Christianity 201

March 29, 2023

Proclamation Even When No One is Listening

Just two days from completing our twelfth year at Christianity 201, even though it breaks our 4-year rule on original material, this seemed worth reconsidering.

It’s said that missionary statesman and Canadian pastor Oswald J. Smith would go out into the woods and preach to the trees. I am sure that some will say this is no different than modern preachers doing a midweek practice run in an empty auditorium, and I am 100% confident the response rate was extremely low.

Still, there are some who would say that many bloggers — especially Christian bloggers — are also preaching, metaphorically speaking, to the trees. There are just so many writers out there, and as readers know, each month we discover more and more of them. It’s easy to feel lost in such a sea of voices. Or to feel like a ‘voice crying in the wilderness.’

That phrase is from Isaiah 40, and all four gospels affirm this passage as fulfilled in John the Baptist.

  1. Matthew 3:3
    This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:“A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”
  2. Mark 1:3
    “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”
  3. Luke 3:4
    As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:“A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.
  4. John 1:23
    John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”

If John was using modern media today, I’m sure his wilderness experience would translate into low stats, or in church-related terms, low attendance. As he continued, the crowds came, but we know that while he preached his message of repentance with great conviction, and his prophetic word that The Messiah, the lamb of God had come into the world; we also know that later on he himself started to have some doubts as to the Messiah-identification being fulfilled in Jesus.

Matthew 11:2 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

So knowing that John spoke in faith and not certainty, and knowing that his experience was a wilderness experience, we can be sure that John had days where he felt he was preaching to the trees.

But tree preaching is not a bad thing.

The speaking out of anything is a good test of what is in the heart. This can reveal a good heart condition or a bad heart condition. Yesterday, I said something out loud for which I am thankful that not even trees were present. Where did that come from?  It wasn’t something angry or rash or hate-filled, just something I might not have thought I was capable of thinking.

Luke 6:45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

It’s the same with writing. You reveal yourself to yourself when you write. Sometimes you mentally picture a three-paragraph outline, but end up with eight paragraphs because there were things in your heart and mind which overflowed as you sat at the keyboard.

You ask yourself, Is anyone reading all this?

American humorist Garrison Keillor tells a story from his college days of enjoying a particular extra-curricular activity: Working at the campus radio station. They play music and produce documentaries and report the news, but at the end of the term they discover that the station transmitter was never switched on. (I think he’s exaggerating this anecdote, but it makes for great narrative.)

Can you imagine a parallel for pastors and speakers? We happened upon this taking place when we were in Boston. It wasn’t a minister doing a practice run, but it was a regularly scheduled service to which no one had come, but they were determined to conduct the entire service anyway as an act of obedience, and an act of worship to God. Ruth Wilkinson described it in this older C201 blog post from 2010: If a Tree Falls in the Forest.

The first time I ran a part of Ruth’s description of that moment, in reference to Christian blog activity which was exploding at the time, I included this sentence: “Have you ever noticed how close “stats” sounds to “status?”  So stats-seeking is really status-seeking.

There are people I never met in person but I read them online. I knew for a fact that some of them only got 4 or 5 visitors a day. I’m sure they felt they are preaching to the trees. (And many of them simply gave up eventually.) But they were a great influence in my life. At the blogroll at Thinking Out Loud, I originally included some of the major Christian influencers as well as people who faithfully posted online in relative obscurity.

We often say,

We are responsible for the depth of our ministry and
God is responsible for the breadth.

which is very true.

But the depth of our ministry is cultivated in the secret and sacred places. What I’m saying here is that the Christian “proclaimer” should

  • keep writing even when it seems that no one is listening
  • keep sharing with that spouse, coworker or relative even it seems that nothing is getting through
  • keep teaching that Sunday school class even when the kids are fighting, fooling around and talking
  • keep recommending those books even when nobody buys them or borrows them from the church library
  • keep serving those meals at the soup kitchen even it looks like all you’re doing is freeing up money they can spend on drugs or alcohol
  • keep supporting that missionary even when his/her prayer letters contain frustration over a lack of measurable results
  • keep sending cards and internet memes and birthday gifts to that wayward person who seems to have gone so distant from you and God

Why? Because of what is forming in you as you remain faithful, even when it seems that your efforts are met by nothing but the wind blowing through the trees.

