Christianity 201

September 29, 2022

Anchored in Jesus

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Beginning a New Series: What Kind of Church?

by Clarke Dixon

Many people have become uncomfortable with the Church and churches to the point of being done with Christianity. They have seen too much politicking, hypocrisy, abuse, scandals, and the ignoring of science and education. One might wonder if Jesus himself would be comfortable in some churches.

While on Sabbatical I was grateful for efforts of our interim pastor Ray Jones who happens to be the executive director of an entity called Open Table Communities. What is Open Table Communities? There are many people known as the “dones,” that is, people who are done with churches and Christianity as a whole. While there is much more to it that what I’m about to say, I’d characterize Open Table Communities as saying, “before you throw out the baby with the bath water, let’s take a closer look at that baby, and the bath water.”

Open Table is guided by eight cultural statements. They are statements of “this is how we do things around here, this is the kind of community we are.” As I looked over the eight cultural statements, they struck me as being good, not just for a new kind of faith community like Open Table, but also for an old fashioned kind of church, such as we are at Calvary Baptist. Really they speak to a community that gets Jesus, his teaching and example, the kind of community Jesus would feel at home in, the kind of community many of us would feel at home in.

Therefore, over the next eight weeks we will be using of these statements as launching points for exploring the kind of church Jesus would feel at home in, the kind of church we want to be.

Here is the first statement:

We nurture cultures that are anchored in the Jesus story, his life, death and resurrection. We nurture a view of God that is seen through the lens of Christ, and consider how this way of seeing God, the world and human activity is conducive to all human flourishing.

Open Table Communities

Why anchor our faith and life in Jesus?

Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

Matthew 7:24-27 (NLT)

Why anchor our faith and life in Jesus? Because Jesus said it was the wise thing to do. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus had already said several times “you have heard it said…but I say to you.”. Here in conclusion he is saying “Listen to me!”

Jesus later said,

I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.

Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT)

The kind of church that “gets Jesus” is one that is anchored in him.

But why listen to Jesus?

Why listen to Jesus when we wouldn’t listen to any of our friends if they said the same things about themselves as Jesus said about himself?

In a nutshell, the resurrection of Jesus changed everything and the apostles knew it.

With the resurrection of Jesus, on top of his teaching, and on top of the miracles he performed, listening to Jesus became the natural thing to do. With the resurrection of Jesus it became reasonable to believe him when he said that all authority had been given to him. With the resurrection of Jesus the disciples knew it was time for new wineskins. Everything had now changed.

But why listen to what the early Christians said about Jesus?

The disciples were convinced about Jesus, but why should we be? How do we know the New Testament is not just made up?

There is enough to say here to write a book, in fact I’ve done that as have many others. For now, let’s just recognize that Jesus is unique in the history of the world and the history of people. Jesus deserves a deeper dive, a second look, in fact a third and fourth look.

Where else might we anchor our faith and life rather than in Jesus?

There are many other places we might anchor our faith, many places which actually are good sources of truth. For example, science. Science is a great and important source of truth, but it cannot tell us everything. Likewise, philosophy, tradition, and our own experience can all be good sources of truth though they cannot replace Jesus as the anchor. Some anchor their faith in what pop culture says, or in what their social media streams tell them. There can be truth there too, but they do not compare to Jesus as an anchor for life and faith.

Here is another source of truth which is not to be the anchor: the Bible. Surprised? We are not Bible followers who look to Jesus to help us follow the Bible, but Jesus followers who look to the Bible to help us follow Jesus. There is a subtle but important distinction there. The Bible is “God-breathed,” and while that’s amazing and important, Jesus is “God with us,” and that’s even more amazing and more important. We Baptists like to say that the Bible is our authority. Sometimes what we mean, without our even realizing it, is that our understandings or interpretations of the Bible are the authority. Again, there is a subtle but important difference there. The Bible is so important for our faith. But it is not the anchor. Jesus is.

Jesus as the corrective lens.

If all we had was science, how would we view God, humanity, life, and everything else? If all we had was philosophy, how would we view God, humanity, life, and everything else. Or if all we had was pop-culture, social-media, or the Old Testament? We see what God is like through the lens of Jesus.

The corrective lens of Jesus, seeing everything through Jesus’ teaching, his life, his example, his death and resurrection, enabled Paul to say that “God is for us and not against us” (see Romans 8) and John to say that “God is love” (see 1st John 4). What does being anchored in Jesus enable you and I to say about God and our relationship with the Divine?

Since Jesus is the anchor, people are the focus.

Jesus said “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10 NRSV). When we focus on Jesus, his teaching, example, life, death, and resurrection, we see that Jesus was focused on us. Being anchored in the Jesus story means putting the focus on people, seeking human flourishing. There is a reason the only verb in the tagline of our church is “helping people.”

Here at Calvary, we want to be anchored in Jesus. We want to help people walk with Jesus in faith, hope, and love.


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Ontario, Canada; whose writing appears here most Thursdays. The sermon on which this is based can be see here.

September 26, 2022

Introducing People to Jesus for the Right Reason

Israel, what does the LORD your God want you to do? He wants you to fear him, follow all his directions, love him, and worship him with all your heart and with all your soul. Deuteronomy 10:12 GWT

Long before I ever started writing online, I had been following the writing of Keith Brenton who, continually since 2004, has been writing at Blog in My Own Eye. Although he has been featured here a few times before, it’s been eight years!

The scripture he references today is Micah 6:8. In the NLT it reads,

No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (underlining added)

To read this where it first appeared click the title which follows.

The Purpose

I don’t believe that the purpose of encouraging people to follow Jesus is to get them to be baptized, or to go to church, or to give to church, or to agree to a certain set of postulates and catechisms, or to observe holy rites, or to memorize sacred scripture, or to vote a certain way, or to engage in a lot of churchly activities, or even to be fanatically worshipful and sold-out about going to heaven.

I believe we should encourage people to follow Jesus for the purpose of following Jesus. Finding out more about who He is; wanting more and more to be like Him; becoming a good person, a better person, a godly person, a person who is more and more like Him.

It’s about becoming less selfish and more selfless. Becoming less hateful and more loving. Less bigoted and more accepting. Less adamant and more inquisitive. Less mouthy and more listening. Less graceless and more gracious. Less judgmental and more equitable. Less helpless and more helpful. Less hopeless and more hopeful.

Jesus mentions church a couple of times in all of scripture. He talks about establishing it. He talks about what to do when something goes wrong in it.

The apostle Paul seems to have to address what goes wrong in it when people try to make it about self and their ideas about practice or theology or eschatology or politics or whatever. We get some lessons about those things in the process, but his undertone is the same as Jesus: love each other, and these things will matter less than your love for each other. And I think the other New Testament writers agree.

Synagogue is never prescribed in the Mosaic law. Church is never prescribed in Christianity. It was assumed, because people who have something wonderful in common like to gather and share it. There was a time when building a great edifice of a temple was part of the plan, but Jesus made it clear that time would pass, and it did. He would build a church, an assembly, independent of place and time and wealth and materiality — and it would be in the hearts of people who wanted to follow Him so He could show them who God really is.

Just, but merciful. Righteous, but gracious. Eager to walk with us. Exactly like Micah 6:8 describes Him.

And people who want to be like Him will want to be like Jesus of Nazareth.

So we’ll walk with Him. Learn from Him. Observe Him. Consider Him. Imitate Him. Reflect Him.

We’ll be people on a journey. Not sitting or standing to praise, pray, recite, assent, ritualize, preen, judge, condemn, divide, demand, legislate or pledge nationalistic loyalty.

People walking. On a journey with the One they adore, the Truth they adore about the Way they adore toward the Life they adore. Every single day and night. Getting a little closer to it. Drawing others with them to that candor and grace and hope.

That’s the Purpose.

And all the sitting in the magnificent buildings, and paying the devout and devoted staff, and listening to the inspiring messages, and giving so that staff members can do the hard work of gathering others, and saying all the right words together won’t bring us an inch closer to that Purpose if we’re not walking. Following.

I’m writing this on my blog-that-nobody-reads-anymore so I don’t have to take as much heat for what I believe. But this is what I believe, and I know these are harsh words for dear people I love; people who are sold on a way of doing church that I just can’t see working anymore; people who are so invested in it that their whole lives are about it and perhaps their income and their student debt and their thinking and their speaking and their actions. All church-centered.

But when church becomes your savior, you will always be in the business of trying to save it. Because we’re all human, fallible thinkers, inconsistent doers — constant screw-ups. And we’ll fail. It’s a given.

However, there is a Savior who is a perfect example of how and whom to be.

And He wants to walk with us.

