Christianity 201

August 20, 2020

Have You Moved?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Clarke Dixon is away this week, so we’re diving deep into his blog archives for this article from August, 2011, long before we started carrying his articles here on a weekly basis.

by Clarke Dixon

Have you moved? This is a question that I could answer ‘yes’ to many times. While we did not change church families too often (my Dad being the pastor), we did move house quite often, so much so that I cannot recall how many homes I have now called ‘home.’ But on last count I attended six different public schools (in two different nations), three different high schools (in three different towns/cities), one college and two universities. And since then, I continue the life as a nomad… So yes, I have moved, and got quite good at it! In fact I now have little patience when helping others move who don’t know how it is to be done. Ever heard of boxes?

But the question put to the congregation recently… was not ‘have you moved house?’ It was really ‘has your soul moved?’ As Christians we are led by the Spirit of God:

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” Galatians 5:25 (NIV).

As we are led by the Spirit of God, we should expect to see change in our character:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV).

Now sometimes this strikes Christians as being somehow either unrealistic, or unfair. “We can’t expect people to be perfect.” “We should accept people just as they are.” “People cannot change, nor should we ask them to.” That kind of thing. True enough, we accept people just as they are, but we should be asking ourselves, and each other if we are really watching out for one another, ‘have we moved?’ Have we seen a change in character? Is it evident to others, so evident it is like fruit on a tree, easily visible, and attractive not to mention life giving?

Yes we accept people as they are, but we can no more be led by the Spirit of God and remain the same, than the Israelites could be led by the pillar of smoke by day and the pillar of fire by night and remain in Egypt (see the book of Exodus). If we are led, we are moving. If we are not moving, it is not because God has stopped leading us, it is because we have stopped following. Perhaps we like Egypt too much. Perhaps we have found a comfy spot in the wilderness short of the promised land and have decided to settle in the desert. Perhaps we mistakenly thought we were being baptized in the Jordan, with the promised land just over there easily within reach, when really we were baptized back in the Nile, with quite the journey ahead of us.

There is a Spirit-led journey ahead of each of us. And I don’t believe any of us ever really reach the ‘promised land’ of Christ-like character in this lifetime. But the question is not “have you arrived?” The Lord knows I have not. My wife knows too. And so do those who need my help moving and who have not packed properly, as previously mentioned. The question is ‘have you moved?’ Are you different now than you were ten years ago? Five years ago?

Whatever your answer is, I know what mine needs to be: Let’s get moving!


Adapted from a sermon preached August 2011 in Ottawa, Canada. Today, Clarke is a pastor in Cobourg, a city on the north shore of Lake Ontario in Canada. Church website.

April 29, 2012

Doers…and Not Hearers Only

Or then again,  maybe we should have titled this,

Hearers…and not Doers Only.

I was surprised to discover today that we had yet to include Talbot Davis in our collection of Bible study and devotional writers.  His blog, The Heart of the Matter is now entering its fifth year.  Talbot is pastor of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, a modern congregation in Charlotte, North Carolina. You’re encouraged to read posts here on C201 at source, where this one appears as What “Doers Of The Word” Teaches Us About The Bible

James 1:22 is one of the more familiar verses in Scripture.  I love how the King James version translates it:

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

We get the “doers of the word” part — most of us Methodist are more than eager to put our faith into some kind of meaningful action.

But note the contrast — “and not hearers only.” 

If we gave it some real thought, most of us would contrast “doing” the word with “reading the word,” wouldn’t we?

In our mind, the sin James rebukes here concerns people who read, study, and underline their bibles but don’t then live their bibles.

Except James couldn’t write his letter and give this exhortation with that sin in mind.  Why?

Because the people in James’ church didn’t have their own personal copies of the bible.  In fact, the majority of them couldn’t read.

They encountered the sacred text in church, in community, and out loud.  So most people in James’ church heard the word without ever reading the word.  James writes with that dynamic in mind.

Which brings up the larger point:  the bible is a collection of books — a library as we call it at Good Shepherd — written for people who are by and large illiterate.

Books for people who can’t read?  You bet.  That’s why the books in the bible are written more for the ear than for the eye.

So try it.  Read it out loud today.

And the book of James wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

~Talbot Davis

In many parts of the world, oral transmission — orality — is the dominant medium by which the scriptures are heard.  If you wish to know about a ministry organization producing oral texts for both major and obscure language groups, check out this article about Megavoice.

February 13, 2011

First Faith Lessons

I want to go in a totally different direction today.  I literally stumbled onto this blog and you gotta love the title: Becoming Me: Living a Life of Surrender — The Triumphs and Struggles of a Young Christian.  Sometimes the fresh take of a young believer can give us a perspective we might otherwise miss.  She calls herself Kicking and Singing (!) and titled this post Lesson 114.

