Christianity 201

July 12, 2019

God Is Not Playing Us

Today we return to Gary Henry at WordPoints. Pray for Gary as he deals with what he calls a “trifecta” of health problems right now. Click the title below to read at source:

God Has Never Trifled with Us

“. . . I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you” (Jeremiah 31:3).

WHEN WE SEEK GOD, WE CAN BE SURE THAT HE HAS ALWAYS BEEN SEEKING US, AND IT IS WITH DILIGENCE THAT HE HAS DONE SO.

Knowing of God’s earnestness toward us, we should turn toward Him with all the more gratitude and carefulness. “If God is diligent, surely we ought to be diligent in doing our duty to him. Think how patient and how diligent God has been with us!” (Oswald Chambers).

Lest there be any misunderstanding, it needs to be emphasized that we can never reciprocate God’s love in any way that would be complete or even adequate. Our best efforts to respond to God’s diligence are broken and marred. Even if we were sinless, as creatures we would still not be able to attend to our Creator in the same way that He attends to us. And having sinned, we surely cannot deserve the earnestness of the love He has shown to us. In one sense, all of our human deeds are trifles.

Yet the frailty of our condition should not keep us from doing what we can do, and that is to be moved by God’s love. We can choose to be responsive rather than unresponsive. We can hear His voice. We can answer His call. And knowing that God has never trifled with us ought to make us determine, out of sheer gratitude, to take Him seriously. Knowing what our atonement cost Him, how can we simply dabble in religion? Trifling with God is the most horrible form of ingratitude.

Words are interesting things, and we can often be enlightened by their history. Originally the word “trifle” meant trickery or deceit. To trifle was to say or do something that one did not really mean, pretending to be serious. Today the verb “trifle” means

(1) to deal with something as if it were of little significance or value,
(2) to speak or act with little seriousness or purpose, or
(3) to play or toy with something.

When we trifle with God, is there not a bit of the old meaning of the word in our actions? When we pretend to love Him dearly but give Him no more than our leftovers, is it some trick we are trying to play on God? Do we think He does not notice our lack of seriousness?

“God is earnest with you. Why are you not so with Him? Why trifle with God?” (Oswald Chambers).


Because that was shorter one, here’s a bonus article by the same author…


You’ll Have to Let Go

Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33).

TO FOLLOW JESUS IN THIS LIFE, WE MAY HAVE TO FORSAKE SOME THINGS, BUT TO FOLLOW HIM ALL THE WAY TO HEAVEN, WE’LL HAVE TO FORSAKE EVERYTHING.

Nothing is ours to keep. There is nothing — nothing — we won’t have to let go of, except God.

Most people would say the rich, wonderful love that can exist between a husband and a wife is the highest of the temporal blessings available to us. In the midst of enjoying a good marriage, most people would say, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” But without denigrating the joys of marriage, it must be said that marriage is earthly. It won’t be in heaven. It must be let go of.

I want to share with you one of the starkest statements that I have ever come across, considering who made it. This is James Dobson talking, the man who, for many folks, is the foremost family authority in America:

“Nothing is really important in [this] life, not even the relationships that blossom in a healthy home. In time, we must release our grip on everything we hold dear.”

I suggest that if James Dobson, a man who has devoted his life to the importance of the home, sees that marriage and family life are not “really important,” the rest of us had better sit up and take notice.

Most of us, I suppose, would say that we love the Lord more than anything else and that heaven is going to be better than anything we have here. But do you really believe that? Do you love God more than you love your spouse? Would you give up marriage for the Lord? Is the spiritual life better than sex? If the Lord gave you a choice between going to heaven right now and staying in the world with your grandchildren for ten more years, which would you choose? Now certainly, we may enjoy these things right now and then have the Lord in heaven later on. But even now, the Lord had better be more important to us than these things. And the main measure of whether we have a proper attitude toward temporal joys is how ready we are to let go of them. And I don’t mean “someday” — I mean today, if the need should arise.

What it comes down to is this: anything we can’t let go of is an idol that will destroy our souls, however good that thing may be.

“Learn to hold loosely all that is not eternal” (Agnes Maude Royden).

 

June 15, 2019

Light and Darkness

This is our third time highlighting the site Discovering the Bible, written by Deborah, a retired doctor now living in Swansea, Wales. Choosing a devotional (or two smaller ones) for today was a tough process; there’s so much good material. Click the header below to read this at source.

Learning to walk in the light

Psalm 89:15

“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim You,
who walk in the light of Your presence, LORD.”

What is it like to know God? The people who get to know Him develop an attitude to life that is full of confidence and gratitude. They are not merely drifting through life; they know what they are doing and where they are going. They are ‘walking in the light’.

This sounds deceptively easy, but it doesn’t come naturally even to Christians. In fact, it’s something that we have to learn to do.

The pillar of fire (Exodus 13:21)

Ex.13.21 By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.

When we start out on our Christian journey, God often seems especially close, because He makes things easy for us during our spiritual ‘babyhood’. It was like this on Israel’s first crucial journey out of Egypt: His unseen presence was made visible as a pillar of fiery cloud, and all they had to do was follow it.

In the desert, it’s easier to travel at night (when it’s cooler) – but in the darkness it’s all the more vital to know where you are going! And in a world that is spiritually dark, we need to know which road to take. Whenever we come to a moral decision-point, it’s to God that we must look for direction. We don’t have a convenient pillar of fire (or an audible voice from heaven) to lead us; we must learn to discover God’s will by reading the Bible and by discussion with other believers.

The light of the world (John 8:12)

In Jesus’ time, the four great candelabra in the Temple courtyard were lit during the Feast of Tabernacles to remind the people of the pillar of fire that had led their ancestors through the wilderness. John tells us that at the end of the festival, when the lights were being extinguished, Jesus declared Himself to be the Reality behind the symbol:

“I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Decision (Isaiah 2:5)

Walking in darkness is the ‘default option’. We have to make a positive decision to become followers of Jesus in the first place; and thereafter we must make a conscious effort to reject the ways of the world and keep following His light.

Is.2.5 “Come, descendants of Jacob,
let us walk in the light of the LORD.”

But if we stop paying attention to where we are heading, we will gradually drift off course and back into the darkness again!

Walking together (I John 1:7)

1Jn.1.7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Walking in darkness includes such things as having bad relationships with our Christian brothers and sisters (I John 2:9). We cannot have full fellowship with God while refusing to join and work together with other believers!

