Christianity 201

January 1, 2019

The First Month of Your Year

by Russell Young

A new year! The first day of the year is often considered as a new beginning. Reflection is given to the things in life that could be improved by change or by greater commitment. The LORD spoke of a new year to the Israelites. On the day they were redeemed (2 Sam 7:23; 1 Chr 17:21) from bondage in Egypt the LORD said, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.” (Ex 12:2) They had been given a new beginning with great promise. The LORD was to lead them through his servant Moses into a new life and into the Land of Promise, a land flowing with “milk and honey”.

Gentiles who have committed themselves to God through faith have been offered a similar promise and a similar hope. Although believers have not been set free from earthly kings, they do enjoy the hope of an eternal city and the presence of their God.

A new calendar year can provide opportunity for those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb to reflect on the progress of their own spiritual journey. We might do well to remember that although 600,000 men plus all the women and children left Egypt, only Caleb and Joshua made it into that promised land. All had begun their journey with hope but after forty years of testing most died in the wilderness. “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” (Deut 8:2) Following redemption comes testing!

Contrary to the teaching of some, not all the redeemed will find a presence in God’s eternal kingdom. Perhaps the new year is a good time to reflect on the Lord’s admonition: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 7:21 Italics added) God’s righteous requirements (Rom 8:4) must be met through obedience to the Holy Spirit.

The journey of the committed, of believers, is not easy and is not without testing (1 Thess 2:4) and trials. (Mt 24:9) Like Caleb and Joshua, the person who would enter the Promised Land must be found authentic when confronted with faith challenges (Mt 10:22) and must pursue a walk of obedience. (Heb 5:9) Satan would tempt believers to coast along the road of life and to appease their own desires and interests. As Satan said to Eve, “Did God really say…?” (Gen 3:1) and like Eve many will be led astray. He will tempt those in the Lord to trust that the fruit of the world is desirable and to be enjoyed without cost. Confessors have been admonished concerning the need to die to self (2 Cor 4:11; Col 3:5; Lk 9:24) and to live for Christ, however.

Satan would encourage people to pursue their own worldly desires, comforts, and carnal pleasures and this world has bought into his deceptions; however, the goal of believers is to be much different. It is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” (Lk 10:27) (Such a statement should be taken as a requirement, and not accepted as an exaggerated proclamation.) Losing a few pounds might make a person feel better and the pursuit of other carnal interests might result in gaining compliments, approval and pleasure, but they will not further the believer in his or her journey to the kingdom of God. Time passes quickly and with it opportunity to prove repentance (Acts 26:20) and to reveal to God the confessor’s conformity to the likeness of Christ. (Rom 8:29)

The new year gives opportunity to honestly examine the nature of the confessor’s love for God. It may even stir the heart and mind to examine that which God truly requires of his people so that they will not suffer his condemnation as “evil-doers” and be commanded to depart from him because he had never known them (Mt 7:23)—known for certain their faith commitment. There are many false teachings prevalent in the Christian community. Each person will enjoy or suffer the consequences of their own spiritual convictions and practices. “Did God really say…?” Believers need to be certain of what God did say because there are a variety of “truths” being presented, even though there is only one truth.

Does your Biblical understanding satisfy the following questions: Do you know and understand the New Covenant? Do you appreciate that you will face the judgment seat of Christ for things done in the flesh, whether good or bad? Do you appreciate the consequences of a negative judgment? Is your love for God complete or have you been pretending and perhaps playing church? Are you producing fruit in your own life and for the kingdom? To what extent have you been making use of the gift(s) given you at your confession of faith?

A new year is beginning, and it offers opportunity for reflection and introspection. God told the Israelites that the Passover was the beginning of the year for them, perhaps it should be considered as an opportunity to honestly reflect on your spiritual journey and the progress being made. Believers are to be conformed to the likeness of Christ (Rom 8:29) and are expected to walk as he did. (1 Jn 2:6) The confessor’s redemption gives new hope with both promises and requirements, but these can be lost. Use this occasion to set your path straight and make your hope secure by following the Lord’s call upon your life. (Jn 10:27; Rom 8:4, 14; Gal 5:18, 6:7─8)


Russell Young’s column appears here on alternate Tuesdays. His book, Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? is available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link. There is also a feature-length article at this link.

 

September 8, 2018

Don’t Even Think About It

A few years ago I was speaking with someone who was heading off to a small Bible college in Eastern Canada. I asked him if he needed help with textbooks, and he said that the school tends to write their own curriculum as they have a unique take on how they approach some Bible subjects. Sometimes this can be a red-flag, so I asked him to give me an example, but it turned out to be something I found challenging and want to share here.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says,

NIV Matt. 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Not all the teaching in this section specifically references the Decalogue, but what if we applied that “Don’t even think about it” standard to all of the other Ten Commandments? He told me that’s exactly what they did in their discussion of this passage. That got me thinking. Instead of “Thou shalt nots” it might look like this:

  1. Don’t even think about putting any other interest, hobby, passion, person, pet, or other god-to-be-worshiped ahead of me (or even on an equal place).
  2. Don’t even think about giving special place to any physical representation of something (existing or in fantasy) that then occupies a central place in your life.
  3. Don’t even think about using God’s name casually or disrespectfully.
  4. Don’t even think about doing some chores or work for pay during the time you know should be set aside for God and for the rest He commands. If it is within your power, don’t compel others to work during this time, either.
  5. Don’t even think about how, given other circumstances, you’d love to kill someone if you thought you’d get away with; or harbor the anger that rises to that level.
  6. Don’t even think about going against the values your parents taught you, or doing something against their wishes. Their values and wishes and the proverbs they taught you will lead to long life.
  7. Don’t even think about having sex with someone who is not your wife; those thoughts will consume you and furthermore, it’s not likely to ever happen, you’re just driving yourself crazy!
  8. Don’t even think about taking something that isn’t yours.
  9. Don’t even think about misrepresenting someone else or putting spin on a story so it makes them look bad.
  10. Don’t even think about comparing yourself to what your neighbor, or co-worker, or extended family member has, or to his or her spouse, and wishing you could have that life or lifestyle.

