Christianity 201

February 12, 2017

“God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life”

by Russell Young

Consider the cliché: “God has a wonderful plan for your life.”  This pronouncement is often given by those trying to evangelize.   This cliché is easy to accept at first glance.  It is encouraging to the one going through one of life’s struggles; it offers promise.  Those who accept that there is a god would esteem him to know all things and to be all powerful. They also accept that he is all loving.  Consequently, the message is given and taken as if the person being addressed would only confess faith, his or her life would be wonderful, richly blessed and filled with joy. Although these descriptors are true, they are not true according to the world’s understanding.

What was “God’s wonderful plan” as experienced by the apostles? They all, but one, experienced horrible deaths. Think of God’s wonderful plan” as experienced by the many faithful today who are being martyred for their faith in Christ. What are people to think when they suffer through disease and poverty? How are they to interpret God’s “wonderful plan”?

God does have a plan for our lives. Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ may be for the praise of his glory.” (Eph 1: 11─12 NIV)

The plan is not “for us” directed; it is “for the praise of [God’s] glory.” Later in that book Paul wrote, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph 2:10 NIV) This is also the declaration of a plan.

God’s plan is “wonderful” but will not necessarily bring the worldly blessings that many infer. Paul wrote: “The Lord will reward everyone for the good he does whether slave or free.” (Eph 6:8 NIV) The rewards of God are not trivial nor are they necessarily temporal and their accomplishment requires suffering.  “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Tim 3:12 NIV) Despite the trials, persecution, pain, and poverty that true believers endure in this world, they will reap a harvest of blessings and eternal life, if they remain faithful to the end. (Mt 10:22)

The walk of truth and obedience brings glory to God and eternal rewards.  This is his wonderful plan.  It does not include ease, riches, and the pleasures of this world, and those who present clichés need to take care concerning the impressions that they leave others.  They can mislead and be destructive to furthering the gospel. Weak faith based on misrepresented truths can give way to disillusionment and destruction and the spreading of a false gospel. Should the one being evangelized know the truth about what is before him or her?  Absolutely!  They must count the cost if they are to become strong and useful. Perseverance to the end is the only way that God’s plan can become wonderful. True believers know this and have committed themselves to victory over all sorts of trials through the presence and power of Christ. It is for the fulfilment of God’s plan in one’s life that his people have been called for the praise of his glory and it is in that fulfilment that they bring him glory. His plan is to conform the faithful to the likeness of his Son and to assist in the building of his kingdom.

It should never be accepted that God has ordained a moment by moment strategy for the way a believer is to live, that his moments have been pre-destined and firmly established.  The manner in which believers are led will depend upon how well they listen and how closely they follow.  Paul wrote, “And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” (Rom 8:27 NIV) It is God who searches our hearts and from his search determines a strategy to affect the Spirit’s purpose.  Sometimes God will discipline, and at other times he will punish.  “Do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” (Heb 12:5─6 NIV) God’s plan is wonderful because he has a personal interest in accomplishing those things in our lives that will give opportunity for transformation of heart and practice so that a person might become acceptable to him. (Rom 15:16)  It is wonderful because it leads to eternal life, but most of the ‘wonderfulness’ will come in glory, not as we walk this earth.


Russell Young has been a regular Sunday contributor to Christianity 201 for the past year and is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514 $17.99 US

December 12, 2016

A Meal to Remember

This blog post came to our attention through an interesting series of rabbit trails. It’s the last thing posted to a blog which is no longer active, Believing and Serving In Christ.

Mostly Mealtimes…

Recently I asked a question on Facebook. My question was simple enough: How often do you think about a meal when you think about the last time you saw somebody? A lot of people responded that they did think of a meal when they last thought of someone…

I’m led then to believe that God does some things on purpose, directly because He knows people, and He knows we like to eat too. He knows we remember special occasions by the food we eat, so He gave the Children of Israel a collection of feasts to keep, each with their meaning, each occurring in their own time. The Jews celebrate Passover, and it’s that feast that I want to look at if only briefly.

What if you were alive, as an Israelite, captive in Egypt when Moses came to lead the people out of Pharaoh’s hand? What would you make of the commands to keep the Passover described in Exodus Chapter 12? First of all, it’s a meal that is designed to separate the People of God from the Foreigner. God tells the people:

43 And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the statute of the Passover: no foreigner shall eat of it, 44 but every slave that is bought for money may eat of it after you have circumcised him. 45 No foreigner or hired worker may eat of it. … 47 All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. 48 If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. 49 There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.” Exodus 12:43-45; 47-49.

God intends for this meal to be a meal where there is a clear distinction between God’s People, and those who are not God’s people. Ponder this for a moment as we listen to another one of God’s commands for this special meal: “10 And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn.” This meal has a special time, limited in duration. There are no leftovers from God’s Passover! The People of God are given clear instruction about the time that the Passover takes place. He tells them the month the feast is in, he tells them the day the feast starts, and then He tells them duration of the feast. Six days of unleavened bread, and then, one evening only, lamb with the bread, and bitter herbs. There’s no accidents here. All of this is for a reason. Ponder as if you were one of the Children of Israel, waiting to be delivered from Egypt. Now listen to this and consider what it could mean: 

They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts…11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord‘s Passover. Exodus 12:8, 9, 11 46 It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones. Exodus 12:46

God commanded the People of God to eat the meal in a certain manner. None of this is by accident. There’s nothing here done by chance or haphazardly. God has a certain way for doing this, and it’s for a certain reason. He’s wanting these people to remember the meal. He’s going to use it for something special. He’s looking down the road 1500 years to a time when this meal will be celebrated in this manner for the last time before His Son dies.