Walking in the light is also by its very nature a communal activity; for everyone who is following close to Jesus must also be close to one another. “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another…” And that fellowship also helps to keep us together on the right path.

Our destination (Proverbs 4:18)

Prov.4.18 The path of the righteous is like the morning sun,
    shining ever brighter till the full light of day.

The path of light is one of safety and growing certainty. As we grow in our faith, and diligently put it into practice, we come further and further into God’s light – and it actually becomes easier to make the right decisions.


Bonus devotional: If you have time, here’s another from the same author…

The Gospel: Some Questions Answered

25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— Romans 3:25,26

Our sins could not be forgiven without atonement being made. So what about those, like David, whose sins were forgiven before Christ came?

2.Sam.12.13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.

Paul’s answer is that the cross is a ‘once-for-all’ method of dealing with sin, effective both retrospectively and prospectively

Heb.9.26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Before Christ came, God had refrained from executing full judgement on sin because of His mercy.

“He does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.” (Psalm 103:10)

But this was not because of moral indifference; rather, judgement was withheld until it could fall upon Jesus.

The cross also answers the question of how a righteous God can remain righteous while forgiving our sins – which seems to overturn the whole concept of justice. Justification is not an amnesty; our sins are not being ignored or ‘swept under the carpet’. In fact, justice has been done – and seen to have been done – in the public execution of Jesus Christ. Because His sacrificial death fully satisfies the demands of justice, God can justify sinners without compromising His own righteousness.

May 23, 2019

A Compelling Life

How Christian Ethics Point to the Reality of God.

by Clarke Dixon

Is the kind of life Christianity leads to compelling? Is it a beautiful life, or is it ugly? If Christianity is compelling, and if God is good, then we would expect the way God would have us live should bring beauty and not ugliness. So does it?

Some would say no. In the Margaret Atwood novel, A Hand Maid’s Tale, everything is supposedly ordered according to the Bible. It does not take too long for the reader to figure out that this is a very ugly society. Many would say that even without such Christian state control, the Christian life is ugly. The Christian life is described as blindly following many, many rules without any thought as to whether they are good or not. So is the Christian life beautiful or ugly? People may portray the Christian life as ugly, or even live out a Christian life that is ugly, but the Bible points to a life that is beautiful for the following reasons.

First, the Christian life is a Jesus centred life. 

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (NRSV emphasis added)

The focus was not to be on the what the teachers of the law commanded in Jesus’ day. The focus is not to be on what the teachers of the law command in ours. The focus is on Jesus and what he commanded. It is not about powerful people or powerful traditions. It is about Jesus.

The focus is on Jesus, even when we are reading the letters of Paul, Peter, James, or John. The letters in the New Testament are not “here is something new, because Jesus did not say enough,” but, “here are the implications of Jesus on theology, and here is what the Jesus-focused life looks like for us.” What we have in the letters are the apostles working out the implications of Jesus for first century Rome, Corinth, Ephesus and so on.

This has important implications. Take slavery, for example. Some would say that the inclusion of slavery in the Bible demonstrates that the Christian life is ugly. Does the New Testament support the institution of slavery? Slavery was a part of life in that day, a fact which was not going to change anytime soon. Since slavery was a part of life, Paul offers how a Jesus-centred person should live when they happen to be a slave, or a slave holder. In fact, there are beautiful implications as we discover in Paul’s letter to Philemon where Philemon is encouraged to take back his runaway slave, Onesimus, “no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother” (Philemon 16 NRSV). Philemon’s Jesus-focused life was to be a thing of beauty for Onesimus. Life is beautiful when it is impacted by Jesus.

All of the New Testament letters are part of the Word of God, yes. However, we do not read Paul’s letters to find out how to become a Paul follower, or how to be more focused on Paul in our lives. We read Paul to discover how people were encouraged to be Jesus followers, to live Jesus-centred lives in the first century. This helps us discover how we can live Jesus-focused lives in our day.

A Jesus-centred life is a beautiful life. Of course this is so, Jesus was a beautiful man! Notice the way he related to people, his integrity, his reverence for the Father, his focus on the spirit of the law and not the letter, his ability to challenge and unravel the status quo, his living out of the Great Commandments, his good works. Notice how he gave his life to rescue you and I from sin. Jesus is beautiful. A Jesus-centred life is a beautiful life.

Second, the Christian life is a Spirit filled life.

22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-25 (NRSV emphasis added)

The “fruit of the Spirit” is all beautiful stuff! We would describe a person whose character is marked by such traits as being a beautiful person.

Fruit grows naturally. A beautiful character is the natural consequence of a relationship with God. Fruit naturally grows where the conditions are right. Our part is to see that the conditions are good by keeping our connection with God open through prayer, Bible reading, relationships with other Christians, and worship. But God is the One who makes fruit grow. A Spirit filled Life is a beautiful life.

Third, the Christian life is a life of wisdom.

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace. James 3:13-18 (NRSV emphasis added)

The letter of James has been described by some Biblical scholars as being like the “wisdom literature” from the Old Testament. It points to the good life and how to live well. Notice the focus on gentleness and peace. The wise person knows that being gentle and peaceable is a good thing. A wise person living in wisdom is a beautiful thing. A life of wisdom is a beautiful life.

Conclusion.

Some paint the Christian life as being ugly. It is portrayed as blindly following rules without any thought given as to whether those rules are helpful or not. It is portrayed as a very narrow life with no fun allowed at all. But that’s not it! The Christian is to be Jesus-centred, Spirit filled, and wise! The Christian life is a beautiful life, just as we should expect if Christianity is true, if God is good. While many world-views and religions can lead to ugly places, the beauty of the Christian life is yet another aspect of Christianity that is compelling.


This post is part of a series called “Compelling” which begins here. The full sermon can be heard on the podcast which is found here.

 

May 9, 2019

Compelling Mission

by Clarke Dixon

Does the way in which we engage people outside the church point to the reality of God?

In previous posts we have looked at Christianity as compelling because it is true. This week we begin looking at how Christianity is compelling because it is beautiful.

