will be 3,440.)


by Ruth Wilkinson

…I consider that our sufferings right now are not worth comparing with the glory that we will be shown.

We know that all of creation groans together like labour pains in the hope that God’s children will be set free from the bondage of these bodies into glorious freedom.

And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit — we also groan within ourselves, eager for the redemption of our bodies.

And not only that, but the Spirit comes alongside us in our limitation, because we don’t know exactly how we should pray,
but the Spirit within us, the Spirit Himself prays for us without words.

And God, who sees the heart, knows the Spirit’s mind because the Spirit only prays for what God wants.

Romans 8:18‭-‬23‭, ‬26‭-‬27 HCSB

If your prayer list seems overwhelming, remember God knows us, he knows our name, he knows our heart, and we are not alone. (See songs below.)


by Paul Wilkinson

I know there are days in our household when the list of prayer requests seems to be balloon out in size, and we feel we must be exasperating God with so many requests. Additionally, as I type this, to even list the countries of the world that are hot-spots right now would take some time, especially if you are aware of key groups or individuals that need an extra blessing from God.

After a person has been around the church for awhile, they are often instructed that prayer is so much more than just asking for things for ourselves or on behalf of others. Using the ACTS model (acknowledgement, confession, thanksgiving, supplication) that would mean that additionally prayer should include:

  • a point of entry into conversation with God that recognizes who He is, His sovereignty over all things, His immense power, His majesty in creation, His knowing of all things, His holiness.
  • a confession of our sin, both individually and corporately
  • spoken recognition of the good things that life brings us as part of the general grace given to all of us, appreciation for blessings that might seem to be extra or undeserved

But then we are back at requests. The list seems so long. Should we do some editing? Just pray for certain people on certain days?

Scripture would seem to suggest not to hold back. In Ephesians 6:18 we read:

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

The phrases I want to highlight today are all occasions, all kinds of…requests, always keep on.

Of course sometimes we do not really know what we ought to pray. Should we pray for Mike and Carrie’s relationship to be restored, or is it better that they break the engagement now before they end up in a marriage that may not succeed? Should we pray for Shelley to get the job in Ohio when really, she should look for employment closer to home so she can keep helping her sister who really needs her?

I don’t know, don’t ask me!!

In I Corinthians 14:15 Paul says,

So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding…

This verse bears on the subject of praying in tongues, which I know is controversial; but the Bible does suggest there are times when human words are inadequate. We see this again in Romans 8:26:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

The KJV uses, “groanings too deep for words.”

(We hear a lot about speaking in tongues, but not so much about ‘speaking in groans,’ though I’ve been in at least two churches where this was manifested.)

The key in these verses is where Paul says, “What shall I do?” (I Cor. passage) and “We do not know what…to pray for” (Romans passage).

Sometimes we just don’t know. We throw up our hands and surrender our total inadequacy to intercede in these situations. Should we give up? I think a good place to resolve this is with our key verse again:

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking.

“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” (Matt 7:7 HCSB; all other ref.s NIV)


Instead of one, because it’s a long weekend here in North America we have three songs for you today, that were part of the liturgy and worship Ruth led this morning.

August 31, 2019

Sharing in the Forever (Eternal) Life

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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AV.Rom.6.23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Once again, we’re paying a return visit to Wade Burleson at Istoria Ministries whose writing always challenges me to think! Click the header below to read at source.

Natural Immortality or God’s Gift of Immortality?

“Truth is like a young lion who fearlessly welcomes all challengers. Error is like an old lion who must loudly roar to scare away encroachers. The louder someone rants about ‘your theological errors,’ the less sure that old lion is of his truth.” – Wade Burleson

Most people believe what they’re taught and do what they’re told without thinking for themselves.

I find that a tad disturbing.

The reason professing Christians will sometimes “renounce” their Christian faith is because they’ve only accepted what they’ve been taught and never agonized over what they’ve learned.

Let me give you an example.

“God alone is immortal” (I Timothy 6:16). 

What does that mean? God alone (“nobody else”) is immortal

Mortal means “subject to death.” God alone is not “subject to death.”

Suppose you were in a room with several people, and someone said, “Of all the people in this room, there is one person alone who is a multi-millionaire.”

What would that mean?

Obviously, only one person possesses multi-millions of dollars.

So, if God alone is immortal, how can anyone else become immortal?

The same way other people in the room of only one multi-millionaire become millionaires without leaving the room.

The one who has it must gift it to those who don’t.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is immortal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). 

For reasons I cannot fathom, many Christians believe that the lives of the wicked are like the trick birthday candles your mom put on your 12th-year-birthday celebration cake.

You can’t extinguish them no matter how hard you try.

Christians in these latter days believe that the wicked are naturally immortal. The notion among many evangelicals is that the wicked can’t “die” because their souls naturally live forever.

But Jesus said:

“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul (eg “men”); but rather fear Him (eg “God”) who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)

God alone is immortal.

The eternal torment of the wicked presupposes that God gifts the wicked with immortal life.

But the Scriptures seem to teach only those in Christ are gifted with immortal life.

The wicked will die a second time as their just sentence for the sins they’ve committed in this life (Revelation 20:14). The righteous alone – that is, those in Christ – are given God’s gift of immortal life.

“It has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (II Timothy 1:10)

I know of nothing better than the Hope that the God of all grace will gift His people with immortal life and totally destroy everything wicked.

