Christianity 201

February 23, 2017

Little Power and Great Affirmation in Philadephia: Revelation 3

by Clarke Dixon

You feel powerless. Something is broken and you don’t think you can fix it. There is a problem and you don’t think you can find a solution. The complexities of life are like a maze and you don’t think you can find your way. What are we to do when we feel powerless?

Our friends may respond with a big dose of positive thinking; you are powerful, you can do anything, you are amazing! And sometimes, when we are thinking of ourselves more lowly than we ought, we need affirmation. But sometimes affirmation falls short. It feels hollow somehow. It is not just that we think we can’t fix it, or find the solution, or find our way. It is that we can not fix it, find the solution, or find our way. Sometimes we don’t just feel powerless, we are powerless.

In Revelation chapter three we have a letter to a small community of Christians who are of “little power.” (Revelation 3:8) This small community of Christians in Philadelphia could easily feel overwhelmed by those loyal to Roman ways of thinking and acting. They could also feel overwhelmed by those who strictly observe the Hebrew Bible but who don’t share their excitement over Jesus as the fulfillment of those scriptures. These two communities were much larger than the Christian community, and persecution was known to happen. So what does Jesus have to say to these powerless Christians?

Here is what Jesus says:

“These are the words of the holy one . . .” (Revelation 3:7)

Jesus is in effect saying, “I am the Holy One, and so the only One who has the power of God.” We read in Mark chapter 1 of a demon saying “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” (Mark 1:24). The demon knew Jesus had the power to destroy because the demon knew Jesus was God’s Holy One. 

“. . . the true one, . . .” (Revelation 3:7)

The word “true” here means “authentic, genuine.” Jesus is the “real deal.” No one but Jesus can promise relationship with God, life, or eternal life, and deliver on the promise.

“. . . who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.” (Revelation 3:7)

Jesus holds the key of of the Kingdom, and makes decisions on the door of the Kingdom. Persecutors may make decisions about a person’s death, but Jesus is the one who makes decisions on every person’s life & eternal life.

“I know your works.” (Revelation 3:8)

Jesus knows stuff! Nothing escapes his notice, neither the patient suffering of the persecuted, nor the evil deeds of those who persecute.

“Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.” (Revelation 3:8)

Jesus creates opportunities. It may feel like opportunity belongs to the strong and powerful. However, Jesus can create opportunities for those with little to no power.

“I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but are lying—I will make them come and bow down before your feet,” (Revelation 3:9)

In other words “I will make justice happen.” There is a turning of the tables here, from the Philadelphian Christians being kicked out of the synagogue to those of the synagogue gathering around them.

“ . . . and they will learn that I have loved you.” (Revelation 3:9)

Jesus will clear up misunderstandings. Those who hate people because they think God hates them will someday find out whom God loves and how foolish it was to hate.

“I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.” (Revelation 3:10)

Here Jesus promises to hold the Christians through a time of trial. There are differing interpretations on the “what” and “when” of this “hour of trial.” The important thing is the promise of Jesus to keep his people through it.

“I am coming soon;” (Revelation 3:11)

Jesus will return and those persecutors who say that he is of no consequence, will see him and come to a new appreciation of just Who He is.

“If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God; you will never go out of it.” (Revelation 3:12)

Jesus will ensure the believer’s presence with God. They may have been cast out of the synagogue, and disowned by the city, but Jesus will give them a secure standing in his temple, the Bible’s great symbol for the presence of God.

“I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.” (Revelation 3:12)

This is a promise of inclusion in God’s people, as well as a promise of reflection of God’s character, a “family resemblance” if you will.

The Christians in Philadelphia have little power. Does Jesus respond with affirmation, telling them that they have much more power than they think? There is affirmation, but most of the affirmations are about Jesus Himself! Let us look at the full letter to Philadelphia and notice the affirmations that pertain to Jesus:

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens8 “I know your works. Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but are lying—I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. 11 I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God; you will never go out of it. I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Revelation 3:7-13 (emphasis mine)

Jesus does not affirm the power of his followers. He affirms His own power! In other words Jesus is telling the Christians in Philadelphia that they do not need to be God. He is! They do not need to be powerful. He is, and He loves them. Their part is to keep doing what they have been doing;

“I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. . . . Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, . . .” (Revelation 3:8,10).

Do you feel powerless? Something is broken and you don’t think you can fix it? There is a problem and you don’t think you can find a solution? The complexities of life are like a maze and you don’t think you can find your way? Perhaps you are correct. But you are not God. You don’t have to be. Look instead to the One Who Is.

There is one matter in life where we are completely and utterly powerless. We have absolutely no power to reconcile ourselves to God. But God does. And He has made it happen through Jesus at the cross. Let us not look to ourselves with false affirmations, but look to our Lord and Saviour with honest affirmations of His power and love.

 All Scripture references are from the NRSV

 Original Source: Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon

January 2, 2017

“Skip the Truth and Make Us Feel Good”

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:36 pm
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Today’s title is from the NCV rendering of Isaiah 30:10

They tell the seers,
    “Don’t see any more visions!”
They say to the prophets,
    Don’t tell us the truth!
Say things that will make us feel good;
    see only good things for us.

The pastor in the church we visited on New Year’s Day started 2017 with a message on sin. Although he used literally dozens of scripture references — many from Romans — this passage in Isaiah 30 (12-14 in particular) was the only verse for which he prepared a slide for us to read. Many people just want to hear things that will make them feel good. Elsewhere, we read about people having “itching ears.”

Today, we’re going to contrast the contemporary language of The Message with the more formal commentary of Matthew Henry. However, where you see italics, I’ve used more modern expressions. Everything from this point on is Matthew Henry.

So, go now and write all this down.
    Put it in a book
So that the record will be there
    to instruct the coming generations,
Because this is a rebel generation,
    a people who lie,
A people unwilling to listen
    to anything God tells them.
They tell their spiritual leaders,
    “Don’t bother us with irrelevancies.”
They tell their preachers,
    “Don’t waste our time on impracticalities.
Tell us what makes us feel better.
    Don’t bore us with obsolete religion.
That stuff means nothing to us.
    Quit hounding us with The Holy of Israel.”  – Isaiah 30: 8-11 (MSG)

They forbade the prophets to speak to them in God’s name, and to deal faithfully with them.

They set themselves so violently against the prophets to hinder them from preaching, or at least from dealing plainly with them in their preaching, did so banter them and browbeat them, that they did in effect say to the seers, See not. They had the light, but they loved darkness rather. It was their privilege that they had seers among them, but they did what they could to put out their eyes — that they had prophets among them, but they did what they could to stop their mouths; for they tormented them in their wicked ways, Rev. 11:10.