Phil 2:13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

The Message renders this section as:

12-13 What I’m getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you’ve done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I’m separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.

August 23, 2017

Unsettling Times

Today I picked up a Christian periodical and discovered that Arnold Reimer, a retired pastor from a church I frequently attended — Bayview Glen Alliance Church in Toronto — had a blog titled Finishing Well. I read several articles, but this one from June jumped out at me as still being quite timely. Click the title to read it at source.


It is hard to remember a time in world affairs more unsettling than this present one.  When the greatest economic and military power seethes with division, indecision, hateful accusations, political stagnation, worrisome threats, and moral decay,  then international angst soars.  It is possible that some foolish enemy might take advantage of the situation , when respect and confidence in authority are so confused, and leadership is so consistently distracted and defensive.

We are living in times Scripture describes as follows: See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking.  For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, (Noah, Moses, the prophets) much less shall we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven.  And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.’  And this expression, ‘Yet once more,’ denotes the removing of things which can be shaken, as of created things, in order that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. (God’s truth and righteousness)   Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.”

I repeat what I have often said… the Church, its leadership and followers, must speak, live and demonstrate with awe and reverence, not just the love of a gracious God, but the wrath of a holy God, who is a consuming fire.  Yes, the Lord our God, Sovereign Ruler of the universe, Creator, Saviour, Healer, Sanctifier and coming King, is patient, loving, gracious and forgiving.  But, He hates sin and judges it.  Eventually, He withholds blessing from the disobedient and indifferent. That great and awesome God insists that we proclaim both His cursing and His blessing, whether they listen or not.

If the proverbial house on fire requires a daring saviour to disregard self in order to rescue the perishing, why, in heaven’s name, are we pampering the saints, watering
down prophetic truth, and coddling sin and sinners?  Do we not understand our times?  Do we not realize that the popular parading of evil, running rampant in our day, and generally approved, left unmentioned, unchallenged and un-rebuked will hasten the exercise of God’s wrath?   Is sin so obscure in Scripture that we can be ambivalent about it from our pulpits?  Are we not to hold governments, educational and religious institutions and the general population accountable for degenerate behaviour?  Is the applause and approval of men so important, or the fear of their response so great, we dare to please men rather than God?

These are sobering, heart-searching thoughts for which we who own His name shall stand accountable.   Surely, for those who know God and His Word, finishing well demands a bold, fearless acknowledgement and response to these things.  Those of us who are older have been given the perspective of time, duty and experience to see a bigger picture.   We know the value of love, prayer, lifestyle and sensitivity necessary to an acceptable presentation of truth and warning.   We also know what evil can do!   In a shaken world an unshakeable faith in a gracious, forgiving God will enable us to speak lovingly, wisely and clearly.

Rev. Arnold Reimer

You may also enjoy: Righteousness

February 23, 2017

Little Power and Great Affirmation in Philadephia: Revelation 3

by Clarke Dixon

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

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

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

Here is what Jesus says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I know your works.” (Revelation 3:8)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I am coming soon;” (Revelation 3:11)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 All Scripture references are from the NRSV

 Original Source: Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon

December 15, 2013

My Words Will Not Pass Away

heaven_and_earthJesus’ statement:

“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My Words shall not pass away.”

appears in all three synoptic gospels, in Matthew 24:35, Mark 13:31 and Luke 21:33.

Often at this point we will look at how different translations render a passage, but in this case the translation is uniform from the KJV all the way to (more or less) The Message. When the original text doesn’t afford any translation latitude, we can be sure the clarity of the text doesn’t leave room for any deviation from taking it at face value.

Matthew Henry writes:

The word of Christ is more sure and lasting than heaven and earth.

