Christianity 201

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 6, 2016

Resurrection Fact: From Sinner to Saint

•••by Clarke Dixon

Do you feel worthy of the title “saint”? You may be thinking of a saint as someone recognized as special within the Roman Catholic tradition. Or you may be thinking of the word as used of someone who is known to be a very good person. We are thinking more of the word as we find it in many English translations of the Bible where it usually translates a word meaning “holy one.” It is used to refer to every Christian. So do you feel worthy of the title? Do you feel like you fit the description of a saint, a “holy one?”

Though “Saint Clarke” has a nice ring to it, I often do not feel the title is fitting for me. This is especially true during renovations. I am not too handy but my wife thinks I am, and so I sometimes get in over my head during renovations. If you are around me when I am you will discover that I can be far from what you might call a saint. So what are we to do when the Bible calls every Christian  a “saint” but we do not feel worthy? We are not alone in being uncomfortable with a title. Watch for the apostle Paul’s discomfort with his calling and title as he describes Jesus’ resurrection appearances:

Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1 Corinthians 15:8-9)

So how did the Apostle Paul deal with this title that did not fit comfortably? The first thing Paul does is admit the truth. Indeed, he is not worthy of the title: “I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle.” Paul does not point to anything about himself that would make him a fine candidate for the job. He points to Jesus: “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” This was God’s choice. This was God’s grace. Paul who blew it, knew it:

For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am. (1 Corinthians 15:9-10)

This is far from “I was born this way, so leave me to remain what I am” that we often hear today. This is “by the grace of God I am now something I do not deserve to be and would never be able to become on my own.” When the title of “saint” feels uncomfortable, it is a reminder that  “by the grace of God I am what I am.” Though a sinner from birth, by the grace of God we become saints.

But how is that possible? Paul has already pointed out the answer:

3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received:that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3,4)

“Christ died for our sins.” That is what enables us to become saints. It is our sin that makes the title of saint uncomfortable, if not impossible to wear. But “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.” Which scriptures? They include the prophecies of Isaiah 53. The whole chapter is worth reading, but here is a selection to ponder:

4 Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. . . .
8 By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people. . .
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; . . .
The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities . . . .
because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors
(Selected from Isaiah 53)

Just as the apostle Paul could not point to himself for his apostleship, but only point to Jesus, so we can only point to Jesus for our sainthood. He is the One who clears away the sin standing in the way of becoming a holy one.

But since Jesus makes our sainthood possible, does this mean sin does not matter, and that we can therefore go on sinning all the while calling attention to our sainthood? First off, notice how different Paul’s activity was from before meeting Jesus to after. He went from persecuting the saints to trying to convince everyone he met that they should become one. There was a big change in Paul’s life. There was repentance.

Paul is the one we often quote when we speak of salvation being by faith and not works. And yet Paul worked hard:

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me (1 Corinthians 15:10)

This is not a work to ensure salvation. This is work to ensure salvation is not in vain. This is work God called and enabled Paul to do. Even our works are a sign of God’s grace.

I have a remarkable watch. It is a Pebble smartwatch which does many things including counting steps and tracking sleep. Mind you I was surprised to find out that according to it I slept through an important meeting one day. I can take no credit for this remarkable watch. I did not think of it. I did not invent it. I did not get involved in the engineering of it. I was not involved in the manufacturing of it. I was not involved in the distribution of it. I did not even pay for it. Well I might have paid for it but I did not buy it for it was a Christmas gift. But what I do is wear it. In fact the watch is not very useful if I don’t. This is what salvation is like. We can take no credit for it. It is purely by the grace of God that we are what we are; saints. But we must wear it. We will want to wear it. And at times the clothes of salvation may seem too big for us, but as we keep going and growing in the Spirit, we will grow into them. Salvation is by God’s grace alone, but we are involved, we must wear it.

So you are a Christian and you don’t feel like a saint today? By the grace of God you are what you are, and what you are as a Christian person is a saint. By the grace of God and the help of the Holy Spirit, you will grow into the title, just like Paul did his.

So you are not a Christian and you don’t think the title “saint” could ever apply to you? God has a history of calling the most unlikely of people to become saints. Perhaps that most unlikely person today is you?

by the grace of God


Check out Clarke’s writing at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon; today’s article is located at this link

November 7, 2015

Kindness Leads You to Repentance

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:29 pm
Tags: , , ,

 

Romans 2:1 NIV You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.

Today’s devotional is from the website ThisIsToday.com which is based on the Today devotional booklets, a daily resource widely circulated in the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) that “helps God’s people refresh, refocus and renew their faith through Bible reading, reflection, and prayer.”

Kindness and Repentance

by Henry Kranenburg

Do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? — Romans 2:4

Paul says that when I judge someone else’s actions, I am also judging myself. Judging claims to know something about truth, and if I know enough truth to judge someone else, I obviously know that truth for myself too.

That makes sense to me. It would be silly to think that I could point out the greed in someone else and then claim innocence about the greed in my own life. When I was a child, my parents taught me and my sisters to pray with our eyes closed. It took experience to understand that if I told my mom that one of my sisters had her eyes open during prayer, it was obvious that I’d had my eyes open too.

The odd thing is that, like children, we still point out others’ faults and think we can get away with it. So God closes the loophole on our tendency to ignore our own guilt while we place blame on others. God makes us look at ourselves. What God wants here is not a detailed theology of sin and guilt but an understanding that his “kindness is intended to lead [us] to repentance.”

God’s goal is not about catching us pointing fingers at others. It’s about honesty that leads to full life in Jesus. God’s motivation is to save us from destroying ourselves through our sin. God is asking, “Do you see that?”

Prayer

Father God, thank you for your kindness, forbearance, and patience. Thank you for taking me seriously in all that I am and for pointing me to Jesus. In his name, Amen.