Those that silence good ministers, and discountenance good preaching, are justly counted, and called, rebels against God. See what it was in the prophets’ preaching with which they found themselves aggrieved.

  1.  The prophets told them of their faults, and warned them of their misery and danger by reason of sin, and they couldn’t take it. They must speak to them warm and fuzzy things, must flatter them in their sins, and say that they did well, and there was no harm, no danger, in the course of life they lived in. No matter how true something is, if it be not easy to listen to, they will not hear it. But if it be agrees with the good opinion they have of themselves, and will confirm them in that, even though it be very false and ever so undeserved, they will have it prophesied to them. Those deserve to be deceived that desire to be so.
  2.  The prophets stopped them in their sinful pursuits, and stood in their way like the angel in Balaam’s road, with the sword of God’s wrath drawn in their hand; so that they could not proceed without terror. And this they took as a great insult. When they continued to desire the opposite of what the prophets were saying they in effect said to the prophets, “Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the paths. What do you do in our way? Cannot you leave us alone to do as we please?” Those have their hearts fully set in them to do evil that bid these accountability monitors to get out of their way. Be quiet now before I have you killed! 2 Chron. 25:16.
  3.  The prophets were continually telling them of the Holy One of Israel, what an enemy he is to sin ad how severely he will judge sinners; and this they couldn’t listen to. Both the thing itself and the expression of it were too serious for them; and therefore, if the prophets will speak to them, they will determine that they will not call God the Holy One of Israel; for God’s holiness is that attribute which wicked people most of all dread.

Now what is the doom passed upon them for this?

Therefore, The Holy of Israel says this:
    “Because you scorn this Message,
Preferring to live by injustice
    and shape your lives on lies,
This perverse way of life
    will be like a towering, badly built wall
That slowly, slowly tilts and shifts,
    and then one day, without warning, collapses—
Smashed to bits like a piece of pottery,
    smashed beyond recognition or repair,
Useless, a pile of debris
    to be swept up and thrown in the trash.”

Observe,

  1. Who it is that gives judgment upon them? This is what the Holy One of Israel says. The prophet uses the very title they find so objectionable. Faithful ministers will not be driven from using such expressions as are needed to awaken sinners, though they be displeasing. We must tell men that God is the Holy One of Israel, and so they will find him, whether they will hear or whether they will forbear.
  2.  What is the basis of the judgment? Because they despise this word—whether, in general, every word that the prophets said to them, or this word in particular, which declares God to be the Holy One of Israel: “they despise this, and will neither make it their fear, to respect it, nor make it their hope, to put any confidence in it; but, rather than they will submit to the Holy One of Israel, they will continue in oppression and perverseness, in the wealth they have collected and the interest they have made by fraud and violence, or in the sinful methods they have taken for their own security, in contradiction to God and his will. On these they depend, and therefore it is just that they should fall.”
  3.  What is the judgment is that is passed on them? “This sinfulness will be to you as a wall ready to fall. This confidence of yours will be like a house built upon the sand, which will fall in the storm and bury the builder in the ruins of it. Your contempt of that word of God which you might build upon will make every thing else you trust like a wall that bulges out, which, if any weight be laid upon it, comes down, nay, which often sinks with its own weight.”

The ruin they are bringing upon themselves is,

  1. Surprising: The breaking shall come suddenly, at an instant, when they do not expect it, which will make it the more frightful, and when they are not prepared or provided for it, which will make it the more fatal.
  2. Total and irreversible: “Your and all you hold dear shall be not only weak as the potter’s clay (Isa. 29:16), but broken to pieces as the potter’s vessel. He that has the rod of iron shall break it (Ps. 2:9) and he will not spare, will not have any regard to it, nor be in care to preserve or keep whole any part of it. But, when once it is broken so as to be unfit for use, let it be destroyed, let it be crushed, all to pieces, so that there may not remain one shred big enough to take up a little fire or water”—two things we have daily need of, and which poor people commonly get in a piece of a broken pitcher. They shall not only be as a leaning fence (Ps. 62:3), but as a broken mug or glass, which is good for nothing, nor can ever be made whole again.

July 23, 2016

They Forgot

Do Not Forget The Works of the Lord5 He decreed statutes for Jacob
and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors
to teach their children,
6 so the next generation would know them,
even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn would tell their children.
7 Then they would put their trust in God
and would not forget his deeds
but would keep his commands.
8 They would not be like their ancestors—
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
whose hearts were not loyal to God,
whose spirits were not faithful to him.

9 The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows,
turned back on the day of battle;
10 they did not keep God’s covenant
and refused to live by his law.
11 They forgot what he had done,
the wonders he had shown them.
12 He did miracles in the sight of their ancestors
in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan.
13 He divided the sea and led them through;
he made the water stand up like a wall.
14 He guided them with the cloud by day
and with light from the fire all night.
15 He split the rocks in the wilderness
and gave them water as abundant as the seas;
16 he brought streams out of a rocky crag
and made water flow down like rivers.

17 But they continued to sin against him,
rebelling in the wilderness against the Most High.
18 They willfully put God to the test
by demanding the food they craved.
19 They spoke against God;
they said, “Can God really
spread a table in the wilderness?
20 True, he struck the rock,
and water gushed out,
streams flowed abundantly,
but can he also give us bread?
Can he supply meat for his people?”

In this post at RedeemerNJ.com, Tim Bowditch looks closely at some material from Tim and Kathy Keller on Psalm 78. Click the title below to read at source.

Spiritual Forgetfulness

In their devotional book on the Psalms, The Songs of Jesus, Tim and Kathy Keller serve up a helpful and thought-provoking meditation on Psalm 78. In that psalm, one of the major issues was the forgetfulness of God’s people: “They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them” (v. 11). Failure to remember God’s activity and promises is far from an “innocent” matter in the Psalms, as shown here and in many other places.

Spiritual forgetfulness, according to the Kellers, can cause our growth to stagnate. The antidote “is to have a heart constantly vitalized by deliberate remembering of the costly sacrifice of Jesus.” And is this not a primary purpose of the regular celebration of the Lord’s Supper in our congregation? We do it in remembrance of Jesus and his sacrifice on behalf of his people (Luke 22:19). God has accommodated our forgetfulness by giving us this command.

The Kellers include a prayer at the end of their meditation on this portion of Psalm 78, and it’s this prayer that I’d like to elaborate on briefly, a phrase at a time.

Lord, I worry because I forget your wisdom. We know the verse in Philippians 4 about being anxious for nothing, but as often as we remind ourselves of that, the anxiety of life—financial concerns, health worries, family matters: the list is endless—presses in, disrupting our sleep, robbing us of peace, and generally making us miserable. How we need to remind ourselves that worry is caused by forgetting that God is infinitely wise, that he really does know best what we need and has promised to provide it. Worry is an implicit denial of our Father’s all-encompassing wisdom, and a taking on ourselves of a responsibility he never intended us to bear.

