Christianity 201

March 6, 2011

Promise Box Theology

I’ve decided on some benchmarks that I think moving into deeper Christian living should contain:

  • getting away from prayer lists and focusing in on intensive prayer for God to something specific for an individual in a unique situation;
  • getting away from “promise box theology” and reading entire chapters or even 3-4 chapters at a time;
  • getting away from devotionals that begin with quick stories, and instead considering a topic or an idea and thinking about how that would play out in the life story of someone you know;
  • being consciously aware of ways for improvement in terms of manifesting the fruit of the Spirit;
  • being aware of things that are sin even though you didn’t consider them sin a few months earlier;
  • becoming genuinely excited about evangelism both in terms of personal involvement and hearing stories where “it’s working;”
  • finding yourself more deeply part of the picture as you read a New Testament narrative;
  • understanding your own brokenness and the brokenness of others, and how it draws us closer to God;
  • increasingly becoming an agent of grace and being drawn to others who are
  • feeling more and more “at home” with both personal Bible study and spending time in God’s house.

I’ve left many other possibilities out, I’m sure.  Feel free to add to this list in the comments.

January 25, 2011

Only God’s Spirit Can Reveal Truth and Counter Error

I posted this earlier today at Thinking Out Loud, and decided it belongs here as well. Classic Christianity by Bog George remains one of my all-time favorite Christian books. This excerpt is from an early chapter where he talks about separating truth from error.

There’s a big difference between knowing what something says and knowing what it means. Millions of Christians know what the Bible says, but many do not know what it means, because that can only be revealed by the Spirit. Man’s pride rebels against the idea that he cannot understand spiritual truth on his own but this is what the Bible clearly says:

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (I Cor 2:14)

The reason why is very simple, there is no human alive who can read another man’s mind and if we cannot know what another human being is thinking how much less can we ever know what God is thinking? I Cor 2:11 reminds us of this:

For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

How then can God teach us his thoughts? “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God that we may understand what God has freely given us.” (v. 12) Man does not need the enlightening ministry of the Holy Spirit to understand the law; the law was given specifically for the natural man. We need the Holy Spirit to open our minds to the things having to do with the unfathomable riches of His love and grace, those things that “God has freely given us.” Those truths are described in I Cor. 2:9 this way:

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.

In order to understand the things that God wants to teach us regarding His grace we must have a humble, teachable attitude for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) Just as the same sun that melts wax hardens clay, the same message of God’s grace that softens the heart of the humble hardens the proud. The proud cannot receive grace because the proud will not receive grace…

That is why an uneducated but humble person will receive far more genuine and intimate knowledge of God Himself than a highly educated but arrogant theologian…

Bob George, Classic Christianity

October 29, 2010

The Devotional Ministry of Selwyn Hughes

I grew up with the Our Daily Bread devotionals, but many years ago, I discovered the devotional booklets Every Day With Jesus by the late Selwyn Hughes.   The advantage to these books is that you are studying a single subject for 60 days.   Can’t remember what you read earlier this morning?   Maybe a more focused study like this is the answer.

EDWJ is distributed in most countries of the world, but is relatively unknown in the U.S.  Probably this is because there are so many free devotional books in the States, whereas CWR (Crusade for World Revival) in England, the publisher of EDWJ charges for the booklets, and it’s not cheap.  ($5.50 in Canada through bookstores from David C. Cook.)   However, they do publish annual collections under various titles, and you can still find some of the ones Broadman & Holman published in the U.S.

Here are some samples of Hughes’ writing:


Seeing Life Whole

For reading & meditation: 1 Peter 3:13-22
“‘ Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have ‘” (v.15)

As Christians we ought never to forget that the message of the Bible is addressed primarily to the understanding; it enables us to understand life. Because of the Bible, we are able to give a reason for the hope that is within us. The psalmist found the truth of this. In the sanctuary he discovered an explanation for the way that he felt. He was not given a temporary lift that would stay with him for a few hours or a few days – he was given a solution that would stay with him for the rest of his life.

It was this, in fact, that caused him to write the psalm we are focusing upon day by day. The words: “Then I understood their final destiny” (Psa. 73:17) suggest that previously he had not been thinking correctly. He had been seeing things from a partial and incomplete perspective, but now “in the sanctuary” he began to see the whole picture: “Then I understood”. When? Then – when he came into the sanctuary. There is a line in one of Matthew Arnold’s writings that goes like this: “Who saw life steadily, and saw it whole.” What a delightful phrase this is. Nothing can be more wonderful than to see life steadily and to see it whole.

