Christianity 201

January 7, 2023

The ‘Straight Path” Described

a worship liturgy by Ruth Wilkinson

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

So, what is a straight path? Today we read through some passages from the Bible that help us understand what that means.

A straight path follows after Jesus.

Whoever keeps His word, in that person the love of God is truly complete. This is how we know we are in Him: The one who says they live in Him should walk just as He walked.

1 John 2:5-6

A straight path leads to healthy relationships.

Once you walked in anger, rage, meanness, gossip, filthy language and lying.
But now, walk in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting and forgiving each another.

Colossians 3:7-9, 12-13 

A straight path leads to doing good in the world.

For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

A straight path leads to life.

There is life in the path of righteousness, but another path leads to death.

Proverbs 12:28

The Lord said, “They always go astray in their hearts, and they have not known My ways so they will not enter My rest.”

Hebrews 3:10-11

But He will enter into peace everyone who lives uprightly.

Isaiah 57:2

He makes our paths straight through each other’s guidance.

Teach a youth about the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6  

He makes our paths straight through giving us wisdom.

Wisdom holds long life in her right hand; in her left, riches and honour. Her ways are pleasant, and all her paths are peace.

Proverbs 3:16-18

He makes our paths straight through giving us discernment.

I have kept my feet from every evil path to follow Your word. You Yourself have instructed me. Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.

Psalms 119:101-105

He makes our paths straight through the companionship of the Spirit.

He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake. Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for You are with me.

Psalm 23:3

He makes our paths straight through being our example.

Make Your ways known to me, Lord; teach me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation.

Psalms 25:4-5

He makes our paths straight through setting us free from the ruts that lead to death.

I will always obey Your instruction, forever and ever. I will walk freely in an open place because I seek Your precepts.

Psalm 119:44-45

He makes our paths straight through correcting us when we go wrong.

Whenever you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear this command behind you: “This is the way. Walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

He makes our paths straight by making his commandments clear.

Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

Walking a straight path sounds simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. The principle we find in this proverb doesn’t promise that our road won’t go uphill and downhill, or through shadowy valleys.

It simply and joyfully reminds us that as we travel, as we “walk by faith, not by sight”, we don’t have to figure it out on our own. And that the journey itself is part of our reward.

 

 

 

December 7, 2022

Aliens and Strangers in Another Kingdom

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
Tags: ,

“So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? – Luke 6:46 NLT

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”Matthew 7:21 NASB

As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. – I Cor. 15:48 NIV

Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. 1 Peter 2:11 NLT

Our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. – Philippians 3:20 CSB

A year ago we introduced you to Curtis K. Shelburne who writes at Focus on Faith and also hosts a podcast with the same name. By clicking the title which follows you can read this where it first appeared, and send our contributing writers some ‘link love’ at the same time!

“Why Do You Call Me ‘Lord’ and Do Not Do What I Say?”

A fish out of water. It’s rather amazing how easy it is to be one of those finny creatures.

We’re not talking here about lip injections and a person (I’m avoiding sexism here) who paid good money to look like a large-mouth bass.

What I’m talking about is being “out of your element.” That happens to all of us from time to time, maybe right where we live and right where we’re sitting.

You get called on to do something way out of your usual area of expertise or routine. You’re asked to make a speech at a civic club or, worse, a memorial service, and you never have done that before. You get a call from a doctor’s office. Just a few moments ago, you felt fine, but now you’re a cancer patient, and you’re pretty sure either the cancer or medical science is more than capable of making you feel anything but fine. A new world, and you’ve not even left your chair.

But sometimes, the “fish out of water” discomfort does indeed have to do with a change in geography and your place in it.

I remember years ago now (Was it really that long ago?) traveling to Uganda to see sons who were doing mission work there. When I saw bullet holes at the Entebbe airport left from the famous “Raid on Entebbe,” I knew we weren’t in Kansas. The guys weren’t kidding when they said we’d probably be better off keeping our eyes closed on the journey from the airport to Mbale. We didn’t, but, wow.

And then there was the day when I’d been teaching church history in a nearby village, my son was driving me back to home base, and a soldier with an AK-47 motioned for us to stop, and we didn’t. I was simply told, “Don’t look at him. He just wants a bribe, and I don’t want to mess with it. If he was wearing “XYZ” uniform, we’d stop.”

A few days later, I was rafting down Class V rapids in the Nile with another son. I listened really carefully at the “so you don’t drown” briefing.

Years ago, my wife and I spent a few days in New York. Talk about another planet. Interesting place to visit, but I looked out of a hotel window near Times Square and realized that leaving the hotel and joining that mass of humanity also meant leaving my comfort zone and making do with a lot less personal space.

I spent the night at a fire station in Amarillo recently. My son is that shift’s captain at that station. Do I need to tell you I followed his lead? When the “tones dropped” and we headed down to the fire truck, I was excited, but sleepy and completely out of my element.

In some of these cases, and others, my sons and those who knew the “territory” were not only helping guide me, they were keeping me in one piece. I knew that. And I listened. Only a fool wouldn’t. But I don’t need to tell you that fools who are sure they’re the smartest person in the room are not in short supply, a danger to themselves and others. Unable or unwilling to listen to folks smarter or with more experience than they are, and even undercutting the folks they hired or appointed for their expertise, the un-listening dimwit bumps into stuff needlessly. And folks get hurt.

A little (or a lot) more humility is a blessing to us all.

For those of us who say we follow Christ, folks who are citizens of his kingdom first of all, this means asking his help to learn kingdom ways, even if we find that they don’t come naturally.

In humility, we need to listen to our Guide. If he really is our Lord, we need to ask for his help and his power to do what he says.


Revisit the introduction for website link and podcast site link.

Copyright 2022 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

November 30, 2022

His Will for My Life is My Food

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. – Hebrews 12:11 NIV

Today our search for new sources of devotional writing took us to Portugal and the blog of Tashmness. She writes about food, and travel and (mostly) the “Love of God” or L.O.G. for short. After scanning about 20 articles, we chose this one. She uses a number of guest writers, but we wanted to feature one which is her own. (She mentions struggling with faithfulness in writing, in the piece below.) Click the title which follows to read this where it first appeared, and then take some time, as we did, to look at some other items.

Committing To The Commitments

I spoke about making a new or another commitment in a blogpost I posted January of this year. About posting weekly and even several times a week. But lately I noted that when I feel worn out or my soul feels weary, I start to postpone. I wait for the energy to come back. I look for “food” to refuel me, so I get the energy to continue. But what if, when I feel weak, hungry, empty and it’s hard to even get up and out of bed or off the couch.. What if, that when that feeling comes, I just take one little step. How about I start by writing one word, which hopefully stubbornly makes me want to write at least a sentence. Which then attaches to a couple more.. A start. A step. What if, when I make that step I push myself to continue. To continue to walk and to do the work of God. To continue to do as He has asked and commanded me to do. To obey and to do His will.

