Christianity 201

March 11, 2018

Sunday Worship

Oh, that we might know the Lord!
    Let us press on to know him.  – Hosea 6:3 NLT

High Versus Low Thoughts about God: A.W. Tozer

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. … Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech. …

Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, ”What comes into your mind when you think about God?” we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man. Were we able to know exactly what our most influential religious leaders think of God today, we might be able with some precision to foretell where the Church will stand tomorrow. …

A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well. It is to worship what the foundation is to the temple; where it is inadequate or out of plumb the whole structure must sooner or later collapse. I believe there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God….

It is my opinion that the Christian conception of God current in these middle years of the twentieth century is so decadent as to be utterly beneath the dignity of the Most High God and actually to constitute for professed believers something amounting to a moral calamity.

All the problems of heaven and earth, though they were to confront us together and at once, would be nothing compared with the overwhelming problem of God: That He is; what He is like; and what we as moral beings must do about Him….

The idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is – in itself a monstrous sin – and substitutes for the true God one made after its own likeness. Always this God will conform to the image of the one who created it and will be base or pure, cruel or kind, according to the moral state of the mind from which it emerges….

The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him. It begins in the mind and may be present where no overt act of worship has taken place. ‘When they knew God,’wrote Paul, ‘they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.’

Then followed the worship of idols fashioned after the likeness of men and birds and beasts and creeping things. But this series of degrading acts began in the mind. Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.

Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. The long career of Israel demonstrates this clearly enough, and the history of the Church confirms it. So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.

Before the Christian Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, ‘What is God like?’ and goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.

The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him – and of her. In all her prayers and labors this should have first place. We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God which we received from our Hebrew and Christian fathers of generations past. This will prove of greater value to them than anything that art or science can devise.

The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer, Chapter 1


••• The quotation in the first paragraph figures largely into the opening of John Mark Comer’s book God Has A Name.

  • For a 50-minute video teaching of this material, go to this link on our other blog.
  • For a review of the book, go to this link at Thinking Out Loud.
  • For an excerpt from the book, go to this link from here at C201 two weeks ago.

••• For more about A.W. Tozer:

  • A classic A. W. Tozer Devotional; go to this link from C201 in November, 2013.
  • Tozer on the Trinity — Job Descriptions: Who Does What? Go to this link from November, 2014 here at C201
  • For excerpts by Tozer on Christian Leadership which then links you to a series of short excerpts, start at this link from C201 in October, 2013

••• Other Tozer readings here at Christianity 201:

 

March 3, 2017

Devotional for 3/3: The Trinity

Someone pointed out the coincidence (if that applies) that a major motion picture about the Trinity is releasing on 3/3. That got me thinking that perhaps we could look back at this topic as it has been discussed here.

In November of 2014 we began with a quote from Tozer:

Our sincerest effort to grasp the incomprehensible mystery of the Trinity must remain forever futile, and only by deepest reverence can it be saved from actual presumption.
~A.W. Tozer, The Idea of the Holy, chapter 4

and then continued to look at “who does what.”

In the Holy Scriptures the work of creation is attributed to the Father

Gen. 1:1 In the beginning, God created everything: the heavens above and the earth below

to the Son

Col 1:16 It was by Him that everything was created: the heavens, the earth, all things within and upon them, all things seen and unseen, thrones and dominions, spiritual powers and authorities. Every detail was crafted through His design, by His own hands, and for His purposes.

and to the Holy Spirit

Job 26:13     By His breath, the heavens are made beautifully clear;
        by His hand that ancient serpent—even as it attempted escape—is pierced through.

Psalm 104:30 When You send out Your breath, life is created,
    and the face of the earth is made beautiful and is renewed.

The article continues as a scripture medley worth checking out… continue reading here.

In July, 2013 we looked at the idea of “One What and Three Whos” with this item by C. Michael Patton:

I believe in one God (ousia), who exists eternally in three persons (hypostasis) — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit — all of whom are fully God, all of whom are equal.

Spirit of GodSince there is only one God, one member of the Trinity, in his essence, cannot have more power, authority, or dignity than another. They all share in the exact same nature (ousia, ontos, “stuff”). I did not understand this until later in my Christian life. For many years I existed as a functional polytheist (a tritheist, to be technically precise). I believed the three members of the Trinity shared in a similar nature, not the exact same nature. In other words, just like you and I share in the nature of being homo sapiens, so the members of the Trinity are all from the “God species” . . . or something like that. But this is a bad analogy since, though you and I may be the same species, we are different in essence. You are you and I am me. I have my body and you have yours. But in the Trinity, all three persons share in the exact same essence. One in nature; three in person. One what; three whos…

For more on the idea of a hierarchy within the Trinity… continue reading here.

In February of 2011, we offered “The Trinity Collection,” to go-to verses in which all three members of the Godhead are referenced:

Matthew 3: 16, 17 NIV

16As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Matthew 28: 19 NLT

19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

John 15: 26 ESV

[Jesus speaking] 26“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

Acts 2: 33 NIrV

33 Jesus has been given a place of honor at the right hand of God. He has received the Holy Spirit from the Father. This is what God had promised. It is Jesus who has poured out what you now see and hear.