  • I resent because I forget your mercy. How does resentment show up for you? For me, it has to do with believing I haven’t gotten what I deserve. And it’s complicated by the observation that someone else has. In other words, God has been kinder to someone else than to me. Think of the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20. They resented the generosity of the vineyard owner when he paid everyone the same. They forgot that if the owner hadn’t come to them offering work, at a wage they agreed was fair, they’d have had nothing. So they grumbled, and resented. The owner corrected their perspective with these words: “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” You and I belong to Jesus, and he has dealt with us better than we deserve, farbetter. We need to be thankful for his mercy, rather than resenting it when others are the recipients.
  • I covet because I forget your beauty. When I first read this, it didn’t immediately connect for me. But the more I thought about it the more sense it made. Forgetting the beauty of Jesus leads to desiring something else I think will satisfy more. If Jesus is the all-satisfying, supremely beautiful Lover of my soul, how can I think that something, or someone, else will be more satisfying or fulfilling than he? I need to continually ask the Lord to give me the heart of David in Psalm 27:4: “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.” How do we “gaze upon the beauty of the LORD”? By immersing ourselves in his Word, which is where we see Jesus most clearly.
  • I sin because I forget your holiness. My tendency is to trivialize the holiness of the Lord, which enables me to minimize the seriousness of my sin. I understand on some level that all sin is cosmic treason, as the theologians express it, and that even our culture regards treason as a capital offense. But that isn’t an awareness I keep in the forefront of my mind constantly, as I should. I read recently about a woman who was extremely allergic to peanuts, so much so that when her boyfriend kissed her after eating peanut butter, she actually died. Apart from the death of Jesus on my behalf any sin is punishable by my death. Such is the holiness of God. May we be more continually mindful of this sobering truth.
  • I fear because I forget your sovereignty. We are all subjects of a kingdom; that’s what sovereignty implies. If there’s one who is sovereign, he rules, and that describes God. He rules us and everyone in the world. In this kingdom, the Ruler always gets his way in the end. That’s good news for those of us who are sons and daughters of the King. Nothing happens in this kingdom that’s ultimately outside the control of the King. And he intends, he relentlessly intends, to do good to those who are in his family (Ps. 84:11; cf. Jer. 32:40-41). So fear is bound up in forgetting that our heavenly Father is the sovereign ruler of everything that exists, and ordains everything that happens, and is in it all for our good.

The last line in the Kellers’ prayer is this: “You always remember me; help me to remember you. Amen.” And may all God’s people say, Amen!

April 26, 2016

Hallowed Be Thy Name

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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God's Name

Today we pay a return visit to the website Missio Alliance, and what I believe to be our first look at professor and author who has started a series on The Lord’s Prayer. Click the link below to read this article at source, or click his name above to find part one — this is part two — and bookmark the page as new posts are added.

The Lord’s Prayer, A Missional Reading: Hallowed By Thy Name

I remember as a teenager having really no idea what “hallowed” means in the Lord’s Prayer. Is it related to Halloween? Or the phrase “hallowed halls”? My guess was that it had to do with being respectful to God – he is God, I am not. Actually, I came to learn that that is not too far off. To “hallow” the name of God is to sanctify or consecrate it, to make it holy (or, better yet, attribute it all holiness).

Profanity

A biblical text that helps to explain why Jesus wanted his disciples to desire the consecration of God’s Name is Ezekiel 36, a passage prophesying the restoration and “new life” of Israel. The Lord details the waywardness, idolatry, and covenantal rebellion of Israel such that the Lord’s people were scattered in exile (Ezek 36:17-20). Instead of immediately repenting, they became a mockery of God amongst the nations. Out of concern for “my holy name,” the Lord was compelled to act:

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God; it is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned [i.e., degraded] among the nations to which you came. I will sanctify my great name, which has been profaned…and the nations will know that I am the Lord, says the Lord God, when through you I display my holiness before their eyes.” (Ezek 36:22-23).

The Lord goes on to promise Israel that he will gather and unite them, restore them to their land, cleanse them and give them a new heart and spirit to obey, and turn them from their idols back to the one true and living God (36:25-27).

God’s Name, People and Restoration

Two things are striking here: First, God’s name is tied to his people – their behavior and reputation redounds upon him, for good or bad. Secondly, God’s plan to restore God’s own name entails a restoration of all things – and this requires the transformation of God’s people both in terms of ethics (doing what’s right) and in terms of unity (bringing God’s people together in common life).

This is a healthy reminder that the Lord’s Prayer cannot be prayed by those who say, “I like Jesus, but don’t believe in the church.” Insofar as the church is the people of God, God’s name must be “sanctified” within the world through the church as a “conductor” of his reputation. You really can’t pray the Lord’s Prayer – at least not in the way Jesus expected – without doing so for the sake of the church as the worshipping and apostolic people of God.

What Name?

There is one more piece I want to bring into this petition. When we say, “sanctify your name,” what “name” is it? It is not simply the name “God” or even “YHWH” the prayer assumes here. The prayer begins, “Our Father” and the Gospels attest that, first and foremost, this is the Father of Jesus. And, by the time we get to the end of the Gospels, this Jesus, Son of God, is crucified and dies a miserable, shameful death on a cross (Roman statesman Cicero called the cross the “tree of shame”).

For the crucified, their family “name” was ruined, worse than ruined. The Roman state declared such ones fools, criminals, and abject creatures. When we pray “sanctify your name,” we pray to the Father who is implicated in this profaning of Jesus’ name. The reputation of the Son “sticks” to the Father. When we pray for the holiness of the Father’s name, we signal a protest against the Roman punishment, against the public judgment on Jesus.

We reject the verdict on Jesus, and the implication against his Father. Your Name is holy, Father of Jesus, Our Father. The cross of Christ is not folly or shame. It is beautiful. We embrace it. If the ignominy of Jesus “sticks” to you, Father, let it stick to us. Let us together fight for a world where the “Jesus way” – even if it be to a cross – represents the holiness of God.


 

I really wanted to include “Our Father” by Brian Doerksen here, but iTunes has it wiped from YouTube. This is a song from the same album.

August 31, 2015

Offering Unauthorized Fire

Leviticus 10:1 (NIV) Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. 2 So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. 3 Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke of when he said:

“‘Among those who approach me
I will be proved holy;
in the sight of all the people
I will be honored.’”

Aaron remained silent.

4 Moses summoned Mishael and Elzaphan, sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, and said to them, “Come here; carry your cousins outside the camp, away from the front of the sanctuary.” 5 So they came and carried them, still in their tunics, outside the camp, as Moses ordered.