Now I know. Not just because I have recently experienced it, but most importantly, because the Bible tells me so. I Know now, that I will be strengthened, fed, refueled and energized to continue When I do His will. His will for my life is my food.

John‬ ‭4:34‬ ‭[HCSB‬‬] – ““My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work,” Jesus told them.”

I’m doing another Fasting & Prayer. An end of the year one, where I fast and pray for three months to finish the year strong with God and to leave my old ways behind. You know we have so many “ways”. So many versions of ourselves we have been through. Several times before, I have looked at my ways and found out that my ways should not continue on like that. That my ways were not the ways God willed for me. And so, gratefully, when I found out about these ways to be left behind, faithfully I left them or worked on them to leave behind and did my best to follow a new way.

“I did my best”. Saying I will do my best, is not really Doing my best. It’s leaving that “extra mile” free, which actually is just the last mile to reach “the best”. The best version of yourself and the best that you can give. What is it about full commitment that scares us? For me the answer is: knowing that when I make that full commitment, I come through and stay committed. I know I can be very disciplined and I never break a promise. Sooner or later, but I WILL do what I promise to do. Otherwise, I just don’t make that promise. “I’ll try to.. I’ll do my best.. Let’s see..”. These are my ways of not making a promise. Or better yet, my ways of not committing.

This week God has been cancelling and rearranging my plans and appointments. Making me homebound and putting me on a stricter fast. I’m being disciplined. When two days in a row my swimming plans got scratched, I obeyed and walked up the stairs of my building on my way back to my front door dancing and praising (Psalm 34:1).

Gary McIntosh – “Sometimes the promise isn’t just given, sometimes it is fought for.”

The last time I wrote this same quote, it was me working to see the promise of God. This time, God is working on making me make a promise. And so I did. I entered my house dancing and praising, continuing to my room. I worshiped God on some Maverick City Music & Kirk Franklin and then I made my promise.

Today on 19th of October of the year 2022, I PROMISE God, to never ever slack again on this blog. It is Your gift, to me. Your commandment, to me. Your calling, to me.

It’s time for action, the promise is made. No excuses. Now don’t just stay committed, but BE committed and be consistent. Another lap of this race has started and it’s time to show my endurance and perseverance again. And by your endurance gain your lives (Luke 21:19). It is time for my self-discipline to be built.

Charles Metcalf – “Only disciplined ones are free. If you are undisciplined you are a slave to your Mood.

Hebrews 12:11 [HCSB] – “No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

One last note to self: Go get it.

 

November 28, 2022

First Century Cancel Culture

A couple of times in our earlier years we featured the writing of Claire in New Zealand at the blog One Passion, One Devotion. I’m not sure how we broke that continuity, but today, after a long break we’re catching up. Click the title which follows to link to this article at its source, and then click that blog’s header for some really excellent articles.

Influenced – Blind Bartimaeus

You don’t have to be on the internet for more than 2 minutes to know about cancel culture. Some of its valid – they should cancel certain people for certain things – but others you’re like,  ‘Come on!’ …

Let’s jump into the bible and see where the crowd tried to cancel someone and how they didn’t let that crowd influence them and stop them from encountering Jesus.

Mark 10

Jesus and his disciples went to Jericho. And as they were leaving, they were followed by a large crowd. A blind beggar by the name of Bartimaeus son of Timaeus was sitting beside the road. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus from Nazareth, he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” 48 Many people told the man to stop, but he shouted even louder, “Son of David, have pity on me!”

49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him over!”

They called out to the blind man and said, “Don’t be afraid! Come on! He is calling for you.” 50 The man threw off his coat as he jumped up and ran to Jesus.

51 Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”

The blind man answered, “Master, I want to see!”

52 Jesus told him, “You may go. Your eyes are healed because of your faith.”

At once the man could see, and he went down the road with Jesus.

I love it when we read the bible – it’s not just a story locked into the pages – it’s God showing us what He is like and what He can do and we can ask Him to speak and show us what He wants to say today about our lives and what He wants to do to and through us.

So Jesus has been in Jericho – doing miracles, healing people, teaching.  Because of this a large crowd had started following Him.  He’s the man, He’s amazing.

But there is a difference between following Jesus in the crowd and being a follower of Jesus.

The crowd were buzzed about all the cool stuff Jesus was doing.  But followers declared Jesus was Master, Lord, Saviour and their lives completely changed because of His influence.

So Jesus is leaving Jericho and the crowd is following.  Crowds are noisy right – unless you’re in one doing a minute’s silence – there is always some level of noise.  People talking. People yelling. People moving.  In this case there were probably people bustling to get closer to Jesus, to hear what He was saying or to get Him to touch them and heal them.

There is a blind man sitting by the road – this was his spot where he would have been dropped off every day, or maybe he slept here, and it was where he would beg for money and food.   They didn’t have health insurance or disability allowances back in those days.  Bartimaeus heard all the noise and the buzz of the crowd and asked someone what is going on? What’s happening?

When he was told Jesus was walking past he called out loudly JESUS SON OF DAVID, HAVE PITY ON ME!

What he is saying here is important.  Son of David is one of those spiritual titles for who Jesus is – that he is the son of God, the messiah.  So Bartimaeus KNOWS who Jesus is, he knows his true identity.    He has heard of his great fame, he has heard of the great things that Jesus has done and he has made up his mind that this is the one who has the power to change his life and heal him.  He has made up his mind that this is God Almighty.

And the crowd tried to cancel him. They told him to sit down and shut up.  They tried to block him from meeting Jesus.

Sometimes when we’re Christians people will tell us to sit down and shut up.  The world have tried to cancel Christians and call us intolerant and narrow minded.

They’ll try to cancel us because sometimes what we believe is counter cultural.  It’s upside down to the world.

It’s bless your enemies instead of get vengeance.

It’s serve not be served.

It’s deny yourself instead of follow your heart.

It’s righteousness and holiness instead of whatever feels good.

It’s purity instead of player.

It’s self control instead of whatever I want I want it now.

It’s seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness instead of building my own kingdom.

It’s grace instead of guilt, hope instead of hopelessness.

Disclaimer here:  Being a Christian isn’t about rules and to do and to do don’t lists.  It’s about a relationship with God, its about peace with God, and when its like that we make God our greatest influencer because we see He’s worth it and His way of living, while hard and upside down sometimes, we do it in response of how good and loving God is.  Knowing Him is worth everything.

Bartimaeus didn’t let the crowd cancel him. In fact, he got louder. He called out even louder.

The cool thing is that over all the noise of the crowd Jesus heard Bartimaeous.  There would have been hundreds of people potentially calling out His name, but there was something about this man calling that grabbed His attention.

Have you ever thought about how God hears us when we pray even if the 8 billion people on the planet all prayed at the same time? He cares about you and what you have to pray.  Prayer doesn’t have to be special words at special times, it is us talking to God, listening to God and about us connecting heart to heart.  We can be honest about how we’re feeling.  If you read Psalms you’ll see often that David, author of probably over half of them, talks about how life sucks, how he feels like he’s drowning, that everyone is against him, that he’s alone, scared, frustrated, angry.  They’re emotional!  They’re raw!  But he always ends it by realizing that in it all, despite how he feels, in the middle of the mess, God is right there, God rescues Him, we can call out to Him and He will hear and respond.  God hears you when you pray.  If we could see what happens when we prayed, how God turns His attention to us we would want to pray more.  If we could see angels move in response to our prayers, we would want to pray more more more.

