Christianity 201

January 7, 2017

Horrified at His Unworthiness

Something different today, a recommended website that’s new to us, Life Reference. Writer Don Merritt is working his way through Luke’s gospel, so to read more in the series, or bookmark the site, click the title below.

Calling Disciples

Luke 5:1-11

Luke’s account of the calling of Peter, James and John as disciples differs in many ways from the accounts of Matthew and Mark; I’ll let others speculate on the reasons for this and try to focus on what I see as the really instructive part of Luke’s account. Please read these verses, if you haven’t already, and let’s talk…

…OK, now that you have refreshed your recollection of this account, did you notice Peter’s reaction when Jesus caused his nets to be so overloaded with fish?

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (5:8)

Doesn’t that remind you of Isaiah the prophet?

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

Isaiah 6:1-5

This is from the passage that describes the call of Isaiah to prophesy to the people; do you see the similarity in his response to that of Peter when he saw how amazing and holy Jesus was, that He knew just where to cast their nets for a record catch? Isaiah was accepted for service and went without hesitation:

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:6-8)

Like Isaiah, Peter was horrified at his unworthiness to be in the presence of the Son of God, yet in Luke 5:10 Jesus reassured him, and they dropped everything and followed Him without hesitation. You might also take a look at the call of Moses in Exodus 3 and Gideon in Judges 6.

It would be quite normal for any of us to realize that we are neither qualified nor worthy to serve our Lord; we are all sinners after all. Yet none of the “greats” of Scripture were any more perfect than you or I, and when reassured, they followed God’s call. Each of us knows that our sin has been taken away by the blood of Christ, and each of us has every right to seek His loving arms… and each of us has received His call to follow Him.

Will we follow the example of Peter, James and John?


Ever broken up a small tree or sticks and been aware of the green color inside? Green shows that there is (or at least was!) life inside. That’s why we highlight scripture here in green. To show that while the words of the various writers whose material we borrow are helpful and instructive, it’s God’s Word that brings life.


C201 is always looking for new sources of material. Feel free to refer sites to us — use the contact page here, or Twitter — or even your own writing. We’re also looking for associate editors who can supply us with suggestions on a regular basis.

May 17, 2015

Wherever You Serve God, Be All In

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
Romans 12:11

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…
Ecclesiastes 9:10a

Today we pay a return visit to Done With Religion by Michael Donohoe. To read this at source, click the title below.

What’s Your Passion?

My wife and I have some friends who are very much involved and active in certain areas of ministry. We were recently talking about the passion these friends have for their particular ministry.

That got me to thinking about passion. The dictionary says passion is: ‘a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything’. This certainly describes our friends and we are happy that they are involved so much.

We both stated that we felt we did not have a passion like this for any particular thing. It actually made us feel a little disappointed and wondered why we did not seem to have a passion like our friends.

I think passion is great. In some ways, passion for the wrong things or done in extremes can be very tiring and frustrating. A passion for money can cause a person to work many hours, consuming their energy. Passion like that can take your strength and drain you of all energy. Yet, people who have passion for showing God’s love, helping others and use it in moderation see their lives enriched, strengthened and seem to have endless energy.

The only trouble I see with passion is that it can sometimes become an obsession with the ones involved, and they can begin to expect everyone to have the same passion they have for the same thing. This is where we have to realize that God designed each of us with different gifts, abilities and passions, and they are displayed differently in each of us.

I think each of us has a passion for what God designed us to be. We may not be as outspoken or even act the same way as others with passion, but God works through us in a way that is effective according to the personality and gifts with which he designed us. We may not even realize the passion that shows through us to others, but rest assured, God will work through us to touch others with his love.

We are all designed differently, and we all act and respond in our uniqueness. I think it wrong to think we are not useful to God because we do not act like someone else. God works in us and through us based on the way he created us, each unique temples of the Holy Spirit, each making an impact on those we have contact with, through the power and love of God within us.

January 23, 2015

God Wants to Use Non-Professionals, Non-Experts

38 Then Saul gave David his own armor—a bronze helmet and a coat of mail. 39 David put it on, strapped the sword over it, and took a step or two to see what it was like, for he had never worn such things before.

“I can’t go in these,” he protested to Saul. “I’m not used to them.” So David took them off again. 40 He picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine.

if you’re not familiar with the story click here to read the full chapter

Today’s thoughts are taken from Eugene Peterson’s book Leap Over a Wall: Earthy Spirituality for Everyday Christians, which is a study of the life of David. So many times in church life we think we have to leave certain responsibilities to the pastor. Depending on where you worship, there are often limits on what non-clergy — the laity — can do. This often transfers to a belief that if you are empowered to carry out a task, you have to do it in a certain, prescribed way. You find yourself often imitating the person who usually carries out that task, because that is what is expected.

Those of us who have worked vocationally in Christian ministry often use the two word shortcut code “Saul’s armor” to describe these situations. We’re being asked to perform in a way that is simply not us.

