Christianity 201

October 2, 2013

The Sufficiency of Scripture

EPSON scanner image

After several days of writing original pieces here at C201, I went back to mining the internet for interesting topics and articles, only to strike gold. Rebecca Writes is the blog of Rebecca Stark, and one of the features on her blog is the Theological Term of the Week. So far, she’s covered about 270 such entries, going back to 2007. I encourage you to use this resource again and again. Remember that theological terms are not necessarily Biblical terms; the entries in a theological dictionary won’t always occur in your concordance, in fact the majority won’t.

After reading many recent ones, and trying to choose a sample, I ended up going to one of the older ones, on the sufficiency of scripture, and then one of the newest, on the mortification of sin. Honestly, there are so many good articles at this blog that we might do this again sometime.


sufficiency of scripture
The principle that the words of scripture contain everything we need to know from God in order for us to be saved and to be perfectly obedient to him.
  • From scripture:

    …from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. ( 2 Timothy 3:15-17 ESV)

  • From The London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 1, Section 6:

    The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture, to which nothing is to be added at any time, either by new revelation of the Spirit, or by the traditions of men.

  •  From Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem:

    The sufficiency of Scripture also tells us that nothing is required of us by God that is not commanded in Scripture either explicitly or by implication. This reminds us that the focus of our search for God’s will ought to be on Scripture, rather than on seeking guidance through prayer for changed circumstances or altered feelings or direct guidance from the Holy Spirit apart from Scripture….

    The discovery of this great truth could bring tremendous joy and peace to the lives of thousands of Christians who, spending countless hours seeking God’s will outside of Scripture, are often uncertain about whether they have found it. In fact, many Christians today have very little confidence in their ability to discover God’s will with any degree of certainty. Thus there is little striving to do God’s will (for who can know it?) and little growth in holiness before God.

    The opposite ought to be true. Christians who are convinced of the sufficiency of Scripture should begin eagerly to seek and find God’s will in Scripture. They should be eagerly and regularly growing in obedience to God, knowing great freedom and peace in the Christian life.

Learn more

  1. GotQuestions.org: “What is the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture? What does it mean that the Bible is sufficient?”
  2. Scott McClareThe Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture
  3. Tim ChalliesThe Bible’s Sufficiency
  4. Mark Thompson: The Sufficiency of Scripture
  5. David G. Peterson: The Sufficiency of Scripture
  6. Mark Dever: God Told Me” and the Sufficiency of Scripture
  7. John MacArthur: The Sufficiency of Scripture, Part 1 (mp3); The Sufficiency of Scripture, Part 2 (mp3)
Related terms:

mortification (of sin)

A way of life in which a Christian takes an active role in “crushing sin from their lives … rooting it out, and depriving it of its influence”;1 a Christian’s active role in battling sinful habits in the power of the Spirit.

    • From scripture:

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away:anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:5-11 ESV)

[Mortification] is, then, the work of the Spirit. For, —

(1.) He is promised of God to be given unto us to do this work. The taking away of the stony heart, — that is, the stubborn, proud, rebellious, unbelieving heart, — is in general the work of mortification that we treat of. Now this is still promised to be done by the Spirit, Ezek. 11:19, 36:26, “I will give my Spirit, and take away the stony heart;” and by the Spirit of God is this work wrought when all means fail, Isa. 57:17-18.

(2.) We have all our mortification from the gift of Christ, and all the gifts of Christ are communicated to us and given us by the Spirit of Christ: “Without Christ we can do nothing,” John 15:5. All communications of supplies and relief, in the beginnings, increasings, actings of any grace whatever, from him, are by the Spirit, by whom he alone works in and upon believers. From him we have our mortification: “He is exalted and made a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance unto us,” Acts 5:31; and of our repentance our mortification is non small portion. How doth he do it? Having “received the promise of the Holy Ghost,” he sends him abroad for that end, the Spirit, as Tertullian speaks, “Vicariam navare operam,” to do the works that he had to accomplish in us.

Learn more:

  1. Got Questions.org: What is mortification of sin?
  2. Sinclair Ferguson: The Practice of Mortification
  3. J. Ligon Duncan: Putting Sin to Death
  4. John Owen :  The Mortification of Sin in Believers
  5. Christopher Love: The Mortification of Sin
  6. Octavius Winslow: The Believer’s Obligation to Mortify Sin
  7. John MacArthur: The Mortification of Sin (pdf)

Related terms:

June 11, 2013

The Righteousness We Don’t Earn

Chad Hendley is in student ministry and blogs at A Servant Named Chad. This article is packed with different insights and takeaways. For today’s post title I chose to look at the difference between the righteousness we work for versus the righteousness imputed to us through Christ’s atonement. Chad’s post title emphasized the atonement as fulfilling the righteousness that the teachers of the law in the First Testament knew to be God’s unchanging requirement; he called it Not A Dot Shall Pass Away. You’re encouraged to read C201 posts at their original source.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Matthew 5:17 ESV)

The Jewish religious leaders of the day had made a strict set of rules and traditions beyond the Law of God given to them by Moses. They kind of put a fence around the Law saying you can do this, this, and this, but not this, this, and this. The problem with this was that it had taken all the heart work out of their religion. While all the Laws were strict and hard to follow, it made it easy to follow God in a sense because it boiled down the whole thing to a list of do’s and don’ts. It completely ignored the greatest commandment of “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” It just became, “Do all these things right, and you’re fine.” Isaiah prophesies of this saying:

And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.” (Isaiah 29:13-14 ESV)

Isaiah prophesied of time when the fear and awe and love of God were replaced by heartless obedience to commandments of men.