49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him over!”

They called out to the blind man and said, “Don’t be afraid! Come on! He is calling for you.” 50 The man threw off his coat as he jumped up and ran to Jesus.

Now I want to pause here and point something out.  Minor details in the bible can have major meaning.

Bartimaeus threw off his cloak and jumped up and ran to Jesus.

That cloak wasn’t just a jacket, wasn’t just a jumper, wasn’t just a hoodie or an item of clothes.  It was an item of clothing, a cloak that defined that he was a beggar.  It was like his permission slip to be sitting there asking for money.  If you were wearing a cloak like that it showed the people around you that you were a beggar.  It was his identity.  In biblical days, being blind was often seen as a curse. There was really no way to support yourself financially, so beggars were given cloaks, which gave them permission to beg. Beggars were defined as such by the cloak they wore. Usually, the cloak was the beggar’s one and only possession and their only source of income.

Bartimaeus threw off his cloak. He threw off his old way of life. He threw off his comfort zone. He was done being defined as a beggar. He didn’t just toss aside a jacket or sweater, this was life or death. It was sink or swim time; either he was going to be healed or he would have nothing. His faith was remarkable; he was so desperate for change he went to Jesus expecting a miracle.

When he encountered Jesus he threw it off and left it behind.  Jesus changes us – he gives us a brand new start.  He takes off our old life and gives us a new one.

It’s like how we talked about last week with our panel – God gets to define our life.  He gets to say how we do it.  He gets to say leave this behind and live differently because He is good, wise, great and most importantly because He loves us.

So Bartimaeus meets Jesus.

51 Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”
The blind man answered, “Master, I want to see!”
52 Jesus told him, “You may go. Your eyes are healed because of your faith.”
At once the man could see, and he went down the road with Jesus.

What do you want me to do for you?  Surely Jesus could tell this man was blind?

But He asked.

Loaded question potentially.

He’s asking the blind man what do you expect me to do?  What do you believe I can do?   What do you have faith in?

Jesus asks us the same question.

What do you believe I can do?  What do you want me to do for you?

Now we don’t turn this into a Christmas list for Santa situation where we reply with our wish list, a Lamborghini, to be 5 foot 5, doc martin boots, a swimming pool….

Psalm 37:4 says Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Philippians 2:13 says: for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

It’s like God places His dreams in our heart and the Holy Spirit transforms us that our desires become His desires and His desires become our desires.  It is God at work in us to make us willing to do His will.

But its also an invitation.

What do you want me to do for you?

How big can you believe God for?   How big can you dream?  How big can your vision be?

God wants to do amazing things to and through our lives.  We are not made for normal.  We are not made to blend in.   We follow an amazing God who is the creator of the universe, who loves us so much that He gave His son Jesus to make the way for us to have peace with God.   Nothing is impossible for God.

So how do we make this real in our lives?
1.  Position yourself where Jesus is – Bartimaeus was on the main road where everyone has to pass through.  In the same way, get yourself where God is.  River Youth.  Camp.  The Guys Group, Glow  Church.  We don’t put these on just because we like to have fun together, but because we believe that when you position yourself where God is you meet Him and He changes your life.

2.  Call out to God.  The bible says that everyone who calls out to God will be saved. Calling out to God can look like prayer, can look like worship, can look like getting prayed for, can look like fasting.

3.  Leave the old behind and follow Him.  Bartimaeus threw off his cloak and left that identity behind and left everything that was familiar to follow Jesus.  He became a disciple.

God is inviting each one of us into that adventure.

The challenge is the same.

Will we see Jesus for who He really is?

Will we fight the cancel of the crowd telling us that this is crazy?

Will we hear Jesus calling us to come closer?

Will we believe He can do what He can do?

Will we throw off our old life and follow Him?

October 21, 2022

One of the Bible’s Anti-Role Models

NIV.Heb.12.2a fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

Not every personality we encounter in scripture is a positive role model. Some are just the opposite.

This is our fifth time at Don’t Ask The Fish written by Lancaster Bible College and Capital Seminary president Dr. Tommy Kiedis who also writes at Leader’s Life and Work. Clicking the title below will take you to where this first appeared.

I Don’t Want to be Demas

“for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.

— 2 Timothy 4:10

Four photographs hang on the wall in my office. Each captures an iconic moment in baseball history. Each reminds me of an important aspect of life and leadership. I shared their significance in my inaugural address. You can click here if you want to learn more.

These days I’m wondering if I should add another picture to my collection, that of Demas walking away.

Demas occupies a place of quiet significance in the New Testament narrative. He helped the Apostle Paul to such an extent that Paul identifies him by name in his greetings to the church in Colossae. Paul highlights Demas again when writing to his friend Philemon. Both these letters, written from prison, find Demas locked arm-in-arm with Paul advancing the gospel.

But something happened and it wasn’t good.

Paul is released from prison, apparently Demas as well. But then under the persecution of Nero, Paul finds himself back in the Roman slammer — this time without Demas.

Demas had enough. It was time to relax a bit. “Peace out!”

What follows from the pen of Paul haunts me these days.

Make every effort to come to me soon; for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. . . . only Luke is with me. 2 Timothy 4:9-10 NASB

Chrysostom, the early church father, paraphrases Paul’s words about Demas as follows:

“Having loved ease and safety, [Demas] chose rather to live daintily at home than to suffer affliction, than to endure hardship, with me, and with me to bear these present dangers.”

Demas is not the only runner to quit the marathon of faith. Look over on the side of the road. You’ll find Hezekiah there as well.

While Demas occupies a mere footnote of Scripture, Hezekiah is the subject of chapters. In fact, you’ll find a gold star next to his name. Hezekiah is a model for monarchs, the epitome of what a good king should be. Look what Scripture says about him:

Hezekiah trusted in the LORD . . . . There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the LORD and did not stop following him; he kept the commands of faith. And the LORD was with him . . . 2 Kings 18:5-7 NIV

Remember, Hezekiah followed David, “a man after God’s own heart.” He was a shining star . . . or was he a shooting star? As Hezekiah neared the end of his life God told him to put his house in order… his days would soon be over. Like most of us, Hezekiah was not ready to go. He cried out to the Lord!

“Remember, LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And he wept bitterly. 2 Kings 20:3 NIV

And God, in his graciousness, granted him an additional fifteen years of life. FIFTEEN YEARS! And God backed up his promise with a powerful sign of confirmation.

One would think the biblical account would read: ‘And Hezekiah followed God happily ever after!’ Right? Wrong! No sooner does God grant him more days, than Hezekiah begins to walk away from faith.