 

 

August 22, 2015

Scripture Medley: The Grace of God

grace

Today’s post is entirely scripture, prepared using BibleHub.com, an online Bible resource.

As I slowed down to read through each verse in many different translations, I was very much aware of:

  • Who was speaking (made clear by the reference)
  • Who was the recipient of grace
  • Whether the verse was testimony, instruction, promise or warning
  • The centrality of the theme of grace in scripture

I hope you’ll take some time with this and not rush through…

But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me–and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.
 – I Cor. 15:10 NLT

I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ
– I Cor 1:4 KJV

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.
– Titus 2:11 NIV

I do not misapply God’s grace, for if righteousness comes about by doing what the Law requires, then the Messiah died for nothing.
– Galatians 2:21 ISV

As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it.
– 2 Corinthians 6:1 NLT

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
– 1 Peter 4:10 NIV

Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.
– Hebrews 12:15 NLT

I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.
– Ephesians 3:7 NIV

Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you
– Ephesians 3:2 NIV

Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord;
– Acts 11:23 NASB

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
– Hebrews 2:9 ESV

The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.
– Luke 2:40 NASB

We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings. We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own human wisdom. That is how we have conducted ourselves before the world, and especially toward you.
– 2 Corinthians 1:12 NLT


October 8, 2014

God’s Not Fair?

Today regular contributor Clarke Dixon returns with a look at God’s fairness. To read this at source click on the title below.

How Being Fair Can Kill Your Generosity

God's justice and mercyBeing fair can kill our generosity. How so? Because being fair gives us an excuse to not be generous toward those we think do not deserve our generosity. And being ingenious people, we can always find that reason!

But isn’t being fair a good thing? In fact when we are being fair are we not being godly? Let’s take a look at a few examples of where God could have been fair:

  • At the time of the first rebellion. Had God been fair with Adam and Eve they would have not have made it out of Eden alive. Instead of being fair God acted with grace, banishing them from Eden, yes, but not fully from His presence or provision.
  • At the first murder. God could have been fair when Cain killed Abel, taking his life in return. Instead of being fair He acted with grace and made provision for Cain’s protection.
  • When violence was overwhelming the earth. God could have been fair when humanity descended into great violence ending all with a flood. Instead of being fair He acted with grace and saved Noah and family binding Himself to the flourishing of humanity with a covenant promise.
  • When violence continued to flourish despite the second chance. Though promising to not actively destroy humanity, God could have been fair and walked away from humanity allowing for their self-destruction. Instead of being fair He acted in grace and called Abram, Isaac, and Jacob, calling into existence His people who would be a light to the world.
  • When God’s people were in slavery but were really no better than their masters. We know this from the violence that Moses, and of course God, witnessed. God could have been fair and walked away. Instead of being fair He acted with grace, hearing their cries of distress, putting into action a plan of rescue.
  • When God’s people rebelled and worshipped a golden calf at Sinai. God could have been fair and left them alone to die there. Instead of being fair, He acted with grace and far from destroying the nation, He gave them the law to build them up.
  • In the days we read of in Judges when “everyone did what was right in their own eyes” instead of sticking to God’s law. God could have been fair and left them victim to the surrounding enemies . Instead of being fair, God acted with grace and anointed judges to rescue the people and get them back on track.
  • When God’s people asked for a king, thereby rejecting God as king. God could have been fair and walked away leaving them to really be like the other nations, lacking His provision and protection. Instead of being fair, God acted with grace and appointed kings, in fact graciously promising that through the line of kings, His Kingdom would come.
  • When the kings and people rebelled against God. God could have been fair, sending a plague or army to wipe the nation out. Instead of being fair He acted with grace and sent prophets to warn and to encourage.
  • When the warnings of the prophets were not heeded. God could have been fair and sent a foreign army to destroy the nation outright. They abandoned their side of the covenant, He could do the same with His. Instead of being fair He acted with grace, allowing the nation to go into exile, but with encouragement to look again for His presence, His rescue.
  • When God Himself came to us in Jesus Christ and then was rejected, mocked, whipped, tried, unjustly condemned and killed. God could have been fair and arrived to condemn. Instead of being fair, He acted with grace. Instead of grasping a sword of judgement, he offered His hands to the nails. And in the single most unfair moment in the history of the world, love reigned supreme.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3:16-17 NRSV

If God had been fair at any one of these moments, it would have really messed with your salvation, there might even be nothing of you in existence to save. Is God being fair in offering salvation to you? No. He could have been fair and rejected you. But instead of being fair, He acts with grace toward you and offers you life, eternal life, abundant life, reconciliation, mercy, friendship, guidance, protection, provision, and so much more. Instead of being fair, God has been generous.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life (Romans 5:6-10 NRSV emphasis mine)

Are you known as a fair person?

Lord, help us to be more like you, to be known as generous. And to do that, help us lay our zeal for what’s fair at the foot of the cross! Amen.

April 16, 2014

Trusting His Work, Not Our Works (or Lack Thereof)

Confidence in Christ

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.
 – II Cor 3:4 ESV

Today I reconnected with Jerry White’s weekly devotional blog, A Disciples Notebook. (If you’ve had a stressful day, turn on your speakers and allow the tension of a busy week to turn toward God’s Spirit.) There were a number of recently posted items here including one by Thomas a Kempis; and one by Andrew Murray; but I thought I would present one here that Jerry wrote himself; though as always you’re encouraged to click through to read at source.

Confidence

A sense of unworthiness rests upon diligent believers as long as they live on earth. Additionally, sinful failures bring shame, disappointment, and disgust. The enemy uses this sense of unworthiness and awareness of sinful failures as a club to beat down God’s sincere children. How can one approach God with any confidence whenever they have these strong negative feelings about themselves?

