Christianity 201

February 14, 2017

Saying “I Love You”

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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I’m hoping I will tell my wife I love her several times today. It’s not only Valentine’s Day, but it’s also our anniversary, and a special one at that.

Words like “I Love You” that can make a difference.

Last year we introduced a new (to us) author, Robin Patchen who lives in Edmond, Oklahoma and is the author of three books and blogs at Quid Pro Quills. The site actually features six different writers, and today we’re featuring another one, . As usual, click the title below and encourage these authors by reading their works at the original site.

Words

What are the last words you spoke to the last person with whom you spoke?

To be fair, I’ll share mine: “I love you, too.”

But if you’d heard my words yesterday, they would’ve sounded less beautiful. More… ungrateful. Untrusting. Unkind.

Words have the ability to encourage or the ability to destroy. When you add emotions, exhaustion, and ego to the mix, communication can be a minefield. The paradox? We frequently mete our harshest words to the individuals we love the most.

Why is that? Don’t you hate it? I do. I want to be a better listener. A better problem-solver. I want to end a conversation with someone knowing that I’ve affirmed him. In times of disagreement, my desire is that when the conversation is over, the problem has truly been resolved instead of postponed. I want to stop falling into the same speech traps that constantly leave me disappointed and defensive.

The gift of speech is one of the greatest gifts I’ve been given, but I’m so inept at utilizing the spoken word. That’s why the Proverbs wield power. These wise sayings help me to love God and my neighbor.

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18

“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” Proverbs 12:25

“He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.” Proverbs 13:3

“It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.” Proverbs 20:3

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25:11

Sometimes the best use of the tongue is to keep it sealed behind our lips. Silence is a powerful form of communication. The best Communicator who ever lived, Jesus Christ, chose to remain silent even when He was unjustly accused and on the way to His crucifixion. I would’ve been screaming. But He was silent. He knew He was right. Therefore, He had nothing else to say. His final action of love was all that was necessary.

It’s tough to control our words. We should think before we speak, and if we do have to say difficult words, they must be spoken in love. One of the scriptures most difficult to apply is this: “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.”

Father, give me wisdom. Use my speech to glorify You and encourage others. Make my words agents of Your healing.


Check out these related C201 articles:

December 10, 2016

Your Smell – Part Two

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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I subscribe to the morning devotional Breakfast of Champions by Andy Elmes, which originates from the UK ministry Great Big Life. He recently did a series of four posts, two titled “What Do You Smell Like?” and two titled “Your Smell Affects Others.” The following is an edited version of the second two.

Your smell affects others

2 Corinthians 2:14-16, NIV
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?

The fragrance that comes from your life affects three people, according to Corinthians. Let’s look at the first of these three this morning.

First of all, God smells you
“We are to God the aroma of Christ”. How awesome is that – when God leans over and sniffs us living our everyday lives, He smells the incredible fragrance of the beauty and righteousness of His Son, Jesus. You may say, “But you do not know what I did this week”. My response is that you need to know that, according to God’s word, your life is hidden (positioned in) Christ and when God smells you, He smells the fragrance of Jesus and of His finished perfect work of redemption.

A great comparison is found in Genesis 27:27, in the account of when Isaac blesses his son Jacob instead of Esau. Isaac was blind by this time, and knew His sons by touch and their distinctive smells. Jacob, acting on the plan of His mother, wore the smell of His brother to get his father’s blessing, and it was because of that smell that Isaac was convinced he was with Esau, not Jacob, and blessed him. (Read the account. It is a good read.)

Genesis 27:27, NKJV
And he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his clothing, and blessed him and said: “Surely, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the LORD has blessed”.

The smell that is upon your life is the smell of the Son He loves and the field (life of His Son) that He has blessed. How awesome is that! When you approach God you smell like Jesus. Also, you need to know that, unlike Jacob, this is not a con but rather an intention of God, because it is He who positioned you in Christ. Don’t feel like a fraud, like Jacob did, because you’re not. Your scent is the result of His intent and it is He that coated you in the Son of His delight.

Because of this you can again today approach the Father, knowing that His approval of you is established in Jesus. You can, as it invites us in Hebrews, “approach Him with boldness of faith.”

Know that the Lord your God loves the smell of you…

…Two groups of people are mentioned in the above verses, and two distinctive smells. If we let them follow their natural order I think we may be able to see that God intended both smells to exist and play their part.

Those who are being saved
Corinthians says that we are the smell of death among this group. Death? One way of looking at it could be that our lives should smell of the death we have experienced in Christ. When people (church folk) get to experience our aroma they should smell the scent of the death we have died in Christ on us. It is that divine death that separated us from everything we used to be and so liberating and enabling us to be the brand new creations we now are. They should smell the death of such things as selfishness, pride and other scents that were once common to us and also that there is a new creation smell to us now.

• Those who are perishing
Our aroma among the unsaved should be one of extreme life. When unsaved people get a whiff of us they should be overwhelmed by the scent of resurrection and new life that comes from every pore of who we are. Remember that through new birth (death, burial and resurrection) we have been made alive together with Him and so our lives should smell of life, not like the musty corridors of religion. Let’s face it, the smell of life is so much better than the smell of death. Life is more likely to attract followers than that of death. What would you follow?