Feel free to refine what I’ve written, or take the list in Exodus 20, and rewrite it in your own personal style or adding things you feel conform to the intention of the text when combined with the application of Matthew 5.

Before we conclude, another thing that struck me as I studied this was how The Voice Bible rendered the “You have heard it said” sections of Matthew 5. These are in italics in this version to indicate that yes, the translators have taken a liberty with the original text in order to provide clarity. What is especially worth noting here is that we generally read these with the inference that Jesus is now introducing something new, but these readings imply that the wider implications of what Jesus taught have been implicit in the text all along, if only we could see it that way.

  • 22 But here is the even harder truth
  • 28 You may think you have abided by this Commandment, walked the straight and narrow…
  • 34 But I tell you this: do not ever swear an oath. What is an oath? You cannot say, “I swear by heaven”—for heaven is not yours to swear by; it is God’s throne. 35 And you cannot say, “I swear by this good earth,” for the earth is not yours to swear by; it is God’s footstool. And you cannot say, “I swear by the holy city Jerusalem,” for it is not yours to swear by; it is the city of God, the capital of the King of kings.

This translation also breaks down specifically the origin of “You have heard it said…”

  • 21 As you know, long ago God instructed Moses to tell
  • 27 As you know, long ago God forbade His people…
  • 31 And here is something else: you have read in Deuteronomy that
  • 33 You know that…
  • 38 You know that Hebrew Scripture sets this standard…
  • 43 You have been taught…

Jesus’ teaching is clear: Don’t even consider wandering from the path, from God’s default settings, even for a moment!

NIV II Tim. 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus

December 30, 2017

The Things God Hates

We wrapped up the year in 2015 with a visit to the blog, Pilgrim’s Rock by Craig Biehl. We decided to return there as we’re a day away from 2017 ending. Craig holds a ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary, and PhD in Systematic Theology from Westminster Theological Seminary…

Most of you know about a rather infamous church which got national headlines for their picketing of the type of events people shouldn’t picket. Their signs boldly proclaimed that God hates a certain type of people. As a reaction to that, many of us responded with the theologically correct assertion that God is love and he doesn’t hate people. But make no mistake, he does hate sin.

That’s the subject of today’s thoughts…

God Is Love and He Hates Things

Several years ago, a nearby township designated itself a “No Hate” zone. More recently, “Hate Has No Home Here” signs have been popping up throughout the area. While the intent behind the messages may or may not be well-meaning, it seems a difficult thing to require and enforce. But beyond these difficulties, hate remains a necessary part of a healthy view of a life and world full of evil. And in a bit of irony, many bent on eliminating hate display a fair amount towards anyone who would question their viewpoint or appeal to Scripture as the ultimate authority concerning right and wrong. Campaigns against hate often disguise opposition to the Gospel (but I digress).

Objects of God’s Enmity
I was recently told that hate cannot exist in a God of love, that the idea of God hating anything was repulsive. When I pointed out that Scripture says God hates many things, he replied that the Old Testament God of hate cannot be the New Testament God. Of course, the God of the Old and New Testament are one and the same. God’s strict standards of justice revealed in the Old Testament, including the need for a mediator, sacrifice, and substitute for sinners, were fulfilled by Christ on our behalf and explained in the New (but I digress again). What about God, then, does He hate?

In short, God hates many things. For instance, He hates idolatry and the murder of innocents as sacrifices to false Gods: “You shall not behave thus toward the LORD your God, for every abominable act which the LORD hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods” (Deuteronomy 12:31). “Neither shall you set up for yourself a sacred pillar which the LORD your God hates” (Deuteronomy 16:22). In speaking of the wicked who prosper at the expense of the righteous, “Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when aroused, Thou wilt despise their form” (Psalm 73:20). God also hates the denial of the obvious display of His power in what He has created: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them” (Romans 1:18-19).

Moreover, God will repay His enemies and the enemies of His children: “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). God hates those who spurn Christ: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26-27). God is the source and standard of good; He fights all that oppose it.

God Is Love
At the same time, God is perfect love, most clearly displayed in Christ dying for His despisers. “For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8). Indeed, “While we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10). Believers in Christ are the greatest beneficiaries of that love: “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10). “And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:16).

Love Hates
Love and hate exist in God in perfect harmony. Why? A God of perfect holiness must hate evil, its enemy. A God of infinite love must hate that which destroys the object of His love. Here lies the simple explanation of why God pronounces such a harsh curse on all who would pervert the Gospel: “But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9). A false Gospel dishonors the person and work of Christ, the supreme object of God’s love, the supreme display of His infinite goodness, and the One who accomplishes God’s ultimate purpose to display His glory. A false Gospel leads people away from Christ and the Gospel by which they may be saved and enjoy forgiveness of sin, new life, and eternal happiness with God. God’s love for people hates that which leads them astray and destroys them. Thus, God hates sin. In addition to its ugliness and opposition to the beauty of His holiness, sin ruins people. True love hates that which hurts the object of God’s love.

No Hate Without Absolutes
The idea that love and hate are incompatible in God appears related to a worldview that denies absolute standards of good and evil. But, the love of good implies the hatred of evil, its opposite. Who would deny that we should abhor the wickedness of genocide? Who would claim that hating the cancer killing your dearest friend is incompatible with love? Indeed, to not detest some things contradicts true love. But, if nothing is morally wrong or sinful, nothing deserves our hate. Of course, even the most hardened relativists that deny an absolute moral authority affirm a boatload of moral standards for themselves and others, even while they hate a good many things. People often invoke pure relativism to justify a particular sin or lifestyle, but it is bankrupt as a philosophy of life. In fact, one must contradict it to affirm it when claiming absolutely no absolutes. No one lives according to pure moral relativism. Everyone hates something.