Really, all we have to do is follow.


From the website Gospel Choruses:

My Lord knows the way through the wilderness,
All I have to do is follow.
My Lord knows the way through the wilderness,
All I have to do is follow.

Strength for today is mine all the way,
And all that I need for tomorrow.
My Lord knows the way through the wilderness,
All I have to do is follow.

He guides me in the paths of righteousness For the sake of His name. -Psalm 23:3b NASB

September 22, 2022

Keeping the Sabbath – Part Two – Sabbath

by Clarke Dixon

Guess what I did last Sunday after telling the story about mowing the lawn on a Sunday. I mowed the lawn. A blatant disregard for the rules? Should I feel guilty? Is the Sabbath a day for going on a guilt trip whenever you do anything?

In reading the New Testament with fresh eyes we may be challenged in how we view the Sabbath. Let us take a look at what we do and do not find.

We do not find the apostles telling the Jesus followers who came from a non-Jewish background to keep the Jewish Sabbath when given the perfect opportunity to do so. At the Council of Jerusalem as recorded in Acts 15 the apostles came together to discern if people needed to become Jews in order to become Christians. Here is what they wrote:

For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay no greater burden on you than these few requirements: You must abstain from eating food offered to idols, from consuming blood or the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality. If you do this, you will do well. Farewell.

Acts 15:28-29 (NLT)

Each of the things listed to not do relates to worship practices that were common in the Roman world. You would expect that if keeping the Sabbath as the Jews did was to be a necessary religious practice of the non-Jewish Christian, it would have been listed as something to do.

We do not find Paul, who calls himself the apostle to the non-Jews, putting an emphasis on Sabbath keeping. In fact we find a hint of him doing quite the opposite in his letter to the Galatians:

You are trying to earn favor with God by observing certain days or months or seasons or years. I fear for you. Perhaps all my hard work with you was for nothing. Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to live as I do in freedom from these things, for I have become like you Gentiles—free from those laws.

Galatians 4:10-12 (NLT)

Some think that “observing certain days” includes keeping the Sabbath in the strict manner as the Pharisees commended. Here Paul is commending freedom instead.

What we do find is Jesus appealing to the use of wisdom in keeping the Sabbath:

One Sabbath day Jesus went to eat dinner in the home of a leader of the Pharisees, and the people were watching him closely. There was a man there whose arms and legs were swollen. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in religious law, “Is it permitted in the law to heal people on the Sabbath day, or not?” When they refused to answer, Jesus touched the sick man and healed him and sent him away. Then he turned to them and said, “Which of you doesn’t work on the Sabbath? If your son or your cow falls into a pit, don’t you rush to get him out?” Again they could not answer.

Luke 14:1-6 (NLT emphasis added)

Jesus pointed out that even the Pharisees would break the commonly held rules around Sabbath when it was wise to do so!

We also find Jesus setting the record straight on why the Sabbath exists in the first place:

One Sabbath day as Jesus was walking through some grainfields, his disciples began breaking off heads of grain to eat. But the Pharisees said to Jesus, “Look, why are they breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath?”
Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you ever read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He went into the house of God (during the days when Abiathar was high priest) and broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat. He also gave some to his companions.”
Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath…”

Mark 2:23-27 (NLT emphasis added)

What we also find is Paul telling his protégé Timothy how to think of the writings of the Old Testament:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:14-17 (NIV emphasis added)

We Christians can become quite confused in how we use the Old Testament, especially since we are no longer living under the old covenant that is given so much attention in it. Paul calls these Scriptures “useful.” He does not call them binding rules, nor the covenant we are still under in addition to the new covenant, but rather they are “God breathed,” so yes God was involved in their writing, and they are “useful.” Nothing more, nothing less.

As Christians, we are not going to say “we are not under the old covenant, and we don’t need to become Jewish, so we are never going to rest!” Rather, the practice of a regular rhythm of rest is a wise thing to do. The Old Testament Scriptures are useful for teaching, just as Paul said. In a world that takes so much out of us, the practice of Sabbath is wise, in fact it is an act of love.

Let us be reminded, too, that the Old Testament commandments were an act of love toward others as well as oneself:

“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do.

Deuteronomy 5:12-14 (NIV)

Although the practice of a Sabbath day is not commanded for Jesus followers, practicing Sabbath is wise and is an act of love, toward oneself, and toward others.

So how do we Christians keep the Sabbath as a wise and loving thing to do? Should we set aside Sunday as a Sabbath, a day of rest? For some people that is very wise. Must we set aside Sunday as a Sabbath, a day of rest? For some of us that would be unwise, another day, or another rhythm of rest would be better.

When it comes to wisely practicing Sabbath, perhaps thinking of taking a day off work is too narrow. What would working too hard every day do to the ancient Israelites when the commandment to rest was first given? It could deplete their energy, cause injury, take away joy, destroy opportunities of connection and celebration, and likely lead to an early grave. Sometimes we need a break form the things that would deplete our energy, injure us, take away our joy, destroy opportunities for connection and celebration, and lead us to an early grave.

We might therefore need a break from hard work, but we may also need to take a break from bullies, expectations, people, loneliness, perfectionism, judgemental attitudes of others, or from being self-absorbed. There are many things that it may be wise to take a break from. Sabbath is an act of self-love.

But it is not just about us.

How might we give Sabbath to others? People might need a break from our expectations, our presence, our absence, our perfectionism, our judgement, our issues, and the things we do which trigger their anxiety.

Paul prayed for the believers in Philippi that their love might “abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight” (Phil 1:9 NIV). Loving people with wisdom includes concern for their need for Sabbath, discerning whatever kind of break they might need.

Given what we do and not find in the New Testament writings, Sabbath is not a strict day of obligation for the Christian, but it is an opportunity. It is an opportunity of practicing love toward oneself, giving ourselves permission to take a break. We may need a break, not just from work, but from whatever may be grinding us down. Sabbath is also an opportunity to love others, giving them a break, from work, or from whatever is grinding them down.

Notice how this can affect how we relate to those who are not church going Christians. When we think of Sabbath as a day of obligation we can have judgemental attitudes towards Sunday shoppers, Sunday mowers, or the like. Instead, in our super busy world where even retirees are worn out from having too much to do, Sabbath can be a point of commonality, and an invitation; “You need a break too, huh?”

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)

Sabbath is not an obligation that sends us on a guilt trip, but an opportunity for a journey in being wise in acts of love toward ourselves, and others.


This spring, Clarke Dixon announced the completion of a book. Read more about what’s inside Beautiful and Believable: The Reason for My Hope, by clicking this link. It’s a great book to give to someone who is considering Christianity but hasn’t made a decision. It contains material adapted from Clarke’s “Compelling” series which ran here a few years back. Available in print and e-book. For the rest of Clarke’s blog, click Thinking Through Scripture.

September 15, 2022

Keeping the Sabbath this Sunday? – Part One – Sundays

We welcome regular Thursday contributor Clarke Dixon back from sabbatical. To read more of his writing, check out his blog Thinking Through Scripture.

by Clarke Dixon

The former pastor of the church wondered what the new pastor of the church, me, would think of my neighbour cutting grass on a Sunday. Dropping by to see me, as he rounded the corner on his walk he discovered that it wasn’t a neighbour at all. It was me!

There is a lack of confusion about the Sabbath and Sundays. Notice that I didn’t say there is a lot of confusion about the Sabbath and Sundays, but there is a lack of confusion. Everyone knows that Sunday is the Sabbath, right? Everyone knows that no one, especially Baptist pastors, should cut the grass on a Sunday, right? We all know it is a day of rest, right?

Should we be confused about Sabbath and Sundays?

Well yes, for starters anytime we find the Sabbath mentioned in the Bible, which is a lot, it is the seventh day of the week.

Secondly, nowhere in the Bible are we commanded to gather to worship God on first day of the week.

So how is it that Jewish people, and some Christians like Seventh Day Adventists and Seventh Day Baptists, celebrate the Sabbath on the seventh day, yet the vast majority of Christians, now, and throughout history, celebrate on the first day?

It turns out that very early in the history of Christianity, followers of Jesus began getting into the habit of worshipping on the first day of the week. They called it the Lord’s Day. We find no command to do so in New Testament, but we do find some hints, though not many, that this was happening as early as that time. For example,

On the first day of the week, we gathered with the local believers to share in the Lord’s Supper. Paul was preaching to them, and since he was leaving the next day, he kept talking until midnight.

Acts 20:7 (NLT)

Some might suggest that a young man falling asleep while Paul was speaking, as is related in verses 8 and following, is proof that this was indeed a Sunday church service! We also find this in the Book of Revelation;

It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshiping in the Spirit. Suddenly, I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet blast.