God’s Word says, Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:19, ESV). We do not enter the holy places of His presence by confidence in ourselves. Never! We must always come before our pure, holy Father because of the blood of Jesus. It is His work on the cross and His righteous worthiness given to us that make it possible for us to come before Him with utmost confidence. We should never come before the Lord based on how we feel about ourselves. We may approach Him confidently by faith in Christ and His finished work, never by faith in self and one’s behavior. On your worst day of falling short, or on what you may consider your best day of measuring up, the necessity of approaching God by the blood and name of Jesus is the same. You can come boldly through Jesus Christ.

Our great high priest, the Lord Jesus, triumphantly entered heaven in our behalf. His shed blood fully paid our sins’ debt and silences the Law’s accusations against us. His perfectly righteous life provided the gift of righteousness Holy God requires of us. He lived a completely human life like us, and was agonizingly tempted throughout His life, but He never sinned. Therefore He sympathizes (shares our feeling) with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:14-15). Because of this, we can therefore with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16, ESV).

Child of God, you will never be worthy in yourself. You still fall short of His glory (Romans 3:23). You continue to stumble in many ways (James 3:2), whether it be in attitude, word, deed, or neglect. Repentance will be an ongoing necessity in your spiritual walk. Do not let this hinder your approach to your loving Father. He sees you in Christ, His beloved Son (Colossians 3:3). He looks at you with incomprehensible tenderness (John 15:9; 16:26-27). Never does He condemn you (Romans 8:1). Rejoice! You can have confidence before your Father because of who Christ is, what He accomplished for you, and the fact that you are clothed with Him.

Image: Gloria Dei ELC

December 31, 2013

Lord, You Are Forgiving and Good

Today, something totally different: Two reflections on the same verse, one from a women’s blog and one written for men. (You might want to send the link to someone who might wish to subscribe to either one.) We’ll let the women go first, this is edited from the blog Letters from the Loft, which is edited by Julie; today’s feature is by Judy.  Click here to read Asking A God Who Is Eager To Forgive.

When I read my Bible this morning, I was overwhelmed, then very teary.

Psalm 86:5
You, Lord, are forgiving and good,
abounding in love to all who call to you.

I know it’s so everybody’s-heard-this-a-thousand-times, but the truth of it hit me today, and I had to visit Strong’s Bible Concordance to see what all is there. (Where Strong’s didn’t have something, I put in my own.) After I read the definitions, I reread the verse. Wow!

Psalm 86:5 Revisited

You are kind, loving, beautiful, desirable, pleasing, joyful, even merry! You are prepared, ready, eagerly waiting for us to ask You to forgive us, so You can send our sins away forever (gosh, I’m getting choked up again, just typing this), as far as the east is from the west (so cool — you can arrive at “north,” you can arrive at “south,” but you can never arrive at “east” or “west”); they’re gone and even You forget them! Your unfailing love and mercy (often based on a prior relationship, especially a covenant relationship — thank You, Jesus, for our covenant relationship!) is abundant, exceedingly huge, plenteous to all (who does that leave out?) who call on You.

…who call on You. That’s our part. Somewhere this past week I read, and I think it was in Psalms or Proverbs, that there is a difference between just wailing and actually asking God to help you. Anyone can just wail into space, but only someone who believes or hopes that there is a listening God out there will actually ask Him for help.

This goes for us Christians, too. Sometimes I just wail instead of, with my words, asking Him. By asking, too, it helps by clarifying in my own mind what the problem is and what I want Him to do. If I listen for how to pray, sometimes that in itself helps to solve the problem, usually by changing me!

Then His answer will draw us to Him. This is His heart, and I’m finding it all over the Bible. “Draw near to me and I will draw near to you.” This is what He wants — His kids tucked into Him, trusting, asking, rejoicing in Him. And He wants to take care of us and fix us and make us new and free and abundantly joyful, because He loves us so much!!

Our men’s look at today’s key verse is a devotional sample from the Christianity Today blog, Men of Integrity. Today’s post is an excerpt from a book by Tony Evans.  Click here to read Hope at Halftime.

Key Bible Verse: O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help. (Psalm 86:5)

Dig Deeper: Psalm 86

Halftime [in football] is a time to evaluate how things have been going and to decide what adjustments need to be made for the rest of the game.

The first half of any football game is important, but it is not determinative. Numerous teams over the years were ahead at halftime only to eventually lose the game. And numerous teams were losing at halftime, but by the time the game ended, they had turned things around. Until the final whistle is blown, the game is still up for grabs.

The same is true in life. You might be in your first or second quarter or heading into halftime, but if you are still here, the game of life is not over. Your clock is still ticking. There is plenty of life yet to live. Not only that, but your first half doesn’t have to determine the outcome of the game.

Maybe you’ve made mistakes and poor decisions; perhaps you’ve experienced many disappointments and failures. But you are still here. And as long as you’re still here, the whistle has not blown and it is not too late for God to take you straight to the plan he has for you.

—Tony Evans in God’s Unlikely Path to Success

My Response: What hopeful and encouraging message does today’s reading have for me? For my family? For a struggling friend or coworker?


And that wraps up 2013 here at Christianity 201. There is a wealth of devotional material compiled here and I hope you take time to go through past articles, and click through, and then click again to see what those writers have been up to lately.  Your prayers for this online project are both always needed and always appreciated.  Best wishes for 2014.  ~ Paul.

December 6, 2013

Temptation Always Follows a Predictable Pattern

Our blog discovery today was one very similar to what we do here at C201.  Thoughts about God provides two thoughts for the day; based on the links in the right margin, and the pieces I looked at, one is male-authored and the other is female-authored. This is a unique devotional premise, don’t you think?  (I wish I’d thought of it !!)

