Christianity 201

July 10, 2019

A Theology of Hospitality and Recovery

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:2

Several months back we introduced the devotional blog, Partners in Hope Today. You can also listen to today’s devotional.

I’d like to add something to the first paragraph below. It could easily be applied to introverts. I have a few of these in my family and I am only beginning to understand how that can limit some types of fellowship.

When you think about it, what other factors could limit someone’s approach to hospitality?

Click the header below to read at source.

Hospitality and Recovery

Some of us in recovery lack the quality of being hospitable.  We do not care to be around others.  We give our attention to our own needs and have forgotten, or perhaps never learned, the social skill of thoughtfulness towards others.  Our loving God created us to be in relationship with Him and with one another and we are out of sync with our humanness when we behave in other ways.

Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him.  He doesn’t play hide-and-seek with us. He’s not remote; he’s near. (Acts 17:26-27 MSG)

Although we may not vocalize it, some of us tend to think this way, “Why should God and others care about me when I really don’t care about them?”  However, we are made to be hospitable and care for one another.  Jesus gave us a commandment to love one another.  This is not a suggestion.  God knows what is best for us and He made us to live in community with one another.

This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you.  This is the very best way to love.  Put your life on the line for your friends.  (John 15:12-13 MSG)

Going to a recovery meeting for the first time can be intimidating, but if we are warmly greeted by others we will be encouraged to stay.  When attendees share their experience, strength, and hope with us, they are being hospitable, and desire that what they share will be of help to us.

Love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  (1 Peter 4:8-9 NIV)

Hospitality is the human way of caring for one another.  It begins with one person helping another to find their way out of the maze of self-centeredness.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Sometimes I want to hide from others because of the guilt I feel about my past life.  Help me to accept Your forgiveness and live in the dignity of being Your child.  Help me to put Your Word and Your ways into practice.  Help me to be hospitable as I share the experience, strength, and hope I experience in belonging to You.  Amen

Related articles:

Go Deeper: 21 Bible Passages on Hospitality.

June 11, 2019

Those Who Don’t Share Show by Their Actions They Don’t Know Him

It was either an email or a referral from another writer we feature here, but sometime late last week we got connected to the website Generosity Monk. Author and teacher Gary Hoag has curated an amazing collection of excerpts from scholarly books and commentaries — including some obscure sources — and runs the excerpt followed by some observations on what makes this personal to him.

There are similarities to C201, as he’s been doing this faithfully on a daily basis since June, 2009. The site is a goldmine of devotional and study resources.  Because of that, we’ve featured it both yesterday and today. Click the header below to read this at source.

A.W. Tozer: Abundant Goodness

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends Your works to another; they tell of Your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of Your majesty—and I will meditate on Your wonderful works. They tell of the power of Your awesome works—and I will proclaim Your great deeds. They celebrate Your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of Your righteousness. The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made. Psalm 145:3-9

“The goodness of God is that which disposes Him to be kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men. He is tenderhearted and of quick sympathy, and His unfailing attitude toward all moral beings is open, frank, and friendly. By His nature He is inclined to bestow blessedness and He takes holy pleasure in the happiness of His people.

That God is good is taught or implied on every page of the Bible and must be received as an article of faith as impregnable as the throne of God. It is a foundation stone for all sound thought about God and is necessary to moral sanity. To allow that God could be other than good is to deny the validity of all thought and end ill the negation of every moral judgment.

If God is not good, then there can be no distinction between kindness and cruelty, and heaven can be hell and hell, heaven. The goodness of God is the drive behind all the blessings He daily bestows upon us. God created us because He felt good in His heart and He redeemed us for the same reason.

Julian of Norwich, who lived six hundred years ago, saw clearly that the ground of all blessedness is the goodness of God. Chapter six of her incredibly beautiful and perceptive little classic, Revelations of Divine Love, begins, “This showing was made to learn our souls to cleave wisely to the goodness of God.”

Then she lists some of the mighty deeds God has wrought in our behalf, and after each one she adds “of His goodness.” She saw that all our religious activities and every means of grace, however right and useful they may be, are nothing until we understand that the unmerited, spontaneous goodness of God is back of all.”

A. W. Tozer (1897-1963) in “The Goodness of God” in Knowledge of the Holy, 57.

God’s abundant goodness serves as the basis or foundation for all of our living, giving, serving, and loving. See for yourself. Read Psalm 145. Consider verse 16, in which David proclaims: You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. The reason we live with openhanded generosity is because that’s God’s posture toward every living thing. Those who know and understand Him for who He is will enjoy and share His goodness and kindness.

