Christianity 201

December 29, 2016

Acts 28: 28 Acts of Generosity in the Book of Acts

Today we’re paying a return visit to the blog Preacher Smith, written by David Smith who is a pastor in Baytown, Texas. This appeared in November, and I’ve left the date reference intact. Click on the title below to read at source. (Check out other posts in the Fruit of the Spirit series.)

Sermon Follow-up: 28 Acts of Generously Giving Good in Acts

My sermon this past Sunday morning (Nov. 6) was in regard to the sixth aspect of the fruit of the Spirit: generosity/goodness.

Each of my sermons in the series of which this sermon was a part (Acts: The Way, It Works) makes some connection with the fruit of the Spirit and the lives of Christ-followers in the book of Acts. However, I deliberately left the connection with Acts missing from this past Sunday’s sermon … until now.

Even just a quick skim of Acts reveals a multitude of instances of generosity/goodness recorded by the book’s author (Luke). Following are twenty-eight examples, one from each of the Acts’ twenty-eight chapters.

1. Giving the community of faith your presence for the sake of united prayer.

“They all joined together constantly in prayer …” (Acts 1.14)

2. Giving your heart and your possessions to those in need.

“They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” (Acts 2.45)

3. Giving your attention to those who have become virtually invisible to others.

“Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him …” (Acts 3.2-4a)

4. Giving the word of God to others, freely and without fear.

“… they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” (Acts 4.31)

5. Giving encouragement to others by having a healthy attitude about the things you suffer.

“The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (Acts 5.41)

6. Giving welcome and acceptance to those new to faith in Christ.

“The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6.7)

7. Giving grace to those who misunderstand you, hate you, and work your harm.

“While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed … ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7.59-60)

8. Giving obvious evidence of your faith by sticking with God and taking your faith with you through all of life’s changes.

“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. … Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” (Acts 8.1,4)

9. Giving your talents and skills over to the Lord’s disposal for the blessing of others.

“… showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made …” (Acts 9.39)

10. Giving your mind over to God for him to teach you new things as to your perspective of, and way toward, others who are very much unlike you.

“… God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.” (Acts 10.28)

11. Giving others the gift of an open mind as to their understanding of things.

“… when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him … Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story … When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God …” (Acts 11.1,4,18)

12. Giving room for others to join you in your service to Christ.

“When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.” (Acts 12.25)

13. Giving energy and motivation to others to keep on keeping on with God.

“… Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.” (Acts 13.43)

14. Giving inspiration to fellow Christ-followers by sharing the generous good you have experienced thru God in your life.

“… they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them …” (Acts 14.27)

15. Giving well-timed use of conciliatory statements in moments of tension.

“We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (Acts 15.11)

16. Giving of your home to bless other believers.

“When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. ‘If you consider me a believer in the Lord,’ she said, ‘come and stay at my house.’ And she persuaded us.” (Acts 16.15)

17. Giving credit where credit is due, particularly when you see those yet to believe catch a glimpse of what is true and right about God and people.

“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” (Acts 17.26-28)

18. Giving the grace of real connection and helpful guidance rather than the world’s way of criticism and complaining, which only breeds problems and distance.

“Apollos … was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. … When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.” (Acts 18.24-27)

19. Giving your sinful habits up in public confession and repentance so as to solidify your commitment and to give testimony of the Lord’s work in your life.

“Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. [nearly 150 years’ wages for the average worker] In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.” (Acts 19.18-20)

20. Giving your daily existence completely over to the Lord so as to not only free yourself from fear and dread, but to lead others to do likewise.

“… I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (Acts 20.24)

21. Giving yourself over to full establishment of faith in the lives of your children.

“… Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven … had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.” (Acts 21.8-9)

22. Giving clear thought as to how you can best share with those who could benefit from knowing why you are a Christian and how you became one.

“You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” (Acts 22.15-16)

23. Giving yourself over to intervening for the lives of others.

“The next morning some Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. … But when the son of Paul’s sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul.” (Acts 23.12,16)

24. Giving respect to whom respect his due.

“When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied: ‘I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nation; so I gladly make my defense.’” (Acts 24.10)

25. Giving others the courage of your convictions and standing up for your true rights.

“Paul answered: ‘I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!’” (Acts 25.10-11)

26. Giving prayer to God for others come to faith in God, to become disciples of Christ.

“Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?’ Paul replied, ‘Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.’” (Acts 26.28-29)

27. Giving thanks to God, openly and sincerely, whether in the presence of believers or not.

“… he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat.” (Acts 27.35)

28. Giving kindness to others in the ways they need most in the moment.

“Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold.” (Acts 28.1-2)

And so, let us make our faith practical. Let us practice what we preach, namely that “God is good, all of the time.” Let us do and give good, generously so, to others, every day, in the name of, and by, the Spirit of Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. For his glory, not our own.

January 9, 2015

On Being Christlike

This is one of those articles that somewhat shocks or jolts you into thinking. For me, that means I have to go back and re-read it all slowly to get what the author is saying. This is from the articles (or “deviations”) page at Pathways International. To read at source, click the title below.

Maybe Christlikeness Isn’t What I’m Supposed to be After

For me, It’s enough of a challenge to do what Christ said to do, better yet to obey, or observe, all he commanded. (Matthew 28:19,20) (John 14:15) (1 John 5:3)  If I were to further pressure myself, at the urging of my own conscience or that of others to ‘become Christlike,’ or to ‘try to be more Christlike,’ then aren’t I trying to attain something different than Jesus intended?

Where do we get the idea that we’re supposed to ‘Christlike’ anyway?

Maybe it’s from one of these biblical passages:

1 John 2:6“Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

1 Peter 2:21 “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”

Ephesians 5:1-2“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

All of these passages involve walking as if the journey to becoming Christlike was exactly that, a journey.  To me, these passages and many others like them are not calling us to become Christlike, but to in every way, as much as we are able in the moment to take advantage of the opportunities to obey Christ’s commands that he has already given us and not create another set of sorcerous and unattainable requisites.

Perhaps the most commonly referred to set of verses that people use to call others to ‘be more Christlike,’ are these:

1 Corinthians 11:1“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

Ephesians 5:1“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.” (NLT)

1 Thessalonians 1:6“So you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you. In this way, you imitated both us and the Lord.”

Again, ‘becoming Christlike’ does not seem to be the import of these passages. Rather, it seems that in our obedience and with Christ as our perfect example, that our actions or conduct in accordance with Christ’s revealed will in the Scriptures, should be followed as much as they are like His.

This can get a bit complicated with many speaking of being incarnational (Being Jesus in our contexts), but again, If pressed, I think many of those in the missional-incarnational conversation would say that the most common understanding of becoming ‘Christlike’ is not what they mean when they use the term.

A few questions;

1.  If you were tasked to defend ‘becoming Christlike’ from scripture, what texts would you use?

2.  Do you get the sense that urging others to ‘become more Christlike’ borders on being Pharisaical or overly religious?

3.  For you, has ‘becoming more Christlike’ been a fruitful endeavor or a weighty impediment? 

August 22, 2014

Are You “In The Faith”?

