Christianity 201

April 8, 2017

Psalm 130

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:29 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Twice in the last week I noticed someone referred to Psalm 130 in something I was reading and last week I attended a concert in a church which had one of the old “hymn board” signs at the front indicating that their reading that morning had been this same text. (Talk about ‘the writing on the wall!’) I decided to check out what one online writer called “The gospel in a Psalm.”

Psalm 130 (NLT)

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.

From the depths of despair, O Lord,
    I call for your help.
Hear my cry, O Lord.
    Pay attention to my prayer.

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins,
    who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness,
    that we might learn to fear you.

I am counting on the Lord;
    yes, I am counting on him.
    I have put my hope in his word.
I long for the Lord
    more than sentries long for the dawn,
    yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.

O Israel, hope in the Lord;
    for with the Lord there is unfailing love.
    His redemption overflows.
He himself will redeem Israel
    from every kind of sin.

At Redeemer.com we find some general advice from Eugene Peterson for studying the Psalms as a whole:

  1. The Psalms teach us to pray through imitation and response. … Real prayer is always an answer to God’s revelation. The Psalms are both prayer and revelations about God — the perfect ideal soil for learning prayer.
  2. The Psalms take us deep into our own hearts 1,000 times faster than we would ever go if left to ourselves. … Religious/moral people tend to want to deny the rawness and reality of their own feelings, especially the darkness of them. … The secular world has almost made an idol of emotional self-expression. … But the Psalmists neither “stuff” their feelings nor “ventilate” them. They pray them — they take them into the presence of God until they change or understand them.
  3. Most importantly, the Psalms force us to deal with God as he is, not as we wish he was. “Left to ourselves, we will pray to some god who speaks what we like hearing, or to the part of God we manage to understand. But what is critical is that we speak to the God who speaks to us, and to everything he speaks to us … the Psalms train us in that conversation” (from Eugene Peterson’s Answering God).

At Daily Doorstep Devotional (Trinity Bible Church) we read:

…Even though we are not to be of this world, we do know that we are in this world and the things of this life do require our attention. Just as we are to rejoice always and pray without ceasing, so too are we to continually set the Lord before us. All of these are to be regular daily facets of our lives. We are to be so conscious of God, His presence, and His working that it shapes our view of the world and it becomes second nature to us to turn to God in all things. When we do, the Lord will be the center of attention and our affections, especially in those times when He is to be set before us without distraction. [W]hat times, circumstances, or occasions are necessary for our total attention to be placed upon God?

One such time is seen in Psalm 130. In this Psalm the Lord is mentioned in every verse either by name or personal pronoun. The Psalmist is clearly focused upon God without distraction. What has brought him to this? Verse 3 tells us it is his iniquities. The sin of the Psalmist has caused him to sink to the depths and it is from here that he cries out to the Lord and makes his supplication before Him. He knows he is a sinner and confesses it before God, acknowledging that he cannot stand before a holy, righteous, and just God. The sinner acknowledges that if God were to judge him based upon his deeds that he could not bear to stand before God and would be utterly consumed by God’s righteous wrath against his sin.

Yet the Psalmist knows the Lord. He knows He is a merciful God that forgives, and he comes before Him in confidence, waiting upon Him and trusting in the promises of His Word that He will forgive (Psalm 103:3). The sin of the Psalmist has left him in dire straits; he mourns over his sin, and he knows that apart from the Lord there is no deliverance. He knows that his only hope is in the Lord. Desperate men will give full attention to the One upon whom they know their very lives depend…

At Devotional Reflections from the Bible we read:

Psalm 130 is one of the most encouraging and compelling Psalms regarding our true estate before God and the perfect redemption that He alone provides. The Psalmist is calling to God out of the depths. Don’t you find that we are more often likely to cry out to God when we are laid low than when everything is great and we seem to be living on the mountain top? Don’t ever be sorry for that, because that is exactly what we should do when surrounded by obstacles that seem to crush us lower and lower.

There is no other help available; no one else has the power and love to pull us out from the depths. Why does God do this; is it because we are more worthy than others? No, the Psalmist says that if the Lord should mark iniquities who could stand? That’s a love we know little about; a love that is there even though there is nothing within us that deserves such love. Knowing this, the Psalmist waits for the Lord more than the watchman waits for the morning.

The message of the Gospel to everyone is: Hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with Him is plentiful redemption. I will never understand that, but I am so incredibly thankful to God for the complete redemption He provides, and the daily help to get through the circumstances of life.

Pray today that you would hope in the Lord and experience His steadfast love and plentiful redemption.

 

January 5, 2017

A Theology of Clothing

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
Tags: , , ,

You’ll have to look up the scripture verses for this one. We found this a few days ago at Share Faith Magazine, which is a wonderful resource site for churches. It originally appeared under the title below, which you may click to read it in full.

10 Threads Of Deliverance In The Bible: Symbolic Clothing of Deliverance

by

Threads of deliverance in the Bible: Scripture is often enlivened when we see symbols or circumstances through the stories in the Bible. As we delve into particular events, there is rich and complicated meaning in real-time, but a bird’s eye view can also assess what’s occurring in light of what happens next. For example, Sarah wouldn’t know Hannah or Elizabeth or Mary, but the line of God’s mercy and providence in these unexpected mothers is profound, and comparing the songs of Hannah and Mary, even more. Water is another example. It nourishes the first garden, redeems us through Noah, delivers Moses, turns red with plague, comes apart several times, quenches wilderness thirst, saves Israel for a time with Hezekiah, breaks with the Son of God’s first breath, begins His ministry, changes to wine… and more. It’s a powerful, redemptive narrative. And this kind of patterned approach is applicable to our congregations. Water, for example, is something God still uses, inviting each of us into baptism and a life sustained by living water. How much more full is the symbol with the background of God’s story! Let’s read some stories of the threads of deliverance.