My boys are now reading Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which I also read in school. In this book and corresponding TV series American society has been ordered, supposedly, according to the teachings of the Bible. However, it is not long before the reader realizes that this is a very ugly society. If that is what Christianity leads to, it is not compelling at all! If Christianity is true, reflecting a good and loving God, we will expect it to bring beauty, not ugliness. Does Christianity lead to beauty or ugliness? Specifically, is the way Christians engage non-Christians beautiful?

First, freedom is beautiful. Imprisonment is always an ugly thing. With Christianity there is to be freedom. When we read the New Testament we find people freely choosing to be followers of Jesus. In the “Great Commission” of Matthew 28, Jesus did not say “go and force everyone to be a Christian,” but “go and make disciples.”

This means that everyone should have freedom to not be a Christian. Some religions and worldviews use power to keep people in. We can think of fundamentalist versions of Islam. In some nations it is illegal to convert from Islam to another faith! My own children have been raised with a strong connection with the church family. But they are free to not be Christians. While my heart’s desire is that all three will follow Jesus, it is not my decision to make. They are free to choose their relationship with Jesus. As they grow into adulthood they will be free to choose their connection with the church family also. Sometimes we as Christians have made it difficult for people to leave the faith. That gets ugly. Freedom is beautiful.

There is also to be freedom for the non-Christian to not have to act like a Christian. Jesus did not say in Matthew 28 “go and make Christian nations, forcing everyone to have Christian morals,” but,

. . . go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (NLT emphasis added)

The New Living Translation goes beyond what is in the original Greek, but captures for us well who is to learn Christ’s ways, namely, His disciples. As a Canadian I am watching the culture war in the States with interest. I see a desire to ‘make America Christian again.’ However, forcing an entire nation to follow Jesus gets ugly. We understand that Christianity is spreading very well in China. I imagine that the Chinese Christians are focused on making disciples, one person at a time, not fighting a culture war, one law at time. That is not to say that Christians should not be involved in politics. But when we are, let us not confuse lawmaking with evangelism.

We Christians have sometimes denied freedom, and sometimes still do. It has been and can get ugly. But we will not deny freedom if we are looking to Jesus, if the New Testament is our guide. Freedom is beautiful, and a Biblical Christianity promotes freedom.

Second, words are a beautiful way to share truth. Forced conversion through violence is ugly. Conversion through force or manipulation is something you will not find happening in the New Testament, nor is it something Jesus told us to do. Instead, we find people sharing what they know to be true about Jesus using words. You will not find a Christian going to war in the New Testament to ‘take the land for Jesus.’ You will find honest sharing. You will find conversations. You will not find warriors. You will find preachers.

We Christians have sometimes resorted to power, and sometimes we still do. It has been and can get ugly. However, we will not use force if we are looking to Jesus, if the New Testament is our guide. Words are beautiful. A Biblical Christianity promotes conversation and sharing through words.

Third, it is a beautiful thing to share good news. Keeping life changing good news to oneself would be ugly. Keeping Jesus for ourselves would be ugly. Keeping quiet about the amazing news of God’s amazing grace would be ugly. Some religions may promote a ‘keep to yourself’ attitude. That might be okay if you are keeping your love for liver and onions to yourself. But imagine finding the cure for cancer. We have learned of the cure for death itself! We have learned that God has a love solution for our separation-from-God problem. Keeping that to ourselves would demonstrate an ugly, ugly lack of love for others. From the very earliest days, Christians have been involved in missions. Because we must in order to get to heaven? Nope! Because sharing good news is a beautiful thing, a natural thing. The good news is too good to keep to ourselves!

The way Christians are to relate with non-Christians is not ugly, but beautiful. Freedom is beautiful, words are a beautiful way to share truth, and it is a beautiful thing to share good news. God’s call for how the Christian should engage with the non-Christian is, just as you would expect from a good God, beautiful. This is yet another aspect of Christianity that is compelling.


This post is part of a series called “Compelling” which begins here. The full sermon can be heard on the podcast which is found here.

April 5, 2019

Hidden But Not in Hiding

This is our sixth time taking you to the writing of Lori Thomason at Pure Devotion. Click the header below to read at source. Click here to read her story.

Hidden

Matthew 5:14-15 (NLT) “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.

Leaving church trying to wrangle our crew, a woman approached me who I had not met before. She introduced herself to me and proceeded to tell me that I radiated “light”. I honestly do not remember exactly her words because any form of compliment makes me extremely uncomfortable. I shifted the attention to her daughter who was a blouse similar to mine. Smiling and waving awkwardly on my part, I got in the car to leave. This is exactly what I want people to see in me even though the whole situation made me uncomfortable. I need to hear that the Light of His Love is shining through. There are seasons when our light doesn’t seem to be as bright as it should. Or even worse, when it feels like no matter what you do the projection is not quite right. You feel hidden from the world and lost in your calling. To feel inadequate, insignificant and ineffective in our mission is discouraging. Am I the only one today who feels hidden sometimes?

You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 

The Light of His Love has changed my life. It has infiltrated me and constantly transforming the old woman into a new creation. It is not easy to live a life of exposure. Constantly peeking into His Word and pursuing God in prayer is a place that my inadequacy and insignificance seem magnified.  How can a God of such goodness give me amazing grace? He loves me. He wants me. He is for me. Jesus died for me. He rose again for me. He made me victorious giving me unprecedented favor. Still there are times when I do not feel like a bright and shining light but a candle barely maintaining a flame.

The story of David is one of hidden potential. David was the youngest in his family so the chances of him receiving the father’s blessing were not in his favor. Too many in line before him. He was relegated to a field to tend sheep. He spent countless hours worshipping God in his hiding place as evidenced in his writing. He also encountered some challenges namely a lion and a bear threatening the flock. He obliged them with death. In a simple task, taking his brothers some lunch and checking on their wellbeing, his hidden potential was revealed. David was a warrior. He was a champion. He was a future king. Who are you today? What potential is hidden inside of you? Are you ignoring it?

Luke 8:46-48 (NLT) But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” When the woman realized that she could not stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed.

 “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

What if you are not hidden but in hiding? Oh, this is pretty good too. The woman who had the issue of blood. Years of isolation, pain and suffering decided to seek out Jesus. She did not call from the side of the road like blind Bartimaeus. She did not make a scene. She got on her hands and knees crawling through the crowd just to touch the hem of his garment. When Jesus felt power leave Him, He asked, “Who touched me?” The woman fell silent and tried to stay hidden. When the woman realized she could not stay hidden, she forever became a light for all to see. Are you hidden by God on purpose until it is time for your release? Or are you staying hidden on purpose imprisoned by doubt and fear? I wonder also if this woman was a Jew and knew that her belief in Christ and healing would make her subject to her religion and possible persecution. Why risk it? What is keeping you hidden today? Is it the Lord? Or is it you?

