Christianity 201

July 18, 2019

Distraction-Free Devotion

A year ago at this time we introduced you to Marlene Limgo at Life Walk With Marlene. Click the header below to read this post with some additional graphics.

The One Thing

The One Thing… necessary and good… which shall not be taken away… what is it?

Luke 10:38-42:

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

We often think that ministry is about being busy… about activities… about serving others… about preparations and distractions… about hospitality… about ‘doing’ the serving… about not doing it all alone…. Martha was like that. She was a hospitable host. She was concerned to serve Jesus the best of food and to treat Him as an honoured guest should be treated. She believed that loving Jesus is about doing her best to be a good host in the kitchen.

I am reminded of how my mother-in-law often busy and hurrying to take out the tea cups, the tea and sweets to serve the visitors while leaving them all alone sitting on the sofa. And the guest(s) sometimes would call out: “No need… come and sit with me/us to talk.”

So with Martha except that she had a sister, Mary who had the initiative to sit with their guest. What was Mary doing? Nothing? She’s just seated on the floor. Nope! She’s doing something. She’s listening to Jesus.

Jesus did not side with Martha to rebuke Mary for not helping. Instead, Jesus said:

1) Martha Martha… (calling her name twice) This shows that Jesus was concerned with Martha. It’s like when you’re concerned with your child, you call his/her name twice for emphasis and attention.

2) You are worried and bothered about so many things. (Jesus knew her inner thoughts. Her anxiety and frustrations… and they were many.)

3) BUT only One thing is Necessary. Mary chose that One thing and it’s the GOOD part, which shall not be taken away from her.

a. Living the life pleasing to God is about ONE necessary thing… it is sitting at the Lord’s feet and listening to his words.

b. It is GOOD… to worship the Lord, to be in His presence – to put him more important than all the activities of doing and doing.. It is about being.. being with Jesus, in His company, being His friend, companion, follower, audience.

c. It is permanent… it will not be taken away. Nothing and nobody can take away the time I spent with my Lord… the memories of experiencing His love, joy, peace, comfort and awe of being at His feet and listening to His Words. This One necessary and good thing lasts, it stays, it will never be taken from me.

The world offers so many distractions. Social media, ads, our jobs, responsibilities, our pursuits of happiness and success all taking a piece of us – our attention, our mind and heart, our time and energy.

It seems that quiet time in the presence of God – reading His Word, listening and talking to the Spirit in prayer, all these are becoming less and less a priority.

What does God want me to do today? How can I live today that will please Him? How can I love my neighbour? Do I hear the still small voice calling me to forgive? Am I kind and compassionate to the needy? Do I speak the truth in love?

Do I walk my talk? Am I a submissive wife? Do I respect my husband? Am I training my children in the way that they should go? Do they know the Lord?

Do I present my body as a living sacrifice as my spiritual worship to God? Am I conformed to the world or am I being transformed and renewed in mind – seeking to know the perfect will of God – that which pleases my Lord?

The one thing that is necessary – the one good thing that lasts, this thing called Presence… to be present at the feet of my Lord and Saviour, Jesus. Let me remember today and always. Amen.

December 18, 2018

God’s Creation Plan Is Completed Through a Baby

by Russell Young

Christians enjoy the hope that has been availed through a baby, but God has instituted the incarnation of Christ for a purpose that may not be fully appreciated. It is through Christ that God is completing his creation plan. It is easy to accept that God created, but he is still creating. His original plan has not been brought to fruition but when it is finished, he will have the kingdom that he had envisioned from the beginning.

In the beginning was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all men.” (Jn 1:14) That “life” that was the light of all men came to bring the light that will accomplish God’s creation plan; it will penetrate the darkness that shrouds the human heart, mind, and soul.

Paul has written, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Rom 8:22) The King James Version states this passage as, “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” All of creation, including humankind, has been suffering. That pain continues because the light has yet to over-take the darkness. The “light of men” or as Jesus has identified himself “the light of the world” (Jn 8:12, 9:5), must reveal truth so that all of creation can be freed from the darkness that brings pain.

Paul has also addressed the eager anticipation that exists in creation for the revelation of God’s true or adopted sons. (Rom 8:19) Creation is eagerly waiting to be completed as the light of Christ penetrates the darkness in humankind. When this is accomplished, it will be completed as God had intended.

God loves his workmanship, all of it (Jn 3:16), to the extent that he gave his Son for its recovery. The restorative work of Christ must not be seen as limited to that of people but includes all things. God created humankind in their (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) own image (Gen 1: 27) and had declared his final product to be very good. People had been created with special attributes. They can absorb and process information and can store it to make reasoned, informed decisions. Although originally created to know “good” only, with the Fall they also came to know evil. God had ordained people to have free-will and it is this aspect of humankind that allows a freely chosen, loving and committed relationship with him. The LORD presented the nature of the relationship with him that was acceptable. “And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees…” (Deut 10:12) Matthew, Mark, and Luke have recorded the same expectation. Love is chosen, it is an act of the will; consequently, freedom to choose is highly regarded and honored by the Lord.

Some would take the value of free-will away from humankind, but God requires a heart transformed by the Spirit of light so that people can choose the humble and holy and loving relationship that will bring glory to God. Paul has written, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”, (Rom 12:2) and that, “we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:18) The needed transformation will result in a new creation; it does not result at confession of faith. “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.” (Gal 6:15)

Becoming a new creation conformed to the likeness of Christ requires his life to be lived in the believer through the Spirit. As the believer is led and obeys, death is brought to the “misdeeds of the body.” (Rom 8:13) making him or her “an offering acceptable to God.” (Rom 15:16) The Lord needs to be honored as the “light of men” so that he can penetrate the darkness of the human heart.