10 Threads Of Deliverance In The Bible

I want to weave a similar collection of moments where clothing is significant, leading up to the swaddling clothes in a manger and beyond. It sounds strange at first, but I think we’ll find an application of deliverance in the Bible at every turn. (Let me make one note. The stories of the Old and New Testaments are stories and not simply symbols. As many of us learned in seminary, there is a fair warning to not over-extend our interpretation or diminish the contemporary working of God into only a projected symbol.)

God fashions the first clothing (Genesis 3:21-24)

After the sin that cast us out as sojourners, it is God who kills the first animal in order to clothe Adam and Eve. He’s a good, good father and he does what he can to protect the first couple in the wilds of a fallen creation. I imagine God weeping through the whole episode, knowing what they don’t, that the father of lies will drag them through the dirt of his own fall, trying desperately to wipe clean any hint of the imago dei that makes them unique before God. This clothing is the first step in grace.

Rebekah’s deceit (Genesis 27)

Jacob learns a valuable lesson with his thread of deliverance. It starts with Rebekah favoring Jacob over Esau. It’s a sordid tale that makes me wonder why we follow the mischief of Jacob and not the clan of Esau. The hair-shirt Rebekah uses to deceive her blind husband is a costume Jacob doesn’t forget (and Laban returns it with disguising Leah). Yes, God uses a liar, but he knows he can break the liar into a limping man, one who sees the activity of God in heaven and becomes the father of 13 sons who form Israel’s tribes. When Jacob puts on his brother’s clothes, he disguises his real identity to get what he wants. He puts on a show. What a change of clothing from the first couple, who in humility and with heads down, leave the garden. But, in time Jacob learns his lesson and even celebrates his son Joseph in a brilliant cloak. Who knows, perhaps he remembered that evening a long time ago.

Joseph’s coat of many colors

Joseph’s thread of deliverance causes quite a stir. It’s a wonder why Jacob didn’t learn about the danger of playing favorites from his own upbringing, but he doesn’t. Joseph gets his coat and with it, God’s plan. The rage in his brothers and the near death experience for Joseph will be the stuff God uses to humble all of them. Without the coat, the brothers don’t have anything tangible to wield against their father, and, I bet without the coat, we don’t have a Joseph who runs so quickly away from Potiphar’s wife that he leaves behind his cloak (Gen 39:11-18). He knows God has a plan for him and he will not be defiled by the charms of sin.

Wash your clothes (Exodus 19)

After the exodus, God says, “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.  Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession” (19:4-5). He then instructed them, among other things, to wash their clothes (10). Why? This is certainly in line with being holy and set apart. It’s tucked into this passage about God coming into their midst and warning them to not even touch the mountain or they will die. God is holy. It’s a precursor to what we know baptism symbolizes, a washing clean of sin. And baptism is a precursor to the white robes we’ll receive in heaven (Rev. 7:9).

The priestly garments (Exodus 39; Leviticus 6)

The details in the priestly garments are fascinating: “the robe of the ephod entirely of blue cloth… bells and pomegranates alternated around the hem… tunics of fine linen… the plate, the sacred emblem, out of pure gold and engraved on it, like an inscription on a seal: holy to the Lord…” A human being is readying himself to go into the presence of God. The garments act as a barrier between the Almighty and the altogether puny, if we’re honest. The priest goes into the Holy of Holies to ask for God’s mercy upon a guilty people. And we go into his sanctuary under the same reality. Yes, we know God through Jesus, but his holiness has not changed and our sinful hearts are still in dire need. The garments are a symbol for what we hear the Psalmist say, “I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her faithful people will ever sing for joy” (132:16).

The sash of Rahab (Joshua 2 & 6)

The thread of deliverance for Rahab was her sash, her sash represents the salvation for the Israelites and her own redemption, placing her in the family tree of Joseph (Matt 1:5). Her scarlet cord is a testimony to God’s mercy to a foreigner and a sinner. Remember that Rahab is a prostitute. The cord that wraps and unwraps sinful acts becomes the salvation for the two spies and all of Rahab’s family. It’s easy to read into the story of her self-interest, but God doesn’t see an opportunist; he sees a broken woman who wants mercy and love and a home. She converts and the story says, “…she lives among the Israelites to this day” (6:25). She stands as an early Mary Magdalene and receives favor because she knows she needs help. May we have eyes to see what others don’t and minister beyond our own comforts.

Saul’s robe is cut

Saul is in devilish pursuit of David. The former guitar soother is now an enemy to Saul’s throne and he will not surrender it to this farmer boy from Bethlehem. David knows he’s beyond angry and hides out until God works the circumstances into His will. David doesn’t force them. Remember when Saul sacrifices to God because Samuel is late (I Samuel 15)? When Samuel turns to go in anger over Saul’s sin, Saul rips his robe. Samuel then says, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you” (28). We then get this moment in I Samuel 24 where David sneaks up to Saul and cuts a piece of his robe. The point is, “I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the Lord’s anointed,” David says (10). Saul will end up piercing his own robe and killing himself (I Samuel 31:4-6). What does it mean? Saul continually tries to shape God’s will around his own, and not the other way around. If we are molded by God’s will for us, perhaps we will sing with the psalmist, “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy…” (30:11).

David’s sin and response (2 Samuel 11-12; Psalm 51)

This thread of deliverance in the Bible ironically starts with no clothes. David intrudes on a private moment and takes advantage of Bathsheba. There is nothing, nothing, nothing good about this story. It’s a breaking point for David. It’s entirely his fault. His unchecked pride invites sin to the table of a man touted as someone after the heart of God. Not so in this case or in his coverup with Uriah’s murder. What happens next is where David gets it right.  When comforted by Nathan, David admits to his sin. He gives no excuses. When Nathan says the child will die, David fasts and wears sackcloth, pleading before the Lord. When the baby dies, David, “got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped” (12:20).  David learns what the prophet Joel says, “Rend your heart, not your garments” (2:13).