Hath he spoken? And shall he not do it? We may build with more assurance upon the word of Christ than we can upon the pillars of heaven, or the strong foundations of the earth; for, when they shall be made to tremble and totter, and shall be no more, the word of Christ shall remain, and be in full force, power, and virtue. See 1 Pet. 1:24, 25.

The reference in question is:

“All people are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall

It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than the word of Christ; so it is expressed, Luke 16:17.

It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the smallest point of God’s law to be overturned. (NLT)

Compare Isa. 54:10.

“For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake,
But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you,
And My covenant of peace will not be shaken,”
Says the Lord who has compassion on you.

The accomplishment of these prophecies might seem to be delayed, and intervening events might seem to disagree with them, but do not think that therefore the word of Christ is fallen to the ground, for that shall never pass away: though it be not fulfilled, either in the time or in the way that we have prescribed; yet, in God’s time, which is the best time, and in God’s way, which is the best way, it shall certainly be fulfilled. Every word of Christ is very pure, and therefore very sure.

His commentary on the parallel passage in Mark is very short, but on the Luke passage there is this amplification:

Heaven and earth shall pass away sooner than any word of mine: nay, they certainly shall pass away, but my words shall not; whether they take hold or no, they will take effect, and not one of them fall to the ground,”

I love the line “whether they take hold or no, they will take effect.”

He concludes the Luke portion of the commentary with this verse from I Sam. 3:19:

The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground.

When I thought of ‘none of his words falling to the ground,’ I couldn’t help but be reminded of this passage from Isaiah 55:11:

[S]o is my word that comes from my mouth;
        it does not return to me empty.
        Instead, it does what I want,
        and accomplishes what I intend. (CEB)

So when is God speaking? Is this a reference to the audible voice of God, as was heard at Jesus’ baptism? (“This is my Son in whom I well pleased.”) No, this is a reference to the Word of God spoken primarily, at the time this was written, by the prophets.

Acts 3:21 states:

…whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.

Today we have those words recorded in the collection of writings we call the Bible.

Does God speak similarly through prophets who are living today? The answer to that question depends on the doctrinal framework that you or your church holds to, and we’ll have to save that question for another day!

In the meantime, we know that the “my words” which “will not pass away” include the truth of Scripture.

(Unless indicated, passages cited are NIV.)

August 25, 2013

A Fresh Word from God?

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27

Today many are seeking a fresh word from God, but will God speak something to their hearts that he has not already said before? Brad Whitt looked at this question recently in a blog post titled, Devotional Thought – If It’s True It Isn’t New. (Click to read at source.)

“But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:2

I once heard my pastor Adrian Rogers say, “If it’s true it isn’t new.” Had the apostle Paul heard him he would have given a loud and hearty, “Amen!”  I say this because I believe this is the essence of Paul’s point in this statement to the church at Corinth. I understand Paul to teach that there shouldn’t be anything purely original in a revelation. When he writes about “commending ourselves to every man’s conscience,” I believe he’s talking about commending truth to the “consciousness” of man.  Paul’s point is that divine truth, like any other truth, must first speak to man’s experience. It must appeal to something that the hearer already knows to be true. In other words it is “a faithful saying worthy of all acceptation.”

To be sure, this is not the normal way of thinking. Most people believe divine revelation must be something that is completely and totally new. They believe that if God wants to speak or reveal something to man that He will say something that man has never heard before. This is certainly the way most people view “getting a fresh word from God.” They hear a sermon and God speaks to them and they something like, “That was a fresh word from God. I had never seen that before.” What do they mean? Do they mean that it was a completely new and novel thought? I don’t think so. I believe what they mean to say is that they recognized something that wasn’t expected. It was a fresh thought that was suddenly discovered once the Holy Spirit pulled the veil aside. It didn’t suddenly appear out of nowhere. It had been there all along, covered by the veil. Finding it, in the most literal of sense, was truly a discovery. It was the removal of something that had covered and concealed it from view. When it was seen, it was immediately recognized as something that had belonged to them all along, something that they never should have been without. It’s not something strange, but oddly familiar. The freshness of the revelation comes from the fact that while it wasn’t consciously known, it had been there all along.