Because Jesus did not hold to the strict traditions of these religious leaders, and because he just upset a lot of leaders due to their jealousy, he was accused of throwing out or causing people to disobey the Law. Jesus makes a point here to expressly say, “I have not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.”

It is helpful to recognize that Christ fulfilled the Law in 2 different ways.

Christ perfectly upheld the Law. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24 ESV) He perfectly completed the Law living without sin. The only person in history to do so. By no means did he come to do away with it, for he himself is the only one to perfectly complete it.

Christ himself was the very fulfillment of all the Law pointed to. Much more than that, he himself was the fulfillment of the Law, that is all that Law pointed to. Remember? The sacrificial system that was set up, where, when you sinned, sacrifice must be made to atone for your sin reminding you that God is just and that sin must be punished? Christ fulfilled the Law in that he himself completed once and for all what the Law was pointing to.

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. (Hebrews 10:11-18 ESV)

For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (Matthew 5:18 ESV)

To emphasize how permanent the Law and word of God is, he explicitly indicates that they will remain until the end of time as we know it. An iota referred the smallest letter of Hebrew alphabet that resembled an apostrophe. The dot refers to small marks in the written Hebrew language that helped distinguish some letters from others. Jesus is saying that not even a single letter, nor even a single stroke of a letter shall pass away from the Word of God, much less the its propositions and content.

Jesus, later equating the duration of his own words with the duration of the Law says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35 ESV)

So if there is one thing you may be certain of, it is that the word of the Lord endures forever. What does this mean for us?

It means that the word of God is trustworthy and true. In the New Testament, time and time again, Jesus and the authors point out instances where something happened in order “that the scriptures might be fulfilled.” They are indicating here that the scriptures are totally true and therefore must be fulfilled. That is exactly what Jesus is saying here. “The Law and Prophets will not pass away until all is accomplished.” The assumption here is that scripture is without error; therefore, we may be certain that all it says will be and must be accomplished. The fulfillment of all that is written then verifies the completeness of truth of the scriptures.

This, in turn, means that scripture MUST be the ultimate authority in our lives. Everyone has an ultimate authority. What’s yours? For many people it’s self. “I am my own ultimate authority. I am the only one I am responsible for, and I decide what’s best.” For other people it’s the culture. “Society defines what is right and wrong, so I’ll do whatever society and the culture says is ok.” For some people it’s science and reason. “I only believe what I can learn scientifically.” But there are a few problems with these: 1. You are a single individual with limited knowledge and understanding, and with a tiny view of the world limited by your experience which gives you little authority to determine for yourself what’s right and wrong. 2. Society is ever changing thus is no solid base on which to form a worldview. Does what’s right and wrong change? It shouldn’t. 3. Science is not a broad enough in scope to rests one’s life on. Science tells us nothing of right and wrong or love or purpose or emotion. It is a tool, but not a foundation.

And if scripture is the one true ultimate authority, we must submit our lives to it. Many people choose not to give Christianity serious consideration, because deep down they are scared of what they shall find. They know that if they dig and find that it is true, there is no option but to surrender one’s whole self to Christ. The worse sin that we often find, is those who claim to believe, but have not totally surrendered, still playing with the world. You have not dug deep enough either. YOU CANNOT  TRULY BELIEVE THIS AND LIVE AN UNCHANGED LIFE. When you come near the person of Christ you will find that there is no middle ground. It’s all either all in or nothing. We are to have child-like faith, but this is not a faith for children.

Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19 ESV)

Jesus makes another practical conclusion as well from the fact that God’s word shall never pass away. This is the responsibility not just to obey but also teach others to obey his word. This is not a hard principle right? If God’s word is true and the ultimate authority for our lives and shall never pass away, if they are the measure by which our reward shall be doled out, if they are the works which reveal the fruit of God’s work in our lives, and the means by which we can honor him, then we must definitely be careful to be obedient to it and to be careful in teaching others to do the same. It only makes sense right? If God takes it so seriously as to say it shall never pass away, we should take his commands just as seriously right? For his name sake and for his glory.

Whoever loves him less and thus obeys him less shall be lesser in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever loves him more and thus obeys him more shall be greater in the kingdom of heaven. Note here Jesus is talking about believers, for both attain to the kingdom of heaven, but Jesus says some shall be called greater than others. It is a matter of reward, not a matter of salvation.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15 ESV)

God or no God, heaven or hell, is determined by the saving work of the Holy Spirit and genuine faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but there will be varying levels of reward in heaven. The Apostle John, also the author the Revelation text we just read, said “Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.” (2 John 1:8 ESV) But be careful of your heart here. Our obedience must not be fueled by this desire to be great in heaven, for that is pride, but for those who humble themselves and seek to honor him, Jesus says, “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42)

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

Jesus stresses the importance of the Law and the word of God, the importance of keeping and teaching the word of God to others, then he drops the doozy! Unless your goodness is better than the most religious, rule-keeping person you know, then you won’t get into the kingdom of heaven. At one point, Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” One of the commands is to tithe. To give a tenth of all that you receive from the Lord. So you know what these guys did? They tithed, they gave a tenth of the herbs they received to cook with. They did everything right! How in the world can my righteous be better than that of the most strict religious person I know???

Because, through faith in Christ, God gives us a righteousness that is not our own. Our righteousness must not just be a little better than the scribes and the Pharisees, our righteousness must be that of Jesus Christ! The Pharisees tried it, and it didn’t work. They worked and worked and worked trying to be perfect on the outside when Jesus told them they were dead on the inside. YOU CAN’T DO IT! You cannot work your way to heaven. If you could do that you wouldn’t need Jesus! Remember…King David? Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

~Chad Hendley


Practical Christian Living:  Looking for books that are suitable for giving to non-Christian friends, neighbors, fellow-students, co-workers or relatives? Check out the blog Books for Evangelism to familiarize yourself with resources that do more than preach to the choir.