This is the devotional blog I write and some days that also comprises my personal devotions, but there is also Daily Encouragement, the devotional blog I read. A couple of days ago the theme verse was:

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

I thought there might be more to the phrase “in the faith” but that it also might be something that we do need to examine ourselves concerning, since some people who think they are “in” may justify their inclusion on religious premises instead of God’s grace.  Translations treat this phrase as follows:

  • you are holding to your faith and showing the proper fruits of it (AMP)
  • living the life of trust (CJB)
  • true to your faith (CEV)
  • still in the Christian faith (GW) (I thought the use of still was interesting here)
  • continuing in the faith (ISV) (see note above)
  • Are you really Christians? (Living Bible) (i.e. Did you ever cross the line of faith)
  • you are really believers (NIrV) (see not above)
  • faith is genuine (NLT)
  • you are solid in the faith (Message)

Bible translators try very hard to avoid doctrinal bias and just say what the text says, but there are three nuances presented above:

  1. The idea of a faith that is being lived out on a day-to-day, moment-by-moment basis; that the person is endeavoring the abide in Christ; that there is no pretense
  2. The idea (GW and ISV) that one can abandon the faith; or at the very least, not be walking in it as described in the previous instance
  3. The idea that some Corinthians reading Paul’s letter may be resting on a false conversion; perhaps trusting in works to save them

The Reformation Study Bible says of this passage (in reference to examination or testing):

Paul’s words help clarify the doctrine of assurance of faith. Paul asks the Corinthians to examine their own lives for evidence of salvation. Such evidence would include trust in Christ (Heb. 3:6), obedience to God (Matt. 7:21), growth in holiness (Heb. 12:14; 1 John 3:3), the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23), love for other Christians (1 John 3:14), positive influence on others (Matt. 5:16), adhering to the apostolic teaching (1 John 4:2), and the testimony of the Holy Spirit within them (Rom. 8:15, 16)

The IVP New Testament Commentary Series notes:

The kind of testing Paul envisions is that which proves the worth or genuineness of something (dokimazo; compare 2 Cor 2:9; 8:8, 22; 9:13). In this case it is the Corinthians’ faith that is to be proven. Pistis in this context denotes profession. The Corinthians have professed a belief in Christ, but does their life match their profession? If the life of the congregation is not in conformity with the trutes of the gospel, it negates any claim to standing firm in the faith (1 Cor 16:13).

In the article at Daily Encouragement, Stephen and Brooksyne Weber began by comparing this to an energy audit they had of their house.  Then they write:

In his article “The Place Of Self-examination” by S. Lewis Johnson he comments concerning this verse, “There are literally millions of professing Christians who need to pay attention to this statement of the apostle. They have entered into a shallow commitment to Christianity, they’ve joined the church, they’ve been baptized or they’ve done other things that might make them think that they are genuine believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. They’ve been encouraged to think that, by men who’ve not been careful to point out that there is more to becoming a Christian than subscribing to a statement. They don’t hate sin. They don’t love holiness. They do not pray. They do not study the word of God. They do not walk humbly with God. These individuals, so many of them stand in the same danger in which the Corinthians stood. And the apostle’s words, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith, examine yourselves,” are valid words that each of us should ponder.”

Self-examination or a spiritual audit is important so that we correct ourselves on a regular basis to make certain we continue to bring glory to God in the manner in which we live our lives.

Colossians 1:10-12 provides a list of audit items for our consideration. I will phrase them as personal questions:

  • Am I living in a manner worthy of the Lord?
  • Am I pleasing Him in all respects?
  • Am I bearing fruit in every good work?
  • Am I increasing in the knowledge of God?
  • Am I being strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might?
  • Am I attaining steadfastness and patience?
  • Am I joyously giving thanks to the Father?

They also included another key verse that day:

“But let a man examine himself” (1 Corinthians 11:28a).

which is,

in the context of sharing Communion at the Lord’s Table. Before one eats and drinks of the emblems representing the broken Body and shed blood of Christ he is to examine himself. Of utmost importance in this personal exam is the answer to these foundational questions, “Do I have saving faith in Christ?” (Romans 10:8,9). “Do I have any unconfessed sin in my heart?” (1 John 1:9).

If your church has a monthly communion service, that’s coming up in a couple of weeks, but you don’t have to wait until then to perform a spiritual audit; a spiritual self examination.

 

 

July 24, 2014

God’s Fruit Trees

Fruit of the Spirit

Today’s devotional was found at the blog Around Every Corner by Jenny Sorge, who appears here for the first time. Click the title below to read this at source, where you’ll find it beautifully formatted with art and pictures.

God’s Fruit Trees

Most of us have asked God for wisdom and knowledge at one time or another. We have also been asked for them by someone needing help. Whatever the circumstances, God’s wisdom & knowledge…never deviates from Christ’s character and His actions when He was here on earth. Like anything else…anything…God wants our faith and gaze to always end up back on Christ Jesus. Why?

Col. 2: 1 I want you to know how much I have agonized for you and for the church at Laodicea, and for many other believers who have never met me personally. 2 I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ Himself. 3 In Him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

4 I am telling you this so no one will deceive you with well-crafted arguments. 5 For though I am far away from you, my heart is with you. And I rejoice that you are living as you should and that your faith in Christ is strong.6 And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow Him. 7 Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.

8 Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. 9 For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. 10 So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the Head over every ruler and authority.

We want to obey God…to emulate Christ…yet, we’ll fail…or we’ll be trying and trying in our own flesh…unless we learn to do it a different way. Not too long ago in our recent history the WWJD movement began. However, it faded, but why? This article has an idea about that….

We cannot do anything ‘God derived’ in our flesh, so as to bear the kind of fruit that accomplishes His purposes. This is why it behooves us to stand back for a time and ask God to teach us to be fruit bearers, instead of ‘trying’ and exerting ourselves to bear fruit.

Then even when we do bear fruit by own efforts, what comes of it? Is it lasting fruit? This is the question that the believers before us perhaps did not understand…which is why the movement that had good intentions, sunk into near nothingness ~ like a house built on sand…or wine skin that burst ~ because it had old wine put into it.

Evil wars against the human body that is already weak, then fights to sway our mind away from Christ so it can’t cooperate with the things of the Spirit. ~ Who will give us the victory over these things…so our body and mind can be used for God, instead of against Him?

1 John 5:4 For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.

Faith in what or whom? In ourselves? In our own abilities? In our own actions? In our own common sense? In our own knowledge and wisdom? In our own feelings? In our own ways? In our own talents? In our own intellect? In our own interpersonal skills?

OR

Faith in Christ Jesus? In His abilities? In His actions? In His common sense? In His knowledge and wisdom? In His feelings? In His ways? In His talents? In His intellect? and In His interpersonal skills?

Which source do you have faith in so as to be a ‘happy tree’? A fruit bearer who is living it’s purpose and shares in the blessings??

You who have been born of God…so you have been planted IN Him…and your roots have complete access to the Source…to Christ Jesus. He has given you a new nature, He is inside and with and around you….as well as His written word is before you…He has hemmed you in on every side! Psalm 139:5 “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand of blessing upon me”. Jesus is your everything…including your teacher.

John 13: 12When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.