Paul says that this is true with regards to the revelation of God’s truth. Yes, it is divine in its nature, but it presents itself to the consciousness of man and appeals to his personal experience. In fact, this is the simplest meaning of the word “revelation.” It speaks of pulling aside the veil to see something that had always been there. It’s not talking about creating something absolutely new, but rather of uncovering something old. It has been wrapped up, covered, concealed, lying just withing reach all throughout our lives without our knowing that it was there.

What God’s revelation – His light – reveals to me is actually myself. He has hung a mirror in my room that all during the night I thought was simply a dark, blank spot on the wall. However, when the sun began to rise and I saw by His light the reflection of my heart in His mirror it was then that I really realized that I was a man.

Don’t ever forget that God has distinct voices for different souls – He speaks to the  conscience of every man. And even though His light “lights every man that comes into the world” it doesn’t have the same beam for every soul. God shines into separate rooms, each one furnished differently from the next, of man’s heart. Do I have the right to require that my brother’s room be furnished the same way as mine? Elijah’s table was spread in the desert and what he needed was a human voice so God sent him a friend. Peter’s food came to him in dreams – let down on a sheet from heaven. What he needed was to be woken by reality, so God sent him into a stormy sea. John expected to immediately be seated at Jesus’ right hand. What he needed was to learn how to patiently wait, so God sent him on a long journey that ended on the rocky outcroppings of Patmos. Paul had the burden of too much light and was prone to be unappreciative of a brother’s difficulty. What he needed was the experience of human weakness, so God sent him a thorn in the flesh. Matthew had too many thorns. Everywhere he went he faced hardship, contempt, hatred and scorn. He didn’t need God to give another thorn, but a flower. So, he received a revelation of the Lord’s presence in a feast.

I’m, for one, am thankful to God that not only does He knock on every heart’s door, but that He always varies His knocking. He called quietly to Martha. He met Mary in a social setting. He cried with a loud voice to Lazarus. Today He supplies my life, not where it is the strongest, but where it is the weakest. He knows me better than I know myself and He loves me enough that He reaches into my conscience through my consciousness of need.

August 11, 2013

Arriving at the Truth

As curator of this devotional blog, my personal Bible study time is often spent interacting with the various sources that end up here each day. But my morning kicks off with a visit to Daily Encouragement, the website of workplace chaplains Stephen & Brooksyne Weber. Here’s one they posted on Friday; you’re encouraged to read it at its original home: Always Learning.

ListenListen to this message on your audio player

“Always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7).

We surely live in the most “educated” period in human history. The other night I heard a young man being interviewed who, like so many, was having a hard time getting a job following his graduation from college. He referred to his generation as being the most “academically qualified” in comparison to all previous generations. Now it is my observation that a greater percentage have additional education and even many advanced degrees but certainly this does not necessarily lead to a knowledge of the truth. In fact for many it has shattered their faith in the truth of the Bible.

Always learning can be a commendable trait whether young or old but of infinitely greater importance is coming to the knowledge of the truth!

Today’s Bible text is from Paul’s second letter to Timothy. He is writing of conditions in the last days in which he describes as perilous.

Among the conditions of people’s hearts is deception. Among the characteristics of both deceivers and the deceived is that they are “always learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Another version states, “always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.”  Could it be that the philosophy of their day was much like ours now – make truth relative so that it conforms to our preferred outlook and resulting lifestyle, rather than accepting truth as originated from Holy Scriptures and conforming to its absolutes.

Information abounds as well as the means to acquire it. Just consider what the internet has done regarding the accessibility of information. The Amplified Bible translates this verse, “They are forever inquiring and getting information, but are never able to arrive at a recognition and knowledge of the Truth.”  I believe the emphasis and capitalization of “Truth” is significant. Paul is not merely speaking in a general sense as to what is true and what is not, but rather the supreme truth of God’s revelation in Christ.  So many, many are indeed always learning and attaining knowledge without coming to the knowledge of this truth.