This one appeared first today, and is by Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church.

Change the Way You Think
We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ.”
2 Corinthians 10:5 (NCV)

Here’s the secret to temptation: Don’t fight it. Just refocus. Whatever you resist persists.

Did you know that in the Bible, not once are you told to resist temptation? We are told to resist the Devil, and that’s a whole different issue. But the key to overcoming temptation is not to push back. It’s to change your focus.

Whatever gets your attention gets you. The battle for sin always starts in the mind. That’s why the Bible says in Psalm 119:6, “Thinking about your commands will keep me from doing some foolish thing” (CEV). Why? Because if you’re thinking about God’s truth, you’re not thinking about the dumb stuff you could be doing.

Have you ever looked over a cliff and felt like you were being drawn to jump off? Not like a temptation, but like there was this force that was pulling you. It’s because whatever you focus on pulls you.

It’s true in every single area of life — good or bad. If you focus on godly things, it’s going to pull you that direction. If you focus on the stuff that’s at the movies and in magazines, it’s going to pull you that direction. Whatever you focus on gets your attention. Whatever gets your attention is going to get you.

The key is to just change your mind.

Temptation always follows a predictable pattern: attention, arousal, and action. Your mind gets hooked, your mind kicks in, and then you act on it.

So you don’t fight a temptation; you just turn your mind to something else. “We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NCV).

The thing is, we’re not very good at capturing every thought and turning it to Christ, because it takes lots of practice. You can’t always control your circumstances, and you can’t even always control the way you feel. But you can control what you think about. That’s always your choice. And if you change the way you think, it changes the way you feel, and that will change the way you act.

Talk It Over
– What do you spend your time thinking about? Where does your mind wander when you’re not focused on something specific?
– How can you train yourself so that it is more natural for you to focus on God’s Word and truths instead of the things of this world?

You can comment on this devotional online at:
http://thoughts-about-god.com/blog/2013/12/06/rw_change-the-way-you-think/

Their women’s voice for the day was Claire Colvin:

God Will Not Waste Your Life
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” 1 Peter 1:3-4

What strikes me about this verse is the phrase “a living hope.” It’s not a future hope; it’s a hope that is with us right now. We were utterly lost, condemned to die, and through Jesus we’re reborn to hope and life eternal.

I lose sight of that sometimes. In the midst of an ordinary day I forget that I have this incredible hope. When I feel weak, forgotten, worn out or left behind it’s often because I’ve taken my eyes off of the hope that Jesus bought for me on the cross.

I love the chorus in Chris Tomlin’s version of “Amazing Grace.”

My chains are gone,
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me.
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace.”

What a picture of hope! This is a big part of the “life to the full” that Jesus talks about in John 10:10. It’s not a life we just hope might somehow count for something. It’s life as a forgiven child of God, fashioned for a purpose. It’s the assurance that God will not waste your life. How will you live in this hope today?

Thank you God for giving me a living hope. Whatever has happened in the past, whatever might lie ahead in the future, Your hope will be there to redeem and renew. You are the reason for the joy that I have. You are my peace and my portion and my shield forever. Help me to cling to Your hope and not to my own understanding. In Your name I pray, amen.

Take Action: Take a close look at the thoughts that are running through your head today. Are they thoughts of hope or worry? comfort or sadness? Take these thoughts to God. Thank Him for ransoming you and ask Him to focus your mind on the living hope that is yours today.

You can comment on this devotional online at:
http://thoughts-about-god.com/blog/2013/12/06/cc_god-will-not-waste-your-life/

May 31, 2013

When Grace is Given Selectively

To paraphrase a popular saying, “All people in the church are given grace equally, but some grace is more equal than others.” Do you ever feel that way? That certain issues are elevated while discussion of others is suppressed? Mark at the blog Attempts at Honesty deals with this in a blog post titled Selective grace in the church

Grace is a word that Christians frequently use, too often glibly and without proper thought. For example, I have been in several churches with Grace in their titles who offered very little of it to the people who attend.

We all want grace, but sometimes struggle to give it when it is most needed. Perhaps this is why Jesus placed such an emphasis upon forgiveness, going so far as to say that He will not forgive those who refuse to forgive others (Matthew 6:15). Offering grace must be intentional and is sometimes difficult because it goes against our natural inclination.

What is even more bothersome to me is that in some churches, selective grace is offered. Selective grace is in operation when some people receive grace and others do not. Often this is due to the background of the person who needs grace.

In a denomination that I formerly attended many of the pastors would often refer to their drug abuse in their “B.C.” days. They would use their former behavior as an illustration of God’s grace, and rightly so. They did indeed receive grace and despite their past failures God uses them in ministry.

The problem comes in when some other sins are less likely to receive grace. In some churches, those who have experienced divorce, those who struggle with same sex attraction, those with mental illness and those who might disagree on minor points of doctrine receive anything but grace. Even in that denomination with the formerly drug addled pastors, selective grace was a struggle and some people were treated in a manner inconsistent with grace.

Let’s be honest and admit that sometimes we encounter Christians who make us uncomfortable. If we do not make a conscious effort to build bridges with those who make us feel uncomfortable, then we are likely to withhold grace from them.

Some make us uncomfortable because of their background or lifestyle. It is as if we want everyone cleaned up completely after becoming a believer. The problem is that we are all in the process of being cleaned up, yet sometimes we hold others to a standard we can not meet.

I have been in churches where those who came out of a “sinful” lifestyle continued to be suspect, no matter how they progressed in their relationship with Jesus or their understanding of Scripture. Sexual sins in particular seem to put people on the suspect list. I have also known of churches where divorce was treated as if it was the unpardonable sin.