The son of the Babylonian king shows up on his doorstep. Babylon was having a hard time on the world stage, twice upended by Assyria. Hezekiah opens the door, welcomes him in, and shows off his ENTIRE kingdom: treasures of silver, gold, spices; his armory . . . “there was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them.” 2 Kings 20:13

Foolish! Idiotic! Arrogant!

One commentator notes that Hezekiah was more intent about displaying his wealth than declaring God’s glory — and God had just blessed him with fifteen more years.

As might be expected, God was a little more than upset. He sends the prophet Isaiah to pronounce judgment. This is serious. Read the words carefully, and then even more carefully, read Hezekiah’s response:

“Hear the word of the Lord: The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”

“The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?” 2 Kings 20:16-19 NIV

You can hear Hezekiah paying lip service to God, but in his heart he is not too bothered. It won’t happen in his lifetime. “Let the good times roll! I’ve got fifteen more years!”

It is not lost on me that Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh, who was born in that fifteen year stretch and would follow his father to the throne, was the worst king in Judah’s history. How bad was he? Scripture says “he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood.” ”He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced divination, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger.” 2 Kings 21:5 NIV

I’ve heard it asked, “Why is it that opportunity knocks once, but temptation pounds on my door every day?” Hezekiah gave into that insistent pounding. So did Demas. They quit the race!

I don’t want to join them on the side of the road.

So how do one cultivate faithfulness? I’ve been thinking about that this morning. My list is not exhaustive. What would you add to it?

  • Revel in God’s goodness: I have a tendency to think what I must do to maintain my walk with God, so it is imperative to remember what Christ has done and is doing for me. Paul writes, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him” (Colossians 2:6 NIV). MacLaren notes, “As in wisdom so in character, all progress consists in coming closer to Jesus and receiving more and more of His many-sided grace.” I was saved by God’s grace. I need to rest in God’s grace, and live by God’s grace.”

  • Cling to the Vine: Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing“ (John 15:5 NIV). George Müller said, “the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord.” Müller’s words come back to me time and again, especially when I think “I don’t have time to meet with God today!” He would tell me, “You can’t afford NOT to meet with the Lord.”

  • Take appropriate times to rest: Jesus said to his disciples, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31). My friend Wayne Cordeiro wisely says that when life gets exceptionally busy, you must actually “increase play.” This is counterintuitive, but so important. Watch his talk, “Dead Leader Running.” It is excellent.

  • Embrace community: On two occasions, Paul wrote, “The brothers and sisters who are with me send greetings” (Philippians 4:21. See also Galatians 1:2). Study Paul’s life. He lived in community. He served in community. Paul knew we are not meant for isolation. Isolation should be an occasional rest stop on the road of life, not one’s destination.

Cultivate faithfulness . . . or join Demas and Hezekiah on the side of the road.

The day before yesterday, I met a member of our Board of Trustees coming out of our office complex as I was walking in. This man can add “octogenarian” to a long list of accomplishments. He is as wise and winsome as the day is long. His handshake is a vice grip. More importantly, his grip on Christ and what matters is equally strong.

This man is still running with perseverance, eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2). I don’t want to be Demas. I want to be where my older friend is, where Paul was — faithfully running the race — until the very end.


Notes:

October 11, 2022

The Fruit of Your Connection to God

Today we’re introducing a new writer to you, Tom Graves who writes at The Light of Christ Journey. He is currently going through a series on the life of Joseph, of which this is just a very small sample. (For those of you who lead others, this current blog series provides excellent commentary on the principles to be learned from Joseph’s life.) Click the title which follows to read this where we found it.

Relationship with God Affects Others

NLT.Eph.4.24 You must display a new nature because you are a new person, created in God’s likeness––righteous, holy, and true.

Your relationship with God affects others. This statement is just as accurate today as it was in the days of people in the Bible. As my relationship with the Lord grows, He opens my eyes to begin to see people more as He sees them.

I was visiting an older faithful believer whose health is not good, yet she is joyful and thankful for Jesus. Her vibrant relationship with Jesus affected her visit with me and everyone with whom she interacted.

The world that seems dark and full of hardship is transformed into opportunities to assist others when my focus is on Jesus. Unfortunately, not everyone looks through the lens of Jesus as they journey through life.

Joseph’s Brothers were Affected by the Lack of Relationship with God

The sons of Jacob were a rough group of men who knew about the Lord, but their relationship with Him seemed shallow. This lack of connection with the Lord affected their actions to such a degree they wanted to kill their brother Joseph.

NLT.Gen.37.18 When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him in the distance. As he approached, they made plans to kill him. 19 “Here comes the dreamer!” they said. 20 “Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns. We can tell our father, ‘A wild animal has eaten him.’ Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!”

Joseph’s brothers’ weak relationship with the Lord would result in consequences they never foresaw. Only with God’s grace and patience were the brothers changed. This is the same patience the Lord has with you and me.

You Can Grow in Your Relationship with the Lord

All of us are a work in progress, and we don’t have to stay the way we are right now. You may be praying for the Lord to change you. God loves to heal broken and strained relationships. Years later, God helped heal the relationship between Joseph and his brothers. If God can do this, no relationship is beyond repair.

When Jesus begins to work in our hearts, He can turn a downcast, self-centered person into a person of joy and thankfulness. Paul gives us beautiful words of wisdom about taking off the old self and putting on the new.

 NLT.Eph.4.21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

To hear how your relationship with God affects others, listen here:

https://podpoint.com/light-of-christ-church-podcast/joseph-sold

August 17, 2022

Godless World Leaders

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Today we’re back with Arnold Reimer, who is a former pastor of one of the Christian and Missionary Alliance’s flagship churches, Bayview Glen Church in Toronto. His blog is called Finishing Well. Click the title which appears next to read this where it first appeared, along with other articles.

Godless

It is not always easy for us to understand the fierce judgment of God upon others, or upon an entire nation, even nations. But both Old and New Testaments have some strong things to say about the harsh dealings of the God upon those who perpetrate evil – the godless. Much of it has to do with protecting or punishing His people for disobedience, but sometimes it goes beyond that, due to the godlessness of a person or nation. There are numerous incidents of judgment in Scripture. Some Psalms especially speak to this, as do Peter’s letters and, most starkly, John’s The Revelation. In dangerous times like these it behooves us to think, pray, expect and act with understanding and wisdom.

Not since Hitler has there been a world leader as evil and heartless as is Russia’s Putin and his counselors. Under Stalin, many of the Russian people accepted atheism, the denial of God’s existence and rule. Millions of people died under his wicked regime. Now Putin is walking in Stalin’s shoes and the Ukraine people, and even some Russian people, are suffering unimaginable devastation and death. Putin is not the Anti-Christ we shall one day encounter, but he may well be the one who sets the stage for this winsome, but evil, peace-maker. He will first bring order out of chaos, and political solutions to global problems. But, once accepted and in power he will show his ugly side, and, as bad as Putin is, it will be even worse!