In the first two chapters of Romans we have three responses to the truth: suppression, exchange, and disobedience (1:18,25;2:8).  My, these are surely responses that abound in our day.

May it be said of us in regard to our response to the truth that we are learning and fully acknowledging the Truth.  If we are doing so we will grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! (see 2 Peter 3:18)

Daily prayer: Father, You grant us access to Your presence through Your Son, Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. As we come into personal relationship with Him we begin to know the Truth that sets us free from the deceit and lies of Satan. Help us to faithfully engraft Your Word into our hearts so that we will filter all that we see, hear and read to find what You, the Source and very Essence of truth have to say to our hearts. Help us to conform to Your will in all matters.  Amen.

Technical matters: Online readers and subscribers are invited to comment on the change we’ve made in the last couple of days from setting these readings in bold type to posting them in regular type. Is the copy more readable? Less so?

Leave a comment or contact at searchlight [at] nexicom [dot] net.

I’ve really enjoyed being on Twitter since late March. It’s not about anything I have to say but about some great people I get to follow. Here are few recent things and who said them:

Chris Seay@PastorChrisSeay

I believe that God can redeem all things, and that what is broken, God fixes. He uses his people and church, to restore all things broken.

John S. Dickerson@JohnSDickerson

“Jesus takes broken show the world that he is amazing. He doesn’t need celebrities to do that.”

Louie Giglio@louiegiglio 

He who walks with God has arrived.

Jonathan Thompson@pastorJon_T

“People often get upset when you teach them what is in the Bible rather than what they presume is in the Bible.” ~ NT Wright”

Ravi Zacharias@RaviZacharias

“The God of faith is mercifully shown as one who draws near…” – Jill Carattini

Kyle Idleman@KyleIdleman 

Psalm 119:11 – … I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

Randy Alcorn@randyalcorn

“For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our king; he will save us” (Isaiah 33:22).

Pastor Jim Cymbala@jimcymbala

Breakthrough prayer isn’t born out of an “I should pray today” attitude but, instead, out of an “I must have God’s help” frame of mind.

Lee Grady@LeeGrady

“You are to love one another not because of the gain you get from one another but because of the good you can do to one another.” –Spurgeon


October 19, 2012

Going Against The Flow; Swimming Against The Tide

Another Canadian blogger, Kim Shay posted this quotation from Martin Luther recently at her blog, The Upward Call. I can’t begin to imagine the conflict Luther would have felt has he formulated beliefs that went totally against everything commonly held. This from the Faith Alone devotional collection:

Trusting Christ Instead of People

But Jesus would not entrust himself to them
for he knew all men
John 2:24

No one understands how difficult it was when I first realized that I had to believe and teach an idea that was contrary to the teaching of the church fathers. This was especially shocking to me when many outstanding, reasonable, and educated people shared their views. The church fathers include many holy people, such as Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine. Despite that, my dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ must be worth more to me than all the holy people on earth – yes, even more than all the angels in heaven. When I read Augustine’s books and discovered that he also had been in error, I was greatly troubled. Whenever this happens, it’s very difficult for me to calm my own hart and differ with people who are so greatly respected.

But I dare not accept something just because a respected person says it. A person can be holy and God-fearing and still be in error. That’s why I don’t want to rely on people. As this passage says, the Lord Christ didn’t rely on people either. Furthermore, in the book of Matthew, Jesus earnestly warns us to beware of false prophets, who will come and not only claim to be Christians, but also “perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible (24:24).

Rather than trusting the church fathers and their writings, we should crawl under the wings of our mother hen, the Lord Christ, and look to him alone. the heavenly Father said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well-pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5). God wants us to listen to Christ alone.

Here’s a bonus Faith Alone devotional from Luther that appeared a week prior at Kim’s blog.