Mark 4:22 (NLT) For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light.

In my younger days, this scripture was often leveled as a threat. God knows everything. You cannot hide from God. Everything is “naked and exposed” before His Eyes is a huge detriment when you know what the hidden sin is in your life. But that is not the context of this verse at all for the believer. It is a promise. A precious promise. Yes, God sees the sin in our life. He offered the perfect solution for it. What God is after is the potential placed inside of us before our birth in the midst of creation. (Psalm 139:16) He longs to reveal the mysteries and secrets hidden from the adversary yet still on reserve just for you. You may feel hidden. Isolated. Alone. But what if you are really being transformed and protected by the Hand of Your Loving Father instead? What if He is working out the details of your perfect release into the calling and purpose that leads to full satisfaction and complete contentment in His Son – Jesus Christ? He is keeping you in His Care so that when you are ready and the time is right – you will walk into the promise unhindered. This is excellent news and a precious promise for every believer.

Daniel 2:20-23 (NLT) He said, “Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he has all wisdom and power. He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars. He reveals deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hidden in darkness, though he is surrounded by light. I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors, for you have given me wisdom and strength. You have told me what we asked of you and revealed to us what the king demanded.”

King Nebuchadnezzar was a hot head for sure. He had disturbing dreams and demanded his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers tell him what he had dreamed and why. The dream deeply troubled the king. When these “wise” men could not oblige the king, he ordered for the execution of all “wise” men. Well, this became a problem for the Hebrew men because though not involved there was guilt by association. So Daniel told the men to to ask the God of heaven to show them his mercy by telling them the secret, so they would not be executed along with the other wise men of Babylon.The Lord responded telling Daniel the interpretation of the king’s dream. Daniel’s response is noted above in Daniel 2:20-23. God is all wisdom and power in our life as believers. His Son, Jesus Christ, gives us access to righteousness to restore our relationship as Children of God giving us access to His Kingdom and all that is within it. We can ask God to reveal deep and mysterious things to us and He will. He will provide light for our darkness with a simple request of childlike faith. God desires to bring you out of hiding and showcase the glorious light within us.

Isaiah 51:15-16 (NLT) For I am the Lord your God, who stirs up the sea, causing its waves to roar. My name is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. And I have put my words in your mouth and hidden you safely in my hand. I stretched out the sky like a canopy and laid the foundations of the earth. I am the one who says to Israel, ‘You are my people!’”

No matter if you are hidden in Him or in hiding yourself, the Lord knows exactly where you are and is working relentlessly to expose the Light in you and reveal your purpose to you. He never grows weak or weary. His Grace is always sufficient in releasing His Power in our every weakness. When the time is just right, God will set your light on the hill just as His Word promised to do. In the meantime, you must trust the Lord. Trust in His Word. Trust His Will. Trust His Timing. He hasn’t forgotten you. He is keeping you safe and secure for destiny today. Ask the Lord to share His Secrets and Mysteries to you. Stop and listen for His Voice. Write down what He says, it will be a place to rest your head when the enemy tries to keep you up with lies. The darkness is not a scary place for the light. Light drives out darkness every time. You are a Child of God full of His Love which always produces light. If you see light in someone else, tell them. Sometimes it is the spark that keeps them moving in the right direction! The woman who came and spoke to me today had no way to know that her words touched a weary heart. My mission in life is to share God’s Love and the “Light” inside of me that is for them, too. I often have shared that if I could just open my heart and let people see what Jesus has done inside that they would want Him, too. She was a light to me today and a reminder that just because I cannot always see the light, I can always be the Light!

John 8:12 (NLT) – Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

March 13, 2019

Jesus Feeding the Thousands was for More than Physical Hunger

Today once again we’re back with Elsie Montgomery, at the blog Practical Faith. Please, click the header below and read this at her blog and then check out some of the other devotionals.

Jesus sets up the crowd so they will listen

My mother amazed us when it came to feeding people. On the farm it was common for friends to drop in around lunch time. She usually prepared lunch for 2-4 people, but these drop-ins could bring the number up to a dozen or more. This didn’t faze her. She found ways to feed all of them. Her goal was meeting needs.

Our current church has brunch after the service on Sunday. This ministry started small but now we host between 400 and 500 people. We stack chairs, bring out tables and tablecloths and folks line up to several buffet tables with regular breakfast fare, plus a counter with toast and coffee, and another table for those on a gluten-free diet. This congregation is mostly well-to-do so it is not a charitable event. The main goal is that we can get to know one another as we fellowship over food. Brunch develops relationships. Unity in Christ is our goal for brunch.

Jesus fed people too. John 6 tells of a crowd who followed Him and when it was lunch time, all but one of the five thousand plus hungry people forgot to pack a lunch. The disciples were concerned. Finally, Andrew brought a boy to Jesus with his lunch of five barley loaves and two fishes.

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. (John 6:10–13)

What was Jesus’ goal in doing this? Filling their bellies, or did He have something more in mind?

When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. (John 6:14–15)

He was not ready to be exalted, but this miraculous picnic did prepare the people for what He wanted to tell them. The next day the crowd gathered again, seeking Jesus, but He knew their real motive:

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:26–40)

This miracle gave Him opportunity to talk to them about their spiritual need. The rest of the chapter tells how Jesus used the situation to teach them the contrast between “the flesh” and “the spirit” and in doing so He uncovered their failure to understand spiritual realities. But some stayed, including Peter:

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:66–69)

He got it, at least got the part that kept him close to Jesus. He understood that Jesus was the Lord, and that they had no other options.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Jesus, so many times I’ve figured out other options. When challenges come, “I can do this” runs through my head far too often. It should be “Jesus will enable me . . . .” Forgive this reliance on the flesh and keep prodding me to walk by faith, trusting You for all that I need, including but not limited to lunch!

March 8, 2019

Time: Our Perspective; God’s Perspective

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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While we mostly use writers here who have been featured before, every once in awhile we go ‘fishing’ so to speak, and today I feel like we struck gold. (If that isn’t the best example of a mixed metaphor, I don’t know what would beat it!)