As we move forward to possess our day let us be conscious of the aroma our life is giving out to the world God has called us to change.

December 9, 2016

Your Smell – Part One

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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I subscribe to the morning devotional Breakfast of Champions by Andy Elmes, which originates from the UK ministry Great Big Life. He recently did a series of four posts, two titled “What Do You Smell Like?” and two more titled “Your Smell Affects Others.” The following is an edited version of the first two.

What do you smell like?

2 Corinthians 2:14-16, NIV
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?

A better way of saying ‘smell’ would be to use the word ‘fragrance’, or ‘aroma’. Paul’s challenge to us is this: What aroma or fragrance is coming from our lives as we live them out daily?

God’s plan was that our lives would “spread everywhere the fragrance of Him”. Is that what your life smells like today? When people get a whiff of your life do they smell the scent of grace, and the aroma of someone who knows Jesus?

This is a good challenge for each of us to consider and, as with many things, there is a natural and a spiritual reality to smells and people. We can compare them both to make a point.

All of us have experienced, or been exposed to, at one time or another, a person passing us with a nice scent – maybe an expensive perfume or after shave. It’s also very likely you have experienced the smell of someone passing near to you with bad BO (body odor). Have you ever sat in the same room or enclosed place with someone who removes their shoes and they have really unpleasantly cheesy-smelling feet? Yep, we have all experienced both.

Naturally, our lives can release a smell or a fragrance that is either pleasing or not-so-pleasing to the senses of others, and spiritually this is a reality too. What does your Christianity smell of today. Smells are very interesting things. They can attract people or repel them depending on what type of smell they are. When people encounter you do they smell the sweet perfume of knowing Jesus or the odor of religion, with all its various scents of law and legalism – or worse, the pungent stench of hypocrisy?

We shouldn’t have to struggle to daily release the sweet scent of Christ from our lives, but simply remember that it is the natural reaction of His life resident within us.

Again, look at the natural body as an example. The reality is that whatever is in you, or put into you, can play a large part concerning the odor that comes from you. One of the times that I took Gina out to eat, I ate a very large chunk of garlic without realizing it was raw. By the end of the night it was manifesting its odor nicely from every pore in my skin and, by the next morning, had contaminated every inch of who I was – especially to my family who sadly had to experience my breath.

The fragrance of your life should be Christ-like in its scent simply because of two things:

• Jesus now lives in you. You are not a hotel He visits but rather His home (place of residence). He does not pop in and pop out when He feels like it but never leaves according to His promise. Christ in you is the hope of Glory but also so the source of the pleasing fragrance that comes from your life.

• You realize and accept that your life is now His home and, as you do, you daily yield and submit everything you are to Him. The fragrance of His life comes from every part or through every pore of who you are.

Also, while we talk about the principle of “what goes in affects what comes out”, it is important that you be daily feeding your life the stuff that you want your life to be smelling of. For example, if you keep feeding your life the law of Moses then it will be the law of Moses that you smell of. Feed your life daily the truth and grace that comes through Jesus and you will love the way your life starts smelling, and so will others.

Bless you and consider again the One who has now become the very contents of your life. Let His life flow out of you again today.

May our lives today release wherever we go that sweet aroma of Christ in us. May that smell attract people to follow Him.

Be smelly, in the right way!

 

March 1, 2016

We Are The Broken

Today’s post is by Iris, one of the writers at a multi-author website we have visited before, Laced With Grace. Click the title below to read at source, and then look around at other articles. (I had a hard time choosing!)

We Are All Broken

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:7-12

…It is our human nature that we want to be accepted by others. And if we are honest with ourselves, we strive for that daily. We want to be part of the ‘in-crowd’; yes even followers of The Way are not immune to that.. We want others to hear our voice.

But here is just the thing: we cannot please everyone around us, and especially not on social media. Remember when you were in school (the upper grades)? Although I did not go to school in America, there are always clicks [cliques] (in-crowds) no matter where you attend school. We strive to be part of that.

Over the years I have heard over-and-over…’you don’t amount to much’…’you don’t have what it takes to become popular’…

This morning as I was driving to work, I heard the song “Everything Comes Alive” by We Are Messengers. When you watch the song on YouTube, the singer has a testimony at the beginning and at the end. I encourage you to check it out when you have time.

You see, we are all broken. Some more than others. I know that I am broken, but my hope is not in what others think of me/my work or if others want me to part of their in-crowd. But God, in His mercy and grace, uses our brokenness to point to Him. We just need to be open to that and let Him use us for His Glory.

Lord of mercy and grace. We are all broken. Help us to recognize our brokenness and help us to be open to be used by You for Your glory. In the precious name of Jesus. Amen

Related:

*Some of the same material appeared in an expanded chart form in August 2013 – The Proud vs. The Broken

February 27, 2016

Scripture Provides a Model of Being an Encourager

NLT Phil 1:4 Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now...

So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News.