The Lamb of God

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him
and said, “Look, the Lamb of God
who takes away the sin of the world!”
John 1:29

God’s laws tell us how we should live. They command us: “Never desire to take your neighbor’s wife. Never murder. Never commit adultery. Give to the poor.” It’s good to follow God’s laws in order to guard against outward sins. Before God, however, it won’t work to try to get rid of sin by obeying God’s laws. What does work is stated in this verse: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Isaiah explains that “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6) and “for the transgression of my people he was stricken” (v.8). Everything points to Christ.

As a Christian, you should hold tightly to these words and not let them be taken away from you. Then you will know that godless people and religious people who hope to satisfy God with their pilgrimages and good works are blind. Many boast of the good works and console themselves by thinking they will get a second chance to be saved. The Holy Scripture, in contrast, says that the sins of the world aren’t laid on the world. John’s sins weren’t laid on John, and Peter’s sins weren’t laid on Peter, for no one can bear their own sins. Rather, the sins of the world were laid on Christ. He is the Lamb of God. He stepped forward to become a sinner for us, to become even sin itself, and to act as though he had committed the sins of the entire world from the beginning of its creation (2 Corinthians 5:21). The Lamb’s mission, role, and function were to take away the sins of the world. The Lamb carried them all.

July 6, 2011

Inspiring Ideas on Worship from Matt Redman

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

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

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

Archbishop William Temple once described worship as

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

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

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

~Matt Redman

September 22, 2010

Speaking on God’s Behalf

Today’s post is from Keith Brenton who has been writing at Blog in my Own Eye since 2004.  This first appeared in August under the title, Speaking for God.

“We speak where the Bible speaks, and are silent where the Bible is silent.” ~ unofficial motto of (most) churches of Christ.

“Lord, fill my mouth with worthwhile stuff – and nudge me when I’ve said enough!” ~ prayer of the probably mythical old preacher

“If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.” ~ 1 Peter 4:11a

Isn’t this one of the heaviest burdens carried by those who truly desire to speak for the Lord? Whether preaching, teaching, writing a blog, or just conversing about matters religious with a friend?

How do we know when we’ve stopped speaking for Him and started rattling off our own perceptions about what He’s said?

Isn’t it pretty important to stick to what He’s said?

And after all, aren’t there plenty of powerful speakers with advanced degrees in biblical studies who don’t agree on what He’s said?

I wonder from time to time if this doubt isn’t one of the most powerful tools Satan has in shutting us up about the Savior. I wonder if it’s one of the un-discussed root causes for preacher burnout and parishoner abandonment of evangelism.

I wonder if we’ve made the gospel more complex than it is.

Would you like to know what gives me hope when I try to write or speak on the Lord’s behalf – however imperfectly, humbly, and haltingly?

“Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” ~ 1 Corinthians 12:3

“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: ‘Rulers and elders of the people!’” ~ Acts 4:8

” … for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” ~ Matthew 10:20

The Spirit of our Father speaks through us. We just leave it to Him. It happened just as Jesus described it to His followers. And Paul writes to Corinth that it still works that way. It’s a simple message (“Jesus is Lord!”), delivered in a simple manner, through simple people like you and me. No advanced degrees required; just the Holy Spirit speaking through us.

And all we need do is ask for His help.

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” ~ Luke 11:13

You can even ask for that help to be given to others:

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” ~ Ephesians 1:17

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” ~ Colossians 1:9

I have resolved to take a new approach when disagreeing with others about scripture, or when trying to argue toward a common understanding of God’s message, or whenever I feel compelled to speak for God. I’ve resolved to pray for the Holy Spirit’s discernment for all parties involved, including (especially!) myself.

I can be as opinionated and pig-headed and closed-minded as anyone else I know. I need to be more open-minded … no; not so much that my brains fall out, but so much that His Spirit can fall upon me. I need to make room for God’s understanding, even if it pushes my understanding out through my nose and ears.

So I’m asking you to pray the same thing for me.

~Keith Brenton