II Cor. 13: 14 The Message

14The amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.

Ephesians 2: 17 – 18 TNIV

17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

I Thess. 1: 2-5a CEV

2We thank God for you and always mention you in our prayers. Each time we pray, 3we tell God our Father about your faith and loving work and about your firm hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4My dear friends, God loves you, and we know he has chosen you to be his people. 5When we told you the good news, it was with the power and assurance that come from the Holy Spirit, and not simply with words…

I Peter 1: 1 – 2 NIV (UK)

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world … 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

Also included in this list is the longer passage at I Cor. 12: 4-13.

That’s pretty much the entire piece… read at source here.

Also in February, 2011, we had a discussion at Thinking Out Loud and noted that

…four of the seven statements in the National Association of Evangelicals Statement of Faith which specifically refer to God, Jesus and Holy Spirit, of which the first is primary for this discussion:

  • We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  • We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory.
  • We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful people, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.
  • We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.

(For Canadian readers, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada Statement of Faith is identical.)

For that article… continue reading here.

Finally, in January of this year, here at C201 we quoted Fred Sanders on Trinitarian Praise:

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the
Holy Ghost! As it was in the beginning, is now,

and ever shall be, world without end.

The glory of God is from everlasting to everlasting, but while the praise of the Trinity will have no end, it had a beginning. There was never a time when God was not glorious as Father, as Son, and as Holy Spirit. But there was a time when that singular glory (singular because, to gloss the Athanasian Creed, there are not three glorious, but one) had not yet disclosed itself so as to invite creatures to its praise. To join in the ancient Christian prayer called the Gloria Patri, directing praise to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is to come into alignment here in the world “as it is now” with triune glory “as it was in the beginning.” All theology ought to be doxology, but Trinitarian theology in particular is essentially a matter of praising God. This doxological response is the praise of a glory (ἔπαινον δόξης, Eph 1:6, 12, 14) that always was, and whose epiphany in time entails its antecedent depth in eternity. Those whom God has blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ are summoned to join that praise: “Blessed be God the Father, who has blessed us in the Beloved and sealed us with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph 1:3–14, condensed).

For more of that article… continue reading here.

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.”

April 5, 2014

When God Is First

Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Regular readers here know I am always using multiple translations, and I like to introduce new wordings from newer ones. But sometimes I wonder if we lose something by changing some classics, even when our word choices are well-informed based on the original Greek or Hebrew.

For example, take

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness… (NIV)

The phrase in question has to do with putting God first, or giving Him first place in our lives.  Modern options include:

  • Set your heart on the kingdom and his goodness… (Phillips)
  • Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. (Message)

Fortunately this isn’t true of all the recent versions:

  • Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously (NLT)
  • Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all these things will be given to you too. (The Voice; I included the full verse so you could catch the addition at the end!)

At his blog, Speaking the Truth in Love, Ken Idleman (yep…he is related*) offers the following:

Ever since I was a sophomore in college I have been giving regular financial offerings to God.  I praise Him for the older Christian Brother who took me aside and taught me this vital discipleship principle… over 4 decades ago now.  I am confident that much of the heart for The Lord and His Church that I have developed through the years has been the result of investing my ‘treasure’ in God’s kingdom as a priority [Matthew 6:21].  I was convicted then that either my kingdom or His would be my primary focus.  I decided it should be His [Matthew 6:33].  When I started taking my giving seriously, I had an income of $35/week.  I started faithfully giving $5 each Lord’s Day as an expression of worship.  Something good began to happen in my head and heart that I trace back to that Spirit-led decision/commitment.

It grieves me that most Christians do not give to God first.  It is more predictable today that a person subtracts their bills from their income to see how much is left over; then determines what can be given to the Lord’s work out of the overflow, without going into debt.  So rather than a ‘first fruits’ offering, it becomes a ‘leftover’ offering.  But, taking our offering off the top, so to speak, is evidence that we acknowledge God’s authority over us.  It is an act of gratitude to God for his goodness and it’s trusting Him to provide the best for us.  Bill Hybels wrote that most of us look at giving like paying another bill; but instead we should look at it as seed we sow.

I want to point out three things:

  1. This isn’t about “tithing” per se, since he was giving one-seventh, or 14%
  2. The principle applies to far more than financial giving, even though he doesn’t say that up front
  3. He has practiced what he’s preaching; he’s not talking beyond his personal sphere of experience.

So what are some of the ways we can put God first in our lives that aren’t related to financial giving to our church and ministry organizations?