August 4, 2019

This Critical Moment

clock spiral

Well seize this critical moment, because the days are evil. (A Google Translate iteration of Ephesians 5:16 from Dios Habla Hoy, a Spanish Bible; could also be “this decisive moment.”)

Today’s thoughts continue from a topical article posted in 2016 at Thinking Out Loud

…As Christians, the stewardship of our time is important. In the old KJV rendering of Ephesians 5:16, they used the phrase, “Redeeming the time…” More recent translators went with:

  • Make every minute count. (CEV, NASB, and others)
  • Make the best use of your time. (J. B. Phillips)
  • Don’t waste your time on useless work. (Eugene Peterson)
  • Make the most of every living and breathing moment. (The Voice)

The time factor figures into social media [such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, podcasts, etc.] but even more into addictive online behavior…

…While I’ve always used two major arguments in relationship to Christians watching inappropriate content online — the Bible’s teaching on lust and its teaching on self control — I think the stewardship of our time really needs to be added as a third reason to walk away from the computer, especially in view of stories about the hours and hours people spend glued to the screen.

Other verses come to mind, such as Psalm 90:12

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. (ESV)

Other translations render this;

  • Teach us how short our lives are so that we can become wise. (ERV)
  • Teach us to use wisely all the time we have. (CEV)

Some verses remind us of the brevity of life, such as James 4:13-15

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (ESV; some translations use vapor instead of mist.)

and Proverbs 27:1

Do not boast about tomorrow,
for you do not know what a day may bring. (NIV)

These reminders should make us want to consider where we invest ourselves in our daily schedule.

At the website BibleReasons.com, I found a list of Bible Verses About Time Management. I won’t reproduce it here, but encourage you to click through. One that struck me as we close here was about the idea of living with eternity in view:

NLT 2 Cor 4:18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

How are you redeeming the time in your life?

If you find yourself guilty of wasting time in front of screens — pocket screens, laptop/desktop/tablet screens, 42-inch screens in the family entertainment room — this might be a good time to repent.


The Sunday Worship feature will continue to appear from time to time.

August 2, 2019

De-Mystifying Spiritual Warfare

Eph 6:12 For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.


“Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.”  Luke 10:19

About a year ago we borrowed an item here from the the New Wineskins blog at Patheos by Josh Draffern, and yesterday I decided to see what he’s been writing lately, where I came across this article. I really felt this opened a frequently-discussed topic in a new way, and I hope you’ll agree. Click the title below to read this at source, and bookmark the site so you can make return visits.

What If You Could Take the Mystery Out of Spiritual Warfare?

What if you could take the mystery out of spiritual warfare? Growing up as a church kid, there were several Bible passages that continually fascinated me. Whenever the story of David and Goliath was told (1 Samuel 17), I would imagine that I was there in the crowd, watching history unfold. I loved imagining that like Peter I might have had enough faith to walk on water when Jesus gave the invitation (Matthew 14:22-33). Right up near the top was Paul’s picture of spiritual warfare and the description of the armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-18. The imagery of swords and shields was very compelling for a middle school boy, and the thought of fighting demons seemed like the real life version of all those fairytales I heard growing up where the hero slayed the dragon and saved the princess. For years, that’s where my understanding of spiritual warfare remained: medieval sword fights and imaginary battles with demons.

What if you could take the mystery out of spiritual warfare? When I finished high school and went off to a Christian college I continued to be interested in the topic of spiritual warfare and for the first time was exposed to books outside my narrow field of evangelical teaching. The good news was that there was a whole spectrum of teaching on spiritual warfare out there, especially from the pentecostal and charismatic stripe of Christianity, that claimed to know all sorts of fascinating information about spiritual warfare. The bad news was that too often these books left any semblance of biblical grounding behind and relied on supernatural revelations that changed from book to book. In the end, I was left with little I could trust and less I could understand.

What if you could take the mystery out of spiritual warfare? After college I spent two years overseas in Africa as a missionary through the International Mission Board, the missions agency of the Southern Baptist Convention. There in Africa I saw two distinct demonic manifestations happen with my first month of being there, moments that made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. Finally, this seemed like what I had always expected spiritual warfare to be like! But as quickly as they appeared, they dissipated. No more demonic manifestations after that, nothing that fit the stereotypical episode of spiritual warfare. Just normal, mundane, everyday life. Could spiritual warfare exist if nothing extraordinary appeared to be happening?

What if you could take the mystery out of spiritual warfare? Once I came back to the United States and began working full-time in local churches as a youth pastor, I began to see the evidence of spiritual warfare all around me. Good Christian marriages were falling apart left and right, entirely preventable divorces were being filed, and kids were left with emotional scars from a broken childhood that would threaten to haunt them for generations. Good kids from good homes were making bad decisions that left life-long consequences. Division and strife riled through churches as the enemy seemingly went unchecked in our midst. Like a dull ache in the back of my head, I knew we were being defeated in spiritual warfare, but I didn’t know how to fight back. Should I purchase a sword and shield? Did I need to go demon hunting or go searching for territorial powers like the books I read in college suggested? Should I wait for an undeniable demonic manifestation and deal with it then? Even after decades following Jesus and reading the Bible, the mystery of spiritual warfare remained simply that: a mystery.