6 Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not let your hair become unkempt and do not tear your clothes, or you will die and the Lord will be angry with the whole community. But your relatives, all the Israelites, may mourn for those the Lord has destroyed by fire. 7 Do not leave the entrance to the tent of meeting or you will die, because the Lord’s anointing oil is on you.” So they did as Moses said.

8 Then the Lord said to Aaron, 9 “You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the tent of meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, 10 so that you can distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, 11 and so you can teach the Israelites all the decrees the Lord has given them through Moses.”

These are two excerpts from the book What Would Jesus Read by Joe Amaral; two readings related to Leviticus.  In the last year, Joe turned his attention from First Century studies to the heavens. Check out our review of The Story In The Stars.For more of Joe here at C201, click this link.

Leviticus 10:1
They offered unauthorized fire

Aaron’s sons offered unauthorized fire to God. God struck them dead as a result of their sin. Seems a little strong, yet that is what the Scripture records. God is love and God is fair, but God is also just. We like to forget that sometimes.

Many Christians are taught that the God of the New Testament is not the God of the Old Testament – that the God of the New Testament is filled with love and compassion, and the God of the Old Testament is a violent, cruel, and angry God. That is simply not the case. The Bible says in Malachi 3:6, “I the LORD do not change.”

We need to understand the holiness and justness of God. He is slow to anger and he is willing to bless and love for a thousand generations. But we have to live in the reality that there are consequences to sin.

A police officer may forgive us for running a red light, but we still have to pay the fine. We must learn to live in reverent fear before the Lord and to walk in His ways. He is a loving God who guides our steps, even when we sometimes veer off the path.


Leviticus 10:7
So they did as Moses said

Have you ever used the term “scared to death”? That would apply to today’s passage. The entire camp was literally scared to death. Aaron’s two sons had just been killed for offering unauthorized fire.

God spoke through Moses, and the people did as Moses said. You can be sure that no one was considering disobeying Moses after what had just happened. This wasn’t the first time the people suffered death because of disobedience. Remember at Mount Sinai when they worshiped the golden calf? Three thousand were put to death that day.

People always judge the people of Israel for not “getting it.” They always seemed to stray away from God, get punished, get forgiven, and then stray away again. Let’s take a good long look in the mirror: are we any different today? How many times have you been forgiven for the same sin? We have all fought the same fight with our sins.

Let the fear of the Lord guide you as you strive to live for Him. He has given us His Word to be a light.

~Joe Amaral in What Would Jesus Read? (FaithWords, 2012)

 

June 9, 2015

The Lord’s Prayer with Full Verse Cross-References

Monday morning at Thinking Out Loud, we offered a list of twelve (plus 3 bonus items) Bible passages (as opposed to verses) that every seasoned Christian should know. You can read that list by clicking here. Topping the list was The Lord’s Prayer. A few months ago at the blog Journey to the Center of the Soul, the author presented an expanded version of the prayer, which consists of incorporating a number of cross references; and I wanted to share that with readers here.  To read this at source, click the title below. Because we always put the scriptures in green here (to remind us of the similarity to a branch that is green when it has life) the entire post today is in green!

The Lord’s Prayer – Expanded Edition

We all know it by heart. We can recite the words without even thinking about what we are saying. I don’t think that was Jesus’ intent when He gave us that template for prayer we now call The Lord’s Prayer. So I would like to offer you an expanded version that I hope will help you think about what He was teaching us.

Our Father in heaven, let your name be kept holy, By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples1. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven2. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ3. [And] that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him4.

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people5.  [Saying], for this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life6.  But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you7.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven8.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come9.  Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ 10.

Give us this day our daily bread,

And he said to his disciples, Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing… And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them11. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus12.

and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses13.  And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses14.  So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift15. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive16.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it17.  Because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted18. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you19. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil20.

For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen

There’s nothing else to say! Blessings.

References:   1John 15:8,  2Matthew 5:16,  3Romans 15:5-6,  4John 5:23, 5Matthew 4:23, 6John 6:40, 7Matthew 12:28, 8Matthew 16:19,  9Matthew 24:14, 10Matthew 25:34, 11Luke 12:22-23,30, 12Philippians 4:19, 13Matthew 6:14-15, 14Mark 11:25, 15Matthew 6:23-24, 16Colossians 3:12-13, 171Corinthians 10:13, 18Hebrews 2:18, 19James 4:7, 20Ephesians 6:11

June 4, 2015

Job and God Hash Things Out

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:36 pm
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So admittedly, my header for today’s post and its original title at Clarke Dixon’s blog seem to be at odds, but trust me, it’s the same article!

Woe is Me (or What Do Stephen Fry and the Prophet Isaiah Have in Common?)

A presenter on a television show asked celebrity Stephen Fry the following question: “Suppose it’s all true, and you walk up to the pearly gates, and are confronted by God. What will Stephen Fry say to him, her, or it?” Here is his response:

I will basically…that is the odyssey…I think I’d say, ‘bone cancer in children? What’s that about? How dare you? How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault? It’s not right. Its utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?’ That’s what I’d say.”

The presenter then asks “And you think you’re going to get in?” To that came the following:

No! But I wouldn’t want to. I wouldn’t want to get in on his terms. They’re wrong. Now, If I died and it was – it was Pluto, Hades, and it was the twelve Greek gods, then I would have more truck with it, because the Greek’s were… they didn’t pretend not to be human in their appetites, and in their capriciousness and in unreasonableness. They didn’t present themselves as being all-seeing, all-wise, all-kind, all-beneficent. Because the god who created this universe, if indeed it was created by God, is quite clearly a maniac. Utter maniac. Totally selfish. Totally…. We have to spend our life on our knees, thanking him? What kind of god would do that? Yes, the world is splendid, but it also has in it insects, whose whole life cycle is to burrow into the eyes of children and make them blind. That eat outwards from the eyes. How — why? Why did you do that to us? You could easily have made a creation in which that didn’t exist. It is simply not acceptable.

So, you know, atheism is not just about them not believing there is – not believing there is a god, but on the assumption that there is one, what kind of god is he? It’s perfectly apparent that he’s monstrous, utterly monstrous, and deserves no respect whatsoever. The moment you banish him, your life becomes simpler, purer, cleaner, and more worth living in my opinion. [Source: LYBIO.net]

What would you say? Some would say “thank you.” It seems that some would say “God, why didn’t you do it the way I would have done it?” Isaiah is a prophet who in a vision found himself before the throne of God. Check out what he ends up saying:

1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2 Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings:with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3 And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4 The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 5 And I said:“Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
(Isaiah 6:1-5 NRSV)

Isaiah’s first response to being confronted with the full-on holiness and majesty of God is humility: “Woe is me. I am lost.” Humility is also the response of Job when he finds himself confronted and challenged by God. He has had a deep and divided theological discussion with his friends, but then God confounds him with two chapters of questions which could summed up with “Job, are you God?”

