Christianity 201

May 25, 2021

Choosing the Better Part

NIV.Luke.10.38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I spent a long time today trying to locate just the right devotional reading for us. This one is from Nehemiah Zion and the blog Raising Zion. This looks like a good resource, and you can start discovering more by clicking the header which follows.

How To Get Far Better In Life?

What does it mean to get far better? There are two kinds of Christians, one that seeks God more, another that seeks everything else more than God. Mary chose a far better thing by sitting at the feet of Jesus. Martha was loving too, but her concern was carnal rather than spiritual. (Luke 10:42)

We get far better in life at the feet of Jesus

What do we get at the feet of Jesus that makes us far better in life? I’d like to share five things we receive which makes us live a far better life in Christ.

Word of God (Deuteronomy 33:3) (Hebrews 4:12) (2 Timothy 3:15-17)

“Yea, he loved the people; All his saints are in thy hand: And they sat down at thy feet; Every one shall receive of thy words.” (‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭33:3‬)

Forgiveness of sins (Luke 7:47)

“Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.” (‭‭Luke‬ ‭7:47‬)

Deliverance from bondage (Luke 17:12-14) (Luke 8:35,36)

“And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: and they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.” (‭‭Luke‬ ‭17:12-14‬)

Exposed self (Revelation 1:17)

“And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:” Revelation‬ ‭1:17‬

John beheld the glory of Jesus and fell flat as dead. It reveals how frail and undeserving we are of even being in His presence. Isaiah reveals how he was exposed of his unholy natures in the presence of God.

Rejoicing = worshipping (Matthew 28:9)

“And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.”(Matthew‬ ‭28:9‬)

There is adoration, and freedom at the feet of Jesus. Mary and the other Mary’s immediate response was worship as they saw their loving Saviour. As I write this my heart leaps in joy trying to visualize the scene. The very presence of Jesus is one of great peace, rest, joy and love.

As believers we live in the utmost joy that can come only from heaven. Believers who are unable to enjoy God’s presence are often found focused on carnal thinking and outward displays. So many are busy bodies (spiritually) but have zero fruit. Constantly quarrelsome and bitter in their hearts. Such can never begin to understand the joy of God’s presence.

Get down, let your tears wash the feet of Jesus. Spirit baptized believers are betrothed to Christ, eagerly awaiting His coming. Maranatha, Praise God and Amen!



Bonus item: This from Wisconsin writer Glenn Hager at his self-titled blog. He is the author of two books about his own journey An Irreligious Faith and Free Range Faith.

Christianity in 100 Words

Saw this somewhere and decided to take the challenge.

Jesus. Christianity is based on Jesus, not a church or a prescribed set of beliefs.

Love. Christianity is based on love, loving God, loving others (especially those we do not understand), and loving ourselves (in a healthy, non-arrogant sort of way, since he loves us).

Life. Christianity is woven into our lifestyle, not something tacked on, not something to sign off on, not something that happens on a special day or in a special place.

Grace. Christianity is based on grace, grace that always gives us hope, even in our darkest hours and deepest failures, and is extended to others.

April 25, 2021

He Formed Us and is Still Forming Us

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.Psalm 139: 13, 14a

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 1:6 NIV

And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. – 2 Corinthians 3:18b NLT

for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. – Philippians 2:13

Earlier today I had a sense that today’s devotional should center around the “fearfully and wonderfully made” phrase from Psalm 139. I knew that many are already familiar with the Psalm and was hoping to find some insight I had never considered before. I was very quickly and unexpectedly rewarded.

I met Syd Hielema once while he was chaplain of Redeemer University. He wrote the devotions which appear below for Today, a publication of the Christian Reformed Church in Canada and the United States. I don’t if he was thinking the same thing that I got from reading them, but these appeared on consecutive days, in the same order you see them below! (Click the headers below to read them at Today.)

Wonderfully Made—and Remade

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. . . . Search me, God. . . . See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. — Psalm 139:14, 23-24

These verses from Psalm 139 remind us that while each one of us is a beautiful creation of the Lord, there are also offensive ways inside us that need to be dealt with.

After the fall into sin (described in Genesis 3), we human beings continue to live as precious works of the Creator while also needing to be redeemed from sin and brokenness. So in his great and amazing love for us, God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the price for our sin and to give us new life forever with him. And now the Spirit of God lives in us, guiding us to become like Jesus. He leads us “in the way everlasting.”

The apostle Paul describes it this way: “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20), giving us one of the clearest statements in the Bible about dying to live.

The fact that we are fearfully and wonderfully made—and remade—leads to some of the most glorious announcements in Scripture, like this one: “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).

Prayer

Thank you, Father, Son, and Spirit, for your gifts of creation and redemption. Continue to search us and to lead us in your way ever­lasting. Amen.

Refined Toward Wholeness

We know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. — 1 John 3:2

The word lavish doesn’t occur very often in the Bible, so its use here in 1 John 3 is striking: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us . . . !” This is where our salvation begins: with the overwhelming, overflowing love of God.

John then continues by contrasting what is now (“we are children of God!”) with what will be: “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” And this describes the finished project, the good work in us that God is bringing to completion (Philippians 1:6). Now we see “only a reflection as in a mirror” (1 Corinthians 13:12), but when we see Christ as he is, we shall be like him.

“All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure,” says John. Hope in Jesus is the bridge, the link between the love lavished on us now and becoming like him when he appears. This is love that is determined to bring us home. This hope is not wishful thinking; this is active hope, purifying hope—that is, hope that surrenders to the purifying fire of the Spirit of God as he burns away every part of us that is not pure and good.

It’s a good habit to look back over each day, give it up to God, and pray some words like these:

Prayer

Lord, use your purifying fire to burn away the parts of me that hurt and dishonor you and others. Help me to die to those things so that I can really live, filled with the wholeness of Jesus. Thank you, Lord, for the good work you have begun in me. Keep purifying me each day. Amen.

April 11, 2021

Jesus: His Heart, Will, Cross, Joy, and Love

Eph. 5:1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Today and tomorrow, we’re going to reach back to the hymnbook and look at two individuals hymns which so well express period in the church calendar we’ve just experienced: The Good Friday / Easter story. Some of you may be unfamiliar with this song, and the YouTube videos for it are either instrumentals, or take a 1950’s ‘gospel’ approach to it. I was fortunate enough to grow up in the church founded by Oswald J. Smith, the writer, so I got to hear this the way his own church first heard it. My suggestion is that you find the print music and get someone to play it for you.

I hope this also benefits any of you who would desire to write lasting Christian material.

