Christianity 201

April 6, 2018

What Sort of Person Are You?

NIV 2 Peter 3:8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives.

Today we’re returning to the writing of popular Christian author Neil Anderson whose unique writing helps us focus on we are in Christ (positionally) and what manner of people we ought to be (in daily practice). This is his 5th time at C201, but the first in four years.

Living Today

I believe in setting goals and making plans. But biblical vision for the future and godly goals for ministry or work have no value if they don’t provide direction for our steps today. Goals for tomorrow that don’t prioritize present activities are nothing more than wishful thinking. We make plans for tomorrow in order to establish meaningful activities for today. We need to ask the Lord each day if we are still on target, and give Him the right to order mid-course changes in direction.

Some people don’t like to set goals because they feel goals only set them up for failure. But a goal should never be a god. It should be a target, not a whip. Other people become obsessed with goals for tomorrow. Biblically, the will of God is almost entirely directed at living responsibly today. Legitimate goal-setting should support that.

“Are you trying to tell us that we aren’t to make any plans for the future or establish any goals for our ministry or work?” No, I’m trying to say that the primary focus of God’s will is that we seek to establish His kingdom by becoming the person He wants us to be today .

Most people want to know what God has in store for them tomorrow. That’s why prophecy has always been a popular subject. Most prophecy teachers know that the critical issue concerning the Lord’s second coming is “What sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness(2 Peter 3:11). Jesus said, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow(Matthew 6:33, 34). Biblical prophecy is given to us as a hope (the present assurance of some future good) so we will have the courage to live righteously and confidently today.

Prayer: Father, help me live in the present and not worry about tomorrow, accepting only Your will and guidance for my future.

Seated With Christ

NIV Ephesians 2: 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.

The New Testament clearly reveals that Christ’s power and authority over Satan and his kingdom have been conferred to those of us who are in Christ. In Ephesians 2:4-6, Paul explains that when Christ was raised from the dead, those of us who have believed in Him were also resurrected from our condition of spiritual death and made alive “together with Christ.” It’s only logical that the head (Christ) and the body (His church) should be raised together.

Furthermore, when God seated Christ at His right hand and conferred on Him all authority (Ephesians 1:20, 21), He also seated us at His right hand and conferred on us through Christ all authority because we are “together with Christ.” The moment you receive Christ, you take possession of what God did for you 2000 years ago. Your identity as a child of God and your authority over spiritual powers are not things you are receiving or will receive at some time in the future; you have them right now. You are a spiritually-alive child of God right now . You are seated in the heavenlies with Christ right now . You have power and authority over the kingdom of darkness right now . We have the authority because of our position in Christ, and we have the power when we are filled with the Holy Spirit.

Paul also related this life-changing truth in his letter to the Colossians: “In Him [Christ] you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority” (Colossians 2:10). Notice again that the action is past: We have been made complete. When? At the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. And since Christ is the God-appointed head over all rule and authority, and since we are seated with Him in the heavenlies, we have the authority and power to live responsible lives.

Prayer: Father, help me want to live responsibly, to claim my position as Your child, and to grow to full stature in You.


Related song: Seek Ye First, The Imperials

July 1, 2017

God’s Direction for the Rest of Your Year

Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left. Isaiah 30: 20-21 (NLT)

The year is half over. What’s next? Ever wish you could see God’s entire plan for your life like a giant road map?

Back in the day, if you were heading on a vacation trip to a place in the U.S. or Canada where you’d never been before, if you were a member of AAA (or CAA) you could request a trip guidebook. Using previously printed pages representing different highway sections, someone would assemble a series of these ‘strip maps’ into a booklet that also provided commentary on places of interest, restaurants and motels.

Hard to imagine in a world of MapQuest and GPS tracking.

These ‘strip maps’ are a closer representation as to how life presents itself to us. We’re given direction that is sufficient for the day, but don’t always know how the pieces of the journey are going to form an overall story. It’s not unlike walking across a stream using stepping stones, and stopping on each to determine where to put your feet next.