The magic cloak of Elijah (2 Kings 2)

Elijah’s thread of deliverance in the Bible leaves us speechless. First, Elijah rolls up his cloak and bats the Jordan River. Then he and Elisha cross over because the water obeys him. He tells Elisha to watch, drops his cloak, and catches a ride on a fiery chariot to Heaven. Elisha uses the cloak to direct the Jordan again and leaves with even greater power. What?! Certainly, the cloak represents Elijah and his holy commitment to God, but what a story and why a cloak? We know the cloak is used almost as a shield, protecting the wearer against weather, for example. We more commonly think of a cloak as a disguise, an interpretation with some historical age to it. Perhaps the suggestion is that Elisha is now fully identified in the powerful “skin” of Elijah. This idea of putting on is part of our walk with Jesus. Paul says, for example, that, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 2:22-24).

Find him wrapped in swaddling clothes (Luke 2:11-12)

The angels make sure to mention the swaddling clothes to the shepherds because more than likely it shows Jesus’ significance. The wrapped linen is juxtaposed to the lowly surroundings of a stable and makeshift bed. Much like the first couple, perhaps the clothes signaled God’s provision after a long journey from Nazareth. Did Mary keep them at the ready? Did a kind stranger provide them to Joseph as they entered the town? We don’t know. Including it in the proclamation of the angels gives us the best guess that these clothes mean royalty, Son of God, the God of Joseph’s robe and Rahab’s sash and Elijah’s magic cloak is here in humble splendor.

It is Jesus who invites us, like the father of the prodigal son, to come home and wear the best robe (Luke 15:22). It is Jesus who notices the need of a broken woman who touches the hem of his robe (Luke 8:43-48). It’s Jesus who gets mocked with a purple robe by the guards he loved even then, in their darkest hour (Mark 15:20). It’s Jesus who resurrects and folds his grave clothes (John 20:7). It’s Jesus who will make our robes white with his blood (Revelation 7:14).

 

November 7, 2016

Salvation Has Come to This House

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
Tags: , , ,

NRSV Luke 19:8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

zacchaeusWe last connected with Peter Enns here in February, but I wanted to run this very recent post by him for two reasons. First, I’m currently reading his book The Sin of Certainty which we will probably run an excerpt from very soon. Second, this resonated with me because of a fresh take on Zacchaeus by Gary Burge which we touched on briefly here a few years ago. Click the title below to read this on his blog, The Bible for Normal People. Dr. Enns is a professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern College.

Zacchaeus gets “saved” and so can the rest of us . . . every day

Many of us know the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector from Jericho (Luke 19:1-10). Many of us are also probably stricken with paralysis at the sound of the Zacchaeus song, which haunts the memory of any parent who has ever done time teaching children’s Sunday school or VBS. But I digress.

Not at all unlike another famous resident from Jericho, Rahab in the book of Joshua, Zacchaeus a “sinner” (v. 7) welcomes a visitor into his home with stunning, life-shifting results.

Without Jesus even needing to say a word, Zacchaeus commits to giving half his possessions to the poor and paying back fourfold anyone he has defrauded. And Jesus responds, “Today salvation has come to this house. . . . ”

Perhaps like me, you have wondered what Jesus means by “salvation”? Perhaps you were taught that right there that day Zacchaeus was “saved” by accepting Jesus into his heart and receiving assurance of going to heaven when he died.

But that’s not happening here. Zacchaeus’s salvation is his committing to a change in life—from greed and dishonesty to generosity and justice. He is repenting, in the true biblical sense of the Greek word metanoia—a change of heart that is evidenced in a change in how one lives.

And to this change in how one lives Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to this house.”

Many of us might focus on the next life when we see the word salvation in this story. That’s how we were taught. But that misses the point.

Jesus’s declaration of salvation is tied to what Zacchaeus does with no mention of a final reward. The point is what is happening today.

Zacchaeus needed salvation, a change of life now. Don’t we all.

Zacchaeus was “saved” because he committed to changing his way of life, to bring it into conformity with the mercy and generosity of God—which is to say, Zacchaeus was becoming more truly human, an image-bearer of of God.

Salvation isn’t something that happens once to get your membership card to heaven— “once saved always saved,” as the saying goes. Salvation is something that keeps happening in our lives, needs to keep happening, as we work to conform our lives by God’s kind grace to reflect the life of Jesus.

Over the years I have learned to pray differently. Hardly a day now goes by when I do not ask for deliverance.

For a change in the tired patterns in my life.

For salvation.

That kind of prayer would have been unthinkable to me some years ago, but I have come to see what I was missing all those years.

The membership card I keep in my wallet for future consideration is of little use. I need salvation right now.

Deliver me, O Lord. Save me . . .

from broken relationships
from fear for my family
from the fear of what might be or might not be
from not knowing
from the need to know
from the need to be right
from this horrid and subtle self-centeredness
from looking down on any other human being
from feeling misunderstood and undervalued
from being defined by my past
from judging others by their past
from manipulating my neighbor with clever words
from feeling not enough
from what I cling to
from all my failings
from all my accomplishments

Not later. Not at some point in time. But now.

Right this minute.

I don’t want things to continue as they are.

Save me.

Zacchaeus finds salvation. And so can we. Every day.


[A beautiful song by Audrey Assad, “I Shall Not Want, captures this idea far better than I am able to in a blog post. Also, a major theme in N. T. Wright’s new book The Day the Revolution Began is the New Testament’s emphasis on salvation as very much now rather than simply later. And if you want to read some of my books, here you go: The Sin of Certainty (HarperOne, 2016), The Bible Tells Me So (HarperOne, 2014), The Evolution of Adam (Baker, 2012), Inspiration and Incarnation (Baker 2005/2015).]