Infinite Love
Therefore, because God loves and hates, so will we as we grow in our love and knowledge of Him through Christ. “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way, and the perverted mouth, I hate” (Proverbs 8:13). For those alienated from God’s love by unbelief and the love of sin, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). And though many are the objects of God’s wrath, “‘As I live!’ declares the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die…?’” (Ezekiel 33:11). Yes, God hates things, but only because He is a God of infinite and perfect love.


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, © Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1988, 1995. Used by permission.

March 24, 2017

Examine Yourself

Last year at this time I introduced you to a new online resource, Start2Finish.org which includes various blogs, podcasts and Bible study materials materials available on everything from a phone app to print. This weekend we’re going to share two other authors from the site. Click the title below to read today’s article at its source, and then use the navigation bar to check out the rest of the website.

The Man in the Mirror

by Billy Alexander

Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the Lord (Lamentations 3:40).”

Bucknell University did something interesting recently. They covered all of the mirrors in the residence hall with construction paper to block reflections in what they called, “No Mirror Monday,” as part of a program to promote “body positivity” and “self-love.” (1)

At a surface level, the idea is to ignore the body shaming of the world and to promote positive self-esteem among the student body. However, in essence it is an effort to cover up the truth and confronting the truth of the image we are presenting to the world. In a spiritual sense this is a daily practice of many in the world. They do not merely go out unaware of their physical appearance but they ignore that their character is spotted by many stains (Psalm 73:6, Romans 1:28-32).

Men are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) but because of sin and “self-love” that image has been marred and disfigured grossly. To be certain, we must all have a proper love of self (Matthew 22:39) but to promote this without looking in the metaphorical mirror is dangerous. The Scribes and Pharisees dressed themselves up in false humility and appeared to be the most religious and righteous men on earth. But Jesus rebuked them for not examining their inner flaws, saying that they “cleanse the outside of the cup and dish but inside were full of extortion and self-indulgence (Matthew 23:25-28).” Jesus told them that they were blind to truth or their actual appearance before God. The Lord cautioned that on Judgement Day “many” will be shocked to find that they will be cast away from Him forever (Matthew 7:21-23). How else could they be unaware of their unsightly appearance to the righteous Judge unless they ignored their visible spots and blemishes?

Jesus continued on to tell us that the wise are those who “Hear and Do” what He instructs (Matthew 7:24). James expands on this notion by saying, “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was (James 1:23-24).” This is the state of those who hear the Bible and do not put the precepts into practice. What of those who fail to hear what the Bible says (John 12:48)? They have covered up the mirror of the soul (Hebrews 4:12) and go about blind to their true condition. We must all seek to see ourselves as God sees us.

Imagine failing to look in the mirror and going in for a job interview with a stained and untucked shirt, disheveled hair, and spinach in your teeth. Would you really ever dare such thing before a person who could determine whether or not you gain a job? Yet so many are heading into a much more fateful appointment (Hebrews 9:27) without ever laundering their garments and preparing properly (2 Corinthians 13:5).

If we allow Him to do so, God seeks to restore all of us into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). “The Bible itself functions as spiritual direction, for as we read it prayerfully we are being formed more and more into the image of Christ. (2) Jesus is Himself the image of God (Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:3) and has made God visible to us all (John 1:18). As we examine His character and model and follow Him we become partakers of the divine nature forsaking the habits of the self-seeking world (2 Peter 1:4). Look deeply into the perfect law of liberty Christian. Day by day the wrinkles, stains, and scars are fading and the high definition image of God is being perfected in you. As we look into that mirror and see His image there is no shame in that.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12 NIV).”


  1. http://libertyunyielding.com/2017/02/27/bucknell-u-promotes-positive-self-image-covering-mirrors/
  2. Richard J. Foster, A Celebration of Discipline, HarperCollins, 1978, p.187

December 26, 2016

Compromise: Making it “Easier” to be a Christian

Today we’re returning to the blog, Into the Foolishness of God by Shara Case. I got caught up in reading several articles here, and I encourage you to take ten minutes to do the same.  For today’s piece, click the title to read at source.

Your Compromise isn’t a Virtue

Friends, we are called as disciples to “preach the Word” and be ready in season and out of season”when the circumstances are for us and when they are against us. We are told to “convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Why? Because “the time will come when people will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth and be turned aside to fables”  (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Do you know how the church can “do better”? By adhering to God’s Word and loving our neighbor in truth.

How is it that we can “dig deep” and “do the hard work” that God really desires of us? By searching His word and hiding it in our hearts. It is the TRUTH that sets people free, not our well-meaning actions. The opinions of culture, authors, historians or professors don’t set people free, in fact they can do just the opposite.

Lets open our arms, but with the true gospel.

Our God is holy and righteous. He is also loving and full of mercy. These don’t cancel each other out, and we can’t adhere to one and not the other.

Sin has a diabolical agenda that will take us further down the road of good intentions than we ever imagined. Following Jesus requires hard things sometimes. It means we die to sin and self. We don’t rejoice in sin but flee from it. When others are stuck, we point them to a God who loves them and wants them free. The argument of “you’re too judgmental,  God just wants us to love each other” is worn out with me. A true disciple does everything in love. Speaking the truth does not equate me with Westboro Baptist lunatics. If we ignore what He says in His Word, if we rearrange it to suit our feelings, no matter how noble they may be, we are not living as Jesus followers. We are nothing more than people-pleasers.