14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

He wants to be our example. He desires to teach us, and then His Holy Spirit remind us, how to live. Our spirit, which has been made new, is very willing, ready and able! However, our body is weak, and is used to doing things the old way. Jesus said in Matt. 26:41

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

Then Paul, who emulated Christ, is saying the same thing Jesus said here in Rom. 7:

“21 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

The disciples walked with Jesus and learned from Him…so we can also walk with Christ through the gospels and learn from Him there as well. John 2: 20“What!” they exclaimed. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and you can rebuild it in three days?” 21But when Jesus said “this temple,” he meant his own body. 22After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this, and they believed both the Scriptures and what Jesus had said.

Paul also learned from and emulated Jesus (1 Cor. 11:1), and so when we go there and read his letters and learn from him…this is also learning from Christ. Phil. 4:9 ‘Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me–everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.”

We must remember as we are in this process, that God has not left us clueless at all!! He has shown us in His written word all the specifics…so you and I can become more familiar with what comes from His Spirit and what doesn’t. Perhaps the WWJD movement didn’t last because the fruit trees were expected to keep on growing and producing God’s fruit even when the things not of God began coming out of the same trees?

James 3: 9-18 “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Light and dark can not exist together…and even a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Or perhaps Christ grew into a mere idea, instead of a real Person who was God in the flesh and Who’s every word and every action represented God exactly.

13Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peaceable, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of impartiality and hypocrisy. 18 Peacemakers who sow seeds of peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”

Gal. 5: 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

May 28, 2014

The Fruit of the Spirit and the Character of God

Today’s piece is from a classic book The Fruit of the Spirit by Stuart Briscoe, published in 1983.


 

The connection between fruit and root is obvious not only in matters of horticulture, but also in spiritual things.  The aspects of the fruit of the Spirit listed by Paul could just as easily be listed as characteristics of the nature of God.  The love of God is probably his most universally appreciated characteristic.  His joy in creation and his special rejoicing over his children is clearly taught.  That he is Jehovah Shalom, “the God of Peace,” is fundamental to our spiritual well-being, and without his patience there would be no such thing as opportunity for repentance.  Believers bask in the fact that his severity is tempered by his goodness and find their assurance in his unchanging faithfulness.  In fact it is important to remember that Jehovah in his self-revelation to Moses, used many aspects of the fruit of the Spirit to describe himself.

 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

Christian behavior prompted by the Spirit is similar to divine behavior, and Christian character bears marked similarities to the character of God.  The connection of root and fruit is clear to the eye of faith

The Fruit of the Spirit The Character of God
Love God is Love (I John 4:16)
Joy He will rejoice over you (Zeph. 3:17)
Peace The God of Peace (Heb 13:20)
Patience He is patient with you (2 Pet. 3:9)
Kindness His Kindness to us (Eph. 2:7)
Goodness I will see the goodness of the Lord (Ps. 27:13)
Faithfulness Great is your faithfulness (Lam. 3:23)
Meekness I am gentle and humble (Matt. 11:29)
Self-Control He has shown strength [related Gr. Word] Luke 1:51

Christian behavior prompted by the Spirit is similar to divine behavior, and Christian character bears marked similarities to the character of God.  The connection of root and fruit is clear to the eye of faith…

…It must also be understood that Christians are commanded to reproduce this unusual quality of life.  The command may not be, “Take a good look at this and try harder,” but it is there nevertheless.  To many people the idea of commanding fruit to grow seems ludicrous.  I have even heard preachers deriding such an idea.  They have great fun imitating someone telling a tree to grow and twisting themselves into knots as a means of showing how impossible it is for branches to obey commands through their own efforts.  The Scriptures, however, do not seem to regard the idea as ludicrous, as will be clearly seen from the following quotations:

The Fruit of the Spirit The Command of Scripture
Love Love the Lord; Love your neighbor (Matt 22:37-39)
Joy Rejoice in the Lord (Phil 4:4)
Peace Seek peace and pursue it (I Pet. 3:11)
Patience Be patient with everyone (I Thess. 5:14)
Kindness Clothe yourself with kindness (Col. 3:12)
Goodness Let us do good to all people (Gal. 6:10)
Faithfulness Be faithful, even to the point of death (Rev. 2:10)
Meekness Show true humility toward all men (Titus 3:2)
Self-Control Add to your knowledge self-control (2 Pet. 1:5-6)

— from the introduction, pp 6-8

January 20, 2014

If We Love the Father…

In addition to running different kinds of content here, sometimes we’ll run something with a different style. In today’s post, a writer simply blogs out of the overflow of her pastor’s weekend sermon. Have you ever been so filled with a message you heard that it just overflows from you?

The writer’s name is Dacia Wilkinson. As far as I know, we’re not related! She’s a mother and an author and either an Aspie or a parent of one. The blog has the curious title, It All Started With Heathcliff and the blog piece is titled The Only Thing That Matters.


“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor un-circumcision has any value. The only thing that counts if faith expressing itself through love.” Galatians 5:6

Love is what counts. And love that expresses itself through … vs. 22 … “joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Against such thing there is no law.”

Today, Pastor Don Sharp said these are not attributes to strive for … that these are given to you by Christ when you choose to trust Him as your Savior.  I believe my head tilted to the side at his words – kind of a “Huh” in Tim Taylor tone. And I listened harder.  And yes, after a straightening of the head and the settling of the words into my soul, I understood.

Daily, we allow selfishness, pride, anger, judgment, these things to stand in the way of the perfect gift of love we’ve been given. Daily, yes … WE do.  We allow our joy to be stolen. We allow worry to enslave peace.  We allow immediacy and frustration to overtake patience.  We allow hurry and self to shove over kindness.  We allow picking and choosing to overshadow faithfulness.  We allow anger and division to distort gentleness.  We ignore self-control.  WE do these things and by our fruit we are known. We show, sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like (vs 19-21).  These are allowed.  These we celebrate and portray on television.  We say, “Go girl!” to disrespect. And then, we go to church, raise our hands, and pretend to love God.

I said Pretend.  Yes, I did.

Harsh. True. Sad. Man. So many in our churches live this way. So many. Me. Man.

The truth stands …

If we loved the Father, we would obey the Father. 

Vs 16 states, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Vs 24 says, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

I John 2:6 …” Whoever claims to live in Him, must walk as Jesus did.”    And what is that?

Micah 6:8 … “He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Act justly.

Love mercy.

Walk humbly with God.

Jesus tells us how in Matthew … Love God and love your neighbor as you love yourself.  All the Law and Prophets hang on these.

Love.

Mercy.

Grace.

This love of God’s that he so freely offers to us all – unconditional and beautiful – it covers sin and brings those who follow Him to grace and mercy, which he bestows freely.

Free.  Freely.  Freedom.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”  Ah ….  Galatians 5:1.  “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

It is not of God that we walk in anger, range, jealousy. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of sound mind,” says I Timothy 1:7.  God has given to those who love him — power, love and a sound mind. Within our hands, our minds, our hearts is the capacity to love like He does. To show grace and mercy. To move self out of the way. To choose life. To choose to love in sacrifice. To choose sacrifice.