Revelation 1:10 (NLT)

While this last verse does not specifically link “the Lord’s Day” with the first day of the week, we know that early Christians did think of Sunday as being “the Lord’s Day.” John is most likely referring to Sunday here.

So what happened, that we see Christians paying less devotion to the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath Day, while also beginning to pay more attention to the first day of the week, not as the Sabbath Day moved, but as a different day, the Lord’s Day?

What happened was that Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week. Something remarkable happened, resurrection, to someone remarkable, Jesus, that caused the apostles to know more deeply and profoundly something remarkable about God, namely that, as Paul would say, “God is for us and not against us,” and as John would say “God is love.”

This was profoundly good news, and so the earliest Jesus followers began to gather for worship and mutual encouragement on Sundays, to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus which happened on a Sunday. At the same time there was a shift in attitude toward the Sabbath, but we will think about that next week.

This invites us to re-imagine Sundays for our time. We might think of Sundays as being the Sabbath day, a day of rest, a day on which we should not work. But what if we see Sunday instead as a day that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus, a day to remember that God is for us and not against us, and that God is love. What if we think of Sunday, not as a day of obligation to keep rules, like thou shalt attend church and thou shalt not cut thy grass or the like, but as a day of opportunity, to recenter and refocus our lives on the fact of God’s love?

When we begin the week with a focus on the fact that Jesus is the risen Lord, and that God is love, and that God is for us and not against us, we will gain new perspective for all that we face. Is there pain and sorrow? God is for us and not against us. Is there anxiety? God is for us and not against us. Is there grief? God is for us and not against us. Is there guilt? God is for us and not against us. Are there decisions that need to be made? God is love and we are commanded to love too.

Notice what that does not just for our own attitudes, but for our attitude toward outsiders. Perhaps we will be less likely to think of those not attending church as rule breakers, but as people who, like us, face hardships, pain, grief, and anxiety. We will see them as people who could benefit from knowing that God is for them and not against them. When we make Sundays about the rules of Sabbath keeping and church attendance, we may well come across as judgemental toward those who don’t keep the rules. When we make Sundays about an opportunity to connect, and reconnect with God who loves us, maybe we will across as more loving and understanding in our invitation.

There is no commandment given in Scripture for Christians to gather on Sundays. There is barely a mention of them doing so! But the tradition of gathering on the Lord’s Day sets up a rhythm, a regular rhythm of remembrance that is wise.

At my heaviest, at 248 lbs, I figured my days of windsurfing were over. I lamented that my body would give shape to my life and determine the things I could and could not do. That was 60lbs ago. I now believe that, apart from illness or disease, our lives give shape to our bodies. Likewise, we may allow our lives to give shape to our worship, to our church attendance, to our gathering for mutual encouragement, or the lack thereof. We are too busy, we are too wounded. Perhaps we are too angry. Instead we can let our worship, our gathering to re-centre on Jesus, our gathering with others for mutual encouragement, to give shape to our lives. A regular rhythm of worship is wise.

Brian Zahnd’ describes in his book When Everything on Fire a pastor who announced the Sunday following Easter that he had lost his faith and was quitting his job as pastor. Zahnd’s next line was “no more Easters.”

I have a very different announcement; every Sunday is Easter Sunday. Every Sunday is a commemoration of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Way more Easters!

There is a lack of confusion about Sundays and the Sabbath. We all know that Sunday is about being on a guilt trip. Where we should and should not be, what we should and should not be doing. But if we allow ourselves a little confusion about that, we may gain some wisdom. Sundays are not about a guilt trip, but about a journey with God who is love. Sundays are a journey with others, walking together in divine love.


This spring, Clarke Dixon announced the completion of a book. You can read more about what’s inside Beautiful and Believable: The Reason for My Hope, by clicking this link. This would be a great book to give to someone who is considering Christianity but hasn’t made a decision. It contains material adapted from Clarke’s “Compelling” series which ran here a few years back. Available in print and e-book.

September 14, 2022

Remembrance

by Ruth Wilkinson

Exodus 20:8-11 (NIV)

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

________________ 

 Being a worship leader entails leading congregations in prayer, choosing songs and prayers and scriptures that we will sing and read together to help us in our gathered worship as we focus on and hear from the God who we serve. Over the years it has very much been the case that my favourite kind of service is a communion service, when we share the bread and we share the cup in remembrance of Jesus. 

As a worship leader, they’re my favourite services just for the music. Throughout the history of the church there’s a tremendous, wonderful body of powerful, rich music that has been written around the idea of Christ’s death and resurrection. Those songs and musical pieces are among the most creative and the most lyrical, the most skilled, beautiful music. 

As a believer, as someone who just follows Jesus to the best of my ability, I love communion services because they help to bring me back. They help to bring me back to where my faith began: at the cross. 

And as a teacher, I love communion services and those scriptures that were written around those events of those days, those hours, those people: how everybody responded and everything that people said and what happened next. There’s so much there that is theologically rich, humanly relatable, and personally challenging. 

I want to start by reading together a passage that is read in conjunction with communion services.  

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you—the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed prayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks He broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  

In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this whenever you drink it in remembrance of me.” – 1 Corinthians 11:24-25 

These words, written by the apostle Paul, are spoken by pastors around the world, Sunday after Sunday, and in many languages, in many traditions by millions of people sharing communion.  

These words are powerful. They are important. And they are unifying. 

Earlier this year I was planning the worship for a Good Friday service and this idea of remembrance really jumped out at me off the page. This passage was written by the apostle Paul, and in it he is emphasizing the idea of remembrance–remembering Jesus—and I find that really interesting for a few different reasons.  

First of all, Paul is writing about an event at which he wasn’t present. He wasn’t in the room at the Last Supper. He personally can’t “remember” what happened, but he is urging us (who were not there either) to “remember.” Because Paul wasn’t there, he’s drawing from other sources, and the one source that we can identify is Luke 22:7-38. Luke is one of the gospel writers, and that’s where we find the idea of Remembrance connected to the Last Supper. 

The second thing that I find interesting is that the other gospels don’t make that connection. The other gospel writers don’t connect the idea of remembering to the Last Supper. Their focus is on other things that are happening, other important ideas, but not specifically remembrance. 

The last thing that’s interesting is that Luke himself only quotes Jesus as talking about remembrance once—in conjunction with the bread. He does not quote Jesus saying it in conjunction with the cup. 

So what’s happening in 1 Corinthians, as best I can understand it, is that Paul is identifying something in Luke’s writing that is really, really important and really, really big. And Paul is expanding on it. He’s running with it, and he’s turning it into something that we can recognize and use as a liturgy in our worship together. 

A liturgy is an established formula. It’s a set of words or actions that we can follow like a trail of bread-crumbs to help us walk together through Truth. 

Why was this idea of remembering so important for the apostle Paul? 

When you do a word search for the word “remember” in the Old Testament and in the New Testament what you find is that most of the remembering that happens in the Bible is the kind of remembering that is very relatable to us. It’s the kind of thing where we bring back to the present tense, bring back to the front of our mind something from the past, something that somebody said, something that happened, or a person. 

It is entirely right and good for us to bring back to the front of our minds the fact that Jesus willingly suffered. He willingly died and came back to share with us the power of resurrection and of eternal hope and of new life. When a family of believers come together at this table in an intentional and heartfelt way, it is the most beautiful exercise that a faith family can undertake: to cherish the shared memory of someone who means that much to us. 

But there’s another kind of remembering in the Bible.

In the above passage from Exodus Chapter 20, God expresses this other kind of remembering in a very effective way. He says, “Remember the Sabbath.” 

Remember the Sabbath. God is commanding his people–as part of his covenant, as part of their relationship together, as part of the journey that has just begun when these words are spoken—to remember the Sabbath. 

The Sabbath was the last day of the week. It was set aside as special.  

People were not to work. You worked six days, you rested on the Sabbath, and the Sabbath became a tremendously important, central, unique covenant characteristic of Israel. It was a part of their individual identities. It was a part of their corporate and national identity. They took it so seriously that a huge body of teaching rose up over the centuries about how to remember the Sabbath and the idea of “don’t work.” It sounds simple, but what does it mean? 

I did a little bit of research on this and it’s kind of amazing. 

There are 39 identified categories of work that are to be avoided on the Sabbath, and I have a list of a few of them here. The first one is carrying and then it goes on to burning, extinguishing, finishing, writing, erasing, cooking, washing, sewing (and all the women said Amen!), tearing, tying, untying, shaping, ploughing, planting, reaping and it goes on up to #39. 