Perhaps even worse than this is to withhold grace over a difference in belief or practice. Examples of some issues over which we might withhold grace are these:

  • How the gifts of the spirit are manifested
  • How prophetic portions of Scripture are to be interpreted
  • Whether a person is liberal or conservative in their politics
  • The preference or abhorrence of liturgy in the worship service

This is not an exhaustive list, we could find many more issues over which Christians have divided.

We cannot be selective in how we demonstrate the grace of God in our lives. We need to follow the example of Jesus in the way he was gracious to everyone, including the Pharisees. Ephesians 2:8-9 is often quoted as indicating that we are saved by grace, yet the verses preceding verse 8 set the correct context.

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:1–9, ESV)

Apart from Christ, we were dead in our trespasses and sins. In other words, we crossed boundaries that should not be crossed and we fell short of the standard we know was in place. Yet, God gave us grace, the very grace that saves us.

How can we do anything less than offer that same grace to others? We must put an end to selective grace.

Read more at Attempts at Honesty: What Nehemiah Can Teach Us About Apologetics.

May 19, 2013

We’re Not Saved by Works, But Works Happen

The biggest myth that Christ followers need to combat is the idea that by doing things for God, we merit or earn eternal life. Even among people who have spent a lifetime immersed in churches where the message of grace is preached, there are people who, if you ask them, will tell you that they will spend eternity with God because of what they did.

Ephesians 2 contains two verses familiar to many of us:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (NIV)

But someone will say, “But what about James 2:24?” That’s the verse many of us memorized as “Faith without works is dead.” The variety of translations we usually utilize here doesn’t clear this verse up because a good translation won’t interfere with what the original text actually says. Clarification of difficult passages is for footnotes, commentaries and Bible handbooks. But the CEV tries to provide us with the verse in a way that doesn’t trip us up vis-a-vis the Ephesians passage.

24 You can now see that we please God by what we do and not only by what we believe.

Or moving from the CEV to the CEB:

24 So you see that a person is shown to be righteous through faithful actions and not through faith alone.

which is almost word-for-word the same as the NLT.

But the other translations use words like “justified,” or “made right,” which implies a works based salvation.

It must be difficult to be a Bible translator — trying to stay loyal to the reading of a particular Greek section — but knowing the whole compendium of scripture and, in this case, knowing that salvation is a work of grace.  Here’s how the NCV approaches an earlier verse (italics added):

22 So you see that Abraham’s faith and the things he did worked together. His faith was made perfect by what he did.

The Reformation Study Bible notes:

None of our deeds are worthy of ultimate justification in the sight of God. Only the merit of Christ avails for that kind of justification. Only by trusting in Christ alone can we be made righteous in the sight of God. Here James attacks all forms of antinomianism that seek to have Jesus as Savior without embracing Him as Lord.

…I think a good passage to bring into this discussion is one that isn’t usually considered in this context, the story of the woman who anoints Jesus’ feet and washes his feet with her hair in Luke 7: 36-50.  I’m going to assume that most people reading this know that story, but if not, click the link.

A parable about a debtor is taught within the narration of this story, the point of which is to show to Simon, the host of the party, as to how grace plays out in the real world. The conclusion is:

47 “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” (NLT)

47 This woman has been forgiven much, and she is showing much love. But the person who has shown little love shows how little forgiveness he has received. (The Voice)

Impressive, isn’t it? She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.” (The Message)

Works flow naturally, organically out of the overflow of the heart. Works are response to what we already received by grace, by faith. If a person isn’t finding some area of response to God, I think we’re safe in questioning the authenticity of their faith experience. 

Is your Christian service a laborious exercise done out of obligation, or is it a joy-filled response of a recipient of a level of grace that you know you could never deserve?

March 21, 2013

The Vulnerability of God

The Parable of the Lost Son – Luke 15 (NIV)

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living….

…17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ ,,,

…“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate…

Today’s reading is an excerpt from a sermon by a radical Lutheran pastor, Nadia Bolz-Weber. Radical is a bit of an understatement; you can read more about her and watch a video of her speaking to a youth rally at this Thinking Out Loud article from last July.   Nadia blogs at The Sarcastic Lutheran, where you can not only read today’s full text, but also listen to this brief sermon (about ten minutes) on audio. To do both, click here.  Nadia begins with a story of a time she thought her child was missing; and continues…

…[I]t’s vulnerable to have a child.  To create or adopt a child is to leave yourself vulnerable to a broken heart in the way nothing else can.  Which is why I started wondering this week about the vulnerability of God.

There is much talk out there about the strength of God and the mightiness of God and the awesomeness of God.  But what of the vulnerability of God?

That God would breath into dust and create us in God’s own image….that God would bring humanity into being as God’s own beloved children was to leave God’s self vulnerable to a broken heart in a way nothing else could have. What a risk God took creating us. Giving us enough freedom to be creators and destroyers.  Giving us enough freedom for us to make a mess of everything and act as our own Gods and to also trust in God and love each other…

…I’ve always heard this parable, one of the most famous stories in the Gospel, titled the Parable of the Prodigal son.  But out of everything we could say this story is about – why do we say it’s about the wasteful extravagance of the younger son? Why is that the focus when it’s not even that interesting?

I mean, It’s actually common for young people to leave home, waste their lives and their money for awhile until they have no other option but to come home to the parents they didn’t treat very well when they were leaving in the first place. Maybe we make this a story about the wasteful stupidity of the younger son because it’s a story we are more familiar with than the alternative, which is this: if the word prodigal means wasteful extravagance, then isn’t it really the story of the prodigal father?

Isn’t it wastefully extravagant for the Father to give his children so much freedom?  Isn’t it wastefully extravagant for the Father to discard his dignity and run into the street toward a foolish and immature son who squandered their fortune? Isn’t it wastefully extravagant for the father to throw such a raging party for this kind of wayward son?