  1. I am really trying to discipline my mind to start the day with some kind of prayer; asking God to use my day for His glory. If my thoughts are getting sidetracked, I just quickly get out of bed and do a re-start so I can try the thought focus again.
  2. I am endeavoring to make the devotional website I read each day the first internet page that is opened in my computer.
  3. I am trying to begin my day at work by asking God to use my workplace to reach my community. This isn’t easy. The first thing I have to do when I walk in is shut off the alarm system, and sometimes the message light is flashing on the phone system.
  4. I am trying to be more intentional about the emails I write and things I post on Twitter. That’s hard because I am already a bit of a Bible-nerd, so with a faith quotient that’s already high, I have to separate things that are about Church life or ‘religion’ in general from things that are about Jesus. I have a long way to go on this one.
  5. I am trying to put God’s kingdom agenda in the words I write and the words I speak so that the wisdom I offer is not earthly wisdom, but are filled with truth, hope, and encouragement.

I Chronicles 21:24

But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”

II Samuel 24:24 (parallel passage)

But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

 


* Kyle’s dad, Pastor of Crossroads Christian Church, Newburgh, IN

June 18, 2013

Does God Punish Children for their Parents’ Sin?

Today’s thoughts are from the Questions Answered section of the devotionals at Bible Gateway.  Simply go to Devotionals and then select from a variety of devotional formats. Note that in most categories, a new article is posted only every 4-5 days. This one appeared several weeks ago, but it’s a popular topic.

Numbers 14:18 (NIV)18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’

God punishes people for their own, personal sin. Nowhere in the Bible do righteous believers pay eternally for their parents’ sins. God clearly states that a son who acts righteously, even though he has a sinful father, “will not die for his father’s sin” (Eze 18:14–20). The law states, ”Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin” (Dt 24:16).

This is not to say, however, that nothing is passed on through the family tree. Sinful patterns of behavior are often passed on to family members. For example, an environment of alcoholism, sexual abuse or violence can scar children for life. But the children will answer to God for their own lives, not for those of their parents.

There are instances in the Bible where children experience the tragic consequences of their parents’ sins. For example, David’s affair with Bathsheba resulted in the death of the son from that union (see 2Sa 12:14,18). Today “crack babies” suffer for their mothers’ behavior of using crack cocaine. Until the addictive cycle is broken, generation after generation will be trapped by sin.

The good news of the gospel is that the cycle can be broken through obedience by faith. Hezekiah, the son of the wicked King Ahaz, broke the cycle when he turned to God. So did Josiah, the son of the tyrant Amon. When children break the pattern set by sinful parents, they can receive God’s blessing. The gospel of Jesus Christ offers power to break sin’s grip on families.

I think the verse in Numbers has to be tempered with the reference to Ezekiel given, not to mention a few other iterations of it in Ezekiel.  But I also think that we need to see the second part of this verse in the context of the first part.

This is a verse that exposes the nature of God; this picture of his “abounding in love” is actually a very New Testament image, and this verse is worth presenting to people who say the OT God and the NT God are simply too different to be the same.

But the verses that follow continue Moses appeal to God — and it’s important to note that the key verse in this is Moses speaking — and then God’s reply. Specifically, he is dealing with why the generation present at that time would not see the promised land.

We dealt with the topic of generational curses here last February. (I encourage you to read both that post and the first comment.)  At that time our key verse was different, but the passage also contained the juxtaposition of God’s judgment with his great love:

Exodus 20:5-6 ~ You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

The writer there also noted that at no point does the term ‘curse’ appear in the text.  I think the passage has to be seen as referring to consequences. If you’ve ever watched a science fiction movie that has any reference to time travel, there is always the place where the time traveler has to be careful not to alter anything in the past or it has ripple effects which totally alter the future he or she must return to.

That is how I interpret these passages, however, I do allow that there are circumstances and situations where it does appear that very much un-blessing is passed down through generations. But where sin abounds, grace abounds more; the point at which lives are surrendered to God breaks the curse of sin and guilt.

September 30, 2012

An Open Heart

NIV Actis 16:13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.  [Full chapter]

Jim Williams is a bi-vocational pastor who has lived in the Canadian Maritimes, on the prairies, and currently calls Ontario home.  This appeared at his blog, The Journey under the title Cooperation.

In Acts Chapter 16 we are introduced to Lydia. She was successful, wealthy and influential. She loved God but it is her response to hearing the gospel for the first time that is revealing. Scripture says that when Paul shared the news of Christ that, ‘the Lord opened her heart…’ (verse 14) As a result, Lydia received Christ a became an influential believer in the early church.

Last week I wrote of “Our Most Valuable Asset” as being our heart because from it ‘flow the springs of life.’ To enjoy the blessings of God in our lives we must protect our hearts from evil influences and open our hearts to God’s Word and Work.

We are in a dangerous state if our hearts are closed to Him. A closed heart is unable to respond to what the Lord has to say. We become resistant to Him.

Now, if our hearts are open to Him we able to respond to what the Lord has to say. We become cooperative with Him and enjoy His blessings.

1) An open heart is like fertile soil.

Fertile soil is able to turn planted seed into valuable crops. Infertile soil is useless and seed planted in it is a wasted resource.