Today we pay a return visit to the blog, Counseling One Another by author and pastor Paul Tautges. Click the title to read at source, and if you have time, at least do a quick overview of another resource by him which is linked at the bottom of today’s reading.

Write a Letter of Affirmation & Encouragement

It is difficult to exaggerate the value of an encouraging letter, a letter which affirms the value of a person made in the image of God, and which affirms the work of God in others. In his excellent book, Practicing Affirmation, Sam Crabtree writes:

Even with the Bible’s emphasis on humble self-denial and its warnings against pride, the Bible praises people—to the glory of God, ultimately. The chief end of God is not to glorify man, as humanistic thought would have it; the chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever. Meanwhile, the praising of people does not necessarily preclude the praising of God, if the people are commended ultimately for his glory. God is glorified in us when we affirm the work he has done and is doing in others.

As Christians, we are too often light on commendation, and heavy on criticism. We sometimes have the strange idea that if we praise a person for their work, character, and love then they will become proud. And we somehow think that it’s not God’s job to keep a person humble—it’s ours. So we tend to be light on praise and heavy on criticism, light on commendation and heavy on complaining.

But the apostle Paul did not think that way. Instead, his mind’s eye looked for that which was praiseworthy in people. Now, mind you, he was also not afraid to give rebuke when it was necessary. But his habit was to look for evidence of grace in the lives of others, and praise them for it.

For example, just in this little letter called Philippians, we find the apostle commending the recipients no less than seven times. Paul praised them for:

  • Their partnership in the gospel (1:5)
  • God’s saving and sanctifying work in them (1:6)
  • That they were partakers of grace in his imprisonment, in contrast to those who forsook him, or those who were enemies of Christ (1:7)
  • Their love and prayers (1:19)
  • Their progress and joy in the faith (1:25)
  • Their kindness in meeting his $ needs, and supporting the work of the gospel. Their gift, he said, was a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice to God (4:15-20)
  • The spiritual fruit that was increasing to their account because of their love and generosity (4:17)

This is a cheerful letter of encouragement.

How about you? Are you heavy on criticism and light on praise? Instead of looking for evidences of God’s grace in the lives of your fellow believers, do you more quickly look for their flaws? Do you write letters of encouragement that build others up, or are you more prone to write angry, caustic emails?

As Paul began his letter to the Philippians, he began with words of affirmation and encouragement, and he greeted them with grace and peace. The order is significant: grace precedes peace, true peace only comes to those who experience grace. We need to remember, too, that Paul’s continued prayer means the supply of God’s grace and peace has not run out. There is still plenty there for you, and for me. And there is plenty to pass on to others.

So, here’s your homework (Yes, this blog post contains homework!). This weekend, write at least one letter of encouragement to a brother or sister who has been a blessing to your life. Note the evidence of God’s grace that you see in their lives. Tell them you are thankful to God for them and how God has used them to enrich your life, model Jesus, and help you to grow spiritually. Extend to them the grace that God has so richly extended to you. And then pray…ask God to make you the kind of believer who is heavy on praise and light on criticism or complaining.

[These thoughts are from last Sunday’s sermon, A Letter of Encouragment.]


There was another article by Paul on the same website that I wanted to include, but the format was quite different. Still, if you’re willing to copy and paste the references into a Bible program online, this would make an excellent study. Check out 14 Trinitarian Works… Revisited. (We might use this in the future as a scripture medley!)

August 16, 2015

Lord, I Can’t Do This; Please Get Somebody Else

A few days ago we looked at how Moses was reluctant to be God’s chosen mouthpiece and his reasons why God should get someone else. Our particular focus there was the public speaking aspect of the job God was calling Moses to do.

But sometimes it’s not public speaking, we have other reasons why we just wish God would choose someone else. (After writing this, I realized there’s also a tie-in to our devotional from two days ago; that often we just wish we could be somewhere else.)

I never really thought of this verse in this context until a sermon I heard this morning, but certainly God understands when we are struck by our limitations:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses – Hebrews 4:15a

and an earlier verse in the same book:

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity – Hebrews 2:14

In Christ we have a role model, who as he took on a mission that, in his humanity, as Calvary loomed large, caused him to ask if there were not a better way or a different way. It’s like he was almost saying, ‘Maybe someone else can take over at this point.’ Okay, I know that’s not the way it works, but you do get a sense of the anguish that Christ as feeling at that time.

But sometimes we hesitate to enter into the mission God has for us because of condemnation. This is a difficult subject to address because sin needs to be dealt with before a person is fit for public ministry (which might include everything from teaching a class to helping at the soup kitchen.) But sometimes the condemnation is simply an attack of the enemy.

I John 3:20 states,

If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

From the Forerunner Commentary at BibleStudyTools.org:

When we commit the occasional sin, are we no longer acceptable to God? Is our fellowship truly cut off? While it is true that sin separates us from Him, do we remain unsatisfied because we feel there is no communion? Once again, God’s grace rescues us from what would otherwise be an impossible situation.