As an interesting aside, I found this quote on a website called OU.org. It provides an insight into the observance of Sabbath and what it means. 

The definition of such work is of any act where man demonstrates his mastery over nature. 

But the first act by which men demonstrate such mastery is taking things from nature and carrying them where he needs them. In a sense, by not carrying, we also relinquish our ownership of everything in the world. 

A main sign of ownership is that we may take something where we please. On the Sabbath we give up something of this ownership, and nothing may be removed from the house. When a man leaves his house, he may carry nothing but the clothing on his back. It is G-d, not man, who owns all things. 

This is the kind of depth and sincerity and integrity that goes into understanding how to observe, and remember Sabbath. 

What I find most important–where I find the most significance–is that I would argue that by remembering Sabbath, Israel made Sabbath happen. 

By remembering Sabbath, that day became something new. Israel created what would become. 

By remembering Sabbath, they carved out space among themselves and among the nations around them, and they created a footprint where eternity could stand. 

That idea of remembering Sabbath is consistent with what it means when God himself remembers. There are a few places in Scripture where we are told, “Then God remembered…” 

Now, God doesn’t forget the way we do. He doesn’t have those couch cushions in the back of his head where he has to go rummaging for stuff, because ‘it’s got to be there somewhere.’ That’s not how God’s mind works. 

Rather, when God remembers in Scripture, it is an indication that something is about to happen. 

When God remembers, the world gets changed. 

  • In Genesis 8, God remembered Noah, and in that moment the destructive flood waters began to recede. And it was the beginning of the beginning of a new beginning. 
  • In Genesis 18, God remembers Abraham, and Lot is saved from the destruction of Sodom. 
  • In Genesis 30, God remembers Rachel. In 1 Samuel, God remembers Hannah and these women who had been unable to conceive a child give birth to children who become men who, for centuries affect the destiny of their people. 
  • In Judges 16, God is asked by Samson, “Please remember me.” And for that moment, Samson’s strength returns. And God’s enemies fall. 
  • In Exodus 2, God remembers Abraham and Jacob and Israel, and he begins to open the door for Israel to be freed. To become a nation. 
  • In Luke 23 (my favourite) God remembers a dying thief hanging on the cross beside him. And that dying thief is forgiven, and embraced into an eternity of life. “Today. With me. In Paradise.” 

When God remembers, things happen. When God remembers, the world is changed. 

My husband Paul and I were talking about this message and he asked me, “Do you have a ‘So What’?” Whenever either of us is preaching somewhere, we ask, “So what’s the ‘So What’?” The ‘So What’ is the moment in the sermon when the speaker ties together the loose ends and helps us get a big picture understanding of what we’ve been talking about and says, “This is an appropriate way to respond. This is something that we need to do.” 

But I don’t so much have a ‘So What?’ as a ‘What If?’ 

This is not the kind of thing where the loose ends neatly connect. It is the kind of thing where we can continue to debate and discuss and ask questions and to look things up and I hope you go for it! 

This study of the idea of remembering leaves me with a question, not with an answer. It is a question that I am not in a position to even try to answer. But it is one that I will humbly ask myself more than anyone else. 

My question is this: 

What if Paul (who understood the old covenant, who understood Sabbath and its impact on the consciousness of the nation of Israel, a highly educated Jewish scholar, zealous for the God of Israel);

What if Paul (who, even though they never met in the flesh, came to a passionate understanding of who Jesus was—that he was in very nature God, who chose to humble himself, but who will ultimately be raised up when we acknowledge that he is Lord);

What if, when that Paul encountered those words of Jesus, “Remember me,” the voice that Paul heard saying that phrase was not simply the voice of a man who was leaving his friends behind and wanted to not be forgotten, a human being who wanted to be remembered? 

What if, in addition to that human voice, Paul also heard the voice of Yahweh in Israel’s history of Covenant? 

What if, Paul heard an echo in those words of a Sabbath kind of remembering?

The kind of remembering that becomes a unique, indelible characteristic of Christ’s Church on Earth. 

The kind of remembering that is an inseparable part of our individual and corporate identities. 

A kind of remembering that carves out a footprint among us and among the nations around us, shaping a space where eternity can stand?  

What if, by taking that one mention in Luke’s writing and turning it into something greater for us all to share, Paul is pointing us towards a remembrance of Jesus—the Christ, the Lord—the kind of remembrance that makes things happen? 

The kind of remembrance that changes the world. 

In John 14 the apostle John writes a record of Jesus final sermon, his final message to his followers, which includes us. John records Jesus commanding them,  

  • Believe in God,  
  • If you can’t believe in God because of what I’ve said, believe because of what I’ve done. 
  • Trust that there is a place prepared for you and that you will see me again there. 
  • If you love me, obey me.  
  • Don’t look to the world for your approval, because you’re not going to find it there. Find your identity in me. 
  • Live in the peace that I leave, the peace that no one can take away. 
  • You are not slaves anymore. I chose you. 
  • You will have suffering, but I have conquered. 

This is the Jesus who commands us to remember him. 

He is commanding us to live him into the world: to act, to speak, to live him, to share him, to give him, to forgive the way he forgave. 

To be perfect as he is perfect, to love as he loved, to serve as he served, to take up the cross as he took up the cross. 

To be one as he and the father were one. 

This is the Jesus we are commanded to remember, and (I would argue) to remember in a way that changes the world. 

So, my question is… 

What if Jesus is calling us to remember, as God remembers?
To make things happen. To change the world.
And what if we actually did?

 

 

September 11, 2022

Laser Beam Eyes

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Matthew 6:19-24 NIV:

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Today we have a writer we first featured in June of last year. We again happened upon Jamin Bradley a few days ago, and his writing led us to the excerpt we did from CommonPrayer.net although we made a note to circle back to his own writing. A Free Methodist pastor, he has written eight books, recorded a number of albums, and started three alternative churches. His blog features AI-generated images. Clicking the header which follows will let you read this where we found it.

Guard Your Eyeball Lightbeams

Up until the 1500s, it was thought that eyes actually emitted or projected something like light or energy. This energy wasn’t as extravagant as an X-Men superpower, but ancient people certainly believed there was a power of sorts in the eyes. Indeed, they believed that you could basically curse someone by casting an “Evil Eye” on them—a glance to which pregnant mothers, newborn babies, and children were especially susceptible. This kind of look was thought to be widespread enough that some Jewish teachers in the early first centuries claimed that, “Out of one hundred persons, ninety-nine die of an Evil Eye.”

Throughout the Bible, there are at least 24 references to the evil eye, with a few of those references coming from Jesus himself. In his famous Sermon on the Mount, he says something that often confuses us: “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is evil, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”

Many modern readers are taken aback by this teaching. How is the eye a lamp? How can eyes be evil? The answer is found in the ancient conception of the eyes, as they were thought to emanate what’s inside of us and project it out, kind of like a lamp or a lighthouse. I know it sounds odd to us, but just as your tongue exclaims the good or evil and blessings or curses that live inside of you, so would ancient people say that your eyes emit the light or darkness inside of you.

While we know that this is not scientifically how eyes work, maybe you can still admit that you’ve fallen under the good or evil glances of another person (or even given such glances yourself). We’ve all noticed throughout the pandemic that we don’t need to see the bottom half of someone’s face to know how they feel about us. We can feel all kinds of good and evil expressions through the eyes of others: kindness, enjoyment, judgment, sensitivity, seduction, rage, and much more. How little we would be able to comprehend someone’s full feelings without their eyes. Though our eyes may only scientifically be receptacles, we must admit that we’ve felt their spiritual-like emissions one way or another.

I’ve had one friend strangely mention several times that I have “kind-Jesus-eyes,” which they sometimes struggle to look at when kindness is not what they think they should receive. But the eyes of Jesus are the exact kind of eyes we Christians are to strive for. For if Jesus was the light of the world, then the kind of light that emanated from his glance is the same kind of light we should pour out on other people—and that’s a teaching that our angry and judgmental world could probably use more of.

So in conclusion: In ancient thinking, your eye is a lamp, so it should naturally pour out the light that is within you, blessing those around you. But if you instead are filled with evil, you will emit darkness instead. Erase the darkness and be like Jesus—be light. You already know that as a Christian you are to guard your tongue—now guard what you say with your eyes as well.


*This devotional was created out of the themes of Matthew 6:19-24 found in today’s reading at CommonPrayer.net. My research on the “Evil Eye” here is taken from John H. Elliot’s book, Beware the Evil Eye: The Evil Eye in the Bible and the Ancient World. Volume 1. “Introduction, Mesopotamia, and Egypt.”