Jesus drew an analogy of the heart condition when he spoke of fertile soil.(Mark 4) He said that some hearts are fertile places that take the seed of God’s word and turn it into something of value. Other hearts are either too hard, stony or full of weeds that are unable to produce anything of lasting value.

The real question is whether we have a heart that is fertile or infertile. Many of us would love to say that it is good soil but truthfully some of us would have to admit the opposite. What type of soil represents your heart condition? Hardened, rock infested or filled with life-choking thorns? Is your heart open to the seed of what God has to say?

2) An open heart is like mold-able clay.

In the hands of a master potter good clay can be shaped to become useful, beautiful masterpieces. Workmanship fit for the King.

The right kind of clay in a skilled potter’s hand can be made from mud to a masterpiece.When placed on a potter’s wheel, mouldable earth can become valuable enough to sit in the palaces of royalty.

God once told Jeremiah to go to the potter’s house because He had a lesson to teach him.(Jeremiah 18) He showed him that we are like earth in the hands of the Master Potter. We are but mud in His skillful hands.

The real question is therefore: what condition is our heart in the hand of God? Are we trying to cultivate a soft, mold-able heart for the Master Potter? Is our heart hard and resistant to the shaping of the Lord? God has only good plans for us. Let’s not resist but let’s allow His work in our lives.

Cooperating with God.

Lydia’s heart was opened by God to receive the truth of the gospel Paul shared. Without His grace she would not have been receptive. Scripture does tell us that Lydia loved God and sought after Him. She cooperated and God gave her an open heart.

God is encouraging us to do the same thing: to cooperate with Him and allow Him to work on our heart. After all, He desires the best for us. He is the Great Gardner and the Master Potter. He is able to make infertile soil fertile and useless dirt mold-able.

How do we cooperate with Him?

1) Invite Him.

Simply ask God to open your heart. Life has a way of making us hard-hearted. He longs to be invited into our hearts. Jesus stands at the door of our hearts knocking. He is asking for the invitation to come in. (Revelation 3:20) Why not make that decision? Why not give the invitation? You’ll be glad you did.

2) Slow down!

We often are in too much of a hurry. As Christians we want to mature, grow up and become all that God wants us to be. We want spiritual fruit but we aren’t willing to let it grow. For example, we want patience but we don’t want to wait for.

A farmer can’t rush a good harvest … it takes time … so let God do His work.

A potter can’t rush to make a masterpiece … it takes time … so let God do His work.

Slow down … surrender to the process … listen, learn, grow … have an open heart to Him … it is your most valuable asset.

Questions to ponder:
How important to you is allowing Him to make your heart fertile and mold-able? What kind of steps can you make to cooperate with God today?

~Jim Williams

July 8, 2012

Purity of Speech

Today’s reading is from Rev. Stephen Whyte, a pastor for many years in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.  This devotion appeared in a church newsletter in August, 1980. Stephen is the son of the late H. A. Maxwell Whyte, regarded in Pentecostal and Charismatic circles as a pioneer in deliverance ministry. Stephen took over his father’s church, then known as the United Apostolic Faith Church (later as Dayspring Christian Fellowship) but later moved to the Christian & Missionary Alliance denomination.  I had the privilege of attending UAFC for two years, and in copying this out, I was reminded of the very, very high place of scripture in Stephen’s teachings.

The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.   Luke 6:45 (NASB)

Our tongues will, sooner or later, reveal what is really in our hearts. And without Jesus, our hearts are “desperately wicked and deceitful above all else.” But even with Jesus in our lives, our tongues reveal that there is yet transformation needed in our beings. We should be challenged by the Lord who looks on the heart, and who cannot be hoodwinked, to get our lives in order that we might be truly conformed to the image of His Son.

Jesus never spoke an idle word; yet the Bible declares that we shall give account for such words we utter. The word idle means “unprofitable, hollow, useless,” or by implication, “injurious.” Succinctly, an idle word is a careless word, which because of its worthlessness, had better been left unspoken.

How many of us have not been deeply hurt, and except for the restoration power of Jesus, permanently scarred by such “idle words!” But worse than that, we too often have been the instrument by which such verbal injury has been inflicted. James declared that “the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity.” (James 3:2-12) As we utter such unprofitable words, we are revealing what is really in the depths of our soul. It often requires pressure and anger for these words to be expressed, but they have been hidden in our hearts all the while.