Chuck Smith says of our key verse: “How glorious to be led of the Spirit and having God say, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’ What is the way? The way of waiting upon God and trusting in Him.”

As C.S. Lewis once suggested, to understand how God sees time, draw a line with two ends in a blank sheet of paper, then look at the entire paper. We see the line as a progression, but God sees it as a whole. We live within time, but God is eternal and separate.

Another way to say this is that the difference between our perception of time and God’s might be compared to having a travel atlas where the journey across a country or a continent reveals the beginning and the end. This is the type of “big picture” that God has. Our perception would be more flipping through the strip map, getting the journey in small bite size pieces.

I’m told Lewis also compares our perception and God’s perception to the difference between sitting at a level crossing waiting for a long train to pass by. Each car passes sequentially, one after the other. But miles above, as seen from an airplane, the entire train is visible from beginning to end, and as it slowly snakes its way through the mountains and valleys, seems to almost be standing still.

The problem is, we want the big picture. We want to know where the story is going. But often information is supplied on a day-to-day, hour-by-hour and even minute-by-minute basis.

And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness. Evil-minded people will never travel on it. It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways; fools will never walk there. Isaiah 35:8 NLT


I heard a story once from someone who was unimpressed with the Christian bumper stickers which proclaimed, “God is my Co-Pilot.” He proposed this amendment: “If God is your Co-Pilot, you need to switch seats.”

If anyone can find a link to the Lewis/train story, or knows an equally good time analogy, feel free to add it in the comments.

January 4, 2017

The Better Source of New Year’s Resolutions

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Today we pay a return visit to the Presbyterian Church in Canada’s website. Click the title below to read at source. The author of this piece is .

Follow Your Star

I had once given up on making New Year’s resolutions, because I never kept them. I now realize that the problem was that I had not consulted the Lord. They were my ideas of what I should do, or what other people thought!

The image of a star comes to mind, because Epiphany, when we observe the arrival of the wise men, is in the first week of January. When they followed that star, it was because the Lord had placed the goal of doing so in their hearts.

Matthew 2:9b-11 – The star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of frankincense and of myrrh. (NIV)

We each have a star to follow as well. The Lord has placed within each one of us hopes, dreams, and goals, but we often push these aside.

My experience has been that the quiet voice of the Spirit gets louder and more persistent until I start listening. Even then, my response is likely to be, “I’m busy now. I really don’t want to do this” or “I am a senior; I am past that sort of thing.”

Then, I am reminded of the story of Abraham, who was told that his ninety-year-old wife Sarah would have a son.

Genesis 18:13-14 – Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” (NIV)

Indeed, nothing is too hard for the Lord. We are not too old, too young, too inadequate, if it is the Lord’s idea. The Lord knows what gifts we have to offer, and like the wise men, He will direct us to the place where we need to give them.

Some years ago, I left a secure job because the Lord was calling me to work in the community. I was scared because it involved becoming self-employed and operating with no paycheque. All my life, my greatest fear was financial insecurity. Not only was I challenged to face that fear, but He has always provided, to this day. I have also had a lifelong fear of public speaking, and although I have a good singing voice, I have been terrified when asked to do a solo.

Once I said “yes” to the Lord, however, over a six-month period, both fears not only disappeared, but now I also enjoy both public speaking and solo work. So my New Year’s resolution will be to listen carefully for the Lord’s direction, then to follow my star wherever it leads. That feels sort of scary. However, I am determined. Why not join me in this prayer?

Prayer: Lord, I ask You to take over. Help me to listen for and hear Your direction for my life, and to trust You, knowing that You will always be present to help and guide me as long as I seek to do Your will, and follow my star. Amen.


December 2, 2016

For His Name’s Sake

sheep in green pasturePsalm 23 is one of the best known passages of scripture. It is familiar to both believers and the unchurched, and has brought comfort to millions over the years. In this Psalm the Lord is described as a shepherd who does these things:

  • He makes me lie down in meadows of fresh grass
  • He leads me beside calm waters
  • He restores my soul
  • He leads me along the paths of righteousness

At this point the form address changes from He to You:

  • You are with me
  • Your shepherd’s staff brings comfort (security)
  • You prepare a banquet for me as my enemies watch
  • You anoint my head with oil

The results of all this are:

  • I have everything I need (lack nothing)
  • My cup is full to overflowing
  • I have the expectation of His goodness and mercy with me daily
  • I have a certain hope that His house is my home for my whole life (or forever)

(Wording above is an amalgam of various translations.)