June 6, 2013

Use Your Bible

The scriptures today appear as links, and I really hope you’ll take the time to read each one; especially since the theme today is about using your Bible to the fullest.  This is from the website Unlocking The Bible where it appeared under the title 14 Ways to Use the Bible.

The Bible is wonderful because it gives us a knowledge of God, of men, of the universe, and of redemption.

No other book can be compared to it in this respect, but it not only informs us about these important truths, it also tells us what we are to do with it.

We have within the Bible itself instruction as to our attitude toward it.

In it we are exhorted to:

1. Read it.Nehemiah 8:8. And may I suggest that it be read slowly, carefully, prayerfully, in large portions, repeatedly, reverently and with a willing spirit to follow its precepts.

2. Believe it.Romans 10:8. Because it is the Word of faith. It has been given to increase our faith in God and His working in the Universe.

3. Receive it.James 1:21. Here it is the engrafted word that is to be received as the soil received the seed, or the tree receives the graft. Taking the Word of God in our heart life, allowing it to grow and bear its own fruit in motives and actions.

4. Taste it.Proverbs 19:10. For it is the good Word of God. Some seem to be afraid of the Bible for fear it will require them to do something they do not wish to do. Be not afraid; it is good and right in all its requirements.

5. Eat it.Jeremiah 15:16. This process suggests that we not merely taste but actually live by it, as Jesus said, “Ye shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4.

6. Hold it fast.Titus 1:9. It is a faithful word. All its promises are true; all its history is true; and its statements are truth. Therefore we are to rest our faith upon it.

7. Hold it forth.Philippians 2:16. Because it is the Word of Life. All who come under its beneficent rays feel its life giving power.

8. Preach it.2 Timothy 4:2. Here it is called simply the Word. It suggests that we are not to preach any one part of it or any one phase of it, but preach it in its entirety and fullness.

9. Search it.John 5:29. This suggests work and patience. The Greek word carries the idea of “ransack” as the housewife goes through the home at housecleaning time; or “to track” as the hunter laboriously follows the game through the brush, so we are to search for truth and run down the lines of God’s revelations to man.

10. Study it.2 Timothy 2:15. Here is a word that means close application to the Word of God, as the builder minutely studies the plans of the architect before erecting the structure.

11. Meditate on it.Psalm 1:2. This word has much the same meaning as “eat” for it means literally “to chew the cud.” Turning the Word of God over and over in the mind till the sweetness of its truths feed our souls.

12. Compare it.2 Corinthians 2:13. This is not so much what we do with the Scriptures as what the Holy Spirit does with them in our hearts. This is a divine commentary always at hand. Or as John puts it in 1 John 2:27, “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.”

13. Rightly divide it.2 Timothy 2:15. This is not an arbitrary division of subjects but the following of a line of truth from the first place mentioned to the last place mentioned; noticing it in all its relation to other truths and as the word literally means “the cutting of a straight line” of truth in the Bible.

14. Delight in it. Psalm 119:92. Seven times in this Psalm the Psalmist speaks of delighting in God’s word. This should always be the heart ambition and attitude.

“Study it carefully; think of it prayerfully;
Deep in thy heart let its precepts dwell.
Slight not its history; ponder its mystery,
None can e’er prize it too fondly or well.
Accept the glad tidings, the warning, the chidings,
Found in this volume of heavenly lore,
With faith that’s unfailing, and love all prevailing,
Trust in its promise of life evermore.”

*Adapted from portion of W.H. Pike’s beginning remarks in Summarized Bible: Complete Summary of the Old Testament.

Bonus item:

I know that this type of article isn’t typical of what we do here at C201, but as long as we’re doing lists, here’s one that appeared a few days ago the blog Deep Thoughts by Gman under the title Old Versus New.

Old Covenant vs. New Covenant
Gifts and Sacrifices for guilt of sin vs. Self-sacrifice by guiltless Christ
Physical Building where One goes to worship vs. Reign of Christ in hearts of believers
Limited promises vs. Limitless promises
External standards vs. Internal Standards
Limited Access to God vs. Unlimited access to God
Legal Cleansing vs. Personal cleansing
Obey the rules vs. Serve the living God
Forgiveness earned vs. Forgiveness freely given
Repeated yearly vs. Completed by Christ’s death.
Human effort vs. God’s grace
Available to some vs. Available to all.

December 7, 2012

Jesus Began With Text

Well Marked Bible

The gospels provide us with a number of snapshots of Jesus teaching in what we would consider informal situations. Most are outdoor. In one he is in a boat. His longest recorded sermon takes place on a plateaued section of land that earns it the title of Sermon on the Mount (Matthew) or Sermon on the Plain (Luke). One is in a location so remote that food for the crowd becomes an issue.

But we don’t see anything of Jesus teaching, as we would say it now, “in church.” Except of course for Luke chapter 4.

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.

23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”

24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”

28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.

Although the Biblical text doesn’t use ellipsis (or I suppose the plural should be ellipses) we get that dramatic moment when he says, “Today this scripture is fulfilled…”  Then we get the oft-quoted line about a prophet not being honored in his own country (or county, or hometown). And then we get a hint in verse 26 and 27 of more of his message that produces the reaction in verse 28.

My point today is simply that in the only “church” sermon we have from Jesus, he began with text.

‘But;’ you are thinking, ‘That’s how they did it back then; that was the order of service so to speak in that synagogue.’