As a people who are being shaped by a loving Father, we must, under the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, take action to purify our hearts in order that our tongues will be pure. Such action requires a setting of the will (a conscious decision), the possible need to seek prayer for release from Satanic bondage, and the disciplining of the mind under the anointing of the Spirit, in order that we lay aside the deeds of the flesh. (Eph 4:31; 1 Pet. 2:1; 3:10; Psa. 34:13)

All of us must continually come before the Lord and cleanse our hearts and minds in order that we “speak not evil of one another.” (James 4:11) As we do so, the rewards of such discipline will be great. Solomon declared that, “whoever keeps his mouth and tongue, keeps his soul from troubles. (Prov 21:23)

It is God’s desire that our tongues be a “fountain of life” (Prov 10:11) and that our speech be “seasoned with grace” (Col. 4:6) in order that we might “know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary. (Isa. 50:4)  We probably cannot fully appreciate the positive effects which words of praise, encouragement, appreciation, comfort and compassion have on a person. But God is exhorting us to see that our very words can bring restoration and life into a situation where death is reigning. (Prov 16:24; 25:11; Eccl. 10:12)

Truly, “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Prov. 18:21)  Let us be sure that with our mouths we are bearers of life and not death. (Col. 3:21 AMP) May our cry, with David be,

“Let the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart be acceptable in the sight, O Lord.” (Psa. 19:14)

~Rev. Stephen Whyte

July 2, 2012

Reading the Psalms of Lament When You’re Having a Good Day

Today’s reading is from Jake Hunt at the blog Wiser Time, where it appeared several months ago under the title, How to read the Psalms when you don’t feel like the psalmist.

About a third of the psalms in the Bible are laments– psalms in which the author lays a complaint before God and asks for his help. If you read Psalms regularly, which is a good idea, you’ll come across lots of heavy content. More than we’re accustomed to expressing in worship, but that’s another post.

A lot of this language can seem foreign to us. I don’t usually feel like all my bones are out of joint. I don’t often flood my bed with tears, and I don’t currently feel like I have more enemies than I can count. But we shouldn’t just read or think on happy things– if we did we’d ignore a lot of the Bible.

Here are a few tips for reading and learning from the psalms when our own situation doesn’t line up with the author’s.

Learn not to put on a happy face.

The psalms are an absolute smackdown of the idea that we have to be happy to worship God, or pretend to be. Every day with Jesus isn’t sweeter than the day before; some days with Jesus are really lousy. Psalm 88 (“darkness is my only companion”) was not written to get the people pepped up, but it was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and it was written for public worship.

God is big enough to handle our lament. He wants us to bring our sorrows to him; he wants us to worship him through tears when that’s all we can do. Reading the psalms will remind us of that.

Think of others.

Even if you’re not feeling so sad you forget to eat your food, chances are someone around you is. Let the language of the psalms help you understand how your grieving friends feel. Let it open your eyes and remind you that there are hurting people in your life who need your words, prayers, and tears to bear them up.

Remember Jesus went through this for you.

Jesus “fulfilled” the psalms, and the rest of Scripture, by taking on himself everything it means to be human, and to be one of God’s people. He knows what it means to feel forsaken by God, because he actually was– so that he could guarantee we never would be.

Every lament we read in the psalms is something that happened to our Savior. He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. Reading Psalms with that in mind should drive us to a greater appreciation of what he’s done for us.

Wait.

I started reading a psalm a day in my first year of seminary, and it’s generally been part of my routine since then. At the time I was 24, and had enjoyed by God’s grace a generally happy life. It was hard to identify with the psalms of lament, or with the idea of longing for heaven: life on earth was pretty great.

Life on earth is still pretty great. But deaths of friends and family, infertility, bouts of depression, the vulnerability (and tiredness!) that comes with kids, watching friends hurt, and seeing more of life in general have meant that at 30 it’s a lot easier to see what David was talking about than it was at 24. And I’m still young, with more joy and more suffering to come.

An older friend told me once, “When I was young it was hard to want heaven. The older I get– yeah, it’s not so hard anymore.”

If you’re in a happy season, thank God for it, and stay in the Word– the happy parts and the heavy parts. The day will come when you’ll need the language of lament, and it’s good to have it in your heart ahead of time.

~Jake Hunt

June 13, 2012

Guardians of Truth

The last twenty-four hours have been rather stressful here, so today I clicked over to Daily Encouragement because I knew that their devotional ministry is reliable.  I think it’s important that certain kinds of blogs, and all churches and small group meetings be consistent.  People need to know they can depend on you to be there.  And Stephen and Brooksyne embody all that: Dependability, reliability and consistency.

Their message on Tuesday was titled “To avoid being pulled into error, keep a firm grip on the truth!” That is certainly needed these days. Because we operate the only Christian bookstore in our county, one local pastor referred to us “gatekeepers.” I hadn’t thought about that aspect of our role until he said that, but I now see what he meant. Certainly every book or CD or DVD had to pass through our filter in order to get stocked in the store. (And a few times that judgment got criticized by people who wanted to nitpick over the inclusion of a title they personally disagreed with!)

Anyway, I encourage you to read what follows, or better yet, click here to read today’s thoughts.

“Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings” (Hebrews 13:9). “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:14,15).

The daily texts describe the volatility of those who fail to grow and mature in Christ and become properly grounded. They become unstable like “infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.” The writer of Hebrews warned, “Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines”.

Today we see a departure from the course of Biblical faith and standards that our forefathers could hardly have imagined. Even in my own lifetime who would have predicted just thirty years ago that something as foundational as the basic constitution of holy marriage between a man and a woman would be a serious issue of departure?