What if you could take the mystery out of spiritual warfare? As the years went by and I became a senior pastor of a local church, I had the opportunity to teach through the armor of God in Ephesians 6 on a number of occasions. In preparation for a message, trying to grasp the armor of God in a way that could help my congregation (and myself) better understand Paul’s teaching on spiritual warfare, I tried a different approach, one I ultimately believe was prompted by the Holy Spirit. Instead of focusing on the pieces of armor, as I had always done and as commentaries always did, I ignored the pieces of armor completely and simply focused on what was attached to the pieces of armor. That small shift changed everything.

When you think of a marriage, if you had to settle on one image or one event that best encapsulates a marriage it would most likely be the wedding day. A wedding is a beautifully scripted ceremony that visually captures and celebrates the love and commitment between a husband and wife. From the flowers and the cake to the wedding dress and corsages, the beauty and elegance of the wedding ceremony celebrates the finest of what a marriage should be. Yet no one would try and make the argument that the only way to properly be married is to dress up every day in your tuxedo or wedding dress and walk down a rose petal strewn church aisle. In fact, if someone made a routine of putting on their wedding dress or tux so they could be married that day, he or she would be missing the whole point. Marriage isn’t the tuxedo or wedding dress, those are merely symbols. It’s the love and commitment represented by the wedding ceremony that’s the key.

When Paul writes to first century Christians to instruct them on the basics of spiritual warfare, he gives them a metaphor to hold onto, a symbol. He describes spiritual warfare in terms that mirrored the physical warfare every reader would have been familiar with. Every first-century believer reading Paul’s letter to the Ephesians would have been painfully aware of the power of the Roman soldier. And just as the Roman army conquered the known world of the time, Paul instructed early Christians on how to be just as victorious in the spiritual battles that raged around them. But the pieces of armor have always been a metaphor. It doesn’t make any more sense to think the key to spiritual warfare is putting on pieces of armor than to think that the key to a successful marriage is to wear your wedding dress or wedding tux every single day. The key isn’t the pieces of armor, but what’s attached to the pieces armor. Right there, hiding in plain sight, we discover the steps we need to begin to win the war in the spiritual.

 

This is an excerpt from (hopefully) an upcoming book to be published on spiritual warfare. [For meaningful conversations on this and all my other content, join my Facebook Group: Josh Daffern Digital]

 

July 29, 2019

What Does it Mean to be Pure?

We often highlight devotionals from Charles Price, Minister at Large for The Peoples Church in Toronto. You’re encouraged to click this link if you wish to follow these teachings. There are two inter-connected devotionals today.

One Thing I Do

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” 
—Matthew 5:8

To be pure in heart almost sounds angelic. Many may think it implies perfection or refers to someone who is tremendously giving, always does the right thing and is noble in their cause. This is where we fall off the rails, because we know our hearts are not pure. Thankfully, perfection is not what Jesus is talking about in the sixth beatitude.

To understand what Jesus means by pure in heart we need to define what is meant by “pure.” Although Jesus probably spoke Aramaic during His time in this world, the New Testament was recorded in the Greek language, which was a language of international commerce and trade. Hence, Bible translations mostly take from early Greek manuscripts. There is no exact equivalent between Greek and Aramaic, or even in English, for these vocabularies. A word in Greek has a specific meaning to the Greek mind, but may have a different meaning to the English mind. The Greek word for “pure” that Jesus uses here is katharos, which does not mean pure in the sense of perfection, but pure in the sense of being undiluted, not mixed with anything. For example, wine that is not diluted with water would be a katharos wine.

The heart is the seat of our personalities. It is where the mind, emotions and will come together to form the real person. Our thoughts, emotions, aspirations and desires are filtered through our minds and settled into our hearts. This is why Paul tells us, “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved” (Romans 10:10).

To be pure in heart is to narrow our interests down to the interests of Jesus Christ, which opens them up to all that is the purpose and agenda of heaven. Paul tells us, “But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). Paul is not saying 25 things that he dabbled in, but one thing he will do. Paul’s exhortation did not mean he was boring without a wider interest in business, family or hobbies. Rather, Paul is implying, “In the midst of my business, family and recreational life, there is an undergirding, ‘this one thing I do’ that is the backbone and the spinal cord of everything in my life.” Of course, there are other aspects of our lives that we are involved and dedicated to doing but it all flows out of this “one thing I do.”

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, grant me a pure heart that focuses on You and Your agenda in every area of my life as the “one thing I do.” Thank You, Lord.

Pureness of Heart

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  —Psalm 51:10

When we have made up our minds that our position is going to be one of “pureness in heart,” we begin a pursuit of pureness. It is not a passive acceptance of “que será será”—“whatever will be, will be”—by letting others think what they will because God will love us regardless. A pursuit for a pureness of heart is to enter every aspect of our lives, which is probably best described as being single-minded to the will and purpose of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Book of Acts records Paul as a tentmaker, where he supported part of his ministry by making tents. He also had a great interest in people from different cultures and backgrounds. Because of his interests, he gained a clear perception on what a predominately pagan world believed in, and related to them from their viewpoint by finding the bridge that would unite them to the gospel.

We all have different lives, but similar to Paul, the undergirding premise is that we bring the life of Christ into all we do. We live in an overwhelmingly secular world where truth has become subjective and bringing Christ in sets us apart from the norm. Jesus was radically set apart from the norm, not only in Jewish religious beliefs, but also to the entire Gentile world. He is the truth, not subjectively, but objectively. Pureness of heart is a pursuit, whereby we allow the truth within us, which is Christ Himself, to become the source from which our attitudes and behaviours derive.