Benjamin Moore is an MK (Missionary Kid) who clearly presents a subject here which confounds even seasoned, veteran Christ followers. Click the title header below to read at source, and then take a few minutes to check out the rest of his site, including articles written in Spanish.

God’s perfect timing

John 7: 6-8
Therefore Jesus told them,“ My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.”

Do you know what the rarest resource is?

Time is our most precious gift. Once it’s gone it’s gone.

Every second that passes is another second you can’t get back no matter what.

We know this and I think that is why we try to hold on to it so tightly and control it.

It’s not ours to control

The reality is that it is God’s time, not ours.

Time belongs to Him. Notice Jesus says “My Time,” twice.

We work on his agenda, not the other way around.

I struggle with this. And I know I am not alone.

Look at Jesus’ Brothers.

Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. – John 7:3 (NIV) 

In other words “Hey, Jesus, we think you need to go now”.

But it wasn’t up to them. It was up to Jesus.

And like His brothers, I am sure you struggle with this as well.

We like to play little gods and be in control of what happens and when it happens.

But that is God’s place.

You don’t have control, He does.

Even your days are numbered

Job 14:5-7 (NLV) A man’s days are numbered. You know the number of his months. He cannot live longer than the time You have set.

God is so in control of time that He has your days numbered.

It shouldn’t cause us stress but instead, it should move us into courage because when it’s your time it’s your time.

This is encouraging because now you don’t have to walk around frightened by the unknown because the unknown to us is laid out before God.

Give up control

Give up control is not what we like to hear. But just because you don’t like something doesn’t change the necessity for you to do it.

Stop trying to be in control of Time. It will only frustrate you. You will always come to the same conclusion. You can’t do anything about it.

You can try.

Turn back the hands on your clock but that doesn’t change anything. That will just make you late for work.

Time slips out of our hands like water and we are helpless to do anything about it.

God’s view of time is different

So as you give up control and as you wait, its good to know how God views time.

2 Peter 3:8 (NIV)  But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

God is not bound by time like we are.

He is not restricted by it.

So He is never in a hurry to do something.

God’s calendar only has one square on it and it’s labeled eternity.

2 Peter 3:9 (NIV) The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Notice this crazy insight Peter gives us into how God’s sees time. And the Psalmist actually said it before him.

Psalm 90:4 (NIV)  A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.

Based on this we just can’t expect God to see things the way we do.

Can you imagine what God thinks we say things like I running out of time?

God’s time is perfect

Good thing for us God’s timing is always perfect.

We might feel like time is running out but God knows when it will be the best time for His plans to take place.

Just think of Jesus birth and how it was predicted thousands of years before He was born.

When the fullness of the time had come, God sent His Son, made of a woman, made under the law (Gal 4:4).

When the fullness of time = God’s perfect timing.

The Jews were coming under the dominion and taxation of a foreign power. Strangers were beginning to rule over them. They had no longer an independent government of their own. The “due time” had come for the promised Messiah to appear. Augustus taxes “the world,” and at once Christ is born. (J.C. RYLE – John Charles Ryle was an English Evangelical Anglican bishop)

The whole civilized earth was at length governed by one master (Daniel 2:40). (J.C. RYLE)

There was nothing to prevent the preacher of a new faith going from city to city and country to country. (J.C. RYLE)

So if you are in a time of waiting don’t worry because God’s timing is always perfect.

  • He’s never late.
  • He’s always on time.
  • Keep waiting.
  • Keep trusting.

He hasn’t forgotten you.

 

 

 

 

February 14, 2019

Why Church? Becoming . . .

Today’s post is from Clarke Dixon’s archives and is part of a February, 2013 series called Why Church. It appears here for the first time.

by Clarke Dixon

I met a remarkable man many years ago. He told me of his Bible study routine which included at least three hours of intensive study in the Word each day, this being a man who knew the Bible very well and could quote it from memory better than anyone I know. But what struck me about this man was not his Biblical knowledge, it was his seeming complete lack of grace. Showing my own sinfulness I must admit to hoping that he would not die during my time as pastor of that church lest I may be called to officiate at his funeral, something I did not want to do! My impressions of him and relationship with him would have made a eulogy difficult. Here was a man who knew his Bible, yet something was amiss.

I have a book that lists 4,400 guitar chords, of which I suppose I know about 20, enough to play a few songs at least. It is entirely possible, given enough time and boredom, that we could learn all 4,400 chords, knowing exactly where on the fret-board to place our fingers. Yet if we have never practised playing, our fingers may not want to go where our vast knowledge knows they should go. Knowing the chords does not a solid guitar player make. Knowing the Bible does not a solid Christian make!

Ephesians 6 leads us to three words that are important for becoming a solid Christian.

First: Maturity

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,  to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV

As a pastor I don’t exist to simply convey information, any more than any parent exists to simply convey information to their child. Part of the work, and a fulfilling one I must admit, is to help people mature in Christ. Maturity in this passage is defined as “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Looking at it that way, we all have some distance to go!

Second: Change

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV

We often hear things like “I was born this way.” How quickly we run from change, sometimes even denying the possibility. And how often we hear of churches resisting change, even in minor details like carpet colours. Yet change is what a Christian is to do! We are a people who are all about change!

Third: Imitation

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 4:32 – 5:2

What a challenge, to imitate God! This is challenging to some because they would actually prefer to be God, and so like Adam and Eve try be something they are not. Others find the challenge rather in trying to do things they don’t think they can, like forgive or learn patience. But we must be imitators of God and all the wonderful character traits that we see in Him, we reach for and by His grace, and through His Spirit, we begin seeing in ourselves.

So why bother with church? Because maturity, change, and imitation of God works so much better with others. We are not likely to do well in these things without others, and amazingly, God wants to use us to help others do well in these things also. Sure, we can memorize the entire Bible on our own, but memorizing the Bible does not ensure our growth as Christians.  Jesus did not call just one disciple, but twelve. Discipleship always works best in bunches!


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Ontario, Canada.

Check out Clarke’s blog, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon

…or, if you prefer, all his articles here at C201 can be seen at this link.


Valentine’s Day Devotionals – various authors:

January 20, 2019

He Makes Our Path Straight

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 19, 2018

The Mary/Martha Dichotomy Isn’t About Busyness

Psalm 27:4
One thing I have asked of the LORD, this is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and seek Him in His temple.