Some of our readers have been forced by biblical conviction to leave their church due to leadership that has deviated from God’s Holy Word. Tragically, some pastors are basing their teaching more on the popularity of opinion polls than the unwavering truths presented by our Creator. I am very wary of “evolving views” based on current opinion polls and the views of popular entertainers and supposedly elite academics.

False teaching is a perpetual danger for God’s people. It was a concern in the New Testament age, all through church history and certainly abounds in our own day

1) I call on my pastor peers to “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2) and “Teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Resist the temptation to preach so you will be loved by the world or following after the fads that flood the church.

2) I call on dedicated followers of Christ to implement the God-ordained means to stability and health in your spiritual lives. Through our unwavering commitment to read God’s Word and through the practice of other spiritual disciplines the character of Christ is developed in us as we are rooted and grounded in Him who is the Head, which results in long-term spiritual stability.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
(click this link for the main site and bookmark it in your computer)

Daily prayer:  Father, Your warnings regarding the deluge of deceitful tactics from the enemy is evidenced all around us – through the media, books, false prophets and even well-meaning but confused individuals. Your Word is the stabilizing and authoritative doctrinal manual for all that we need for life and godliness. Help us to be wise, studied, and vigilant so that we correctly discern good from bad, truth from error.

In Your holy name we pray, Amen

March 22, 2012

Focusing Our God Picture

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. … Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech. …

Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, ”What comes into your mind when you think about God?” we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man. Were we able to know exactly what our most influential religious leaders think of God today, we might be able with some precision to foretell where the Church will stand tomorrow. …

A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well. It is to worship what the foundation is to the temple; where it is inadequate or out of plumb the whole structure must sooner or later collapse. I believe there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God….

It is my opinion that the Christian conception of God current in these middle years of the twentieth century is so decadent as to be utterly beneath the dignity of the Most High God and actually to constitute for professed believers something amounting to a moral calamity.

All the problems of heaven and earth, though they were to confront us together and at once, would be nothing compared with the overwhelming problem of God: That He is; what He is like; and what we as moral beings must do about Him….

The idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is – in itself a monstrous sin – and substitutes for the true God one made after its own likeness. Always this God will conform to the image of the one who created it and will be base or pure, cruel or kind, according to the moral state of the mind from which it emerges….

The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him. It begins in the mind and may be present where no overt act of worship has taken place. ‘When they knew God,’wrote Paul, ‘they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.’

Then followed the worship of idols fashioned after the likeness of men and birds and beasts and creeping things. But this series of degrading acts began in the mind. Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.

Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. The long career of Israel demonstrates this clearly enough, and the history of the Church confirms it. So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.

Before the Christian Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, ‘What is God like?’ and goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.

The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him – and of her. In all her prayers and labors this should have first place. We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God which we received from our Hebrew and Christian fathers of generations past. This will prove of greater value to them than anything that art or science can devise.

The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer, Chapter 1

Source: Crossroad

January 27, 2012

Advice to the Young, and the Young at Heart

“The young are permanently in a state resembling intoxication.”
~Aristotle

After finding a devotional on David Kenney’s blog, I decided to check first and discovered that it’s only been a month since I first introduced his writing here; a little more recent than I would have liked; but if C201 does nothing more than introduce you to the blogging and writing of others, that’s fine with me.  (This one is also part of a series which is linked in the final paragraph of today’s selection.)

He titled this one Advice For Young Men; but it occurred to me that while there are specific Bible passages that address the young in general, we live in a situation today where people in their 40s and 50s (and perhaps beyond) strongly identify with youth culture. Unless we look in the mirror, it’s easy to pretend we’re still 16 or 17 and certainly some people continue to listen to current music, dress younger than their age, and drive their cars with the recklessness that Aristotle describes in the quote above.

So whatever advice the Wisdom books such as Psalms and Proverbs, or the advice of Paul to Titus or Timothy may have to offer the younger men or younger women, it’s probably good reading for all of us, especially if there is some part of us that refuses to grow up; some part of us that leaves us prone to commit the mistakes associated with youth.

Titus 2:6-8 (CEB)

Likewise, encourage the younger men to be sensible  in every way. Offer yourself as a role model of good actions. Show integrity, seriousness,  and a sound message that is above criticism when you teach, so that any opponent will be ashamed because they won’t find anything bad to say about us.

Titus chapter two is Paul’s advocation for teaching sound doctrine, especially in contrast with false teachers. Paul starts this chapter addressing community households and he begins in a hierarchal fashion starting first with old men, then old women, then young men, then slaves….

This particular passage verse 6 and 7, might have also spoken directly to Titus himself, he was probably no more than 35.

The first thing he says to young men is “be sensible in every way.” Great advice, but incredibly hard for a young person to take. These are the years of invincibility, of testing limits and pushing boundaries, and the first thing Paul says is, “be sensible.”