James tells us, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:19). The devil believes things with his mind but the significance is not there for his heart because to believe with the heart is to surrender and recognize that God is God. Everyday we fight a battle with our hearts. This is why David writes, “Teach me Your way, Lord, that I may rely on Your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name.”

(Psalm 86:11). We cannot allow ourselves to be pulled in two directions, because in a divided heart, the secular issues will always swallow the sacred issues.

An undivided heart is a pure heart, and to pursue a pureness of heart means surrendering all that we are to seek Jesus. Sometimes we talk about Jesus coming into your heart but that is not found in the Bible. Yet, when we talk about Jesus coming into our hearts, we are asking for Jesus to become the center of our being, right into the heart of everything that we are. Are we ready to pursue a pureness of heart?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I surrender my heart in pursuit of a pureness of heart. Help me to be single-minded and focused on Your will and purpose. Thank You, Lord.


Because we often get first time readers, every so often I like to review our purpose statement:

Mission Statement: Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of Christian blogs and websites. Sometimes two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading.

Scripture portions from various translations quoted at Christianity 201 are always in green to remind us that the Scriptures have LIFE!


July 26, 2019

Responding to the Critics

John.18.22 When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.

23 “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?”

This is our eighth time featuring the writing of Shane Idleman, founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, California. Today’s devotional is from Shane’s personal blog, to see the complete, unedited article with references to specific ministries, click the header below to read at source.

When Should We Answer Our Critics?

…While I understand that preachers and pastors cannot always give people an answer—I myself don’t have time to read nor answer all the comments on my media feeds—there are times when we should explain our actions. It may not change the minds of those who are hell-bent on critiquing us, but it may clear up confusion for those in the middle.

As I’ve stated before, I tend to be “safely” conservative when considering the power of the Holy Spirit. I’m open but cautious. I think we have too many prophecies and not enough humility; too much self-centered worship and not enough waiting on God. We need both sound doctrine and the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s possible to be “Bible-taught” but not “Spirit-led”—straight as a gun barrel theologically but just as empty. “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).

I think it’s time for many prominent charismatic leaders to answer their critics to help those in the middle better understand their theology. Avoiding questions isn’t always good. Sincere people raise valid issues deserving of a response, such as lovingly challenging those who say that Jesus was not God while on earth, that all people should be healed, or taking way too much liberty when it comes to exegeting a passage of Scripture.

Folks, it’s time to solidify our positions. If you’ve said confusing things, explain where you’re coming from. Are you open to re-evaluating your theology in light of Scripture? Sadly, most charismatics are not known for their theology; they must change that…

That being said, I do have concerns about the attitude behind some of the judgmental websites, vindictive videos, and Pharisee-blogs. Critics often forget that “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Arrogance and haughtiness are not positive character traits. The way many condemn others is disheartening. It appears that they actually take pleasure in it. Where is the burden for them? Why don’t they weep before they whip? Why don’t they season their words with grace? I’m all for contending for truth, but it must come from a broken heart that’s been humbled by God. Sadly, this is what many are lacking.

How do I know that they are arrogant and condescending? Because they show little desire to really interact with the folks they throw under the bus. They not only enjoy throwing them under the bus, they enjoy driving the bus. Be careful—history has taught us that arrogant critics often fall via a moral failure or some other silent sin.

For the rest of us, here are some points to consider when answering our critics. Answer them . . .

1. When they are genuinely seeking answers. Most of us are not “out to get you.” We simply want answers. Yes, Jesus remained silent at times, but other times He spoke out, clarified, and lovingly fought back. When He was slapped, He didn’t turn the other cheek. He called the person out for his actions (John 18:22–23).

2. When your influence warrants it. If you are influencing others, you need to be careful. There is a stricter judgment for us. Silence is not always the best option. Sometimes it can be a smokescreen for cowardliness or passivity. Again, it’s impossible to answer all our critics, but if a constant theme arises against the ministry the Lord has given us, we need to address it…

3. When the truth of the gospel is at stake. This is a no-brainer. When essential truths are being questioned, we must respond.

4. When a lot of confusion surrounds our ministry. The devil loves confusion and wants us to avoid bringing light and clarity to questions surrounding our beliefs and actions. …When we’re so busy calling everyone else to repentance, we often fail to look in the mirror.

5. When godly counsel encourages us to do so. When it comes to answering your critics, ask other solid believers who will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. We all have friends and family who will confirm our desire to remain silent. Instead, ask those who will look through an unbiased lens.

My heart is for unity in the true body of Christ, but many statements that have been made demand answers. Remaining silent actually gives those caught in the middle pause for concern. For example, I appreciate the heart for revival and healing that some prominent leaders have, but their statements about Catholics and Christians coming together need to be lovingly challenged and clarified, as do some of their doctrinal positions. Moreover, clips are available that show (what appear to be) fake healings by manipulating a person’s foot.

Again, I’m all for genuine healings, but many onlookers need clarification. Leaders, would you consider answering some of your critics so we can better understand where you’re coming from? It’s not sending the right message to the vast majority of us. If so, contact me at Shane Idleman.

True humility recognizes that we are not perfect. We need iron to sharpen iron to ultimately sharpen our theology. We must move out of the ivory tower of the “touch not God’s anointed” superstar mentality, humble ourselves, and be open to constructive criticism. “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1).