Eugene PetersonOn the near side of the valley, King Saul is worried over this kneeling David.  He has just tried his best to be of help by outfitting him with his own armor.  He set his bronze helmet on David’s head, wrapped him in his coat of mail, and handed him his sword, which David strapped around his waist.  David had never been dressed like that before.  And it seemed like such a good idea.  Saul’s Armor!  The king’s weapons!  If there was anything that would fit him for the task ahead, it was certainly this.  Was there a man in Israel who wouldn’t have counted it the highest privilege to be so equipped?  But when he tried to walk, he couldn’t move.  Weighted down under the cumbrous metal, he was reduced to a stiff and awkward waddle.

There was no question but that Saul was well intentioned.  He wanted to help and was helping in the only way he knew:  pile on the armor, protect yourself, get a weapon with proven effectiveness.

This is a common experience in the Valley of Elah, when an amateur ventures into a field dominated by professionals.  All around us people who care about us are suddenly there helping – piling armor on us, dressing us up in equipment that’s going to qualify us for the task (even though it didn’t seem to be doing them much good).  We get advice.  We get instruction.  We’re sent off to a training workshop.  We find ourselves with an armload of books.  These people are truly concerned about us, and we’re touched by their concern, in awe of their knowledge and experience.  We listen to them and do what they tell us.  And then we find that we can hardly move.    (p. 42)

As I read this, I was reminded of an earlier part in the book where Peterson talks about how we tend to defer everything to pastor, priest, rector or minister:

Most people who venture upon a life of faith are laypersons.  Why do so many of the habitually and pliantly take a subordinate position under the certified experts in matters of faith – that is, the clergy?  As a pastor myself, I’ve never gotten over either my surprise or my dismay at being treated with doggish deference by so many people.  Where do all these Christians, who by definition are “new creatures in Christ” and therefore surely eager to taste and see for themselves (a universal characteristic in newborns) that the Lord is good, pick up this deprecating self-understanding?  They certainly don’t get it from the Bible or from the gospel.  They get it from the culture, whether secular or ecclesial.

They get it from leaders who love the prerogatives and power of expertise and bully people by means of their glamorous bravado into abdicating the original splendor of a new life in Christ and declining into the wretched condition of the consumer.  The consumer is passivity objectified:  passive in the pew, passive before the TV screen, vulnerable to every sort of exploitation and seduction, whether religious or secular. (p. 21)

As I read these words several days later, I am reminded that there are likely people reading this who, while they long for a deeper walk with God, settle for a church life that reflects the passivity Peterson speaks of.  When needs are mentioned, they assume someone else will answer the call. Someone more gifted. Someone more intellectual. Someone who has the particular expertise they think is needed.

It’s common today to be in a room and you hear the sound of a cell phone ringing and you ignore it and then suddenly realize, that’s my ringtone. Of all the people in the room, it’s me they’re calling. Perhaps that’s true in Christian service as well. Appeals are made but few take the time to say, that call is for me.

It may be that someone is reading today and God has a calling on your life to step out in faith in what we would call a ministry, but an inner voice halts you from making the first move:

  • I’m not trained
  • I’m not a Bible scholar
  • I don’t know Greek
  • I’ve never taken any Bible college courses

Now by all means, if you can, take some courses, get some training. But God may be wanting to use you, right now, the way you are — imperfect, tempted, broken, unschooled — with no armor, just the five stones in your hand.

Your posture as a warrior for God may not include armor, helmet and a sword. You may be kneeling at the brook, looking to all the world like you’re playing in the water, when you’re actually gathering stones, formulating a plan and acting on a vision.


October 31, 2014

Wanted: Unity in the Body of Christ

The Church Works Best When We Work Together

Our text today is from Ephesians chapter 4:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:

“When he ascended on high,
    he took many captives
    and gave gifts to his people.” 

(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

We live in a bullet point world, so some of you will appreciate the point-form layout of today’s devotional from Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM). I thought some of you might find this “cut to the chase” approach refreshing. To read this at source, click on the title below:

Ephesians 4:1-16, Live worthy of your calling

Introduction

The Christian church is under increasing attack from the world both here in America and abroad. Churches are being destroyed, and Christians are being killed all over.  But we here in America face a different attack, and it is from within the church.  Among many issues that we as Christians need to work on, disunity is one of the more prevalent problems.

Our propensity for division is natural to our sinful natures, and this is why God inspired Paul to tell us to live in a manner worthy of the calling which we have received.