That covers the entire Psalm except for two phrases. One of course, concerns walking through the deep, sunless valley of death. The other is our focus today:

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.  (v. 3b, NIV)

Other translations have:

  • You are true to your name (CEV) or your Word (Message)
  • for the ·good [sake] of his ·name [reputation] (Expanded Bible)
  • for the sake of his reputation (NET)
  • bringing honor to his name (NLT)
  • truth and righteousness echo His name (The Voice)

Elliott’s Bible Commentary says: “God’s providential dealings are recognized as in accordance with His character for great graciousness.” In other words, his provision in this Psalm is simply a natural consequence of nature in general and his compassion specifically. It’s who he is, which should remind us of the popular worship song, Good, Good Father (see below).

The Benson Commentary states the phrase means, “Not for any merit in me, but merely for the demonstration and glory of his mercy, faithfulness, and goodness.” As Max Lucado reminds us in a book of the same name, “It’s not about me.”  Matthew Poole reiterates this: “not for any worth in me, but merely for the demonstration and glory of his justice, and faithfulness, and goodness.”

Barnes Notes extend this thought:

For His own sake; or, that His name may be honored. It is not primarily on their account; it is not solely that they may be saved. It is that He may be honored:

(a) in their being saved at all;

(b) in the manner in which it is done;

(c) in the influence of their whole life, under His guidance, as making known His own character and perfections.

Finally, Matthew Henry would argue that the previous verse is key to understanding the whole Psalm, namely that this is the testimony of a dying saint who would say,

Having had such experience of God’s goodness to me all my days, in six troubles and in seven, I will never distrust him, no, not in the last extremity; the rather because all he has done for me hitherto was not for any merit or desert of mine, but purely for his name’s sake, in pursuance of his word, in performance of his promise, and for the glory of his own attributes and relations to his people. That name therefore shall still be my strong tower, and shall assure me that he who has led me, and fed me, all my life long, will not leave me at last.

So many times we pray and our prayers may not be entirely unselfish, but their us-focused instead of God-focused. The full accomplishment of God working in our lives should be that His name is honored and glorified.

“I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to anyone else, nor share my praise with carved idols.
 – Isaiah 42:8 NLT

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus
 – Col. 3:17a NASB


We’ve looked at Psalm 23 before:


For Psalm 23 in all English translations at Bible Gateway, click this link to get to verse 1, and then change the very last character in the URL in your browser to move to the multiple translations of verse 2, etc.

The classic commentaries on verse 3, with the exception of Matthew Henry were sourced at BibleHub.

October 17, 2016

Warning Whispers

Job 23:10  But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.

I Kings 19:12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.

Today’s thoughts are from Knowing-Jesus.com. Click the title below to read at source, and then click the tabs on the right margin to source other resources.

Every Yearning Satisfied

Simple Reflection

I was reflecting on the many earthquakes that have recently been rocking the world..quakes and distresses have been striking the globe with increased intensity and frequency, and earthquakes are just one pointer to the soon return of the Lord in power and great glory.

Still Small Voice

But my thoughts transferred to a different earthquake – one the prophet Elijah saw. My mind sped to his shattering experience with his violent earthquake. He stood in the presence of the Lord and experienced a devastating wind – a fierce and mighty wind. And after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice… 1Kings 19:12. And through the gentle whisper of God’s voice, Elijah knew his God in a new and powerful way.

Mind the Checks

I want to share a special reflection from, ‘Way of Faith,‘. – about that quiet, gentle stillness:- A soul who made rapid progress in her understanding of the Lord was asked once the secret of her easy advancement. She briefly replied, “Mind the checks ! Mind the checks !”