The process here is simple: Each verse is a snapshot of Jesus’ road to the cross. The first verse is general, but includes the picture of Jesus stooping. Is this a reference to Jesus washing His disciples feet? I think that was in mind.

The motif is a basic principle: As I get to know more about why, as I pray to be a better follower, as I experience Christ’s own prayer time in the garden, as I experience personal resurrection, and as I respond with worship and praise; as I do all these things listed in the third line of each verse, then what happens?

Then I find myself in the state mentioned in the last line of each stanza: I return to Jesus, I am shaped and molded, I am the beneficiary of grace, I am supported and sustained, I am ecstatically lost in thanksgiving and adoration.

So the song moves from the washing of the disciples feet, to the breaking of bread (‘take,’ ‘break’), to Gethsemane, to the betrayal and arrest, to “the world below,” (a reference to the worst this world can offer, or the Hades of the Apostles Creed, I’m not sure), to rising from the dead, to the complete recognition of how all this lifts us from our sin with reverberations into eternity.

1. Into the heart of Jesus
Deeper and deeper I go,
Seeking to know the reason
Why He should love me so,
Why He should stoop to lift me
Up from the miry clay,
Saving my soul, making me whole,
Though I had wandered away.

2. Into the will of Jesus,
Deeper and deeper I go,
Praying for grace to follow,
Seeking His way to know;
Bowing in full surrender
Low at His blessed feet,
Bidding Him take, break me and make,
Till I am molded, complete.

3. Into the cross of Jesus
Deeper and deeper I go,
Following through the garden,
Facing the dreaded foe;
Drinking the cup of sorrow,
Sobbing with broken heart,
"O Savior, help! Dear Savior, help!
Grace for my weakness impart."

4. Into the joy of Jesus
Deeper and deeper I go,
Rising, with soul enraptured,
Far from the world below.
Joy in the place of sorrow,
Peace in the midst of pain,
Jesus will give, Jesus will give;
He will uphold and sustain.

5. Into the love of Jesus
Deeper and deeper I go,
Praising the One Who brought me
Out of my sin and woe;
And through eternal ages
Gratefully I shall sing,
"O how He loved! O how He loved!
Jesus, my Lord and my King!"

So is this just a classroom exercise in poetry analysis? There are some principles here.

  1. If we wish to write things that will endure, things with substance we must begin with scripture.
  2. If we wish to depict Christ — in words or in visuals — we need to take our cues from the narrative that already exists; in other words, the gospel writers give us a beautiful picture and nothing should be added or subtracted from it.
  3. We must remember that what Christ did, is part of what had already been planned, and has ramifications for what will take place, including our standing side-by-side with saints from decades and centuries prior.
  4. Songs (and poems) can teach. The Christian songwriter is part artist, part Bible expositor.
  5. Many of the older hymns seem to implore the hearer to make a response, but any song of proclamation (i.e. not a ‘vertical’ worship song) should cause us to want to respond. Here, if you are not struck by overcoming thanksgiving — “O how He loved!” — then your life stands in contrast to that of the hymn-writer. So you don’t need to beg hearers to respond, a person who truly sees the passion in the song will be broken by it.

John 20

30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.


Tomorrow: Part two of two.

January 23, 2021

Telling God We’re Serious About Him

This is our fifth visit to Truth or Tradition, sponsored by Spirit and Truth Fellowship International. We appreciate their grace in allowing us to use this material, and each of you can help us reciprocate by reading today’s article at their website. Click the header which comes next.

Obedient and Free

I was thinking to myself one evening recently, I really want a tattoo of God’s name “Yahweh” on me. It instantly reminded me of how in Isaiah, God says, “Behold! I have engraved you on the palms of my hands”. Which in turn got me thinking, “Ouch!” Imagine a tattoo on the palm of your hand!? One of the most sensitive areas of the body, containing dozens of nerves. Safe to say…it would really hurt! Something would have to hold a lot of value for you to choose that specific area. I wondered whether that was why God chose the imagery of palms—to bring home how much His people mean to Him?

Still contemplating the idea of a tattoo, I thought, it would be so great to have something so permanent of my faith. I very quickly heard God remind me, “Nothing is more permanent than your salvation.” His tender and true answer made me smile; I answered Him, “But it would be such a cool way to show my dedication to you, how else could I show that?” And I heard Him softly say, “Obey.”

So gentle and loving, yet so loud and profound to my heart. May God’s still small voice always be louder to us than anything the enemy shouts at us. Humbled by my Heavenly Father’s soft and succinct answer, I pondered – I guess we can do all sorts of things outwardly to try to prove and show we’re committed to God, but if we are not obeying, then are we really committed? Have we really dedicated our life to God, and made His Son, Jesus, Lord of our whole heart and life?

It reminded me of how in John 14:23, Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him”. The phrase “keep my word” stands out. We keep things that are important to us; that have meaning to us; that can benefit us. So how do we “keep” and obey God’s Word?

With love. We’re called to love God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, and with all our strength. Second to this, we are to love our neighbour as ourselves. If we truly love God, and our Lord Jesus, we will have a sincere and deep desire to obey them. I truly believe the instruction in John 3:18 to not just love in word, but in action and truth also, is not only direction for how we treat other people in our lives, but also how we walk with our God, and Saviour; we are not just to say we love them, but live like we do, with our actions in line with and “keeping in step with the spirit” (Gal. 5:25).

Nevertheless, we must not confuse obedience with empty works of the flesh—either acting out of fear that they won’t love us if we don’t obey, or that maintaining our salvation is determined by how “good” we are. Christ has already accomplished everything on our behalf, and the thankfulness that overflows from that should mean we can’t help but express our love through willing obedience—not obligation—and an abandonment of our own fleshly impulses and desires, replaced with an enthusiasm and determination to do the Will of God and know that God’s will is for our good and His glory.

In exchange for Christlike obedience, surprisingly, comes freedom. You wouldn’t necessarily consider that being in obedience means you are free. However, as Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, then you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Not my truth, not your truth, not your best friend’s, aunt’s, or cousin’s truth, but THE Truth—the one and only Truth that breaks strongholds and sets captives of sin free! Free from condemnation, free from the wages of sin, free from the enemy’s grasp, free from people’s opinions, free from shame or the pressure of perfectionism. Free to love without man-made conditions and rules.