This love given freely produces joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.  Not you. You cannot produce those things – not on your own. Everyday, choose to sacrifice fleshly feelings and open the Word as a reminder of the gift of freedom to love. And remember ….

The ONLY thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.  Not church attendance. Not good deeds.  Not the man-made rules of the church – lots of churches with their doctrine and their by-laws, their catechisms and their classes.  None of these.

You cannot manufacture it. It’s given to you by God himself and never of your own accord.

Fall in love with God, meditate on his word. Pursue the words of Christ.  Love God. Love your neighbor. Boom.

Faith expressing itself through love.

October 31, 2013

Counterfeit Kindness

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Today’s readings are from the devotional ministry of the late Selwyn Hughes, author of the Every Day With Jesus series of devotional materials published by Crusade for World Revival (CWR) in the UK. What follows is a three-day sample of the online devotions available at Every Day Light. They are currently in the middle of a series on the fruit of the Spirit.

Warm goodwill to others

Colossians 3
“… clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (v.12)

The fifth virtue listed in the fruit of the Spirit is kindness. The King James Version uses the word “gentleness” but there is little doubt that “kindness” is a more faithful translation of the original Greek word — chrestotes. “Kindness” is a very beautiful word; it means “a kindly disposition, or warm goodwill toward others.”One commentator says that if you wanted to express Christianity in one English word, you would use the word “kindness.” To speak, for example, of an “unkind Christian” is almost a contradiction in terms. There is some evidence that in the early centuries of the Church, non-Christians used the words “kindly” and “Christian” as synonyms. Tertullian, one of the Church Fathers, said, “The words were so allied in meaning that no harm was done by the confusion.”I once asked a church youth group, if I had the power to give them just eight of the fruit instead of nine, which one would they be willing to do without. Almost everyone in the group said “kindness.” When I asked why, they explained that for them, the word conjured up a picture of weakness and sentimentality. I told the group that they were obviously unaware of the true meaning of the word “kindness,” and that a kindly disposition does not necessarily mean maudlin sentimentality. So let’s be quite clear what we are talking about when we use this word: kindness is a supernatural virtue endowed upon us by the Holy Spirit, engendering within us a warm goodwill to others. How much of it, I wonder, will flow out to others today from you and me?

Prayer:
Gracious Father, help me today to be clothed with kindness. Make me a person who can show warmth and goodwill to others. I ask this for Your own dear Name’s sake. Amen.

For Further Study
Romans 12:1-101 Corinthians 13:4Ephesians 4:32

What kindness is not

Ephesians 4:17-32 “Be kind and compassionate to one another …” (v.32)

We saw yesterday how a group of young people had a wrong concept of kindness, viewing it as just maudlin sentimentality. It is surprising how debased the word “kindness” has become, in both Christian and non-Christian thought.

Some Christians accept the word because it is used in Scripture, but have no real desire to acquire the virtue because, to them, it smacks of sentimentality and weakness. The world uses the word but, separated as it is from any thought of God, “kindness” comes out as a mild compensation for a lack of firmness and clear thinking. People say, rather patronizingly in some cases: “Oh, he’s a kind fellow” — and they leave it there. The word has come to wear thin in the currency of the world (and in some parts of the Church), so there is a great need to see it minted afresh and gleaming bright in the commerce of modern-day Christian life.

Think with me still further about what kindness, the fruit of the Spirit, is not. Kindness is not being a “do-gooder.” In fact, the word in the original Greek does not imply active goodness but a disposition of goodwill, although active goodness may be one expression of it. Many think of kindness as giving money to people who have a financial need, but just giving money to people who appear to need it, without being guided by the Spirit, can result in great harm. Giving to people at the wrong time can take away from them something more precious than is being given. There are few things in which we have more need of the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit than in our giving.

Prayer:

O Father, help me to discern between what is true and what is counterfeit. I want my kindness to be genuine kindness — the sort of kindness that helps people, not hurts them. Amen.

For Further Study

2 Peter 1:1-71 Thessalonians 3:121 Peter 1:22

A debased word

Romans 2 “… not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” (v.4)

We continue looking at counterfeit forms of kindness. Kindness is not indulgence. Supernatural kindness can be severe — severe because it loves so deeply that it can come up with a hard refusal. It is based on God’s kindness, which can cut when, just like a surgeon, He insists on cutting out of us moral tumors that threaten our spiritual health. But always God’s severity is our security. It is redemptive; He loves us too much to let us go. Kindness, which is the fruit of the Spirit, is like that.

Again, kindness is not a substitute for clear thinking. In being “kind” to one person, people can often be unkind to another. The wrong kindness — that is, kindness which does not operate on clear guidelines and right thinking — can deride justice. For example, a businessman remarked to his wife that he was dismissing the chauffeur on the grounds that he was an unsafe driver. “He nearly killed me today,” he said. “That is the third time.” His “kind” wife answered: “Oh, don’t dismiss him, dear — give him one more chance.”Another example of misguided kindness comes out of the law courts. A woman on trial for murdering her husband was acquitted chiefly because of the efforts of one “kind” lady on the jury. Explaining her attitude to someone after the trial, she said: “I felt so sorry for her. After all, she had become a widow.” By such examples as these, “kindness” has become a debased word — a fact that can hardly be denied. People have found it easier to be “kind” than truthful. How desperately the word cries out to be redeemed.

Prayer:

O God, take my hand and lead me through the fog and confusion that surrounds this word. Help me understand that true kindness can be a cutting kindness — kindness that gives life and not lenience. Amen.

For Further Study

Isaiah 63:1-9Psalms 17

Today`s two-for-one special: Enjoy the song Sacred Invitation as recorded by Seth Condrey.

July 25, 2013

A Path to Conquering Temptations

Temptation

Matthew 5:27-30 (NIV)

Adultery

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’[a] 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

2 Peter 1:3-5 (NIV)

Confirming One’s Calling and Election

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge

Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Today’s writer is Michael Belote at the blog Reboot Christianity. Although it was directed at men specifically, the principles apply to men and women equally. To read this and many other good articles at source, click here.

The best path for conquering temptations

I recently wrote a post about the need for men to step up and own lust as their own sin, instead of constantly blaming women for the way that the women are dressing. The comments, frankly, followed the typical modern Christian teaching on the subject, pivoting to blame women’s immodesty instead of man’s sinful heart. One commenter was honest enough to just lay it right out there, saying that our goal should be to focus on women’s immodesty because then men “wouldn’t have to” deal with lust at all.

What is interesting is that this debate has brought to mind that there is a larger subject under discussion here: what is the best way to avoid temptations? When faced with any physical temptation (alcoholism, drugs, sex/lust, gluttony), what is the best way to avoid it?

Most commenters seem to be focused (at least in the lust debate) on prohibition–that is, our focus needs to be on removing the temptation. If no temptation exists, then voila, we get no sin!

I find this argument to be wholly without merit, for several reasons:

1.  Removal of all temptation is impossible.

You will never, ever ever, remove all temptation. Even if you are somehow able to get Christian women to switch from a two-piece to a one-piece, you still have all the non-Christian women, you still have immodest one-pieces, you still have advertisements on billboards as you drive, you still have commercials on TV that are inappropriate, you still have magazines that show too much skin, you still have internet access with all of its temptations, etc., etc.