As followers of Christ Jesus how do we think, pray and act in times like these. Psalm 94 gives us some clear and important guidance:

“O Lord , God of vengeance; God of vengeance, shine forth! Rise up, O Judge of the earth; render recompense to the proud. How long shall the wicked, O Lord, how long shall the wicked exult? They pour forth words, they speak arrogantly; all who do wickedness vaunt themselves. They crush Your people, O Lord, and afflict Your heritage. They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the orphans. And they have said, ‘The Lord does not see, nor does the God of Jacob pay heed.’

Pay heed, you senseless among the people; and when will you understand, stupid ones? He who planted the ear, does He not hear? He who formed the eye, does He not see? He who chastens the nations, will He not rebuke, even He who teaches man knowledge? The Lord knows the thoughts of man, that they are a mere breath. Blessed is the man You discipline, O Lord, the man You teach from Your law; You grant him relief from days of trouble, till a pit is dug for the wicked. For the Lord will not reject His people; He will never forsake His inheritance. Judgment will again be founded on righteousness, and all the upright in heart will follow it. . .

(Read the rest of Psalm 94, and with it, Psalm 46.)

We are right to pray for the elimination of Putin, for an end to the destruction of the Ukraine, protection and provision for the displaced, and for peace in Europe. … We are right to examine our own political leaders, their rules and behavior, in the light of Scripture. They, too, for the common good need to be held accountable to the laws of a holy and righteous God, ruler of heaven and earth. “Righteousness exalts a nation, sin is a reproach to any people.”

It has been a long time since world affairs have been so troubled and uncertain. The voice of the Church must be heard with the clarity of truth, in humble repentance, and in exemplary talk and walk in righteousness. We must prepare ourselves to withstand the wrath of the ungodly. We must learn what it means to shine as lights in a dark world where pressure to be silent abounds. Increasingly evil reigns and, temporarily, seems to be winning. But, study again Ephesians 6 and put on the whole armor of God. Stand firm, dear saints, and remain standing! Fill your heart and mind with that blessed hope that encourages when all seems lost: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

 

 

June 26, 2022

Following Jesus: A Lifetime Deal, Not a Casual Arrangement

NLT.Matthew.4.18 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. 19 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” 20 And they left their nets at once and followed him.

CSB.Matthew16.24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it. 26 For what will it benefit someone if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will anyone give in exchange for his life?

Today, once again, we have a new writer to introduce. Charlotte (Shelly) Creamer writes at A Born Again Believer and currently lives in rural Nova Scotia, Canada, The title which follows links you to read this where we first discovered it earlier today, and from there you can look at other devotionals.

The Best Job You’ll Ever Have

When Jesus was looking for disciples, he didn’t go to their homes or track them down at the local pub or synagogue – he went to their place of work. Why did he do that? And not only did he go to their place of work, he told the disciples point-blank to quit their jobs then and there, and follow him. He made a very public demand, which they then very publicly agreed to and therefore could not backtrack on without seriously losing face.

I think one of the reasons Jesus nabbed his disciples at their place of work was because he was acting in the role of a competing employer. Discipleship in the Kingdom is not a hobby or a leisure activity – it’s a job, and it’s a full-time one. In fact, it’s full-time with perpetual overtime and no down-time. You cannot be a disciple of Jesus and at the same time work another job, even part-time. It’s not possible. Jesus himself had to give up his carpentry work when it was time to start his ministry.

That’s not to say that you can’t do a little something to keep body and soul together, but it can’t be a job with a boss and where you have to show up at a certain time or on certain days and remain at your duties for a certain period of time. Nothing should conflict with your Kingdom duties. NOTHING. Paul, as we know, did tent-making during most of his ministry years, but he did it on the fly. His tent-making didn’t tie him to any one location or any particular time-frame, as he couldn’t have traveled if it had. And he didn’t have any boss over him other than for Jesus and God.

I think another reason why Jesus went to the disciples’ place of work was so they’d understand they were entering into a business deal in agreeing to work for and with Jesus. It was a contract they were signing off on, not just a casual arrangement that could easily be walked away from. Not only that, it was a life-time contract that had implications for all eternity. And Jesus needed to get to the disciples where they wouldn’t be influenced or overruled by their sense of duty to their families. If he’d gone to their home environment, I’m guessing their responses might have been different.

We need to pay attention to the fact that Jesus went on a hiring spree when he chose his disciples, and that he’s still on that hiring spree. It didn’t stop when he went Home to Heaven. His offer to work for the Kingdom is never for a part-time position; it’s always full-time, and he’s a jealous boss: He wants you all to himself.

Needless to say, when Jesus comes to you with the offer (if he hasn’t yet), take it. Don’t tell him you need a few days or a few weeks to think about it – take it right there and right then, even if it means you have to walk away from everything and everyone and never look back. Because first of all, no-one will ever come to you with a better offer than to work for God and Jesus in the Kingdom, and second of all, if you reject Jesus’ offer or put off making a decision about it, there won’t be another opportunity. He won’t ask you again.

And if that happens, you will lose the only thing that matters in this life and the one to come – a Forever Home for your soul.

 

June 22, 2022

Caretakers of God’s Gifts | Doing God’s Will

A year ago we first shared the writing of Pastor Dick Woodward’s from the blog The Four Spiritual Secrets. His “about” page tells us that,

In 1980 Dick was diagnosed with a degenerative disease of the spinal cord that left him a quadriplegic. In spite of this disease he preached from his wheelchair until 1997, then remained active in his later years as a bedfast quadriplegic in small groups, mentoring, and writing Bible study materials and books through voice activated software until his death at the age of 83 in March of 2014. He often said, “The less I can do, the more the Lord does.”

Material is posted to his page regularly. Because these are shorter we have two devotional articles for you today, and the header for each is also a link to the blog.

God’s Business vs. Our Business

“Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful… And what do you have that you did not receive? (1 Corinthians 4:2,7)

The biblical word “steward” is not fully understood or appreciated. It is actually one of the most important words in the New Testament. A synonym for this word is “manager.” Many people believe this word primarily relates to a person’s money, but that application falls far short of the essential meaning of this word.

When Paul asks the probing question, “And what do you have that you did not receive?” he is telling us that our stewardship applies to everything we have received from God. This means our time, energy, gifts and talents, our health and all the things that make up the essence of our very lives, including all of our money and possessions.

At the age of 65 one of my best friends had what he refers to as a “halftime” experience when he came to fully appreciate this word “steward.” His regular custom was to draw a line down the middle of a legal pad page. On the left side of that line he wrote “My business” while on the right side of the line he wrote “God’s business.”

When he fully appreciated this word “steward” he erased that line because, as a wealthy businessman, he realized it was all God’s business.

Remember, the important thing about a steward is that we be found faithful. Do you realize there is nothing in your life you did not receive from God? Do you know that you are to faithfully manage everything you have received from God?

Are you willing to erase the line between what is yours and what is God’s?

Walking with Jesus: Doing & Knowing!