July 9, 2019

With You There is Light

Today’s piece represents a return visit to the website ThinkTheology.org which contains a broad assortment of approaches to Biblical, theological and practical study. This one is by . Click the title below to read at source.

Life Sucks

Philippians 4:11-13 I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Yesterday morning at our church staff meeting, the senior pastor asked all of us how we’re all doing. I answered pretty honestly by saying that I’m doing okay, and he answered back, “You know? Life sucks right now.” It’s funny, in hindsight, because later that afternoon a FedEx came barreling through our parking lot and hit our church building’s awning. “Hit” might be a little euphemistic; the entire building shook when she hit the awning.

All of us in the building went out to see what had happened, and we see the driver panicking, looking at the damage to her vehicle and to the church building.

It was bad.

The funny thing is that we had literally fixed this awning a couple weeks ago because another delivery truck had ran into the awning (and then another hit it in the same day.) As I’m writing this, I can’t help but just laugh at the whole situation. I mean, it definitely sucks, but it’s okay. The company will take care of the damages, and we don’t need to really worry about it.

It’ll be taken care of.

It’s a little annoying, but it’ll be okay.

And I don’t want to sound too spiritual, but I definitely think it was God trying to catch all of our attentions. It’s so easy to stick to the script of the day, to do things as they’re supposed to be done, and it becomes somewhat monotonous. Sometimes God uses sucky things to jolt us, to draw attention to what God’s doing, and to remind us that it’s okay.

I’ve been in a long season of trying to find contentment. And if all of us are honest, we’re all trying to find that sweet spot of contentment. We’re constantly going through ups and downs, highs and lows, mountains and valleys, crests and troughs, and we’re trying to figure out how to be stable. In an attempt to remind myself of this, I’ve gotten this idea tattooed on my body, so that I can see it on a daily basis. Life goes up and down, and it sometimes sucks.

Those of you that have read my little posts may tire of my references to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but he’s a spiritual mentor of sorts. The more I read him, the more I appreciate him. The more I study his life, the more in awe I become. This was not a man that said and wrote pretty things. Bonhoeffer lived out his faith in the real world. The things that he said in the classroom, teaching young students, he then had to live it out as he suffered in prison. In a way, his writing and reading became practice as he lived out his faith, a journey from the head to the heart.

“In me there is darkness,
But with You there is light;
I am lonely, but You do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with You there is help;
I am restless, but with You there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with You there is patience;
I do not understand Your ways,
But You know the way for me.”

“Lord Jesus Christ,
You were poor
And in distress, a captive and forsaken as I am.
You know all man’s troubles;
You abide with me
When all men fail me;
You remember and seek me;
It is Your will that I should know You
And turn to You.
Lord, I hear Your call and follow;
Help me.”
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison.

Bonhoeffer was just like Paul in this regard. Paul wrote a beautiful letter to the church in Philippi, not as an abstract description of being content, but Paul was actually content because he had communion with Christ. Philippians 4:13 is an often quoted verse about our capability to endure hardship and do what needs to be done. But what it actually is saying is that we can only do things through Christ. It’s a lovely little preposition, isn’t it? It qualifies the sentence. And what I love is that this preposition, ἐν, can say more than just “through.” Bill Mounce defines it “spatially: in, inside, at, among, with; logically: by means of, with, because of; of time: during, while.”

It’s more than just a simple preposition.

It speaks to the kind of Savior Jesus is. He is able to do all things, and we are in him. Life is always going to suck, but we serve a Lord that has accomplished all things in life, and death, and he is our rock and salvation. We find contentment in all the messiness and craziness when we remember Christ. When we go through circumstances, maybe it’s God trying to get our attention.

Let life suck. Let it be an opportunity to abide in the loving arms of God.

June 28, 2019

When Jesus Gets Angry

In 1964 a man named Elton Trueblood wrote a book titled The Humor of Christ. I believe I was given a copy but can no longer place it. An artist once painted a picture called Jesus Laughing (see below), which I believe was intended to act as a contrast to Warner Sallman’s popular Head of Christ picture.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have a new book by Tim Harlow titled What Made Jesus Mad? Rediscover the Blunt, Sarcastic, Passionate Savior of the Bible. (Thomas Nelson, 2019) We often speak of “the wrath of God,” but we don’t usually focus on “the wrath of Jesus.”

I have not read the book, but I find the concept challenging. At the book’s website, we read:

Christians love to focus on the gentle and tender heart of Jesus.

We often don’t know what to do with the Bible’s stories of his righteous rage. Yet the truth is, while the Son of God was loving and tender, his words could be equally sharp and biting. The same man who said, “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44) also said, “You snakes, how will you escape being condemned to hell?” (Matthew 23:33).

What if by coming to understand God’s holy anger, we come to know a savior we never knew before?

Yesterday, in the Pastor2Pastor newsletter I receive, there was an interview with the author. I hesitate to post it all — though it would fit here — because of the copyright notice, but I’ll share a few of the questions and part of the answers.

Q: This month your new book was released, called What Made Jesus Mad? What did make Jesus mad, would you say?
A: I think there was a theme to Jesus’ anger: Denied Access to the Father. 

Q: For you, what is the key story of Jesus getting mad? 

A:  I think the key story has to be what I call the Temple Tantrum.😊 At one point Jesus says: “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” Mark 11:17

There are three parts to that statement: a den of robbers, house of prayer, and for all nations...