The answer to this confounding situation lies in a change of our natures arising from repentance, receipt of God’s Holy Spirit, and—perhaps above all—access to God through Jesus Christ. Through these come fellowship and experience with Them throughout the remainder of life and access to God’s merciful grace when we fall short. There can be no doubt we are saved by grace through faith. Our depression and extreme self-condemnation reveals a lack of faith in God’s willingness to forgive upon repentance. Though works are required of us, we cannot earn our way into the Kingdom through them because they will forever fall short in providing payment for sin.

As mentioned earlier, there is a tension between the two extremes of excessive guilt and feelings of worthlessness in contrast to the casual, careless, irresponsible, “God will just have to take me as I am” disregard of our responsibility to glorify God in all we think, say, and do.

This is why John says, “God is greater than our heart.” He is ever willing to accept us as Christ—even though we personally bring Him blemished offerings in our life’s experiences—as long as our attitude has not turned to trampling the sacrifice of His Son underfoot and treating it as a common thing.

We will never enter into God’s acceptance and fellowship based on any work of offering we sacrifice to Him. The only thing He will accept is the unblemished offering of Christ’s life, and because it accompanies or precedes us into His presence, we are accepted, have communion with Him, and are fed.

[read more at Bible Study Tools]

Ephesians 3:12 states:

 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

If we find ourselves in a battle, Ephesians 6:13b reminds us:

…[W]hen you have done everything you could, you will be able to stand firm. (ISV)

Our local congregations are in need of people who are able to give their time in ministry service, but many are afraid to step up because of what the commentary above calls excessive guilt; however, our texts today I hope help us see that this may just be another tactic of the enemy to get us to quit.

Don’t get discouraged and don’t get overcome by feelings of inadequacy.

 

 

 

 

 

February 24, 2014

The Hope of Healing for the Broken

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:11 pm
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Today’s C201 takes a different course. It’s a snapshot of some personal correspondence that I wrestled with five years ago. While it’s one thing to write and format something here each day, it’s a whole other matter to engage one-on-one with someone, and frankly if that’s what you do online, I think it’s a more noble calling than having a high traffic blog. I’ll let the rest explain itself:

Depending on where you stand on the cessationist or dispensational continuum, you may or may not believe that supernatural healing is still available. Personally, I believe that God is predisposed to healing, but may withhold it if there are greater lessons he has for us. I don’t believe that stops us from asking. In fact, I believe God is constantly saying, “Ask me.”

When it comes to inner healing, we often place it into a separate category. There are people reading this who are asking God for a physical healing that perhaps has been at the top of their prayer list for some time. But there may also be some people reading this who are asking God for victory over some sinful habit or lifestyle and in a way very similar to those seeking physical healing are wondering why this prayer request remains unanswered. To them the question is, “I keep praying and asking God to take away these sinful desires, but day after day they are still there.”

I am not completely lacking in understanding on this — my certificate of sainthood is not yet in the mail — but as I navigate through the blogosphere each week, I try to offer encouragement where I can. (Update: I now have about 500 or more bookmarked in my computer and read many of them each fortnight.)

Part of that encouragement is to follow up and see where people are at a week or two later; I don’t think you should just drop your little kernels of truth and then take off.

So I was a little disappointed to discover that one blogger who seemed to be wrestling with the question of inner healing had taken his blog offline.

Trying to keep things concise, this is what I had written to him:

Some sins can be habitual or even addictive behaviors, but for the most part I think our sin is the result of our choice.

As long as we are in the world, we will have temptation. Paul wrestled with the idea of wanting to do right and finding himself back doing wrong until finally he cries out, “Who will save me from this body of death?” (see Romans 7: 15-25)

I like your concept of exploring this with a parallel look at the subject of healing. We often speak of this as “inner healing,” or “healing of the mind.” Of course, we can’t expect God to rid of us all evil desires in the way he might rid of us disease, or the effects of injury.

Instead, the Bible gives us another concept to consider: Holiness. While the righteousness of Christ is “imputed” to us at salvation; and while we are encouraged to pray “lead us not into temptation;” holiness is going to require a greater effort on our part.

So if, as I started, sin is a result of choice; holiness is going involve making different choices. For God’s part, then what needs to happen is a work of “cleansing.”

Then, the questions would be:
(1) Is miraculous, supernatural cleansing still available? and,
(2) Why do some Christians experience a dramatic before-versus-after cleansing, entering into more holy living; while others continue to grapple with sin?

I think the answer to (1) is yes; God can intervene and take away desires, or send circumstances so that those desires diminish. The answer to (2) is more complex, though some elderly, “holy” people will admit they still struggle with wrong thoughts and desires.

If I had it to write over again, I would have added this: Part of what transacted on the cross was that we were freed from sin having power over us. I no longer have to serve sin. Christ has freed us from the power of sin. Yet still, I may choose to sin.

And one thing I’m learning is that the more I know of Christ and of Biblical teaching, the more that choice to sin is an informed choice. In other words, I am increasingly more responsible for my choices than a blogger in his teens or twenties who may be wrestling with parallel issues.

So how would you answer the two above questions? Which is the bigger request, to ask God to heal someone’s thought life, desires or impulses; or ask God to heal someone of disease? 