Much of the inner turmoil we go through in life comes about because we do not see life as a whole. Prejudice has been defined as “seeing only what you want to see”. People who are prejudiced say: “I have always seen it that way.” That’s their problem – their eyes are fixed on just one facet of an issue and they will not allow themselves to look at the other sides.

Restoring The Image

For reading & meditation: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28
“May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (v.23)

We continue meditating on the importance of looking at life “steadily and whole”. I venture to suggest that people who are not Christians are unable to see life as a whole. How can they, when their thinking takes place only on the level of the natural? Natural thinking is notoriously partial and incomplete.

Take, for example, the field of medicine. A generation ago doctors treated the symptoms that people presented to them, but now, with a clearer understanding of how the mind affects physical health, they have come to see that this approach was partial. One doctor said: “At long last the medical profession has discovered that the patient himself is important.” Medicine is fast moving towards what is described as a “holistic” approach as more and more doctors begin to realize that it is not enough to treat the problem, we must also treat the person.

They are still far from seeing that there is also a spiritual element in the person that has to be considered, but perhaps in time that will come. Christian counselling suffers from the same problem – it does not see the whole picture. I am tired of reading books on Christian counselling that give just one side of the issue and suggest that problems can be resolved by applying one special technique.

Man was created as a whole person and he will never be helped back to wholeness unless every part of his being is treated – spirit, soul and body. God wants to restore His image in us: not in part of us but in the whole.

No Need for Dead Reckoning

For reading & meditation: Acts 26:1-18
“I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth.” (v.9)

The place where we can see life as a whole is in the sanctuary of God, or, if you prefer, in the presence of God. There we are reminded of things we have forgotten or ignored. See how the Good News Bible translates Acts 26:9: “I myself thought that I should do everything I could against the cause of Jesus of Nazareth.” Here you see the root of Paul’s problem: “I myself thought”. And is not that the underlying cause of many of our problems too? We say, “I myself thought ‘” instead of asking: “What does God think?”

Sometimes sailors will attempt to establish the position of their ships by estimating the distance and direction they have traveled, rather than by astronomical observation. This is called “dead reckoning”. It is sometimes necessary in foul weather but it is fraught with peril. One mariner has said: “Undue trust in the dead reckoning has produced more disastrous shipwrecks of seaworthy ships than all other causes put together.”

There are people who attempt the voyage of life by dead reckoning, but there is no need. God has charted the map for us with loving care in the Scriptures, and our plain duty is to study the chart so that we might become better acquainted with His purposes and His ways. For the better we know the Scriptures, the better we will know God. We cannot ignore the facts of history or science – they help – but if our perspective is not drawn from the Scriptures it will lead us astray. We must not rely on dead reckoning but on divine reckoning.

What the Scripture Says

For reading & meditation: Matthew 22:23-33
“Jesus replied, You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” (v.29)

We spend one more day considering the proposition that apart from a relationship with God and an understanding of the Scriptures, we are unable to see life as a whole. The man or woman who knows and understands the Bible will be acquainted with the facts he or she needs to have in order to come to right and sound conclusions.

So immerse yourself in the Scriptures. Understand that human nature is corrupt and that apart from the grace and power of God men and women are unable to live up to their ideals. Realize that the spiritual is more powerful than the material, and unless the spirit is in control we will be driven by carnal desires. When people say humanity is getting better and that sin and evil are just the “growing pains” of the human race – what are the facts? You get them from the Scriptures and only from the Scriptures. What does the Bible tell us about evil? It says it is part of the human condition and can never be rooted out except through the power and the grace of God.

So study the facts of Scripture. Read them, memorize them, and meditate upon them. When next you feel dispirited because you cannot make sense of something, ask yourself: What are the facts? Dig into the Scriptures and draw your perspective from what the Bible says. The root of many of our emotional problems lies in a lack of clear thinking – clear thinking based on Scripture. Think as God thinks about issues and you will feel as God feels about them. For you are not what you think you are, but what you think you are.

These readings are from the archives for March 1 – 4 this year.  You can link to them through this page, which offers current readings. For the record, I remained a EDWJ subscriber for 18 years.