“In the end its like two locals telling a visitor how to get into a building. One tells the visitor he must go through the main gate, while the other says to go through an easier side door. The latter fears the main gate is too far away and too hard to enter. Initially, this local appears to make it easier for the visitor to get in, while the other seems to impose a harsher standard – until you find out there’s no side door. 

While the easier instruction is well intended, it’s sadly just another way of keeping the visitor out.” – Derek Rishmawy, The Gospel Coalition

It is precisely because we don’t want any to perish that we are speaking up. We don’t want anyone left out,  Jesus didn’t come to be exclusive, He came for all of us. Ironically, those screaming to include what God has deemed not acceptable in His kingdom are shutting the door on the very people they hope to bring in.


Application: (1) Can you think of areas where the modern church has made it “easier” to be a Christian by being lax about things scripture teaches?

(2) Does this overlap on the issue of “belonging” versus “believing” as discussed in this article?

December 5, 2016

The Age of Post-Truth

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:32

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” – John 18:37

If you follow media of any type, you’ve probably bumped up against the phrase “post-truth” in the last few weeks. Wikipedia defines it as, “a political culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy, and by the repeated assertion of talking points to which factual rebuttals are ignored.” The Oxford dictionary online is much the same denoting “circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”  

The same dictionary publisher group named it the “word of the year.”  [source]

post-truth-banner

You see where we’re heading today. As Christians, we believe in objective truth, not subjective post-truth. We appeal to the scripture as our rock, our anchor, our source for knowledge. But it’s easy to fall into subjectivism.  We go back to Wikipedia for a definition of that term; “the philosophical tenet that ‘our own mental activity is the only unquestionable fact of our experience’. In other words, subjectivism is the doctrine that knowledge is merely subjective and that there is no external or objective truth.” [italics in last clause added]

How do we become subjective:

  • When we say the situation ethics of a given set of circumstances means violating a scriptural moral principle (see note below)
  • When we try to accommodate evolution into the first few chapters of Genesis (see note below)
  • When we make allowances for homosexuality which contract what the church has historically taught on the subject (see note below)
  • When we ignore teaching on the judgement of God and say that a loving God would never send anyone to hell. (see note below)

Okay…I guess I need to stop typing “see note below” and just say it: While the statements above would seem to imply that I am coming from a very conservative, dogmatic perspective I am no longer settled on some of these issues. Perhaps I am guilty of the same post-truth mindset. What I would want to say clearly here is that I hope that whatever Biblical worldview I have is formed from debates, forums and careful study of what the Bible actually does or does not say, and not from my subjective view, or personal perspective on how I wish things were.

Basically, I can’t allow my own feelings on an issue to override God’s objective truth on any given matter the same way the Roman Catholic church allows The Catechism of the Catholic Church to override scripture.

God does have an opinion on these matters and though “we see in part” and “we see through a glass darkly” it’s our job to try to discern what it is; especially in the cases where it impacts our personal code of behavior.

So here are the verses from TopVerses.com which got me started on this topic earlier today.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. – 2 Timothy 2:15

“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” – John 4:24

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of human beings who suppress the truth by their wickedness. – Romans 1:18

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen. – Romans 1:25

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. – John 16:13

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. – John 8:44

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. – John 1:8

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father – he will testify about me.” – John 15:26

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. – John 4:23

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – The Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. – John 14: 16,17

It gave me great joy to have some believers come and testify to your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. – 3 John 1:3,4

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. – John 1:17

It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. – 2 John 1:4

Who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. – 2 Timothy 1:4

If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 1 John 1:6


Postscript: This isn’t all the verses on the page which contain the word truth in the NIV. You can read the entire list at this link. However, it’s interesting to note the number of occurrences of this word in the writings of John. Many of the above texts are from his gospel and the word occurs in each of the three epistles we have in our Bibles.

Traditionally, John’s is the gospel given out for evangelism purposes. It is consider an apologetic argument for the divinity of Christ. In a post-modern — and now we can add post-truth — world, there is no objective truth. I have written elsewhere that if you want to reach post-moderns with the person of Jesus Christ, perhaps the synoptic gospels are a better way to go. Now I’m rethinking that. Perhaps we need to continue, as the Apostle John does, to wave the banner for truth.


I can never write on a topic like this without thinking of the song One Rule for You. I looked at that song 4½ years ago and typed out the full lyrics at this article at Thinking Out Loud.

September 29, 2016

Aiming for Perfection

Matthew 5:48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Today we’re featuring a new author here. John Mark Reynolds writes at Eidos a Patheos blog. Click the title below to read at source, and then browse the site to see other things he’s written.

Let’s Be Perfect!

Jesus said a hard thing when He said: Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

I don’t know about you, but I am not perfect. In fact, we pass off our failure by saying to ourselves: “Nobody is perfect.” This is wrong since at least the God-Man, Jesus, is perfect and there is a good theological argument that in her obedience His mother was also perfect.

When we demand perfection of ourselves, then we do great harm. We put our false ideas of perfection and our efforts in place of the good we can do. Striving to be perfect can drive a person utterly mad.

So here we are: imperfect. One strategy is to not worry. We are all imperfect, so imperfection can love company, but this foolish. Instead, we can look to what can help us get better. If we cannot be perfect, perhaps we can be more perfect than we are. This at least stops our perfectionism that strains for something we cannot do.

Yet this is not enough. Jesus commanded us to be perfect and sadly, “closer to perfect” still is not perfect and only perfection will do. God’s utter joy is to intense for soul with even a slight fault. Hell is the collapse of a broken soul in the face of the weight of God’s glory.

We must be transformed from within and the task is beyond our abilities. God must come and live in us and those parts of us that He inhabits are made perfect. As Saint Paul says there is the imperfect old man and the new man that is coming.