I’ll grant you that one.

But as someone who tries to prepare these daily devotionals drawing on the best of the Christian blogosphere, I am somewhat grieved by the volume of words produced each day that do not begin with any particular reference to Biblical text.

Some days, I spend upwards of 30-minutes scanning online for something that fits the albeit traditional Bible-based format here; without of course resorting to reblogging the same authors week after week; something I believe they would tire of eventually. (In nearly 1,000 posts; only once have we been asked to remove something.)

Instead, I find all manner of articles; many of which I enjoy; many of which inform me; many of which make it into the link list at Thinking Out Loud, but mostly all of which are inappropriate for what we’re trying to accomplish here.

Did nobody read a verse of scripture which impressed them in a new way or perhaps even for the first time? Did no one find that like “a word fitly spoken in the right time” a scripture verse opened up at a key moment in life held both deep personal meaning and broad general application?  It has been said,

Of all the major religions of the world, Christians are the least acquainted with their own sacred writings.

Perhaps we’ve been sufficiently offended by the bibliolatry of fundamentalists, that we’ve marginalized The Good Book somewhat. The general sense you get in the Christian blogosphere is that the traditional examination of scripture is somewhat passé and even a little boring.

I’m not trying to be a dinosaur here. On the ‘exegetical versus topical’ debate, I land clearly in the middle. I love edgy. I love refreshing. I love new forms.

But I clearly believe that most of the things being posted online today simply won’t matter much in five months, let alone five years.

Of course, Jesus had a special anointing on his ministry. Only he could have said the line that literally rocked the house, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

But you and I can do that on a different scale. We can mine the vault that is God’s word, we can examine the various refractions of light in the jewel that is God’s word, we can plot a course on the map and compass that is God’s word; and then we can say to the world, “This was written for you, today.”

For those who aspire to preach, the most powerful and authoritative words in any given church service are these:

“Take your Bible and turn with me to the book of…”


Read more about the transformative power of scripture.

October 17, 2012

50 Verses To Memorize

Sheila Wray-Gregoire is a Canadian author and blogger who writes about marriage, family life and parenting and probably counts women among the sizeable majority of her audience. Her blog is called, To Love Honor and Vacuum. Really. Her name came up in conversation yesterday and that led me to look beyond her recent blog posts for something that would fit here, and I found this one from nearly two years ago.


Last week I wrote a post complaining that we are “dumbing down” church and school, and don’t require kids to learn mastery of anything anymore. I asked what we could do about it.

And I decided maybe it was time I did something, rather than just complain. And so I’ve put together this list of the 50 verses I think are most important to memorize. I know many families want to memorize verses together, but they don’t know where to start. Here you go. One a week for a year. Even if this is all you ever memorize, you will have God’s word in your heart for the most important verses, I think, in the Bible. I’m going to type the list with the verses first, and then at the end include a list of just the references, if you want those to just copy and paste.

Why not make little memory verse cards out of 3×5 cards, and keep them at the dinner table? Then every night you can go over this week’s verse. By the end of the year, you’ll have all of these memorized!

I chose these because they’re a cross-section of doctrine, promises, and comfort. You may want to add others, or to substitute. Feel free. Consider this a starting point, not anything definitive. I hope you you find it useful! All verses are from the NIV.

God

Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 40:28
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.

Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Salvation

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

Romans 3:23
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Revelation 3:20
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

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

Ephesians 2:8,9
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.

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

Assurance

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

Isaiah 40:30-31
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Romans 8:38-39
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Matthew 11:28-30
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart ,and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Psalm 27:1
The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?

Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Hebrews 13:8
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Lamentations 3:22-23
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Christian Life

2 Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Psalm 37:4,5
Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust in him and he will do this.

Proverbs 3:5,7
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

James 1:22
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Colossians 3:23
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.

1 Corinthians 15:58
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

James 4:7
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Luke 16:13
No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

1 John 4:7,8
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Acts 1:8
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Romans 12:1-2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Prayer

1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 19:14
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Philippians 4:6,7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Scripture

2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.

Psalm 119:105
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

Psalm 119:11
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Confession/Temptation

Hebrews 4:16
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

James 5:16
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out, so that you can stand up under it.

Mission

Micah 6:8
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Matthew 25:40
The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Matthew 28:19-20
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 5:16
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Ephesians 6:12
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Bigger challenges:

If you want to memorize whole chapters, here are my top 5:

Isaiah 53
Psalm 23
1 Corinthians 13
John 15
Psalm 139

These chapters are all important; I have left them out of the top 50 verses because I couldn’t choose just one or two verses from any of them. The whole thing is great. So if you’re up for a family challenge, memorize all of one of them!

Look at it this way: if you spend one year memorizing the fifty verses, and the next year reviewing those fifty and memorizing a chapter, and then go back to those fifty verses again to make sure you have them down, and then the next year go back and do a different chapter, and so on, over the course of ten years you’ll have 50 verses and 5 chapters so committed to memory there is no way anyone could ever forget it.

And I think knowing fewer verses, but knowing them inside and out, is sometimes more beneficial in the long run than trying to make yourself learn a verse a day or something.

So print this out and use it with your family!

Happy memorizing!

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 6, 2012

The “Write” Kind of Scribe

NIV Deut:1118 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.

The picture above is of a scripture passage my oldest son chose to write out by hand almost a year  ago and post on his bedroom wall.  It’s remarkable for two reasons, the first being that a few years earlier his struggle with cursive writing would never have produced anything so legible, the second being the love that he has for the Word of God, evidenced by the time he spends in scripture each day.