We know that on the night Jesus was betrayed he was keeping the Passover meal. We also know that he gave a meal to remember him by on that night. I always try to consider what it must have been like for the disciples on that night. Like the Israelites that first night, they were probably a little confused by Jesus’ new instructions. He takes the bread, and offers it to them, calling it his body. Then he lifts a glass, and calls it the blood of the new covenant. Just like the first Passover, though, this meal also has certain rules. Just like it was with the Israelites and the Passover: The Lord’s Supper is only valid for certain people. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:29 “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.” Our meal is for those who recognize that this bread and cup are given to us as the body and blood of Jesus. Also, like Passover: Our meal has a time. From early in its history, the Church has gathered on the first day of the week to celebrate the Lord in this manner. We gather for the same reason the early disciples gather: to devote ourselves to the Apostle’s teachings, for fellowship, to break this bread together and for prayer. Thirdly, God has commanded us to eat this meal together in a certain manner. We’re commanded to examine ourselves, to not use this as a time for overindulgence, and to recognize the body of the Lord. 

There’s a lot of things about the Passover that can be studied in the Light of the identity of Jesus, and the salvation he offered to us. One thing that’s worthy of another lesson is the direct symbolism between Jesus and the Passover lamb. There’s a reason why the Passover lamb had to be unblemished. There’s a reason why we call Jesus the Lamb of God, and why his bones weren’t broken on the cross, even though the other two who were crucified with him had their legs broken. Most importantly, however, there’s a reason why [the church gathers to partake of the Lord’s Supper.] It’s to eat a meal, and think about the Last Time Jesus was here, and to also think about the time when we’ll see him in person!

October 3, 2016

Serving with Determination and Perseverance

This devotional came recommended to us, and is from Seeds of the Kingdom the devotional page of  Ellel Ministries*, an organization with branches on many continents.

Keep On Keeping On

by Denise Cross

Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not loss heartGalatians 6:9, NIV

Many years ago, when I was a young Christian, I was taught that believers should expect that doing God’s work would always be challenging and difficult. Indeed, this very fact of contention, they believed, proved that the work was a ‘good’ work.

However, later I discovered that other believers had a different expectation. They believed that, if something was a God-ordained plan, it would all fall into place with no struggles, because God Himself had gone ahead and prepared the way.

After a good few years of being involved in Ellel Ministries, it seems to me that neither of these extremes is true. There may be times when things go easily, and we feel the path ahead is easy, but there may also be battles, and discouragement along the way.

I can only think that Paul himself might have been feeling a little weary and discouraged when he wrote this letter to his friends in Galatia. They were obviously showing signs of being tired and discouraged, and needed to remember that perseverance and determination were what was needed. They had, perhaps, started with enthusiasm and excitement, but they’d hit difficulties of some kind, and their energy seemed to be running out. Paul is saying “Don’t give up. It will be worth it in the end. Keep your eye on the finishing line. What you’re seeking to achieve will come to fruition, and you’ll see the completion, and feel rewarded”.

I wonder if you’re feeling weary today, or losing heart about something you’re doing. Have you started something which you feel sure God’s laid on your heart, but it’s all taking longer, or proving much more difficult, than you first expected? Are you wondering when, or if ever, you’ll see the harvest of your efforts?

We may just need to ‘keep on keeping on’, because it’s just a matter of time until the ‘due season’ arrives, or maybe we need some rest to catch our breath, so we can re-focus on the goal, and push onward with renewed determination. Perhaps we need some extra support in prayer, or practical help, before we can totally reap the reward

If you’re feeling tired of doing good, you can ask God to refresh you, to refocus you and to give you a new determination to complete the work He’s put before you. Then you will, in the fullness of His perfect timing, see the end results of your efforts, and have the delight of hearing His ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’.

Prayer: Father God, You’ve called me, and trusted me to do good works, Kingdom works for You, in ways You’ve planned for me. Thank You that, if, and when, I grow weary, I can turn to You for refreshing, re-inspiring and re-energizing to continue with those good works. Please speak Your encouragement to me today. I ask it in the precious name of Jesus. Amen.


* What does Ellel mean?

Ellel Ministries takes its name from its first building in England, Ellel Grange, which is near the village of Ellel, in Lancashire.

In old English, the name Ellel means ‘All hail’ which means ‘All glory to God’
In Hebrew, Ellel means ‘towards God’
In Mandarin Chinese, it means ‘love flowing outwards (愛流).

So Ellel could be said to mean ‘All hail, Jesus, All glory to Him’ and be expressed as ‘Love flowing outwards’ into a fallen and broken world, where we are helping people move ‘towards God’. It is all for His glory.

February 15, 2016

The Purpose of Blessing

 

Today another new author: Robin Patchen lives in Edmond, Oklahoma and is the author of three books and blogs at Quid Pro Quills. Following today’s post is a link to a second part. Or you can click the link below to read this at source, and then come back here to find the link to part two.

Why God Wants to Bless You

I was in church a few weeks ago when the Lord whispered to my soul words I never thought I’d hear from God. “I don’t want to bless you.”

I immediately tuned out the pastor. “What was that, Lord?” Surely I’d heard him wrong.

Another minute or two passed while I waited. Finally, probably when God had my full attention, he continued: “I don’t want to bless you . . . for your sake alone.”

Oh. Phew.

Wait, what?

Then he brought to my mind a passage of scripture I’d memorized many years before. Psalm 1:1-3:

Olive TreeBlessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

I’d first memorized those words when I was a young Christian. One of the reasons I loved it was that last line—“In all that he does, he prospers.” I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I thought of that in financial terms. Oh, I knew the verse didn’t necessarily promise me riches, but I figured my chances were much better to get rich if I followed God, and with all our financial woes at the time, prosperity sounded pretty good.

Through the years, I came to understand that the tree flourished because of its deep roots—a strong connection to God. It flourished because the river flowed near it—like the living waters of Christ that fill us and bless us. So the prosperity spoken of in verse 3 has everything to do with the blessings of being connected to Christ.

That Sunday in church, the Lord spoke again to my heart. “What does the tree do?” he asked.