We are simultaneously perfect and broken. Death will cause the broken bits to fall away  while the perfection God makes, the persons we were meant to be, will be left. This impacts every part of us, if we will let it. Our minds can be made ready for paradise by Divine Wisdom, our hearts by Divine Love, and our passions purified by Divine Goodness. All we need to do is turn from our lies to God’s nature.

God is wisdom.When a man says: “I want to know,” then he is seeking God. When a man says, “I want to understand,” then he is seeking God. God is wisdom, there is no division. To know God is know virtue, wisdom, and joy. We know wisdom, because God knows all things and give His children vision, understanding, and decidedness. We seek God and He reveals Himself to us. This vision of God, the experience of being born again, gives us a fresh understanding of the world.

We commit ourselves and then we see.

Is this experience for all? It can be. Christians are invited perfection and we can move forward into divine transformation if we wish. Why don’t I wish this good thing? Simply because I am unwilling to lose what seems good enough.

 

 

 

November 17, 2015

Why Did Uzzah Have to Die?

Today we pay a return visit to ecclesia.org and a Bible topic that often perplexes people. This passage is also the clearest statement by the scriptures on what is often called situation ethics. If you’re unfamiliar with this story, pause for a moment and read 2 Samuel 6:1-12. Ecclesia is a great resource; consider bookmarking this one in your computer.

David, Uzzah, and the Ark of the Covenant

The “Ark” means a box or chest. The pattern of the ark was revealed to Moses in Exodus 25. It was to be made of wood, rectangular in shape, gold plated inside and out. It had a decorative gold border around it forming a rim on the top of the ark. It had a cover made of gold called “the mercy seat”, and matched the dimensions of the ark. At either end of the cover was a hammered gold cherub (angel), with wings outstretched over the plate. You see the creatures as they pull their wings in front of their faces and look down upon the ark. They apparently were small because a solid gold piece would be extremely heavy if it were very large and the ark would be top heavy and awkward to carry. And the ark was mobile. Beneath the plate within the container were three objects: A golden jar that held the manna, Aaron’s rod, and the tables of the Covenant. God promised he would meet with the people of the mercy seat. The very Glory of God was shown on this Mercy Seat.

In other words, this ark was Holy. It was set apart to God. So careful with God that in the details of the drawing that he wrote in Exodus 25, he gave the dimensions, he said how it was to be covered, He even talked about how it was to be carried. At the base of each of the four corners was a fixed ring of gold. Through these rings were slipped gold plated poles by which the entire chest was to be carried. Numbers 3,4 and 7 clearly state that handling the tabernacle was to be done by Levites, and it was to be done on their shoulders.

Each one of these things were important to God. Even how the ark was transported from one place to another, because that’s where David got into trouble. David thought the best way to move the ark was on a cart (2 Samuel 6:3). So they got a new cart and set the ark on the cart and started to transport it, but something happened. Suddenly there’s a death (2 Samuel 6:7). What did Uzzah do to deserve death?

2 Samuel 6:6, “And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it.”

That’s all he did. After all, it’s a natural thing to do, if it’s going to drop you’ve got to grab it! But it wouldn’t have ever dropped if they would have done it right.

What’s the right way? The Levites were the ones who were suppose to carry the ark, the poles were to be put through the little ringlets at the bottom of the ark, the poles were to be placed on the shoulders of these specially chosen men, and they were to balance it as they carried it from one place to another. And David didn’t do that. He took a convenient route and changed the details to fit the expediency of the hour.

“It doesn’t matter what you do, do something, even if it’s wrong”. That’s the most stupid council I have ever heard. “Do nothing until it’s right, then do it with all your might”. That’s wise council.

Now here’s David standing next to a corpse and he gets mad (2 Samuel 6:8) because of the Lord’s outburst against Uzzah. We have David angry at the Lord when, in fact, the Lord was angry at David. Now understand David hasn’t done his homework, we often get in trouble when we don’t do our homework. We seek the Lord’s Will and we reach out on a lark and we want to do “that”, so, in expediency or convenience or because we’re in a hurry, we make “that” decision. And the Lord says, “Look, I have written a lot of things in my book about that decision you just made, and I want you to take council from me. That’s why it’s not working. And if you want to have a heart for me, then you check my Word and you find either precepts or principles, and you go according to that, and I’ll make you happy like you won’t believe. If you don’t, you will be miserable.”

People need to know the right way to do things and to practice them. Shortcuts or grandstand plays almost never work over time, and when they are substituted for careful execution, people are often hurt.

Uzzah undoubtedly meant well. On the surface he did a useful, helpful, even noble thing. But he did not do the right thing, and it cost him his life. In this strange circumstance, brought about because David, the leader, wanted to do things his way, the right thing would have been to let the ark touch the earth instead of Uzzah’s sinful hands.

David assembled thousands of people and had glorious music played in celebration of the Ark’s return to Jerusalem. It was a grandstand play. It would have been much better had he quietly followed the instructions and done it right. Enthusiasm must be accomplished by obedience. It is not enough to mean well. We must also do the right thing.

March 28, 2015

The Key to Unlocking The Sermon on the Mount

Today we make a return visit to the blog of Bob Rogers. I’ve never looked at the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5-7 in terms of this one verse, but it does help make sense of what Jesus is trying to say overall. Click the title below to read at source.

The key to understanding the Sermon on the Mount

The high standards of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew 5-7, have encouraged millions to live a better life, while at the same time the sermon has left many discouraged, feeling the bar is set so high, they can never reach it. Who is able to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, love their enemies, and forgive those who mistreat them? Then, to top it off, Jesus said,

Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

The key to understanding the Sermon on the Mount is found early on, when Jesus said,

“For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

This statement must have made the disciples catch their breath, because the scribes and Pharisees were considered the holiest people in Israel. Yet Jesus said his disciples must surpass the scribes and Pharisees, or not enter the kingdom of heaven at all! How could this be?