Those who comply with the leading of the Spirit, “Christ’s law” (1 Cor 9:21) or the “law of the Spirit of life” (Rom 8:2) will become God’s adopted children. (Heb 5:9; Rom 8:23) Those who have freely chosen to honor the Lord will dwell in his eternal kingdom which will be on earth. Once God’s sons have been revealed, “creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Rom 8:21) Creation will be liberated when Christ has defeated the devil and his schemes. “The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox…” (Isa 65:25)

Zion’s deserts, on the liberated new earth, will be made like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. (Isa 51:3) Through Christ all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made and through him hearts will be transformed to meet God’s purposes while maintaining in humankind the freedom to love him by choice, thus bringing to fullness God’s creation plan. Christ will achieve their (Father, Son, Holy spirit) purpose with the selection (election) of a people conformed to the likeness of the Son of God (Rom 8:29) freeing all creation from decay and corruption. The devil’s work will be fully defeated (1 Jn 3:8) and all things made new. “Then the end will come, when [Christ] hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority, and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Cor 15:24)

God chose to create all things through Christ, including the holy priesthood through the refinement of the human heart and the preservation of free-will. It is through the baby, Jesus Christ, that according to God’s plan, creation will be fully achieved, a state freed from decay where he can dwell with his people. In it “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev 21:4)

And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” (1 Jn 4:14)

Merry Christmas!


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

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link. There is also a feature-length article at this link.

May 27, 2018

Fanning the Flame of Worship

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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This is our first visit to the site, “A Great, Real Place” written by Caleb Westbrook, a teacher from Kansas City.  As always, click the title below to read this at source.

Worship: The Flame of Life

The word worship elicits all kinds of images. One person may think of pew on pew on pew leading up to a large Gospel choir in the front of the sanctuary. Another person may recall the used and careworn pages of an old hymnal–maybe even the smell of those pages. Or perhaps one imagines hands raised in the concert hall of a mood-lit mega conference, singing alongside hundreds if not thousands of other believers. One may also remember the emotions: joy, elation, penitence.

When we think of worship, we almost always envision a form of singing. Even for those who know that worship is more, we still, upon instinct, normally associate the word with singing. This is natural. Worship through song has a rich and beautiful tradition in the Church, and it is probably the easiest way to confess love and honor to God. However, just because it is the easiest, that doesn’t mean singing is the only or even the best form of worship. True worship, of course, encompasses the whole individual and the whole church assembly.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1

Paul writes this to the Romans, urging them to submit their lives to the rule of God, and he defines worship as a presentation of one’s body as a living sacrifice.

At my church, The Avenue, we’ve begun a series entitled Valley of Vision, drawing its name and inspiration from the well known Christian devotional compiled and published in 1975 by Arthur Bennett. The Valley of Vision is a collection of Puritan prayers meant to provide form and inspiration to each believer’s personal prayer life. It has also become a simple liturgy used in some churches like The Avenue.

One of the prayers in The Valley Vision is “Worship” (read the whole prayer here), and in the opening lines, the writer promulgates the importance of worship and its significance.

“Glorious God, It is the flame of my life to worship thee, the crown and glory of my soul to adore thee, heavenly pleasure to approach thee.”

It is the flame of my life… Yes, adoration can come in the form of singing. However, notice how much more poignant is the message of this Puritan prayer. Worship is not a flame for the singing time of the service. It is not the flame of Sundays. True worship is the flame of life. Therefore, if this Christian practice is bound to the whole life, it makes sense that worship must consume more than a thirty minute segment of one’s week!

Worship is the offering of all of one’s self to the object (or objects) of one’s allegiance, and by offering one’s self in all areas of life, that becomes the act of praise. As an aside, notice that I mentioned objects, plural, can receive worship. That was intentional. We are always worshipping something; if it’s not God, it’s whatever consumes our devotion, and sometimes that consists of lots of little distracting somethings that steal our attention from God.

Thus, if worship is an offering of all of life, you are worshipping as a parent, caring for your child and pointing her to Jesus. You are worshipping on your hands and knees (prayer-like!) in your garden, pruning God’s good earth for His glory. You are worshipping as you serve your city. And, I believe, you are even worshipping in your failures when that failure becomes an offering of confession and a recognition of your need for grace. God is other in His greatness and power.

This leads me to another aspect of this important prayer. One of the reasons we worship God is because He has given us a mediator, a go-between between man and the Almighty.

“Give me knowledge of thy goodness that I might not be over-awed by thy greatness; Give me Jesus, Son of Man, Son of God, that I might not be terrified, but be drawn near with filial love, with holy boldness; He is my Mediator, Brother, Interpreter, Branch, Daysman, Lamb…”

In the Old Testament, Moses asked to see God’s glory (what an audacious request!), and God acquiesced to his request with the caveat that Moses would not be allowed to see God’s face: “for man shall not see me and live.” In the Old Testament, God was personal but not exactly approachable. However, in Jesus Christ every believer has access to God through Jesus Christ.

Therefore, we also worship with the humbling knowledge that, without Jesus, we would be left to worship from afar, unable to comprehend or survive the absolute holiness of the Divine. In Jesus, however, we have a brother and mediator. He is the high priest who gives us access to the throne of God.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15

So let us fan the flame of our lives, let us worship without ceasing by bringing our adoration of God into every area of our lives, and let us praise Jesus all the more because we know that He makes a way for us to enter the eternal kingdom of the most high and eternal God.

December 7, 2016

“I Am a Jealous God”

Last year at this time we ran an excerpt from one of the hundred entries in 100 Names of God Daily Devotions (Fall, 2015; Rose Publishing) by Christopher D. Hudson; a padded, full-color, hardcover book which features not only many interesting devotional readings, but also an index giving the Greek or Hebrew terms along with their Strong’s Concordance number. We thought we’d revisit that book today.

100 Names of God Daily Devotional - Christopher D HudsonEl Kanna

Jealous God

You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God  Exodus 20:5

Who wants to be thought of as jealous?  This unflattering description brings to mind the petty schoolgirl who bitterly resents the spotlight that a peer is enjoying, or the fact that her rival’s boyfriend is cuter than hers.  To be jealous is to be vain, selfish, suspicious.  It is to want what others have, never fully acknowledging or appreciating the good things in one’s own life.

And yet, there is another kind of jealousy – a holy version. It’s this noble form of jealousy that God has for His people, according to the Bible.  But why is this a fitting jealousy?  Why is God right to want us exclusively for Himself?  Because he made us, and in Christ He purchased us (1 Corinthians 6:20, 7:23)

Divine jealousy isn’t motivated by greed or selfishness.  God’s holy jealousy is rooted in a desire to protect, provide and bless.  He always and only wants what is best for His chosen ones.  And what can be better than His perfect love?

Instead of imagining the negative and hurtful jealousy displayed by a petty schoolgirl, we need to imagine the protecting and providing jealousy of God.  Picture God more as a loving father who discovers his homeless son sleeping in a filthy gutter. Imagine how this father might jealously seek to rescue his son. The father’s goal is to restore his son’s life, not to further punish him.