I closed my eyes and imagined a tree like the Psalmist might’ve been looking at, one standing in the arid Israeli soil, maybe even a tree in an oasis in the desert. I had to dig pretty deep to some old science lessons, but I came up with a list.

A tree:

*Provides shade
*Acts as a wind barrier
*Provides shelter in a storm
*Absorbs rain that would otherwise runoff or evaporate
*Converts carbon dioxide to oxygen
*Becomes a home for birds, animals, and insects
*Provides fruit, which becomes food, then seeds to reproduce itself

There was more, though. Picture that tree in the midst of a desert, standing high above the sand. It shows people where the water is. A tree would be a welcome sight to a weary, thirsty traveler.

So if I live my life the way I should (see verse 1) and delight myself in God’s word (verse 2) he will make me like this tree. And what does this flourishing tree do?

*It provides shade from the world—protection from penetrating rays of judgment.
*It acts as a barrier as the enemy hurls his accusations like a strong wind.
*It provides shelter from the many storms of life.
*It absorbs nourishment, so others can grow nearby.
*It illustrates how God can convert the ugly output of our lives into blessing.
*It offers a shelter to anyone who seeks it.
*It feeds the hungry and, through its work, reproduces itself.
*It acts as a beacon, drawing weary travelers to the life-giving water of Jesus Christ.

And think about this: which of those blessings benefit the tree? None of them. God makes that tree flourish to provide his living creatures with what they need. In the same way, God blesses us so that we can love the souls he puts in our lives. He makes us to stand tall, so more of his weary children will find their way home.

God doesn’t want to bless you for your sake alone. He wants to bless the world through you. Soak in God’s truth, my friends. There are travelers seeking the living water, and you may be the only tree in their desert.


continue reading the follow-up article A Planting of the Lord

December 23, 2015

When Christmas Goes Off the Rails

•••by Clarke Dixon

Christmas always seems so picture perfect in the cards we give and receive, yet Christmas can go off the rails so quickly becoming more like Christmess. What are we to do when it seems the devil has his horrid hands in our lives during this most wonderful time of the year? Perhaps your Christmas is not shaping up to be the picture perfect scene worthy of a Christmas card.

Christmas is found in the book of Revelation and it has something to teach us about Christmas in the midst of a mess:

1 A great portent appeared in heaven:a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth. 3 Then another portent appeared in heaven:a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born. 5 And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. But her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his throne; 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, so that there she can be nourished for one thousand two hundred sixty days (Revelation 12:1-6 emphasis mine)

Granted it is only one verse, but there it is, the birth of Jesus, Christmas in Revelation. Did you notice anything about this Christmas? Looking at the verses before and after, this first Christmas is a messy one, with the evil one lurking and looking to destroy.

It will help us to consider what is happening in these verses and we can begin by considering the identity of the woman about to give birth. Notice that within a few verses we have a) a woman, b) agony in childbirth, and c) a serpent. Do you remember the last time we found these three things together in scripture? Yes, in Genesis 3 at the Fall. The Serpent tempts Eve and comes under a curse including this prophecy:

15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel (Genesis 3:15)

Eve succumbs to the temptation and also is cursed:

16 To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, . . .” (Genesis 3:16)

What we have in Genesis 12:1-4 is the history of the world from Eve great with potential to Mary great with child. In fact in chapter 12 of Revelation we have a snapshot of the history of the world from Eve to the situation today with a break to consider the victory of Jesus in verses 7-12. But how would this history lesson help the original readers of the book of Revelation who were facing great persecution in their day? And how can this history lesson help us today? It helped them, and helps us now, by taking us out from our troubles to see the big picture. And in looking at the big picture there are certain things we can learn:

First, the devil and his schemes are real, so expect a mess. According to Revelation 12 we should expect evil to be alive and well and we should expect to suffer the effects:

But woe to the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you with great wrath, . . . . Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her children, those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus. (Revelation 12:12,17)

Are you surrounded by mess and misery this Christmas? Do not be surprised, this is normal in a Fallen world.

Second, the devil’s nasty work is temporary. Thanks to the baby mentioned in verse 5, the evil one’s days are numbered. He has a “best before date,” or in this case a “worst before date”:

But woe to the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you with great wrath, because he knows that his time is short. (Revelation 12:12 emphasis mine)

Are you surrounded by mess and misery this Christmas? This too shall pass.

Third, the devil’s schemes cannot ruin the purposes and plans of God. In Revelation 12 we see an allusion to Herod’s plan to destroy the infant Jesus. We know that did not happen and the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus all happened according to plan. Additionally, many verses in chapter 12 point to God’s protection of His people:

. . . and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, so that there she can be nourished (Revelation 12:6) . . .the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle, so that she could fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to her place where she is nourished (Revelation 12:14) . . . the earth came to the help of the woman (Revelation 12:16). . .

Are you surrounded by mess and misery this Christmas? God has a plan. We ought not assume His plan does not include our own death at some point. God’s plans go way bigger than that.

Fourth, the devil is already defeated. The devil is a deceiver, but he is also known in the Bible as an accuser. Indeed this is what the very term Satan means. Satan is spoken of in the Old Testament as standing in the court of God, ready to accuse. We might think of the first chapter of Job where Satan accuses Job of loving God only because life was good. Satan is portrayed as the one who can stand before God and say “look at this guy, or look at that woman, they are deserving of destruction.” And Satan could stand before God and say of you and I, “look what they did, look how undeserving they are.” And we give him plenty to talk about don’t we? Except he cannot do that, for he is not there. He has been thrown down:

7 And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming,

“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Messiah,
for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down,
who accuses them day and night before our God. (Revelation 12:7-10)

Far from winning a hearing in the presence of God, Satan has been conquered. While the passage speaks of the angel Michael leading the fight, it is really speaking about Jesus and trust in Him:

11 But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not cling to life even in the face of death. (Revelation 12:11)

Keeping all this in mind let us think of the Apostle Paul’s words:

31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39)

Are you surrounded by mess and misery this Christmas? There is good news of great joy, for God has made possible a rescue from the greatest misery possible, eternal separation from God. In Jesus we have eternal life ahead with no dragons.