Trying to reduce lust by getting one small segment of the population to cover their stomachs on the three days per year that they visit the beach is ridiculous. It’s like trying to eliminate salmonella poisoning by making sure that everyone born in 1983 stops cooking with eggs: you are picking one tiny portion of a massive population, making one small change to it, and hoping that somehow it will magically change everything else.

We have to wake up, people. Lying to ourselves about our ability to change the culture won’t help us at all. We live in a sin-cursed, depraved world. We always have, and we always will. The world has been filled with sex and violence since long before Jesus and will be until He comes back. We are warriors in Enemy-occupied territory, and our goal needs to be to focus on protecting ourselves, not to focus on the ridiculous notion that we can somehow talk the Enemy into not tempting us any more.

Temptations will be here, and to be honest…even if every attractive Christian woman in the world started wearing old-fashioned bathing gowns, it would not make lust significantly easier in our modern era of internet pornography and lewdness everywhere.

2.  Even if we could remove all temptations, this will not diminish the frequency of sin.

As I wrote about in my book, as long as there is a demand in one’s heart for sin, he will find a way to do it. History is rife with examples. Prohibition of alcohol failed miserably, actually increasing alcoholism as people began to buy cheap moonshine instead of having a beer. Muslim countries where women wear burkhas have brutal rapes too–indeed, there is no statistical correlation between the amount of clothing worn in a country and its lustfulness. Sailors put on a boat for months on end, and prison inmates with long sentences, have “switched” from heterosexual to homosexual (or at least, bisexual) to satisfy their cravings for lust, even though their visual stimuli to women was completely removed.

It is simple supply and demand: as long as the demand exists, the actions will still happen: limiting the supply will only increase the cost someone will pay to perform the sin (either literal money, or a “cost” in personal life).

3.  Even if we somehow removed all temptations (impossible) and that removed all frequency of sin (impossible)…even then, that is not self-control as described in the Bible.

The Bible talks a lot about self-control. Jesus talks about it (Matt 5:27-30), Peter talks about it (2Pet 1:3-5), Paul talks about it (Gal 5:22-23). Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, and is to allow us to avoid temptations.

Trying to remove all temptations is NOT the same as exhibiting self-control. Let’s use another fruit of the Spirit for example…take any of them. Is it mature to say, “I could exhibit Christian love as long as others were lovable?” Is it mature to say, “I could have joy as long as there was no suffering in my life?” Is it mature to say, “I could have peace as long as we remove any anxiety?” Is it mature to say, “I can be patient as long as I get what I want when I want it?” Is it mature to say, “I can be gentle as long as there is no one making me angry?” Is it mature to say, “I can be good as long as there is no temptation to be evil?” Is it mature to say, “I can be faithful as long as there is no other available choice?”

Of course not! So why is it okay to say, “I can have self-control as long as women don’t dress in a tempting fashion?” Why do we treat self-control differently? We shouldn’t. Just as with the other fruit of the Spirit, self-control must be able to be exhibited in the midst of the temptation, or it is not a discipline at all, and you haven’t grown any closer to Christ in the least.

Does all this that mean I’m saying we shouldn’t also focus on removing temptations? Of course not! Feel free to pray, as Jesus recommended, for God to keep us from walking into temptations–indeed, we should pray for that daily. What I’m saying that removal of temptations is not a necessity to having self-control, and existence of temptations is not an excuse to lack self-control. And further, I am saying that lust is a MUCH bigger problem than just “a natural reaction to immodesty,” and (see the examples I gave in section 2 above) will NOT go away just because we improve women’s modest dress. So we have to stop using immodesty as an excuse, and starting owning the problem–because we will never live in a world free of temptation from lust (or any other sin), until the Lord comes back.  And one day He will fulfill those promises of a world where we have no temptation…but until then, He commands us to learn self-control.

My proposal for men

My proposal is that we do not spend our time hoping that the Enemy will not afflict us with temptations–because that is a losing proposition, and will be until the Lord returns–and instead start donning the armor we need to protect ourselves.

As my boss would say, it’s time for us to “Confront the brutal reality”–and the brutal reality is that, no matter what we accomplish as Christians, in our society we will be tempted, and frequently.

My proposal is that we stop wasting so much energy trying to create a world free from temptation (which we will not achieve), and instead spend our energy creating men who are immune to the temptations.

By far, the most successful program in the history of the world for overcoming temptations is the AA program, which has helped millions overcome crippling addiction. Founded by Christians on Biblical principles, the 12 steps there are a great approach for anyone dealing with any temptation:

  1. Admit that you personally are powerless to overcome the addiction/temptation.
  2. Believe that God can restore you to sanity.
  3. Make a decision to turn your life over to God in this area.
  4. Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourself.
  5. Admit to God and to others the exact nature of your sin.
  6. Be entirely ready for God to remove these defects of character.
  7. Humbly ask Him to remove your shortcomings.
  8. Make a list of all persons harmed.
  9. Make direct amends to as many of them as possible, as long as it does not cause further harm.
  10. Continue personal inventory and when mistakes are made, promptly admit it (usually to a sponsor who has walked the same path).
  11. Seek prayer and meditation to God, asking only for His will and the power to carry it out.
  12. Practice the same by leading others who have the same struggle.

With all due respect, as long as we continue to blame women’s dress for our lustfulness, we fail to go beyond #2 and #4 above–we do not believe that God is capable of removing lust as we are, but rather that temptations must be removed first, and in so doing we are not being “fearless” in our moral inventory.

A final word:  men, I’m not speaking about something that I do not know. I struggled with lust in college, mightily. And the path I walked down–though I didn’t know it at the time–was not far off of the 12-step program. While I still am not perfect, the successes that I have had with regard to gaining self-control in my life (not just over lust, but self-control in general) all began when I admitted that I was the problem, not the world around me. I could gain self-control from the Spirit, and not just hope to never again be tempted.

If you can’t get to that point, then you will never heal. Of course women should make sure they are not tempting men, but that’s an extremely minor part of the problem. And that is why I am so insistent that we stop telling men that they are mindless sex fiends who cannot help themselves if they see a woman in a bikini: it is not true, it is not biblical, and it keeps them from progressing down the path to healing.

July 3, 2013

Looking Like Jesus

John 14:9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Today’s post is from thinke (the e is for eternity) the blog of Matt and Michelle Brown. You’re encouraged to visit. The original post title was What Does It Mean To Look Like Jesus?

The ultimate goal of every Christian is to look like Jesus. What I mean by “look like Jesus,” is not in physical appearance, but to follow Jesus in both the big and small areas of their lives, in order to be the blessing that He was on earth, and to receive the blessings of obedience to and pursuit of God.

This is what we all want, but so few of us feel we are progressing at the pace we’d prefer.

One the biggest challenges in striving to look like Jesus is starting with the wrong picture of what it means to look like Jesus

For many years I personally thought that being “radical” for God meant being really intense with myself and others, praying for exhausting amounts of time, sacrificing as much as possible simply for the sake of denying myself as much as possible, and other self inflicting practices that would ultimately lead to looking more like Jesus. To me back then, “zeal” was the epitome of what it meant to look like Jesus.