When God freed the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt, He took them to Mount Sinai.  At the foot of the mountain, God told them they would soon be surrounded by neighbours who were devoted to other gods.  He warned them they would be tempted to turn away and be unfaithful.  Lastly, He assured them He would not stand idly by and allow that to happen.  As a jealous God, He would fight fervently for their attention and affection.

When God calls Himself jealous, it is a reminder to us that our worship cannot be divided.  The Great Commandment is to love God with “all” (not part of) our hearts.  He alone is worthy of our devotion.  He alone is deserving of our hearts.  He knows that the ones He loves will find life, ultimate meaning, purpose and joy nowhere else.  He knows that He alone is the one place where our hearts will find their true home.

This is why when Jesus came, He reminded us that we cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).  He told us that whoever is not for God is against Him (Luke 11:23).  It is tempting to be “sort of”, “sometimes” or “mostly” devoted to God.  But we either give ourselves to Him or we give ourselves to other lovers.  God is jealous for our love because He is zealous for us to know His.

Related readings: Exodus 34:13,14; Isaiah 42:7,8

October 31, 2016

Reading the Classics: Anselm of Canterbury

The Bible emphasizes using your intellect…

So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. I Cor 14:15

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind‘ -Luke 10:27

…but warns against being captivated by philosophy:

Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. – Col. 2:8

Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the pointless discussions and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge. I Tim 6:20

(underlining added)


anselm-of-canterburySt. Anselm? Who is he? Wikipedia informs us that,

Anselm has been called “the most luminous and penetrating intellect between St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas” and “the father of scholasticism”, Scotus Erigena having employed more mysticism in his arguments. Anselm’s works are considered philosophical as well as theological since they endeavor to render Christian tenets of faith, traditionally taken as a revealed truth, as a rational system.

Angus Stewart notes, “If Bede is the most historical, and Wycliffe the most biblical, Anselm is the most philosophical of English pre-Reformation thinkers.” Some Christians hesitate to read philosophy, either because they feel the genre is foreign, or too academic; or because they associate Christian philosophy with its secular counterparts.

His writing was often vertical in nature, and so I’ve classified these as prayers. (A similarity between this, and the vertical worship writing in our modern church music is worth observing.) You’ll also note in bold face below a particular quotation for which he is often remembered.

Writing at the turn of the 12th Century, he is revered by Anglicans and Catholics alike; the former for his position as Archbishop of Canterbury, the latter for his perspective on Mary.

Dialogues (Socratic method of teaching; this one clearly supporting limited atonement)

Gomaro: You speak often about “the elect.” How are they redeemed?

Anselm: Through the satisfaction of Christ, for this is why God became man.

Gomaro: Why then do unbelieving infidels go to Hell?

Anselm: They are punished for the great debt of their sins.

Gomaro: If their sins were punished on themselves, they were not satisfied by Christ, since it would be incongruous for the infinitely wise God to satisfy for sins twice.

Anselm: Reason does demand that it is either punishment or satisfaction for sins, but not both.

Gomaro: Then Christ did not make satisfaction for those who are in Hell, but only for the elect?

Anselm: I see no way of opposing you.

Quotations:

God does not delay to hear our prayers because He has no mind to give; but that, by enlarging our desires, He may give us the more largely.

Remove grace, and you have nothing whereby to be saved. Remove free will and you have nothing that could be saved. (attributed to him)

Let no worldly prosperity divert you, nor any worldly adversity restrain you from His praise.

God often works more by the life of the illiterate seeking the things that are God’s, than by the ability of the learned seeking the things that are their own.

In this way, then, the Lord Jesus ought not to have undergone death because He alone [among men] was innocent; and no one ought to have inflicted death upon Him; nevertheless, He ought to have undergone death because He wisely and graciously and usefully willed to undergo it.
De Veritate

Prayers:

“O God, let me know you and love you so that I may find joy in you; and if I cannot do so fully in this life, let me at least make some progress every day, until at last that knowledge, love and joy come to me in all their plenitude. While I am here on earth let me know you fully; let my love for you grow deeper here, so that there I may love you fully. On earth then I shall have great joy in hope, and in heaven complete joy in the fulfillment of my hope.”

“I acknowledge, Lord, and I give thanks that you have created your image in me, so that I may remember you, think of you, love you. But this image is so obliterated and worn away by wickedness, it is so obscured by the smoke of sins, that it cannot do what it was created to do, unless you renew and reform it. I am not attempting, O Lord, to penetrate your loftiness, for I cannot begin to match my understanding with it, but I desire in some measure to understand your truth, which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this too I believe, that “unless I believe, I shall not understand.

So truly, therefore, do you exist, O Lord, my God, that you can not be conceived not to exist; and rightly. For, if a mind could conceive of a being better than you, the creature would rise above the Creator; and this is most absurd. And, indeed, whatever else there is, except you alone, can be conceived not to exist. To you alone, therefore, it belongs to exist more truly than all other beings, and hence in a higher degree than all others. For, whatever else exists does not exist so truly, and hence in a less degree it belongs to it to exist. Why, then, has the fool said in his heart, there is no God (Psalms xiv. 1), since it is so evident, to a rational mind, that you do exist in the highest degree of all? Why, except that he is dull and a fool? — Proslogium

“My God, I pray that I may so know you and love you that I may rejoice in you. And if I may not do so fully in this life let me go steadily onto the day when I come to that fullness …Let me receive That which you promised through your truth, that my joy may be full.”

Thus you are just not because you give what is owed, but because you do what is appropriate to you as the highest good.
 

Sources:

AZ Quotes, Brainy Quotes, About.com, Inspiring Quotes, Catholic Fire

 

April 18, 2016

Skipping Church

NIV Heb 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

CEV Heb 10:25 Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer.
ICB Heb 10:25 You should not stay away from the church meetings, as some are doing. But you should meet together and encourage each other. Do this even more as you see the Day coming.

I don’t know of a verse which is more timely, especially in view of recent reports that regular church attendance is now considered to be once or twice per month.  We covered this topic a few months ago, and listed several benefits that come with faithful church attendance.

But some of that is fairly elementary, and this is after all, Christianity 201 not 101, so I want to share something today from a writer who takes this in another direction.