Update: Feb. 2014 — While watching an episode of the children’s video series What’s in the Bible, I was reminded that God frees us from the stain of sin, the power of sin and the effects of the presence of sin in the world. Each of these is however, a different focus.

June 12, 2013

Even the Obscure Bible Characters Have Significance

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:39 pm
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We’ve talked before here about the Bible’s affirmation of itself that all its words are inspired and beneficial. Most readers here would not question that principle, but do we really believe that all parts of the Bible benefit us, or are some just trifling details, conjunctions getting us to the next part of the story?

Yesterday at Daily Encouragement, Steven and Brooksyne Weber looked at an obscure Bible character who is mentioned only once, in a passage that most of us would hurry past.  Yet look at all he derived from from this one reference in the Bible study below. You’re also encouraged to read this at source — with pictures! — where it appeared under the title, Onesiphorus.

“The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains; but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me—the Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord on that day—and you know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus” (2 Timothy 1:16-18).

Typically I (Stephen) prepare these messages first and then Brooksyne sharpens them up by adding content and editing. Last night I told her I was going to write about Onesiphorus but she didn’t know what I meant. Even though she is an avid Bible student it is certainly not one of the usual words in the Bible. She thought it sounded like the botanical name of a flower, osteospermum, and then she guessed it was a color before I told her it was a Bible name. The light came on as Brooksyne recalled where she had seen the  name. It’s also easy to confuse Onesiphorus with Onesimus, two names found in the Bible that I have never heard used as a proper name since then.

Onesiphorus is referenced only here in 2 Timothy yet this brief passage highly commends him, and speaks of his blessing to Paul and to others in Ephesus. When reading the Bible we tend to gloss over these brief passages wondering what relevance they may have for us. In view of that observation I see that I have never written about Onesiphorus so I reckon it’s about time.  (I’ve kept a log of these messages since 1996!)

We learn from Biblical examples, both positive and negative, such as the negative reference made in the verse prior to this concerning two otherwise unknown men: “You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes” (1 Timothy 1:15).

In this reference and the only other reference to Onesiphorus in 2 Timothy 4:19 Paul refers to “the house of Onesiphorus”. Some speculate that he may have died by this point but the phrase could also be a way of saying how his entire household had been a blessing. In our years of Christian service we consider households that just seem to minister together as a family, especially married couples, such as when our ministry friends from New Jersey come to mind, we don’t think of Jim only, but we refer to them as Jim and Dorothy.

Let’s look at four characteristics we can glean about Onesiphorus in our text:

    1. “He often refreshed me.” Don’t overlook the little word “often” (pollakis) which means many times, again and again, time after time. It conveys a vivid picture of Onesiphorus’ servant heart that he extended to Paul.  “Refresh” translates a word that literally means “to cool again, to make cool or refresh.” The Living Bible paraphrase draws a word picture, “He visited me and encouraged me often. His visits revived me like a breath of fresh air.” Onesiphorus’ visits into the squalid conditions of the dungeon prison was like a “cool breeze” reviving Paul’s spirit and soul. A great promise to the refresher is a Proverb that states, “Whoever refreshes others will himself be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25b).
    2. He “was not ashamed of my chains.” Knowing the rest of the story I can’t imagine being ashamed of Paul’s chains. We have the whole record since Paul’s imprisonment is now history, but the full understanding of all his sufferings was subject to one’s own interpretation. Some were embarrassed, afraid or even ashamed of his situation. What a great privilege it would have been to to know Paul and to continually refresh him in his otherwise drab, insufferable surroundings.  May God give us boldness and discernment to stand with those who suffer, as we by faith see the rest of the story even before it happens!
    3. “He eagerly searched for me and found me.” It must have taken some effort to locate Paul and Onesiphorus did this eagerly. Many times meaningful ministry to others takes effort. We need to go out of our way or in some way be inconvenienced whether it involves our time, finances, roadblocks or whatever other setback we must overcome in the process.
    4. “You know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus.” As mentioned above the only reference we have to Onesiphorus is here in Paul’s second letter to Timothy, but perhaps that’s because Onesiphorus was already so well-known and highly regarded among the people. Paul briefly alludes to their familiarity with him through the services he offered in Ephesus. Can you think of people well-regarded because of their service for the Lord?

Spurgeon comments on Onesiphorus, “This good man is here immortalized. When he risked his life to find out and succour a poor despised prisoner, he little knew that he would live forever on the page of the church’s history. His cup of cold water given to an apostle has received an apostle’s reward. Are there any yet alive like Paul to whom we might minister in love after the manner of Onesiphorus?”

Spurgeon’s challenge is one we issue to all our readers today.  Is there someone you might minister to in love just as Onesiphorus often did toward Paul. Don’t delay.

January 8, 2013

Unworthy, But Chosen

Isaiah 1 18 - Though your sins be as scarlet

Today’s item here at C201 is part testimony, part inspiration and part Bible study. I hope you’ll enjoy this piece from the blog Saint in Training. Click through to read at source and discover more from this blog’s two authors.

I am a living witness that God can and will save the worst of sinners.