Warning Whispers

Perhaps the reason that many of us do not know and better understand Him.. is that we do not give heed to His gentle checks.. His warning whispers – His balanced counsel. His quiet restraints and gentle constraints are often passed unheeded, in the clamour of life.

Gentle Pressure

The Lord still whispers in His small and gentle voice… a still voice can hardly be heard; a still voice must be almost felt; a still voice is like a steady, gentle pressure upon the heart and mind – a still voice is like the touch of a morning zephyr on your face. A still voice is a small voice, quietly, almost timidly spoken in your heart. A voice that if heeded, will grow noiselessly clearer to your inner ear.

Ear of Love

His voice is spoken into the ear of love, for love is intent on hearing even the faintest whispers from the Beloved. But there does comes a time also, when love ceases to be heard.. if love is not responded to – if love is not believed in.

Take Heed

He is Love, and if you would know Him and His hear His voice.. take heed and give constant ear to His gentle touches and His hushed breath. Take heed in conversation, when about to utter some word. Give heed to that gentle voice, “mind the checks,”  – and refrain from speech.

Wait on God

Take heed when you are about to pursue some course in life, that seems clear and right.. until there comes a Heart to heart suggestion that almost has in it the force of conviction – give heed and “mind the checks!”. Learn to be still and wait on God, to be hushed in His presence and listen. Learn to wait upon Him for the unfolding of His will, for He knows the way you should take. Job 23:10

Perfect Direction

Let God form your plans about everything in your mind and your heart, and then let Him execute those plans through you – but in His way. Do not possess any wisdom of your own, but rely on His perfect direction. Many times His execution will seem contradictory to the plans He seemed to give. If it appears that He to work against Him or counter to your thoughts.. listen and “mind the checks.” Simply listen, obey and trust the Lord, even when it seems high folly to do so.

Losing Game

He will in the end cause “all things work together,” Romans 8:28, though many times initially the outworking of His plan appears contradictory. In His wider knowledge He is content to play a ‘losing’ game!!

Quiet Obedience

So if you want to know His voice, never consider results or possible effects. Obey the quiet voice, even when He asks you to move in the dark or the opposite way. He Himself will be glorious light in you, as He leads you down the path you are to take.

Secure in Him

You will discover an acquaintance and a fellowship with God holding you.. holding you and Him together, even in the severest testings – holding Him and you together.. even under the most terrible pressure.

Anchored to Christ

In this time of earthquakes and many other terrors that are coming on the world, men’s hearts will fail unless their heart is anchored to His voice of love. Listen for that still small voice of the Lord that whispers deep within the heart – and mind the checks !

June 3, 2015

Recognizing God’s Voice (3)

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Today we conclude a 3-part series from Rick Warren’s devotional blog: (click the section headers to read at source). To catch up on the whole series at his site, use this link.

The Fifth Test

“We will all be judged one day, not by each other’s standards, or even our own, but by the judgment of God … it is to God alone that we shall have to answer for our actions.” Romans 14:10, 13 (PH)

If something is not your responsibility, why should God talk to you about it? Wouldn’t he just talk directly to the person it concerns? This is the fifth test to consider when you wonder if an idea or impression you have comes from God – “Does it concern your responsibility?”

In John 21, Jesus told Peter that he would die a martyr’s death. Peter’s response was to glance at John, who was standing nearby, and ask Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” (John 21:21 NIV). Peter wasn’t satisfied with God telling him what was going to happen in his life. He wanted to know about John’s future as well.

Jesus responded by saying, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me” (John 21:22 NIV).

“What is that to you?” My wife, Kay, calls that the WITTY principle. We get ourselves in so much trouble when we start comparing ourselves to others. But when we do this, God says, “What is that to you?” He wants our focus to be following him, not worrying about other people.

Have you ever heard someone say, “God told me to tell you”? My response to that is, “Are you sure about that?” All believers have a direct line to God. And God doesn’t have to tell someone else to tell you. He can talk to you directly.

Now, does God ever speak to others through another person? Of course he does. But there are three guidelines you need to follow if feel God is using you to speak to someone else.

