Christianity 201

December 29, 2014

God Desires Top Spot

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:24 pm
Tags: , , ,

Our thoughts today are from one of the foremost Christian devotional sites, Daily Encouragement by Stephen and Brooksyne Weber. To read this at source, click the title below. Underneath the title is a link to an audio version, which the Webers try to post most days. If you know someone with a computer who would benefit from that, tell them about Daily Encouragement. Click the icon which follows:

Daily Encouragement dot Net banner

“Christ Preeminent”

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

“He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30). “He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent” (Colossians 1:18).

Child, for us sinners poor and in the manger,
We would embrace Thee, with love and awe;
Who would not love Thee, loving us so dearly?

We trust each of you had a delightful Christmas celebration with your family and friends yesterday. Of course some of you may still have plans over the next several days as you gather with others in the glorious celebration of our Lord’s birth.

Yesterday we enjoyed brunch with friends and afterwards visited a nursing home where we sang Christmas carols with the residents. So many of the familiar Christmas hymns we know by heart, including all the verses. What a joy to sing them out as the residents joined in as the familiar words struck some chord in their memory. After all, many of them have sung the beloved Christmas carols for 80 to 90 plus Christmas seasons.

For many years Brooksyne has enjoyed studying the hymns and has numerous books of hymn backgrounds which we sometimes share on this site. Some of the golden spiritual gems overlooked in familiar hymns are included in the verses deleted from modern hymn books. Our introductory stanza (above) is a lesser known verse from one of the best known Christmas hymns written by John F. Wade about 1743. It was trans­lat­ed from La­tin to Eng­lish by Fred­er­ick Oak­e­ley in 1841.

Most likely you will recognize the refrain:

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Millions declare that Christ is Lord. So today we ask the following heart-probing question to our readers,  Who is Christ to you?

1) For some Christ is popular. An ungodly entertainer may throw a shout-out thanking God at an awards ceremony. A politician may quote a Scripture text to score political points though he or she gives little regard to God in lifestyle choices or life principles. Consider the crowds and disciples that followed Jesus in John 6 at the height of His popularity, but when it got tough they abandoned Him and the cause for which He died. (See John 6:66)

2) For genuine followers, Christ is present in your life. The Psalmist declared, “Thou art with me.”  Jesus reassured the disciples on the mountain before He ascended to heaven, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Psalm 23:4, Matthew 28:16-20, Hebrews 13:5)

3) For some Christ is prominent. By prominent, I mean that it is well demonstrated and evidenced by others that you are a follower of Christ. Your family, co-workers, and neighbors know that you are a Christian. It is commendable that Christ is prominent.

John the Baptist is one of the great Bible characters. His God-ordained role was to prepare the way for the Lord Jesus. He did his work faithfully and earnestly desired that Christ become more and more prominent.  One of the simplest, yet profound, statements indicating this is found in the daily text, “He (Jesus Christ) must become greater; I must become less.” Another version states, “He must increase, I must decrease.”  That’s not only an appropriate statement for John but is a godly mindset and heart attitude for each of us!  This is an ongoing commitment that needs refreshing and renewal on a regular basis, whether in the mundane of everyday life or the major challenges we face over the years.  Every day we should awaken with this theme on our hearts; “He must become greater; I must become less.”

4) For a relative few Christ is preeminent. Yet this alone is the proper outlook for one who claims that Jesus Christ is Lord. This is God’s gold standard concerning what His Son should be to us. Christ Preeminent, what a glorious truth!

From the Miriam Webster dictionary we find the following synonyms to describe one’s preeminence: cardinal, chief, dominant, first, greatest, main, master, number one, sovereign, supreme. These adjectives well describe the attitude we should have toward Christ if He is preeminent in our lives.

This phrase from Colossians is translated differently in various translations. The NIV states, “In everything He might have the supremacy.” In the NASB it reads, “He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” The Greek word (proteuon) means “to be first, to have the first place, to hold the chief place.” He is reigning as the preeminent Being in the universe. He always has been and always will be. The ESV states, “that in everything He might be preeminent.”

I examine my life today and I encourage you to do the same. Is Christ preeminent in your life? Is He the reigning King of your heart’s allegiance? May Christ’s reign and preeminence be evident in each of our lives, not just during the Christmas season but all through the next year until we draw our final breath on this side!

  Daily prayer: Father, anything good or praiseworthy in me is simply a reflection of the abiding presence of Your Holy Spirit. I want to grow in Your grace and knowledge, and will do so if You are preeminent in my life. That means You will reign supreme and be of first importance to me, having greater influence than any other person or cause. I want to walk in humility today as I pray, “Jesus, must become greater in my life,  I must become less.” I ask You to be at the center of my thoughts, my attitudes, and my actions so that Your preeminence is seen in all I do and say. In the name of Jesus I pray.  Amen.


Thanks, Stephen and Brooksyne. As I read this, I really had to examine whether I had ever considered the distinction between #3 and #4. Christ is certainly prominent in my life, but that prominence is not the same as preeminence.