3 Then Job answered the Lord:
4 “See, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?
I lay my hand on my mouth.
5 I have spoken once, and I will not answer;
twice, but will proceed no further”
(Job 40:3-5 NRSV)

After more questions from God in chapters 40-41 Job again responds with humility:

1 Then Job answered the Lord:
2 “I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? ’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
4 ‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you declare to me. ’
5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
6 therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes”
(Job 42:1-6 NRSV)

When confronted with the presence of God, Job quietens down. So too, does Isaiah. Note that Isaiah does not simply say “woe is me, I am an unclean man” but rather “woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips.” He knows it is better to keep quiet. There is something about the full-on presence of God in all His glory that causes us to go silent. While we might think about what we might like to say to God when we stand before His throne, what we will be able to say is another matter altogether. When our Lord returns and we stand before His throne there will be what we might call, a great “shutting up.”

We must note, however, that there is a place for questioning and complaint before God. Lament is an important expression of our faith and the book of Psalms especially can help us with that. I have many of the same questions as Stephen Fry. But when it comes to the great jigsaw puzzle of faith, it has become far too wonderful a picture to let the pieces I cannot yet place keep me from working at it. I cannot help but enjoy the beauty of what is completed thus far. Some people start with those tricky-to-place pieces and never get going on the rest. There is a place for lament, for wrestling with God over the tricky bits, but there is no place for telling God “I know more about being God than you do.” The experience of His presence and glory will strip us of that deception.

And how we love to comfort ourselves with deception. Like the activity tracker on my watch that tells me I get moderate exercise while riding my motorcycle. That comes as great and comforting news to me. People like to deceive themselves with the notion there is no God. As Stephen Fry pointed out “The moment you banish him, your life becomes simpler, purer, cleaner.” After all, without God there is no “woe is me” moment. Or you can also delete the “woe is me” moment by creating your own spirituality. In fact you can make yourself the centre of the universe. Adam and Eve tried that out. But when God showed up, they hid. Deceptions will always let us down. If I carry on the deception that riding my motorcycle is great exercise, I will soon need to trade in my 125 for a Harley Davidson Fat Boy. Seeking comfort through deception will lead us to a very uncomfortable place. But when we get out into the presence of God and have our “woe is me” moment, we find a strange, and very comforting thing happens. Let us return to Isaiah’s vision:

6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7 The seraph touched my mouth with it and said:“Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” 8 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 NRSV)

The greatest comfort comes from a true vision of the glory of God, for His glory consists of His compassion and grace as well as his holiness and justice. God’s glory leads us to say “woe is me” when we apprehend His holiness and our lack, but also to say “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15 NRSV) when we are apprehended by His grace and love. God’s glory is made up of every true thing that can be said about Him, and not one thing less. It includes the deep, deep love of Jesus.

The apostle Paul must have had an excruciating “woe is me” moment when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, while travelling a path of persecution against Christianity. He must have rejoiced with incredible joy when he realized he was forgiven and sent on to serve the One he tried to destroy.

Have you had a “woe is me” moment? I must admit that it has made my life simpler, purer, cleaner, and more worth living.

September 29, 2012

Unauthorized Fire

Leviticus 10:1 (NIV) Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke of when he said:

“‘Among those who approach me
    I will be proved holy;
in the sight of all the people
    I will be honored.’”

Aaron remained silent.

Moses summoned Mishael and Elzaphan, sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, and said to them, “Come here; carry your cousins outside the camp, away from the front of the sanctuary.” So they came and carried them, still in their tunics, outside the camp, as Moses ordered.

Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not let your hair become unkempt and do not tear your clothes, or you will die and the Lord will be angry with the whole community. But your relatives, all the Israelites, may mourn for those the Lord has destroyed by fire. Do not leave the entrance to the tent of meeting or you will die, because the Lord’s anointing oil is on you.” So they did as Moses said.

Then the Lord said to Aaron, “You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the tent of meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, 10 so that you can distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, 11 and so you can teach the Israelites all the decrees the Lord has given them through Moses.”

Today we jump back to the book What Would Jesus Read by Joe Amaral and consider two more readings related to Leviticus.

Leviticus 10:1
They offered unauthorized fire

Aaron’s sons offered unauthorized fire to God.  God struck them dead as a result of their sin.  Seems a little strong, yet that is what the Scripture records.  God is love and God is fair, but God is also just.  We like to forget that sometimes.

Many Christians are taught that the God of the New Testament is not the God of the Old Testament – that the God of the New Testament is filled with love and compassion, and the God of the Old Testament is a violent, cruel, and angry God.  That is simply not the case.  The Bible says in Malachi 3:6, “I the LORD do not change.”

We need to understand the holiness and justness of God.  He is slow to anger and he is willing to bless and love for a thousand generations.  But we have to live in the reality that there are consequences to sin.

A police officer may forgive us for running a red light, but we still have to pay the fine.  We must learn to live in reverent fear before the Lord and to walk in His ways.  He is a loving God who guides our steps, even when we sometimes veer off the path.


Leviticus 10:7
So they did as Moses said

Have you ever used the term “scared to death”?  That would apply to today’s passage.  The entire camp was literally scared to death.  Aaron’s two sons had just been killed for offering unauthorized fire.

God spoke through Moses, and the people did as Moses said.  You can be sure that no one was considering disobeying Moses after what had just happened.  This wasn’t the first time the people suffered death because of disobedience.  Remember at Mount Sinai when they worshiped the golden calf?  Three thousand were put to death that day.

People always judge the people of Israel for not “getting it.”  They always seemed to stray away from God, get punished, get forgiven, and then stray away again.  Let’s take a good long look in the mirror: are we any different today?  How many times have you been forgiven for the same sin?  We have all fought the same fight with our sins.

Let the fear of the Lord guide you as you strive to live for Him.  He has given us His Word to be a light.

~Joe Amaral in What Would Jesus Read? (FaithWords, 2012)

 

July 29, 2012

The Three ‘C’s of Temptation

(The Message)I Cor 10:13No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.

I love David Peach’s blog name: Genuine Leather Bible. This is his first time being featured here at C201, be sure to click through to read: All Temptation is Common, Controlled and Conquerable.

Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.—1 Corinthians 10:12, 13 (KJV)

I am often amazed at how God works in the lives of some people. They may have been heavily involved in certain sins before their salvation. But the day they got saved God took that sin out of their lives and they had victory over it immediately. When talking with them they say that they are no longer tempted by that old habit. It is amazing to see God’s power in their lives over sin.

However, we know that God does not always work that way. In fact, many of us struggle constantly with besetting sins. It seems like if we could just get victory over that sin then we would never have any problems.