 

 

 

March 6, 2016

A Source of Confusion: Saved/Salvation and “Eternal Salvation”

•••by Russell Young

There are several misrepresentations currently being propagated in the teaching of God’s Word. The issue of this writing concerns the meaning of “saved” or “salvation.” Unless there is clarification made on this issue, there will be many who will not enjoy the hope that they had been promised throughout their spiritual lives.

There is a distinction between being “saved” and being “eternally saved” and it is essential that this difference is fully appreciated. The Greek representation of “saved” is sozo and Strong’s Greek Dictionary presents it as meaning: to save, i.e. deliver or protect (literally or figuratively):—heal, preserve, save (self), do well, be (make) whole. Sozo is not a word confined to Biblical use but was of the common vernacular of the day. Paul used the word sozo when he told his Roman guard to throw everything overboard in order to be saved (avoid drowning). Luke also used sozo when he spoke of the man who was healed of the many demons that had possessed him and had been cast into the herd of pigs. The point is that when saved or salvation are used, they must be carefully considered in context. What one is being saved from needs to be appreciated.

It is common in the spiritual sense to accept “saved” as meaning “eternal salvation” when it often does not. It might be helpful to exchange “saved” with ‘delivered’ and then to consider what one was delivered from. For instance, the sacrifice of Christ on the cross delivered the believer from the consequences of his “past sins” (2 Peter 1:9) and from the jurisdiction of the Old Covenant. “For this reason [to cleanse our consciences] Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance-now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” (Hebrews 9:15, NIV) It did not provide “eternal salvation.”

The blood of Christ is often presented as “redeeming” the believer. One’s redemption should not be taken as meaning eternal salvation either. It redeemed the believer from “the curse of the law…in order that… we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” (Galatians 3:13…14) It also means “being bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:20), “being reconciled”(Romans 5:10), “brought near” to Him (Ephesians 2:13), etc. One’s redemption frees him from the law and brings him near to God so that he might be given the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit that brings about one’s “eternal salvation.” Redemption is a form of being “saved” but it does not amount to one’s eternal salvation.

There is only one passage in the whole of God’s Word that uses the wording “eternal salvation” and that salvation is accomplished through obedience. “He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Hebrews 5:9, NIV) The need for obedience is consistent with many other passages that require the believer to be led by the Spirit. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27) Those who are led are not under the law (Galatians 5:18), those who are led by the Spirit are sons of God (Romans 8:14), those who are NOT led by the Spirit will not find eternal life. (Galatians 5:8; Romans 8:13) The point is that “eternal” salvation is different from other salvations or deliverances.

The distinction between ‘salvation’ and ‘eternal salvation’ needs to be made clear because the differences effect many of the teachings that impact understanding of “eternal security” and even of one’s eternal hope. “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” (Matthew 13:41, NIV) One’s hope is not “secured” until the end (Matthew 10:22) and until one’s life testimony has been completed. (Revelation 12:11)

In Matthew 7:21 we read: “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” That is, it’s not one’s pronouncements that allow him entrance into the kingdom of heaven, but his “doing.” The Lord also revealed this, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” (Revelation 22:14, KJV) The NIV and other versions have changed “do his commandment” to “wash their robes” in order to fit more conveniently with the distorted understanding of salvation that is being propagated.

While “salvation” or “saved” may refer to various deliverances, “eternal salvation” addresses deliverance into God’s eternal Kingdom and into the Lord’s presence. Eternal salvation is ONLY presented as being accomplished through “obedience.”

September 23, 2015

Peace for Your Soul

by Clarke Dixon

Rest in Peace. A Reflection on Psalm 116

Rest in peace” is a statement we often use for the dead which unfortunately we rarely use for the living. We are restless souls with our worries and concerns, with our fights and contentions. We rarely rest. We rarely know peace. Even when our bodies find rest, our souls often do not. Ironically, one thing our souls can fret over is death itself, the very thing that causes “rest in peace” to fall so easily from our lips. We have great difficulty in saying “rest in peace” to our own souls. In Psalm 116 we find someone who does in fact call upon his soul to rest:

7 Return, O my soul, to your rest,
for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you
(Psalms 116:7)

How did the Psalmist break through to finding a place of rest for his soul? How can we get there? Let us turn to the rest of the Psalm to find out:

The journey to a place of rest for our souls begins with prayer. We do not know the exact nature of the Psalmist’s prayer request, but we do know that his life seemed to be in danger in some way and he is grateful to God for a rescue, for answering his prayer.

1 I love the Lord, because he has heard
my voice and my supplications.
2 Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
3 The snares of death encompassed me;
the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
4 Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“O Lord, I pray, save my life
(Psalms 116:1-4)

Something we should note here is that the Psalmist does not say “someone out there is looking out for me“. His prayer for deliverance would hardly have been “If something or someone is out there could you please . . . “. Rather the Psalmist’s prayers are specifically to the LORD, God, Creator of the universe, Who has revealed Himself to humanity. The Psalmist does not have some generic idea of God in mind, but The LORD. In fact in this Psalm he uses God’s specific name, represented in many English translations by LORD, fifteen times. The Psalmist is praying to a God he knows, something he can do because God has made Himself known. Which leads us to our next thought.

The journey to a place of rest for our souls begins not with our prayers, but with a God Who hears prayer. Prayer works because God works with grace and mercy toward us:

5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
our God is merciful.
6 The Lord protects the simple;
when I was brought low, he saved me
(Psalms 116:5-6)

We think we are taking a low view of ourselves when we think God does not hear our prayers. “Why should He care about and listen to us? Should we not be nothing to him?” But really we are guilty of taking a low view of God. We are doubting the scope of His love.