Thinking about this verse, I came across the blog 1014 Experience Street. Writer Phillip Pratt points out that the context here is not about clinging to a particular local church or congregation but about clinging to Christ. Of course, this is a two-sided coin: Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, but wanting to be with Christ’s people can be a reflection of your devotion. But Phillip sees a potential for abusing this verse when we forget the larger context.

You can click the title below to read this article at source.

Hotspots: Hebrews 10:25 Part III

So what does Hebrews 10:25 really mean then? The book of Hebrews has a theme & it is not about religious attendance but about clinging to Christ, specifically the hope of Jesus Christ (verse 23).

Other verses that speak of this great “hope” of Jesus Christ and His return:

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14
“Now also we would not have you ignorant, brethren, about those who fall asleep [in death], that you may not grieve [for them] as the rest do who have no hope [beyond the grave].”

Titus 2:13

Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ

So lets break Hebrews 10:25 down then revisit the overall picture:

“Forsake” in Greek is egkataleipō = quit, leave entirely, abandon completely, desert, to give up or renounce

The same word is found in Matt 27:46My God, My God, why have You forsaken (egkataleipō) me? & also in 2 Tim 4:10 for Demas has forsaken (egkataleipō) me

Now, is someone who attends a church service once a month or once every 3-4 months completely abandoning or renouncing anything?

Hebrews was addressed to persecuted Jewish Christians who were completely (or considering) abandoning “faith in Christ”.

“Assembling together” is a one word phrase from the Greek word episunsgoge or episynagoge = to be gathered together but to who or to whom?

It can be found in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together (episynagoge) unto Him…

This verse is telling us to cling to & “gather ourselves unto Christ” & don’t be shaken. It has nothing to do w/ church attendance & everything to do w/ persistence to stay focused on Christ & His return.

Check out these other verses regarding our “hope” = gathering unto Christ: Matthew 23:37, Luke 13:34, Mark 13:26, Mark 1:33, Luke 12:1.

The book of Hebrews is all about not casting away the hope or confidence in Christ & His return, it is not about weekly church attendance; it is a command to hold fast to our profession of faith/hope, that was promised by Jesus that upon His return we will be gathered unto Him.

Verse 26 is a warning about what happens if a person forsakes the hope of gathering together w/ Christ: “For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins.”

This is encouragement not to turn away from the faith & hope of Christ coming to fulfill His promise lest they be cast into judgment as there is nothing more to be done for the remission of sins.

So, the writer of Hebrews is encouraging people throughout the entire book to hold fast, to not forsake their faith/hope/promise of being gathered unto Christ yet he takes a break in the middle of ten chapters, changes the subject & commands them to go to church every Sunday? That’s quite a stretch..

Again, is it good for Believers to get together & encourage one another on a regular or semi-regular basis? You bet it is. Is Hebrews 10:25 talking about mandatory, weekly church attendance? You bet it’s not and that’s pretty clear from the Greek study.

Is there any doubt that Hebrews 10:25 is one of the most abused & misrepresented Scriptures ever?

If more people would just take the time to study not just the content but the context, the Greek & Hebrew words and to actually be Berean regarding what they are taught we would see much more freedom and effectiveness in the Body of Christ today.

I usually let the writers we feature here have the last word, but I know today there will be some of you who feel that in this commentary the pendulum swings too far in the other direction. In his “about me” section, the writer shows where’s coming from on his personal journey and how he has a low tolerance for

  • religiosity
  • christianese
  • traditions/rituals
  • power trips
  • titles

In a previous post, he mentioned the idea of people attending weekend services out of guilt. I get that. But as I said in the introduction, I think there are many blessings that occur when we do meet together. It’s a matter of coming to maturity and finding the place of balance.

Actually, I am going to let Phillip have the last word. You may have noticed in the title that this is a ‘part three;’ here are the links to the other two sections:

Hotspots: Hebrews 10:25 Part I

Hotspots: Hebrews 10:25 Part II

 

March 7, 2016

Jerry Bridges Quotations

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
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I Sam 2:25a If one person sins against another, God may mediate for the offender; but if anyone sins against the Lord, who will intercede for them?”

NLT Ps. 51:3 For I recognize my rebellion;
    it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
    I have done what is evil in your sight.

Psalm 5:5 The arrogant cannot stand
    in your presence.
You hate all who do wrong;
    you destroy those who tell lies…

Psalm 11:5 The Lord examines the righteous,
    but the wicked, those who love violence,
    he hates with a passion.

Jerry BridgesChristian author Jerry Bridges passed away on the weekend. You can read an extended post at Thinking Out Loud today which contains 3 articles which appeared previously here at C201 including some of the content below, which appeared over 5 years ago. Our key verses (above) all appeared in connection with other articles about Jerry Bridges and speak of holiness, as his bestselling and best-known work was the book The Pursuit of Holiness.

 

We abuse grace when, after sinning, we dwell on the compassion and mercy of God to the exclusion of His holiness and hatred of sin.


Our worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.


Jesus said, “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). We must honestly face the question, “Am I willing to give up a certain practice or habit that is keeping me from holiness?” It is at this point of commitment that most of us fail. We prefer to dally with sin, to try to play with it a little without getting too deeply involved.


As we grow in holiness, we grow in hatred of sin; and God, being infinitely holy, has an infinite hatred of sin.


So often we try to develop Christian character and conduct without taking the time to develop God-centered devotion. We try to please God without taking the time to walk with Him and develop a relationship with Him. This is impossible to do.


Worship from the heart in times of adversity implies an attitude of humble acceptance on our part of God’s right to do as He pleases in our lives.


One thing we may be sure of, however: For the believer all pain has meaning; all adversity is profitable. There is no question that adversity is difficult. It usually takes us by surprise and seems to strike where we are most vulnerable. To us it often appears completely senseless and irrational, but to God none of it is either senseless or irrational. He has a purpose in every pain He brings or allows in our lives. We can be sure that in some way He intends it for our profit and His glory.


Every day is important for us because it is a day ordained by God. If we are bored with life there is something wrong with our concept of God and His involvement in our daily lives. Even the most dull and tedious days of our lives are ordained by God and ought to be used by us to glorify Him.


Peace should be a hallmark of the godly person, first because it is a Godlike trait: God is called the God of peace several times in the New Testament. He took the initiative to establish peace with rebellious men, and He is the author of both personal peace as well as peace among men. Peace should be part of our character also because God has promised us His peace, because He has commanded us to let peace rule in our lives and relationships, and because peace is a fruit of the Spirit and therefore an evidence of His working in our lives.