Why doesn’t God work the same way in everyone’s life? When talking to those who do get immediate victory it seems like they think everyone gets the same type of victory “if they are truly saved.” Do they think I am not saved because God didn’t work the same way in my life as He did in theirs? While they would probably say “no” to that question, I have seen some who act as if that is the way they believe. God’s great grace can become a source of pride in their Christian walk.

Certainly not everyone who has had immediate victory over a sin act this way. Many give great praise and honor to God because they know God has worked in a special way in their life.

[Recently,] the pastor in church was dealing with 1 Corinthians 10:1-14. He pointed out three great truths that we can draw from verse 13.

Common

First is that temptation is common. Your case is not unique. While we may not all be tempted in the exact same way, we all endure temptation. We must fight the sinful thought of, “God, I know what Your Word says, but my situation is special.” No, we need to simply trust God and obey Him. This great truth helps erase self-pity. God doesn’t hate you. God is not putting you through something you cannot overcome with His help. He is there right beside you.

Controlled

The second truth is that temptation is controlled. God is faithful. He will be with you through the temptation. He knows what you are going through and His goal is to bring you through it in holiness. The Bible says multiple times to be holy because God is holy. He wants us to become more like Him. He is with us each step of the way to bring out holiness in us. This truth erases our fears. Temptation itself can inspire fear, but we don’t have to be afraid because a faithful God is with us according to this verse.

Conquerable

Finally, temptation is conquerable. By His grace we have the power to overcome the temptation. Not in our own power, but through the power of Christ (Philippians 4:13). He has provided a way of escape. We don’t always see that way of escape. We begin to feel hopeless. However, when we remember a faithful God has promised to provide a way out of the temptation and testing, then this truth erases our doubts.

We should be grateful to God for the way He has worked in our lives. Whether that is an immediate conquering of sin, or a slow process of sanctification we should be thankful. Don’t take pride in the grace God has given you. Nor should you feel defeated if you don’t get that immediate victory. Remember that a faithful God knows everything that is going on in your life today.

[Adapted from a message by David Cross at Faith Baptist Church in Jefferson City, TN.]

Scripture portions quoted at Christianity 201 are always in green because the Scriptures have LIFE!

February 7, 2012

Jeff Mikels Fields Some Questions – Part Two

I love it when pastors do a Q&A (question and answer) session after their sermons.  Yesterday we met Jeff Mikels, pastor of Lafayette Community Church in Indiana, who has blogged some of the questions he wasn’t able to answer in previous messages. Today we conclude with three more questions.

Some of the questions may apply to your interests.  Each question is a link to the full article.  You are encouraged to read each question at its source and leave specific comments on the applicable article.  When you click through, you can also use the articles you read to link to the rest of his blog.  I promise there won’t be Part Three tomorrow, but I equally promise that I believe we’ll return to Jeff’s blog in the future. 

I’ve also added some comments at the very end that apply to both parts of this short series.

The Bible: Do NT verses on Scripture apply to both Testaments?

Can we generalize New Testament verses on the authority of Scripture (eg. 2 Tim 3:15-17) to the NT since in the original context they were referring only to the Old Testament?

I didn’t get to answer this one on Sunday, but it’s a good question and deserves a little time. Basically, the question raises the issue that the New Testament authors use the word Scripture to refer to their Scripture which would have been the Jewish Scriptures or the Old Testament. Therefore, one could argue, the New Testament passages on Scriptural authority apply only to the Old Testament. As a result, how do we get our idea that the New Testament is also authoritative?

This is a very rational line of thought, but it misses on one small point. When the New Testament writers used the word “Scripture” they were not talking only about the Old Testament. In fact, there’s a fascinating passage in 2 Peter 3:15-16:

Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. — 2 Peter 3:15-16

What’s fascinating in this passage is that Peter considered Paul’s writings to be Scripture. The word “other” near the end of v. 16 demonstrates that. Another fascinating thing about this passage is that Paul was still alive when it was written. So follow the logic: Peter knows about Paul’s writings. Peter calls them Scripture. Paul most likely is aware of Peter’s writings. He surely would have been told what Peter thought about his letters. Paul doesn’t deny it, ever. The most likely conclusion is that Paul and Peter both knew that what was being written in their day was to be considered Scripture.

Therefore, the answer is “Yes.” New Testament passages on Scripture refer also to the other New Testament writings.

The Bible: What about the apocrypha?

On Sunday, I was asked about the apocrypha, but I later found out that the answer I gave was partially wrong.

What I said was that back in the days before Jesus, there were a number of books that were circulated among Jewish people. However, back then, no one considered them to be on the same level as Scripture. In fact, after the prophet Malachi wrote his prophecy it was widely understood that there were no more prophets, and that was 400 years before Jesus. Nevertheless, history still happened during those 400 years and Jewish teachers still speculated on spiritual realities. That’s where the extra books came from. Nevertheless, as I said, the Jews of the time did not consider them to be authoritative or on the same level as the other Scriptures.

When the Hebrews Scriptures were translated into Greek, the translators decided to also translate some of the other documents into Greek as well. Eventually, the collected Greek translations came to be called the Septuagint after the supposed 70 scholars employed to do the work of translation.

By the time of Jesus, the majority of the Septuagint had been translated, and both Jesus and the Apostles used the Septuagint version as the version they quoted from. Nevertheless, no New Testament writer quotes from or refers to any of the books in the “apocrypha.” (see this article) Further, when the Rabbis finally and fully agreed on which books were the authoritative Hebrew Scriptures, they included only the books we now have in our Old Testament. Therefore, the reason these other books are not in Protestant Bibles today is that the Jews of Jesus day, though they used the Septuagint translation for their knowledge of Scripture, seemed to know a distinction between the books that later became the “Hebrew Scriptures” and those that later became the “Apocrypha.”

That’s basically what I said on Sunday, but I also made a claim that I have since learned was incorrect. I said that the Catholics followed the tradition of the Septuagint and included three sections in their Bibles with the Apocrypha in between the Old and New Testaments. However, that was wrong. Having been raised Catholic, my wife Jen has a Catholic Bible and showed me after the service that in their Bible, the “apocryphal” books are interspersed throughout the Old Testament. Furthermore, she told me that Catholics are actually quite offended by the term “apocrypha.”

So I was wrong about the Catholic Bibles. After a little more research tonight, I found that it was Martin Luther who first put the Apocrypha into a separate section between the Old and New Testaments. Therefore, I’ll just say that the best way of understanding the difference between Catholic Bibles and Protestant Bibles is that Protestants follow the tradition of the Hebrew Scriptures for the Old Testament while the Catholics follow the tradition of the Septuagint.

I personally follow the tradition of the Hebrew Scriptures endorsed by Jesus and the Apostles.