But, see, I love that kind of grace.

I personally love that Jesus tells this story of the prodigal father in response the to Pharisee’s indignation that Jesus would eat with tax collectors and prostitutes because, when it comes down to it, give me a church filled with awful sinners over a church filled with pious Pharisees any time.

Some of us might find the grace the father shows to the younger son to boarder on offensive, but the thing that really gets me in this story is how wastefully extravagant the Father is toward the older son.  The kid who never left him.  The one who has always done everything right.  The kid who is clean cut and went to college right out of high school and came back to work in his father’s business.  The kid who always signs up to do jobs at synagogue but resentfully notices all the slackers who show up and never help at all.  The kid who feels entitled. The kid who can’t stomach going into a party to celebrate the return of his screw-up of a brother.  I can’t stand that older brother even as I cringe at the ways I may be a little bit like him.  You know what’s wastefully extravagant in my book?: the fact that the Father says to that kid “all that is mine is yours”.

What risk God takes on us. Children who waste everything in dissolute living.  Children who begrudge grace being extended to people who so clearly don’t deserve it. But this is a risk born of love. God risks so much by loving us which is why, tonight anyway,  I prefer calling this the Parable of the Prodigal Father.

Because it is here we see that your relationship to God is simply not defined by your really bad decisions or your squandering of resources.  But also your relationship to God is not determined by your virtue.  It is not determined by being nice, or being good or even, and I struggle with this, but it’s not even determined by how much you do at church.  Your relationship to God is simply determined by the wastefully extravagant love of God.  A God who takes no account of risk but runs toward you no matter what saying all that is mine is yours. Amen.

Related posts at C201:

February 5, 2013

Meditating on God’s Divine Providence and Love: Psalm 31

A completely different format today that I hope you will fully engage with. It certainly fits our situation, and I suspect it does for many of you. This was found at the blog of Tim Chester where, as always, you’re encouraged to read it at source.


In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
2 Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,

a strong fortress to save me.
3 Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
4 Free me from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hands I commit my spirit;
redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth.

  • From what do you need ‘rescue’ and ‘refuge’?
  • What’s the ‘trap’ in which you could fall? In other words, what temptation comes with your circumstances?
  • Highlight each time the Psalmist says ‘refuge’, ‘rock’ and ‘fortress’. How is God a refuge for you in the midst of your current problems?

6 I hate those who cling to worthless idols;
I trust in the LORD.
7 I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
for you saw my affliction
and knew the anguish of my soul.
8 You have not handed me over to the enemy
but have set my feet in a spacious place.

  • What makes the Psalmist glad? How might these truths comfort you?
  • What does it mean for God to put you in a ‘spacious place’ in the midst of your current problems?

9. Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and my body with grief.
10 My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak …

  • How do your current problems make you feel?
  • Do you find it helpful to express those emotions before God?

14 But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies;
from those who pursue me.
16 Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your unfailing love.
17 Let me not be put to shame, O LORD,
for I have cried out to you …

  • ‘My times are in your hands.’ ‘Had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.’ (Charles Spurgeon) Do you believe this? How does it comfort you?
  • How does God’s face shine on you in the midst of your problems? In other words, how is God being good to you?

19. How great is your goodness,
that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all
on those who take refuge in you.
20 In the shelter of your presence you hide them
from all human intrigues;
you keep them safe in your dwelling
from accusing tongues.

  • God has great goodness stored up for you. Compare the hope you have in Christ with what you think you lack in life.
  • How do you think of God ‘sheltering you’ and ‘hiding you’?

21 Praise be to the LORD,
for he showed his wonderful love to me
when I was in a city under siege.
22 In my alarm I said,
“I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
when I called to you for help.
23 Love the LORD, all his saints!
The LORD preserves those who are true to him,
but the proud he pays back in full.
24 Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the LORD.

  • What comfort has the Psalmist given to those who feel abandoned by God?
  • Who could you tell how God has helped you? Who could you encourage to be strong, take heart and hope in the LORD?

Making Psalm 31 Your Own

O LORD, I take refuge in you from ____________.
Don’t let me be ashamed by my problems.
Be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.
Free me from the temptation to ___________.
I put myself in your hands for you are my refuge.

I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
for you see my  ___________.
and you know the anguish of my soul.
When I feel trapped by my circumstances
lead me into a spacious place.

Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am in distress.
Both my body and soul feel weak with sorrow.
But I trust in you for you are my Father.
My times are in your hands.
My problem ___________ is in your hands.
Let your face shine on me.

How great is the goodness you have stored up for me.
It’s much greater than  ___________.
In the shelter of your presence
you keep me safe me from  ___________.

Praise the LORD, for he shows his wonderful love to me
when I am besieged by  ___________.
In my alarm I said, “God has abandoned me.”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy.

Love the LORD for he protects his people.
Be strong, take heart, hope in the LORD.

January 29, 2013

Everyone Who Asks Receives

This is from Albert at the blog God is My Constant. As always, click through to read at source.  As we did yesterday, because all of the scripture quotes today are the words of Jesus, we’ll use the popular red letter format.

I certainly have not received everything I have ever asked for. Sometimes that has been a good thing, especially when my mother used to say, “You’re asking for it kid!

What about the times, when I sincerely, politely, humbly, even altruistically, asked for something and still did not receive it. What was the deal there?

Have I not received it “yet“? Is it a case of timing or delayed gratification?

Have I received it in some other form I am unable or unwilling to recognize?

Perhaps the premise or the promise is flawed. Merely a delusional distraction of some kind?

What on earth was Jesus going on about when he said, “For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” in Matthew 7:8?