When the Christmas train goes off the rails, when it seems Satan has his evil hands all over your life, look at the big picture and remember that the final destination is Christ and His arms of love. Need a hug this Christmas? You are already in His embrace.

All scripture references are taken from the NRSV

 

November 12, 2015

We Were Created to “Do”

This week I paid a return visit to What’s Best Next, the blog of Matt Perman, only to discover that since I was last there, Zondervan has released the book, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done. The following is adapted from the book and can also be read at source by clicking the title below.

To Be Productive is to Be Fruitful in Good Works

What Does God Want Done?

Good works. What God wants done are good works.

We see this right in Matthew 5:16, where Jesus sums up for us the entire purpose of our lives:

“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

That is the purpose of the Christian life summed up for us in one sentence. The entire purpose of our lives—what God wants from us—is to do good for others, to the glory of God.

We also see this in one of the most important passages on productivity in the Bible—Ephesians 2:8-10:

“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. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Likewise, Titus 2:14 tells us that Jesus

“gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”

And Jesus says in John 15:16,

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.”

Being Fruitful in Good Works

Hence, good works are part of the purpose of our salvation. In one sense we have been doubly created for good works. God created us to do good works, as we see in the creation mandate in Genesis, and here we see that we are also re-created in Christ to do good works.

Productive things, then, are things that do good. Productivity always has to be understood in relation to a goal, and God’s goal is that we do good works.

Hence, we can define productivity in this way: to be productive is to be fruitful in good works. 

Adapted from What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done.


Today’s song is by Keith Green and was suggested by the devotional reading.

October 18, 2015

The New Community

Yesterday’s reading was quite long; today I want to give you more time to look at it. So we have a reading and a few notes from commentaries at BibleGateway.com

Ephesians 1:17-23 New International Version (NIV)

17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[a] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

If you wanted to just stop there and read this passage just one more time (out loud is even better) that’s fine, otherwise here are some supplementary notes on this passage.

  • The Reformation Study Bible gives us a good introduction:

First, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in believers (2:4, 5; 3:16, 17). Second, Christ enjoys His position as head over everything for the sake of the church. Not only is Christ at the most exalted position in the universe, He is there representing believers (2:6; Col. 3:3) and governing the universe for their sake. The principles of conduct in Ephesians emphasize that authority exists for the sake of service.

  • The Encyclopedia of the Bible on what is meant by the phrase “the church”:

In 1 Corinthians and Romans the phrase indicates the local church, and emphasizes the unity of its members and their harmonious working together according to the varying functions God has assigned by His Spirit to each (Rom 12:4-8; 1 Cor 12:4-31). Paul does not think of Christ as head of the body in these epistles (1 Cor 12:21). In Paul’s later letters, Ephesians and Colossians, reference is to the universal Church, of which Christ is the head (Eph 1:22, 23; 4:15, 16; 5:23; Col 1:18; 2:19). Each member is related to Christ as the directing, controlling center. The unity emphasized in Ephesians is that of Jew and Gentile in the one body (Eph 2:11-16; 3:6; 4:4) while in Colossians the unity of the whole cosmos under Christ’s headship is in view (Col 1:16-19; 2:10).

The origin of Paul’s thought of the Church as the body of Christ has been sought in four fields: (1) the communal participation in the communion bread, as suggested by 1 Corinthians 10:16, 17; (2) the Stoic description of an ecclesia, a public meeting, as a united body composed of different independent persons; (3) the meaning of the “corporate personality” of Israel in the OT, as in the figure of the vine (Ps 80:8); (4) the close identification of Christ with Christians, as for example in their sufferings (Acts 9:4, 5; Col 1:24).

Some regard the phrase as indicating that the Church is the extension of the incarnation, but it is better understood metaphorically, signifying the unity of believers in the Church, a unity which depends upon Christ.

  • Finally, an excerpt from The Asbury Bible Commentary:

Vv. 20b-22a are creedal in regard to the present role of the risen Son, although they also demonstrate the scope of divine power. Not only did the Father raise the Son from death, but he made him co-regent, with authority far above all [human] rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given on earth. Jesus has authority and dominion both now and in the age to come. Furthermore, God gave Jesus supremacy over all creation (cf. 1Co 15:28) and gave him to the church, his body, as its supreme Head.

Here, then, is the new community, the called-out ones (ekklesia), from both Judaism and paganism that now constitute the church. By divine power and appointment Christ now presides over the church the fullness [or complement] of him who fills everything and provides all spiritual vitality. The fulfillment of the Father’s purpose for the Son is his lordship over the church. Jesus, who fills the whole universe with his presence and governs the entire creation with his given authority, finds his completion as Head of the body, the church. A head without a body is incomplete. As the body renders the head complete, so the church fulfills God’s purpose for Christ.


Footnotes:

  1. Ephesians 1:17 Or a spirit

If there are any passages you would like to see covered here, feel free to write.

 

January 29, 2015

Persevering Grace

Our goal at Christianity 201 is to provide representation from a wide swath of doctrinal and denominational perspectives. Today’s bears both the perspective and the language of the Reformed or Calvinist tradition. This is Richard Phillips on

God’s faithfulness to preserve His own

 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

Philippians 1:6 develops the theme of God’s preserving grace—which ensures the perseverance of His own—in three points.

First, Paul reminds us that since God has begun our salvation, we can rely on Him to complete it: “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.” God always finishes what He starts, especially the salvation of His people.

It is in this way that God’s preserving grace fits with the other doctrines of grace. God the Father chose us in eternity past, and the Bible says that God’s purpose in election must prevail (Rom. 9:11). God the Son offered an atoning sacrifice for these same elect people. Should they fall into condemnation, then His blood would have been shed for them in vain. But He insists that not one of them shall perish and none shall be plucked from His hand (John 10:28). Likewise, the Holy Spirit brought these same elect sheep to eternal life by the irresistible working of His grace. Should eternal life be lost, the Spirit’s work would prove ineffective. Therefore, as faith is the gift of God’s grace, the Christian’s perseverance is the work of God’s continuing grace.