Writing out Bible passages by hand has become somewhat archaic in a world of word processing.  But it’s just one of a number of subtle changes taking place in terms of our relationship with the printed word:

  • Many of us leave our Bibles at home on Sundays, finding it more convenient to use Bibles provided at weekend services
  • Many choose to use Bible apps on their smart phones instead of following from a print text
  • Many have their devotional and Bible study time driving to work using a devotional on CD
  • Scripture memorization has become less commonplace in our children’s and youth ministry programs
  • People like myself often ‘absorb’ scripture throughout the day through online articles and blogs but don’t directly read anything at source
  • Our worship music is ‘vertical’ which can derive from psalms and similar passages, but is therefore less reliant on the ‘Scripture in Song’ type of choruses that were based more directly on scripture
  • The giving out of tracts has died as a practice; many of these began with scripture and contained several Bible passages
  • The reading of Christian books has diminished in a screen-saturated world.
  • Scripture plaques, often seen in the living rooms and kitchens of homes have been deemed inadequate in a world of interior decorating and replaced by “inspirational” wall art with single word admonitions like “dream,” “believe,” “hope,” etc.
  • Where once people would add a scripture verse by hand to a greeting card, today we purchase Christian cards with a verse already included

Combine all these, and the handwriting my son did might seem rather quaint. But I’ll bet that taking the time to do this means he knows this passage well.

Of course, more than writing scripture on the doorframes and gates of our houses, God desires for us to write his words on our heart. But how we do this if we don’t know the passages and precepts in the first place? God is revealed to us first and foremost in scripture; this is the primary revelation of God in our times.

So here’s the challenge.  Take a passage and write it out by hand today.  I did this a few weeks ago with Titus 3: 3-8 or you might consider Colossians 1: 9-14 or the Galatians passage above, or a passage of your choosing.  (Those are just two that I’ve done myself, so I’m not asking you to do anything I haven’t done.)

And then allow the words to be written on your heart.

August 17, 2012

Ministry Life Reminders

Usually it takes us six months to come back to a particular writer, but even though we just shared some of Paul Clark’s writing a month ago,  I enjoyed this short five-point outline to people in ministry — that’s all of us — that he wrote a few days ago under the title A Few Reminders.  For C201 readers, I’ve filled out the scripture portions he alluded to.

First, let’s remind ourselves that God holds us safely in the palm of his hand.

NLT Psalm 91: 1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.

Life has a way of throwing us curveballs, doesn’t it? We find ourselves thrown into circumstances that shake our foundations. But in the midst of those circumstances, we must remind ourselves that we are safe in the hands of our heavenly Father.

Second, let’s remind ourselves of the goodness of God.

(MSG)Romans 8: 28…we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

All God’s intentions toward us are good.  All of God’s activities toward us flow from his goodness. A.W. Tozer wrote, “The whole outlook of mankind might be changed if we could all believe that we dwell under a friendly sky and that the God of heaven, though exalted in power and majesty, is eager to be friends with us.

Third, let’s remind ourselves that we are no longer slaves to sin.

(NASB) Romans 6: 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;

Anyone who has been born of God knows the battle between sin and righteousness that’s being waged in us and around us. The battle between going along or being honest; between pure thoughts and worthless self-talk; between giving in to the flesh or living by the Spirit. We can make the right choices through Jesus Christ!

Fourth, let’s remind ourselves that God’s mercy and forgiveness are inexhaustible.

(CEB) Ephensians 2: 4-5 However, God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead as a result of those things that we did wrong. He did this because of the great love that he has for us. You are saved by God’s grace!

The word “rich” means overabounding, limitless, without measure.  God demonstrated that limitless mercy when he sent his Son to die on a cross for our sins. Nothing about me is inexhaustible, yet God is merciful without measure.

Finally, let’s remind ourselves that God’s Word has the power to transform our lives.

(TNIV) I Peter 2: 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation…

Our culture makes us spiritually dull.  It wears us down.  We need daily renewal if we will be sharp and prepared for whatever God brings into our day. God’s Word transforming our hearts is the key to living the abundant life.

~Paul Clark

Read more at Paul’s blog, Vision Meets Reality:

August 8, 2012

Listen and Obey

Today we make a return visit to the blog of Kalamazo, Michigan pastor Jeff Jones on hearing and obeying God’s voice.  Click here to view at Jeff’s blog.

“Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 28:1-2

Today’s text is both inspirational and instructional in nature. On the inspirational side, who wouldn’t want to have God set them on high and have His blessings overtake them? But, did you notice that God gives us some pretty clear instructions in terms of actually qualifying to receive those blessings? The key is found in just one word—a big one, “if”. If we will listen and if we will obey, the blessings come, if we don’t, they don’t. Pretty simple, huh? Our ability to receive these promised blessings from God requires our willingness to diligently obey the voice of the Lord. There are a lot of voices in our world that are daily trying to influence us. Advertisers have a voice, our friends and family’s have voices, and even popular opinion has a voice. But those voices are always changing. The voice of what’s in and what’s not, what’s today and what is so yesterday. Aren’t you glad that God’s Word never changes?

“Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.” Psalm 119:89 

While these voices may speak to us, we need to establish ourselves firmly on the ONE voice that will see our through our whole life—The Word of God. God’s voice should always have preeminence in our lives because His voice never changes. We can always take Him at His Word. His voice in our lives is not moved by current culture or by popular opinion. He is the Lord and He doesn’t change. Do you remember what He said in Malachi 3:6, “I am the Lord I change not…” God’s positions on life and social issues don’t evolve; they stay the same, because He stays the same. We can place our trust in Him.

