Christianity 201

November 3, 2017

Discipline in All Areas of Life

Today we’re returning to the blog No Condemnation. Click the title to read at source.

Discipline and Discipling

My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.
Proverbs 3:11-12 (NIV)

Read: Proverbs 3

Consider: Proverbs 3 is one of those chapters in the Bible that contain several striking verses that challenge our thinking. In reading through the chapter, the verses that stand out to me are:

My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity (3:1-2).

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight (3:5-6).

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act (3:27).

The verses quoted at the start of this post are repeated by the writer of Hebrews (12:5-6) as:

And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.’

Interestingly the Greek word translated as discipline carries with it meanings of tutorage, education and training (by disciplinary correction). Have you ever noticed that the words ‘discipline’ and ‘discipling’ differ only in their final letter. This got me thinking about Jesus and his disciples. While we tend to think of a disciple as a follower, it means someone who is a learner. Jesus was teaching his disciples throughout his ministry.

Let’s be honest, discipline can be painful. Spiritual discipline can be particularly painful because it gets to the heart of what God points out as needing attention in our lives. It is important to realise that God disciplines us out of love. He wants us to become disciples, learning from him. So remember that while God is discipling you, you will be subject to his discipline.

Pray: Father, we thank you that your love for us is expressed in wanting us to be Christlike. May we willingly submit to your discipline in all aspects of our lives. Amen

 

July 4, 2017

If God Could Have Your Attention for Just a Moment

We’ve linked to Ed Cyzewski many times at Thinking Out Loud, but this is his first appearance at C201. This is the first part of a longer article; you’re encouraged to click the title below to read the full piece.

What Would God Shout at You from a Cloud?

In the Gospel of Matthew, there are two instances where a cloud appears over Jesus and God shouts two brief, identical messages. I have often wondered what God would shout at me in a similar situation.

Honestly, I tend to think God would shout negative things at me. I imagine God telling me to stop doing something or to do more of something. In either case, the message would focus on the ways I’m falling short and have been inadequate.

I have struggled to imagine a loving and merciful God. It’s much easier to imagine a God who is either disappointed or really, really angry.

Bringing up this disappointed/angry image of God with people tends to strike a nerve.

What would God shout at you?  

-volunteer more!
spend less money!
stop obsessing about your body image!
share the Gospel more!
stop lusting!
help more people in need!
read the Bible more!
pray more!
go to a different church!
spend less time on social media!

We can’t imagine that God the Father is for us and loves us. We can only imagine God showing up in a cloud and telling us to get our acts together, to start doing something different.

God the Father isn’t typically imagined as being on our side. God the Father is somehow joined with Jesus in the Trinity but remains disappointed in us and in need of a blood sacrifice to make us acceptable in his sight, working out a loophole in his infinite holiness and justice.

Before Jesus launched his ministry and before Jesus ventured to Jerusalem where he would be killed and then rise from the dead, God the Father spoke the same message over Jesus:

This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.

Matthew 3:16-17

 “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!

Matthew 17:5

On both occasions, God the Father affirmed the Son. On the first occasion Jesus had not even started his ministry.

I have tended to write off the significance of these moments between the Father and the Son. However, I now think that this was a big mistake on my part.

Jesus came to unite us with God, adopting us in God’s family. Paul writes that our identity is hidden away in Christ. In the midst of this union with Christ, we dare not overlook the love of God for us that goes beyond our comprehension:

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19

Through the ministry of Jesus and our union with him, we have a new way of thinking about God. If God is our Father through our union with the Son, then it isn’t far-fetched to say that God’s first thought of us is love and a desire for deeper union with us. God desires to heal, redeem, and restore his children.

Failing to believe that I am a child of God is the most important obstacle for prayer. Once I believe that God loves and accepts me like Jesus is loved and accepted, prayer becomes a moment to rest in God’s love rather than a game of hide and go seek with God or a proving ground for my spirituality…

April 25, 2017

Got Questions for God? God Has Questions for You

A year later, we’re back to the website Forward >> Progress, written by Michael Kelley an in-house writer for LifeWay. This is a writer who offers great content daily and I encourage you to check it out by clicking the title below and then clicking the “blog” tab at the top of his page.

How God Uses Questions in the Bible

Most every parent has gone through the sweetly annoying stage of questions from their children. These are the days when kids seem to have an inexhaustible curiosity, and the correspondingly inexhaustible list of inquiries to go along with it. The questions range from why the sky is blue, to why certain animals have spots when others don’t, to why we have to eat our vegetables.

The questions come in a flurry during that season of life – one right after the other, until most of the time the parent says that he or she has dispensed enough information for the day.

Now the reason kids ask these questions, at least in the purest sense, is because they lack information. They are sponges, wanting to soak up every bit of information that we, as the parents, have to give them. They assume that we, because we are their parents, actually are in possession of all this information and will freely give it to them.