Q: Was Jesus really mad a lot?
A:  To be clear, I can only really find three times when the Bible tells us Jesus is angry.  But listen to the language.  It’s hard to call someone a “brood of vipers” or a “child of hell” or tell someone they’d be better off with a “millstone” necklace and thrown into the sea – with a smile on your face.  There are more red, red letters than we like to admit.

Q:  What were the main issues Jesus got mad about?
A:  Four things caused Jesus to be angry, and all of them were directed at the “church” people: Legalism, Hypocrisy, Judgmentalism, and Indifference to need...

…I don’t think Christians are comfortable with grace; that’s the problem.  And when we’re not comfortable, we sure don’t want other people to be.

We are not comfortable with Jesus’ approach to the woman caught in adultery in John 8.  Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you, now go and leave your life of sin.”  We believe Jesus should have said, “go and leave your life of sin, and then I won’t condemn you.”…

Again, we cannot overlook to whom his anger is directed.

I think that any book which causes us to delve further into the person of the Son of God Incarnate is going to be helpful, even if it looks at themes in ways we may not have considered.

I want to add again, that this isn’t a review and neither was I compensated for promoting the book in this way.


Go Deeper:

We are more familiar with the idea of grieving the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4:30 reads:

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (NIV)

And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.
 (NLT)

Where would you begin your list of things which grieve the Holy Spirit?


* The Jesus Laughing painting

June 25, 2019

Light Has Come Into the World!

Today marks six months to Christmas, and we tend to focus on different scriptures at certain times of year, but not at other points on the calendar. Today is different. I ran this 3½ years ago, but in the busyness of the season, many may have missed it…

The Voice BibleSeveral years ago we were introduced to The Voice, a new Bible translation which we’ve used here a few times at C201. One of the interesting things about The Voice is the use of explanatory or transitional passages — they call them narrative links — which add commentary and context to what you’re reading. Further, in John 1, the phrase ‘the Voice’ is used where we are accustomed to hearing ‘The Word.’ Following our tradition here, I’ve left the Bible verses themselves in green, but the other sections which form part of the excerpt are in teal. (If too many Christmases have left you feeling you’ve heard the standard texts too many times, then just read the teal sections, but I assure you that you haven’t heard these texts themselves in exactly this manner.)

We start with John’s prologue in chapter one:

Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking.

The Voice was and is God.
2 This celestial Word remained ever present with the Creator;
3 His speech shaped the entire cosmos.
Immersed in the practice of creating,
all things that exist were birthed in Him.
4 His breath filled all things
with a living, breathing light—
5 A light that thrives in the depths of darkness,
blazes through murky bottoms.
It cannot and will not be quenched.

6 A man named John, who was sent by God, was the first to clearly articulate the source of this Light. 7 This baptizer put in plain words the elusive mystery of the Divine Light so all might believe through him. Some wondered whether he might be the Light, 8 but John was not the Light. He merely pointed to the Light. 9 The true Light, who shines upon the heart of everyone, was coming into the cosmos.

Jesus as the Light does not call out from a distant place but draws near by coming into the world.

10 He entered our world, a world He made; yet the world did not recognize Him. 11 Even though He came to His own people, they refused to listen and receive Him. 12 But for all who did receive and trust in Him, He gave them the right to be reborn as children of God; 13 He bestowed this birthright not by human power or initiative but by God’s will.

14 The Voice took on flesh and became human and chose to live alongside us. We have seen Him, enveloped in undeniable splendor—the one true Son of the Father—evidenced in the perfect balance of grace and truth. 15 John the Baptist testified about Him and shouted, “This is the one I’ve been telling you is coming. He is much greater than I am because He existed long before me.” 16 Through this man we all receive gifts of grace beyond our imagination. 17 You see, Moses gave us rules to live by, but Jesus the Anointed offered us gifts of grace and truth. 18 God, unseen until now, is revealed in the Voice, God’s only Son, straight from the Father’s heart.

Before Jesus comes along, many wonder whether John the Baptist might be the Anointed One sent by God. But when Jesus appears in the wilderness, John points others to Him. John knows his place in God’s redemptive plan: he speaks God’s message, but Jesus is the Word of God. John rejects any messianic claim outright. Jesus, though, accepts it with a smile, but only from a few devoted followers—at least at first. Of course John is crucial to the unfolding drama, but he isn’t the long awaited One sent to free His people. He preaches repentance and tells everybody to get ready for One greater to come along. The One who comes will cleanse humanity in fire and power, he says. John even urges some of his followers to leave him and go follow Jesus.

We also read from Hebrews 1:

Long ago, at different times and in various ways, God’s voice came to our ancestors through the Hebrew prophets. 2 But in these last days, it has come to us through His Son, the One who has been given dominion over all things and through whom all worlds were made.

3 This is the One who—imprinted with God’s image, shimmering with His glory—sustains all that exists through the power of His word. He was seated at the right hand of God once He Himself had made the offering that purified us from all our sins. 4 This Son of God is elevated as far above the heavenly messengers as His holy name is elevated above theirs.

Most images of angels are influenced by art and pop culture—and are far removed from the Bible. The word “angel” literally means “messenger,” and it can refer to either a human being or a heavenly being. The Hebrews author is writing about heavenly messengers.