As used in Scripture, holiness describes both the majesty of God and the purity and moral perfection of His nature. Holiness is one of His attributes; that is, holiness is an essential part of the nature of God. His holiness is as necessary as His existence, or as necessary, for example, as His wisdom or omniscience. Just as He cannot but know what is right, so He cannot but do what is right.


We need to call sin what the Bible calls it and not soften it with modern expressions borrowed from our culture.


What is holiness? The best practical definition that I have heard is simply “without sin.” That is the statement that was made of the Lord Jesus’ life on earth (Hebrews 4:15), and that should be the goal of every person who desires to be godly. Granted, we will never reach that goal in this life; nevertheless it is to be our supreme objective and the object of our most earnest efforts and prayers.


I believe a word that forcefully captures the essence of Jesus’ work of propitiation is the word exhausted. Jesus exhausted the wrath of God. It was not merely deflected and prevented from reaching us; it was exhausted. Jesus bore the full, unmitigated brunt of it. God’s wrath against sin was unleashed in all its fury on His beloved Son. He held nothing back.


 

 

Sources: Christian Quotes, Search Quotes, AZ Quotes (the last link is great if you’d like to read much more.)

February 16, 2016

A Devotional About Devotion

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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This is our 6th time with Andy Elmes who is better known in the UK, Australia and New Zealand than in North America. His organization is called Great Big Life and he hosts a weekday radio feature called Breakfast of Champions. You can also get the Breakfast devos by subscription (click the above link) as I do by email each weekday morning. This is part one of a series, you need to sign up to see them all.

Characteristics of a Blueprint Church, part 1

Acts 2:41-43 (NIV)
Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.

These verses show us a really good day in the life of the early Church. What a result: three thousand people added in one day by one message! How would you like a response to your personal evangelism like that?

The other great thing that these verses give us is a glimpse into the culture or DNA of that early “blueprint” church. In these verses we see a number of values that they chose to give great emphasis to. I personally think that when we hold these verses against the ones in Matthew 28:18-20 (the Great Commission) and Acts 1:8 (the promise of empowerment to a GOing people) we find the co-ordinates for the destination we are to still take as 21st century relevant churches, and indeed the ‘blueprint’ for building what God wants built. We need to still find our DNA for building effective Christian lives and churches in that which Jesus was passionate about and commissioned us to do and that which the first Church spent their time, energy and money doing. What He desired and what they dedicated their lives to transcends style or natural culture and still gives us a great and effective building plan for our lives and churches today.

They devoted themselves
Here we find the first ingredient to their effectiveness. There was within the church, not just the leadership, a spirit of self devotion. People daily “devoted themselves”. They had great preachers, but they were not spoon fed; they were self feeders taking responsibility to get the spiritual nourishment they needed. They had great meetings and fellowship but did not need to be constantly phoned or dragged there or reminded with constant bulletins like they had memory problems; they got themselves were they needed to be, when they needed to be there.

Andy Elmes DevotionSo much of modern church is sadly about motivating people to do what they should naturally want to do, encouraging people to do things that really should be their spiritual lifestyle. Imagine if we could get even more self devotion into the DNA of the modern western Church – how much more effective would our local churches be if each member took personal responsibility for even the little things, like getting to Church on time so church services could start as strong as they could do, serving on the teams that needed them and turning up when it was their turn without a text, being faithful in honouring God with their finances and time without subtle reminders and encouragements from the stage?

I am always amazed at how people can downgrade the “God bit” of their life and sentence it to a lesser devotion than the other bits; one great example again being time keeping. In every other area of life they are on time: meetings with the dentist, bank manager, work – but why not church? What is that switch that needs to be fixed? Surely the greatest of our devotion belongs to God, right? Surely the place we manifest the greatest personal self devotion should be in His House? Imagine what we could achieve if just this one thing was to change – suddenly no challenge would be too great. Hey we might even see 3000 people get saved on our Sunday morning: 3000 people moved by His message but also moved by a group of people so sold out and devoted to what and who they believed in.

Let’s be a devoted people.

 

 

March 27, 2015

What are Devotions?

devotionals

I thought it would be interesting today to take a step back and look at the genre of writing we do here each day and ask the question, What exactly are devotions?

I know Wikipedia isn’t the place where Christians get their information, but I wanted you to see their definition; I’m not sure they got it right:

Christian devotional literature, also known as devotionals, is religious writing that is neither doctrinal nor theological, but designed for individuals to read for their personal edification and spiritual formation.[1]

The footnote is from The Encylopedia of Christian Literature and reads:

After the Bible, Christian devotional literature has provided the most popular and instructive kind of reading and guidance for believers. Most broadly considered, Christian devotional literature may be thought to encompass any inscribed verbal artifact employed to stimulate the production, sustenance, and direction of the unique interior Christian self, whether solely in relation to the divine or including also service to fellow believers, neighbor, and/or world.

Everybody got that?

Their entry for “Bible study” clears this up (a little):

In Christianity, Bible study is the study of the Bible by ordinary people as a personal religious or spiritual practice. Some denominations may call this devotion or devotional acts; however in other denominations devotion has other meanings. Bible study in this sense is distinct from biblical studies, which is a formal academic discipline.

I like the idea that devotion is a personal activity, and that it’s not about building up academic knowledge. But the first definition implies that it’s not theological in nature, but then what are you left with?  And where does it leave those of us wanting to process at a “201” and not “101” level, and go deeper? Their definition leaves you in an “inspirational” category that can be theologically vacuous. Theology is the study of God, and while that implies (to some) something taking place in a lab, we do want to know God and learn His ways, as part of our daily walk with Him. It’s going to involve, at the very least, an open Bible.

The word devotion is used eleven times in the NIV, the first few always preceded by the adjective wholehearted. That’s a point we don’t want to miss. Our devotion should not be brief, perfunctory or done out obligation, or done with grumbling. It should come from the heart.

2 Kings 20:2 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” …

(That exact verse, word-for-word, is repeated in Isaiah 38:3.)

Two of the uses are in the New Testament.

I Cor 7:35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

The second one is a warning:

2 Cor. 11:3 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

Here we’ve picked up two more adjectives, pure and undivided, which we add to wholehearted.

The word devoted is used even more frequently.

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

You can read all of the uses of devoted here.