“God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” Numbers 23:19 

Finally it’s important to note, that we’re required to do more than just hear the word of God, we are to obey it. In other words, we’re not to debate it, massage it, manipulate it, nor are we to try to adjust it to fit the times. We’re to obey it, period! We don’t ask God to adjust His Word to fit us; we adjust our lives to fit His Word. We don’t have an option, either we build our lives upon the truth of God’s word or we don’t. There is no middle ground, no room to compromise, only obedience. But because we’ve chosen to listen and obey, our faith is now under attack. Because of our love for God and His Word we are called haters, bigots, intolerant, or even simply minded. So let’s make our stand upon the Word of God. Let’s stay strong in our trust in the truth we find within its pages. Let’s continue to diligently obey the voice of the Lord our God.

April 10, 2012

What America Can Learn from the Church in Europe

Mike Breen’s blog is hosting a six part series by Paul Maconochie.  This is part one

As a British Pastor I love coming to America. I love the pioneering ‘can do’ attitude of the American people. I love how so many of the churches are full and the way that faith is often spoken about as part of daily life.

In England things are quite different.

Churches are often half empty and the attitude of many of the British people towards evangelical Christianity is pretty negative (to say the least!). A large church in England might have 300 people. Obviously, this is a really foreign reality for people who have grown up in a culturally Christian United States. However, there are some things that we as British Christians are learning that may be useful on both sides of the Atlantic. Britain has become a mission field again in the true sense of the word and the remnant believers have had to change and adapt in order to remain effective as God’s people.

I live in Sheffield, a northern, post-industrial English city where about 2.5% of the population attend church on a Sunday. This means that the vast majority of people in our city never go to church. Ever. Even at Christmas only about 5% turn up in a church building. For us, ‘Build it and they will come’ does not really figure any more. Instead, we have had to learn afresh what Jesus meant when he said ‘go and make disciples.’ One of the most important lessons we have learned is this:

Incarnation is better than intervention.

Intervention says “I really want God to touch my life and make it better. But God is a little scary; I think I need a Pastor to stand between him and me.” Of course we never actually come out and say this; we just act as if it is true. Instead of going to Jesus directly we expect our Pastor to go to Him, praying, fasting and reading the Bible and then to instruct us in what he has learned at the worship service. In return, we pay out tithes and turn up on a Sunday morning before going back to our lives, and to be honest, not changing too terribly much.

Intervention also operates the same way with other people. We want to help others who are poor or struggling or who do not know Jesus, but we want to do it from a distance. So we give money to overseas missionaries (not a bad thing in itself!) and maybe occasionally even take blankets or soup to folks living on the streets before going back to our nice warm comfortable homes.

These things are all good and I am sure that God likes it when we intervene to help people, but I believe that God actually has a preference for incarnation. He does not want to help us from a distance, through our Pastor. He wants to be in every part of our lives. I love Eugene Peterson’s translation of John 1:14; he writes:

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood.

God wants us to access His presence and His Word for ourselves. He wants to deal with us directly, and He wants us to do the same with the Last, the Least and the Lost.

In recent years in our church we have seen an incredible thing – every day members of the church who consider themselves to be missionaries even while they still live in their home city, and who actually live that way. They believe that if you’re a Christian, it means you’re a missionary. There isn’t really a choice in the matter. They have found that life-on-life engagement with others allows our contagious faith to spread. They share their time, energy and resources with each other and move into the lives of those they are trying to reach. In a city where no-one goes to church, we have begun to see people come to the Lord in the hundreds, most without ever darkening the door of the church.

For those of us with an interventional approach to faith, I believe Jesus brings the challenge of incarnation. Are you living your Christian life from a distance, or up close and personal? If you’re a Pastor, are you fully engaged with the mission of God in an up close and personal way, or do you simply hope by running the machine of the church, others will do it and you’ve fulfilled your part in it?

Paul Maconochie

November 26, 2011

Post 600: Forgetting What You Look Like

Today is the 600th post at Christianity 201; though regular readers know that I write only a small fraction of them.  I thought I should write number six hundred, however…

Have you ever been in church and the pastor is preaching and after awhile it occurs to you that the whole sermon seems to be directed at one particular person’s situation?  It’s almost embarrassing.  It’s like everyone knows the minister is referring to Dan or Shirley or Marg or Jason, so why doesn’t he just go all the way and use their names?

But then, mysteriously, you’re drawn into a long conversation with Dan, Shirley, Marg or Jason a few weeks later, and you get the distinct impression that the sermon hasn’t changed a thing in their life; that whatever it was that made it so blatant to you and everyone else that it was about them, seems to have misfired or otherwise not taken root.

I suppose there are a number of possibilities here, of which three are:

  • They were tuned out for most of the sermon; not paying attention
  • The pastor’s remarks registered, but they assumed it applied to someone else, never considering it might be them to whom the sermon was most directly speaking
  • The application and needed next steps registered, but were eventually dismissed or forgotten
  • perhaps the cost of change or the price of obedience was simply too high

The Bible tells us we’re not simply to be hearers of the word, but doers of the word; but sometimes we mess up the hearing part which cancels out the rest.

 James 1:22-24 (The Message) Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like

Imagine not knowing what you look like.

People do this everyday however.  The middle aged man steps into his souped up sports car, turns the music on the sound system up high, and believes he is still 18.  He starts flirting with his assistant at work and with the receptionist at the dentist’s office, and forgets he’s graying; that he has a wife and kids.

He needs a mirror.

The woman who goes out to lunch to with four friends and then spontaneously offers to pick the tab for everyone’s meal before they embark on an afternoon of shopping, slapping down the credit card at store after store, forgetting that the bank has already canceled her other credit card because of too many missed payments, and her income prospects for the foreseeable future are rather dim.