For “if I speak with the tongues of men and of angels but do not have love, I have become a sounding bronze, or clanging cymbal. And if I prophesy and know all the sacred secrets and all the knowledge, and if I have all trust so that I can move mountains, but I do not have love, I am nothing.” We are nothing if we are not loving, and we cannot love the way we are called to if we are not in obedience to God and His word. So much good comes from obedience to our Heavenly Father, but obedience is not always easy, and it likely at times takes sacrifice, even suffering in this life. Nevertheless, if we give it our best shot at being faithful to our God and the Lord through word and action, no doubt we will be witnesses to that good—and even moreso in the ages to come. We may not reap all the blessings this side of eternity, but we know there is a day coming where we will be rewarded if we do not give up.

“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it.”

Luke 11:28

Just like a parent who loves their children regardless of obedience, but whose heart sings when their child heeds their words and direction, how much more must God love us regardless of our downfalls but His heart rejoices all the more when we have a willingness to obey Him and actually do.

Maybe I’ll get a tattoo, maybe I won’t, but something more important resulted from that simple musing; a sweet exchange between me and my Heavenly Father, and a renewed desire to follow Him and obey His Word whatever the cost, just as Christ exemplified so perfectly.

How can we show God we are serious about Him in our lives? We obey. And how do we do it? With love.

November 17, 2020

On Recommitting or Rededicating Your Life to Christ

The large church I attended had a room off a hallway which was used for counseling people who responded (or came forward) to the appeal (or invitation) at the end of the Sunday evening service. Sometimes the chairs were arranged in pairs so that a counselor (or personal worker) could talk to and pray with an individual and a small pre-printed index card was on one of the chairs that could be filled in with a name, address, phone number for further ministry contact (or follow-up).

There were a number of boxes on those index cards that could be checked if the person was seeking salvation, or desiring to be baptized, but there were often boxes that said assurance or re-dedication.

I’ve talked before about the fact we don’t hear much about assurance anymore. We covered it here in 2013 and also in 2015. The same could be said for recommitting or rededicating. In the ebb and flow of topical trends in the church, some things get said at the expense of other things.

For some, the concept treads on a narrower, more-Calvinistic view of the salvation process (or soteriology.) One particular site which I’m not going to link to (for many reasons) is dismissive of the need to recommit or rededicate oneself to God; to Christ; to Christ’s cause. But they did get one sentence right: “Repentance is not re-dedication.” The world may offer that ‘confession is good for the soul,’ but confession of sin is a necessary part of following after Jesus, honoring God and not grieving the Holy Spirit.

But having said that, are there times in the life of a believer when, not over specific sin, he or she needs to reset, refocus and renew?* Of course there are.

CompellingTruth.org is an outreach of GotQuestions.org who we often cite here. They offer this teaching:

The idea of “rededicating your life to Christ” is not named in the Bible, but that doesn’t mean it’s not useful. In fact, it can be an effective way to help people realize that Jesus’ forgiveness is for all of us.

There are two common scenarios in which people rededicate their lives to Christ. The most common is that of an older child or young adult who accepted Christ at a young age. After years of going to church and living through the influence of his parents’ faith, he may realize his own faith is stagnant and underdeveloped. He may have never taken responsibility for his relationship with Jesus, or he may actually be living a sinful lifestyle. He comes to the realization that despite the fact he is a Christian, he wants a stronger Christian life. So he rededicates his life to Christ, taking a leap in maturity and restarting His Christian growth.

The second scenario is not strictly a re-dedication, but a realization. It involves someone who heard the gospel and thought she accepted Christ, but didn’t understand the implications well enough to have a saving relationship with Jesus. She may have gone to church the whole time, even served, but at some point she comes to know and accept the true nature of salvation. If she doesn’t realize that she was not a Christian before, she may call the transformation a re-dedication, even though it is technically a conversion.

Of course, it is not God’s intent for any young Christian to fall into a sinful lifestyle. Romans 12:1-2 says that a believer is meant to reject sin and experience continual spiritual growth. Likewise, it’s not God’s plan for anyone to misunderstand the gospel, going through the motions of a Christian life for years, before really understanding saving grace.

But re-dedication as a concept is a powerful tool. It clearly demonstrates that God forgives. He forgives old Christians who sin, and new Christians who were deceived for years. It is a spiritual deep breath, wherein a believer can refocus her relationship with Christ. Like the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) and Peter in John 21, it shows that Jesus will always take us back…

Their parent website, Got Questions looks at this from a different angle:

…In a desire to consciously choose to adhere to a newfound, deeper understanding of the gospel, believers may “rededicate” themselves to Christ.

However, falling away and returning to God is not how the Christian walk is supposed to look. Romans 12:1–2 explains that spiritual maturity is a gradual, ongoing process. Jesus said that to follow Him we should take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23). And 1 Corinthians 9:24 and Hebrews 12:1 speak of the Christian life as a race, meant to be run every day. Many people rededicate after every sin. It’s easy to get caught in a cycle of rededicating, striving to follow Jesus closely, failing, and rededicating again. But habitual sin is not a problem solved by rededicating. It’s a deeper issue that can only be solved with a greater understanding of the grace and love of God.

Still, re-dedication is a useful tool. It’s a way to deliberately reject sin and renew a love for Christ. The disciples went through a re-dedication of sorts when they saw the risen Jesus. Their half-hearted devotion turned into a desire to pour out their lives for His service. In the same way, whether because of a conviction about a sinful lifestyle or a greater understanding of the gift of Christ, we can choose to abandon our shallow devotion to Christ and devote ourselves to Him more fully…

Here are today’s key scriptures:

Lord, [earnestly] remember now how I have walked before You in faithfulness and truth and with a whole heart [entirely devoted to You] and have done what is good in Your sight (2 Kings 20:3 Amplifed).

Remember from where you have come out and do the former works (Revelation 2:5a Aramaic Bible in Plain English)

Though You have shown me many troubles and misfortunes, You will revive me once again. Even from the depths of the earth You will bring me back up.  (Psalm 71:20 Berean Study Bible)

Do you need to, in computer language, “reset to factory settings?” That is to say, do a reset back to the days when you first followed Jesus? Or a time when your level of commitment was more wholehearted?

Then recommit. Rededicate.

This prayer is from the website ThreeDimensionalVitality.com:

Dear God,

I confess that I have strayed from my first love – Jesus – and I want to recommit my life to You. Please help me to become the person You created me to be. Enable me to always live a life that is pleasing to You.

I want to be a witness to others of Your saving grace and power. Forgive me when I take back the control of my life. I want You to be Lord of my life.

Renew my passion to walk more closely with You. You know all my desires and plans. Help me to fulfill Your unique call and purpose in my life.

Renew my heart, restore the joy of my salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me. Lord, thank You for this hope I have in You. Use my life to bring You glory, honor and praise.