Psalm 116 has a caution: Watch out for the dead end roads on your search for a  resting place for your soul. Prayer sounds like a very religious thing to do, and many people assume that religion is the path one should take in seeking rest for one’s soul. However there is a very grave danger here, one made worse by a temporary feeling of peace that most religions can provide. Let us take an extreme example of a man who feels he has made peace with God, and can serve God best by blowing himself up and taking out God’s enemies with him. This man says to his soul “return, O my soul, to your resting place, you are doing the right thing and God will be pleased.” However, what will he say before the judgement seat of Christ when he realizes his religion has failed him? Religion has the horrible habit of giving people some sense of relief for their souls, when really they ought to keep seeking. Likewise, many turn to “non-religions” like Darwinism and Secular Humanism in a search for rest for their souls. Remember the bus signs which said “God probably does not exist. So stop worrying and enjoy your life”? These signs appeal to a sense of rest from worry about the afterlife. People who believe signs like these shall also stand before the judgement seat of Christ but with the realization that their non-religion has failed them every bit as much as the religion of the religious.

So it is the Christian religion which brings true peace to the soul then? No, that is not it either. Our Psalmist does not refer to religion as the reason his soul can rest. It is not religion but the LORD, God Himself Who is the reason for rest.

5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
our God is merciful.
6 The Lord protects the simple;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
7 Return, O my soul, to your rest,
for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
8 For you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling
(Psalms 116:5-8)

Religion is something we do. Rescue and salvation is something God does. We get the cart before the horse when we subscribe to religion or do religious things to make God like us, to get Him to save us. Too late for that, He already loves us and has offered the rescue. Our “religion” is an expression of worship which flows out of our knowledge of God and His salvation, it is not a precursor to it. The Psalmist commits to religious activity in response to rescue, not in order to obtain it:

12 What shall I return to the Lord
for all his bounty to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the Lord,
14 I will pay my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people
(Psalms 116:12-14)

It is not religion that leads to a resting place for our souls, but a Person, God Himself.

There is one final thing to note about the Psalmist’s prayer. Note how different this Psalm is from the prayers of Jesus in Gethsemane and at the cross. The Psalmist is pleased about being rescued. Jesus, however, wants the cup of suffering to be taken from Him. The psalmist is rescued and can say “return, O my soul, to your resting place,” Jesus says “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” There was no rescue on that day, at least not for Jesus. However, there was the greatest rescue of all that day, for people like you and me, people who are willing to turn from sin and turn to God. A rescue from sin, from the root cause of the death and destruction that lay around us. Death may lay ahead of us, but only the death of our earthly bodies, not the death of our hope of salvation in God.

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ
(1 Corinthians 15:55-57)

We may die someday, but we can yet say “Return, O my soul, to your rest, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.” Is there something you want to say to your soul?

All Bible references are taken from the NRSV


Clarke Dixon is a Baptist pastor in Ontario, Canada; read more at his blog, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon.

September 27, 2014

Dealing with Religious Spirits

Some days we post articles by mainstream Evangelicals, some from people from liturgical churches, on other days we’re Reformed, and today we’re decidedly Pentecostal/Charismatic. This is actually part two of an article which in turn is an excerpt from the author’s book. To read the entire piece you need to click this link in which the author explains how she was familiar with the practice of deliverance, but never had considered that religion might be something for someone to be delivered from.

Spiritual Housekeeping = Kimberly Danielsby Kimberly Daniels

What Does the Bible Say?

The Word of God has something to say about religion. In Acts 25-26, we see that Jewish religious leaders wanted Paul put to death and had petitioned the Roman authorities to have him executed. In Acts 26:4-11, as Paul defends himself before the Roman ruler Agrippa, he confirms that since the beginning of the church the enemy has been using believers to persecute one another.

He states:

“My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know. They knew me from the first … that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. 

“And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. For this hope’s sake … I am accused by the Jews.

“Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.”

One of the main ways to recognize the work of religious spirits is this: Under the disguise of religion, they persecute the righteous and faithful.

Paul makes a clear distinction between his time growing up as a leader under the religious law and his born-again experience after he met Christ on the road to Damascus. The road to Damascus represents more than the dramatic conversion of Paul’s life. It also reveals the plot of the enemy to persecute and trouble God’s elect from within the church. Paul told the Galatians:

“For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (Gal. 1:13-14).

Through his own testimony, Paul reveals that the traditions of men are the strongholds of religion. Jesus highlighted this as “vain” worship in Mark 7:7-8:

“In vain (fruitlessly and without profit) do they worship Me, ordering and teaching [to be obeyed] as doctrines the commandments and precepts of men. You disregard and give up and ask to depart from you the commandment of God and cling to the tradition of men [keeping it carefully and faithfully]” (AMP).

Vain worship is like a person going to the gym seven days a week and working out with no results. God says vain worship produces no results. This is why many people accept defeat in God and backslide. But the Word tells us there is no failure in Christ! This victory can be manifested in our lives if we give high regard to the commandments of the Lord and take our attention off the traditions of men.

The traditions of men flow through generational religious spirits. People literally pick up religious habits that have nothing to do with the commandments of the Lord and are more faithful to them than to the Word of God.

Colossians 2:6-23 teaches on freedom from human regulations through a new birth in Christ. It warns us of man-made traditions and speaks of the cancellation of “the written code” and its regulations.

This code worked against the believer in Christ, not for him. It made people set unattainable goals that gave birth to the fruits of failure, defeat and misery. It literally opposed the abundant freedom in Christ that was meant to be.

Galatians 5:1 commands that we stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made us free. It adds we should not be entangled again with the yoke of bondage. The Greek meanings of words Paul used are important to understanding the verse:

» “Stand fast” (steko): To stand firm in faith and duty; to have a constant flow that causes one to persevere.