Immediately after this breath-taking statement, Jesus launched into his explanation. The scribes said not to murder; Jesus said not to be angry. The scribes said not to commit adultery; Jesus said not to lust. Jesus was zeroing in on the real issue: faith is a matter of the heart.

keyThis theme of focusing on the heart continued throughout the sermon. Instead of legalistically saying it is okay to hate our enemies as long as we love our neighbors, Jesus called on His disciples to love their enemies and pray for those who persecuted them. This can only happen with a changed heart. Instead of showing off our religion by giving, praying and fasting in public, Jesus called on His disciples to do it in private. Repeatedly, Jesus said that God rewards those who don’t do it for show, and He labeled as hypocrites those who practiced their faith for show. Why? Because giving, praying and fasting in private comes from a pure heart, with no desire for earthly praise. Jesus told His disciples to look at the log in their own eyes before trying to judge their brothers by removing the speck from their brothers’ eyes. Again, this turned the focus back to self-examination– of one’s own heart. Near the end of the sermon, Jesus said that many will say to Him on Judgment Day, “Didn’t we prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” Jesus’ reply was astonishing. He said that He would tell many of them, “I never knew you,” and send them to Hell. Why? Because if people have not given their hearts to Christ, it doesn’t matter how many good deeds they have done for Him.

If we have hearts hot with a fire to follow Christ, then we will surpass the scribes and Pharisees, for our faith will be an expression of what is inside of us, not an outward show of religion.

But what about that pesky phrase, “be perfect?” The word used in Matthew 5:48 is the same word used by Christ on the cross when He said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). It is a word for completion. Just as a baseball player can throw a “perfect” game even though he may throw some balls and even walk some players, we can “be perfect,” if we completely, and wholeheartedly build our lives on Jesus, “the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25).

September 25, 2013

Sin: Don’t Even Think About It!

On Tuesday I was speaking with someone who is heading off to a small Bible college in Eastern Canada. I asked him if he needed help with textbooks, and he said that the school tends to write their own curriculum as they have a unique take on how they approach some Bible subjects. Sometimes this can be a red-flag, so I asked him to give me an example, and it turned out to be something I found challenging and want to share here.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says,

NIV Matt. 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Not all the teaching in this section specifically references the Decalogue, but what if we applied that “Don’t even think about it” standard to all of the other Ten Commandments? He told me that’s exactly what they did in their discussion of this passage. That got me thinking.  Instead of “Thou shalt nots” it might look like this:

  1. Don’t even think about putting any other interest, hobby, passion, person, pet, or other god-to-be-worshiped ahead of me (or even on an equal place).
  2. Don’t even think about giving special place to any physical representation of something (existing or in fantasy) that then occupies a central place in your life.
  3. Don’t even think about using God’s name casually or disrespectfully.
  4. Don’t even think about doing some chores or work for pay during the time you know should be set aside for God and for the rest He commands. If it is within your power, don’t compel others to work during this time, either.
  5. Don’t even think about how, given other circumstances, you’d love to kill someone if you thought you’d get away with; or harbor the anger that rises to that level.
  6. Don’t even think about going against the values your parents taught you, or doing something against their wishes. Their values and wishes and the proverbs they taught you will lead to long life.
  7. Don’t even think about having sex with someone who is not your wife; those thoughts will consume you and furthermore, it’s not likely to ever happen, you’re just driving yourself crazy!
  8. Don’t even think about taking something that isn’t yours.
  9. Don’t even think about misrepresenting someone else or putting spin on a story so it makes them look bad.
  10. Don’t even think about comparing yourself to what your neighbor, or co-worker, or extended family member has, or to his or her spouse, and wishing you could have that life or lifestyle.

Feel free to refine what I’ve written, or take the list in Exodus 20, and rewrite it in your own personal style or adding things you feel conform to the intention of the text when combined with the application of Matthew 5.

Before we conclude, another thing that struck me as I studied this was how The Voice Bible rendered the “You have heard it said” sections of Matthew 5. These are in italics in this version to indicate that yes, the translators have taken a liberty with the original text in order to provide clarity. What is especially worth noting here is that we generally read these with the inference that Jesus is now introducing something new, but these readings imply that the wider implications of what Jesus taught have been implicit in the text all along, if only we could see it that way.

  • 22 But here is the even harder truth
  • 28 You may think you have abided by this Commandment, walked the straight and narrow…
  • 34 But I tell you this: do not ever swear an oath. What is an oath? You cannot say, “I swear by heaven”—for heaven is not yours to swear by; it is God’s throne. 35 And you cannot say, “I swear by this good earth,” for the earth is not yours to swear by; it is God’s footstool. And you cannot say, “I swear by the holy city Jerusalem,” for it is not yours to swear by; it is the city of God, the capital of the King of kings.

This translation also breaks down specifically the origin of “You have heard it said…”

  • 21 As you know, long ago God instructed Moses to tell
  • 27 As you know, long ago God forbade His people…
  • 31 And here is something else: you have read in Deuteronomy that
  • 33 You know that…
  • 38 You know that Hebrew Scripture sets this standard…
  • 43 You have been taught…

Jesus’ teaching is clear: Don’t even consider wandering from the path, from God’s default settings, even for a moment!

NIV II Tim. 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus

October 8, 2012

God Gives Us Boundaries

Today we return to our online friends, Stephen and Brooksyne Weber at the blog Daily Encouragement, where this appeared last week under the title, The Blessing Of The Ancient Landmarks.

“Set up signposts, make landmarks; set your heart toward the highway, the way in which you went” (Jeremiah 31:21). “Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set” (Proverbs 22:28).