I read it again the other day and it jumped out as a dogmatic statement. When I flicked back a couple of pages I noticed that “asking” and “seeking” featured regularly in the section of scripture, commonly referred to in Matthews Gospel as the ‘Sermon on the Mount’, where this verse is found.

At the start of the Sermon, Jesus said,

“”Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” and

“”Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” – Matthew 5:3,6

If, as seems to be the case, he is using a poetical form of rhetoric to make his point, this would show that those who are the poor, the impoverished, the ones who lack in some way, thus their hunger and thirst, are the ones who will be on the receiving end of God’s grace, mercy and generosity. There is a sense in which they do not need to ask or seek because they will be pre-emptively supplied by God in some way.

This seems to be reenforced in Matthew 6:8, where Jesus said,

“your Father knows what you need before you ask him”.

However he then goes on to teach the Lord’s Prayer, which has a series of requests in which the petitioner first asks for God’s kingdom.

Later in Matthew 6:33, he tells them to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you”. Previously when I’ve read that verse, I took it as a sort of reassurance that Jesus was referring to my temporal comforts. i.e. there was some sort of theistic bargain taking place. If I “seek” his kingdom, I will taken care of in the food and clothing department, ignoring the full context of the sermon.

The verbs and participles in Matthew 7:8 are all in the present tense (except for “will be opened”), so it could be read as;

“For all those who are asking are receiving and all those seeking are finding and to all those knocking it will be opened”

Putting this together with the preëmptive statements in Chapter 5 and 6 and the imperatives of the Lord’s Prayer (“pray like this…”) and Matthew 6:33 (“seek first the kingdom…”) God is using the means of prayer (asking, seeking, knocking) to carry out his goal of giving us his kingdom, his righteousness etc. It is not a case of bargaining; “If you bow down and worship me then I will give you these riches” – that offer came from someone else. Instead it is more the sense of; “God is giving you new life, and a new world view, as you worship him, apart from self interest, self justification, self vindication, and realise your own radical spiritual depravity.”

This is the only way “your righteousness exceeds that of (the self-appointed religious élite of their day) the scribes and pharisees.” When it is derived, or better understood as, received from God through Jesus. The difference between the first century application and today is merely context and politics. Then it was nominally religious posturing in defiance of an incumbent foreign government to look more self righteous before ones peers. Today, the posturing still happens, but its in the form of token environmental salvage or political endorsement of a minority whim both of which are fashioned to appear as gracious and tolerant and yet, like the scribes and pharisees of old, is dresses up in elaborate, eloquent, scolding arrogance towards any who buck the trend.

It may be said of them, as it was of me in my belligerence, “they’re asking for it.” Jesus assures them, they’ll “get it.” We all will. The question is not, are you getting what you asked for, but, what are you asking for? 

What are you asking for?

January 8, 2013

Unworthy, But Chosen

Isaiah 1 18 - Though your sins be as scarlet

Today’s item here at C201 is part testimony, part inspiration and part Bible study. I hope you’ll enjoy this piece from the blog Saint in Training. Click through to read at source and discover more from this blog’s two authors.

I am a living witness that God can and will save the worst of sinners.

I once saw myself as being beyond redemption, having no understanding that our Heavenly Father sees us all the same and that through His son Jesus Christ, he made a way of escape for us. Although our sins may differ we stand in danger of facing the same penalty for unrepentant sin: eternal damnation. Thank God for Jesus! It’s because of Him that every sinner is promised a future and thus once we become Christians it behooves us to remember that every saint has a past.

Dear hearts let us not forget that it was the mercies of God that brought us out of sin. We should be careful not to become self-righteous, thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to in Christ. Our awesome God, blessed be His name, is the only one worthy of praise.

The saying, “I don’t look like what I’ve been through,” is true. If I were to write a book, it couldn’t express the immensity of the love, grace and mercy God has showered upon me! Growing up in the streets of New York City shaped my thoughts and molded my life into a vehicle for sin. Loneliness was my best friend, distrust taught me to fear the night while hunger gave me the strength to beg and the will to live. I learned how to survive that kind of life. God wasn’t in my thoughts; he wasn’t a part of my life at all – or so I thought. I didn’t realize that it was he who was keeping me alive! His ever watchful eyes saw every step I took and protected my every move. He didn’t allow the devil to fulfill his desire to have my soul, nor did he let the demons of hell drive me to a point of no return. God kept my mind!

Oh! The unexplainable love of God. His love can’t be measured. It is deeper than the sea and as solid as a rock! We are so unworthy of his love, of his grace and of his mercy – yet, God still chose us to be his sons and daughters in Christ! He chose us to spend eternity with him in his heavenly kingdom. So those of you who have a feeling of unworthiness that overshadows you, I encourage you today to lift up your hands unto the Lord and bless his holy name – you are blessed. Yes, you are blessed! Why? Because he chose you to love and favored you by calling you to be his son, his daughter!

I’ll never find myself worthy of God’s love but I am grateful. I praise him for seeing me as being worth loving – that’s more than enough for me.

I am like that publican who prayed the prayer that touched God’s heart:

Luke 18:13-14 KJV

And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Dear hearts, it was for the unworthy that Jesus died!

Mark 2:17 KJV

When Jesus heard it, he said to them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

It’s the unworthy that Jesus loves! It is the unworthy he embraces! Why? Because it is they who love him the most. They know that they are just that, unworthy. They are grateful and humble before him. God can use them to give hope to the hopeless. He shows his love toward them who desperately need the one and only true living God in their lives!

What does God see in us?

You know yourself as a drug dealer – God sees you as a preacher.
You know yourself as a prostitute – God sees you as a missionary.
You know yourself as an alcoholic – God sees you as an evangelist.
You know yourself as a liar and a thief – God sees you as a prayer warrior.
You see yourself as a nobody – God sees you as the apple of his eye.
You know yourself as a sinner – God sees you as a saint!

