Christianity 201

August 23, 2021

When Our House is Divided

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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NKJV.Matt.12.22 Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. 23 And all the multitudes were amazed and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”

24 Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”

25 But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. 28 But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.

parallel passage: Mark 3: 20-27

A year ago we introduced you to Willie Riggs who describes himself as an artist, writer, and entrepreneur. This article was written mid-September, 2020 amid the turbulent climate in the United States leading up to the federal election there. Reading between the lines, it’s easy to see that particular pain reflected in his writing. Certainly, the church needs unity more now than ever. Click the header which follows to read this at his blog.

Divided

A House Divided

We’ve all heard the old adage. Most of us know the bible story. When the Pharisees encounter Jesus casting out demons, instead of giving glory to God, they conclude that Jesus’ power to cast out demons must come from Satan himself.

In their thoughts, they accuse Jesus of casting out demons by the prince of demons. Jesus, who always knows our thoughts, responds that every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste, and every house divided against itself will not stand. Satan isn’t casting out his own minions.

A house divided against itself cannot stand. Jesus said it. I don’t doubt it. That’s what worries me.

A Soul Divided

I’m worried because I’ve never seen a house more divided than my own soul. Everywhere I see things out of balance. My thoughts and actions don’t line up. My expressed desires and how I actually spend my day seem to directly oppose each other.

Sometimes the contradictions are easy to spot.

I want to lose weight and get in shape, until it requires actually working out or skipping that third (OK forth) donut. I want more money, until it requires hours updating my resume and actually applying for jobs.

But sometimes the contradictions run deeper.

I know Jesus tells me I have nothing to fear. I know He tells me not to worry. I believe Jesus will take care of my needs, both physical and spiritual. Yet if that is the case, then why do I worry so much?

I believe half the world is heading straight to hell. Yet if that is the case, I’m certainly not doing much about it. Am I some kind of heartless monster?

Jesus is my lord and savior. I believe He is the most important aspect of my life, bar-none. Yet if that is the case, then why do I spend so little time pursuing Him each day?

More than a checklist

When it comes to spending time with God, I am a master of excuses. Don’t get me wrong. I can check off the list as good as anybody. Maybe even better!

Read the bible every day. Check. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read the bible cover to cover.

Pray every day. Check. Every morning starts on my knees, “consecrating the day to the Lord”. That’s the words I use anyway.

I’ve tithed for decades. I’ve fasted thrice a week for months on end. I’ve attended classes, studied devotions, and read the self-help books. Check check check.

It’s all insignificant when you’re not actually pursuing God.

Seeking God

What does pursuing God really look like? For me it’s one of those “I know it when I see it” things. It’s has to do with the heart, mind, and strength. It’s surrender, submission, and sacrifice. It’s obedience to the one I claim to serve. It’s being broken when I sin. Not broken because of fear or the consequences. Broken because I know how stupid, how just plain WRONG sin is. Broken because I know sinning is spitting into the face of love.

I don’t remember from whom, but I heard a story a long time ago that really stuck with me. It was a message about evangelism, and the speaker was making the point that it is not our job to try and keep people from sinning. It is our job to introduce people to Christ.

Trying to tell people to stop sinning, they explained, is like trying to tell a homeless person to stop eating garbage. “Stay out of the garbage!” “Don’t eat from the garbage!” You can reason with them, scream at them, or spend all night guarding the trash cans, but if a homeless person is hungry enough, they will still eat from the garbage. The garbage is all they know. It is how they survive.

What if, on the other hand, you set up a table in the alley overflowing with delicious food? Just loaded the table with everything from turkeys and pies to pizza and pasta. Then you told the homeless person they could eat whatever they wanted for the rest of the day. What if you also promised to set up an identical table the following day and told them they could invite their friends? What if you told them you would set the table up every day and every night for the rest of their lives? How long before word got out? Would you ever have to tell another homeless person to stop eating garbage ever again?

That is why I hate sin. Because deep down I know it is me on my hands and knees digging through the garbage, when ten feet away God is ready to show me His love.

That is what pursuing God looks like most. Love. Nobody has to remind you to spend time with the people you love. Nobody has to force you to get to know the people you love. Nobody checks off a list for the people they love. The actions flow naturally out of a strong desire to connect and an enthusiastic heart.

Still Divided

I say all of that. I know all of that. Yet tomorrow or maybe even later today, I won’t care. I won’t care when the opportunity to sin presents itself. I won’t care when faced with the decision to pursue God or pursue my own interests. I’ll probably do whatever I want, then try to justify it.

Am I a liar? Am I a hypocrite? Am I just confused? I honestly don’t know.

I don’t know why or how to be more successful in these areas. I only know the end result. A house divided cannot stand. Only one side can be victorious in this war. I pray that God upholds me until the right side wins.

October 8, 2020

The Path to Unity (According to Paul)

by Clarke Dixon

This is a time of incredible division. Though we are Canadians, we cannot help but hear all the shouting to the South of us, especially with an election in the near future. America seems to be coming apart at the seams.

As a Christian I can’t talk. Church communities have faced divisive issues from the get-go. In New Testament times it was the eating of meat sacrificed to animals. In our day it is the response to the LGBTQ+ community.

Division is not limited to nations and churches. We are told that divorce rates are at an all time high. It is a time of division, and it looks like it is only going to get worse. How can we break through to unity?

The apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Philippi about unity in his day, which will help us in our day. In fact it will help avoid it in the first place.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

Philippians 2:1-2 (NIV)

In other words, if you are a Christ follower, then be “of one mind.” But how do we do that? Unity is the goal, but what is the path?