I thought this because of role models I held in Bible college, many of whom I now see were clearly poor examples of Christlikeness. I remember reading passages in the Bible back then about the importance of a Christian having compassion, love, kindness and scratching my head wondering why I was not seeing these in my role models or myself – it was starting to dawn on me that God had a different picture of Himself than I had of Him.

Larry Osborne in Sticky Teams shares a similar sentiment: “Spiritual maturity is a life that consistently exhibits the character of Jesus Christ. This means character – not giftedness, not Biblical knowledge, not zeal. And that shouldn’t surprise us, since some of the most divisive and self-centered people in our churches are those who are highly gifted, know the Bible inside and out, and exhibit a zeal that puts the rest of us to shame. They just happen to also be jerks.”

I can’t stop thinking about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 lately. God has given us a clear filter of what it means to look like Jesus in all areas of our lives:  in our thoughts, actions, words and relationships.

Is what we are saying or doing filled with a whole lot of love, whole lot of joy, whole lot of peace, whole lot of patience, whole lot of kindness, whole lot of gentleness? If not, it’s probably not of the Spirit. Scripture tells us “when the Holy Spirit controls our lives,” we will show these things in increasing measure.

The fruit of the Spirit in your own life is what helps you be fruitful in the world.

God didn’t just give us this clear picture of what it means for us to look like His Son, and empower us by His Spirit to do so, so that we would be a bland personality in the world. The fruits of the Spirit are not simple cardboard cutouts that we learned about in Sunday School, but powerful life traits that have the ability to transform every aspect of our lives and relationships, and give us success wherever we go.

These are the aspects of Jesus that we need to hold up as a standard for our own life. These are the characteristics that we need to rejoice in when we see them in our gospel-centered communities and role models. As we allow the Lord to transform our hearts, we pray that we will grow in these traits and see them more and more active in how we act and react to those on our daily path. 

This is what I want more of in my life. I hope you do to. I think it will really help us.

 

 

November 26, 2012

An Optimal 30 Days for The Church

The period from the American Thanksgiving holiday to Christmas marks approximately 30 days that the church — make that The Church (with capital letters) — really gets to shine. It is the time we celebrate the story that forms the Biblical narrative that is probably most known to society at large, albeit with a little help from Linus Van Pelt. Play your cards right, and you get into a deep discussion with your friends about the meaning and implication of incarnation.

But it’s also a time when we get to show the world what the impact that same narrative has had on us through our generosity, and through being the hands and feet of Christ, we can do so much in our small corner of the world to make a difference where there is hurt, and where there is loneliness, and where there is hunger.

Brent Adams wrote the following just before U.S. Thanksgiving for The Southeast Outlook, the in-house church newspaper of Southeast Christian Church in Kentucky. It contains some specific references to their church. You may not know Southeast by name, but you might know their teaching pastor, Kyle Idleman, author of the bestselling Christian book, Not a Fan.  He titled this, The Perfect Time to Be The Church.

Southeast Christian Church Teaching Pastor Kyle Idleman recently challenged the congregation to understand that a church isn’t a building where people come just to be spiritually fed or recharged, but rather the church is a group of believers who worship God and carry out the teachings of Jesus Christ by building their lives around those teachings.

Among those teachings is that we should be thankful in all situations.

“Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

We also are taught in Scripture that we should act as the church by going to those less fortunate than we are.

In Acts 20:35, the Apostle Paul clearly laid out to his followers the role of the early church:

“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

We should take these words to heart all year long, but we especially tend to focus on them during the holidays, starting with Thanksgiving.

Two recent experiences put things into perspective for me.

One was a September mission trip to assist our church plant teams in Rhode Island. While there, we spent a couple days serving homeless military veterans at a weekend camp-out where they received medical care, food, grooming, new clothing, Gospel teaching, fellowship and encouragement.

Each of the homeless and struggling men and women I met were so friendly and so grateful for the assistance they received. Some of the people receiving help were there because they clearly didn’t have the physical or mental capacity to hold down a job. Others were there because, despite their best efforts, they found themselves on hard times and humbly came to accept help.

They were starved for someone to show them some kindness. The smiles on their faces when they were engaged in a conversation said it all. They just wanted to be loved and understood. They didn’t want to be judged or treated like a charity case.

I had a similar experience the following week when I served as an escort for the Shine disabilities prom. I was partnered with a sweet girl named Heidi, who seemed to know everyone in the place. She beamed from ear to ear all night long as she danced and visited with friends. I did little more than dress nice and point her in the right direction, but at the end of the night, I couldn’t help but feel like I was more blessed by my involvement than anyone the event was intended for.

Proverbs 19:17 says,

“Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.”

Now, I certainly didn’t participate in those events because I wanted the glory or even because I’m focused on storing up treasures in heaven. I did it because it’s what we are called to do: To go out and love on people and serve them as Jesus served and commanded His disciples to do.

What I found along the way, and I hear this all the time from people who serve in the Lord’s name, is that I came away feeling like I was blessed far more than I was a blessing to those I served.

The upcoming Thanksgiving holiday is a great time to reflect on how you can show the love of Jesus to your family, friends and total strangers. The fact of the matter is, as my friend Denny Dillman often points out in his columns, even on our worst days, we still enjoy more luxuries (including things like running water and clothing) than the majority of the world’s population.

Instead of focusing on our wants and needs, we need to turn our attention to how we can be the church to the hurting. In James 1:27 we are commanded to look after widows and orphans. That’s a good place to start.

In Deuteronomy 15:11, it is written:

“There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.”

If you believe that the Scripture is the living Word of God, then you’ll know that the commands don’t get much clearer than that.

Find an opportunity to serve at a homeless shelter or food pantry—not just for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but make that a starting point for a life of service. Find some families in need to bless this Christmas by buying clothes and food and other items. But don’t just hand them the gifts and run. Find ways to do life with them. We’ve seen some great instances in the last 12 months of last year’s “More Than a Gift” Christmas outreach bringing people to Jesus Christ because they were shown love by people who went the extra mile to get to know them and share the Gospel with them.

The truth is, despite whatever trials we face, we still have an awful lot to be thankful for. We need to focus on those blessings and look for ways to be the church by reaching out to those who have yet to hear the Good News that Jesus Christ wants to give them the gift of eternal salvation if they simply will accept Him into their hearts and join the church in making disciples.

~ Brent Adams

  • If you missed it at Thinking Out Loud, here’s a great Christmas song from the ’80s, Christmas Bells.

November 6, 2012

Assured of Eternal Life

Today we look at what may at first seem rather elementary material about the basics of salvation, until we move on to testing ourselves on how this evidences itself in our lives. This from Pastor B. J. Rutledge at Grace Fellowship Church and appears on his blog as You Can Know You Have Eternal Life.


[Recently] at Grace we talked about an UNUSUAL PROMISE from God.  At the request of one of our web/tech guys, I’m putting some of the scripture, some added notes and the check list from 1st John in this blog.  Let me start with a couple of added notes…

1.  No one can earn their way into heaven.  We are saved by faith through grace which is the gift of God and is clearly taught throughout the NT.  Ephesians 2:8-9 is clear on this and Eph. 2:10 states that we do good works as a result of this.  Titus 3:5 is clear that none of us can be saved by any works we do; our salvation is based on His mercy as we trust Christ and are born again by the renewing and regenerating that only the Holy Spirit can do in us.