On a personal level, when I think in terms of devotion, the verse which comes to mind most frequently is:

Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

The modern devotional readings we do could fall under the “teaching” or the “prayer” category, but either way we see a four-pronged devotion in the early church: Teaching, fellowship, the common meal and prayer. (I know prayer is one area where I’m weak; what about you?)

In our modern world, we sometimes despair when somebody takes a noun and makes a verb out of it, but perhaps here we have an example of someone taking a verb and making a noun. Devotions have become a thing, something printed in a book or on a computer screen, when in fact devotion to God is an action; an action perhaps based on an underlying attitude or approach toward God.

One of my longtime favorite devotional books is a one-year tour through the NCV New Testament called Time With God. But you can read the book and miss the title: God wants us to spend time with him, and he wants to spend time with us.

If you’ve read this far, the title at the top of the page is clearly wrong. The question is not “What are devotions?” but rather “What is devotion to God?” or perhaps “What is my devotion to God?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 18, 2014

Give Me This Mountain

I was enjoying the lyrical depths of a playlist of songs by Graham Kendrick and was particularly drawn to the song Give Me This Mountain (Caleb’s Song). I decided to post it on Thinking Out Loud by itself, but wanted to at least include the scripture reference. The video annotation reads:

A song about a Biblical encounter between Caleb and God. Caleb was called ‘wholehearted’ by God and was allowed to enter the promised land.

I decided to investigate that further, first in scripture,

Numbers 14:24 But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.

and then when I landed on the blog of Harvest Pointe Fellowship in Evans, Georgia. Once there, I knew I had to include it here at C201.  Click the title below — a reference to Caleb’s character before God — to read it at source.

Wholehearted -Joshua 14

Besides God, there are two main characters throughout this stage of our study of Joshua: obviously Joshua is one of them, and the other is Caleb. Caleb is one of the spies who entered the Promised Land the first time– all the other spies gave reports of giants and fortified cities and how it would be impossible to take this land but Caleb (and Joshua) stuns everyone by boldly proclaiming that they should enter the land because God had already given them the victory. No one listened to him and the children of Israel are forced to wander the wilderness once more. We should not be surprised to learn that the name “Caleb” comes from Hebrew and means “wholehearted”. Caleb is a man who lived his entire life with wholehearted devotion to God’s purpose.

…Caleb is one of the unsung heroes of the Bible. He stands as a shining example of one who never lost his edge spiritually. He himself said at age 85, “I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and coming in” (Joshua 14:11 NKJV). This demonstration of courage must have unnerved the other men. They may even have thought him senile.

At this point of our study of Joshua, God’s people have taken much of the long awaited Promised Land and Joshua was dispensing portions of it to the tribes. However, Caleb steps forward to claim that which had been promised him by Moses. In fact, Caleb asks for the land that he had surveyed as much younger man.

In response, Joshua granted his faithful friend Caleb what he asked. He gives Caleb Hebron. The old man proved he had not yet exhausted his courage, when he said:

Now therefore, give me this mountain [the land of Hebron] of which the Lord spoke in that day. . (Joshua 14:10–12 NKJV)

The other men of Israel must have breathed a sigh of relief that Caleb had chosen this portion of land. This was not some beautiful, green pasture; it was one of the most treacherous mountainous areas of the Promised Land. Even more problematic was the fact that formidable adversaries inhabited this land. This was the home of the sons of Anak, the very same giants that terrified the 10 spies sent by Moses. No one wanted to take on the giants except 85-year-old Caleb. Can’t you just envision him holding up that muscular old arm, saying, “Give me this mountain”?

I love the boldness of this man of God. I can just see Caleb running up that mountain. I can see him as he slays his adversaries. He was victorious. He had been strong all those years and he finished well.

Let me share several principles with we learn from Caleb’s life that can give us this same spiritual stamina we need to run and indeed finish in the race of life well.

1. Follow the Lord 100 percent. Scripture says again and again that Caleb “wholly followed the Lord.” It’s in Joshua 14:8–9 and verse 14: Joshua blessed Caleb and gave the old man what he asked because “he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel.”

This is clearly a key to Caleb’s spiritual success. But what does it mean to “wholly follow the Lord”? It means that you must fully follow our Lord not halfheartedly, but completely. One hundred percent.

Are you wholly following the Lord your God? If you are not, you will eventually be picked off. It is only a matter of time until you become a casualty in the race of life.

2. Don’t compromise—stand your ground. At the risk of being ostracized, Caleb took a stand for what he knew was true. He knew he needed to be more concerned with God’s approval than man’s approval. And for this, he was rewarded.

As you walk with the Lord, you will face many temptations to cave in to peer pressure, to do what everybody else does. But if you are going to fully follow the Lord, then, like Caleb, you must make this principle operative in your life. Stand firm and seek God’s pleasure, no one else’s.

3. Take God at His Word. Caleb didn’t win immediate entrance to the Promised Land. First, he had to wander around with those ungrateful, complaining Israelites for 40 years. They said things like “We remember the good old days back in Egypt, where we had garlic, leeks, and onions.”

Despite the Israelites’ childish clinging to conjured memories, Caleb hung on to the promises of God. He knew God would be faithful, regardless of the time frame. Caleb trusted God’s word to him. We can do the same.

4. Long for fellowship with your God. Caleb asked for a place in the Promised Land called Hebron. There is something very interesting about the name Hebron, which—in the original language—means “fellowship, love, and communion.” Hebron is where Abraham met with God face-to-face and received the promise of the new land in the first place.

Caleb yearned for fellowship with God. While the other Israelites longed for Egypt, Caleb longed for Hebron. While the others looked back in dread, Caleb looked forward with fearless anticipation. While others wanted to please themselves, Caleb wanted only to please God.

This is an essential key to spiritual longevity. You must always move forward. You must always seek to grow spiritually and never look back. That’s what will keep you going.

If you are living this Christian life for others’ applause, you won’t make it. You have to run empowered by your love for God.

Questions for thought:

1. Have you ever felt resentful or burdened by something God was calling you to do?
2. One justification for not helping or serving is that feel we need time for ourselves, for our studies, for our work, for our own rest. While easy to understand, what do you think is wrong with this mindset?
3. When was the last time you felt excited and even proud to have the chance to serve? What made that situation so different?
4. What are some practical ways you can begin to see serving God as your privilege rather than your burden?

 

June 28, 2014

Devotion – Part 2

Yesterday we looked at the use of the word devotion itself in the NIV, and today we continue looking at the way the word is used.