Second, Paul says that God, having begun His work in our lives, “will bring it” to completion. This indicates that God not only guarantees the completion of our salvation, but is actively involved in the believer’s life to bring this to pass. God works in our lives in the way a craftsman works to finish a product he has created. He smooths out the lines, sands the rough places, and puts its pieces together in proper proportion. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes:

God does not merely initiate the work and then leave it, he continues with it; he leads us on, directing and manipulating our circumstances, restraining us at one time and urging us on at another. Paul’s whole conception of the Church is that it is a place where God is working in the hearts of men and women.

God’s work is manifested in His will playing out in our lives. This is what Paul says a bit later in Philippians: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:1–213). Being a Christian is not easy. Persevering in faith requires warfare with sin, labor in prayer, plowing in God’s Word, and performing His will in the world. We are God’s workmanship, Paul says, and this means we are called to “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). God will see to it that His work for each of us is carried to completion. By His preserving grace, He will carry us to our destination in heaven. We are called to work this out, but, Paul insists, God is all the while working it in us (Phil. 2:13).

Third, we can see in Philippians 1:6 our certainty of successful “completion” if God’s saving work truly has begun in us. Far from dreading the future, as we must if we look for signs of hope within ourselves, every believer possesses a hope that is certain for the most joyful, glorious, and holy destiny through faith in Jesus.

One of the reasons I love Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress is the portrait he paints of the eternity God has secured for every believer. Speaking of the believer’s entry into heaven, he writes:

I saw in my dream the two men enter the gate. As they did, they were transfigured. They had garments that shined like gold. Harps and crowns were given them. The harps for praise and the crowns for honor. Then I heard in my dream all the bells in the city rang again for joy. It was said to them, “Enter into the joy of your Lord.”

This may be a fanciful rendering from the Bible’s promises, but still it is our future history and not fantasy. For as Paul insists, God brings us to completion. One of the meanings of the Greek word translated as “bring to completion” is “bring to perfection.” That is what God has promised to do for every sheep who hears Christ’s voice and who shows the reality of his or her faith by following after Him through life. Whatever hardships, disappointments, or failures await us in this world, a Christian can anticipate the certain fulfillment of David’s exultant words in Psalm 16:11: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Terribly flawed though we all are now, God will bring our journey to completion and us to perfection, so that arrayed in perfect holiness we will live forever in His love.

This excerpt is adapted from What’s So Great about the Doctrines of Grace? by Richard Phillips

January 13, 2015

Our Death is not God’s Desire

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:29 pm
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This week we got to hear author Mark Buchanan, and he shed some light on a particular scripture verse I had previously rushed through.

2 Samuel 14:14 Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him. (NIV)

The whole chapter is more than interesting. Basically, Joab finds a woman to deliver a prophetic word to King David in a situation that somewhat parallels David’s encounter with the prophet Nathan. (At one point David basically says, “Did Joab put you up to this?)

The MacLaren Commentary:

David’s good-for-nothing son Absalom had brought about the murder of one of his brothers, and had fled the country. His father weakly loved the brilliant blackguard, and would fain have had him back, but was restrained by a sense of kingly duty. Joab, the astute Commander-in-chief, a devoted friend of David, saw how the land lay, and formed a plan to give the king an excuse for doing what he wished to do. So he got hold of a person who is called ‘a wise woman’ from the country, dressed her as a mourner, and sent her with an ingeniously made-up story of how she was a widow with two sons, one of whom had killed the other, and of how the relatives insisted on their right of avenging blood, and demanded the surrender of the murderer; by which, as she pathetically said, ‘the coal’ that was left her would be ‘quenched.’ The king’s sympathy was quickly roused-as was natural in so impulsive and poetic a nature-and he pledged his word, and finally his oath, that the offender should be safe.

So the woman has him in a trap, having induced him to waive justice and to absolve the guilty by an arbitrary act. Then she turns upon him with an application to his own case, and bids him free himself from the guilt of double measures and inconsistency by doing with his banished son the same thing-viz. abrogating law and bringing back the offender. In our text she urges still higher considerations-viz. those of God’s way of treating criminals against His law, of whom she says that He spares their lives, and devises means-or, as the words might perhaps be rendered, ‘plans plannings’-by which He may bring them back. She would imply that human power and sovereignty are then noblest and likest God’s when they remit penalties and restore wanderers.

Mark Buchanan pointed out that verse 14 is richer, that the woman breaks into a commentary here on the purpose of God for mankind. Outside the realm of Bible commentary, someone might say that verse 14 is more philosophical.

Matthew Henry writes:

Here are two great instances of the mercy of God to sinners, properly urged as reasons for showing mercy:

First, The patience he exercises towards them. His law is broken, yet he does not immediately take away the life of those that break it, does not strike sinners dead, as justly he might, in the act of sin, but bears with them, and waits to be gracious. God’s vengeance had suffered Absalom to live; why then should not David’s justice suffer him?

Secondly, The provision he has made for their restoration to his favor, that though by sin they have banished themselves from him, yet they might not be expelled, or cast off, for ever. Atonement might be made for sinners by sacrifice. Lepers, and others ceremonially unclean, were banished, but provision was made for their cleansing, that, though for a time excluded, they might not be finally expelled. The state of sinners is a state of banishment from God. Poor banished sinners are likely to be for ever expelled from God if some course be not taken to prevent it. It is against the mind of God that they should be so, for he is not willing that any should perish. Infinite wisdom has devised proper means to prevent it; so that it is the sinners’ own fault if they be cast off. This instance of God’s good-will toward us all should incline us to be merciful and compassionate one towards another, Matt. 18:32, 33.