September 9, 2022

Taste and See, Go and Tell

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Someone once shared with me that part one of the Gospel is “taste and see” and part two is “go and tell.” Another way of saying this, “freely you have received, now freely give.”

NIV.Luke.6.17 He [Jesus] went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, 19 and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.

We present devotionals here from a variety of sources. Today we’re with Jerry Robinson, who is one of the three writers at Reflections of a Lay Catholic. If you click the title which follows you can read this where it first appeared.

Is Your Faith Contagious?

In today’s Gospel, Luke 6:12-19, Luke tells of the great multitude of people who sought out Jesus to be healed of their diseases and to be cured of the torment of unclean spirits.  Luke doesn’t elaborate on how this great multitude of people learned about Jesus’ healing.  But, I suspect it happened by word of mouth, by those who heralded the healing and curing power of Jesus to their family and friends.

Reflecting on this passage, I related to the poor tormented souls as I recalled a time when I was overwhelmed by stress and the exigencies of life which brought so much unhappiness.  I wasn’t looking for Jesus to cure me, but I let friends who knew I needed Him carry me to His emergency room, an ER with zero wait time!

So, I ask myself today, have I been one of those friends who, after being cured, or having witnessed His healing, made the effort to tell others who need Him?  I can say “Yes”, but reservedly.  This blog is one way I get the word out.  I evangelize through spiritually mentoring other men to develop their interior lives and their relationships with Jesus.  I share my faith in small groups with other men who already have a strong faith.  But, do I reach out effectively and proclaim the Good News to those who have not heard it or are indifferent to it?  Is my faith contagious?  I think I can do better.

How about you?  Is your faith contagious?  In what ways do you tell others about Jesus and His saving grace?  How might you do better?

“Lord Jesus, I thank You for Your constant presence in my life.  Lord, open my heart to new ways to bring others to You, and, through Your grace, help me to realize the virtue of fortitude I need to be outgoing in bringing Your Word to others.  Help me, Jesus, to live my life in a way that others want some of what I have.  Amen.”


©2013-2022 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

September 8, 2022

Long Live the King!

One of my goals for the past 12+ years has been to create a body of devotional literature that is somewhat timeless; not influenced by current events or topics. As I write this however, the world has learned of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, and it got me thinking about what the Bible says about government, rulers, and monarchs.

For those of us who follow Christ, we are citizens of another world; an eternal place not appearing on earthly maps. The Bible plainly says we are “not of this world.” “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world (John 15:19a NASB) and again, “But our citizenship is in heaven…” (Phil. 3:20a NET)

This is spelled out again in Peter’s epistle:

CEB.1Peter.2.9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people who are God’s own possession. You have become this people so that you may speak of the wonderful acts of the one who called you out of darkness into his amazing light. 10 Once you weren’t a people, but now you are God’s people. Once you hadn’t received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

We often use the word “theocracy” to describe a place where the rule of God is law, and the word “sovereignty” to demonstrate the ‘rulership’ (which we call Lordship) of Christ. This was also God’s ‘Plan A’ for the people of Israel, but they wanted what other nations had, a king. (Wasn’t there a commandment about coveting the things belonging to others?)

NIV.1Samuel.8.1 When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.

So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”

But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

And that is exactly what happened. “Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.” (Acts 13:21 CSB)

And there we see, in Israel’s history at least, the beginning of kings.

But we believe that all these things take place under the sovereignty of God.  God then inspires Paul through the Holy Spirit to write these words to Timothy:

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior (1 Timothy 2: 1-3 NLT)

To the church at Rome, Paul writes,

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God [granted by His permission and sanction], and those which exist have been put in place by God. Therefore whoever resists [governmental] authority resists the ordinance of God. And those who have resisted it will bring judgment (civil penalty) on themselves. (Romans 13:1-2 AMP)

Especially note the phrase “for there is no authority except that which God has established.” (v1 NIV)

Writing to leaders, Paul tells Titus,

Remind your people to submit to rulers and authorities, to obey them, and to be ready to do good in every way. They are not to insult anyone or be argumentative. Instead, they are to be gentle and perfectly courteous to everyone.  (Titus 3:1 GNT, 3:2 ISV)

So our ultimate submission is to Christ, but Christ compels us to submit to earthly rulers who have been placed over us. Before his death, Jesus affirms,  “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom.” (NLT) or “My kingdom is not from this world.”

We are ultimately citizens of two worlds, this one and the world to come.

Where good, God-fearing, faith-honoring leadership has been given by earthly kings and queens, we give thanks, as we do today.

And we pray for King Charles III, that this may continue.

September 7, 2022

Pay Attention to Small Sins

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

In 2011 and in 2012 we sourced material here from a book that I have in my library, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Enuma Okoro. Recently, a writer I was checking out online referred to commonprayer.net and since it had been awhile, I thought I would share the reading scheduled for today with people who may have joined us in the past 10 years. There is no fixed link for this set of prayers, so the link in the title below also takes you to the site. As you read/pray, consider the interconnectedness of the words which follow.

Daily Prayers for September 7

O Lord, let my soul rise up to meet you

as the day rises to meet the sun.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Come, let us sing to the Lord : let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

Song “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah”

Humble us in your presence, Lord : that we may delight in abundance of peace.

Psalm 37:11-14 (NRSVUE)

11 But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.

12 The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them,
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he sees that their day is coming.

14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to kill those who walk uprightly;

In a little while the wicked shall be no more : you shall search out their place, but they will not be there.

But the lowly shall possess the land : they will delight in abundance of peace.

The wicked plot against the righteous : and gnash at them with their teeth.

The Lord laughs at the wicked : because he sees that their day will come.

Humble us in your presence, Lord : that we may delight in abundance of peace.

CEB.Esther.7.1. When the king and Haman came in for the banquet with Queen Esther, the king said to her, “This is the second day we’ve met for wine. What is your wish, Queen Esther? I’ll give it to you. And what do you want? I’ll do anything—even give you half the kingdom.”

Queen Esther answered, “If I please the king, and if the king wishes, give me my life—that’s my wish—and the lives of my people too. That’s my desire. We have been sold—I and my people—to be wiped out, killed, and destroyed. If we simply had been sold as male and female slaves, I would have said nothing. But no enemy can compensate the king for this kind of damage.”

King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, “Who is this person, and where is he? Who would dare do such a thing?”

Esther replied, “A man who hates, an enemy—this wicked Haman!” Haman was overcome with terror in the presence of the king and queen. Furious, the king got up and left the banquet for the palace garden. But Haman stood up to beg Queen Esther for his life. He saw clearly that the king’s mood meant a bad end for him.

The king returned from the palace garden to the banquet room just as Haman was kneeling on the couch where Esther was reclining. “Will you even molest the queen while I am in the house?” the king said. The words had barely left the king’s mouth before covering Haman’s face with dread.[a]

Harbona, one of the eunuchs serving the king, said, “Sir, look! There’s the stake that Haman made for Mordecai, the man who spoke up and did something good for the king. It’s standing at Haman’s house—seventy-five feet high.”

“Impale him on it!” the king ordered. 10 So they impaled Haman on the very pole that he had set up for Mordecai, and the king’s anger went away.


NIV.Matthew5.38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Humble us in your presence, Lord : that we may delight in abundance of peace.

Mechthild of Magdeburg, a thirteenth-century mystic, wrote, “What hinders spiritual – people most of all from complete perfection is that they pay so little attention to small sins. I tell you in truth: when I hold back a smile which would harm no one, or have a sourness in my heart which I tell to no one, or feel some impatience with my own pain, then my soul becomes so dark and my heart so cold that I must weep greatly and lament pitiably and yearn greatly and humbly confess all my lack of virtue.”

Prayers for Others

Our Father

Thank you, Lord, that no sin is too small to bring the conviction of heart that may lead us to repentance and more faithful living. Convict us of our smallest sins so we might learn to delight in your ways. Amen.

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you : wherever he may send you;

may he guide you through the wilderness : protect you through the storm;

may he bring you home rejoicing : at the wonders he has shown you;

may he bring you home rejoicing : once again into our doors.

 

September 2, 2022

The Good News Changes the World

NRSVUE.Acts.17.4 Some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. But the Jews became jealous, and with the help of some ruffians in the marketplaces they formed a mob and set the city in an uproar. While they were searching for Paul and Silas to bring them out to the assembly, they attacked Jason’s house. When they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some brothers and sisters before the city authorities, shouting, “These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has entertained them as guests. They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king named Jesus.” The people and the city officials were disturbed when they heard this…

 

Appropriately enough, we’re back for a fourth time with Stanley J. Groothof who blogs at The 4th Point. In many communities, pastors are often asked to write something for the local newspaper. That’s what this is: An opportunity to speak to a wider audience than weekend church services might offer. Clicking the title below will take you to where it first appeared (and a picture of Stanley’s mouse pad referenced in the first paragraph!)