  1. Be patient and pray. Give God a chance to speak to that person directly.
  2. God will typically use you to confirm in someone else’s life what he’s already told them. So when you share your words with someone it won’t be a big surprise if it’s really from God.
  3. God will usually use you without you being conscious of it. If God is going to speak through you to others, he will often do it in a way that you don’t even realize it was God speaking through you. But the person on the receiving end will recognize its truth.

The Sixth Test

“There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 (NLT)

When you get an idea and you are wondering if it is from God, the sixth question to ask yourself is, “Is it convicting or is it condemning?” If it convicts, then it is from God, but if it condemns then it is from Satan.

A lot of Christians live under condemnation, or constant guilt, and they think it is from God. It isn’t. Condemnation comes from Satan. But conviction comes from God.

Here’s the difference between the two: The purpose of conviction is to correct you on a specific issue in order to bring a change in your life, and it is motivated by God’s love. Because God loves you, when he sees an area in your life that needs change – a relationship, a habit, an attitude – he will nudge you and say, “You need to work on this thing that’s out of whack in your life.”

The purpose of condemnation is to criticize and make you feel guilty, usually in a vague way. If you’ve ever felt guilty but you couldn’t point to anything specific, or if you’ve ever had a feeling of worthlessness, that is condemnation from Satan.

But Romans 8:1 says, “There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (NLT). God will never attack you; he will never say you’re worthless or unlovable. In fact, in Revelation 3:19 God says, “Those whom I dearly and tenderly love, I tell their faults and convict and discipline. So be earnest and repent (changing your mind and attitude)” (AMP).

As soon as you start to confess and change, you will no longer feel any conviction. It’s short-term.

But condemnation is Satan’s way of making you feel worse and worse. It doesn’t go away even after confession. It’s like the American court system. First there is the conviction of a crime in the court; then comes the condemnation, or sentencing which can last for years.

But God doesn’t work that way. In God’s justice system the Holy Spirit convicts us of what’s wrong in our life and we admit it. Jesus pays the condemnation. He serves the punishment for our sin through his death on the cross. And we are free to live the way God created us to live, to live the way Jesus enables us to live. That’s the grace of God.

The Seventh Test

“[God’s] peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 (NIV)

The final test in recognizing God’s voice is to ask yourself, “Do I sense God’s peace about it?” If you think you’ve heard from God, it measures up to God’s Word, you’ve gotten advice from other people and passed the other tests, but you still feel confused or anxious, then it doesn’t pass the seventh test.

Why? “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33 NIV). So you wait and remain patient until you sense God’s peace.

God is a perfect father. Parents don’t want their kids to feel worried or pressured when they ask them to do something. No, they want their children to feel encouraged. That’s the same way God wants to relate to you. He doesn’t want you to feel anxiety in anything he asks you to do.

The only time a sense of pressure is legitimate is when you keep saying no to God. That is a relational pressure that comes from holding God at arm’s length.

Satan wants to drive us compulsively in the things we do, but God doesn’t work that way. God wants to draw us compassionately. He’s the shepherd who wants to lead the sheep. He doesn’t drive us; he guides us. And, as sheep, we need to listen for his voice.

Philippians 4:6-7 describes the attitude you should have when you listen to God’s voice. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (NLT).

It’s not just a matter of hearing God’s voice; it’s also a matter or responding. Hearing is not enough. You have to act as well.

The Bible says that God speaks to people who do three things. “Listen to this wise advice; follow it closely, for it will do you good, and you can pass it on to others” (Proverbs 22:17 LB).

God speaks to those who listen to what he says, follow it closely, and then pass it on to others.


We appreciate being able to use these thoughts over the past three days. You can learn more and support Saddleback, Rick’s church, with these resources:

  • Foundations is a comprehensive tool for teaching the essential truths of Christian faith in a simple, systematic, and life-changing way. The 24 sessions, taught by Kay Warren and Tom Holladay, will take you on a thought provoking, life-changing exploration of 11 core doctrines: The Bible, God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit, Creation, Salvation, Sanctification, Good and Evil, The Afterlife, The Church, and The Second Coming.