Despite the hundreds of authors featured here, I have only two devotionals which I personally subscribe to, and one which I read online. One of the daily emails is titled “Breakfast of Champions” by Andy and Gina Elmes. To get these sent to you by email, go to Great Big Life and click on Breakfast of Champions.

Don’t miss what she says here about posture. It’s a part of the Mary/Martha story that’s so obvious we can totally miss it. Especially at Christmas, when we’re all so very… busy!

The posture of a listening heart

Luke 10:42, The Truth version
Only one thing is really important and this is what Mary is doing. So I won’t deprive her of what is most important: to listen to what I say!

by Gina Elmes
My 10-year-old daughter was given a really unique devotional which she asked if I would read with her at night before bed. The book teaches how to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and to listen out for the often still, small voice of God. It is a highly interactive devotional, filled with exercises in listening for God’s voice. We began reading this book and then we would come to the interactive part where we speak to God and ask Him a question such as, “Who do I need to encourage tomorrow, Lord, and what would you like me to say to them?” Then we wait for a few minutes listening to what the Lord says to our heart.

My daughter and I would close our eyes and we would wait, and my head was so full of the stuff of the day that I found this exercise really difficult! I had plans and lists and ‘to do’ stuff and recipes and ‘don’t forget’s’ all flying around inside my chaotic mind that I found it hard to listen for the voice of God. My daughter, on the other hand, would hardly close her eyes when she would say, “I’m done! He talked to me and I know just who needs encouragement and I know what I need to tell them.”

Night after night this happened and the things she was hearing from God were amazing, and I was struggling to hear anything. I was reflecting on this one morning when I recalled Luke 10:38-42, which gives the account of Mary and Martha. Martha was the busy one preparing the meal and getting everything perfect for her guests, and Mary was found sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to all He had to say. The more I read this account the more I realize it is not so much about lessening our busy schedules as much as it is about the posture of our listening heart.

I have so many responsibilities and I can’t see that changing any time soon, but I can learn better to incline my ear to His voice wherever I am and whatever I’m doing. Somebody in the Mary/Martha scenario had to cook lunch after all! Jesus isn’t advocating laziness, but He is commending Mary’s desire to be always listening to Him and this will always be the better part of anything we do. Somehow, in the busy-ness of life, I had lost the posture of a listening heart; forgetting that God desires to have a relationship with me all day, not just in the moments I call ‘quiet time’. Now, when I’m busy with the everyday stuff of life, I use these opportunities to talk to God and for Him to talk to me.

I still set regular times for myself to solely focus on God but now even when driving, cooking, walking the dog, cleaning out a closet, these have all become opportunities for me to lift my ear to heaven and hear the One who desires an audience with me, and I have found that I can learn to hear Him over the loudness of everyday life when I make a practice of purposely posturing my heart to hear Him.


Learn more about the UK ministry Great Big Life.

October 27, 2018

Many of our Problems are due to Selfishness

We’re back for a sixth time with Paul Steele at the blog Paul’s Ponderings. Click the title below to read at source.

Be Disturbed

We live in a world full of good. It has exceptional beauty, delicious food, amazing fun, and wonderful relationships.

In spite of the good we experience in the world, we know it is not entirely good. Our experience of life tells us that the world is a combination of good and evil.

According to the Bible, the world was created good by God, but has been corrupted by the sin of angels and humans. We live in a fallen world.

One of the ways we see this corruption at work is the selfishness that exists in people. The worst selfishness that we are exposed to is the selfishness that exists in our own hearts.

Many of the problems that we face throughout life, both big and small, can be traced back to selfishness.

This reality is understandable when we remember that we spend our entire lives with ourselves. Our entire perspective on life centers around our experience of the world. It is logical to expect that our comfort, cares, and desires would be at the forefront of what we are most concerned about.

Christian spiritual formation is important because it calls us to lay aside our cares and concerns and adopt the cause of Jesus. For this to happen we have to intentionally lay aside our rights and desires. It is through those process we are able to understand the injustices and indignities inflicted and the rest of humanity.

Dallas Willard wrote:

“Apprentices of Jesus will be deeply disturbed about many things, but they will be largely indifferent to the fulfillment of their own desires as such. Merely getting their own way has no significance for them, does not disturb them.”

Renovation of the Heart, p. 72

Pause for a moment and ponder: What disturbs you?

When I think about what disturbs me on a regular basis I am saddened. I am saddened because I get the most disturbed by the inconveniences and interruptions to my agenda.

God has shown me this reality through my children. I dearly love my three kids, but they have the ability of frustrating me like no one else does. Why is that?

I get frustrated, I get disturbed, because they have minds of their own and they don’t always do what I ask them to do. They disrupt my plan and that bothers me.

What is the cure for that? The cure is to become like Jesus.

The apostle Paul wrote:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. (Philippians 2:3-5; NLT)

Here we discover the goal of Christian spiritual formation: to develop the attitude of Jesus.

Key to this attitude is humility. It is having that ability to look past our own agenda and see the needs of other people. We are to take an interest in the lives of those around us.

One of my favorite passages for the Gospels is Matthew 9:36:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (NLT)

Jesus was disturbed by the needs of the people around him. He didn’t blame them for their condition or lecture them about the inconvenience they were causing him, but he had compassion on them. They needed help and he took time to help them.

One of the prayers we need to pray in our pursuit of Christian formation is to see the world through the eyes of Jesus. We need to see the things that disturb Jesus so we can learn what should be disturbing us as well.


As I was reading Paul’s Ponderings, I really appreciated all of the articles written for October, 2018 and encourage you to visit to read more.

September 21, 2018

Relationships Need Presence

NIV I Cor.13.8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Six months later, we’re back highlighting the work Amy Simpson, author of Troubled Minds and Anxious. Amy is currently at the forefront of the intersection of Christianity and the study of mental health issues.  Her new book is Blessed are the Unsatisfied: Finding Freedom in an Imperfect World (InterVarsity) and you can read chapter one from the book for free at this link.

Your Long-Distance Relationship Is Not Enough

When my husband and I were dating, we spent some time living 1000 miles apart. I was in college in Illinois, and he was attending seminary in Colorado. During those months, we sometimes felt desperate to be close to one another. No matter how many much time we spent on the phone, there was no real substitute for face-to-face conversation and physical closeness. In fact, eventually we reached the point where we could no longer handle the distance and Trevor made his way back to Illinois. If our relationship was going to move forward, we had to be in each other’s presence more often.