This is how we know we are in Him: whoever claims to live in Him must walk even as Jesus walked.” (1 John 2:5-6)

In the first sixteen verses of his short letter, the Apostle John gives us a prescription for fullness in seven parts: facts, faith, forgiveness, fellowship, follow-ship, fruitfulness, and fullness.

John’s facts are the death and resurrection of Jesus. When we have faith to believe the first fact we have forgiveness. When we believe the second the result is fellowship with the risen Christ. By changing one letter in the word “fellowship” to “follow-ship,” I have come up with the key to John’s prescription for fullness: you will know that you know when you walk as Jesus walked.

This word follow-ship is also a key to the fullness emphasized by Jesus. His covenant with the apostles was Follow Me and I will make you. (Matthew 4:19) The most important part of the Great Commission occurred when Jesus commissioned the disciples to make disciples. (Matthew 28:18-20) A synonym for discipleship is apprenticeship. Jesus apprenticed the apostles and He commissioned them to apprentice disciples.

The Gospel of John Chapter 7 records a great claim of Jesus when He declared that His teaching is the teaching of God. Jesus also proclaimed we prove that when we do what He teaches. (John 7:17) According to Jesus the doing leads to the knowing. Intellectuals have claimed for millenniums that the knowing will lead to the doing, but Jesus said “When you do you will know.”

Are you willing to do that you might know the Word of God?

April 24, 2022

Waiting on God; Hoping on God

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I had bookmarked the site Welcome to the Brightside in my computer, and when I returned today, the about page and contact page had been scrubbed clean, so I couldn’t see who the writer was beyond a single name, Katie. But I decided to be true to my original impulse when I bookmarked the site, and run this devotional from June ’21 anyway.

The devotional is short, but links to another at First 15 by Grace Fox, some of which we’ve included. If you’re looking for more today, consider that a second helping.

Clicking the title gets you to read this where we sourced it.

What is the World Coming To?

In a time where it feels as if everything is crumbling around us and making us question everything, one thing I know for sure remains true: Jesus.

The Holy Spirit. God. The Universe. All that is Holy. It’s true. I rest in this space. It tests my limits – making me feel uncomfortable at times – but the discomfort is one of my own. It is a lesson being offered to me on a silver platter. I choose to work on these and iron them out in my sacred time.

This morning I read on the First 5 App a beautifully written article on Hebrews 6:13-20.

Hebrews 6:19 (ESV) “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain…” 

An anchor’s purpose is to hold a boat in place. Set in mud, sand or silt, it prevents the vessel from drifting. Just as mariners need a physical anchor properly set in the right foundation to secure their ships, so all humans need a spiritual anchor properly set to secure their souls.

The author of Hebrews reminds us of Abraham’s faith in God. God’s promises provided a spiritual anchor for Abraham. (Hebrews 6:13-14) This anchor gave him the courage to obey when God told him to leave his country and follow Him to an undisclosed land where He would make Abraham a great nation and a blessing. (Genesis 12:1-3) It gave him the power to trust God for a son even though the thought seemed ludicrous. After all, he was an old man. His wife was beyond childbearing years and barren. (Genesis 17:1;  Genesis 18:11;  Genesis 21:1-7) Abraham’s faith also gave him the patience to wait nearly 25 years to see the promise of a son fulfilled. (Hebrews 6:15)

Abraham’s hope was securely grounded in God’s inability to lie and in the covenant He made with him. (Hebrews 6:13-18;  Numbers 23:19;  Genesis 15:9-20) Traditionally, someone who swears by an oath calls on a person with greater authority to hold him to his word, but God swore by His own name because He is the ultimate authority on Earth and in heaven. (Exodus 32:13;  Isaiah 45:23) There is no name higher than His. (Psalm 138:2) The oath is like an extra layer of reliability that He will do what He says He will do.

Abraham’s faith kept him from drifting into despair through years of waiting for the impossible to happen. Most importantly, it made him right with God. (Romans 4:1-5) We, too, are made right with God when we take refuge in Him through faith in Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 6:18;  John 3:16;  1 John 1:9)…

[…to read the full devotional, including the above cited passage with links to the scripture verses, click this link…]

The biggest takeaway for me this morning: Jesus is the hope that anchors our souls.

Jesus is the anchor when our souls have lost hope.

So I flip open my Bible to connect deeper and I stumble upon this page in Matthew 26:55.

NLT.Heb.26.55 Then Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I some dangerous revolutionary, that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there teaching every day.

It could do us all a lot of good to reflect. Think about it – if God waited 700 years before bringing Jesus to us – why do we constantly think we need to slay the enemy right now? Instead of focusing on defending what we believe to be ours… focus small. Otherwise we fall victim into the enemy’s plan.

Stay focused.


March 26, 2022

Holiness Makes Some People Squirm

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

This is our fourth time with Eric Wright, a retired pastor and missionary that I have had the privilege of knowing personally. Eric is the author of several books in different genres, including inspirational, doctrinal and (especially) fiction. You can learn more at Country Inspiration. To read this on his site (with pictures) click the header which immediately follows.

Does Talk of Holiness Make You Uncomfortable?

In times past, Christians have been called holy-rollers or holy-joes. Downright weird. Generally, those who openly profess Christ are assumed to think of themselves as holier than thou. The very term, holiness¸ seems not only archaic but a word that makes people feel uncomfortable.

But in this 16th in my series about celebrating redemption, we come to holiness, a vital aspect of sanctification. According to 2 Corinthians 7:1 if we are to progress in sanctification, we must grow in holiness. “Dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” According to Hebrews 12:14; ”Without holiness, no one will see the Lord.” And in Hebrews 10:14, sanctification is “being made holy.”

In essence, holiness is separation from all sin, from everything that morally contaminates, from everything that would anger the thrice-holy God of Isaiah 6. In a vision Isaiah saw two seraphs crying to each other as they flew; “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty” (Is. 6:3). This vision of God’s holiness made Isaiah cry out “Woe is me…I am a man of unclean lips” (6:5).

In a non-moral sense, God, is in essence, holy in being completely separate from all His creation. In a moral sense, he is holy in being separate from all that is evil. The laws he has given us define evil negatively and holiness positively. Disobedience to God’s laws either in act or thought makes us unholy.

It is crystal clear that the goal of every follower of this Holy God, is to perfect holiness in the fear of God. Having been born again, we are to put off the old sinful self and “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24).

“Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD…Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees…I seek you with all my heart, do not let me stray from your commands” (Ps. 119:1, 5,10) Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands.”

If holiness is our goal, we won’t go around projecting an image that we are “holier than thou”, for holiness is an attitude as well as an action. The beatitudes define holiness as humility, meekness, mercy, compassion, etc. (See. Matt. 5:3-12) Galatians 5 defines holiness as love, joy, peace, longsuffering… (Gal. 5:22,23). Or in the Jesus’ response to a lawyer’s question, the essence of the law is love for God and love for one’s neighbour. Clearly, then, holiness is not a one-dimensional quality, it is not just the absence of sin but the presence of those qualities of life that reflect love.