 

 

July 16, 2012

Living a Life of Faith

Tim Schraeder is literally on a faith walk. What started as a short trip to Australia has turned into a three month stay. Sometimes when you’re at a place like that in life, scripture verses suddenly take on greater meaning. As I tried to find ways to edit this into the usual form here at C201, I decided it was better to just leave it as is, but more than ever, you’re encouraged to read this at source, so you can click to see some of the posts that led up to this part of the journey. This appeared under the title Walking By Faith.  (Here, scriptures have been highlighted in green as we do every day.)

Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you.  – Jeremiah 1:5 (Message)

So it’s been nearly a month since my somewhat cryptic blogpost about my move to Australia. So far things have been incredible and I wish I could tell you everything… but I can’t! Haha. What I can tell you, though, is that God has been teaching me a ton, growing my faith, and revealing His grace and faithfulness in my life is some pretty major ways.

I reckon [notice how much Australia is already rubbing off on me?] if any of us tried to predict our future, our plans would come up short of the great plans and purpose God has for our life and days here on earth. As much as we can try to plan ahead and prepare, there’s no way of knowing what each new day will bring with it, and more importantly the purpose God has woven into it.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29.11

Every single day we have new opportunities and new connections at our fingertips. The world around us is getting smaller and our ability to make an impact is even greater.  What is possible today was inconceivable a decade ago, and where the days ahead have the potential of leading us is beyond what we can imagine.

“No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this, Never so much as imagined anything quite like it—What God has arranged for those who love him.” – 1 Corinthians 2.9

That being said, the question we all have to answer is this: what will we do with our days? Or more importantly, how will we spend time? I’m learning, sometimes the hard way, that one of the most dangerous prayers we can pray when it comes to that question is, “Lord, have your way.”

…and Jesus prayed, “let our kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…” – Matthew 6.10

Praying a prayer like that [and meaning it] makes it clear who really is control of our lives and the choices and decisions that we make. It determines how we spend our time and what we give our energy and attention to. And it determines the direction we walk, oftentimes that means we will be following a narrow path. Your friends and family may think you are crazy, the world and culture may think you are out of your mind, you may even think your’re crazy yourself, but stay faithful to God’s call and the winds of the Spirit in your life.

“But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life.” – Matthew 7.14

I don’t have much experience in life, only about 30 years so far, but in my short time I’ve discovered that faithfully following the path God sets before will lead you on an adventure greater than you could have never imagined or planned yourself. Regardless of where life has you today God could very well be preparing you for a tomorrow you couldn’t even begin to comprehend. Life can seem routine or mundane, but it’s often by staying faithful in those ordinary places that God can bring about the miraculous and extraordinary in your life.

“you’ve crowed the year with your goodness and your paths drip with abundance…” – Psalm 65.11

These last six weeks I’ve been living a dream. Literally. I would have never believed God would have blessed me with the opportunity I have to be doing what I’m doing right now. At the same time, it’s forced me to live life more in the moment and more reliant on God’s grace than ever before. I’ve relocated around the globe and immersed myself in an experience and opportunity that seems so far above my ability and strength. But God, by His mercy, has blessed me beyond what I could have imagined… He’s given me faith to trust He will provide, courage as I’ve stepped out in faith, and peace to know He’s with me every single step of the way.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. – Proverbs 3:5-6 

I’m taking lots of notes through this experience and know I have many more things to learn along the way. I don’t know what to expect on the road ahead but believe l’m becoming more alive to the purpose God has for me and trust He’s leading me closer to becoming the man I know He created me to be.

~Tim Schraeder

January 24, 2012

Following God’s Road Signs

Today’s post is by Janelle Keith, and appeared at her blog under the title Travel Companion.  Although this appeared as a post-Christmas mediation, I really liked the message it has for us all year round.

Road signs tell us if we are going in the right direction.  They are also a marker of milestones passed.  They can mark our travel.  They outline highways and they designate halfway points, note miles to next destination.  They bring welcome relief to the weary with rest stops, refreshments, gas and overnight accommodations.