For us, this separation lasted only a matter of months and came after we had already met face to face. Nowadays, many couples meet online and develop their relationships from a distance. But especially if they’re going to make a long-term or until-death-do-us-part commitment, there’s still no substitute for being together.

The same thing is true of your relationship with God. You may not have thought of it this way, but you are essentially in a long-distance relationship with him. Sure, he is close to you. Yes, you are always in his presence. Yet your limitations as a finite creature, your rebellious heart, and this cursed world mean you experience God at a distance. And there’s nothing you can do to bridge that gap. Jesus has made the once-for-all sacrifice necessary to bring us into true and close relationship, but we don’t yet experience the full impact of that reconciliation. We do not know or even fathom what it means to see God face to face.

1 Corinthians 13:8-12 (above) talks about this dynamic. You can know God’s love now, but you can’t know it as you will. You understand, see, and may even prophecy–but what you have is only a part of what you will have in God’s unadulterated presence. If you know and follow Jesus, you will see him face to face. You will know him without interference from your sinful nature, your limited understanding, or the boundaries of space and time.

It will be wonderful.

But in the meantime, you live with the distance. And here’s the thing: God doesn’t want you to be satisfied or comfortable with these circumstances. He wants you to yearn for him, just as you would yearn for a loved one you rarely see. Part of living well in this unsatisfying reality is living with patience. Part of it, paradoxically, is living in great anticipation and hope for what is to come.

The next time someone suggests that your relationship with God should be enough to satisfy all your spiritual and emotional needs, here and now, remember this. Your long-distance relationship isn’t meant to be enough to satisfy you. God wants you to love him enough that you long to be with him. He wants you to desire a deeper connection with him. He wants you to live in the hope that you will one day see his face.


If you’re interested in reading more on this topic, check out my most recent book, Blessed Are the Unsatisfied!



Our parent blog, Thinking Out Loud, ran a piece on Thursday morning about using our imagination and our smartphones to introduce people to the scriptures in places where it might not otherwise work for them to read from a printed Bible, or situations where they might otherwise refuse to do so.

I would love to share it with you and hear your thoughts; just click this link to read Your Smartphone and Family Gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

August 21, 2018

Role Models Who Live With the People They’re Leading

Several years ago we visited a blog called Biblical Diagnosis and today I decided to check back in where I discovered this excellent article. Click the title to read at source and look around the rest of the site.

Starving for Role Models

Role models.

Oh that we could use some role models. Whether we attribute it to modern-day living, or to a more sinister cause such as the fact that the Spirit of the Anti-Christ is already at work, it is hard to argue that today, we hardly know people well-enough for them to serve as role models for us, or for us to serve as such for them.

Yet, it is by this Role Model template that the Holy Spirit of God moved in spectacular fashion in the early church, converting people by the masses and keeping them on the walk of faith. Consider the following text, in a letter that Paul, Silvanus and Timothy wrote to the Church members of Thessalonica.

1 Thessalonians 2: 1-12 – For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. 2 But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. 3 For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

They reminded the church members of the lifestyle they themselves had when there were among them. Earlier in 1 Thessalonians 1:6, we learn that those members once converted, became followers of Paul, Silvanus and Timothy. Here, we read the details of how those three gentlemen preached the word to them. Their preaching were not just words, but a combination of words and a lifestyle that aligned with those words.

How effective do you suppose is this form of preaching, where those you preach not only hear you, but can also see you in action, and acquaint themselves with the practical aspects of your preaching?

Paul says,

For you yourselves know that…

we never came with words of flattery

… we did not seek glory from people, whether from you or from others

… we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children

… we were ready to share with you our own selves

… we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you WHILE we proclaimed to you the gospel

… You are witnesses how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you

… you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God

The Thessalonians knew that all those things were true because they witnessed it. Paul, Sylvanus and Timothy lived right among them, providing the Thessalonians with the most effective demonstration and blueprint for what the Christians life looks like. This is in fact, effective preaching.

To the Corinthians, Paul says something similar

1 Corinthians 2:2,3 – …I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power

He says…“I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling”. So it must be that the Corinthians also so how Paul handled himself and exercised his faith in those moments, thereby providing them with powerful practical lessons that they could rely on. The ultimate purpose being…

1 Corinthians 2:4 – …so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

We have to do a better job as being present for each other, that all may see how practically we walk in the Spirit. Much preaching without concrete evidence will only go so far, for the Spirit of God is a Spirit of Actions!

Do you consider yourself a faithful Christian – not a perfect one of course – then to whom do you evidently display yourself, so they may see you, know you, and learn from you?

Are you a great preacher? Do the people you preach – at least those who live in your city – know you just as much for your preaching as for your lifestyle? Or are the people left to suppose what that lifestyle may be?

We are indeed starving for role models. But it need not stay this way.

After all, wasn’t this the commandment of Christ…

Matthew 5:16 – Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Paul, Sylvanus and Timothy showed us how exactly we ought to do it. Let us follow them.

July 10, 2018

Honoring God by Giving Him Our ‘Today’

Today we’re rejoining author, pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie. Click here for his devotional and blog page, or click the title below for this article.

Carpe Diem: The Value Of Today

Life is filled with opportunities, but the big question is what we do with them. Do we let them slip by, saying, “Maybe next time. There is always another day”? Or, do we seize them? We may not have as much time as we think.

Dr. Leslie Weatherhead calculated the average length of a life using the hours of one day to illustrate the importance of recognizing the value of time. He concluded that if your age is 15, the time is 10:25 a.m. If your age is 20, the time is 11:34. If your age is 25, the time is 12:42 p.m. If you’re 30, the time is 1:51. If you’re 35, the time is 3:00. If you’re 40 the time is 4:08. At age 45, the time is 5:15. If you’re 50, the time is 6:25. By age 55, the time is 7:24. If you’re 60, the time is 8:42. If you’re 65, the time is 9:51. And if you you’re 70 the time is 11 p.m.

Psalm 90:12 reminds us, “Teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom” (NKJV). Or as the Living Bible puts it, “Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should.”

Ephesians 5:15 says, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise” (NLT).