For more depth on this verse, check out The Biblical Illustrator commentary at this link. It can be a bit overwhelming. Most of the print commentaries I own tended to skip over it, and much of the online discussion has to do with challenges to the translation itself.  Still, I find something in this passage that I think can speak to us, and to end, I’ll leave us with a few other renderings of it:

14 We are all going to die; we are all like water that is poured on the ground and can’t be gathered up. But doesn’t God forgive a person? He never plans to keep a banished person in exile. (GW)

14 We all die sometime. Water spilled on the ground can’t be gathered up again. But God does not take away life. He works out ways to get the exile back. (Peterson)

14 All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him. (NLT)

14 Everyone dies—we are like water spilled in the dust that can’t be reclaimed. But God will not waste a life—He won’t allow the banished one to be exiled permanently from His presence. (The Voice*)


 

*Here, I think The Voice may go beyond what the other versions are saying; it might be thought to presuppose universalism; whereas the NIV and GW speaks of God’s ideal intention, and Peterson and the NLT seem to leave it open to us to respond, which was also in keeping with Buchanan’s sermon about saying ‘yes’ to God.

October 26, 2014

Why Trials Come: Two Reasons

Today’s article was submitted by Kimberly David who blogs at Excellent Way and is part of a women’s blog collective called The Loft. To check out her blog, read today’s article at source by clicking the title below, and then look around at other entries.

2 Reasons for Trials and Suffering

“Life is pain…Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.”
-Westley, The Princess Bride

We all know life hurts.  While at times we may enjoy the sunshine of the mountain peaks, we are bound to spend some time in the dark valleys too.  Thankfully we have a promise:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

God promises to bring everything together for our good, for our benefit…if we love Him.  But what benefit can be derived from pain?  How can trials and suffering be good?  What reason does God have to bring difficulty into His children’s lives?  This past week or so, I’ve been contemplating two key reasons for trials and suffering.

1. God Uses Trials and Suffering to Prove Us

The book of Job is an amazing case study for trials intended for proving us.  In Job 1, we see Satan coming to account for himself before God.  While he is there, God offers up a challenge of sorts:

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
Job 1: 8

And thus the gauntlet is thrown, for Satan is sure no man would serve God without ample compensation.  After all, Job was wealthy, healthy, and happy.  Why shouldn’t he serve God?  But what would he do stripped of all the fruffery and “extra comforts” of this life?  Would he still serve God?

The next eighteen verses lay out the destruction of all that Job held dear.  In these few verses we read about the loss of Job’s livestock, his children, and eventually his health.  His reaction in Job 1:21 still amazes me:

“Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.

The rest of the book is a revelation of hearts.  We see Jobs heart as he grieves in silence with his friends.  We see his friends’ hearts as they strive to encourage Job to a just life.  In the end, we get a rare glimpse of Heaven, as God speaks to Job himself, revealing His heart and His power.

God-uses-the-trials-and

The book of Job is a prime example of God using trials and suffering to prove us.  The trials put in Job’s life revealed/proved the nature of Job’s heart.  Job’s heartache proved that his devotion to God was not dependent upon pleasant circumstances.

Trials and suffering have a unique ability to bring out the true nature of our hearts.  Pressure and pain reveal the hidden darkness and sin, or the deep foundation of a true dependence on the Lord.  When we know the true state of our heart, we are better prepared to submit to the cleansing, perfecting guidance of the Lord.

In the midst of all the turmoil, Job presents some of the most comforting and encouraging words about trails that prove us.  Job 23:10 says:

But he knows the way that I take;
    when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.

Just as gold is refined, God uses trials and suffering in our lives to burn off the dross and purify our hearts.

 

2. God Uses Trials and Suffering to Prepare Us

The book of Job has 42 chapters dedicated to the story of Jobs trials, but another Bible character’s woes are summed up in a few simple words. 1 Samuel 1 introduces us to a man, Elkanah, and his wife, Hannah.  Verse two brings us to the heart of the trouble:

“But Hannah had no children.”

As our family read through this passage recently, I was touched by three small words in verse 7:

“Year by year.”

Elkanah was a godly man, and he went to worship the Lord as was required of the Jews.  He went up for an offering to the Lord “Year by year.”  You may be wondering why I felt this was significant.  It wasn’t for Elkanah’s faithfulness; rather it was for Hannah’s suffering.

Job tells a hard tale: the loss of everything precious.  Job has a whole book dedicated to his suffering.  We watch his journey.  We see the proving of his heart.

Hannah’s story is similarly heart wrenching.  She hasn’t lost the desires of her heart, she simply cannot attain them.  But her story is not the focus of an entire book.  Instead, her suffering and trials are limited to a few scattered words: year by year she had no children.

So why did Job’s story get a book while Hannah’s was barely cliff notes?  I think one very important reason is the purpose of their suffering.  Job is the poster child for proving trials.  But that isn’t what God had in store for Hannah.  Hannah’s trials weren’t focused on proving her.  God was preparing her.

In 1 Samuel 1:10 we see Hannah leaving her husband’s commemorative feast for some time alone with God.

In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly.

Hannah’s heart was constantly, painfully aware of her childless condition.  However, this time of worship and praise was particularly painful for her.  Her husband’s second wife (I know, bad idea) constantly goaded Hannah about her lack of children.  But when the time of worship came, jealousy goaded her to provoke Hannah even more.

In her distraught condition, she made a vow to God:

And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life...”
1 Samuel 1:11

Her desire for a child drove her to an extreme sacrifice.  If God would give her a son, she would give him back.  He would work in the temple and be a full time servant of the Lord from his youth.  She was willing to sacrifice the special moments she would have had raising him, if the Lord would simply be willing to let her have him.

Hannahs-trials

Now let’s imagine we could erase a few words from Hannah’s story.  What if we could remove the trial, the year by year that Hannah had no children.