  1. First of all, God wants you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received (Read verses 1-3. But what does that mean, “to live a life worthy of the calling you have received”?).
    1. There are many examples around us of what it means to live in a manner worthy of a calling.
      1. A policeman, when he works, is supposed to be an example of the Law.  He lives worthy of his profession.  He doesn’t steal, and he doesn’t cheat . . . He defends and upholds the Law.
      2. A doctor also is supposed to live worthy of his profession.  He heals the sick.  He cares for those who are ill and seeks to make them well.
      3. A farmer tills the soil and produces food for thousands.  He is called to this task and is gifted to accomplish it.
    2. As a Christian, there are marks of what it means to live a life worthy of the calling.
      1. In this section they are throughout. Look with me at verses 1-3
        1. “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance (endure with) to one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
        2. Several fruit of the Spirit are listed here:  humility, gentleness, patience, love, and peace.   All for a purpose, unity in the body of Christ.
          1. Therefore, in order for unity to occur in the body of Christ, we Christians need to exhibit humility, gentleness, patience, endurance, love, and peace.
  2. Alright, so God wants you to live in a manner worthy of being called a Christian.  But why? Why does God want you to be humble, gentle, patient, bearing with one another, loving, united, and peaceful?
    1. First of all it is because God has called you all into unity.  (Read verses 4-5: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism”).
    2. The reason that it says “one faith, one Lord, one Baptism” is that it is into one church that you are all baptized; that is, it is into one faith: the Christian faith–Calvinists and Arminians alike, male and female, young and old, immature and mature, black, white, and brown.  One faith as a whole, and one faith in the particulars, one faith in the decisions that a church must make for the purpose of glorifying God, being united in love, and expanding the kingdom of God.
    3. Take for example a Military Unit.
      1. It has one leader; it works as a unit; it moves in one direction; it receives its orders and obeys them.  All those in it work well together because they have been trained to do so.  Sometimes individual members of the group don’t like what they are called to do, but they do it anyway for the greater good.  Therefore, they are able to accomplish a great deal because they act as one.
      2. Didn’t Jesus say, “And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one;” (John 17:22).
    4. God wants you to be united because (v. 6) there is “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
      THE CROSS!

      1. You have been bought, and you are united to Christ.
      2. The same God indwells each of you.  The same Holy Spirit.  If differences of opinion arise, it is not because God is telling us different things; it is because we are not listening.  It is because we are stuck listening to ourselves and not to God.
      3. Now is the time to listen more intently to His will and submit to His will just as Jesus said, “Not My will be done Father, but your will be done.” (Luke 22:42).
  3. God wants you to be united, of one mind, of one body, of one Spirit, of one faith, and of one Lord.
    1. But God simply doesn’t require unity without providing the means to achieve it.
      1. That is why He gave gifts
        1. (v. 11) “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,”
        2. Aan Apostle is a delegate, a messenger, one who is sent forth with orders from God.
        3. A Prophet is someone who is moved by the Spirit of God and who solemnly declares to men what he has received from God by inspiration.
        4. An Evangelist is a bringer of good tidings. It is a name given to the New Testament heralds of salvation through Christ who are not apostles. They lead people to Christ.
        5. Pastor: A herdsman, a shepherd. He is someone who cares for his flock.
          1. The tasks of a Near Eastern shepherd were to watch for enemies trying to attack the sheep; to defend the sheep from attackers; to heal the wounded and sick sheep; to find and save lost or trapped sheep; to love them, and guide them.
          2. During World War II, a shepherd was a pilot who guided another pilot whose plane was partially disabled back to the base or carrier by flying alongside him to maintain visual contact.
          3. So to, the Pastor comes along side to guide, protect, help, and teach the sheep so that they might grow in the grace of God and come to unity in the faith.
        6. A teacher in the New Testament is a person who teaches concerning the things of God and the duties of men.  They teach doctrine and correct people in error.  They are those who in the Christian assemblies undertake the work of teaching with the special assistance of the Holy Spirit.
          1. Note: In the Greek the construction of the last two, pastor and teacher, implies that they are shared by the same person. The Pastor/Teacher is the gifting for one man.
      2. These officers were given to the church by Jesus for a specific purpose.
        1. To prepare you (v.12) . . . for service.
          1. What kind of service?  Spiritual service: prayer, helping, admonishing, teaching, forgiving, loving, being an example of Christ in this world, and bringing glory to God.
          2. To accomplish this you are to be both humble and bold, gentle and determined, patient and strong, bearing with one another in love (verses 2-3), forgiving each other, helping each other, and considering others more important than yourselves.
  4. This unity that Paul is speaking of is for a reason: Maturity
    1. Again we have an issue of “reason”; that is, the reason we are equipped and gifted in this church is (verses 12-13) so that “that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
      1. As members in the body of Christ, we are continually being built up to maturity.
        1. Maturity in persona areas mentioned above: humility, gentleness, bearing with one another, love, peace, etc., so that you can . . .
        2. Mature corporately: The personal maturity leads to corporate maturity.
        3. Maturity in doctrine:  Knowing what is essential and what is not essential.  Knowing what it means to be gracious to others in the body of Christ who do not agree with you in areas of opinion.  Patience and love and peace should be shown to all people in the body of Christ so that we might speak the truth.  That is the result of maturity . . . speaking the truth in love.
  5. Conclusion
    1. In this world of anti-Christian bias we need all the more an extra measure of maturity, of grace, of gentleness, patience, and forgiveness.
    2. Each of you needs to keep your eyes on the one Lord.
    3. Each of you needs to keep your eyes on the one faith.
    4. Each of you needs to seek unity–being knit together in a close group.
      1. Each of you needs to be doing your part.
        1. Reaching Up–Seek God in prayer, study, and reading his word.
        2. Reaching In–Look to one another and find needs.  People in this church are needy and need love and support.  Visitors need to be welcomed and encouraged.
        3. Reaching Out–The community at large awaits the continued demonstration of your love and commitment to Christ.
    5. This is what it means to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.