In the Bible, heavenly messengers have several functions—executors of God’s judgment, guardians of God’s people, heralds of God’s plans. They appear at critical moments to chosen people who play important roles in God’s salvation, such as arriving to announce the birth and resurrection of Jesus and to transmit God’s law to Moses. They are no more than messengers, created beings, who serve the will of God and His Son. Recognizing their place, they bow before the Son in loving adoration.

And also Luke 2:

Around the time of Elizabeth’s amazing pregnancy and John’s birth, the emperor in Rome, Caesar Augustus, required everyone in the Roman Empire to participate in a massive census— 2 the first census since Quirinius had become governor of Syria. 3 Each person had to go to his or her ancestral city to be counted.

This political background isn’t incidental: it is crucial to the story. Conquering nations in the ancient world work in various ways. Some brutally destroy and plunder the nations they conquer. Some conquer people as slaves or servants. Other empires allow the people to remain in their land and work as before, but with one major change: the conquered people have to pay taxes to their rulers. The purpose of a census like the one Luke describes is to be sure that everyone is appropriately taxed and knows who is in charge.

4-5 Mary’s fiancé Joseph, from Nazareth in Galilee, had to participate in the census in the same way everyone else did. Because he was a descendant of King David, his ancestral city was Bethlehem, David’s birthplace. Mary, who was now late in her pregnancy that the messenger Gabriel had predicted, 6 accompanied Joseph. While in Bethlehem, she went into labor 7 and gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped the baby in a blanket and laid Him in a feeding trough because the inn had no room for them.

Finally, here is a short excerpt from Matthew 2, after Jesus has already been born:

9-10 The wise men left Herod’s chambers and went on their way. The star they had first seen in the East reappeared—a miracle that, of course, overjoyed and enraptured the wise men. The star led them to the house where Jesus lay; 11 and as soon as the wise men arrived, they saw Him with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. They unpacked their satchels and gave Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

These are exceptionally good gifts, for gold is what is given a king, and Jesus is the King of kings; incense is what you expect to be given a priest, and Jesus is the High Priest of all high priests; myrrh ointment is used to heal, and Jesus is a healer. But myrrh is also used to embalm corpses—and Jesus was born to die.

12 And then, just as Joseph did a few months before, the wise men had a dream warning them not to go back to Herod…


Read an excerpt of what we call the Palm Sunday passage in Luke 20 from The Voice.

Below is a page sample of the end of Mark 1 and beginning of Mark 2 showing the dramatic script translation style, and two types of transitional notes.

The Voice Bible - Sample Page

 


Related: Romans 5 in The Voice

June 21, 2019

Basic Instructions Before Leaving Your Daily Devotional Time

Today we’re returning to the website, All About Reflections. The writer of this piece is C. Michelle Bryant, who is a freelance writer and the author of the devotional book “God, are You Listening?”

Rules to Live By

Rules to Live By – It’s so Elementary
Let’s take a trip back in time. For some of you it may be a further journey than others. Return with me to your younger days, when you stepped into your first elementary school classroom. You can probably envision all the desks strategically placed within sight of the teacher’s and can look back on exactly where the hooks were for hanging coats, gloves and so on. As you may also recall, your eyes glanced around the top of the blackboard to the alphabet with handwritten upper and lower case letters drawn beside a picture that started with the appropriate letter like an apple or a ball. You scanned the room with its bright colors and gasped at the joy of discovering all that was contained within these new four walls. Right now your heart is beating erratically from the reminiscent memories of your schooldays, as your mind seems to disconnect from reality, isn’t it?

But don’t stop there. Think even further. Close your eyes. Look off in the corner by the teacher’s desk, near the blackboard. There sits another desk for the one unruly student who simply can’t seem to get it together that day. Perhaps it is the daydreamer or the student who marches to the beat of a different drum. And right beside that small desk — a list. Do you recall the list? That’s right, every classroom has one…the list of classroom rules. Raise your hand. Be polite. Respect each other. Don’t talk when someone else is talking — things like that. As a substitute teacher I personally love to see this list when I walk into a classroom. Its posting serves as a reminder that this particular group of students are held accountable and made aware on a daily of what is expected of them. So, with that said, you can imagine how ecstatic I was when I found my “adult” list of rules for living.

Rules to Live By – Finding My Rules
One day, while doing my daily devotions, I ran across this scripture in a New Century Version Bible. It was so pure and simple it rocked my world in a way that I cannot explain except to take me back to my childhood days in elementary school. It is from Romans 12:9-21:

Your love must be real. Hate what is evil, and hold on to what is good. Love each other like brothers and sisters. Give each other more honor than you want for yourselves. Do not be lazy but work hard, serving the Lord with all your heart. Be joyful because you have hope. Be patient when trouble comes, and pray at all times. Share with God’s people who need help. Bring strangers in need into your homes. Wish good for those who harm you; wish them well and do not curse them. Be happy with those who are happy, and be sad with those who are sad. Live in peace with each other. Do not be proud, but make friends with those who seem unimportant. Do not think how smart you are. If someone does wrong to you, do not pay him back by doing wrong to him. Try to do what everyone thinks is right. Do your best to live in peace with everyone…If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink….Do not let evil defeat you, but defeat evil by doing good.

Can’t you just see those on posters around a classroom?

1). Hate what is evil!
2). Hold on to what is good!
3). Do not be lazy but work hard!
4). Serve the Lord with all your heart!
5). Be patient when trouble comes!
6). Pray at all times!…

…you get the idea.