April 5, 2014

When God Is First

Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Regular readers here know I am always using multiple translations, and I like to introduce new wordings from newer ones. But sometimes I wonder if we lose something by changing some classics, even when our word choices are well-informed based on the original Greek or Hebrew.

For example, take

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness… (NIV)

The phrase in question has to do with putting God first, or giving Him first place in our lives.  Modern options include:

  • Set your heart on the kingdom and his goodness… (Phillips)
  • Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. (Message)

Fortunately this isn’t true of all the recent versions:

  • Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously (NLT)
  • Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all these things will be given to you too. (The Voice; I included the full verse so you could catch the addition at the end!)

At his blog, Speaking the Truth in Love, Ken Idleman (yep…he is related*) offers the following:

Ever since I was a sophomore in college I have been giving regular financial offerings to God.  I praise Him for the older Christian Brother who took me aside and taught me this vital discipleship principle… over 4 decades ago now.  I am confident that much of the heart for The Lord and His Church that I have developed through the years has been the result of investing my ‘treasure’ in God’s kingdom as a priority [Matthew 6:21].  I was convicted then that either my kingdom or His would be my primary focus.  I decided it should be His [Matthew 6:33].  When I started taking my giving seriously, I had an income of $35/week.  I started faithfully giving $5 each Lord’s Day as an expression of worship.  Something good began to happen in my head and heart that I trace back to that Spirit-led decision/commitment.

It grieves me that most Christians do not give to God first.  It is more predictable today that a person subtracts their bills from their income to see how much is left over; then determines what can be given to the Lord’s work out of the overflow, without going into debt.  So rather than a ‘first fruits’ offering, it becomes a ‘leftover’ offering.  But, taking our offering off the top, so to speak, is evidence that we acknowledge God’s authority over us.  It is an act of gratitude to God for his goodness and it’s trusting Him to provide the best for us.  Bill Hybels wrote that most of us look at giving like paying another bill; but instead we should look at it as seed we sow.

I want to point out three things:

  1. This isn’t about “tithing” per se, since he was giving one-seventh, or 14%
  2. The principle applies to far more than financial giving, even though he doesn’t say that up front
  3. He has practiced what he’s preaching; he’s not talking beyond his personal sphere of experience.

So what are some of the ways we can put God first in our lives that aren’t related to financial giving to our church and ministry organizations?

  1. I am really trying to discipline my mind to start the day with some kind of prayer; asking God to use my day for His glory. If my thoughts are getting sidetracked, I just quickly get out of bed and do a re-start so I can try the thought focus again.
  2. I am endeavoring to make the devotional website I read each day the first internet page that is opened in my computer.
  3. I am trying to begin my day at work by asking God to use my workplace to reach my community. This isn’t easy. The first thing I have to do when I walk in is shut off the alarm system, and sometimes the message light is flashing on the phone system.
  4. I am trying to be more intentional about the emails I write and things I post on Twitter. That’s hard because I am already a bit of a Bible-nerd, so with a faith quotient that’s already high, I have to separate things that are about Church life or ‘religion’ in general from things that are about Jesus. I have a long way to go on this one.
  5. I am trying to put God’s kingdom agenda in the words I write and the words I speak so that the wisdom I offer is not earthly wisdom, but are filled with truth, hope, and encouragement.

I Chronicles 21:24

But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”

II Samuel 24:24 (parallel passage)

But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

 


* Kyle’s dad, Pastor of Crossroads Christian Church, Newburgh, IN

July 26, 2013

He Will Direct Your Paths

He Will Direct Your Paths

My wife and I met at a Christian summer camp, and now both of our sons work there in the summer. Camp IAWAH takes its name from Proverbs 3:6 “In All Ways Acknowledge Him (and He will direct your paths).”  Here’s what some people have written about this verse…

Billy Graham

In all your ways submit to him, and he will direct your paths. — Proverbs 3:6 (NIV)

Are you facing a significant decision? Then look again at these words in Proverbs 3:6. Implicit in this verse is the truth that God knows what is best for us, and that He wants to guide us so we will make right, God-honoring decisions.

When you face a decision about your future, seek God’s will above all else. Make your decision a matter of prayer, and ask Him to guide. If we are truly open to His will, He will direct us.

Does this mean we should just wait around until God gives us some kind of miraculous sign or deep inner conviction? No, not necessarily. God wants us to be practical. Do research if you need to; understand yourself and your gifts; seek the advice of others. Make your decision in the light of God’s Word also; God never leads us to do anything that is contrary to the Bible.

Remember, too, that God often guides us only one step at a time—but that is all we need to know. So don’t be anxious. Trust God to guide you, and He will.

Colin D. Smith

…Proverbs 3:5 exhorted us to trust in the Lord wholeheartedly, and not to lean on our own understanding of things. That is, I think, the attitude we should have toward life. The next verse seems to me to be speaking more practically: acknowledge the Lord in all your ways.

The words for “ways” and “paths” are two different words in Hebrew, but very close to each other in meaning. The first, derek, often means simply a road, or a journey, but can be used metaphorically to refer to one’s behavior, or “life-journey.” The second, ‘orach, refers to a stretch of road too, but seems to lean more toward referring to one’s manner or behavior. From this, I think we get the gist of what the proverb is telling us: in all aspect of your life, acknowledge the Lord, and He will keep your life correctly oriented.