I find it interesting in reading the books of the Old Testament that the people of Israel are always reminded of their travel days by referencing “days of the desert”.  God and the prophets never miss the opportunity to remind Israel of where they have come from.  Remember when God brought them out of the desert?  Remember how the great I AM helped the Israelites walk over the dry Red Sea bottom to escape the Egyptians?  Remember how the great I AM brought them daily food and water?  Remember how God was seen in the cloud by day and the fire by night?
Don’t forget…God is with us!
With the [recent] Christmas message… we are reminded of some desperate life-travel information.  The message centers around the song “O come, O come, Emmanuel”. 
Why is this message so needed today?   Because we need to know and remember that we are not alone in this world. 

Emmanuel means God is with us! 
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel“—which means, “God with us.”Matthew 1:21-23
Just like the days of the desert, in the town of Bethlehem, and like Mary and Joseph, we also need to know that God is with us, everyday, to help us, to strengthen us, to deliver us, to show his mercy to us.  Emmanuel is with us like the great I AM was with the Israelites in the desert.  And God hasn’t changed over the years! 
God is with you…God was with you…God will be with you!

God, the great I AM, the LORD is with us.  No matter where we travel, no matter where we have been, no matter where we are headed.  God is with us.  We can’t be separated from God.  The God of all comfort, comes alongside of us in our trials.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35, 37-39
One thing to remember…God is with you!   Even in the dark days of confusion, doubt, trials and temptations.  BUT there are things that get in the way of experiencing God’s presence in our lives.  Sin detours us from a close journey with God.  
So…remember God is with us…but are you with God?

What steps do you need to take to experience more of God?

January 7, 2012

The Fable of the Vase

Jeremiah 18
New Living Translation (NLT)

The Potter and the Clay
1 The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, 2 “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.” 3 So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. 4 But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.

5 Then the Lord gave me this message: 6 “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand. 7 If I announce that a certain nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down, and destroyed, 8 but then that nation renounces its evil ways, I will not destroy it as I had planned. 9 And if I announce that I will plant and build up a certain nation or kingdom, 10 but then that nation turns to evil and refuses to obey me, I will not bless it as I said I would.

11 “Therefore, Jeremiah, go and warn all Judah and Jerusalem. Say to them, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am planning disaster for you instead of good. So turn from your evil ways, each of you, and do what is right.’”

12 But the people replied, “Don’t waste your breath. We will continue to live as we want to, stubbornly following our own evil desires.”

13a So this is what the Lord says:

“Has anyone ever heard of such a thing,
even among the pagan nations? …

The illustration below is one of a number of Truth Bytes from Charles Price, pastor of The Peoples Church in Toronto, Canada and host of the Living Truth radio and television series.

December 31, 2011

The Story of Your Life Continues…

Years ago, a musician I stayed with in California played an original song to gospel legend Andrae Crouch to see how we would evaluate it.  Crouch like the song, but said there were too many musical and lyrical ideas in it, telling the young writer, “You’ve actually got enough there for three songs.”

Yesterday, I was tempted to add a video clip to Lee Grady’s thoughts, but I decided to hold it for today, partly in light of Crouch’s warnings to avoid packing too much into a single song (or blog post!) and partly because Steve Green’s song is such a great way to end 2011.

This isn’t my all-time favorite song, or style, but when Green or anyone else is taking their lyrics directly from scripture it creates something bigger than the song itself.  Last night I asked my kids if they can tell when, in the middle of devotional book we’re reading, the paragraph moves into a Bible quotation, and they both understood exactly where I was going with this question.  There’s something about the power of God’s word that is so easily identified; it stands out from what the devotional writer is saying as though it was underlined, in bold face type, in giant print, or printed in bright orange. 

The verse in question is Philippians 1:6, but I’ll give you the verses that precede and follow for full context:

Phil 1:5(NIV) because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

 7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.

I don’t what you or I are facing in 2012, but we are each, in God’s eyes, a work in progress. And he doesn’t abandon his projects.

All God’s best for the new year.

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.