2.  James 2:14-26 says that if my faith is real then “works of that faith” or “good works” will follow.  They don’t save me, but they are evidence of the fact that I am saved.

3.  None of us will live up to the things that John wrote in 1st John as “tests” of salavation 100% of the time; that’s why we need God’s grace.  As I stated Sunday, and have stated many times, the issue of testing your faith is one of direction not perfection.  We all sin.  I still sin.  However, the bent of my heart is now in the direction of the things that John revealed in the book of 1st John.

4.  In 2 Cor. 13:5, Paul was writing to the people who gathered as a part of the church in Corinth and challenged them to TEST themselves and make sure there was actual evidence that their lives had been changed by Jesus Christ.

5.  Paul was clear when sharing his testimony with King Agrippa that people must repent of their sins and turn to God to be saved, and then they should show / prove / give evidence of this change by their lifestyle or the things they do.

6.  John was clear that there are some very clear evidences that will be seen in a person who has “moved from death to life” or who is ”a child of God”.  He lists these things that help people test themselves as to their faith in 1st John.

Here’s some of the information from the message this past Sunday with a few added notes.

THE UNUSUAL PROMISE: You can KNOW you have eternal life.

My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion.  1 John 5:13 Msg

Paul – who wrote much of the New Testament says – if you’re not sure – you should do something about it.   Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.      2 Cor. 13:5 (Msg)

TEST YOURSELF – IS THIS EVIDENCE  IN YOUR LIFE?

1st   OBEY THE WORD OF GOD   

We can be sure that we know God if we obey his commands. Anyone who says, “I know God,” but does not obey God’s commands is a liar…”1 John 2:3-4a NCV

You may not & probably won’t understand everything in the Bible, but do you have a desire to do what God says and are you striving to obey what you already know from God’s Word?  None of us will be perfect, but if you have no desire for the Word of God or have no desire to obey the Word of God then you need to evaluate your life and see if your faith is real.

2nd   LIVE A CHRIST-LIKE LIFE  

Here is how we know we belong to him.  Those who claim to belong to him must live just as Jesus did.      1 John 2:5b-6  (NIrV)

Jesus lived a perfect life & none of us can live up to that because we’ve all sinned & messed up.     The issue isn’t perfection – the issue is direction.   Is the direction you choose – one that’s moving you closer to becoming like Jesus?  All of us mess up.  In fact, a verse from the book of wisdom that has really helped me and I’ve shared with others for years is Prov. 24:16 which states:  “The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again…”   I’m so grateful for the truth of 1 John 1:9 which reminds me when I sin and blow it, I can confess it and God forgives me.

So – Do your attitudes & actions give evidence of someone who is pursuing a Christ-like lifestyle?

3rd  STAY TRUE TO THE FAITH 

They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.  1 John 2:19 (NIV)

Believers will look for ways to experience community & do life with other believers.

4th  CHANGED NATURE 

“Those who are born again because of what God has done will not keep on sinning. God’s very nature remains in them…”     1 John 3:9a (NIrV)

Pigs like to wallow in filth because that’s their nature.  If you’re a believer, you’ve been given a new nature and while you’ll still sin – it’s not the habit of your life.  You don’t want to live in willful habitual sin.

5th  LOVE OTHER CHRISTIANS   

10 So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the Devil. Anyone who does not obey God’s commands and does not love other Christians does not belong to God.  14 If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to eternal life…” 1 John 3:10, 14a (NLT)

Love…doesn’t keep a record of wrongs that others do.  1 Cor. 13:4 CEV

6th  EVIDENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT  

When a person puts their faith & trust in Christ – the Holy Spirit comes to live in them.

How do we know that God lives in us?  We know it because of the Holy Spirit he gave us.  1 John 3:24b (NIrV)

We know an apple tree is an apple tree because of the fruit it produces.  If you’re really a Christian, there will be external evidence: fruit the Holy Spirit produces in you.  I’m not talking about Spirit Gifts here, but fruit.  Someone wrote me a note from Sunday and said “even an apple tree does not bare fruit at all times”.  They were absolutely correct, so let me try to expand the analogy.   Spiritual growth is a journey and we will have growth spurts and times when it seems like not much is happening; but it’s the Holy Spirit that produces fruit in us as we submit to Him.   As Jesus said when He was speaking about a person’s character: “the tree is known by its fruit” (Mt. 12:33).  The bottom line is that a person who has a genuine faith will at some point produce fruit; “the fruit of the Spirit” will be produced in their life at different times as they submit to God.

Gal 5:22-23a NASB  says:  “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”

7th  HAVE THE SON OF GOD  

This is what God told us: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Whoever has the Son has life, but whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.   1 John 5:11-12 (NCV) 

Eternal life is found in Jesus Christ alone.  NOTE:  The thief on the cross never had a chance to do any of the things that John said were tests of salvation other than “have the Son of God.”  That thief put his faith & trust in Christ just prior to his death, and Jesus told him that he would be with Christ in paradise.  A simple accrostic I’ve used for years related to FAITH is:  Forsaking All I Trust Him.  That means I must put my faith in Christ and Him alone for salvation.

Here are a couple of other passages used in the message:

 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.  James 2:19 NLT

Yet some people accepted him and put their faith in him. So he gave them the right to be the children of God.  John 1:12 CEV

People have to die once. After that, God will judge them.  Heb 9:27 (NIrV) 

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.     Heb. 4:13  (NIV)


For a previous article by B. J. Rutledge at C201, click here.

July 28, 2012

Painting The Image of Christ

CEB – James 3:10 Blessing and cursing come from the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, it just shouldn’t be this way! 11 Both fresh water and salt water don’t come from the same spring, do they? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree produce olives? Can a grapevine produce figs? Of course not, and fresh water doesn’t flow from a saltwater spring either.

She calls herself Cloudwatcher. She reads this blog regularly, and has one of her own, Meeting in the Clouds, at which she replies to each and every comment that her many readers leave. Articles contain an elementary truth that has application both for people who are ‘learning the ropes’ about following Christ and for those who have been ‘climbing’ for many years, like the one I’m featuring here today.

This appeared a few weeks ago under the title IMPOSSIBLE! It had to be Rectified! I encourage you to click through and read it at source, and then look around at other posts. You might also find things here you want to copy and forward to people you know.

This is not a typical painting.  It is HUGE, measuring 460 x 880 cm (15 x 29 feet) and covering an entire large wall, with LIFE-SIZE depictions of the figures contributing to the scene’s drama.

Although “The Last Supper” had been painted before, Leonardo da Vinci’s version was the first to depict real people acting like real people.

Leonardo chose to paint the very moment in which Christ announces there is a traitor among the disciples.  Through his brilliant brushwork, he manages to make the moment come to life, with each person displaying very human, identifiable emotions.

His painting also stands above the rest because of the technical perspective. Every single element of the painting directs one’s attention straight to the midpoint of the composition, Christ’s head, and is arguably the greatest example of one point perspective ever created.