I should note that “acknowledge” is the way the Hebrew verb yada’–”to know”–is commonly translated here. This is a perfectly legitimate translation, and the one that makes best sense in the context. To “know” the Lord as you travel life’s byways is to acknowledge Him, and to take every twist and turn leaning upon Him for guidance and direction.

Indeed, I think this is the lesson of the verse. Life throws us curveballs. Not just once in a while, but often. Our best-laid plans are frequently thwarted, and it’s not unusual for us to feel frustrated when things don’t go our way. To quote that classic movie, The Princess Bride, “Life is pain… Anyone who says differently is selling something.” Sure, there’s a lot that good and joyful about our lives, but we know it’s all too frequently not an easy road.

But if we’re trusting in the Lord, leaning upon His wisdom and not our own, and acknowledging His presence in our lives, His goodness, and His wisdom, He will help us keep our eyes lifted up. The burdens of life, while still present, will be easier to bear. As we keep our eyes on the Lord, by His grace we will be less inclined to wander into sin and despair, and more able to maintain a right perspective, and a godly attitude…

Darrell Creswell

What the scripture is saying here is to Know Him, see Him, seek Him, always have Him in your mind, in your heart and let it be His consideration that you always turn to.

As you see things before you always have Him in view in front of you, in your side-view mirrors and in your rear-view mirrors; let it be Him that is in view in all that you see. The Lord is ever-present with you. Let him be the ground beneath you as you step, and do not take one step without Him. Follow His lead, His wisdom, and His divine advice in all that you do.

Ask of Him to have the wisdom to endure and the strength to overcome in all situations. As you seek the Lord let His Word counsel and direct your steps as you walk in His providence. He will be your guide lest you stray. Let it be your mindset to submit to His divine plan for your life and follow Him wherever He leads as you walk not after the flesh in your own understanding, but in the Spirit as He leads you in the path of His righteousness.

So be still and know that He is your God; your Help in the time of need; your Rescue; your Guide and your Shelter. He will always do what is right for you according to His will and plan that He might be glorified in your life. So give Him the glory and the praise for what He has done, is doing and will continue to do in your life.

What we need to understand, that everything in our lives are completely under God’s control. As Jesus died upon the cross sin and death were defeated, and in His seemingly weakest hour, the strength of God was made manifest as redemption was poured out for the first time upon all mankind. In that weakness and pain and suffering that Jesus endured, the power of the living God rested upon the world bringing salvation and restoration to all humanity. We are the recipients of that grace.

It is by His hand you were created and it is by His hand that He will make your paths straight as all that you need in life flows freely from the throne of grace. It is the Almighty God that sits upon that throne acknowledging you, loving you and providing for you. All good things come from Him.

In the same way, Jesus gives us comfort, direction and victory in our lives even when we feel we are overwhelmed by the circumstances around us. We can find wonderful things out of even the darkest moments of our lives. Our Lord is present with us when it is the very darkness. He has planned that even the darkest of situations that we face will result in redemptive good for us. He surrendered His very own Son to death so that we could have life. He does not abandon us, He saves us.

Isaiah 40:21 Your own ears will hear Him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether it be to the right or to the left.

God is always right here, walking beside us, urging us on when we wander left or right saying – “This is the right road. Walk down this road”.

Blog: My Lord, My Friend

“Think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.”

We are all on a journey through this life on earth and we all have a final destination in eternity either with God or without God.

Yes the God that created us wants us to spend eternity with Him. That is what we were created for but somehow free will allows us to choice of  a journey and an eternity without Him.

How sad it would be an eternity without him. without His Love which is real love from which all love grows and through free will that love can become distraughted. In Him {Our Lord and Our Friend} we have a purpose on our journey, and we have a destiny, and with Him, it is the most exciting and wonderful journey and destiny of all.

The above scripture says THINK about Him {Our Lord and Our Friend} and He will guide you on the right paths. He will always be there to help, but even if we take or have taken the wrong paths, He is always there waiting to help us, to get us back on the right track.

In the Sermon on the Mount {Beatitudes}, Jesus told us to enter the narrow gate, for the gate is wide, and the highway is broad that leads to destruction, and many are traveling that way.

Mathew 7 verse 13 “Enter through the narrow gate”  Verse 14 ” How narrow is the gate and difficult is the road that leads to life, and Few find it.”

Ask Our Lord and Our Friend and He will lead you, and be with you, and help you no matter what difficulty you go through.

He has said if we Ask Him, He will Never leave us or Forsake us. Think about Him in all your ways, and what a wonderful journey through life you will have {He did say it wouldn’t be easy, but He did say He would always be with us all the way.}

God Bless  you on your journey .

In All Ways Acknowledge Him

Image: Darell Creswell (click to link). Got a verse you’d like to see covered here? Send us a suggestion and consider being one of the 4-6 writers we use.

Camp Iawah is an interdenominational faith ministry in Ontario, Canada that is sustained by camp fees and the support of contributors.