I’m really happy to be back and I’m honored that you take time to read my blog. I don’t even know where to begin… I’ve learned so many lessons…here’s what’s on my heart at the moment:

A good friend told me that studying won’t speed up the process, because it’s all in God’s time. I knew that, but it didn’t stop me from trying! I have dreams, big dreams. My dream is to become the woman God created me to be. I want every gift and power released and manifested in my life and I want the generations that follow to be blessed beyond measure.

That’s fine. The issue is when a pure passion becomes perverted. Perversion occurs every time I try to do it myself. Don’t judge, most of the time, I don’t even realize when I’m stepping into Daddy’s (God’s) boots.

Like a child, I only know that I admire Him and I want to be just like Him when I grow up…that’s why I keep asking him, “When am I going to grow up?” I know I’m making progress and that’s great, but when I read the Bible and see glimpses of who He created me to be, I get excited and say, “I want to be her!..now.” Well, that time hasn’t come, so I tried to transform myself, then God justly disciplined me publicly….I got the message that time.

So prayerfully, I’m going to slow down and stop trying to read 6 books at a time. I’m going to love and accept myself for who I am and where I am right now, flaws and all. Why not? Jesus does.

I’m learning that this journey is not about perfection, it’s about the finished product.  So don’t be so hard on yourself, if we could perfect ourselves, we wouldn’t need Jesus.  And don’t try to fix yourself, it won’t work.

Let your mind be renewed, cast out pride, seek humility…

Humility=Awareness, Acceptance and Appreciation of one’s own true worth and value, ability to transfer glory, ability to control knowledge and power even though you know its yours to exercise. (From: Mrs.Green)

He’s the Master Potter: Be Clay
Thank God: He’s Not Finished With Me Yet

Check out Kicking-and-Singing at Becoming Me

December 28, 2010

Additonal Thoughts on “Little Deaths”

Because I personally found yesterday’s interview with Rick James so fascinating, I thought we’d continue today with a piece which appeared on his blog, under the the title La Petite Mort.

La Petite Mort

The French have a phrase, La Petite mort, or “the little death” which is roughly defined as “the period of melancholy resulting from having spent one’s life force.” I’m embarrassed to tell you where the expression comes from, but if you must know it refers to the emotional lull that proceeds sex. I apologize for the bluntness, but one must make certain allowances for the free expression of artists, poets and . . . the French. Life is a series of little deaths, a million black dots, major and minor, of varying duration, culminating in a glorious crescendo—“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15). We are always rehearsing for that final movement.

In his letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul describes his trials in similarly poetic terms, though not with the potty mouth or innuendo of the French. In stating that “death is at work in us” (2 Cor 4:12), Paul is referring to his trials as a series of little deaths, or an ongoing death experience. But Paul is a poet in the way that George Bush is a poet, that is to say, not at all. Besides an occasional doxology or engrafted creed, issues of clarity not aesthetics govern Paul’s word choice. So, if Paul observes that trials are like “little deaths” it’s because there are important reasons for seeing them this way, not because “hey, isn’t it kinda cool to think of our trials as, like, little deaths and our prayers as mini-screams and our bodies as tiny coffins.” Here then is Paul’s description of trials as perpetual dying or little deaths:

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. (2 Corinthians 4:8-12)

So why refer to trials as “little deaths”? Paul has commandeered the words “death” and “dying” from the lexicon and used them as synonyms for the word “trials.” For Christians the idea of “death” is always coupled to “resurrection;” they are virtually two syllables of the same word. If I were to ask you to complete the sentence: “the death and (blank) of the Lord Jesus Christ,” I doubt you’d labor over it like a crossword puzzle inserting different words to see which fits best. You know it’s the word “resurrection:” “resurrection” always sits across from “death.” Paul wants us to see trials as “deaths” because he wants us to see God’s resurrection power at work in them.

Death (or trials), to Paul’s way of thinking, is raw fuel which God uses to generate spiritual life. It is the principle or dynamic of Genesis: light out of darkness, form out of void, life out of death. This is the principle at work in us as God takes the death of trials and transforms them into life. Paul wants us to see trials as a consumable resource like firewood that can be burned and transferred to heat.

The alchemists invested their time and genius trying to transform waste into gold. Noting its bullion color, Hennig Brand, for example, left 60 buckets of urine to putrefy in his cellar in hopes a residue of gold would be left when it evaporated. It didn’t—though we can thank Brand and his vile experiment for the discovery of phosphorus. The idea of turning raw sewage into something as precious as gold was not insanity: the idea that man could do it was. Few things allow us a vantage point from which to view God’s glory and power than the transmutation of life’s sewage (trials) into life. Who but God could take our trials, our little deaths, and turn them in to spiritual life and vitality?