For additional information, these Wikipedia articles are quite interesting:

Understanding the Father

On Sunday, we addressed the third statement from [our church’s] Statement of Faith, but before we can look at it, we need to consider the relationship between human language and the reality of God.

The Limits of Our Language

What thoughts come to mind when you think of God? What images come to you? Is he some old man sitting on a throne? Do you imagine him in the ways of Greek mythology, like Zeus holding a lightning bolt and standing on a mountain? Do you imagine him as a highly exalted human being?

The problem is that none of those images are valid. None of those images work. None of those images are allowed. They are all idols. In the burning bush, God used no mental images to describe himself. The fire was a portal for his voice, but his self description was simply “I AM.” In the march from Egypt to Israel, God confirmed his presence before the people as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. In the days of wandering, God confirmed his presence by the golden box called the Ark filled with the ten commandments. And near the top of the list at number two was the command against having any idols, any objects of worship that were visible and tangible.

Our mental images are just as idolatrous because they put representations of God in our mind that are not actually God as he is. The most important thing to know about God is that he cannot be contained, he cannot be imagined, he cannot be imaged by humans. Our concepts are too small, our brains are too childish, our language is too limited, our knowledge is too elementary.

Even as we talk about God, we must keep in mind that God is bigger than the words we use. When we say God is love, we mean that he has revealed himself to us with the word “love,” but that his love is more loving than our love.

By way of disclaimer, then, I just want to say that God is the standard for the attributes we describe. It is not the other way around. We can’t use our words, define our words, put our own concepts into our words, and then apply those labels to God. We can’t say, “Well, to me, love means… and therefore, since God is love, he should act like…” You can’t come to know God by learning more about the attribute. You can’t study fathers to learn about your Heavenly Father. You can’t study lovers to learn of God’s love. You can’t study morals to learn about God’s goodness

Instead, we need to let God and his reality fill out the definition for the words we use. If God is love, we must let God’s character and actions define for us what love really is.

Now, we can turn to the statement.

The Father

[Our] Statement of Faith reads thus:

God the Father is an infinite personal spirit, perfect in holiness, wisdom, power, and love. He concerns Himself mercifully in the affairs of each person, He hears and answers prayer, and He saves from sin and death all who come to Him through Jesus Christ (Deuteronomy 32:4-6, Psalm 139, Matthew 6:6-8, John 3:16-17, John 4:24, Romans 6:23, 1 Corinthians 8:6).

Implications

What I find to be most fascinating about all of this is that the statement starts with a God who is an infinite personal spirit, perfect in holiness, and it ends with a God who pays attention to the prayers of individual people.

In talking about this with our congregation, I walked through the statement point by point, showing supporting verses and providing brief explanation where helpful. Then, at the end I addressed some live questions from the congregation. Those questions were fascinating because they all seemed to revolve around the one big issue of God’s will versus human freedom.

Answering those questions adequately requires us to fully grasp the meaning of the first sentence of our statement above. Here are a couple bullet points to flesh out the statement:

  • As the only infinite personal spirit, God is boundless with regard to time and space, without physical properties, but able to mentally relate to other intelligent beings.
  • Perfect holiness means that God is completely distinct—other than—everything in Creation. He is above and beyond his creatures. His essence, attributes, and behaviors cannot be fully comprehended by any created being.
  • Perfect wisdom means that God always fully understands all possible courses of action. He perfectly understands the past. He can perfectly predict the future. Therefore, he can perfectly select the best course of action in any circumstance.
  • Perfect power means that God is always able to accomplish what he intends to do. It doesn’t mean that he is able to create logically impossible realities like a circle with four right angles. It does mean that he always gets what he wants. His power extends so great that he is even able to create a world where the independent actions of free beings bring about the end result he desires.
  • Perfect love means that God is first of all in a perfect love relationship with the other members of the Trinity. His very nature allows for and demands a loving mutuality of deference, equality, respect, and affirmation. Love is intrinsic to the nature of God. Therefore, because the Trinity is at work cooperatively to bring about God’s desired plans, the Father deeply loves his plans and the execution of those plans by the Son. Finally, the Father loves the individuals of the world because they are his prime agents working out his plan on planet Earth.

In the posts to follow, we will be addressing questions regarding the will of God, but to conclude this post, I want to affirm the most personally compelling reality of the nature of God.

God, the one who is unbounded by time and space, who knows the best thing to do at all times, who is fully capable to bring about his will regardless of circumstances, made you to be who you are at this moment in history. God, who always knows what’s best and always gets his way, made you.

Take pride that God has chosen you to be part of his plan. Take warning that God expects you to play by his rules. Take comfort that God has done everything possible to empower you to do just that.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. — John 3:16-17


Now that we’ve freely “borrowed” some of Jeff’s writing; I’d like some of you to return the favor by bookmarking or subscribing to Jeff’s blog.

But before we leave, I want us to “borrow” one more thing.  Look at the questions that appeared yesterday and today and while the substance of each answer is important, notice the carefully reasoned approach by which each is answered.  That’s the style your “always be ready to give an account” answers should have to your friends, relatives, neighbors and co-workers.  You go from “A” to “B” to “C” to conclusion.

Consider the concept that you want to make progress with each new paragraph or thought, and the idea that one paragraph builds upon another which is based on a foundation or hypothesis.

But then, having said that, you have to content or substance.  Like the Bereans, you need to “search the scriptures” in order give people quality answers to the questions they might ask.  Christianity 201 is all about digging a little deeper.

October 7, 2011

Worship Weekend: Like Cannons in the Night

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:23 pm
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Phil Wickham’s song Cannons:

October 4, 2011

Seeing God’s Holiness

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:49 pm
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This reading is from Pete Briscoe at OnePlace.Com, where it appeared under the title, Getting A Glimpse of God’s Holiness.

“Greedily she engorged without restraint, And knew not eating death.”John Milton, Paradise Lost 

You have to admit, the Bible starts out pretty darn sweet. In a flash, God creates everything from nothing. It’s so good that He calls it, well, “good.” After He creates a man and a woman to live in it, He actually calls it “very good.” In short, there was God, His perfect world, and a man and woman walking together with Him in perfect unity.

This was Eden.

It lasted for a good three pages.

When the man and woman chose to doubt what God said and chose instead to believe the deception of the serpent, this perfect world was thrown into complete crisis. Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden. One of their sons murdered their other son. Insurance rates went way up. The stock market crashed. The consequences were all over the place—and all of these consequences emerged from one central, fundamental problem:

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue mutters wicked things.Isaiah 59:1-3

This, indeed, is the central crisis of the Great Story: A perfect and holy Creator is separated from the creatures He loves because of their choice to live independently of Him, because of the barrier of sin between them.