Thank You, Lord, Jesus for hearing and answering my prayer. In Your Name. Amen.


*In our list of ‘re’ words, there is a great crossover between re dedication and repentance but there is also one word I didn’t touch because it offers us two different paths. That word is revival. The two paths are quite distinct, but one deals with personal revival, and other deals with the collective revival of a family or a church (or in Old-Testament terms, an entire nation.)

But at this point, we can also work backwards and say that perhaps there are times when a whole family or a whole church needs to re-dedicate or re-commit. And that may be a path to consider. But start with me and then look outside to we.

October 19, 2020

Endurance Produces Sanctification

Today we’re introducing a new writer. April who writes at Redeemed in Grace. She describers herself as “a stay-at-home mom in Alabama, raising a son with Autism- this has been such a joy and a challenge. It’s what I like to call the unexpected things in life, an upside down blessing.” Send her some encouragement by clicking the title below and reading this at her site instead of reading it here.

Deeper Love

Adversity is not intended to diminish our hope in God. Adversity is intended to heighten our hope in Him. We are brought to remember that God is all we have, and that He is enough.”                                                                                       -Devotional Psalter (Psalm 71)

This year has been like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Powerless to stop it, we just have to witness the carnage. I can’t imagine going through this without Christ as my anchor. For those who don’t know how the Story ends these must be terribly upsetting times. But in the drama of 2020, God is still here actively at work. This is the truth believers can lean hard into. Even as external circumstances spin out of control or feelings betray us here is what you and I can stand firm in:

Faith is not a feeling. It is holding fast to what is true even when feelings don’t align. Even when it’s not popular (and the Gospel isn’t) or you feel alone in your Biblical convictions. This doesn’t make Truth void.

 

After God used Elijah in the showdown against 450 false prophets of Baal and 400 false prophets of Asherah, Elijah fled to the desert. He said he’d had enough and wanted to die. He was burned out physically and spiritually. He felt alone in worshipping the One True God. Then the Lord ministers to Elijah providing sleep, food and then His Presence. As if this weren’t enough, what our Father says next must have bolstered Elijah’s spirits even more as God tells him that 7,000 people have not bowed the knee to Baal. The Lord had preserved a remnant. Elijah was not alone like he thought.

Satan would love nothing more than for you and I to believe his lies and become discouraged, thinking we are alone in our allegiance to God. He’s not very creative, but the same routine can still be effective. God’s Word says, Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” -1 Peter 5:8-9

One of my favorite quotes is from Corrie Ten Boom, who experienced life in a concentration camp during World War II. Her family attempted to hide Jews in their home from the Nazis. They were eventually caught and arrested. She still found a reason to hope in God while enduring cruel treatment remembering, “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.” Corrie had an understanding of God’s Sovereignty even as wickedness seemed victorious. Like her, we are not alone in our belief that God Almighty is on His Throne. His will, His timing, His justice are perfect. And He loves His sons and daughters.

Anything we endure in this life is for our sanctification. It is for God’s glory and our eternal good. The Scriptures confirm His love is steadfast, sacrificial, unconditional and perfect toward His children. Our Father demonstrated His great love for us by giving up His own innocent Son. Jesus willingly paid my guilt, taking the consequences I deserved on Himself.

The most beautiful action in human history climaxed on the cross that day. Remember the depth of His love for you when you feel forsaken. God’s Word will be your comfort when you feel unloved, unseen, or friendless. His love abounds. Stay faithful. Stand firm in God’s Word. Jesus is the pearl of great price, a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Grace upon grace,

April

Grow deeper: 1 Kings 18-19; 2 Timothy


Bonus item: here’s a short beautiful poem April wrote, Go to God.

July 31, 2020

His Presence Doesn’t Need to Be ‘Worked At’

Today’s writer is new to us and simply goes by the (lower case) name appolus. His blog is titled A Call to the Remnant, with the subtitle Scottish Warriors for Christ and has been online since December, 2007.  As always, click the header below to read this at source. A number of resources are shown there in the left and right margins.

In Him We live

Acts 17:28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being

If we are passionate worshipers of Jesus, then everything else is secondary. If Jesus is the primary object of our passions, then everything else becomes the by-product. If we ever get that wrong, we cease to be effective. If soul winning is our primary object, we cease to be effective soul winners. If faith is our primary object then we cannot be faithful. If holiness is our primary object than we cannot be holy. If revival is our primary object then we will never see revival. Outside of Jesus being the primary object of our lives then we immediately begin to lose ground in every aspect of our walk, whether we are pastors or teachers or whatever role we have in the Body.

I would argue that the saints who have rocked this world for Jesus are the saints who have walked in intimate communion with Him. He is the source of all love and majesty and glory and power. Only by abiding in Him ( Him being our primary object) can we walk in forgiveness and mercy and grace. Out of the abundance of the passion that we experience as we walk with Jesus as our grand obsession comes the overflow that changes those around us and brings light into a dark world. Are you being ineffective in your walk? Have you wondered why? Is Jesus the primary object of your life? Is there joy in you life? Is there glory in your life? Are you an over-comer? Do you have a thankful spirit?

Listen saints, if Jesus is truly the primary object of your life then what flows from that is love, joy, peace, faithfulness, thankfulness, forgiveness and so on. How often have I heard a saint say, on any one of the aforementioned issues “I need to work on that.” That is quite exactly wrong. No amount of “work,” can muster up joy nor thankfulness nor love nor any of the issues of the heart. He must be our all in all. In Him we live and move and have our being. Jesus Himself is the answer to any problem you are having, any problem. The answer lies in Him alone, the answer lies before the throne.

Whatever you seek to achieve in the Kingdom of God comes directly from the depths of your relationship with Him. Find a man who is passionate about sports and he will bore your pants off speaking about it. Find a man who is passionate about politics and he will rip your shirt of telling you all about the latest policies and issues and the state of the world. Find a man who is truly passionate about Jesus and you will find a man who is changing the world. Out of the abundance of our passion flows the power of God.


Do you use BibleGateway.com? Today at our parent blog we included a guest post review of the updates to the site from our friend Clark Bunch at The Master’s Table.

July 12, 2020

Knowing Creation is Part of Knowing God

Even after 10 years, I love introducing you to new writers. Leiah writes at Yellow Diamond Blog. Why the name? Her hope is, “that you will discover that you are far more precious and valuable than even a rare yellow diamond.” Her writing is adorned with some beautiful pictures that we can’t post here, so as usual, you’re encouraged to click the title which follows to read this at her site and then look around for other articles.