Jesus told the story of a man who went on a journey and left his money with his servants. This was not an uncommon thing in those days. A wealthy man or a ruler would have many servants in his household, from those who performed basic labor to those who managed the financial affairs of his household, even his business. In many cases some of the man’s servants would be better educated and skilled than he was. Highly trusted slaves had a virtual free hand within prescribed areas of responsibility while the owner was at home.

When the owner would go on a journey, he would leave full authority in the hands of these key servants, who would have the ancient equivalent of a power of attorney. So Jesus described a scenario in which a wealthy man went on a journey and left the key servants in charge of his possessions. It’s difficult for us to know exactly what sum he left them, but one possibility is that he gave the equivalent of $5,000 to the first servant, $2,000 to the second servant, and $1,000 to the third.

What is Jesus’ story saying to us? I think it’s quite obvious. Jesus is like that wealthy man who goes on a journey, which spans the day he left this earth to the day he returns in the Second Coming. We are the servants he has invested in, and we are to take what he has given us and use it for his glory while we await his return.

In the New Testament a word that is often used for “slave” or “servant” is the Greek word doulos. It’s a term that describes a unique class of servant, not someone who was made that way by constraint or by force. A doulos was someone who had been freed by their master yet still chose to serve out of love. The servant was so thankful for this pardon that he or she would willfully choose to serve.

The apostle Paul often referred to himself as a doulos, and that is what we are as followers of Jesus Christ. Christ has paid an incredible debt for us. He has pardoned us. He has forgiven us. And now we should become his voluntary servants, not because we have to but because we want to – because we love him. We recognize that he has instilled certain things in our lives that we are to use for his glory. Certain gifts. Certain talents. Certain resources. Everything.

Paul wrote, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20 NLT).

Jesus said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23 NLT). This doesn’t mean that we must take a vow of poverty. It simply means we recognize that it all belongs to God. Our lives belong to God. Our families belong to God. Our possessions belong to God. Everything is his.

In Jesus’ story, the first servant took what he had, invested it, and received a 100 percent return. He doubled his master’s investment. The second, though he had less, did the same thing.

This demonstrates that it isn’t a person’s talent that matters as much as how he or she uses that talent. God never demands from us the abilities we don’t have. But He does demand that we should use, to the full, the abilities that we do possess. We may not be equal in talent, but we should be equal in effort.

Take what God has given to you and do the most that you can with it for his glory. God can do a lot with a little. If you don’t believe me, just ask the boy with the five loaves and two fish who gave everything he had to Jesus. It didn’t seem like a lot, but Jesus used them to feed a hungry multitude. Jesus can take a little, bless it and multiply it. He can use it beyond our wildest dreams.

If we will humble ourselves, take what we have and offer it to God, if we will be willing to do what he has placed before us and be faithful in the little things, then he will give us more to do. I would rather try and fail than never try at all. Any time you take a chance, you can fail. But it’s better to try than to never take chances and never have anything happen in your life.

So seize the day. Seize the moment. Seize the opportunities before you. Don’t put it off too long, because you may not have as much time as you think. Be productive with your life. Be productive with your time. Seize the opportunities God has given you.

May 24, 2018

Helping People Walk with Jesus in Faith, Hope, and LOVE

by Clarke Dixon

(This is the final sermon in a series based on the tagline of our church: “To the Glory of God, Helping People Walk with Jesus in Faith, Hope, and Love”)

When we are going for a concise statement about what we are about as a church, why does love make the cut? In fact love does not just make the cut:

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NRSV)

Love is the “greatest of these”! Love makes the cut and is the greatest because love is central to Jesus. We often connect 1st Corinthians 13 and its message of love with romance and weddings. However, we ought to connect it with Jesus.

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NRSV)

Though Jesus could and did work many wonderful miracles, if he had not love, where would we be? We would be in trouble! We would be dead in our sin. While love might seem like a luxury to some, it is essential to the follower of Jesus, because it is essential to who Jesus is.

The Most Rev. Michael Curry in preaching at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle spoke about love, and in doing so, spoke about Jesus:

 . . . This way of love, it is the way of life. They got it; he died to save us all. He didn’t die for anything he could get out of it. Jesus did not get an honorary doctorate for dying. He wasn’t getting anything out of it. He sacrificed his life for the good of others, for the well-being of the world, for us. That’s what love is.

Love is not selfish and self-centered. Love can be sacrificial and, in so doing, become redemptive. And that way of unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love changes lives. And it can change this world. (The Most Rev. Michael Curry)

When we are told to “pick up your cross and follow”, we should not have in mind the idea of being weak in the will to live, but strong in the will to love.

So how do we walk with Jesus in love and help others do the same?

First, we define love as a decision and then we decide to love at every opportunity. Faced with a crucial decision, Jesus decided to love:

He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” Mark 14:36 (NRSV)

Many sermons, I’m sure, have been preached on the obedience of Jesus to the Father in this prayer at Gethsemane. But it was not just obedience to the Father. It was love for you. Jesus made the crucial decision to love, and that has changed everything. Love as a series of decisions can change many a relationship, between marriage partners, within family or friends, and of course even between enemies.

Second, we love by growing into a loving character which reflects that of Jesus. When you read the Gospel accounts of Jesus, you don’t get the impression you are reading about an impatient, or unkind man who happened to make some loving decisions. Or an envious, boastful, arrogant, or rude man who insisted on his own way apart from a few decisions to love. Rather, you get the impression that Paul had Jesus in mind when he wrote about love:

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NRSV)

In meeting Jesus in the Gospels you get the impression that love was central to his character. It still is! When people meet Jesus in the Gospels, then meet us, is it a huge contrast in character?

The best way to help others walk with Jesus in love, is to be walking with Jesus in love ourselves. But what if you feel far from being a person characterized by love? Then remember the Bible says

. . . the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23 (NRSV)

It does not say “the result of my hard work is love”, but the “fruit of the Spirit is love.” Indeed, just as love is the “greatest of these”, love is the very first fruit. You can be and do whatever God calls you to be and do, including love and be loving. He calls you to love. He calls us as a church family to help people, to the glory of God, walk with Jesus in faith, hope, and love. Our very first step is to pray!)


Clarke Dixon is the Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada.

Listen to the audio of the full sermon on which this based (30 minutes).

clarkedixon.wordpress.com

 

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