Leonardo started the painting in 1495 and completed it in 1498.  He scoured the streets of Milan for more than two years, searching for faces to make the visages of the disciples.

There is much evidence to support the account that Leonardo had a violent quarrel with a fellow artist and that he was so enraged and bitter that he determined to paint his enemy’s face into that of Judas, and everyone who saw it immediately recognized the likeness.  The painting continued, but when da Vinci came to paint the last face, that of Christ Himself, he could make no progress. His best efforts were futile.

After many attempts, he realized his problem. He could not paint the face of Christ while harboring bitter feelings.  He painted out the face of Judas and commenced again on the face of Jesus, this time with the brilliance acclaimed for centuries.

IT IS IMPOSSIBLE
to paint the features of Christlikeness
INTO OUR OWN LIFE
while we paint another face with the colors of hatred and revenge

We CANNOT be used by Christ
to further His kingdom, to tell of His love, to sing His praises,
if we are HARBOURING GRUDGES or ILL WILL against another

Search me O God and know my heart:
try me and know my thoughts.
Psalm 139:23

Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart,
from a good conscience, and from sincere faith. 
1 Timothy 1:5

Thoughts from Mr Anon:

  • No matter how much you nurse a grudge, it will never get better.
  • What is the heaviest piece of wood in the world?  A chip on the shoulder.
  • When we are born into God’s family, we should bear a family likeness.

Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me:
All His wondrous compassion and purity.
O Thou, Spirit divine, all my nature refine,
Until the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.

March 30, 2012

More Means of Communication Equals More Possibilities for Trouble

Today’s blog tour took me to A Spiritual Oasis which, like this one,  is also on the Christian Blog Top Sites web portal.  The most recent post there by Bill Williams was about three different things, but one of them was very similar to what we looked at yesterday: The things we say, including speech and writing.  Hmmm… is Somebody trying to tell me something?  Actually, I’ve been blessed with the ability to self-edit and be self-controlled, though I will admit to having ‘lost it’ a few times. 

At Spiritual Oasis this post was titled Three Signposts on the Road to Righteousness God Desires.

Why do we have two ears and only one mouth? Perhaps that’s God’s way of saying we should listen at least twice as much as we talk!

The Holy Spirit’s counsel provides some serious thoughts on this matter: Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires, (James 1:19-20, NLT). 

The contrast is clear

Listening is a priority. Every one of us should race to listen. For those of us who are constantly rushing to do and say what matters to us, this is no small thing. Still, when it comes to our interactions with others, we are to show up early to hear what they are saying. On the other hand, tardiness is recommended when it comes to our words and wrath. Instead of rushing headlong into a verbal barrage that could easily lead to an angry outburst, we must put the brakes on. Instead of erupting in anger at what others say, we must resist the temptation to do so.

The consequences are immense

If we respond with verbal venom to the things said to us, God’s purposes are not served. If we allow anger to take root in our hearts and act accordingly, God’s will is simply crowded out of our lives. To be sure, there is no justice — no righteousness at all — in the anger of man. We cannot take the travel on the road and reach the right destination. No matter how many times we claim to be concerned about what is fair or right, if human angst animates our actions, the righteous life God desires is far, far away.

The challenge is ever-present

The world we live in is radically different from that of the Lord’s brother James. There are more ways to communicate with one another than ever before. We are exposed to more things that make us want to rant and rave than any generation before us. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that some people tweet more words in a day than my great grandmother spoke in a week, maybe even a month. Still, these simple imperatives — three sign-posts leading to the righteous life God desires — are an ever-present challenge for each one of us:

  1. You must all be quick to listen.
  2. You must all be slow to speak.
  3. You must all be slow to get angry.

May God help us all heed the warning and follow the signs.

~Bill Williams

I loved the phrase “race to listen.”   And I loved the observation that there are so many different means of communication at our disposal, and so many things about which to rant and rave.   Clearly, we need this message today more than ever.

February 9, 2012

God I Need Patience, and I Need It in a Hurry

Late last year the blog Reign of Faith began a series of articles under the series title Breakthrough.  We’re going to use one here today and another tomorrow.  This one appeared mid-January under the title Breakthrough: Patience.

The element of patience, spoken of in a prior post, is vital to, and on, your journey towards breakthrough. You may feel as though your journey is taking a long time. Maybe you are questioning if you will ever see the promise fulfilled. These feelings and thoughts are from the enemy. He hopes to cause a spiritual abortion within you through your feelings, thoughts, words and actions. Remember, the enemy cannot harm, curse or disable you, but he can get you to harm, curse, or disable yourself.

Maybe you have been waiting months, or even years, for manifestation. I understand how frustration can begin to surface; however, you must rebuke your flesh and subject it to the power of your spirit.

For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. (Hebrews 6:13-15 NKJV)

Your breakthrough is going to come after your patience has been tested {probably multiple times}. Things are going to seem like they are “going your way” and then take a so-called “turn for the worst”. People around you may begin to place pressure on you, treat you unfairly. Many things can and will happen and they are designed to test and perfect your patience.

Even Jesus, the Son of God, endured a test of His patience, steadfastness, endurance, and conviction.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. (Matthew 4:1, 2 NKJV)

Take note. When did the enemy show up? He began His attacks right after Jesus spent 40 days fasting. The enemy is not going to attack you when you are already headed down the path of destruction or when you are already off course. His attacks will come when you are seeking after God, pressing towards the mark, praying, fasting and getting new revelation. Also notice that verse 2 emphasizes the fact that He was hungry. Satan knows the points of weakness in your flesh {not to be confused with your spirit}. On your journey, before your breakthrough, when you are about to receive, he will send something your way that he knows would have typically bothered you. If worry concerning your finances is something you have done in the past, then he may throw something your way which requires you to pay money you did not feel comfortable giving up. If you are not subjecting your flesh to your spirit, then this may get you in a frenzy.

Learn to recognize areas where you previously struggled. When the enemy attacks those areas, you will be able to recognize those attacks and cast them down. Remain patient throughout every test and trial. Your patience will help propel you forward just like your faith and obedience.

Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him. (Matthew 4:11 NKJV)

Jesus withstood all attacks from the enemy. He was not drawn away by the lust of the flesh (1 John 2:6) nor did He grow weary in well doing (Galatians 6:9). He continued resisting the devil, whom had no choice but to flee (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8,9).

You will reach the point that God has promised you. Remain faithful, obedient, and patient!

Mission Statement: Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of the Christian blogosphere.  An individual article may be posted even if some or all readers might not agree with other things posted at the same blog, and two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives.  The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading.

January 6, 2012

Christianity 201: A Review

This is the first of two posts today; it’s always helpful to review the basics.

Christianity 101:

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. II Peter 3:18 NIV.

Two growth areas:

  • Grow in grace
  • Grow in knowledge

Christianity 201

9For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. Col 1 9-12 NIV

Nine growth areas:

  • Grow in knowledge of God’s will
  • Grow in spiritual wisdom and understanding
  • Live a worthy life
  • Please God in every way
  • Bear fruit
  • Grow in knowledge of God
  • Be strengthened with power
  • Reflect great endurance and patience and joy
  • Be thankful
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