How do you do that? How do you help young men get control of themselves; develop self-mastery, self-control, balance get their faculties and their appetites, their longings and the desires into harness, to develop discernment and judgment?

Aristotle once said, “The young are permanently in a state resembling intoxication.”

Sensibility is taking time to think, it’s self-restraint, it’s slowing down. Paul says, “watch where you step, watch what you say… in every way possible… give it some thought.”

Then Paul says, encourage young men to be an example and a role model to others. And then following in the continuing verse, Paul lists out a few ways the reader can be a role model.

Charles Spurgeon once said: “A man’s life is always more forcible than his speech. When men take stock of him they reckon his deeds as dollars and his words as pennies. If his life and doctrine disagree the mass of onlookers accept his practice and reject his preaching.

In other words, more weight is going to be given in how you present yourself and in how you act.

I knew a young pastor who was great in the pulpit, he was polished and professional, and very dynamic. His only downfall, he didn’t follow through with his actions. He didn’t take his own advice, he didn’t live with honesty and integrity and it cost him his position.

Remember your deeds are dollars and your words are pennies. Paul says be a role model of “good actions” and he says “show” integrity, seriousness and a sound message. How do you show those things? Read Psalm 119

Psalm 119:9 (CEB)

How can young people keep their paths pure? By guarding them according to what you’ve said

There is your answer, if you’re going to be an example in every area of your life then you’ve got to align your actions with the word of God.

So Paul says to be sensible in thought, be an example in conduct and lastly he says to offer a sound message that is above criticism.

So not only are young men to be an example in good works, not only be an example in doctrine, but also be to be an example in sound speech. That’s your conversation, those are the words that come out of your mouth.

You know a “sound message” doesn’t have to be a sermon. In fact, I’m sure it’s not. Your message is the worldview and lifestyle you project when you talk. What does your speach sound like? What words do you say? How do you describe things, talk about women? How do you describe joy and pain? Our words say much about us.

Let your speech minister grace to those who listen. Let it be health giving, life-giving, edifying, and up building. How healthy should it be? Paul says, so that it is beyond reproach. It is unable to be accused; it is unable to be condemned.

So far Paul has given us advice for Old Men, Old Women and Young Men and while of course it is good sound advice, it’s only words on a page (or computer screen) until we transform it into good actions.

~David Kenney

January 21, 2012

God is All This and More

Sometimes the best material in the life of any blog consists in the many early posts when the project was commencing.  Like me, my friend David Fisher had (and still has) a blog Pilgrim Scribblings, and like me he had reached the thousand-post mark and wanted to start a secondary project that would reach deep into peoples’ lives.  Although he no longer posts at The Barnabas Blog, I went looking around some of the first items there today, and found this list of the many names and attributes of God and names and attributes of Christ.  Lists like this are totally superficial until you meditate on them, so take several minutes to work your way slowly through.

He is:

Abba Father………….when we need fathering.
Acceptance……….when we feel unwanted.
Adequacy……………………for our inadequacy.
All-sufficient……………in our hardest situations.
Amen……………when we need Him to be the last Word.
Answer…………………..for our uncertainty and questions.
Author of faith……………..for our unbelief or doubt.
Bread of life………………….for our spiritual hunger.
Bridegroom……when we need companionship and cherishing.
Broken and spilled out for us……….when we’ve been used.
Burden bearer……………….when we are heavy laden.
Before all things……………..when we’re surprised.
Cleansing………….for our defilement and shame.
Closer than a brother…………when we are lonely.
Comforter who wipes away tears……..in our griefs and sorrows.
Defender……………when we are under attack.
Deliverer, liberty………………for our bondage or captivity.
Door………………..when it looks like there’s no way out.
Sure foundation…………when we’re shaking and insecure.
Faithful friend…………….when friends fail us.
Fullness…………………when we’re empty.
God of details………………when we’re frustrated.
God of love……………..when we feel unloved and need a hug.
God who is there………………when we feel alone or abandoned.
Guide and way………………when we’re confused and need direction.
Grace……………….when we’re too hard on ourselves or others.
Healer…………for woundedness, rejection, physical sickness.
Hope……….when we are discouraged and want to quit.
Humility…………………for our pride.
Joy…………………………when we are depressed.
Keeper and Protector…………..when we are vulnerable.
Lifter of our head………….when we feel oppressed.
Long-suffering, slow to anger……..when we have blown it again.
Mercy……………………….for criticism and unkindness.
Mighty God, our strength…………..for our weakness or temptation.
Never-failing, the same……………when we are fickle and faithless.
Overcoming victory……………….for defeat and depression.
Prince of Peace……….when we are stressed, worried, and confused.
Provider………………………….for every financial need.
Quieter of the storm……………for struggles without and within.
Reconciliation………………..for breaches in relationships.
Rest……………………when we’re tired and can’t go on.
Restorer of our soul…………when we’re bruised an beaten down.
Reviver, living water………..when we are depleted, barren, thirsty.
Satisfaction………………….when we’ve tried everything.
Song, praise……………….when we’re joyless and heavy of heart.
Spirit of the Lord………………when we need to be set free.
Strong……………………….when we’re weak.
Trinity, unity…………………for mending separation.
Truth…………………in spite of what the world says.
True riches…………….when we covet the world’s wealth.
Vindicator……………….when we have been wronged.
Way-maker……………when a solution seems impossible.
Wisdom……………………….for our hard choices.