Isaiah 38:2-3

Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

In Jeremiah God is saying that it’s easy to lose devotion over time:

Jeremiah 2:2-3

“Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem:

“This is what the Lord says:

“‘I remember the devotion of your youth,
    how as a bride you loved me
and followed me through the wilderness,
    through a land not sown.
Israel was holy to the Lord,
    the firstfruits of his harvest;
all who devoured her were held guilty,
    and disaster overtook them,’”
declares the Lord.

This passage indicates that Israel has lots its devotion to God, and I can’t help but be reminded of the verse in Revelation 2 which speaks of losing your first love:

You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

The Apostle Paul is concerned about the Corinthians losing their devotion through distraction to the things of the world.

1 Corinthians 7:29-36

29 What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

32 I would like you to be free from concern…. 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

He repeats a warning concerning this in his other letter to them.

2 Corinthians 11:2-4

I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.

So as you consider these passages, it should now be very clear that devotion is something we have, not something we do.

Go Deeper: The Dictionary of Bible Themes provides more verses on this subject along with a definition:

Wholehearted commitment to God, to another person or to a task. God’s people are encouraged to show such commitment.

God’s people are to be wholehearted in their devotion to him

Dt 6:5; Ro 12:1 See also Dt 30:1-3; Jdg 5:2; Ps 119:2; Jer 29:13

Examples of devotion to God

Ps 42:1; Php 3:7-8 Caleb and Joshua: Nu 14:6-9; Nu 32:11-12; Jos 14:7-12
2Ki 23:1-3 pp 2Ch 34:29-32 Josiah and his subjects; 2Ch 15:12-15 the people of Judah The psalmists: Ps 27:1-4; Ps 40:7-8; Ps 84:2; Ps 119:57,135-136 Paul: 1Co 2:2; 1Co 9:26-27; 2Co 1:8-10; Php 3:13-14; Col 1:24,28-29

June 27, 2014

Devotion to God

In addition to a number of keywords that will help search engines reach articles here, each day I also include the tag “daily Bible study” or “daily devotions” (or some variants of each). I want to always make sure that people who are looking for this type of content are able to locate it here.

But the word “devotions” (in the plural) appears nowhere in the NIV. We speak of “doing devotions” or “reading a devotional book” but rather than demonstrating our desire to spend time with God, or using the act of reading to signify our love for God, rather, our time spent in the Bible and related readings is in indicator of the devotion to God we already possess.

To put it another way, I am not spending this time studying and reading because it will, in itself, get me closer to God.  Rather, out of gratitude for the grace already experienced, and in a desire to crowd out all other distractions, I take this time as an expression of a devotion that already exists, and as a pledge that it always will exist.

I commit myself to God afresh in this time, and although other thoughts and ideas will crowd in at times, and despite the fact that not every day will mark progress in the Christian life, I give myself to this because to not do so is a denial of the importance and relevance of wanting to continue further on the journey.

So while we don’t see “devotions” in the Bible — at least the word — we do see “devotion” used eleven times in the NIV, many of which are a number of occurences in I Chronicles. Take a few minutes to look at four of the first six of these passages (there are two additional ones in Chronicles) then we’ll look at the other five tomorrow.

2 Kings 20:2-5

Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord.

1 Chronicles 28:8-9

“So now I charge you in the sight of all Israel and of the assembly of the Lord, and in the hearing of our God: Be careful to follow all the commands of the Lord your God, that you may possess this good land and pass it on as an inheritance to your descendants forever.

“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.

1 Chronicles 29:2-4

With all my resources I have provided for the temple of my God—gold for the gold work, silver for the silver, bronze for the bronze, iron for the iron and wood for the wood, as well as onyx for the settings, turquoise,  stones of various colors, and all kinds of fine stone and marble—all of these in large quantities. Besides, in my devotion to the temple of my God I now give my personal treasures of gold and silver for the temple of my God, over and above everything I have provided for this holy temple: three thousand talents of gold (gold of Ophir) and seven thousand talents of refined silver, for the overlaying of the walls of the buildings…

1 Chronicles 29:18-19

18 Lord, the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you. 19 And give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, statutes and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided.”

June 2, 2014

Why Does God Require Our Worship?

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:27 pm
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It’s been a couple of years since we last connected with Jim Greer at the blog, Not for Itching Ears. This post appeared recently there under the title, God Doesn’t Need Our Worship…We Need It.


 

Nothing

Zip

Nada

Zero

Zilch

Nil

That’s how much our worship of God adds to God.  Our “worship” doesn’t enhance Him and our lack of worship doesn’t take anything away from Him.  Put another way, God doesn’t need our worship.  In fact God doesn’t need anything from us:  our money, our time, our dedication, our service.

Theologians refer to this as God’s Independence:

“God does not need us or the rest of creation for anything, yet we and the rest of creation can glorify him and bring him joy.”  Grudem, Systematic Theology.

The New Testament states it this way:

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.  Acts 17:24-25

Is God An Egomaniac?

Think about this:  If God does not need our worship, why does he require that we worship him and him alone?

Is it because he is the ultimate egomaniac?

Is it because he loves to hear the sound of his own name on the lips of his adoring fans?

No.  When we look at God’s acts in history that is not the picture we see.  It must be something else.

We All Worship Something

Humans are pretty predictable.  We are the ultimate evaluators.  We evaluate everything in life and prioritize them according to what we think is best.  For example, I highly value guitars.  But I value my wife and children more.  There is really no comparison; I rank family higher in importance.  What do I value more than family?  Whatever the answer to that questions is, I may value something even more than that.  I can keep going up the ladder of importance until I finally reach that one thing  I esteem more than anything or anyone else.

Whatever that thing or person is, that is what we worship.  We all worship someone or something, even if it is ourselves!

God Doesn’t Need Our Worship…We Need It!

I submit to you that God doesn’t need our worship; we need the worship we offer him.  I think that is why God demands our devotion.  There is no other thing or being more worthy of our ultimate devotion than Him.  It has been said that we become like that which we worship.  God, in his mercy, created us to become like him.  If that is going to happen, then we must actively place him at the top of our Top Ten List of Things I Value The Most.

Looking at worship this way means leads us to conclude that worship, though directed at God, is truly meant to serve humanity.

We are to worship God, not ourselves.

But God demands our worship, NOT for himself but for the good of his people.