Upside down

On my desk is a mousepad. It’s a round mousepad and pictured on it is a map of the world. You can see a good chunk of North and South America, all of Europe and Africa, and part of Asia.

There’s just one thing that’s a little strange about my mousepad: It’s upside down – at least compared to how we usually look at a world map. The tip of Argentina points straight up pretending it’s high noon and Santa’s home at the North Pole is at the bottom! I understand that’s how Australians orient their globes, but here in North America it just doesn’t look quite right.

My upside down globe daily reminds me of something the people in Thessalonica say in Acts 17. Although the Gospel is initially welcomed by the Thessalonians, some ruffians show up where the followers of Jesus are sharing the Good News. These bad characters form a mob that turns into a riot. They drag some the disciples before the authorities with this accusation: “These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also.”

Apparently the people in Thessalonica don’t like having their world turned upside down.

I don’t either.

Yet that’s what the Gospel consistently does. It reveals how weakness is strength. How poverty reveals true wealth. How death leads to life. It sounds backwards, but God wins by losing. His perfect Son Jesus dies on the cross – the most humiliating, shameful ending imaginable. But Jesus beats death at its own game and rises in a shocking new beginning on the third day. Now for all who are in Christ, sin has been defeated, life has purpose, and the future is hopeful.

Those who identify with Jesus can’t help but adapt more and more to God’s upside down ways. Followers of Jesus perceive that generosity carries the highest profit. Slowing down helps you get ahead. Apologies are necessary. Forgiveness is freeing. Fidelity is meant to be celebrated. Sports are not meant to be idolized. Wisdom is more valuable than a university degree. Possessions are temporary. Beauty comes from character instead of the cosmetics counter. It’s ok for both men and women to cry. Those who are overlooked need compassion. We’re stewards (not owners) of creation. The truth matters. Promises need to be kept. Rights can be willingly set aside. The unborn already have an imprint of the divine. Ethnic diversity is a foretaste of heaven. Worshiping is the best use of time. Persecution is a reward. Peace overpowers hate. Loving one’s enemy is normal.

Many influencers in our culture say that living in line with these and other priorities in God’s Kingdom is unrealistic and pointless. They say living like that is upside down. And sometimes it feels that way. Especially when I get used to things not being right side up as described in the Bible.

So I keep Argentina on my mousepad map pointing upwards to remind me that God works in surprising ways. And that his Spirit empowers me to sometimes turn things upside down in God’s name. When I do so, I’m in good company with the disciples in Acts 17.

 


About the scripture reference: This is the first time we’ve had an author using the new NRSVUE which is publishing this month. It stands for New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition.

August 27, 2022

Either Way, It Was a Miracle

NIV.Luke.9.16 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people.

Almost two weeks ago we wrote about Jesus feeding the 5,000 and noted that that miracle is the only one in all four gospels? It’s in Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9, and John 6.

Perhaps foreshadowing today’s post, we quoted John’s gospel:

John 6:14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

but nowhere else is there narrative of the multiplying of the loaves and fish expressly stated. Rather, it’s implied in the statement that everyone was fed and satisfied. We know that 12 baskets were left over. Did the baskets multiply, too? I would love to have had a front row seat on watching that multiplication take place. (Or maybe it would be better to have a back row seat!)

Which brings us to…

A lot of people are talking about a forthcoming title on the problem of homelessness; saying that this is the definitive book on the subject. I’d love to review the book on my other blog, or run an excerpt from it here, but the publisher doesn’t offer us either option. The book is Grace Can Lead us Home by Kevin Nye. I decided to see if Kevin had a website, and he does, and thought I would mention the book anyway, and then offer you an example of his writing from two years ago. You can read this where it first appeared by clicking the title which immediately follows. And look for the book when it comes out next month from Herald Press.

Why Worry About the Loaves and Fish

When I was younger, I remember my grandma telling me about the worst sermon she ever heard. It was on this passage, and the preacher had told the congregation that the miracle of this story is not Jesus multiplying the bread and fish, but that everyone actually had bread and fish but didn’t want to share it. So when the disciples set out the little that they had, everyone who was there chose to share what they had with one another, and the multiplication simply happened because there was already enough food, and they decided to share it in common. My grandma was really upset by this interpretation, because she said it diminished the miracle. In that version, Jesus wasn’t necessary, there was no real act of God, just a humanist sharing. I always remembered that because I was on my grandma’s side; how dare that pastor try to tell my grandma that Jesus didn’t have the power to make more food!

Fast forward a few years, and now I’m in Bible school and seminary and I’m beginning to read the Bible in new ways. I start to learn that it’s okay to not read every passage literally – in fact, it’s impossible to do that. Some books and passages have to be read the way they were meant to be read, not the way I want to read them, by picking up the Bible at a random page and projecting everything I want and believe onto what I’m reading. I think back to this story and passage and begin to wonder, maybe that pastor was right. The passage never says that the bread and fish multiplied, that the fish started separating into two fish and then four and then 16 until there was enough. Like any student who’s first learning something that challenges their earlier beliefs, I fell fully into it. It’s amazing that the historical Jesus inspired a crowd to share what they have. Is it a miracle? Who could explain that?

Years later, I find myself laughing at both extremes. My grandma was right; this was a miracle. The text wants us to know that. 5,000 men, only 5 loaves and 2 fish, and 12 baskets leftover? Everyone was fed? This is a miracle. Did the loaves separate? Did the crowd add some of their own food to the communal pile? I don’t know. Even if they did, is that less of a miracle? Do we not believe that every good gift comes from God? Maybe God multiplied their bread the day before, for them all to bring with them? Maybe God slowly and methodically blessed those in the crowd to have more than enough to bring to the gathering that day. Maybe it was both. Maybe it was neither. But everybody had enough, because of the blessing of Christ. When God blesses, there is enough.

A beautiful poem by Mary Oliver really helped me unlock this passage. Sometimes where Bible  scholars and historians and scientists fail, poets help us read scripture; so much of it, after all, was written by poets. Mary Oliver writes a poem called Logos, and it says this:

Why worry about the loaves and fishes? 
If you say the right words, the wine expands.
If you say them with love
and the felt ferocity of that love
and the felt necessity of that love,
the fish explode into many.
Imagine him, speaking,
and don’t worry about what is reality,

or what is plain, or what is mysterious.
If you were there, it was all those things.
If you can imagine it, it is all those things.
Eat, drink, be happy.
Accept the miracle.
Accept, too, each spoken word
spoken with love.

Accept the miracle = it was all things, plain, mysterious. I understand why she calls the poem “logos,” because this intermingling of reality and mystery is most understood in the person of Jesus. Jesus is the word of God made flesh, fully God and fully human. Try formulating a thesis on that one. And so it is no surprise that this divine and yet fully historical, real and mystical Christ would deliver a miracle that feeds a crowd literally, and feeds us today spirituality. When God blesses, there is enough. There is more than enough.

There are leftovers. I’m reminded of when Jesus turns water into wine. There’s an extra detail that the wine Jesus made was better than the wine they had already, even though they didn’t need that. When God blesses, there is more than enough.

We can’t separate this miracle from the miracle in the Exodus desert. When the Israelites were stranded in the wilderness, God gave them enough to eat. They were not allowed to take more than they needed, or it would spoil and make them sick. God was blessing, and there was enough; and God was also teaching that to take more than you need is to make a community sick. To take more than you need, even when there is more than enough, is to violate the generosity of God. Again, we get this great detail in Exodus that the manna tasted like wafers made with honey. They didn’t need to be sweet in order to sustain their bodies, but you see the extra blessing of God in the sweetness of provision. When God blesses, there is more than enough – not just enough to sustain, but enough to bring joy. When God blesses, there is abundance.

And yet, we live in a world where many go hungry. Many do not have what they need. There are some who do not have enough bread to eat. There are many who I see every day who don’t make enough money to live, or to have shelter. We are told there is a shortage of affordable housing. We live in a world, even in a country, where there does not seem to be enough to go around. Is this passage wrong? Is God wrong? When God blesses, there is more than enough to go around, right? So why does it seem there is not enough to go around?

Where is the missing abundance? I think we all know the answer to that. There is, of course, enough. But like a game of telephone, it doesn’t seem to make it all the way around. 1/3 of the food we purchase in America is thrown out. The wealth gap between the rich and the poor is the worst it’s ever been in America, and is among the worst in the whole world. Units and rooms in houses and hotels and apartment buildings sit empty every night, while 50,000 people live on the streets or in their cars.