Back in the 90’s we pastored in Taunton, Massachusetts and lived in a parsonage that was only about 15 feet from a major highway, Route 44 which goes from Plymouth, MA to Providence, RI. The heavy traffic and steady stream of strangers who walked in front of our house posed danger to [our daughter] Ester.

The church generously built a fenced deck on the side of the parsonage which gave Ester some “safe territory” for play. I also drew an invisible line from the parsonage driveway to the church entrance where she was allowed to walk without our being present. Ester still refers to the boundary lines and does so with fond memories. The safety zone gave her a sense of security and I believe she remembers it as a visible reminder of our genuine love and concern for her well-being.

It’s interesting to pause a moment and consider the many boundaries we had as children and the many we still have as adults. It’s not uncommon to use a stone to mark the boundary between properties. These landmarks (generally stones in the Biblical period) testify to a great Biblical principle first articulated by Moses in the law in Deuteronomy 19:14.* This law is a practical expression of the eighth commandment which states, “Thou shalt not steal.”

Proverbs 22:28 alludes to this verse but I believe this text has a powerful spiritual application as well. “Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set.” In the entire area of faith and morality God has established what we may call “ancient landmarks” in His Word. These ancient landmarks are primarily found in the Law, but are repeated and elaborated on throughout the entire Bible.

Our spiritual ancestors through the history of the Church have set a pattern for living by seeking to express these ancient landmarks. These landmarks may be our fundamental doctrines, our Biblical pattern for living and standards of holiness or deeply held spiritual convictions.

In ancient Israel landmarks were sacred because all property was a gift from the Lord. A timeless application is that life is a gift from the Lord and He has set forth His landmarks for our good. These landmarks are sacred.

But people have always meddled with these ancient landmarks. They’re tampered with today, moved and even removed in ways that our forefathers would never have imagined. Many are being seduced and deceived by radical, revisionist, blasphemous attempts to reinvent Jesus, reinterpret the Bible and redefine marriage. Would anybody have believed when I was born in 1954 that within the next 50 years homosexual “marriage” would actually be a source of serious debate?

Man has always been tampering with landmarks, moving them one way or another to suit his whims, sometimes removing them altogether. The cultural and intellectual elite purport to know best and so many of the undiscerning masses follow. “Get rid of that ancient landmark”, many shout, “we don’t need it anymore”.

I appreciate this note from a study Bible. “The ‘landmark’ may be a spiritual standard, established by our spiritual forefathers, God-honoring and God-blessed. There is a tendency for each new generation to try to modernize the ways of their fathers and, in view of the universal law of decay, this is more often a mistake.”

I thank God for the ancient landmarks expressed in His Word. Psalm 119 is best known as the longest chapter in the Bible, but it’s also a chapter that constantly reinforces the Psalmist’s love for God’s spiritual landmarks with verses such as, “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long” (v. 97).

May the Lord give us a love for His Word and His landmarks along with a resolve to abide by them even when others seek to move or completely remove them. In fact I expect humankind to keep moving and removing them until the inevitable judgment. But as for me, I’ll leave them alone.

Prayer: Father, there is no limit to all that You have provided for us such as material blessings, physical health, the love of family and unending promises that You have already fulfilled or that are yet to be fulfilled. But You have also set visible and well-defined boundaries that are for our own good.

Temptations to either toe the boundary line or cross over into enemy territory will always be there, but You give us the power to resist and discernment to recognize the alluring deceit of the evil one. Help our eyes and hearts to remain focused on Your innumerable blessings and provisions as we stand against the god of this age who seeks to destroy us.

May we not move the landmark of the faithful to join with the ranks of the faithless. In Your name, Jesus, we pray. Amen.

~Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

September 20, 2012

After Conversion, What Happens Next

Today’s devotional is from our friends at DailyEncouragement.net

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17).

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect”(Romans 12:1,2).

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy'” (1 Peter 1:13-16).

This past weekend in our Sunday School class we discussed the importance of we being a church that reaches out to the lost and welcomes them into the congregation. Our teacher, Stan, using the “fishers of men” Scripture pointed out that we need to catch and then clean, rather than clean them before the catch. He was speaking of the lost condition people are in when they come into the church having lived for years in disobedience to God. We shouldn’t require them to “clean up” before coming and hearing the Gospel.

I certainly agree with that premise, but in the discussion I pointed out that once they come into the church and are converted we do need to clean them (using “clean” to continue the “fishers of men” theme). Of course ultimately it’s the Lord’s work in both catching and cleaning, but the faithful church will teach that the normative result of genuine conversion (being caught) is a spiritual transformation (being cleaned)!

It is my observation that this is often lacking in the modern church today. In far too many cases people come in but are often not challenged to change and clean up. Some church leadership expects that once the new “fish” becomes a part of the congregation and takes on responsibility he or she will be changed by being around the more mature “fish”. Challenging them personally to forsake the ways of the world is seen by many as being intolerant, judgmental and unloving.

A certain minister excused sinful behavior by accounting for it in terms of “infantile environment, traumatic experiences, psychological complexes and the like.”

We can make excuses and give fancy names to sinful behavior and prolong its poisonous effect, but genuine love will call people to obedience in accordance to Biblical standards of holiness which is increasingly contrary to the standards of the world.

Last week we were visiting with Mike and Kathy, friends who went to the University of Maine in the late sixties. Kathy recalled during the years she went to college there was a strict curfew and other expectations regarding standards of behavior that would seem archaic to college campuses today. And this in a secular northeastern college!

Behavioral standards have eroded drastically during our lifetime which is evident in the lives of people coming into our churches, if we are catching the lost. We must welcome them and declare God’s love, grace and forgiveness. But we also must declare the whole counsel of God, which includes a call to obedience in accordance to the Biblical standards of holiness. That’s a vital role of the faithful church.