  • Do you think this new, un-suffering Hannah would have begged for a son only to give Him up?
  • Do you think this new, pain free Hannah would have been willing to dedicate her unborn child to a life of service far away from her?
  • Do you think this happy wife would have even thought of such things?

Hannah’s trials were necessary, because they prepared her for what she needed to do.  Her trials put her in a place to offer her greatest treasure in service of the Heavenly King.  Her suffering gave Israel one of it’s greatest prophets: Samuel.
Sometimes the pain, the suffering of life, can seem senseless…meaningless.  After all, where is the sense in the death of ten beloved, adult children or the loss of all you own?  Where is the meaning in year after year of the same devastating bareness?

When we face these questions, when we are drowning in the pain, we must remember, God has promised to work all things for our good if we love Him.  Sometimes the trials will prove us.  Sometimes they will prepare us for the path ahead.  But they will always propel us in the way God has planned for us.

June 12, 2014

God’s Plan for You is Clearly Defined

Susan and Jen take turns writing posts at the blog The Free Slave’s Devotional. Susan posted this one two weeks ago under the title God’s Plan, God’s Will.  I encourage you to click through and look around the rest of the blog.

Be at peace among yourselves. And we exhort you, brothers: warn those who are lazy, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always purse what is good for one another and for all.  Rejoice always.  Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:13-18

I can’t think about being a part of God’s plan without running into the concept of “God’s Will.”  I capitalized that on purpose, because so many Christians, including myself, tend to capitalize it in our hearts.  Surely, we think, God has a plan for me, a specific plan, so I need to spend lots of time worrying and praying over which college to attend, which person to marry, which job to take.  If I don’t get it right, I might be out of “God’s Will.”

But I’m not sure it works that way.  He pretty clearly lays out His Will right in these verses:

  1. Be at peace among yourselves
  2. Warn the lazy.
  3. Comfort the discouraged.
  4. Help the weak.
  5. Be patient with everyone.
  6. Don’t pay back evil with evil.
  7. Pursue what is good for one another.
  8. Rejoice always.
  9. Pray constantly.
  10. Give thanks in everything.

Nowhere in there does he say I’ve got to pick the “right” spouse or job or country in which to live.  But rather, wherever I live, wherever I work, I need to treat others around me in these ways.

And if I do, I am joining God in His plan.  When I choose not to repay an evil, I am showing my offender God’s grace – undoubtedly His will for my life and the life of the guy who did me wrong. When I am patient with my children, I am joining God in his plan to rear them to adore a patient God. When I comfort a weeping friend, when I help a struggling student, when I make decisions with others in mind instead of just my own gain – I am following God’s will, joining in his plan.  Who else will comfort that woman if I do not?  It is God’s Will that she be comforted.

The other stuff, the big, life-changing decisions, well, if God has an opinion on those, He’ll certainly let me know.  Sometimes, He does.  But if He doesn’t speak from Heaven, I think I can exercise my right as a daughter of the King. Sometimes, a princess gets to pick whatever she likes best, as long as the choice doesn’t go outside of God’s boundaries found in His Bible.

It’s living in the aftermath of those choices that show whether I am truly following God’s will.  In this job, the one I chose, will I treat my coworkers compassionately?  With this husband, the one I chose, will I put his needs before my own?

Father, may I join you in your plan today, right where I am at. Show me Your Will.

 

February 10, 2013

Spurgeon: Parallels Between Grace and Rain

This was posted in September at the blog Grace Guy, and turned up on my screen just yesterday.  In many denominational circles, C. H. Spurgeon is a most-quoted classic author; you can read more about him here.

Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder; To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein there is no man; To satisfy the desolate and waste ground; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth? Job 38:25-27

God challenges man to compare with his Maker even in the one matter of the rain. Can he create it? Can he send a shower upon the desert, to water the lone herbs which else would perish in the burning heat? No, he would not even think of doing such a thing. That generous act comes of the Lord alone.

We shall work out a parallel between grace and rain.

I. GOD ALONE GIVES RAIN, AND THE SAME IS TRUE OF GRACE.

  • We say of rain and of grace, God is the sole Author of it.
  • He devised and prepared the channel by which it comes to earth. He hath “divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters.” The Lord makes a way for grace to reach his people.
  • He directs each drop, and gives each blade of grass its own drop of dew, to every believer his portion of grace.
  • He moderates the force, so that it does not beat down or drown the tender herb. Grace comes in its own gentle way. Conviction, enlightenment, etc., are sent in due measure.
  • He holds it in his power. Absolutely at his own will does God bestow either rain for the earth, or grace for the soul.

II. RAIN FALLS IRRESPECTIVE OF MEN, AND SO DOES GRACE.

  • Grace waits not man’s observation. As the rain falls where no man is, so grace courts not publicity.
  • Nor his cooperation. It ”tarries not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men” (Mic. 5:7).
  • Nor his prayers. Grass calls not for rain, yet it comes. ”I am found of them that sought me not” (Isa. 65:1).
  • Nor his merits. Rain falls on the waste ground.
  • “Ah, grace, into unlikeliest hearts, It is thy wont to come; The glory of thy light to find; In darkest spots a home.”

III. RAIN FALLS WHERE WE MIGHT LEAST HAVE EXPECTED IT.

  • It falls where there is no trace of former showers, even upon the desolate wilderness: so does grace enter hearts which had hitherto been unblessed, where great need was the only plea which rose to heaven (Isa. 35:7).
  • It falls where there seems nothing to repay the boon. Many hearts are naturally as barren as the desert (Isa. 35:6).
  • It falls where the need seems insatiable, “to satisfy the desolate.” Some cases seem to demand an ocean of grace, but the Lord meets the need; and his grace falls where the joy and glory are all directed to God by grateful hearts. Twice we are told that the rain falls “where no man is.” When conversion is wrought of the Lord, no man is seen. The Lord alone is exalted.