Have you recently pondered the full consequences of sin separating humans from our holy God?

Jesus, by the power of Your Spirit and the description of Your Holy Word, allow me to imagine the great gulf that existed between You and me before my redemption. Give me a glimpse of Your staggering holiness. Give me this bigger picture so that I can more fully celebrate the incredible things that you accomplished on the cross. Amen!

~Pete Briscoe

 

Chose from hundreds and hundreds of daily devotional readings at OnePlace.Com/Devotionals

July 6, 2011

Inspiring Ideas on Worship from Matt Redman

Matt Redman is the author of over 200 worship songs including Heart of Worship, Once Again, I Will Offer Up My Life, Blessed Be The Name; and coauthored the song Our God which is being widely used in churches across North America.  (It’s the song that begins, “Water you turned into wine, opened the eyes of the blind, there’s no one like you…”)

His book Mirror Ball is releasing later this month from David C. Cook.  It’s 84 pages of text rich in depth and elements of Christian tradition that also includes a 52-page study guide.  While its target audience is adults, many teens and twenty-somethings know his music and I believe this book has a huge secondary audience awaiting in that demographic.  Here’s a sample:

The life of worship for Christians is … a life of wandering and wondering — journeying from scene to scene and taking time to explore the magnificence of God.  With the eyes of our hearts fixed upon Jesus we will always be amazed by the things we see. Literally, always.  We will find his splendor, power and love inexhaustibly captivating. 

Archbishop William Temple once described worship as

The quickening of conscience by His holiness
The nourishment of mind with His truth
The purifying of imagination by His beauty
The opening of the heart to His love
The surrender of the will to His purpose —
And all of this gathered up in adoration.

William Temple’s words here sum up so well the rhythm of revelation and response that we find in our worship of God.  He names three ways we receive revelation of God in worship: consciences quickened, minds nourished and imaginations purified, and then he names three ways in which we bring a response to all that God reveals: opening our hearts, surrendering our wills and engaging in the adoration permeating all.  We see, and we sing.  We explore the ways of God and we express our responses to Him.  We wander out into the vastness of His glory and we wonder how One so high and holy could involve himself with the likes of us.  Every step of the way we find another reason to declare his praise.  We have never met One nearly as loving and we have never encountered another remotely so glorious.  In Jesus Christ we find majesty fusing with mercy and kindness with flowing with Kingship.  We see generosity streaming with humility and grandeur infused with grace.  Time after time we find ourselves making a joyful surrender of our hearts and offering up serious-minded adoration in his honor. 

One of the qualities I most admire in a person or indeed in a church congregation is a readiness to worship.  The writer of Psalm 65 declares that, “Praise awaits You, O God;” (verse 1) and that is a fantastic posture of the heart for us to adopt when it comes to bringing devotion to the living God.  In our worship of Him, ideally, we should need warming up or any amount of coaxing.  We should be there, ready and waiting, mindful of the many, many reasons there are to praise Him.

~Matt Redman

January 20, 2011

Jerry Bridges on Holiness

The first speaking engagement I ever had, I thought they were booking me as a musician.  “No, we want you to speak, not sing;” said the guy on the other end of the phone.  “It’s a winter weekend retreat.  We’re doing a book study on Flirting With The World by John White and you’ll be speaking four times for an hour each time.”

Four hours?

Somewhere along the line, I picked up a copy of The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges and actually referred to both books equally that weekend.  I’ll never forget the line, “We never see sin aright as we see it as against God.”  So often we sin and think we failed ourselves; like going off a diet or something.  We forget that we sin against God.  Not our friends, family or church family.

I keep the devotional book by Jerry Bridges, Holiness – Day by Day: Transformation Thoughts for your Spiritual Journey next to the computer for Christianity 201 writing emergencies (!) but haven’t needed it so far.  But today I wondered what writing by Bridges might be available online and found this excellent quotation site.  Here are some highlights in the category of holiness — plus a few others — this represents about one page of 17 pages available by him.

  • We abuse grace when, after sinning, we dwell on the compassion and mercy of God to the exclusion of His holiness and hatred of sin.
  • Jesus said, “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). We must honestly face the question, “Am I willing to give up a certain practice or habit that is keeping me from holiness?” It is at this point of commitment that most of us fail. We prefer to dally with sin, to try to play with it a little without getting too deeply involved.
  • As we grow in holiness, we grow in hatred of sin; and God, being infinitely holy, has an infinite hatred of sin.
  • As used in Scripture, holiness describes both the majesty of God and the purity and moral perfection of His nature. Holiness is one of His attributes; that is, holiness is an essential part of the nature of God. His holiness is as necessary as His existence, or as necessary, for example, as His wisdom or omniscience. Just as He cannot but know what is right, so He cannot but do what is right.
  • We need to call sin what the Bible calls it and not soften it with modern expressions borrowed from our culture.
  • What is holiness? The best practical definition that I have heard is simply “without sin.” That is the statement that was made of the Lord Jesus’ life on earth (Hebrews 4:15), and that should be the goal of every person who desires to be godly. Granted, we will never reach that goal in this life; nevertheless it is to be our supreme objective and the object of our most earnest efforts and prayers.
  • I believe a word that forcefully captures the essence of Jesus’ work of propitiation is the word exhausted. Jesus exhausted the wrath of God. It was not merely deflected and prevented from reaching us; it was exhausted. Jesus bore the full, unmitigated brunt of it. God’s wrath against sin was unleashed in all its fury on His beloved Son. He held nothing back.

Oh, as for the four-hour speaking gig, as a group we had a number of late night discussions as people chose the warmth of the large fireplace at Muskoka Woods Sports Resort over the raging blizzard outside, and added an extra session on the Saturday afternoon. In total, I believe I spoke or led discussions for eleven hours!

August 11, 2010

Revelation Song

Holy, Holy, Holy isn’t just a repeated lyric.   It represents a special poetic significance that occurs in scripture when something is deserving of special emphasis.

I can’t believe that anybody reading this right now doesn’t already know this song, but if you haven’t prepare for a 7-minute worship experience.  Besides, I wanted it to be part of the worship collection on this blog.   Everyone else:  You already know what awaits you…

Worthy is the Lamb
Who was slain
Holy holy is He
Sing a new song
To Him Who sits on
Heaven’s mercy seat

Holy holy holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is
And is to come
With all creation I sing
Praise to the King of kings
You are my everything
And I will adore You

Clothed in rainbows of living color
Flashes of lightning, rolls of thunder
Blessing and honor
Strength and glory
And power be to You
The only wise King

Filled with wonder
Awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your name
Jesus Your name is power
Breath and living water
Such a marvelous mystery yeah

by Jennie Lee Riddle
© 2004 Gateway Create Publishing (Admin. by Integrity’s Praise! Music)

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