February 17, 2011

Pray for the Illumination of the Spirit

This week we’re catching up with devotional bloggers featured here last summer.  Dwight Wagner blogs at Strengthened by Grace and presented this quotation today:

“We must pray daily for the teaching of the Holy Spirit, if we would make progress in the knowledge of divine things. Without Him, the mightiest intellect and the strongest reasoning powers will carry us but a little way. In reading the Bible and hearing sermons, everything depends on the spirit in which we read and hear. A humble, teachable, child-like frame of mind is the grand secret of success. Happy is he who often says with David, “Teach me Your statutes.” (Psalm 119:64.) Such an one will understand as well as hear.”–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels.

This ties in so well with a book I’m currently reading for the second time, The Forgotten God by Francis Chan.  This follow up book to Crazy Love presents a theology of the Holy Spirit.

A lot of people want to talk about supernatural things like miracles, healing or prophecy.  But focusing inordinately on these things quickly becomes misguided.  God calls us to pursue Him, not what he might do for us or even in our midst.  Scripture emphasizes that we should desire fruit, that we should concern ourselves with becoming more like His Son.  God wants us to seek to listen to His Spirit and to obey.  The point of it all was never the miracles in and of themselves.  Those came when they were unexpected, when people were faithful and focused on serving and loving others. (p. 88)


October 8, 2010

Wanting To Hear From God

Over the past six months I’ve discovered that launching a blog of this nature is much more challenging than when I launched Thinking Out Loud earlier.   People will gravitate to topical articles, humor, cartoons, links to other blogs, and the latest gossip information about famous Christian individuals.   Even theological and doctrinal blogs will get a good following because people love a good debate.

But it’s the people who are serious about their faith that will seek out a devotional blog.   They want something that digs a little deeper, that cuts to the heart, or that processes things at a 201 or 301 level instead of just Christianity 101.   (And I confess that I some days, we don’t always get there.)   What is he speaking to fellow believers on the internet? What is God saying to me today?

I’m currently reading The Power of A Whisper by Bill Hybels (Zondervan) which is an entire book devoted to hearing God’s voice.    Here’s a checklist from page 108 of the book for your consideration if you feel that you’re not hearing God’s voice:

First, fervently and frequently ask God to improve your hearing.  Pray every day for God to give you ears like the prophet Samuel’s.  Ask Him for increased capacity to discern His voice and for heightened attentiveness to his promptings.

Second, reduce the ambient noise in your life.   For me, a sure way to get quiet before God is to head off solo on a boat.   For you, it might be listening for Him while you are driving, exercising or enjoying the quiet of your bedroom at night.  Wherever it is, be sure to carve out moments in your day when you can practice listening for the voice of God.

Third, you simply must fill your head with scripture…  Most of the promptings we receive at critical decision points in life come as the Holy Spirit reminds us of scriptures we already know.   We hear whispers that reinforce Biblical truths and we understand immediately what the Spirit is trying to say to us.  So saturate yourself with God’s word and see if His whispers don’t increase over time.

Finally, the Bible makes it clear that any ongoing pattern of wrongdoing compromises our communication with God — in both directions.   Our prayers don’t get through to God and God’s promptings don’t get through to us.  If you are stuck in a rut of sinfulness and deceit, confess your sin and turn away from it today.   Let the laser light of truth permeate every corner of your life.   Don’t truncate your communications with the Father because you’re unwilling to let go of a sin pattern in your life.

April 9, 2010

All Scripture Has Its Point of Origin In God’s Mind

Today we’re looking at 2 Timothy 3:16
Today’s New International Version (TNIV)

All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for

  • teaching
  • rebuking
  • correcting…
  • training in righteousness

The Message

Every part of scripture is God-breathed and is useful one way or another —

  • showing us truth
  • exposing our rebellion
  • correcting our mistakes
  • training us to live God’s way

New Living Translation (NLT)

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful to

  • teach us what is true…
  • make us realize what is wrong in our lives…
  • correct us when we are wrong…
  • teach us to do what is right

My very loose paraphrase

All scripture has its point of origin in God’s mind, and

  • shows us the path God would have us walk
  • highlights when and where we’ve gotten off the path
  • points the way back to the path
  • gives us the advice we need to keep from wandering off the path in future