She needs a mirror.

We all need a mirror.   An accurate one.  One that doesn’t distort the truth.  The clearest, most focused mirror is God’s word.  It shows us what right living looks like.  It tells us where we’ve messed up.  What we can do to get back on track.  What it will take for us to stay on track.  You can read more about this four-fold purpose of scripture by clicking here.

…Now then, imagine the same scenario, but it’s more like a bad dream.  The pastor preaches a similar sermon, but everyone turns around stares directly at you.  But weeks later your life is unchanged.

What would your excuse be?

July 28, 2011

The Manna Principle

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:48 pm
Tags: ,

Have you ever read a quotation from a Christian book or a Bible passage that you wanted to reexamine the next day only to return and find it wasn’t there?  Of course it is actually there, and you are looking in the right place, but the words simply don’t leap off the page as they did the day before.

I’m convinced that what you’re experiencing is “The Manna Principle.”  The Israelites were given food, but it was food for that day.  They couldn’t save it up for the next day or it would spoil.

The application of what you read was meant for that day, though, I promise you that as you keep looking, the verse or paragraph IS there and once relocated you can share its truth with others.

I’m away today, and using a borrowed computer, so I encourage you todayto revisit some of the worship songs located in the right sidebar of the blog and spend some time alone with God and whatever manna He has for you today.

July 20, 2011

Finding the Gospel in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Leviticus

This is about one third of an interview that B. J. Stockman did with Dane Ortland at Resurgence.  (You might find it helpful to read this section in context.)

Where is the gospel in Proverbs?

Proverbs and James are the two easiest books to screw up. They are both heavy on advice / imperatives / instruction / exhortation. Divorced from God’s electing love in the gospel, Proverbs (or James, or any of the imperatives of the Bible) breeds self-despairing failure or self-exalting arrogance. Left in neutral, our hearts tend to slide into law-oxygenated living (tense, stuffy, despairing, burdened, relationally alienating) and away from grace-oxygenated living (relaxed, happy, calm, self-forgetful, liberated, relationally healing).

So—what is Proverbs? Wise help from an outside voice. Not all that different from the gospel! Proverbs is God coming to us and saying, “I love you so much, dear ones—here, let me help you live as the truly human being I wish you to be…”

There is no magic formula to ‘find’ the gospel in Proverbs. Rather, if we read Proverbs as wise words from a father who loves his children too much to let them ruin their lives through ignorant folly, we will receive it as God means us to, and be strengthened in a way that is grace-flavored.

And remember, from a macro-perspective, Jesus is the ultimate wise man. Paul said that Jesus “became for us wisdom” (1 Cor. 1:30). Jesus is the wise man, and we fools, united to him by faith, share in that wisdom.

Where is the gospel in Leviticus?

All over the place. Leviticus is an elaborate accounting of the sacrificial system that God mercifully instituted for Israel, to atone for their sins. It is virtually impossible to plunk down into a random place in Leviticus and not see God’s gracious provision of a way out for filthy people.

And Jesus himself brought that entire sacrificial system to fulfillment. The New Testament tells us Jesus was not only the priest who offered the sacrifice, he was also the sacrifice itself, the lamb—and he was even the temple in which the priest offered the sacrifice. As we read Leviticus as Christians, then, we can be ever mindful of what all those bloody sacrifices were anticipating.

From another angle: in Leviticus we see time and again that when the unclean touches the clean, both become unclean (see also Hag. 2:13). Jesus showed up and reversed this. He frequently touched lepers and others who were ‘unclean’ and in doing so both became clean (e.g., Mark 1:40-42). With Jesus we no longer see ourselves as basically clean in danger of defilement, but basically defiled in need of cleansing. And we can have it freely, because the one person who ever lived who was truly ‘clean’ went to a cross and was condemned as an ‘unclean’ person so that we unclean sinners can be freely treated as clean.

Where is the gospel in Ecclesiastes?

Ecclesiastes insists that the good things of life—food, work, sex, wealth, honor—cannot serve as the ultimate things in life, and that if we make this mistake (as Solomon did) we will come to the end of life exhausted, frustrated, and disillusioned. Only God satisfies. And we human beings are so screwy that we will not believe God supremely satisfies unless God gets up in our face, through the voice of someone who actually had it all (Solomon), and tells us so.

When Ecclesiastes speaks time and again of ‘fearing’ God, it does not mean being frightened of him but making him supremely central in your life so that everything funnels into that great loyalty. In telling us to fear God, we are given the key to contentment, to joy, to a meaningful life ‘under the sun.’ This is God’s kindness to us, is it not?

From another perspective: Jesus really had it all, even more than Solomon. He had unbounded wealth, honor, etc., in heaven. He had everything Solomon chased after. To an infinite degree. And he emptied himself and gave it all up and came to earth and suffered and died. Why? So that you and I, wayward sinners, can have real wealth, real riches, real honor, in the new earth, forever.

July 18, 2011

Discovering God’s Word for the First Time

I’ve mentioned before that when I started this blog, C201 was meant to contain original devotional content each day, but the pressure of life and the maintenance of other blogs quickly turned it into a “best of” the Christian blogosphere.  So I have a great respect for those who write original devotions or studies each day, but I have even greater respect for those who attempt to get doctrinal concepts across to children.

Today’s reading is from Bible Drive-Thru.  Violet describes this as a daily devotional kids that allows readers to sample something from every book of the Bible over the course of a year.   Kids?  I’ll bet this story from II Chronicles will be new to a couple of you adults, which is ironic because the selection  is about a king who discovered God’s word for the first time.  And you can answer the questions at the end in the comments if you wish.