Purpose Beyond the Clouds

I don’t often get the opportunity to look at Gods creation uninterrupted. The hustle and bustle of daily life is often all consuming. It can so easily steal the joy of recognizing God through the simplest of ways. But In the times I can look up, I always see Him there. I am reminded of His majesty, His splendor, and His omnipresence. I am reminded that not only is the creator of all that I see, but the creator of all I can’t see. I remember that there is purpose beyond the clouds. There is a home I am striving to get to. There is a spiritual kingdom I am working in that is bigger than the constant emails, text messages, phone calls, social media feeds, deadlines, and demands.

I remember that there are those out there with darkened hearts still. And I remember that it is my job to shine the light of Jesus into their lives and bring them back to a purpose greater than themselves.

I also remember that the greatest way to shine light into those darkened hearts is to live out my own purpose. To live out love and kindness in the least to greatest aspects of my life. I must live out my purpose at home for the ones I know and love. I must live out my purpose in the world for the ones I don’t know but learn to love.

I must live out my purpose in front of the ones who hurt me, betray me, use me, abuse me, hate me, accuse me, lie about me, misunderstand me, mistreat me, slander me, gossip about me. I must never stop recognizing and honoring God and giving Him thanks for the creation that is me.

The only way to do that is by being who He created me to be, and not a single thing less.

The Lord lead me to Romans this week, and this verse hasn’t left my mind since.

I want to know God and reflect Him for all that He is. I don’t want to miss a single part of Him. I want to know Him as creator, and also as my very best friend. What a wonderful God we serve that would desire more than our praise for what He created, but desire to then have a personal relationship with His creation.

Don’t miss out on a single aspect of the Lord. He is calling us closer as the world is calling us further away. Draw near to Him. There is so much more than we could ever imagine waiting there. ❤️

“For even though they knew God [as the Creator], they did not honor Him as God or give thanks [for His wondrous creation]. On the contrary, they became worthless in their thinking [godless, with pointless reasonings, and silly speculations], and their foolish heart was darkened.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭1:21‬ ‭AMP‬‬

 

May 18, 2020

Drawing a Crowd Isn’t a Problem: It’s More Complicated

Previous generations didn’t have the word, “megachurch.” Of course they didn’t have “televangelist” either. There were indeed large churches, however and there were preachers (George Whitefield is a good example) who preached to thousands — in the outdoors, no less — without the benefit of sound equipment. But we tend to look back favorably on those days, believing it was a matter of substance over style.

Today, we have popular preachers whose television ministries have huge followings and whose close-up pictures are plastered on the front cover of their books. (No, not just that one; I’m thinking of about six.)

The general conclusion at which people arrive is that they are getting those followers because they are saying what people want to hear. On close examination, it’s true that many of the hooks of their sermons and books are positive motivational sayings that also work on posters and coffee mugs.

For those of us who are insiders, we immediately default to the phrase itching ears. This is drawn from 2 Timothy 4:3

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. (NLT)

This true, probably more true now than ever, but the challenge for Christians today is that everyone who drives by a church with an overflowing parking lot is likely to jump to conclusions and declare that church liberal in their theology or empty of doctrines; or infer that people only go there for the music.

It’s true that Jesus warned his disciples they were not going to win a popularity contest. In Matthew 7: 13-14 he tells his disciples,

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (NIV)

and then immediately makes a statement about false teachers.

Jesus had his own fall from popularity when he began what I call the tough teachings and others call the “hard sayings.” A month ago I referred to “the ominously verse-referenced” John 6:66

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. (NIV)

Many of you grew up in churches where you were told you were part of “the chosen few” a reference to Matthew 22:14

“For many are called, but few are chosen.” (ESV)

Jesus told his disciples that they would experience rejection in some places. In Matthew 10:14 he is saying,

If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave.  (NLT)

In other words, there is, at least in Evangelicalism, a mindset that says that we are a tiny remnant, and by extrapolation is suspicious of large crowds.

But there are exceptions.

I think of an American pastor who since Christmas has been walking his church through some very challenging sermons; raising the bar when it comes to expectations for both compassionate service and lifestyle evangelism. But he’s not off in a corner doing this, it’s one of the top ten churches in the U.S.

I think of two Canadian pastors, from two very different eras, who have a giftedness when it comes to taking Bible passage “A” and showing people how it relates to Bible passage “B.” I’ve seen both of them preach before thousands of people. It was far from “itching ears;” you had to work hard just to keep up with the note-taking, which is challenging when you’re sitting there with your mouth open going, “Wow!”

I think of Nicodemus who we characterize as coming to Jesus in secret. I was always taught that was the reason for his nighttime visit in John 3. But lately I read that the rabbis set aside the early evening for further discussion. He was coming back for the Q. and A. part of the teaching. He wanted more. I find him to be representative of people in the crowd who were there for all the right reasons. (Compare his motivation to that of Felix in Acts 24:25-26.) The itching ears crowd don’t come back for the evening service, the Tuesday morning Bible study, or the midweek prayer meeting.

The website Knowing Jesus has come up with more than 30 good examples of Jesus being surrounded by crowds. True, the Bible tells us that some of them were simply there for the miracle spectacle or the free lunches, but I’m sure that many of them were drawn to Jesus for greater, higher reasons. (There’s a limit to how many hours people will listen to teaching in order to get a fish sandwich lunch.)

So where did all this come from today? A friend posted this on Facebook. I’ve decided to delete the original author’s name.

His words appear deep, meaningful and mature, but indirectly he is lashing out against individuals or movements which are left unnamed. He’s implying that everyone who is drawing a big crowd is doing so at the expense of preaching the Word. I suspect his words land with people who are already on-side, so I don’t really get the point of posting things like this at all.

Furthermore, the inference is that the sign of a successful ministry is suffering, hardship and opposition.

Like so many things in scripture, there is a balance to be found.

In Matthew 5:14 +16, we find Jesus saying

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden”
“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
(NASB)

If all you experience is suffering, hardship and opposition, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing everything right, but rather, it could be you’re doing something seriously wrong.

Oswald Smith wrote the hymn which begins:

There is joy in serving Jesus
As I journey on my way
Joy that fills my heart with praises
Every hour and every day

I really hope that’s your experience as well.

March 20, 2020

Don’t Lose Your Spiritual Appetite

As we were sharing dinner with another couple last week, and the prospect of church service cancellations was looming large, my friend Randy said, “I had a membership at the gym. I went every week. But then I missed a week. And after I missed a week, I never went again.”

And then he stopped talking to let the impact and application of that to our conversation topic percolate in our minds.