Parents ask their children questions, too, albeit for different reasons. Sometimes we ask our kids things because we feel distant from them. We want more than anything for our children to open up and share not only about what’s going on in their lives, but how it makes them feel. So questions for us are not really about information; they’re more about intimacy. And we have such a strong desire for this intimacy that we can ask questions back to our children with the same frequency and intensity they once upon a time employed with us.

The badgered becomes the badgerer.

The same action – asking questions – is employed, but there is a different purpose behind it.

Now consider the fact that God, too, is a question asker. We see this happen many times in Scripture:

  • When Adam and Eve first sinned, God responded with a question: “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9).
  • When Adam and Eve presented themselves, God asked Eve directly, “What is this you have done?” (Gen. 3:13).
  • When God responded to Job’s accusations, He used a series of questions beginning with, “Where were you when I…?” (Job 38:4).
  • When Jonah was angry that God did what Jonah feared He would – relent on His punishment of the Ninevites – God asked him twice: “Is it right for you to be angry?” (Jonah 4).
  • When the people said Jesus was a prophet or a reincarnation of John the Baptist, He asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:15).

The list could go on. In each case, God is asking a question. And because questions serve different purposes, depending on the occasion, we might wonder what God’s intent is in asking these questions

Well, we know first of all what His intent is not. We know that the question is not informational in nature because God already knows the answer. In fact, God actually knows the facts of every situation better than the people involved in the situation. And here we find one of the great purposes of God in His asking of questions.

God uses questions to force us to confront our own hearts. He questions us not because He needs to know and understand something about what’s going on, but because He wants us to know and understand the truth of what’s going on. Through questions, God forces us to turn our gaze on ourselves, our hearts, and our motivations. He makes us look deeply into ourselves, knowing that He already knows, and then own up to that which we have either been unable or unwilling to see previously.

As He did in the garden, God might ask us, “Where are you?” not because He doesn’t know, but because He wants us to bring into the light the fear and shame that keeps us in hiding.

Or as He did with Jonah, God might force us to confront our own bias and prejudice and bitterness so that we might, through His compassion and grace, actually move past it.

Or as Jesus did with the disciples, God might ask us again and again who He is not because He has forgotten, but because He wants us to form the discipline in ourselves of speaking the truth of His character to our doubts over and over again.

So God questions us. Not because He doesn’t know, but because He wants us to know. And when God asks us a question today, I wonder if we will be courageous enough to answer it. Because doing so will not mean calling up a new piece of information; doing so will mean confronting the truth about ourselves.

 

December 13, 2015

God Perseveres With Us

Nancy Ruegg has been blogging faithfully for three years at From the Inside Out | Impressions Becoming Expressions. She uses a variety of writing styles to cover various themes from scripture. To read today’s at source — with some beautiful pictures — click the title below and then click the ‘Home’ tag to view other articles. Today’s writing takes the form of an extended prayer.

Our Persevering God

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger
And rich in faithful love.
–Psalm 103:8, HCSB

Oh God,

As I skim through the memories of six-plus(!) decades, I see much evidence of these attributes in my life: 

Compassion

I praise you that you’ve always looked upon me with compassion, not condemnation. Not one moment of struggle in my life has slipped by your attention unnoticed. And with that attention has come your sympathy. You’ve completely understood every situation I’ve faced, and shared in the physical pain, emotional hurts, and spiritual battles as they’ve come.

How comforting to know that you see my circumstances and sympathize. But even more precious?  Your love compels you to express that compassion with encouragement, strength, and support. Each day you bestow new mercies. You never give up on me.

Grace

Oh, how thankful I am that you are a God full of loving kindness. What relief to know your gift of salvation is not based on my effort but on your grace.

Your blessings flow continuously, not based on my faith, but on your benevolent nature.

Even more wondrous, you dwell within me, bestowing peace, joy, wisdom, and more—not because I am righteous and deserving, but because you are righteous and dedicated to my highest welfare.

Patience (Slow to anger)

One evidence of your grace is patience. As a parent and teacher, I’ve learned a little about the attribute of patience—mostly how difficult it is! Little ones can ask countless silly questions, frequently test the limits of acceptable conduct, and behave quite selfishly.

How shameful to admit I still demonstrate such traits. I, too, ask frivolous questions. When troubles assault, I want to know Why, God? I test the limits of your grace with my shallowness, failings, and stubborn streak.   And as for selfish behavior, that tendency hasn’t died yet either.

Some Bible translators have used the word longsuffering in place of patience. You have suffered long as you’ve trained me! Step by laborious step you gently guide me toward maturity. And one day my character will be complete, lacking in nothing because of your great forbearance with me.