This scripture has been that “rules for living” list for me. I’ve printed them out one by one and placed them around my house as a daily reminder of how God wants me to live. They are my mantra for my life. I need them like I need air. I believe we all do.

Rules to Live By – Will you join me?
I hope you read each one over and over again and really chew on its meaning and that they would move you as they have me. Perhaps you feel it is too overwhelming, too much to take in all at once. I challenge you to grab one or two and focus on that for one month. Then do that one and another one for the next month and so on. Imagine what kind of world we would live in if everyone followed these rules on a daily basis. I hope that you will join with me in the quest of not just “making” the world a better place but “leaving” the world a better place.

I think I should warn you though, that should you choose not to join me, I’m perfectly content to sit in the unruly desk all by myself- serving the Lord with all my heart.

June 11, 2019

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

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

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

A.W. Tozer: Abundant Goodness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 8, 2019

Falling Prey to the Lies that Lead to Failure to Trust

Today we’re making a return visit with Ted Gosard who blogs at Jesus Community.

leaving (instead of living) the lie

Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you scoffers
who rule this people in Jerusalem.
You boast, “We have entered into a covenant with death,
with the realm of the dead we have made an agreement.
When an overwhelming scourge sweeps by,
it cannot touch us,
for we have made a lie our refuge
and falsehood our hiding place.”

So this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who relies on it
will never be stricken with panic.
I will make justice the measuring line
and righteousness the plumb line;
hail will sweep away your refuge, the lie,
and water will overflow your hiding place.
Your covenant with death will be annulled;
your agreement with the realm of the dead will not stand.
When the overwhelming scourge sweeps by,
you will be beaten down by it.
As often as it comes it will carry you away;
morning after morning, by day and by night,
it will sweep through.”

Isaiah 28:14-19

I think it’s far more common than we imagine, just how we live in lies. And I’m thinking of Christians, too. Specifically I’m thinking of myself, included. Part of what got me thinking this way were two posts quoting Dallas Willard who says it quite eloquently in the details spelled out in Scripture (here and here).

We live lies in a multitude of ways. Essentially living in the truth is “truth in Jesus” and an important aspect of that is living in the Father’s care, so that we’re free to seek his kingdom and righteousness, not encumbered with any of the cares common to humanity, or part of our culture. That is so much more easier said than done.

When one is weighed down, maybe nearly stricken with panic, that’s a sure sign one is not living in the Father’s provision, or as it’s been called, his providential care. We’re failing to trust in God, at least not to the extent needed. We need to take our hands off so to speak, but through prayer, find our way into that peace that frees us up to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness.

Patterns in our lives will have to be broken, and that can be hard. It will require effort by us, but an effort essentially to let go, and let God take over. We need to find his peace. Part of this is not just to be freed up to put first things first, but with the prior commitment to that.

As the text above tells us, life simply doesn’t work well when we make a lie our refuge. And God won’t let it work well for those who name his name, who profess faith in him.

This is something we need to strive to enter and remain, come what may. God has us, as we seek first of all to live in his care and love and will. Part and parcel of being followers of Jesus in and through him.

June 7, 2019

Forgiving the Otherwise Unforgiveable

NIV.Matt.6.14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

We’re paying another return visit to Serving Grace Ministries. This time it’s an archived post from a different author, Kadie Rumby. The title below is the name of popular American household product. Click the header below to read this at source.

Miracle Grow

A pastor friend of mine once said, “If you want to grow in the things of God, you’ve got to pray the hard stuff.” He was speaking on harnessing the power of emotions, and at this point in his message he was talking about how he overcame the offenses he’d experienced when dealing with members of his congregation, and – yes – even fellow pastors. Even though many of us will never have to encounter those types of offenses, the power of offense is still very real. Without a counter attack to this especially insidious emotion, it can overtake us completely. Thankfully, there are things we can do to fight back.

“Pray the hard stuff” is praying for [ways to bless] your enemies. Jesus specifically instructs us to do this in Matthew 5:44,

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”

I can remember many times in my own life when I wish I’d known this verse and practiced it. I can tell you now that it would have saved me a lot of headache and heartache. Moreover, I wish I’d known that when I did pray for others, I had to do it with the right heart.

Too easily, we can develop a hardened heart or selfish motives when obeying this command. Such an attitude can do you more harm than the offense itself. It’s very important to forgive immediately, unselfishly, and with your whole heart. This, too, is a command found in Matthew 6:14. Satan would love nothing more than for you to hold on to an offense against someone else, since it is a sure way that God will judge you unworthy. Sadly, what many people fail to understand is that their lack of forgiveness, intense emotions, and irrational actions have nothing to do with others.

German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, is famous for his expression, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” Did you notice that statement does not mention the word ‘them’ even once; in fact, it mentions ‘us’ twice in the same sentence! That’s because our emotions have nothing to do with other people; it has everything to do with us! Don’t give the control of your destiny to an enemy that will never have the best intentions for you. Instead, give it to someone who will have only your best interests in mind. Give it to God.

So next time you are faced with an offensive situation, do not let it steal your peace – which was freely given to you and is rightfully yours. The next time, don’t embrace the unforgiving attitude that will cause your heavenly Father to not forgive you. The next time, close your eyes and thank God that you have a divine connection with Him that can change that person’s life. Once you learn how to repel offense, pray for your enemies with a forgiving heart, and love them with the love that God loves them, you will grow – personally, spiritually, and miraculously.


 

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