Our tag line at Christianity 201 is “Digging a little deeper.” With its title and tag line, I would expect the people here want to get into the things of God on a regular, if not constant basis. And I would hope that once the churches re-open, God’s people would have a deep desire to plunge back into hearing the Word taught in a corporate setting (along with worship, prayer, fellowship, etc.).


Patrick Oben writes,

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. (Matt. 5:6 KJV)

Spiritual hunger and thirst are drivers of spiritual fullness. Only those who are hungry and thirsty get filled. This principle is very important to grow spiritually.

But what is spiritual hunger? It is easy to understand when you consider what natural hunger is. Hunger is the feeling you get in your body when it is in need of food. There are two parts. The first is the sense of need. The body first senses the need. The second part is the desire. Once that need is sensed, it starts craving and desiring food.

Spiritual hunger operates in the same way. First, our spirit recognizes and senses our need for God. The second aspect is that your spirit desires and craves for more of God. God has reserved the fullness for those who are hungry. You will hardly ever receive a level of God’s presence that you are not hungry for. The Father is the Treasure of heaven, and His presence and power are for those who desire and long after Him.

Spiritual hunger is a good thing for the believer. It should be distinguished from the hunger and thirst of a lost soul to find the living God. In Christ, you have already eaten the Bread from heaven and drank of the water of life. But after that experience, the Lord commands us to continue to desire more and more of Him. It is our desire for more of Him that increases our capacity to receive more…


At the website Knowing Jesus, some other scripture texts which apply:

John 6:33-35

“For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.

Psalm 63:1

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.

John 4:13-14

Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”


At the website God’s Leader, a reminder to make the Kingdom of God our priority:

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. Col 3:1,2 NKJV

Natural hunger, persecution, and difficult times have always created spiritual hunger. The Father loves his people too much to let us keep flirting with our out of control fleshly desires and consumerism. He is even now ready to act, but for His precious love for us, has chosen to let things happen slowly and give us time to turn from our wicked ways.

There was no email, no Skype, no texting, and no smartphones when times got really bad in Egypt and the rest of the known world, but somehow news came to Jacob that there was grain in Egypt. Desire motivates us to action. Or in other words, the heart moves the feet. When the stomach cries louder than the mind, we will again begin to put Jesus first.

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God, “That I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, But of hearing the words of the Lord. Amos 8:11 NKJV

The prophet describes a famine where there is no hunger for the word of God and the things of God! It sounds like he is watching and reporting on Christianity as it is today in America…


Because we live in an internet world, not to mention the wealth of printed materials and Christian broadcast media, we have opportunity to keep our hunger and thirst for the truths of God fed and quenched.

Don’t let your appetite fade during this time of absence from a church building; instead use the present crisis to go deeper into the things of God.

February 20, 2020

Extra Rules from Jesus?

by Clarke Dixon

Do you have the rules and commandments given by Jesus memorized yet? Jesus tells us we are to have a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 5:20. So on top of the Old Testament law we get extra rules as Jesus followers, right? For example, within the Old Testament there are rules about adultery, but now with Jesus we have a rule about lust as well:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28 (NRSV)

Is that what righteousness that exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees looks like? Extra rules? Actually, no.

We can be meticulous in keeping the rules, yet still miss the mark. Let me give an example. Suppose my wife gives me plans to build a vehicle. Being an avid motorcyclist, I begin building a motorcycle. I pay careful attention to the instructions on making wheels, brakes, electrical components, and most importantly, engine components. Since the instructions are excellent, and I follow them meticulously, the motorcycle I build is excellent. However my wife is not happy. She tells me to look at the plans again, but this time take a step back and look at the big picture. I have been too focused on the little details to do that. Taking a step back, and taking in the big picture, I see my mistake. These were plans for a mini-van! We have a family to cart around. Oops, I missed the bus!

We can be super meticulous in keeping the rules, yet we don’t become the kind of people God is calling us to become. We ‘miss the mark,’ which is what one of the words used in the Bible for ‘sin’ literally means. We can become so mired in the details of religion, that we miss the big picture of what God has in mind, what is on God’s heart.

Jesus is not giving us new rules in his teaching, but rather is deepening our understanding of the kind of people God is looking for us to become. Continuing on in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, God is calling each of us to become . . .

  • the kind of person who does not blow their top at others. (See verses 21,22)
  • the kind of person who always seeks reconciliation, who seeks to have good relationships. (See verses 23-26)
  • the kind of person who gives their best to their spouse, in devotion and faithfulness. (see verses 27-32)
  • the kind of person who does not objectify others. (see again verses 27,28)
  • the kind of person who is honest and walks in integrity. (see verses 33-37)
  • the kind of person who handles offence with generosity. (see verses 38,39)
  • the kind of person who goes above and beyond in relationships, who goes above and beyond in making things right, who goes above and beyond in helping someone in need, who is generous, and who serves others. (See verses 40-42)
  • the kind of person who loves people like God loves people. (See verses 43-48)

Jesus is that kind of person! Jesus calls you to be that kind of person. It is not about the rules. It is about you and the kind of person you are.

Suppose you adopt a dog, and the adoption agency asks you to agree to a set of rules. You commit to walking the dog, feeding the dog, watering the dog, and keeping up with medications. You could keep all those rules, yet still be an awful dog owner. There is something lacking in the relationship, like; affection, time spent, and playfulness. Something is missing – you are! Your heart is not in it, and the dog knows that. That can happen with a strict rule-focused style of Christianity. Something is missing – you are! The rules are there because they will help the dog stay healthy. However, the dog needs more than your performance of the rules, the dog needs you. The dog needs you to be a certain kind of dog owner. My wife and children need more than my attention to the rules. They need me. They need me to be the kind of person who is an engaged husband and father. The people in our lives need more than scribes or Pharisees who can quote Scripture from memory. They need us! They need us to be the kind of people God is calling us to be, the kind of people God is helping us to become.

To change to an analogy from sports; God, the coach, is not looking for players who are fanatical about the rules. He is looking for players who score goals while being respectful of the rules. He wants people who are engaged in His Kingdom purposes in the world. The best way to keep the rules is live alone and stay at home. If we are followers of Jesus, we will follow him into the world where being the kind of person God is calling us to become will make a difference in the lives of others.

Our aim is to be Christ followers. Our aim is not to become Christian Pharisees. We want to be followers of Jesus, not scribes & Pharisees who have traded in Jewish rules for Christian ones, yet have still missed the mark. If we do that, then our righteousness has not surpassed that of the scribes and Pharisees, it is really no different.