It is true that God has richly blessed America. Any time there is enough, any time there is an abundance, it is a miracle, just like my grandma said. But if there is more than enough, and yet all do not eat, or all are not filled, then we have not done what God has blessed us for. We have taken more than our daily bread. We have taken someone else’s bread. If there is more than enough, and not everyone is filled, we have cut others off from God’s blessing and hoarded it for ourselves.

When God blesses, there is more than enough. For some of us today, we are in search of enough, and the Gospel offers us comfort. It offers a mystery and a miracle, that the bread and fish will multiply. For those of us who have had our daily bread, or maybe a little more, the text beckons us with a challenge. Will we add what we have to the gathering? Will we accept that if God has multiplied our blessings, it is so there will be more than enough for everyone? As we move to the table and accept the bread and the cup, notice that for whoever you are, and however much you have, and however much good or wrong you have done, the same amount of Christ is offered to you, and it is more than enough.


Again, today’s article by Kevin Nye wasn’t, as far as we know, a book excerpt, but I want to mention the book again below because I think it’s an important publication.

August 26, 2022

Behold! He Comes with Clouds

Today another new author to introduce to you. Lisa Berg writes at Professing Christians. She goes in-depth on various topics, and in the last few months has been writing much about the Book of Revelation. Today’s devotional study first appeared in March. Clicking the title header below will take you to where we found her writing. [Note: Lisa uses the KJV. You can look these up on BibleHub.com or BibleGateway.com in a version that reads better for you.]

The Clouds of Heaven

When I was growing up, we were taught in science class that there are three types of clouds: cirrus (short, detached hair-like), cumulus (cauliflower shaped), and stratus (low-level layers). Somewhere along the line nimbus was added.

According to metoffice.gov.uk, “Nimbostratus clouds are dark, grey, featureless layers of cloud, thick enough to block out the sun. Producing persistent rain, these clouds are often associated with frontal systems provided by mid-latitude cyclones.”

These seem to be the clouds that are often associated with the clouds of heaven on the Day of the Lord. Look at Joel 2:1-2a –

“Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand; A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains…”

“a day of clouds and of thick darkness…” When you look at the Strong’s for “clouds” in this verse it is H6051 – “עָנָן ʻânân, aw-nawn’; from H6049; a cloud (as covering the sky), i.e. the nimbus or thundercloud:—cloud(-y).” It’s a THUNDER CLOUD.

The first use of this “thundercloud” is in Genesis 9:13 where the Lord set His rainbow in the cloud as a covenant after the flood. That would have been a storm cloud, right? That’s where rainbows come out after a storm is over.

In Exodus, this cloud was the cloud by day that led the Israelites through the desert. This is also the incense cloud that He appeared in above the mercy seat in the Most Holy Place. It also describes the clouds (with thick darkness) that was on the mount when He gave Moses the Law. And David says H6051 thunderclouds surround Him at His throne (Psalm 97:2).

The prophets, however, take a different note on these thundercloud structures. They liken them to what Joel saw: storm clouds in the Day of the Lord:

  • Jeremiah 4:13 – He comes as clouds with chariots as a whirlwind and horses as eagles;
  • Ezekiel (various) – a whirlwind out of a great cloud with fire infolding itself; as the appearance of a rainbow in a rain cloud; with the brightness of the glory of the Lord; as the Day of the Lord is near; blotting out the sun…
  • Nahum 1:3 – The Lord has His way in the whirlwind and the storm, clouds are the dust of His feet;
  • Zephaniah 1:15 – The Day of His wrath is a day of darkness, gloominess, clouds, and thick darkness…

I think we get the picture. But (as usual) I think there is more to this than His coming in a mere thunderstorm.

Jesus said in Matthew 24:30 “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

This is right after Jesus describes a scenario in which the sun is darkened, the moon does not give her light, and the stars fall from heaven. These things are described by the prophets as well in Joel ch. 2&3, Isaiah 13, Amos 8, Ezekiel 32, Mark 13, Acts 2, which all describe the 6th Seal in Revelation! That’s a lot of witnesses! In fact, is that part of the “Cloud of Witnesses”?? (Just another thought.)

Back to these nimbus thunder clouds… As we know, thunder clouds come in storms. God euphemistically uses storms to describe how He is going to wipe out the wicked in the Day of the Lord. I ran across these:

Isaiah 28:2 Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand.

Isaiah 29:6 Thou shalt be visited of the Lord of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire.

Isaiah 30:30 And the Lord shall cause his glorious voice to be heard, and shall shew the lighting down of his arm, with the indignation of his anger, and with the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering, and tempest, and hailstones.

Ezekiel 38:9 Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee.

These are verses that sound like He is coming WITH these storm clouds. Oh wait:

Revelation 1:7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

So here’s my last thought on this: Jesus comes back in and with “clouds”. Out of the throne comes lightnings, thunderings, and voices (Rev. 4:5). Only the elders and the beasts (living creatures from Ezekiel 1) are allowed at the throne. This is when, in Revelation 5, the Lamb (Jesus) is handed the scroll with the seven seals.

When Jesus opened the first seal, what do we hear? The noise of thunder and one of the four beasts (living creatures with four faces) saying, “come and see.” (Okay, was THAT his voice that sounded like thunder?)

Now in Revelation 6:12 we see what all those prophets were talking about – the sun darkened, the moon blood red, the stars falling, and an earthquake. Then we have the last seal in Revelation 8… and what happens at the throne? Voices, thunderings, lightnings, and another earthquake.

We know that when God speaks all these things happen. But He is a God that includes His sons (and daughters) in what He purposes in the earth. These are written about in His Word and include judgment and ruling and reigning with Him. I believe when God has had enough (which I think is in this generation) and enough of His people are ready to go to war with Him (He IS the Lord of “hosts”, this doesn’t mean stars), He will take His army with Him and they will descend with a great shout as in the days of Jericho.

I think the enemy doesn’t even know what is about to come upon them. I think they have greatly underestimated God’s army and the power of His tempest, storm, whirlwind, thunder, and lightning of us, His outstretched arm. But that’s just me.

August 25, 2022

Christ: Our Place of Refuge

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

NIV.Numbers.35.6 “Six of the towns you give the Levites will be cities of refuge, to which a person who has killed someone may flee.”

NIV.Numbers.35.11 “select some towns to be your cities of refuge, to which a person who has killed someone accidentally may flee. 12a They will be places of refuge from the avenger…”

Many features of life for the people of the Old Testament don’t exist in New Testament times, but the beauty of scripture is that we don’t need to exercise a great amount of imagination to see the equivalent for us today, and most often, we find the pattern or principle completed in Christ.

Today we’re back for our annual visit — and our tenth visit — to a source of devotional writing which you might want to know about for yourself, or share with someone with whom it will connect. The website Broken Believers states its purpose as “all about serving through a message of Christian discipleship and helping Christians with mental illnesses and other issues.” Click the title which follows to read this on their site, and then take some time to read other articles. The author today is Brian Lowe.

Our City of Refuge

Buried in the Old Testament is the idea of the Cities of Refuge.

They speak profoundly to our situation and bring real hope for us who struggle so. Six places of safety were given to protect those who accidentally killed another person— maybe an ax-head flew and hit someone, and they died as a result.

God told Joshua to establish cities of protection where one could be safe from an avenger. There were six of them, three on the east side of the Jordan river, and three on the west. The cities were pretty much covering Israel; each was spread out intentionally so they were always close. That city became a place of asylum for those guilty of manslaughter.

Us as believers, we know that we’ve committed crimes against God and other people. The burden we carry threatens to undo us. Satan (and his minions) want to destroy us—and honestly, we deserve it. We are essential ‘criminals’ who have hurt others and damaged ourselves in the process.

Outside of the city, we’re vulnerable—but inside those walls we find safety.

Those who have killed others are protected. If we venture outside, we find our adversary who is waiting. Scripture tells us that we must stay cloistered there until the current high priest dies. Upon his death, we’re released and may leave the city walls.

For broken believers, the whole concept rings true.

The text speaks for itself, and there is spiritual logic in all of this. We see parallels here that speak to our condition. We’ve messed up big time. We also carry issues that the enemy can attack. Depression, bipolar, trauma, and even thoughts of committing suicide—they can be a real part of our lives.

I must tell you that safety is found in only a place.

Finding God and abiding in him is our place of safety. His walls protect us, Jesus is our high priest, who never dies; that means we need to stay with him, permanently. I like Hebrews 6:18, LB:

“Now all those who flee to him to save them can take new courage when they hear such assurances from God; now they can know without a doubt that he will give them the salvation he has promised them.”