We may think that the path to unity is uniformity. We just need to get everyone thinking the exact same things. Before we move forward on that assumption, let us keep reading what Paul has to say, let us follow the path he points us toward:

. . . be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

Philippians 2:2-5 (NRSV)

The path to unity is humility.

Why is humility the path to unity where we might expect uniformity? When uniformity is seen as the path to unity, it is not always the voice that is most correct that wins the day. Often it is the voice that speaks the loudest. Sometimes the voice that is heeded belongs to the one whose arm is the strongest.

That is how things worked in the Roman Empire. Step out of line and you could be crucified. Paul encourages the Christians in Philippi, a colony of Rome, to no longer have the mind of Roman, but instead:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:5-8 (NRSV)

Don’t think like Romans, for whom the cross, as a means of terrible execution, was a symbol of power. Instead think like Jesus, for whom the cross is a means of grace and forgiveness.

Don’t think like Romans, who exploit their position of power in the world, but think like God, who did not take advantage of his own position of power for his own sake, but came to us in Jesus for our sake.

If God was thinking like a Roman and had resorted to brute power to put things right, he would have wiped us all out and started over without us. Instead, God came to us as one of us and experienced the worst of us, for us. We were divided from God, a huge chasm existing between ourselves and God because of sin. We also became divided from each other. Through His humility, God brought has brought unity.

Power is the path to unity in empire thinking. Humility is the path to unity in Kingdom thinking.

Do we think like Romans or like Christ?


Rev. Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Ontario, Canada. The full sermon on which this is based can be seen as part of an “online worship expression” from October 4th.

July 26, 2019

Responding to the Critics

John.18.22 When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.

23 “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?”

This is our eighth time featuring the writing of Shane Idleman, founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, California. Today’s devotional is from Shane’s personal blog, to see the complete, unedited article with references to specific ministries, click the header below to read at source.

When Should We Answer Our Critics?

…While I understand that preachers and pastors cannot always give people an answer—I myself don’t have time to read nor answer all the comments on my media feeds—there are times when we should explain our actions. It may not change the minds of those who are hell-bent on critiquing us, but it may clear up confusion for those in the middle.

As I’ve stated before, I tend to be “safely” conservative when considering the power of the Holy Spirit. I’m open but cautious. I think we have too many prophecies and not enough humility; too much self-centered worship and not enough waiting on God. We need both sound doctrine and the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s possible to be “Bible-taught” but not “Spirit-led”—straight as a gun barrel theologically but just as empty. “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).

I think it’s time for many prominent charismatic leaders to answer their critics to help those in the middle better understand their theology. Avoiding questions isn’t always good. Sincere people raise valid issues deserving of a response, such as lovingly challenging those who say that Jesus was not God while on earth, that all people should be healed, or taking way too much liberty when it comes to exegeting a passage of Scripture.

Folks, it’s time to solidify our positions. If you’ve said confusing things, explain where you’re coming from. Are you open to re-evaluating your theology in light of Scripture? Sadly, most charismatics are not known for their theology; they must change that…

That being said, I do have concerns about the attitude behind some of the judgmental websites, vindictive videos, and Pharisee-blogs. Critics often forget that “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Arrogance and haughtiness are not positive character traits. The way many condemn others is disheartening. It appears that they actually take pleasure in it. Where is the burden for them? Why don’t they weep before they whip? Why don’t they season their words with grace? I’m all for contending for truth, but it must come from a broken heart that’s been humbled by God. Sadly, this is what many are lacking.

How do I know that they are arrogant and condescending? Because they show little desire to really interact with the folks they throw under the bus. They not only enjoy throwing them under the bus, they enjoy driving the bus. Be careful—history has taught us that arrogant critics often fall via a moral failure or some other silent sin.

For the rest of us, here are some points to consider when answering our critics. Answer them . . .

1. When they are genuinely seeking answers. Most of us are not “out to get you.” We simply want answers. Yes, Jesus remained silent at times, but other times He spoke out, clarified, and lovingly fought back. When He was slapped, He didn’t turn the other cheek. He called the person out for his actions (John 18:22–23).

2. When your influence warrants it. If you are influencing others, you need to be careful. There is a stricter judgment for us. Silence is not always the best option. Sometimes it can be a smokescreen for cowardliness or passivity. Again, it’s impossible to answer all our critics, but if a constant theme arises against the ministry the Lord has given us, we need to address it…

3. When the truth of the gospel is at stake. This is a no-brainer. When essential truths are being questioned, we must respond.

4. When a lot of confusion surrounds our ministry. The devil loves confusion and wants us to avoid bringing light and clarity to questions surrounding our beliefs and actions. …When we’re so busy calling everyone else to repentance, we often fail to look in the mirror.

5. When godly counsel encourages us to do so. When it comes to answering your critics, ask other solid believers who will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. We all have friends and family who will confirm our desire to remain silent. Instead, ask those who will look through an unbiased lens.

My heart is for unity in the true body of Christ, but many statements that have been made demand answers. Remaining silent actually gives those caught in the middle pause for concern. For example, I appreciate the heart for revival and healing that some prominent leaders have, but their statements about Catholics and Christians coming together need to be lovingly challenged and clarified, as do some of their doctrinal positions. Moreover, clips are available that show (what appear to be) fake healings by manipulating a person’s foot.

Again, I’m all for genuine healings, but many onlookers need clarification. Leaders, would you consider answering some of your critics so we can better understand where you’re coming from? It’s not sending the right message to the vast majority of us. If so, contact me at Shane Idleman.

True humility recognizes that we are not perfect. We need iron to sharpen iron to ultimately sharpen our theology. We must move out of the ivory tower of the “touch not God’s anointed” superstar mentality, humble ourselves, and be open to constructive criticism. “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1).