We really like an invitation song titled, “Come Just As You Are”. In God’s redemption plan we don’t clean up our act or change before we come to Jesus. Instead we come just as we are, call out to Him in faith and repent of our sin. God saves us and then we undergo the scrub brush of the Holy Spirit that, instantaneously and over one’s lifetime, purges the remnants of a life that once was lost in sin.

In salvation something wonderful happens, gloriously expressed by the Apostle Paul in the first daily text: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Come just as you are. Hear the Spirit call.
Come just as you are.
Come and see, come receive,
Come and live forever.
Life everlasting.
And strength for today.
Taste the Living Water,
And never thirst again.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, You have commissioned us, as believers, to reach the lost, inviting them to surrender their lives to Jesus and receive forgiveness of sins.  It is at their point of surrender that we witness the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit; cleansing, restoring, purging, and maturing the young believer toward good works in Christ. We thank You for the cleansing work of the Holy Spirit at work in each of us who come to faith, equipping us with the endurance and perseverance needed to walk our journey of faith in the midst of an increasingly hostile and unaccepting society. It is through Jesus that we come to You in prayer. Amen.

March 17, 2012

God’s Measure of Success

Today’s post by Blake Coffee is from a website I strongly recommend those of you in church leadership bookmark and visit often, The Church Whisperer.  Today’s thoughts appeared on that site under the title The One Test Your Church Really Must Pass.  Again, you’re encouraged to the articles here at their source, but since stats show some of you don’t or won’t, it’s also below.

 This is what he showed me: The Lord was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand.  And the LORD asked me, “What do you see, Amos?”

   “A plumb line,” I replied.

   Then the Lord said, “Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.  Amos 7:7-8

There are a lot of ways to measure the “success” of the church today, a lot of standards from which we can draw.  I suppose which standard we use will depend on who we are trying to please at the time.  Whether they will admit it or not, our people most often use their own comfort level as the standard for judging whether or not we are “getting it right”.  Our denominational entities likely would care about our level of “support” for their programs and, more importantly, their budget.  Our communities would measure our effectiveness by how much assistance we offer them.  And you and I?  Oh we probably count noses in gathered worship or baptisms last year or variance from budget or some other such objective, measurable standards.

Please hear me when I say that, as far as I am concerned, all of those standards are fine measurements of some aspect of our effectiveness as a church.  I really have no qualms with any of them.  Each of them, it seems to me, has a right place in our strategic planning and in our “doing church”.  

Similarly, I suspect that, during Amos’ time, the people of Israel had some objective, measurable standards for their own version of church and worship and honoring God.  I also suspect that, like the church today, they were knocking it out of the park by some of those standards.

But from God’s perspective, they were failing miserably.  When God placed His plumb line up against what they had built, well, there was a problem.  You see what happens when we lose sight of the perspective that matters most?  There are a lot of ways to measure or evaluate a wall.  You can test its thickness to make sure it meets those specifications.  You can measure its height or its width and find both to be admirable.  You can test the weather-proofing of the exterior material or the finish of the interior and determine that either or both are just fine.  But when you hold a plumb line up to it and find that it is leaning horribly in one direction or the other, none of those other measurements mean much.

Your church may be like that.  It may be pleasing to your members, or to your denomination, or to your community, or even to you…but if it does not measure up to the plumb line of God’s Word (which, for the New Testament church, is Jesus), then it is failing.  And while we are working to please all those other people and measure up to all those other standards, it is easy to lose sight of the one that matters most: what does Jesus think of our church?

~Blake Coffee

What standards do you think God is looking to see attained where you worship?

August 21, 2011

Transfer Credits

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Steven Furtick is pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC, and has been featured here several times. This appeared on his blog last Tuesday…

Transferring credits can be a maddening process.

I experienced this once. I started seminary in one place and then we moved to start the church, so I had to end up changing schools. And sure enough, some of the credits that I earned at the first school wouldn’t transfer to the other. It was frustrating to say the least. It felt like my scholastic achievements were for nothing.

There’s a similar credit transfer problem that happens in the Kingdom of God when it comes our accomplishments. It can be even more frustrating and maddening because we’re so accustomed to operating according to the world’s standards of measuring success. But it’s something we have to take to heart because it’s the way God works.

The credits of men on earth don’t transfer to the Kingdom of God. What I mean is that just because the world says you’re successful doesn’t mean you’ve impressed God one bit.

God really doesn’t care about

  • How much money you’ve earned
  • Where you’ve gotten your degree from
  • Or what letters make up the title in front of your name.

The things that we think are major accomplishments aren’t to God.

For at least two reasons.

First, it’s kind of hard to brag to a God who spoke the universe into existence. I just can’t see God being blown back by our resumé. Especially when the source of all of our accomplishments is Him. Also, it’s kind of insulting to His grace to think that any amount of achievement could earn the love and favor that has already been achieved for you.

Second, I don’t think God is looking for the same things we are. If you take a cursory look through the Bible, these were the kinds of people and things that stood out to Him:

  • A young shepherd on the backside of nowhere whose heart was after Him. (1 Samuel 16)
  • The faith of a man who shouldn’t have had any. (Luke 7:1-10)
  • The meager but total generosity of a peasant woman compared to the lavish but incomplete giving of the rich around her. (Luke 21:1-4)

I’m not saying you need to downgrade your job. Or make yourself poor. Or that your success and accomplishments can’t be used for God’s glory.

I’m just saying that you shouldn’t assume that you’re at the front of the line to be used for His glory because of them. Besides, in God’s order of things, the front isn’t necessarily where you want to be anyways:

So the last will be first, and the first will be last.
Matthew 20:16

~Steven Furtick