IV. THIS RAIN IS MOST VALUED BY LIFE.

  • The rain gives joy to seeds and plants in which there is life. Budding life knows of it; the tenderest herb rejoices in it. So is it with those who begin to repent, who feebly believe, and thus are just alive.
  • The rain causes development. Grace also perfects grace. Buds of hope grow into strong faith. Buds of feeling expand into love. Buds of desire rise to resolve. Buds of confession come to open avowal. Buds of usefulness swell into fruit.
  • The rain causes health and vigour of life. Is it not so with grace?
  • The rain creates the flower with its colour and perfume, and God is pleased. The full outgrowth of renewed nature comes of grace, and the Lord is well pleased therewith.
  • Let us acknowledge the sovereignty of God as to grace.
  • Let us cry to him for grace.
  • Let us expect him to send it, though we may feel sadly barren, and quite out of the way of the usual means of grace.

~ Charles Spurgeon

April 3, 2012

Wesley Duewel Quotations

Don’t usually do back-to-back quotation posts, but after reading the Mark Wilson book I quoted here on Sunday and reviewed at Thinking out Loud on Monday, I was reminded of author Wesley Duewel;  a former president of OMS International and missionary to India for 25 years, Dr. Duewel is also the author of Ablaze for God, Mighty Prevailing Prayer, More God, More Power, Revival Fire. and Touch the World Through Prayer. The first four quotes here are all from his biography, as cited at Daily Christian Quote.


Prayer has mighty power to move mountains because the Holy Spirit is ready both to encourage our praying and to remove the mountains hindering us. Prayer has the power to change mountains into highways.


The greatest privilege God gives to you is the freedom to approach Him at any time. You are not only authorized to speak to Him; you are invited. You are not only permitted; you are expected. God waits for you to communicate with Him. You have instant, direct access to God. God loves mankind so much, and in a very special sense His children, that He has made Himself available to you at all times.


All other passions build upon or flow from your passion for Jesus. A passion for souls grows out of a passion for Christ. A passion for missions builds upon a passion for Christ. When Hudson Taylor was once asked what was the greatest incentive to missionary work, he instantly replied, “Love of Christ.” William Booth’s passion for helping the underprivileged, the derelicts of society, and for world evangelization was built upon his passion for Christ. The most crucial danger to a Christian, whatever his role, is to lack a passion of Christ. The most direct route to personal renewal and new effectiveness is a new all-consuming passion for Jesus. Lord, give us this passion, whatever the cost!


God delights to plan for His children. No human father ever experienced such joy in planning for his child as God experiences as He plans for you. He does not want you to miss any part of His beautiful purpose for you. His plans are filled with details of blessing, joy, and wonderful surprises. David said, “The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare”


Prayers prayed in the Spirit never die until they accomplish God’s intended purpose. His answer may not be what we expected, or when we expected it, but God often provides much more abundantly than we could think or ask. He interprets our intent and either answers or stores up our prayers. Sincere prayers are never lost. Energy, time, love, and longing can be endowments that will never be wasted or go unrewarded. (from Touch the World Through Prayer)


God cannot tolerate lukewarmness. Prayer feeds on flame. It is the fiery intercessors who conquer. Such burning desire makes intercession invincible. Desire is the flame within; intercession is the flame leaping out to God.

White-hot prayer burns its way through obstacles to the throne of God. A burning heart is your best preparation for prayer. Fiery prayer is the intensity born of the Holy Spirit. The fire of the Spirit baptizes your heart as a prayer warrior and empowers your praying. If your prayers are not touched with holy fire, you have not yet felt the heartbeat of God. To be absorbed in God’s will, God’s purpose, God’s zeal, and God’s glory will set your heart and prayer aflame.

Heaven pays little attention to casual requests. God is not moved by feeble desires, listless prayers, and spiritual laziness. God rejoices to see a soul on fire with holy passion as the heart reaches out to Him. (from Touch the World Through Prayer)






June 17, 2011

Dream Dashed or Dream Deferred?

What do you do when the plan isn’t coming together?  Steven Furtick talks about this in a piece I called Dream Dashed or Dream Deferred; which he called Not Ever vs. Not Now.

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.
Acts 16:6

The Holy Spirit prevented them from preaching the Word.

This doesn’t seem to go together. The Holy Spirit is the one who inspired the Word. He’s the one giving them the power to preach the Word. But now He is keeping them from preaching the Word?

The key here is that little phrase, “in the province of Asia.” Paul wanted to go to Asia to preach the Word. It was one of his goals, his dreams. And in a few chapters, he would. But not now. Instead the Holy Spirit stopped him and led him to other cities to preach first. And the response was incredible.

Sometimes God will prevent us from a certain goal at a time that does not coincide with His will. It’s not that we’re not doing what’s right. It’s just that we’re not doing it with the right timing.

He’s not saying not ever. He’s just saying not now.

Maybe it’s because we’re not yet equipped for it.
Maybe it’s because the eventual environment God is going to have us in isn’t fully developed yet.

Whatever the reason, you’re not ready for it. Or it’s not ready for you.  You always have to remember: what you think is good timing is not always God’s timing.

If you feel like your dreams are stalling or your goals are in a holding pattern, don’t assume you’ve made a mistake and it’s not going to happen. Paul eventually went to Asia. You’ll eventually get to your goal or dream too.

In the meantime, you’ll just have to trust that if God is preventing you from getting somewhere, it’s because you’re exactly where you need to be. For now.

Pastor Steven Furtick; Elevation Church, Charlotte, NC

Digging a little deeper

What’s in a word? Plenty, it turns out when that word is “anthropos;” the Greek word meaning “person” referring to humankind in general, from which we get the word “anthropology.”  A major Christian denomination is removing its support from the new revision to the New International Version of the Bible (NIV) because of what it calls “gender neutral” language.  But were certain passages written just to men, or were they written to everyone?  Do we sometimes let our preferences get in the way of hearing what scripture is truly saying?  Is the genderless language in the 2011 NIV a bad translation, or is it the correct translation?  Read more at Thinking Out Loud.

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