» “Liberty” (eleutheria): To be blessed with generosity and independence that is bestowed upon a person as a result of the economy of God’s grace, which was not made available under the law of the Old Testament. To also have independence from religious regulation that is rooted in the legal restrictions of man. James 2:10-14 teaches on “the perfect” law of liberty in Christ:

“For whosoever keeps the Law [as a] whole but stumbles and offends in one [single instance] has become guilty of [breaking] all of it. For He Who said, You shall not commit adultery, also said, You shall not kill. If you do not commit adultery but do kill, you have become guilty of transgressing the [whole] Law.

“So speak and so act as [people should] who are to be judged under the law of liberty [the moral instruction given by Christ, especially about love]. For to him who has shown no mercy the judgment [will be] merciless, but mercy [full of glad confidence] exults victoriously over judgment. What is the use (profit), my brethren, for anyone to profess to have faith if he has no [good] works [to show for it]? Can [such] faith save [his soul]? (AMP).

» “Entangled” (enecho): To be held subject to or be under the control of. To struggle over or to quarrel with.

» “Yoke” (zygos):  Something that attaches two things together. It couples things and causes them to be connected by a burden that’s hard to bear.

» “Bondage” (douleia): Servitude that promotes dependence upon a person, place or thing; the state of a man that prevents him from freely possessing abundant life and enjoying it.

Based on the Greek definitions, anything that causes a believer to struggle or be double-minded about something to the point that he becomes attached to a burdensome load and cannot enjoy abundant life in Christ is devilish. It is not of God. To sum it up: The spirit of religious bondage is demonic.

Many believers are stuck in ruts whereby they are not experiencing new growth in Christ. When there is new birth, it must be confirmed with new growth. With the genuine new birth, old things are cut off and pass away. Once the old is pruned, the new can grow.

If a believer continues to return to the old yoke of bondage, he will be bound by spiritually arrested development. He will not experience the level-to-level, glory-to-glory promised him in the Word.

He will be condemned to a form of godliness, which makes a person appear to be victorious in Jesus on the outside. But actually they shut down the power on the inside of them that is greater than what is coming against them in life. There is no victory in the life of the believer who succumbs to the regimens, rudiments and habits of religious forms.

October 22, 2012

Unseen Warfare Going on Constantly

I spent less than 24 hours in Las Vegas nearly 30 years ago. The guy I was with wanted to visit the casinos. I heard the constant whirring of the machines, the bells announcing winners, the balls sliding around the roulette wheels.

And then we left. The drive home was several days, and I was back several weeks, when it occurred to me that back in Vegas, the machines were still humming, the coins were still dropping, the wheels were still clicking. The show plays out day after day even when you’re not there to see it.

Maybe you or someone you know has had a time in their life when they experienced online addiction to adult sites. I know I have. Every once in awhile it occurs to me that all those websites are still active, people are still clicking the images to see more, perhaps parting with their credit card number for the privilege. That world still exists even though I don’t return to visit.

In Ephesians 6 we read familiar words:

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places]. (KJV)

The battle described earns the subtitle “A Fight to the Finish” in Eugene Peterson’s version:

10-12 And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

13-18 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out. (Message)

I’ve just finished reading a new Christian fiction title, Soul’s Gate by James Rubart that I won’t take time to review here except to say that it’s very similar to a landmark Christian novel of 25 years ago, This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti. This particular genre may not appeal to everyone, but it is a reminder — perhaps even a wake up call — to things taking place around us in the unseen realm of spiritual warfare.

Two-and-a-half years ago, I wrote about the dynamics of spiritual warfare in this post. I think it’s well written and it’s filled with scripture references, but it fails somewhat in that it looks at the collective warfare that we wage as aliens and strangers fighting on enemy territory, but is light on describing the individual warfare taking place more subtly for the souls of you, your family, your friends, your co-workers, your fellow students, your neighbors.

For that, you need to dig into the dynamics or spiritual warfare on a personal level, such as you find outlined in this article.  If you believe that there is an enemy fighting your soul, you may be looking out for attack, but missing the ways in which that attack can come.  It may involve something as innocuous-looking as discouragement as we saw in this study.

Furthermore, there are people reading this who believe in the “us versus them” aspect to spiritual battle, but would want to stop short of suggesting that there are actual demons involved.  However, to neglect that possibility is to ignore a significant amount of Biblical evidence, as we saw in this piece.

…In his earthly ministry, Jesus often taught in parables; and I believe a fiction story can be helpful in personifying the enemies (plural intentional) that are waiting to do battle with our souls. Seeing them and somewhat visualizing them through a novel helps us to be open to the possibility of recognizing them when they appear in real life.

Sadly, some have been conditioned through their denominational background or their personal preferences to cast aside notions of the demonic realm. But I found that reading Soul’s Gate really begs each reader to ask themselves, “How much of this are you going to consider fictional, and how much of this do you feel is real?” 

Because the warfare is still playing out even if you’re not presently experiencing it.

May 4, 2012

Jesus and Justice: Deliverance for the Oppressed

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:52 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

This is a re-blog from Shawn Groves, but you really want to read it at his blog, if only for the pictures.  Actually, the real reason is that this is part five of a continuing series.  You might want to start with the earlier sections…

Luke 6:1-9

While traveling on the Sabbath, Jesus and his students got hungry. They picked grain for lunch. The lawmakers said this was illegal: no grocery shopping on the Sabbath.

Also on the Sabbath, Jesus went to church and saw a man in need of healing. Knowing his critics were watching, Jesus healed the man and asked, “which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”

Matthew 21:12-17, Mark 11:15-19, luke 19:45-47, John 2:12-22

Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem with palm branches and shouts of Hosanna and entered the temple. There he saw people exchanging foreign currencies so they could buy animals to offer in worship to God. He turned over the tables of the money exchangers, and of the venders selling animals too. He said God’s temple had been turned from a house of prayer into a cave for thieves.