For us especially, we often have problems with the doctrine of assurance of salvation. Our enemy works overtime to accuse us (Rev.12:10). We’re his targets and the lies of many demons assault us. We can, at times, wonder if we’re really saved. We wonder if we are really forgiven, and we doubt our salvation. Satan’s efforts can be constant and crippling.

I encourage you to think this over and pray about this. Numbers 35 is a good place to start. That chapter is pretty clear. Look also at Exodus 21:13-14; Joshua 20:1-6; Deuteronomy 19:2-13.

 

August 16, 2022

Elisabeth Elliot Quotations

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Be patient. Is God not fast enough? Are His answers too tough? A quick sympathy from a friend may suggest that you simply drop out, be good to yourself, get away from it all. Someone else will be sure to say, “You need counsel.” Are you sure? One hour at the foot of the Cross may obviate the necessity of professional counseling (no such thing existed until the twentieth century – what did folks do before then?). – Elisabeth Elliot

It’s been awhile since we presented something in our quotations series and with the news that a previously unpublished manuscript by the late Elisabeth Elliot had been discovered (publishing in September by Dayspring) it seemed to be a good prompting to hear some of what she had to say in her various writings. For those who don’t know, she was the wife of Jim Elliot who was one of five men martyred in South America by the Auca tribe, which is one of the most significant missionary stories in Evangelical Christianity.

Take your time to read these slowly. I’ve tried to group similar themes together. There’s not a particular scripture emphasis today, but we’ll be back to that format tomorrow.  Also, again be reminded each paragraph below is a distinct quotation which had its own context.


God is God. Because he is God, He is worthy of my trust and obedience. I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will that is unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what he is up to.

To be a follower of the Crucified means, sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross. And the cross always entails loss.

All our problems are theological ones, William Temple said. All of them have to do with our relationship to God and his to us, and this is precisely why it makes sense to come to God with them.

The principles of gain through loss, of joy through sorrow, of getting by giving, of fulfillment by laying down, of life out of death is what the Bible teaches, and the people who have believed it enough to live it out in simple, humble, day-by-day practice are people who have found the gain, the joy, the getting, the fulfillment, the life.

Faith need never ask, ‘But what good did this do me?’ Faith already knows that everything that happens fits into a pattern for good to those who love God. An inconvenience is always, whether we see it or not, a blessed inconvenience. We may rest in the promise that God is fitting together a good many more things than are any of our business. We need never see what good it did, or how a given trouble accomplishes anything. It is peace to leave it all with Him, asking only that He do with me anything He wants, anywhere, anytime, that God may be glorified.

The Word of God I think of as a straight edge, which shows up our own crookedness. We can’t really tell how crooked our thinking is until we line it up with the straight edge of Scripture.

The life of faith is lived one day at a time, and it has to be lived – not always looked forward to as though the “real” living were around the next corner. It is today for which we are responsible. God still owns tomorrow.

The disciplined Christian will be very careful what sort of counsel he seeks from others. Counsel that contradicts the written Word is ungodly counsel. Blessed is the man that walks not in that.

I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end, but by His making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able to honestly to pray what He taught His disciples to pray: Thy will be done.

“Is discipline the same as punishment?” a young woman asked me. She was troubled by the idea of God wanting to “get even.” I gave her 1 Corinthians 11:32 (NEB) “When…we do fall under the Lord’s judgment, He is disciplining us, to save us from being condemned with the rest of the world.” God’s “punishment” of His children is never retribution, but rather correction. We know that we are indeed His beloved sons, sharing in the discipline that all sons share – for a high purpose, namely that we may some day share in His holiness, “attain life.”

Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.

Faith does not eliminate questions. But faith knows where to take them.

In space, astronauts experience the misery of having no reference point, no force that draws them to the center. Where there is no “moral gravity” – that is, no force that draws us to the center – there is spiritual weightlessness. We float on feelings that will carry us where we were never meant to go; we bubble with emotional experiences that we often take for spiritual ones; and we are puffed up with pride. Instead of seriousness, there is foolishness. Instead of gravity, flippancy. Sentimentality takes the place of theology. Our reference point will never serve to keep our feet on solid rock. Our reference point, until we answer God’s call, is merely ourselves. We cannot possibly tell which end is up.

It is always possible to be thankful for what is given rather than to complain about what is not given. One or the other becomes a habit of life.

God has promised to supply all our needs. What we don’t have now, we don’t need now.

Do you often feel like parched ground, unable to produce anything worthwhile? I do. When I am in need of refreshment, it isn’t easy to think of the needs of others. But I have found that if, instead of praying for my own comfort and satisfaction, I ask the Lord to enable me to give to others, an amazing thing often happens – I find my own needs wonderfully met. Refreshment comes in ways I would never have thought of, both for others, and then, incidentally, for myself.

For one who has made thanksgiving the habit of his life, the morning prayer will be, ‘Lord, what will you give me today to offer back to you?’

George MacDonald said, ‘If you knew what God knows about death you would clap your listless hands’, but instead I find old people in North America just buying this whole youth obsession. I think growing older is a wonderful privilege. I want to learn to glorify God in every stage of my life.

Heaven is not here, it’s there. If we were given all we wanted here, our hearts would settle for this world rather than the next. God is forever luring us up and away from this one, wooing us to Himself and His still invisible Kingdom, where we will certainly find what we so keenly long for.

 

 


Sources: Quotefancy, Viral Believer, A-Z Quotes (prayer), A-Z Quotes (uncategorized), Grace Quotes, Quote Ambition; see also Good Reads, and Inspiring Quotes. Image: Quotesgram.

August 12, 2022

Keeping Jesus the Focus of Our Scripture Reading

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , ,

So readers and subscribers, bear with me on this one.

We’re featuring a lot of writers for the first time during August, and this one is no exception. The original article from which this is based is longer than what we usually run here, and this excerpt from it is a bit shorter that what you normally get.

But what struck me here — aside from the very obvious point the writer is making — is the way he cited scripture verses. Using (I think) the KJV as a base text, he inserts clarifications the same way the Amplified Bible inserts amplifications.

And somehow, I couldn’t walk way from how this brings the scriptures to life and the truths seem to leap off the page.

So as usually, we’ll link to the article, but this time around you have the option to continue reading the original on the writer’s blog. The author is David Buffaloe and the blog is BibleTeacher.org. Click the link below to read this there in full.

Our Business Is God’s Kingdom

John 1:10-14 He {Jesus} was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. {11} He came unto his own, and his own received him not. {12} But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: {13} Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. {14} And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

Why Are We Here Today? Why Am I A Christian?

When Sherry and I were stationed in England for the United States Air Force we had the wonderful opportunity of riding these big red double decker buses in London. We’d taker our boys to the top floor of the bus – an upper “uncovered” floor – and enjoy a wonderful view as we rode around town. It was wonderful to ride those buses – that is, when you could get on them.

There were several times when our family was waiting at a bus stop, excited to ride the bus … and the bus driver passed us by without stopping! It wasn’t just us, but this happened frequently throughout London. Someone finally complained about this to the London Transit Authority, the organization that maintains the city buses. The London Transit Authority issued a public paper that stated the following:

“It is impossible for us to maintain our schedule if we are always having to stop and pick up passengers”

The Transit Authority forgot what its purpose is. Without passengers, the bus is useless. Without passengers, the Transit Authority makes no money. The business of the London Transit Authority is to take people around town in buses.

What Is The Business Of The Church?

The Business of the Church is to introduce the Lord Jesus and His Kingdom to a world that neither knows Him, nor wants to know Him. We are Light bearers & Seed sowers.

In our text today we see a tension between Jesus and the world He made. Jesus made the world. Jesus made every person who has ever been made. The Bible says:

John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word {that’s Jesus}, and the Word {that’s Jesus} was with God, and the Word {that’s Jesus} was God. 2 The same {that’s Jesus} was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

The Bible says All things were made by him. That’s Jesus. The Apostle Paul said of Jesus:

Colossians 1:15-18 Who {that’s Jesus} is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature {Jesus is the Source of all life}: 16 For by him {that’s Jesus} were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him {that’s Jesus}, and for him {that’s Jesus}: 17 And he {that’s Jesus} is before all things, and by him {that’s Jesus} all things consist {are held together}. 18 And he {that’s Jesus} is the head of the body, the church…

The Business of the Church is to tell others about Jesus, and as they believe on Him this will bring the Kingdom of God more and more to this present world.

 

►►finish reading the article at this link

Next Page »