But how to we grow in holiness? For grow we must. The very essence of sanctification is growth. No growth—no life. “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ [the holy one]” (2 Peter 3:18).


Further articles, books, and stories by Eric are at: http://www.countrywindow.ca

March 25, 2022

Chasing Achieving the Wrong Things

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

NIV.Matt.7.21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

CSB.Mark.6.36 For what does it benefit someone to gain the whole world and yet lose his life?

Today we have a new author’s writing to highlight. Rachel doesn’t have an “about” page so far, but her blog, In Rachel’s Words is very well-written. In this devotional she talks about the secondary doctrines that often block our focus from the things that matter.

Clicking the header which follows will take you to read this directly where we found it, and then check out some of her other writing.

Does It Matter?

Does “X” Matter?

I had a conversation with a friend, and I said, “X doesn’t really matter. It’s not a requirement for salvation.” I don’t know if offended her when I said that, and at the same time, I wasn’t sure I should have made that statement. “X” is something that really matters to a lot of people. It’s something that matters to me.

What “X” represents in the statement above is not critical for this dialogue. In fact, you can insert whatever it is that you value most in this life as the substitute for “X.” The only substitute you cannot use is God (i.e., the Lord Jesus Christ) because that would be heresy.

So, “X” could be not being poor, never getting sick with a life-altering disease, starting your own business, having a good education, buying a house, having a family, or traveling to as many countries as possible.

Do these things matter? Certainly. Arguably, we might say some of these things matter more than the others. But, what if none of these is greater than the other? What if none of these things matters the most?

I am not confident that it ultimately matters that we are able to achieve or receive what we most value in life, whether it be not to be poor, to be self-sufficient, or have the most epic family. I think what matters is what we did with the life that we were given.

For example, you have a life in which you were born into poverty, and for whatever reason(s), you were unable to escape poverty, your socioeconomic status is not held against you when you stand before the Judgement Seat. What really matters is what you did with the life you had.

Will the Lord say He knows you (Matthew 7:21–23)? That’s what matters.

The answer to that question depends on what you did with the life He selected for you. You can’t pick the family you are born into, nor do you have authority over a lot of other things that do or do not happen to you. But, you can control how you respond to and navigate the life that you have.

How did you treat the other people the Lord placed in your life? How did you treat your spouse and your kids? How did you treat your siblings and your parents? Were you a witness in your spheres of influence? Did you stand for what was true and right when no one else did? Did you suffer for Christ? Did you lay down your life and follow Him (John 13:8)? Was your life a testimony?

Did you say, “Not my will, but your will be done?” (Luke 22:42).

Or, did you go out into the world, dissatisfied with the life you have and manipulate people and finagle situations to get what you want? Did your lack of “X,” even if it severely impacts your quality of life, such as having a terrible cancer, transform you into someone bitter and ungrateful and hateful? I think that attitude of dissatisfaction, disgust and hate for what Lord intended, and/or intentional manipulation of life to get what you want matter far more than “X.”

How did you spend the life you have? How did you use what the Lord has given you—even if it’s difficult or not what you want—for His glory?

What is the point of achieving “X” if, in some cases, you gain the world and lose your soul (Mark 8:36)? One day, both the world and you and “X” will disappear, and only one thing will matter.

Did He know you?


Second Helping: By the same author, here’s a piece where although she didn’t actually use the word, “Deconstruction,” it’s a word making the rounds currently in many of our church discussions, and the first thing I thought of while reading. Check out Demolition or Renovation?.

February 12, 2022

Should You “Follow Your Heart?”

Today I discovered a short devotional which has a truth worth sharing, however the article didn’t specifically reference a scripture passage which is usually de reigeur for us, so let’s begin our thoughts with these verses.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. – John 16:13 NLT

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. – 2 Timothy 3:15 NLT

Today’s thoughts are from James Young, who is being highlighted here for the first time. He writes at Keeper of the King’s Light. Click the link which follows to read this there.

Emotional Reaction ≠ God’s Will

 
Easily, one of the most over used and Hallmarked concepts is: “Follow your heart and it will never steer you wrong.” Disney has made an entire empire out of the idea of following your heart and dreams as your guiding stars. Such a mindset could not be further from the truth.
 
Our hearts are naturally deceptive and wicked. If we have a strong desire to sin and listen to our flesh, then our heart and dreams will always be to follow the path of things that are wicked I’m the sight of the Lord. A thief and a con-artist has no desire for charity or selfless giving. A liar has will never tell the truth in a court system. An individual who loves in fleshly desires will never stay pure and wait until marriage.
 
Well, what about the idea of “letting Jesus into your heart”? How can a heart be wicked if Jesus resides there?
 
Simple: the expression, like many others we pull from sources such as Benjamin Franklin, is not Biblical in origin. While may be used as a way to explain accepting Christ as your Saviour; the expression itself does not give the true meaning of coming to Christ justice. Believe me when I say I’m shocked to be typing this as much as you are reading this. This was a Sunday school question for years and until just a few minutes ago: I never questioned it. If you are interested in looking into it further; here is an article I found that is actually very compelling in explaining it further: https://www.christianity.com/wiki/salvation/is-asking-jesus-into-your-heart-in-the-bible.html
 
So, how do we discern what is the Holy Spirit and what is our own will and wanting? It sounds like a church answer, but it is so true: stick close to the scripture and be in complete openness to God when you pray. He already knows what you want and He wants you to talk to Him about it. When He answers; it will come in 3 ways: yes, no, not yet. Like a loving Father; God has our best interest in mind. He may not be after making millionaires out of us, but He wants us to live in such a way that honors Him.
 
The last website you were on? The last video you watched? The last song you sang? The last thought you had? Do any of them point to God or to yourself? When Christ left us to return to Heaven; He left in His place the Holy Spirit to guide us and to lead us. But how can The Spirit lead if our hearts are wicked and unyielding to God?
 
So, how do we know what’s right and in God’s will? Stay close to His word, stay in constant and open communication with Him, and learn to wait on Him. His timing is perfect in all His ways. As Jesus tells us, if the birds of the air don’t worry: why should we?
 


 
One of the earliest posts here at C201 very briefly looked at the 2 Timothy passage (above) with some imagery at the end of the verse describing walking along a path. Check out All Scripture Had Its Point of Origin in God’s Mind.

 

 

December 29, 2021

Persons Claiming They Don’t Have Need for Bible Teaching

This is our fifth full-length post from Bill Muehlenberg at the website Culture Watch and it’s only the first part of a longer article. You’ll need to click through to continue reading some of the reactions he had when he posted this. It’s a very timely topic right now, especially as people have used Covid-19 as an excuse to sever themselves from local churches. Click the header which follows.

Difficult Bible Passages: 1 John 2:27

This is another passage that is so often abused and misused. That is the main reason it can be so difficult or problematic. A subtitle to this article might be: “This Is How Cults Arise”. That is because those who mangle this verse are prime candidates for the cults or may well already be in one.

The verse says this:

“As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.”