—the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes (Psalms 118:23)

October 26, 2010

Renewal Means Being Made New

I had an interesting conversation today with an older guy.  I figure him for late 60s or early 70s.    When the conversation ended he left, but then he returned and said he just wanted to share a verse with me.   He then quoted II Cor 4:16 to me from the KJV:

For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward [man] is renewed day by day.

Most of you would know this better from the NIV:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

He then went on to tell me that he has been told, and has felt that he is “getting younger.”   He said he felt more rejuvenated, and more energetic than at any time in his life.

This is not the first time an older person has told me something like this.   A woman told me that she’d noticed that the new hair growth on her head was coming in darker, replacing the grey hairs.

I told him — and I hope this didn’t sound too new age — that he was simply filled with fresh passion about his faith and that he was drawing on the energy from that passion.

That’s the kind of faith to aim for; a faith that is vibrant and exciting and informs the other areas that make up you:  your social interactions, your emotions; and even your physical body.  (Compare with Luke 2:52)

There was once a skit by the comedian who played Father Guido Sarducci in which he talked about a planet where people reached a certain age and then started getting younger.   The punchline was something to the effect that “you didn’t know if someone was coming or going.”    It’s not applicable here except insofar as it introduces “outside the box” thinking.    Renewal — if you really think about it — is just that; being made new.

The idea of “getting younger” goes against the basic rules of science, but with God anything is possible.     The man I met today said he is “getting younger” and frankly, I have no reason to believe he is not.

August 8, 2010

The Power of a Testimony

I want to continue where I left off yesterday, but in entirely different terms.

Contemporary church services don’t allow for what was once called “testimony time.”  We did a thing in our church years ago called “The Witness Stand,” which brought individual stories from the Sunday night service up into the morning service, when a greater number of people attended.

These days, you tend to hear stories in church only from people who are (a) being baptized or (b) going to or returning from a missions trip.

Even our songs — much as I love the ‘vertical’ quality of modern worship — no longer tell a story, either literally or poetically.   Maybe you’re old enough to remember:  “I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore; very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more.  But the Master of the sea heard my dispairing cry; from the water lifted me now saved am I.”  Or maybe those words just sound quaint and foreign, but they reflected a storyline no longer present in our worship services.

Maybe the words in “Victory in Jesus” that talk about the time “he plunged me to victory” don’t work in the 21st century, but there’s got to be a “before and after” song out there besides “Amazing Grace.”

So when I wrote yesterday about not letting anyone take away your story — or your very name — I wasn’t talking about identity theft.   I meant instead the importance of hanging on to all that God has done in your life.   That may mean keeping a journal or even starting a blog.  (Or writing a song.)

In the NLT, John 21 ends with John affirming his own story:

24 This disciple is the one who testifies to these events and has recorded them here. And we know that his account of these things is accurate.

…but I much prefer what I believe was the older version in The Living Bible which has John boldly affirm — after chapters and chapters of loose references to “the disciple that Jesus loved” — his place in the story with, “I am that disciple!”

What a climax to the story!   In other words he’s saying, “It was me!  I was the one who shared those moments; I was part of that inner circle!   It was James and Peter and I to whom he told those stories and hinted at some of the secrets of the Kingdom.   I was there!”

The biggest lie the Devil would have you believe is that some of the greatest moments of spiritual victory you experienced never really happened.   As I wrote a few days ago, when you “take this bread” don’t just remember all that Christ did on the cross all those years ago, but remember what He did in you and through you because of the cross.

July 23, 2010

Conditional Promises


If I’m not getting the desires of my heart,

Maybe I’m not delighting myself in the Lord


If I’m not finding my paths being made straight,

Maybe I’m not trusting in the Lord with all my heart.


If I’m not finding God is adding good things to my life,

Maybe I’m not seeking first His Kingdom.


If it doesn’t seem like God is working in all things for His glory,

Maybe I’m not loving God or trying to live according to His purpose.


If it doesn’t feel like God is hearing from heaven, healing the land and forgiving sin,

Maybe it’s because as His people, we’re not humbling ourselves, seeking his face and turning from our wicked ways.


If it doesn’t seem like God is lifting me up,

Maybe I’m not humbling myself in His sight.

May 30, 2010

Only One Life

Only one life, ’twill soon be past
Only what’s done for Christ will last

I’m having a birthday today.   Mixed feelings.   I just keep feeling I’m light on accomplishments.   I want to do more, but of course, Christ wants me to be more.   Furthermore, I think I’m trying to overcompensate for the lack of being by trying to increase the doing.   But perhaps this a chicken-and-egg thing; in fact, maybe opportunities to do more aren’t presenting themselves because again, Christ is concerned with who He is using.