I once saw myself as being beyond redemption, having no understanding that our Heavenly Father sees us all the same and that through His son Jesus Christ, he made a way of escape for us. Although our sins may differ we stand in danger of facing the same penalty for unrepentant sin: eternal damnation. Thank God for Jesus! It’s because of Him that every sinner is promised a future and thus once we become Christians it behooves us to remember that every saint has a past.

Dear hearts let us not forget that it was the mercies of God that brought us out of sin. We should be careful not to become self-righteous, thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to in Christ. Our awesome God, blessed be His name, is the only one worthy of praise.

The saying, “I don’t look like what I’ve been through,” is true. If I were to write a book, it couldn’t express the immensity of the love, grace and mercy God has showered upon me! Growing up in the streets of New York City shaped my thoughts and molded my life into a vehicle for sin. Loneliness was my best friend, distrust taught me to fear the night while hunger gave me the strength to beg and the will to live. I learned how to survive that kind of life. God wasn’t in my thoughts; he wasn’t a part of my life at all – or so I thought. I didn’t realize that it was he who was keeping me alive! His ever watchful eyes saw every step I took and protected my every move. He didn’t allow the devil to fulfill his desire to have my soul, nor did he let the demons of hell drive me to a point of no return. God kept my mind!

Oh! The unexplainable love of God. His love can’t be measured. It is deeper than the sea and as solid as a rock! We are so unworthy of his love, of his grace and of his mercy – yet, God still chose us to be his sons and daughters in Christ! He chose us to spend eternity with him in his heavenly kingdom. So those of you who have a feeling of unworthiness that overshadows you, I encourage you today to lift up your hands unto the Lord and bless his holy name – you are blessed. Yes, you are blessed! Why? Because he chose you to love and favored you by calling you to be his son, his daughter!

I’ll never find myself worthy of God’s love but I am grateful. I praise him for seeing me as being worth loving – that’s more than enough for me.

I am like that publican who prayed the prayer that touched God’s heart:

Luke 18:13-14 KJV

And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Dear hearts, it was for the unworthy that Jesus died!

Mark 2:17 KJV

When Jesus heard it, he said to them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

It’s the unworthy that Jesus loves! It is the unworthy he embraces! Why? Because it is they who love him the most. They know that they are just that, unworthy. They are grateful and humble before him. God can use them to give hope to the hopeless. He shows his love toward them who desperately need the one and only true living God in their lives!

What does God see in us?

You know yourself as a drug dealer – God sees you as a preacher.
You know yourself as a prostitute – God sees you as a missionary.
You know yourself as an alcoholic – God sees you as an evangelist.
You know yourself as a liar and a thief – God sees you as a prayer warrior.
You see yourself as a nobody – God sees you as the apple of his eye.
You know yourself as a sinner – God sees you as a saint!

Where man has counted you out, God has already counted you as a winner! Where some may see us as being worthless, God sees us as being worth it! Man and Satan took us to the courtroom at Calvary dear hearts; they charged us and found us to be guilty. Oh! But God dropped the charges and He found us guiltless through the death of his son Jesus Christ!

He did this for me! He did this for you!

Forget what Satan says about you precious one, he’s a liar. Forget what you say about you, you’re only flesh. Look to God and receive what he said:

Isaiah 55:7-8 NIV

Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.

Isaiah 1:18-20 NIV

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.  If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

God has called you by name, he has chosen you for his own – receive his word, believe and watch your life change!

June 9, 2012

Three types of Captive Thoughts

When someone tells you they want to talk to you about your thought life, you probably think you know what’s coming. But actually, some types of thoughts are positive and helpful; it’s only the destructive type you want to avoid. Ohio’s Scott Couchenour blogged this at Serving Strong under the title, The Trilogy of Captive Thoughts.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God,and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10.5)

Thoughts. At the level of our thoughts, the trajectory of our ministry is determined. No one ever morally fails or succeeds overnight. Just as the bucket tips over after filling full of water one droplet at a time, our lives are a result of how we handle each thought one at a time. Here is a related post on the “little monkeys”.

In this effort of ours to avoid burnout as a pastor, clergy, ministry leader, church staff person, volunteer …whoever you are with the call of God on your life related to things eternal… we must grip every thought (every thought) that enters our mind. We hold the keys to the cell – let’s use ‘em. Here are 3 categories of thoughts:

Destructive Thoughts

This is what I typically think of when I read 2 Corinthians 10.5. The little shapely thing on the TV ad for GoDaddy, the suggestive, bikini-clad female on the magazine at the [grocery store] check-out line, or any type of trigger starts a line of thinking that, left un-captive, leads to disaster. And sex isn’t the only thing. There are people who make us feel inferior, unappreciated, unworthy. We even provide these thoughts ourselves. Take them captive and lay them at the feet of Jesus. Let HIM deal with these before they get bigger.

Instructive Thoughts

Heard of mentors? They’ve been where you are going. They learned lessons the hard way. Request to have coffee with them. Listen to them. But more than listen, take the thoughts captive by writing down in your personal development journal (you have one of those, don’t you?) Revisit the journal regularly. Don’t let the words of a mentor (or a conference speaker, or an author in a book) pass in one ear and out the other. Take them captive and lay them at the feet of Jesus. Let HIM filter and weave these truths into your personal experience.