Where man has counted you out, God has already counted you as a winner! Where some may see us as being worthless, God sees us as being worth it! Man and Satan took us to the courtroom at Calvary dear hearts; they charged us and found us to be guilty. Oh! But God dropped the charges and He found us guiltless through the death of his son Jesus Christ!

He did this for me! He did this for you!

Forget what Satan says about you precious one, he’s a liar. Forget what you say about you, you’re only flesh. Look to God and receive what he said:

Isaiah 55:7-8 NIV

Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.

Isaiah 1:18-20 NIV

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.  If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

God has called you by name, he has chosen you for his own – receive his word, believe and watch your life change!

November 24, 2012

Grace Quotations

“…Jesus’ approach toward a decadent Roman empire, as well as toward individual sinners who must have offended him deeply, seemed almost the opposite of the self-righteous attitude of many evangelicals.  As I studied Jesus’ life, the notion of grace kept hitting me in the face.  All his stories made the wrong person the hero: the prodigal son not the responsible older brother, Lazarus not the rich man, the good Samaritan not the Jewish rabbi.  And I began to see grace as one of the great, often untapped, powers of the universe that God has asked us to set loose.  Human society runs by Ungrace, ranking people, holding them accountable, insisting on reciprocity and fairness.  Grace is, by definition, unfair.  That intrigued me.”

~Philip Yancey


“Most every cult you could name is a cult of salvation by works. It appeals to the flesh. It tells you, if you will stand so long on a street corner, if you will distribute so much literature, if you will sacrifice so much of life, if you will be baptized, if you will contribute your money, if you will pray or attend numerous meetings, then your good works and hard effort will cause God to smile on you. Ultimately when the good is weighed against the bad on the Day of Judgement, you will finally earn His favor. The result in that, I say again, is man’s glory, because you added to your salvation.

“Grace says you have nothing to give, nothing to earn, nothing to pay. You couldn’t if you tried! Salvation is a free gift. You simply lay hold of what Christ has provided. Period. And yet the heretical doctrine of works goes on all around the world and always will. It is effective because the pride of men and women is so strong. We simply have to do something in order to feel right about it. It just doesn’t make good humanistic sense to get something valuable for nothing.

“Please allow me to be absolutely straight with you: Stop tolerating the heretical gospel of works! It is legalism. Wake up to the fact that it will put you into a bondage syndrome that won’t end. The true gospel of grace, however, will set you free. Free forever.”

~Charles (Chuck) Swindoll


“You are loved by your Maker not because you try to please him and succeed, or fail to please him and apologize, but because he wants to be your Father. Nothing more. All your efforts to win his affection are unnecessary. All your fears of losing his affection are needless. You can no more make him want you than you can convince him to abandon you. The adoption is irreversible. You have a place at his table.”

~Max Lucado


“Romans 8 is all about living in a suffering world marked by brokenness… Verse 28 says: For those loving him, God works together all things for good. …Earlier in Romans 8, Paul discusses how things fall apart because the world is burdened with evil and sin. Things are subject to decay. Everyone will eventually experience the decay of their bodies; that’s the nature of things. The little grains of sand on the beach used to be a mountain. Everything falls apart; things do not come together. This verse tells Christians to get rid of the saccharine, sentimental idea that things ought to go right, that things do go right, and that it’s normal for things to go right. Modern, Western people believe that if things go wrong, we should sue, because things ought to go right. But Christians have to discard that idea completely. Christians have to recognize that if our health remains intact, it is simply because God is holding it up. If people love us, if someone is there to hug us or squeeze our hand, if someone loves us in spite of all our flaws—if someone loves us at all—it’s because God is bringing all things together. God is holding it up. Everything that goes well is a miracle of grace.”

~Timothy Keller


“I don’t think we should avoid reading the Noah narrative to our children. They need to hear of God’s global judgment, of his grace not only to Noah but to the animals and the creation itself, and of his covenant promise never to flood the earth with water again. But we should never sentimentalize this terrifying moment in our history. Instead we must point our little ones to the fulfillment of the rainbow: Jesus of Nazareth.

“The apostle Peter makes much of the Flood, pointing to it as a type of the last days cosmic judgment of the universe (2 Pet 3). He also speaks of baptism as corresponding to the deliverance of Noah (1 Pet 3:18-22), representing God’s faithfulness to bring a righteous Man through the flood of his wrath and into a new creation. One cannot emphasize this without emphasizing both God’s amazing grace and his terrible justice. Maybe that’s why we trivialize baptism too.”

~Russell D. Moore


“Martyn Lloyd-Jones states that preaching grace is not only risky, but the fact that some take it to an unwise extreme is proof that a minister is indeed preaching the true grace of God. Some people will take advantage of it. They will misrepresent it. They will go to such an extreme that they will promote the erroneous idea that you can go on sinning as much as you like. If you claim to be a messenger of grace, if you think you are really preaching grace, yet no one is taking advantage of it, maybe you haven’t preached it hard enough or strong enough. I can assure you of this: Grace killing ministers will never have that charge brought against them. They make sure of that! This issue of grace is indeed controversial. It brings grace abusers as well as grace killers out from under the rocks!”

~Charles (Chuck) Swindoll


“The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of Karma, the Jewish covenant, and Muslim code of law—each of these offers a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional.”

~Philip Yancey


‘He’s prone to stoop. He stooped to wash feet, to embrace children. Stooped to pull Peter out of the sea, to pray in the Garden. He stooped before the Roman whipping post. Stooped to carry the cross. Grace is a God who stoops. Here he stooped to write in the dust.’

~Max Lucado


More grace quotations

« Previous PageNext Page »