We can be fanatical about the commands of Jesus yet miss the mark. When we lean into the teaching of Jesus, we see the kind of people God is calling us to become. When God leans into us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we become that kind of people.


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Ontario, Canada. Today’s article continues a series on The Sermon on the Mount. He appears here most Thursdays. You’ll also find these articles at his blog.

January 22, 2020

Ways We Can Interface with God

One of the devotional sources we’ve used before took us to one we haven’t: Teens in Christ. Not surprisingly, this devotional piece borrowed some terminology from the world of technology to look at the discipleship process in a rather different but refreshing way.  (If you have teens, consider getting them to follow this particular website.)

Spiritual Interface

An interface is regarded as the common area between two spheres of influence: practices shared by two disciplines with a common goal of interconnection between spiritual realms. Communication between God and His subsidiaries enables sometimes incompatible elements to coordinate effectively together through prayer. To be in an interface is to communicate directly, in this case with our Creator. Processors, software, hardware, and routers are all terms we use with computers, whereas spirituality, Bible study, prayer, and meditation of scriptures are terms we use in processing our mind to interface with the likeness of God. Where computers have to be maintained, repaired, and recovered, our minds have to go through a similar process of regeneration so we can communicate with God.

This process begins with DBS&P, or daily Bible study and prayer. Through the process of Bible study we learn what God wants us to do so we become obedient to His Word. Reading alone will not create the change we need to prepare ourselves for the future. We have to do exactly as the Bible instructs us to do so we can begin to have a spiritual interface with God. We are trapped halfway between heaven and hell, and we exist as half animal, half spiritual beings so it is up to us to decide what direction we want to take. If we choose to act animalistic, we go to hell, and if we choose to act spiritual and seek out the face of God, we go to heaven. It is our choice and no one is making us go either way.

If it were this simplistic it would be easy to decide; unfortunately, there are influences all around us and inside of us that draw us away from God. We are a spirit being that lives in a body in a physical world so here we are again trapped halfway in between. We are spiritual, but we cannot see the spiritual world. We cannot see the spirit beings coming and going in our life, influencing us in ever-wrong directions. They can hear our thoughts, mingle with our mind, and influence us to do wrong. If this is not enough, we have our own fallen condition that was handed down to us from our ancestors. It is no wonder the world is the way it is because we are bombarded by the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life.

We are placed in this circumstance for a reason. We have been given a free will to choose any direction we want as long as we understand that all choices have circumstances. God has created us the closest being there is to His own personality. He is not looking for robots. He is looking for family. He created Himself so He doesn’t have anyone like us so He devised a plan for us to have the opportunity to be like Him.

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 John 3:1-3 NKJV).

However, with God, holy perfection is a given, and He is unable to lie or sin in anyway so for us to be able to reach His level of existence we have to be regenerated from our animalistic, hell-bound, half-spiritual, half-physical being to a son or daughter of God. In the beginning, He created us to be like a lot closer to Him, but with the fall of Adam sin came into our world. Lucifer, Satan, the Devil, a fallen angel, manipulated the good things God created and corrupted them into evil. Satan and his cohorts gave us knowledge that we were not ready to have, and some knowledge like war, witchcraft, and sorcery we never needed to know.

Growth is the key to life, and growth begins when we believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. That through His crucifixion, burial, and resurrection He has paid the price for our sins and enabled us to have a personal relationship with Him. He did what we could not do for ourselves because only one sin will separate us from God forever. Christ paid a tremendous price for us. He, being part of the godhead, virtually separated Himself from Himself when he was crucified on the cross. We may never know the pain he bore as He absorbed all of our sins.

The first step to spiritual interfacing is asking Jesus Christ to come into our life. We do this by saying this simple prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father,

I accept Jesus Christ as my sin-bearer, and I trust God to forgive my sin because Jesus Christ died in my place; I accept Him as my risen Savior who ever lives to make intercession for me, and I trust Him to keep me from day to day. I accept Him as my Lord and King, to whom I surrender the absolute control of my thoughts and my life. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen

If you have any questions you can reach me at alan@kidsnchrist.com.

January 12, 2020

Understanding the Message Happens with Applying the Message

A year ago we quoted a short excerpt from the blog of author Rick Thomas. Today we’re doing the same, as this is taken from a much longer article written for pastors and leaders. I encourage you to read it at its source, in full. Just click the header which follows:

You Need More Than Preaching If You Want to Change

The Parable of the Sower (Mark 4, ESV)

1 Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

The Purpose of the Parables

10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that

“ ‘they may indeed see but not perceive,

and may indeed hear but not understand,

lest they should turn and be forgiven.’ ”

13 And he said to them, Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?

Community Contexts

In verses 1-9 Jesus was teaching to a very large crowd from the pulpit,so to speak. In verses 10-13 He begins to unpack the teaching lesson in a personal, customized, relevant, and practical way for His community.

The pulpit is a great place to exalt the Savior and expound the gospel, as well as call people to live lives of holiness. To be sure, God-ordained preaching for the proclamation of His Word. It is the foolishness of preaching that confounds the wise and empowers the faithful (1 Corinthians 1:18).

In addition to great preaching, you also find in Scripture that it is in the living rooms of the communitywhere the truths preached from the pulpit are worked out in the contexts of lives.

You can exhort someone over and over again from the pulpit to serve, and its possible he will understand, personalize, and apply that idea. But if you bring a towel and basin to his living room and wash your friends feet, you can be assured he will never forget that one act of other-centered serving (see John 13:15; Matthew 26:13).

Helping others is where Jesus excelled. He contextualized His preached Word in the community of the believers. He did not let the preached Word stand alone. He modeled His message to drive home His points.

Practically Speaking

Rachel has heard wonderful preaching the past 16 years of her life. Nearly every Sunday, she has been encouraged, enlightened, and envisioned about how to be a woman for God.

Recently, a growing bitterness took root in her soul toward her church, her pastor, and some of her friends. The more she hears the wonderful truths from the Word declared from the pulpit, the more cynical and suspicious she becomes. 

She’s seeing the discontinuity between the preached Word on Sunday and her marriage and family during the week. The dots are not practically connecting for her.

Sadly, her cynicism and suspicion are directed toward Godthough she would never say it that way. She hoped for a different life and believed it would come by “going to church,” as she put it.

Her belief about the church is why she committed herself to God and the meetings of the church. She even took on a ministry in the church to help in whatever way she could. Her faith and practice were real. Rachel loves God.

But like a person asleep in a boat, only to awake hours later to find they drifted beyond the buoys, Rachels marriage has seemingly slipped past the point of no return. All the while she is faithfully committed to her local church.