* The “I AM” list is taken from Prayer Portions Sampler for the Family by Sylvia Gunter .

“He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” – Romans 8:32 (ESV)

January 12, 2012

Strength of Character

Anyone who can’t find Biblical encouragement and devotional material online isn’t looking very well!  Today we dropped by the devotional site of Campus Crusade For Christ International…

Be Strong in Character

“Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete” (James 1:2-4).

A friend of mine had been very successful in business, but after he became a Christian everything seemed to go wrong. Problem after problem seemed to plague him. Yet he never seemed to be discouraged or defeated.

As we counseled together, he assured me that there was no unconfessed sin in his life. So I rejoiced with him that God was preparing him for a very important responsibility in His kingdom. That is exactly what happened. He is now the director of a very fruitful ministry for our Lord. The problems and testing served to help equip him to be a better ambassador for Christ.

If you are experiencing difficulties in your life – physical illness, loss of loved ones, financial adversity – remember the above admonition from God’s Word. Be happy, knowing that God will work in your life to accomplish His holy purpose.

You can decide how you will respond to problems and temptations – you can either become critical and cynical, or as an act of the will, by faith, you can choose to believe that our sovereign, loving God is allowing this to happen in your life for your own good and for His glory.

Even the hairs of your head are numbered. “His eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9, KJV). He is tender, loving and compassionate, concerned about your every need.


Bible Reading:

James 1:5-12

New International Version (NIV)

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

 9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

 12Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

 


 

Today’s Action Point: When difficulties and temptations enter into my life I will – as an act of the will, by faith in God’s faithfulness to His promises – rejoice and be glad, knowing that He is always with me and will never forsake me. As I trust Him and obey Him, he will supernaturally turn tragedy to triumph, and He will change heartache and sorrow to joy and rejoicing. I will trust Him in the darkest night of circumstances.

 

…and found not one, but two devotional readings to share with you…

Nothing You Cannot Do

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”(Philippians 4:13, NLT).

What would you give for the power to live a truly holy, fruitful life? Strangely enough, it is yours for the asking. If your problem is timidity in witnessing, God promises to help you share your faith with others: “For the Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong, and to love them and enjoy being with them” (2 Timothy 1:7).

If it is victory over temptation, He reminds us that temptation is not a sin; it is only in the yielding that it becomes sin.

If you need victory in your thought-life, He promises to allow no tempting or testing above that you are able to bear – and that certainly includes your thought-life (1 Corinthians 10:13). You are invited to “cast all your anxiety upon the Lord, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

If it is forgiveness you seek, He offers it freely. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, KJV).

In short, you have no burden, no problem, no need that is too big for our Lord to handle. “Ye receive not, because ye ask not,” He reminds us.

If your need is for physical healing, know that He is able to heal you if it is His will. If His answer to your prayer is no, thank Him for the sure knowledge that His grace is sufficient in the midst of pain and suffering. Acknowledge His sovereign right to be God in your life, whatever the cost may be. “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him to help you do it and He will” (Psalm 37:5).


Bible Reading:

Philippians 4:6-12

New International Version (NIV)

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Thanks for Their Gifts

 10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.


Today’s Action Point: I will begin this day – and every day – by committing everything I do to the Lord and expecting Him to help me. I will remember that I can do everything God asks me to do with the help of Christ, who gives me the strength and power (Philippians 4:13).

December 14, 2011

Praying for Difficult People

Back in June, I introduced you to the ministry of George Hartwell, and since I spent several hours recently going over some of George’s newer material, it seemed fitting that today’s C201 post be something by him.  The quotation is from the website, HealMyLife.com. George is a Christian counselor in Toronto, Canada.

A Multi-Purpose Prayer of Release

“Put it on the Altar” is versatile: a prayer of release, a prayer of commitment, and an act of worship. It is a prayerful way to release stress. Any work can be put on the altar: the week’s work, a life’s work, one’s ministry, and one’s investment in a person. By doing so you are making it clear that this work has been done “as unto the Lord.” Putting one’s work on the altar frees one from concern of what people think and concern about the results of your effort. So it clears your heart from the fear of man and your mind from lingering on the project.

I know that for many of you, it may take a re-reading of the quotation to see how it fits with the headline I gave this post. Many times the difficult people in our lives are very much in opposition to something we have done or something we principle or value we espouse.  But at the end of the day, there is very little that we can do to instantly change things.

A prayer of release of this type may be the only thing to free us from the feelings that are stirred when that person crosses our path or their name is mentioned. The person who has placed the situation on the altar will not only have greater peace, chances are they will live longer, also.

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