Constructive Thoughts

Got a “win folder”? This is a file where you put those little notes of appreciation, those short tweets of encouragement, those comments in the foyer after church about the quality of your sermon. Your win folder may be a paper file in a desk drawer. I use Evernote. However you do it, take captive the positive things, those little confirmations, you hear as a result of what God is doing through you. Take them captive and lay them at the feet of Jesus. Let HIM take the glory and be blessed while keeping you the humble messenger.

Scott Couchenour

January 30, 2012

Trouble The Water

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:37 pm
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Just two weeks ago I introduced you to the writing of Robert Moon, but I’m enjoying his blog and wanted to share another piece with you.  I chose to title this based on the phrasing I think I remember from the KJV, but it appeared on his blog as The Moving of the Water.

John 5: 6-8 (NKJV) When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.”

On the one hand this is a very sad story, a “Winner Take all” proposition. While one man recovered his health, the rest were still laying around the pool waiting for the moving of the water. If Jesus ministered to anyone else it isn’t mentioned.

One might conclude that the people were looking to the water instead of Jesus for help. Notwithstanding the fact that they had not yet heard of Jesus but after he healed the impotent man they should have then changed their focus.

If we are still standing around the same old water hole hoping for help, and getting none, maybe its time to change the way we think, pray and conduct ourselves.

The pool was a place where misery was flourishing where people were speaking out about their problems, and receiving sympathy from one another. We, the church are not living in the age of sympathy but rather the age of grace where we should build each other up rather than to commiserate with the problem.

There are times when we must endure some hard knocks, for we don’t control the forces aligned against us.

1Corinthians 16:13 encourages us to; Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.

There are times when we can pray and encourage one another but sometimes we have to go through the valley all alone because our closest friend can’t help. It is in a time like this when we need to be reinforced by GOD’S word and remember

Joel 3:10 Let the weak say I am strong and, Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

Being strong in the LORD is simply walking and talking according to the demands of His Word any thing less than that is sin. Going against GOD’S word saps our spiritual strength and affects our fellowship with GOD.

1 John 1:6-9 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

So there you have it, if you are weak, say I am strong in the Lord, if you sin, confess it to GOD along with repentance.

Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

December 22, 2011

Are You a Builder?

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:18 pm
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…Or a wrecker?

I’m not the kind of guy who does heavy construction projects, but a few years back while “wrecking” the premises at a former real estate office and getting ready to “build” a new bookstore, I was reminded of this poem.    As we each try to find our place in the Body of Christ, this poem reminds us all (me included) of the importance of keeping our attitude right.    The comments following the poem itself were on one of the websites where we located this version of it.

I watched them tearing a building down,
A gang of men in a busy town.
With a ho, heave, ho and a lusty yell
They swung a beam and a wall fell.

I asked the foreman, “Are these men skilled?
Like the men you’d hire if you had to build?”
He laughed as he replied, “No, indeed,
Just common labor is all I need.

I can easily wreck in a day or two
What builders have taken years to do.”
I asked myself as I went away
Which of these roles have I tried to play?

Am I a builder who works with care,
Measuring life by rule and square?
Or am I a wrecker who walks the town
Content with the labor of tearing down?

Oh Lord, let my life and labors be
That which build for eternity.

Why do so many of us find it gratifying to be sideline cynics smothering ideas in a relentless barrage of “what ifs” and warnings? As the poem points out, it’s much easier to be a wrecker than a builder.

Of course it’s wise and necessary to challenge assumptions, test theories and predict problems, but that should be the beginning not an end. We should measure our value by the number of balloons we helped launch, not the number we deflated.

A builder sees problems as challenges and seeks solutions; a dismantler sees problems in every solution. A builder sees flaws and tries to fix them; a dismantler sees flaws in every fix.

This is one of three “think” pieces today at C201

February 1, 2011

Discouragement: A Subtle Tactic in Spiritual Warfare

But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus.  (II  Cor 7:6)

Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement.  (II Cor 2: 7)

“Why do you want to discourage the rest of the people of Israel from going across to the land the Lord has given them?  (Num 32:7)

Then the local residents tried to discourage and frighten the people of Judah to keep them from their work. (Ezra 4:4)

They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So I continued the work with even greater determination. (Neh. 6:9)

So Moses told the people of Israel what the Lord had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery. (Ex. 6:9)

After they went up to the valley of Eshcol and explored the land, they discouraged the people of Israel from entering the land the Lord was giving them. (Num. 32:9)

Look! He has placed the land in front of you. Go and occupy it as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. Don’t be afraid! Don’t be discouraged!’ (Deut. 1:21)

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”  (Deut 31:8)

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Josh 1:9)

Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid or discouraged. Take all your fighting men and attack Ai, for I have given you the king of Ai, his people, his town, and his land. (Josh 8:1)

“Don’t ever be afraid or discouraged,” Joshua told his men. “Be strong and courageous, for the Lord is going to do this to all of your enemies.” (Josh 10:25)