Deliverance from oppression…

Jesus didn’t live in a representative republic. The Jewish nation (even when under Roman rule) was a theocracy of sorts, governed in large part by a religious ruling class – church and state were in many ways one and the same. When legislation/religion resulted in the oppression of the poor and less powerful, Jesus obeyed the higher law/religion of love instead.

Though Sabbath laws stood in the way of filling a stomach or healing a hand, Jesus picked and healed.

When the powers-that-be cheated foreigners exchanging currency at the temple, Jesus turned the tables on them and demanded love for God and neighbor.

Nagas & Thraou

In the Old Testament, in passages like Isaiah 58, the word “oppressed” is a translation of the Hebrew word “nagas.” It means “touches” and is translated elsewhere as “strike”, “reach”, “bring down”, “crush”, “ruler.”

When Isaiah foretold times of prosperity for the nation of Israel, he wrote…

Instead of bronze I will bring you gold,
and silver in place of iron.
Instead of wood I will bring you bronze,
and iron in place of stones.
I will make peace your governor
and well-being your ruler (nagas).
-Isaiah 60:17

When Isaiah predicted the torture of Christ he wrote…

He was oppressed (nagas) and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
-Isaiah 53:7

So, in the Old Testament, “nagas” is the exercise of power or strength over another, whether that power is for peace or violence, prosperity or persecution. “Oppression” is negative “nagas.”

In the New Testament the word “oppressed” only appears once in the New International Version – in a passage we’ve already mentioned in this series…

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free…” – Luke 4:18

There, the Greek word “thraou” is translated “oppressed.” It means “to break into pieces, shatter.” The bible says again and again that God is close to the broken-hearted, but God is also overthrowing the systems that have held down and broken them.

Jesus delivers, and promises more deliverance is on the way, to those struck and shattered by the powers and systems at work against the disadvantaged.

~Shawn Groves

If you’ve got the time, I strongly urge you to read the rest of the posts in this series, as linked above.

March 25, 2012

Where Did All The Demons Go?

After some additional discussion both on and off the blog after the post about curses a few weeks ago, here’s a piece from the blog Arminian Today which appeared under the title So Little Said About Demons These Days.

Even a simply survey reading of the Gospels reveals that Jesus Christ interacted with demonic forces during His earthly ministry.

In Matthew 4:23-25 we read that Jesus’ ministry was marked first by His healings which included “those oppressed by demons” (v. 24 ESV).

In Matthew 8:16 we read that Jesus again headed those oppressed by demons and thus His healings demonstrated that He was the Messiah according to Isaiah 53:4 and Matthew 8:17.

In Matthew 8:28-34 we have Jesus’ first encounter with two demon possessed men.  Here Jesus casts out the demons by allowing them to speak that they wish to be cast into a herd of pigs which He allows and the pigs run off a cliff to their deaths.

In Matthew 9:32-34 Jesus heals a demon possessed man who is unable to speak.

In Matthew 10:8 Jesus tells His disciples to cast out demons.

In Matthew 12:22 Jesus heals a demon possessed man who is blind and mute.

The only insight Jesus gives us to demons is found in Matthew 12:43-45 where He speaks about what a demon spirit does when it is cast out of a person.

In Matthew 15:21-28 Jesus heals a Gentile woman’s demon possessed little girl whose mother comes to Jesus and implores Him to come and heal her.  Jesus heals the little girl without being present physically (v. 28).

In Matthew 17:14-21 Jesus heals a demon possessed boy whom the disciples of Jesus could not heal.  Jesus tells His disciples they could not heal the boy because of their lack of faith (v. 20).

This ends the ministry of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew concerning demons but much more could be read from the other three Gospels about our Lord.  Clearly He had a ministry that included dealing with demons and demon possession.

What is amazing is that we don’t see that much on demons these days.  Some have sought answers to this by saying 1) the stories in the Gospels are not true.  2) Demons were in abundance in the life and times of Christ but not so today.  Demons helped God prove that Jesus was indeed the Messiah of Israel and thus are not needed today to demonstrate His truth since we have the Bible.  3)  Demons do exist but we just don’t talk about them much because we lack faith to deal with them.

My contention is number 3.

I believe in demons.  I have seen only a few times where I thought I was seeing a demon working in a person.  We have all heard the stories such as The Exorcist where the demon causes the person to talk in a different voice and even in foreign languages.  I too have heard those stories though never witnessed them.  I once sat in on a bizarre episode where a girl we knew was struggling with migraine headaches.  Some guy claimed that the headaches were demonic and that a demon was behind the sickness.  He began to have the girl look into his eyes and he said, “I want to speak to the demon in the name of Jesus.”  Supposedly a few demons spoke but I think the girl was making it up.  She continue to struggle with migraines to this day and that has been nearly 20 years.

You see the dilemma that I face is this: I believe in demons but I have seen some strange teachings on demons.  I worked with a lady who claimed that demons were stealing from her cash register.  She honestly believed that if she came up short on her money at our job then a demon had come in, took the money, and was seeking to bring her down.  I watched once as she sought to cast a demon out of her cash register.

Yet I still believe in demons.  Why?  Because of the Bible.  I see in the Gospels and later in the book of Acts the dealings by both the Lord Jesus and the Apostles with demons.  Some believe that with the death of the last Apostle and the cessation of revelatory spiritual gifts, demonic activity likewise has diminished and today we defeat demons not by signs and wonders and healings but with the power of the gospel.  I believe this is a weak argument based on silence and not Scripture.  It is seeking to a build a case from silence of why we in the modern Church do not see demons like they did in Acts.

I am well aware of the stories from Africa and other nations were demons are being interacted with.  I have talked with missionaries to Africa who say that they have seen demonic activity all across Africa but that the Church is confronting those demons with the power of Christ.  I have spoken with brothers from India who tell of temples of Hinduism that are full of demons.  One Indian brother told me that Westerners often get very sick around those temples even if not a Christian because of the level of demonic activity that goes on the inside of those Hindu temples.  I have had Indian brothers tell me about the power of Jesus healing demon possessed people.