Love 

How can I begin to thank you, God, for the treasure of your undying love? You brought me to faith in Jesus as a child, gave me a place in your forever family, and bequeathed to me an eternal inheritance in heaven. As I wait for that reality, I revel in your faithful love that:

  • Expresses itself continually, day after day
  • Attends to what will be in my best interest
  • Willingly and patiently endures the pain of rejection and disappointment, because of my rebellion
  • Disciplines me as any loving parent trains his/her dear children
  • “Perseveres until it perfects” (Philip Yancey)

I praise you, Holy Father, that day after day you manifest these attributes in my life.  I am encouraged by your compassion, blessed by all facets of your grace, guided by your patient Spirit, and strengthened by the richness of your faithful love.  I can never praise you enough for your magnificence!

June 10, 2012

Merciful Judge

Saw this yesterday at the blog Jesus Carries Me and I knew it belonged here, too!  For best results (!) read this at source, where it appeared under the title,

The Judge who is Plentiful in Mercy

Isaiah 21:13-17New International Version (NIV)

13 A prophecy against Arabia:

You caravans of Dedanites,
    who camp in the thickets of Arabia,
14     bring water for the thirsty;
you who live in Tema,
    bring food for the fugitives.
15 They flee from the sword,
    from the drawn sword,
from the bent bow
    and from the heat of battle.

16 This is what the Lord says to me: “Within one year, as a servant bound by contract would count it, all the splendor of Kedar will come to an end. 17 The survivors of the archers, the warriors of Kedar, will be few. ” The Lord, the God of Israel, has spoken.

Although there are many who like to think of God as their fluffy little genie in the sky who will pander to all their selfish desires, the Bible paints a different picture. Yes, God is good. Yes, He delights in doing us good. But He is also a Judge –a righteous Judge at that.

He doesn’t turn a blind eye to hurts perpetrated against people. He doesn’t turn a blind eye against the wrong. But He is also a judge who is plentiful in mercy. In fact, He is a Judge who became a Savior. Therefore, in order to learn the truth about God’s character, we cannot separate the two –Judge and Savior. We have to study His judgments as much as we study His promises of goodwill.

The Scripture reference above is a judgement against Arabia. The Arabians were known as caravaners and were also notorious for robbing other caravaners. Disaster is about to hit this nation. They were well known as skillful archers but neither their skill, nor their strength or courage will be able to protect them against the judgments of God. This serves as a reminder for us to ensure that our treasures are stored up in a place that is safe from the invaders and thieves of this world. Where your treasure is there your heart will be also. What are we storing up? Where is our heart? Is it with things that can be shaken? At the end of the day only what cannot be shaken will remain. Paul writes to Timothy:

To put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17b-19)

You caravans of Dedanites, who camp in the thickets of Arabia, bring water for the thirsty

The prophecy starts by painting a picture of an evening scene as if it is saying that the sun is setting for Arabia. There is a call on the Dedanites to extend hospitality to those who will flee in fear from the threat of the approaching enemy. The Dedanites were merchants known for trading with the prolific port city of Tyre. Apparently they usually camped in the thick, hard-to-reach wooded areas of Arabia through which they usually enjoyed safe passage. They are called upon to give water to the thirsty fugitives. In a dry and arid land, giving someone water is seen as one of the greatest acts of hospitality. As the Arabians flee the enemy they will now become dependent on the kindness of others. The lesson here is that we should be generous in our help of others. We never know when it is our turn to be in need of the kindness of others.
You who live in Tema, bring food for the fugitives

The people who live inTema is also called upon to provide.  Tema is believed to have been an oasis. This indicates how the Arabians will experience a scarcity of basic necessities of food and water.

We see from these calls to Dedan and Tema, that although God brings His judgments against those who disobey Him, He still provides a way out of the danger and we see in the later verse that not all of the Arabians are destroyed. A small remnant is saved from the disaster.  The prophecy is given a year before the actual disaster takes giving those who hear it time to repent and change their ways. This is in line with God’s merciful character. Although He cannot turn His back on the wrong, He provides a way out. We have all sinned and fallen short of His glory. But He provided a way out for us to be made righteous. He provided a Substitute so that the judgement due to us will fall upon Christ Jesus. By faith in Him we escape the inevitable final judgement coming on this world.
All the splendor of Kedar will come to an end

Kedar was splendid in beauty, in power, riches and military strength but all these things were to be torn from them. They were excellently skilled as archers but this will not help them as the judgment of God comes against them. In Psalm 120:5 dwelling in the tents of Kedar is symbolic language for being cut off from the true worship of the true God. “Woe to me that I dwell in Meshek, that I live among the tents of Kedar!” Sometimes, we look at what is splendid on the surface and we live by sight instead of by faith. This is a reminder that whatever looks grand in this world is destined for destruction and if we place our hope in these things we are bound to be terribly disappointed.

God is righteous. He is holy, but He will not leave us in our current state of hopelessness. He is merciful and will always provide a way out. If the Judge declares us innocent, who is there that can declare us guilty any longer?

If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. (Romans 8:31b-34) NLT