At least, that’s the way I see it.

On a side note, that is one of the reasons I am so passionate and often critical about corporate worship.  It has the potential to truly shape us, but we often squander those opportunities because we don’t understand what worship is and why God demands it of us.

 

July 12, 2011

Don’t Squander Sunday Mornings

What you do with your Sunday morning service says a lot about what you think about God.  If you have a neighbor who is interested in pursuing faith matters, the first thing  you might think to say is, “Why don’t you come to our church?” But first you should consider the sub-text that church service might contain.   This is a piece I wrote at TOL back in June of 2008.

This weekend I caught a church service which was being used largely as a promotional vehicle for an upcoming building expansion program. Before I continue, let me say that (a) in and of itself, the service was well done; the testimonies of those who are being helped and ministered to by this church are quite real and genuine; God is at work in this church; and (b) there wasn’t the hard-sell offering at the end to raise money; in fact, the regular offering occurred quite early in the service and no other collection was taken.

Having said all that, I was totally appalled at what took place because (a) there was no scripture reading; very little allusion to scripture other than a projected theme verse; and (b) there was no sermon or even a short, devotional meditation. As good as the testimonies were, and as good as the worship was; this service was totally deficient overall.

There are only 52 Sunday morning services in the course of a year, and for some people, this is there only major spiritual event in the week. I know that doesn’t speak well of how many Christians practice the spiritual disciplines, but we all know the truth: Some people get their only feeding on God’s word once a week.

I also despair for those who might have been visiting in a quest for a church home. They would have found the experience self-indulgent. I did not. I knew most of the people at this church by at least their first or last name. I like those people. I like that church. But this service was just plain wrong.

Much of what we know about God we know from The Ten Commandments. From His point of view, these are The Ten Priorities. One of them is the concept of sabbath. “Give me a day each week;” He asks; we give him 60-90 minutes on Sunday. Another one of His priorities is stated as a kind of sub-clause to the first commandment, “I am a jealous God;” it says. Put the two of them together and you’ve got, “I want you to set aside a day that’s all about Me.” Does that sound sacreligious? No, that’s God.

I have never been a person to function in the prophetic gifts, but I believe that if God were in the parking lot after the service He would say, “Good testimonies, good music, good vision you have for what can be done in this place in the future. But you never opened My Word, and you never fed My People. If you really love Me; feed My sheep.”

I think God’s feelings about that particular hour would be as mixed as my own are as I write this; but in general, I think He would be a little ticked off. I would be afraid that if I were involved in the planning of that service, at some point, way down the road, at the time of judgment, the subject of June 22, 2008 might just come up. I would be afraid of his wrath at squandering a Sunday morning service for the sake of promoting a particular local church agenda.   Yes, squandering.   This isn’t the first time this particular church has done this.   There was flak last time, too.   Three members of my family never returned to that church from that day to this.

Yes, there are great things God can do through the local church. So keep doing those things. Don’t pause to look back, or to commend yourselves on what is being accomplished. Be faithful in serving that one person for whom this is “day one,” this is their “entry point,” this is the “time of beginning.” With the skill and craftsmanship of one who would bring their finest gift to lay before the King, teach and preach the Word with excellence. Each Sunday. Without taking a week off.

It was a great service; yes. And no; they shouldn’t have done it. Because at the end of the day, the church with the most faithful teaching and preaching of God’s Word wins.

~Paul Wilkinson

June 29, 2011

Anyone Out There Totally in Love with God?

Today’s piece is from Jim Thornber, whose blog is actually named “Thinking Out Loud.”  (Great minds think out loud alike.)  Jim’s own story begins, “How does an Assemblies of God minister from Southern California find himself a monk in a Catholic-based community in Eureka Springs, AR?”  You can read that here.  This particular item appeared at his blog under the title I’m Still Calling the Shots in a series titled Scriptures That Bother Me.

You are not your own; you were bought at a price. 1 Cor. 6:19-20.

Every Tuesday morning, I get together at a local coffee shop with a group of men from First Baptist Church. We spend about an hour and a half studying, praying for needs, challenging each other in our relationship with Christ and generally drinking too much coffee. It is one of the highlights of my week.

The other morning as we were studying Crazy Love by Francis Chan, someone asked if we knew anyone who was totally in love with God. You know, a completely sold-out, every fiber of their being doing little more than living, breathing, talking, thinking about and obeying Christ type of person.

We all got silent for a few moments as we racked our brains trying to think of someone we knew who was totally and completely sold out and in love with God. As the silence lingered, I thought it rather humorous that none of us at the meeting thought anyone at the table fit that description. Even the two pastors who were there, yours truly being one of them, weren’t named by anyone else in the group as being totally in love with Christ. Well, that was humbling!

The first person who came to my mind was Mark Buntain, who visited my Bible college in the early 80’s. A missionary to India, Mark founded Calcutta Mercy Ministries, which reaches the poorest in India through schools, a homeless shelter, massive feeding programs, orphanages and a large church. I remember hearing him teach in the chapel at college, and I was struck with his sincerity, complete humility, and absolute dedication to the work Christ called him to.

When he finished speaking, he didn’t come down front and meet the students like most every other every other speaker did, listening to their compliments and signing autographs. Instead, Mark turned around and dropped to his knees at the choir pew and engaged in prayer. That image is still burned in my mind.

I remember watching him walk alone through campus, oblivious to all the students and the beautiful scenery as he talked out loud to God, praying and praising the Lord as walked. He had one thing on his mind as he walked, and it wasn’t how he appeared to the students; it was how he appeared before the Lord God his Savior. And, if you stopped him and engaged him in conversation, he didn’t make you feel like you were interrupting him. However, you knew you were in the presence of one who spent his every waking hour walking with God.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul says, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). If that is true, that we are not our own, then why can I only think of a few people who actually live that way? I know I don’t. Sure, I claim Jesus is my Lord, but too often I live with myself calling the shots. How often have I prayed for guidance in ministry, only to edit where I’ll go based on the geography or size of the church without even consulting God?

This idea that I am not my own, that I was purchased by God through the death and resurrection of Jesus, has been haunting me for a week, if only because I know the price that was paid and how I repay that price by leading my own life at my own convenience.

It is time I seriously consider making God the True Lord of my entire life. Maybe then, the next time someone asks if they know anyone completely and truly in love with and sold out to God, I might just come to someone’s mind.

~Jim Thornber

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