So why the lack of demon possession in the United States and the West?  One African brother told me that he believed that demons not show themselves here in the US because of our trust in materialism.  He told me, “Brother, demons are active in the United States but they need not manifest themselves since you trust in riches.  Demons are behind your materialism and they have you trapped.  Why bother exposing themselves when their job is complete.”  This African brother told me that he has demons speak to him in Africa but never in the United States.  He did tell me that he once encountered a demon at a large mall.  He said that the demon possessed man merely walked over to him and growled like a dog at him.

Perhaps this brother is correct.  We trust in our technology here in the West.  You get sick.  You go to the doctor.  We have little trust in the supernatural or in trying to explain events using demons or the spirit world.  Our trust in modern science is such that we seek to explain everything and everything has an explanation.  Demonic activity is not one that you ever hear about.  I have had only one psychiatrist tell me that she often prays for wisdom to discern the demonic (1 Corinthians 12:10).  She said that it is difficult to discern if a demon is behind a person’s behavior or if the person is truly sick.  Either way, she said, she prays for healing and asks Jesus to intervene for His glory.  Wise woman.

To make matters even more difficult, the Epistles speak little to none of demons.  Paul mentions demons in 1 Corinthians 10:21.  Paul mentions Satan in 2 Corinthians 2:11.  He mentions Satan as the god of this world in 2 Corinthians 4:4.  Paul mentions the false god Belial in 2 Corinthians 6:15.  Paul mentions the deception of Satan in 2 Corinthians 11:14.  Paul mentions spiritual forces of evil in Ephesians 6:12.  Paul speaks of the activity of Satan in 2 Thessalonians 2:9.  He mentions deceitful spirits and teaching of demons in 1 Timothy 4:1.  James mentions demons in James 2:19.  Peter mentions spirits in prison in 1 Peter 3:19.  John mentions spirits in 1 John 4:1-3.  Revelation is full of demons and spirits and creatures such as we see in Revelation 9.

Yet that is pretty much it.  Demons rarely appear outside of the Gospels and Acts.  Paul never tells the churches he writes to cast out demons.  Some say that this would have been a given because of the words of Jesus in Mark 16:17.  I believe this another argument from silence.  Yet the same could be said of healing.  Paul never mentions for the church to be praying for healings to take place to draw people to Christ and apart from 1 Corinthians 12, he never speaks of healings.  James mentions healing in James 5:13-16.  So if we believe that the revelatory gifts such as tongues, interpretation of tongues, healings, and exorcisms were for the Apostles, then that is your argument for the lack of demonic activity in the modern Church and in the Epistles.

Either way, we know this: Jesus is victorious over demons.  His victory is seen in the cross and in His resurrection.  His victory is seen in the transformation of lives through the gospel (2 Corinthians 5:17).  His victory is seen in the defeat of Satan (Hebrews 2:14-15).  This victory is now experienced through the gospel.  Jesus is able to deliver us from sin and it’s power (Romans 6:1-23).  The Spirit of God delivers us completely from darkness into the kingdom of God’s Son (Colossians 1:13-14).  God has triumphed over all demons through the cross (Colossians 2:15).  Victory is ours in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:37-39).

October 31, 2010

Confronting the Powers

For the message I prepared today for a church in Toronto, rather than running away from Halloween, I chose to confront it.

We looked at some supernatural encounters in scripture, including

  1. Simon the Sorcerer (aka ‘Great Power’) in Acts 8:9ff.  He was a baptized follower of the Apostle Phillip, and yet parts of his old life — the love of the spotlight, for example — still lingered.
  2. The Seven Sons of Sceva in Acts 19: 11-16.   The demons they tried to confront knew of the Apostle Paul and they knew Jesus, but they basically taunted the seven sons with “Who are you?”   The world isn’t interested in what we have to do or say on our own strength, but rather, on whether or not Christ is flowing through us.
  3. Demetrius in Acts 19: 23-27.   Christianity was turning out to be bad for the whole idol-making business.   There are entire industries with a vested interest in retaining followers.   If people really do turn to God, that will change.  (But we have to be careful that we don’t create similar industries in the Christian world.  Hmmm.)
  4. The Demon-Possessed Man in Mark and Luke and Men in Matthew 8:24-34.   This wasn’t just a healing.  There was a third party — demons — involved in this story.    Jesus affirms their reality.

For a good  spiritual showdown, we also looked at I Kings 18: 16ff, the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal.    Elijah just knew that God was going to come through.   The buckets of water were a nice touch!

We contrasted Jesus’ words to the imprisoned John the Baptist (“Go back and report to John what you hear and see:  The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor…”) with his words to Thomas after the resurrection (“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”)

We also were reminded of Ephesians 6:12, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms…”

We finished up with John’s admonition in 1 John 4: 1-6 to test the spirits.

1Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

4You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

Some credit for this message concept must go to my favorite Reformed pastor and friend, Jack Vanderveer.

July 29, 2010

Andrew Murray on Psalm 51

In our family prayer time, we’ve started reading Confession and Forgiveness which Andrew Murray wrote in 1896.   He takes 33 chapters to go through Psalm 51 phrase-by-phrase.

If you’re not familiar with this Psalm, take a moment to read it now…

This is from the second chapter:

The reason then why I would have you learn to understand and take this psalm to your heart is that I think its lessons are so necessary and, indeed, indispensable.  We are taught in our [Heidelberg] Catechism that there are three elements in the spiritual life that we must know if we would live and die as saved  souls.   These three elements are:

  • how great our sin and misery are
  • how we can be delivered from them, and
  • how we should live in thankfulness to God for this deliverance.

And nowhere do we find these great lessons concerning mercy, deliverance, and thankfulness more clearly explained than in this psalm…