Then David continued, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. He will see to it that all the work related to the Temple of the Lord is finished correctly.  (I Chr. 28:20)

He said, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.  (II Chr.20:15)

“Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side! (II Chr. 32:7)

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.I will strengthen you and help you.I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.  (Is. 41:10)

Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!  (Ps: 42:11 and Ps. 43:5; same lyric)

Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged. (Col 3:21)

I am convinced that one of the subtle schemes of the enemy is to bring discouragement to God’s people.  Most of us are familiar with the many “Do not be afraid” or “fear not” verses, but there are many scriptures — 28 in the New Living Translation (NLT) reference discouragement in one way or another, the translation used for the above verses.  (18 in the new NIV, 6 in the ESV, 5 in the NASB.)

I also wonder if much of our modern-day depression is really spiritual-warfare.  Depression and discouragement seem to go hand-in-hand.  The word depression is used sparingly in the above-mentioned translations…

After that, whenever the bad depression from God tormented Saul, David got out his harp and played. That would calm Saul down, and he would feel better as the moodiness lifted. (I Sam. 16:23, The Message)

…though the Bible being more literary and poetic than most other books, often refers to a broken heart:

I have cried until the tears no longer come; my heart is broken.My spirit is poured out in agony as I see the desperate plight of my people.Little children and tiny babies are fainting and dying in the streets.  (Lamentations 2:11, NLT)

A glad heart makes a happy face;a broken heart crushes the spirit. (Prov 15:30 NLT)

Their insults have broken my heart,and I am in despair.If only one person would show some pity;if only one would turn and comfort me.  (Ps. 69:20 NLT)

My heart is broken because of the false prophets,and my bones tremble.I stagger like a drunkard,like someone overcome by wine,because of the holy wordsthe Lord has spoken against them.  (Jer. 23:9 NLT)

For myself, today an element of spiritual warfare to it which was more overt, but the feeling I was left with — or the thing that my emotions connected the dots to, the way you attribute someone in a dream to someone you know — was that of discouragement.

It can really eat away at you if you let it.

So don’t.

August 7, 2010

A Personal Note from the Author

Most people reading this are familiar with the term “minister” as a verb, describing the way we can aid and encourage others, as in “ministering health” and “ministering wholeness” to people.    Of course, to qualify, it is God who brings healing and wholeness; and it is also is requisite that you have the spiritual gifts necessary to “minister” to others.

In the last six months, my other blog has fallen victim to a guy who, for lack of a better term, sees his mission to “minister discouragement” to me and try to “minister dissension.”   I base the choice of terminology on the strong evidence that this is his “chosen ministry” for the time being.   His particular strategy is to attack that blog where any blog is at its most vulnerable; that is, where the author is describing, subjectively, his or her own story.   His revisionist version is one which basically takes away any credit for anything I ever did in the years 1975-1990, a formative era in my life that I refer to somewhat frequently.

Needless to say I simply delete the comments.

The discouragement is so severe that I frequently meet the comments with the thought, “Maybe I should just discontinue writing each day.”

That is exactly what the enemy of our souls would have us do.  Bloggers who are not making an impact — and I’m not trying to exalt myself in this — probably don’t have detractors.   Bloggers who are making a truly significant spiritual impact (far more than I) probably have dozens of them.

If asked, this person would probably tell you in rather self-righteous tones that what they are doing is just and noble and truthful.    This individual would probably maintain that knocking me down a peg or two is simply trying to set the record straight.   But in fact, this person knows nothing of my story, because he was too busy at the time building his own personal empire which, as it turned out, was a house of cards.

I know that a lot of people who read C201 have blogs of their own, and I want to encourage you:  Keep telling your story.    If you write about something that is doctrinally or theologically controversial, expect the usual disagreement or debate.   But if you are telling your own story — unless you are suffering from amnesia or false-memory syndrome — and it is the veracity of that story that is being challenged, remember that Satan appears as an angel of light, and is bent on “ministering” confusion and discouragement and even destruction. He will attack where you are most likely to be knocked off balance.  His attacks will be relentless, trying to get to you with each passing jab.

The servants of the devil can take away your house or your car or whatever else may seem valuable, but don’t let them take away your story; don’t let them take away your name.

May 15, 2010

As Iron Sharpens Iron

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:49 pm
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I’m getting today’s post on with about an hour to spare.  Tonight,  I spent two hours on the phone with someone I knew well a few decades ago, but haven’t seen since.    It was great to be reconnected and talk about similar interests and days gone by, but the thing I appreciated most was to have a quality time of spiritual fellowship with another believer.   That we had known each other a lifetime ago was an added dimension.

A lot of guys aren’t “phoners” or talkers.   I like to talk, I love to converse, but it’s actually a rare thing for me to be on the phone with a friend in the evening.   Most of my calls are business related or task related.  They usually come to a screeching halt at suppertime.   And I never go two hours.

Here’s how The Message puts that “iron sharpens iron” verse:

Proverbs 27:17 You use steel to sharpen steel,
and one friend sharpens another.

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