This verse, and John 14:16-17, 26 and John 16:13, are so often wrongly appropriated by some believers. The texts in John’s gospel are a bit different: they refer to the fact that Jesus will soon be leaving his disciples, and he wants to assure them that he is not abandoning them, but he is leaving the Holy Spirit with them to assist and guide them.

These verses are often used by those who claim that they have no need of “human” anything: human learning, human teaching, human counsel, human books, human study, etc. They imply that they have a direct pipeline to God, so are totally self-sufficient in and of themselves. They have no need of anyone else.

I just wrote about these “Holy Spirit-only” believers. At the end of the day what we have are not super-spiritual believers, but usually arrogant and fleshly Christians: billmuehlenberg.com/2019/01/26/holy-spirit-only-christians/

In a moment I will give a concrete example of this sort of twisted thinking. But first, how might we answer this? It is quite easy actually. If we simply run with the two most basic rules of biblical interpretation, we will have no problems here at all:
1) study every text in its context
2) compare scripture with scripture

As to the first, the context shows that John is dealing with some heretical, Gnostic, and/or secessionist teachers who were claiming special spiritual insights and revelations. It is THOSE sorts of false teachers that these Christians have no need of, and need to avoid.

Concerning the second, it is clear from numerous biblical passages that we DO need teachers, counsellors, advisors, overseers, etc. – all of them “mere” humans. The New Testament everywhere speaks of how God has given teachers and others to the Body of Christ to help it grow and develop.

Simply based on all these other texts, there is absolutely NO way anyone could believe that John is saying we should not have teachers. Indeed, the letters of John are ALL ABOUT teaching, instruction and helpful information to believers. Throughout the New Testament human teaching – properly understood – is NOT being downplayed, but extolled and encouraged.

I realize that these hyper-spiritual types especially dislike things like biblical commentaries, but let me quote from just a few of them anyway. While they may despise and look down upon these godly biblical teachers, I am happy to run with their Spirit-directed wisdom and insights.

One of these great Spirit-endowed men of God was John Stott. He said this about the passage in his commentary:

True, in the last resort the Holy Spirit is our absolutely adequate Teacher, and we maintain our right of private judgment by His illumination of the Word of God. But we must see this verse in the context of an Epistle in which John is, in fact, teaching those who, he says, have no need of human teachers! And other passages of the New Testament refer not only to the general ministry of teaching in the Church (e.g. Acts 4:18, 5:28, 42; 2 Tim. 2:24) but also to specially gifted ‘teachers’ (1 Cor. 12:29; Eph 4:11).

Obviously John’s epistles are full of teaching and instruction. As James Montgomery Boice puts it:

When John says that the Christians of his day “do not need anyone to teach” them, the statement must be understood in its context. It does not mean, for instance, that there is no value at all in teaching or that there is no such thing as a teaching ministry in the church. In fact, as Bruce observes, “What is John himself doing in this letter if he is not ‘teaching’ his readers?

Or as Marianne Meye Thompson comments:

While ultimately the Spirit “will teach you all things” (Jn 14:26), the Spirit does so through human beings. Thus, when the Elder writes you do not need anyone to teach you, he does not mean that they have never needed any teachers—for he himself was and continues to be their teacher! But they do not now suddenly need new teaching about Jesus, such as the secessionists are offering.

Let me now turn to some recent remarks that came my way on all this…

[…continue reading here]

October 10, 2021

Jesus and the Rich Young Yuppie

Today we’re introducing you to Rev. Taylor Mertins  who writes at Think and Let Think, has co-authored three books, and hosts the Crackers and Grape Juice Podcast. Clicking the header which follows will get you direct access to today’s devotional, along with a Lego image of the ‘sorrowful’ young man who walks away from Jesus.

Jesus And The Yuppie

Mark 10.17

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 

Jesus is doing his Jesus-thing, teaching about the upside down nature of the kingdom, when a yuppie shows up and asks about the requirements for salvation.

We only know what we know about this particular character based on what scripture tells us, and his story is a cautionary tale (and a beloved one among preachers).

Notice – the rich young man is already a success story in the eyes of the world: he’s a winner.

But he wants more.

What could drive someone to such a desire? Surely none of us know of such thirst and such hunger for more.

Robert Farrar Capon, in his seminal work on the parables, imagines the innermost thoughts of this yuppie with Jesus like this:

“Oh yes, I have had what once I would have called success. I moved the vices out of the city into a chain of reconditioned lighthouses. I introduced statistical methods in the Liberal Arts. I revived the country dances and installed electric stoves in the mountain cottages. I saved democracy by buying steel… But the world is not better and it is now quite clear to me that there is nothing to be done with such a ship of fools adrift on a sugarloaf sea in which it is going very soon and suitably to founder. Deliver me, dear Teacher, from the tantrums of my telephones and the whisper of my secretaries… deliver me from these helpless agglomerations of disheveled creatures with their bed-wetting, vomiting, weeping bodies, their giggling, fugitive, disappointing hearts, and their scrawling, blotted, misspelled minds, to whom I have so foolishly tried to bring the light they do not want… translate me, bright Angel, from this hell of inert and ailing matter, growing steadily senile in a time forever immature, to that blessed realm, so far above the twelve impertinent winds and the four unreliable seasons, that Heaven of the Really General Case where, tortured no longer by three dimensions and immune to temporal vertigo, Life turns into Light, absorbed for good into the permanently stationary, completely self-sufficient, absolutely reasonable One.” (Capon, The Parables of Judgment, 42).

The yuppie certainly has a problem: he is a winner who cannot fathom, whatsoever, the end of his winning. He is positively bewitched by the idea that there are no limits to what he can achieve by his own power.

Jesus responds by adding insult to injury and gives the man an impossible list of goals to achieve, namely the Ten Commandments. But the yuppie assures the Good Lord that he is, was, and forever will be perfect in the eyes of the Law.

And then, as Mark puts it, Jesus looks at the young man, loves him, and says something like, “Okay hotshot. There’s only one thing left for you to do: sell everything you have and give it to the poor. Hopefully removing all your winnings will free you to see that the only real way to win is by losing, the only way to be great is to be the least, the only way to live is to die.”

But the yuppie walks away sad, because he has many possessions.

And yet, here’s the really sad part: the yuppie walked away from the only really good news he would ever hear. Because all of that winning, in whatever form it took (material, moral, or even spiritual success) would eventually pass away like the wind in his death.

Or, as Jesus puts it, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?”

The rich young man couldn’t stand the thought of being a loser. But Jesus saves sinners (losers) and only sinners.

In the strange new world of the Bible, only the winners lose because only the losers can win – that’s how reconciliation works. If winning could’ve saved the world we would’ve done it a long time ago. Evil cannot be destroyed by moral score-keeping. The only way to save the world is to do what God did – by taking evil out of the world by taking it into himself in Jesus, nailing it to the cross, and leaving it there forever.

What must we do to inherit eternal life? Well, nothing. Nothing because, we can’t save ourselves.

But, thankfully, Jesus is in the business of making something of our nothing.

Next Page »