If you have children, consider Bible Drive Thru as the basis for spending some time together daily in the Bible.  They’ll love the ‘fast food’ layout of these studies, with a “to chew on” section and a “supersize it” section for deeper reading.  (Violet recommended our including a different devotional, which I decided, in a rare back-to-back posting, I’m going to include tomorrow, but if your kids are bit younger, they might enjoy it today.)

Finding a Special Book

TODAY’S SPECIAL: 2 Chron 34:14-19 & 31

TO CHEW ON: “Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, ‘Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.’ And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king. When the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his robes.” 2 Chronicles 34:18,19

When King Josiah turned sixteen something changed. Perhaps after being king for eight years he realized what a hard job it was. Maybe he wished he had help and wanted to be sure that God was on his side. He may have asked, which god? For the people in Judah worshiped many gods.

Perhaps he remembered his grandfather, King Manasseh, and thought of how he had smashed the idols and taken down the Asherah poles after he got back from prison. Then he had told everyone to worship the unseen God of the temple.

However it came about, over the next four years, Josiah took down every altar and high place and pole connected with idol worship. Then he decided to clean up the temple too. He put the priests and Levites to work. One day as they were clearing out garbage, they found a book. It was the book of the Law that God had given Moses.

When Shaphan the secretary showed Josiah what they had found, Josiah wanted him to read it. So Shaphan read God’s laws to Josiah. He had never heard them before.

He became so upset and afraid, he tore his clothes. Then he asked Shaphan and the priests to pray to God for him and the nation, that they would be spared the terrible punishments God had promised.

Hilkiah the priest and others prayed for Josiah. God answered that He would punish Judah just as the book said. But if Josiah would keep on doing the right things, this punishment would come after his lifetime.

We have God’s book with us today. It is the Bible. Unlike Josiah’s time, Bibles today are not lost. They are plentiful and common. But in order for the Bible to help us as it did Josiah, we need to follow his example. We need to read, respect and obey it.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to read and obey Your word. Amen.

SUPERSIZE IT: Bible Search
1. How many Bibles or parts of the Bible do you have in your home?

2. Which is your favorite Bible?
Why?

3. What is your favorite Bible verse?
Why?

Adult readers – DAILY DEVOTIONS FOR ADULTS  are available too at Other Food: daily devo’s

July 13, 2011

Keeping a 20/20 Spiritual Vision

My link to DailyEncouragement.net, the devotional ministry of Stephen & Brooksyne Weber is rather prominent on my personal blog because I think they represent the best of theological balance combined with appeal to a broad demographic.  Though their lives intertwine with Amish farmers, there’s an urban sophistication in their writing as well.  They know their readers, who click in from around the world.  Every day’s post is good reading.  This one is actually fresh from today!  I’ll add a permalink once it moves off the home page.

“Spiritual Myopia”

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13-16).  “For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come” (Hebrews 13:14).

I began to wear glasses when I was about twelve years old. I was near-sighted, meaning that I could see OK up close but distant views were blurry. I resisted wearing them at first but soon realized I really did see better with them. Near-sightedness is also called myopia. In my forties I started needing bifocals, since I now need correction both for close-up and distance.

Let me illustrate today’s message with a wonderful Creator-designed capability we all have and probably have never even considered. I am sitting at my desk in my home office with a clear view of my computer screen and close-up items on the desk. My eyes are automatically focused to this view.

I can raise my head and look out to a distant farm field view. Automatically, without any conscience effort on my part, my eyes refocus when I move from the close-up to the distant view. What if we were created with an adjustable knob on the side of our head that had to be turned each time we wanted to refocus, much like looking through a set of binoculars! I concur with David’s thoughts he penned three thousand years ago, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14).

I can purposefully not refocus when I move from a close-up view to a distant one but it’s really hard.  Look out to a distant view and stare at your hand and see how blurry and out of focus the distance is at the periphery. Try to move your hand and keep your eyes focused the same as the close-up, although you are looking at a distance. For me it’s next to impossible. My eyes just automatically refocus!

Today I want to consider a condition that many of us have which I’ll call “spiritual myopia”.  We may have a focus on the close up view but have trouble seeing and focusing on the bigger picture spiritually; that which is at a distance. It seems that spiritually speaking having a distant “faith” focus does not come automatically. I have to very purposefully focus on that by faith.

Hebrews 11 is known as the Faith Chapter and is a great commendation of men and women who lived by faith.  “This is what the ancients were commended for” (v.2).  Hebrews 11: 13-16 is an incredible interjection by the divinely inspired author of Hebrews. Prior to this Scripture passage and afterward Abraham is the focus, but this section broadens the scope using the phrase, “all these people”, which may mean those who were with Abraham, or it may be referring to all the people of faith mentioned in this chapter.  Either way you consider it, this powerful portion is certainly true of all people of faith.

But the part that grips my heart is the phrase concerning the “things promised” they had not received at the time they died.  “They only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.”  They did not have spiritual myopia.

In overcoming our tendency to being diagnosed with spiritual myopia:

1) We must have divine correction.
2) We must train our eyes for distant focus.
3) We must train our will to focus on the distant future.
4) We must place our affections on that which is yet to come.

I struggle with spiritual myopia when I am not focusing on God’s promises that are yet to be fulfilled.  I am not seeing them and welcoming them from a distance. In fact the spiritual distance may become invisible since my focus is fixed upon that which I see without effort.

Like the people who long ago lived by faith I need to regularly confess, “I am an alien and stranger on earth.”  Like them I want to be “longing for a better country—a heavenly one.”  May the Lord give each of us a distant heavenward focus! “For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.”

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

« Previous PageNext Page »