Rachel is not struggling with sound doctrine. She does not have a theological problem, as far as her understanding of the Bible. What she has is a methodological problem.

Building a knowledge base through learning and growing in theological understanding, is half the equation. Rachel is getting good information on Sunday morning. It is consistently biblical, easy to understand, and well-delivered.

Her problem is the other half of the solution she needs. Her church has not provided or trained her on how to take the good Word preached and work it out in the milieu (contexts) of her life. She needs a clear and practical application. The Sunday church meeting is not designed to fulfill that part of her solution.

Rachel is half-full: She knows the Word, but she has not been equipped to apply it practically in ways that matter to her life, marriage, and other relationships. If she continues this way, she’ll be running on empty before long.


Rick then continues with ten action steps for local churches. See the closing section of the article which I am again, linking here.

November 29, 2019

Bad Behavior: An Embarrassing Fashion Choice

This is our sixth time with a writer who we haven’t included in several years: Blake Coffee at Church Whisperer (churchwhisperer.com). Click the header below to read at source.

Christians Behaving Badly

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Colossians 3:8-10

Another week and lots of new opportunities to see social media lit up with examples of Christians behaving badly, saying hateful things…about other Christians. You know what’s sad? This blog post can stay up for years and that opening sentence will still be perfectly timely and relevant. Oh, how we make embarrassing choices over and over again. And social media seems perfectly designed to help us shine the brightest of lights on those embarrassing choices. Is it just me, or has social media become the newest highway for our road rage? The temptation to make embarrassing choices is just too great for many of us.

Embarrassing Fashion Choices

I’ve lost track of how many reality TV shows there are about fashion makeovers. Well, that’s not true. I’m certain I never did have any handle on that count. But you know the formula for them: some unsuspecting soul is suddenly put into what amounts to a fashion intervention by well-meaning friends or family. The fashion “experts” come in and go through the person’s closet and ridicule them for all the horrible fashions represented there. A miraculous transformation ensues, and that person is a new person as a result. May it never happen to you or to me.

But the truth is, we all have worn things in the past which we would be thoroughly embarrassed to wear today (e.g., take a look at the wedding pictures of anyone married in the 70s or 80s). To put those things on today and be seen in them would be, well, pretty horrible. I’m not going to admit anything here, but let’s just say that, in matters of fashion choices, I’m familiar with sentiments like: “Dad! No! We’ve talked about this!”

This, I believe, is a near-perfect illustration for the discipline of living “in the Spirit”.

Life in the Spirit

In his writing, the Apostle Paul talks often about the discipline of living in the Spirit. He sometimes compares it to what we might call making embarrassing fashion choices. In his letter to the Colossians, he takes a stroll through our spiritual closets filled with “old stuff” and says, “throw this away”, “get rid of that”, and “never wear that again”. He is talking about Christians behaving badly. Paul recognizes that there are some old ways about us, some things that fit our old nature just fine but that look completely ridiculous on us now, and we need to just get rid of them. In their place, we need to don the clothes that fit our new nature. We need to “wear” things that allow the Spirit Who lives in us to shine through. It is not changing our behavior in order to be a Christ follower, it is changing our behavior because we are a Christ follower. It is simply putting away our old ways and taking on the look that the Spirit of God portrays through us.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14

A Better Look, a Better Way of Being

In typical Paul fashion, he moves from the big theological picture down to the blatantly practical pretty quickly. He hits Christians behaving badly right between the eyes. Paul, in a few words, writes the Christian’s social media policy for us. Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love. In a typically grueling way, God’s Word peeks into our closets and calls us out. As embarrassing as the process can be sometimes, you have to admit, the new look is worth pursuing. It suits you. It is a great look for you and for me…and for Christians everywhere.

© Christian Unity Ministries; used by permission

 

 

July 19, 2019

He Saw Their Affliction

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Again, we’re paying a return visit to the website Before the Cross. The writer today is . Click the title below to read at source.

God Sees You And Hears You

Sometimes when we are going through a difficult trial in life we are tempted to believe God isn’t with us. Maybe He just really isn’t good? Maybe He is blind to what is really going on in our lives? Maybe He really doesn’t care? Maybe He doesn’t understand just how hard things are for us?

This is incredibly challenging for those of us who follow Christ and this is exactly where faith comes in.

Everything in us wants to be delivered out of the trials we find ourselves in.

  • We don’t want to lose a family member.
  • We don’t want to have to stay in our jobs that we don’t like.
  • We don’t want to have to deal with relational conflicts around us.
  • We don’t want to have to handle money problems.
  • We don’t want to have physical or mental health issues.

I was recently reading through Exodus and noticed something for the first time when reading over Exodus 4. I’ve read through this countless times and I love when God always shows me something new in Scripture.

The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt for over 400 years…..400 years! Imagine going through a trial that lasted 400 years. You, your children, their children, and so on…all suffered under the same trial. To the point that if you were living in this time period, you would believe that is all that existed. You would believe you were intended to be a slave. Imagine how hard to it would be to have hope that God would deliver you when you know it hasn’t happened in over 400 years?!

So long story short, as Moses and Aaron are going along and telling the people what God wanted them to say as He was preparing to deliver them out of captivity, I stumbled upon this:

“And the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the people of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped.Exodus 4:31

Noticed the people’s reaction. They bowed their heads and worshiped. Why? Because God had seen them. Because God had heard them. The reality hit them that this same God, creator of the heavens and the earth, had heard their cries and seen their tears.


We have some extra space today, and I thought I would include just a few sentences of a well-known article by John Ortberg (it might have originally been called, “Don’t Waste a Crisis”) which David Jeremiah quoted earlier in the month. I was able to obtain this on a site called Blog Church.

“I once was part of a survey on spiritual formation. Thousands of people were asked when they grew most spiritually, and what contributed to their growth. The response was humbling—at least for someone who works at a church.

The number one contributor to spiritual growth was not transformational teaching. It was not being in a small group. It was not reading deep books. It was not energetic worship experiences. It was not finding meaningful ways to serve.

It was suffering.

People said they grew more during seasons of loss, pain, and crisis than they did at any other time. I immediately realized that, as a church, we had not even put anybody in charge of pain distribution! So now we are figuring out how to create more pain per attender for maximum spiritual growth.

Actually, the wonderful and terrible thing about crisis is that it’s the one resource we do not have to fund or staff or program. It just comes. However, pain does not automatically produce spiritual growth. Ghettos and barrios and abusive homes and trauma wards may produce scarred souls; they can cripple more human spirits than they strengthen…”

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