The sobering truth is that those who don’t share, show by their actions that they don’t know Him.

This thinking is echoed much later by Julian of Norwich, an anchoress, who (of course) reminds me of my wife, Jenni, who serves God as the Soulcare Anchoress. Those who adopt the title “anchoress” (or anchorite) imply that they have discovered by knowledge and experience that all of life must be anchored in one thing alone, the goodness of God, which is why relationship with Him (and obedience to Him) must be pursued above all else.

Rather than lose you with what sounds like lofty thinking, let me make my point.

Because of the abundant goodness of God, we can be kind and generous. But will we be kind and generous? As His blessings flow to us, the only way to rightly receive and share them is to know and have a deep relationship with Him. Out of that anchored relationship, we become like Him when we walk in obedience, and then with righteousness, justice, and open hands, we dispense His abundant goodness and kindness.

If that went over your head, then read Psalm 145, count your blessings, and think how you can bless others today and this week as a result.

January 5, 2019

Relationship Imperfections Remind Us of What Only God Can Fill

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Today we’re back with Gary Henry at WordPoints. After a long internal debate as to which of these I should run, I decided to use both of them — Gary presented them both the same day — as I felt that the subjects were integrated. Click the title to read either at source and then navigate from there to check out the other great topics on the site.

Our Need for Relationship

“That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).


We owe our existence not to impersonal forces, but to a personal Creator, and it was the Creator Himself who said, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). We are personal beings, and we were designed for full, vibrant relationship.

But sin destroys relationship. It severs us from God and from others, cutting us off from this thing that is so necessary to our na­ture. So there is perhaps no sy­mptom of sin any more obvious than the deep, gnawing pain of isolation. And in sin, there is no groaning more desperate than to be freed from our loneliness.

But however much we need relationship in general, our most vital need, the only one we can’t survive without, is our need for relationship with God.

“In every man there is a loneliness, an inner chamber of peculiar life into which God only can enter.”
(George MacDonald)

Our craving for God is a dependency we were meant to have. It is a profound need for perfect relationship, and to try to fill this need with our flawed connection to other human beings is not only wrong; it is hopeless.

If we fail to let God fill our need for love — if it is not in Him that our loneliness is taken away — then we will force an impossible mandate on the imperfect people around us. We will demand from others a satisfaction they aren’t capable of providing for us in this broken world. Only the infinite God is able to relate to us perfectly. And even with God, what we can have in this life is only a foretaste of the perfect union that heaven will provide.

When we find that even our most intimate earthly companions can’t provide the depth of relationship for which we were created, bitterness may be the tempting reaction. Yet there is a healthier response. We can see the imperfections in our own relationships as a salutary reminder. God alone is the One to whom we must look for life and unfailing love. To forget that is to lose the path that leads back home.

“Didst thou give me this inescapable loneliness so that it would be easier for me to give thee all?”
(Dag Hammarskjöld)


“It was a dark and stormy night.”
(Edward Bulwer-Lytton)


“Dark and stormy nights” are a fact of life, and when we find ourselves in the middle of one, our hearts need a safe place in which to shelter. It’s important to appreciate the shelter that others have given us in the past, and even more important to make our hearts a place where they’ll find a welcome when they’re the ones who are scared of the storm.

Having a heart that provides refuge for others takes some learning. Not many of us have such a heart naturally. Caring perhaps comes naturally, but showing compassion in ways that actually do some good is a skill that has to be learned. It’s not rocket science, maybe, but it does take a little education in the school of caregiving. We have to watch and listen. We have to apply good judgment. We have to learn from well-intentioned mistakes that we’ve made. In short, we have to grow in the quality of the mercy that we extend.

Men, especially, have to learn how to be a refuge to others. Since the simple gift of “nurturance” is not normally our strong suit, we have to exert extra effort to learn it. The strong masculine tendency to “fix” whatever’s wrong has to be reined in. To have hearts in which others find refuge, we must learn to see when a safe harbor is all that’s needed — and not a dry-dock facility for ship repair.

Who are those that need from you the gift of refuge? The answer would probably surprise you. If you knew the hurts that those around you carry with them every day, you would be astonished. You may never know those hurts. Your friends may never choose to confide in you about them. But you would do well to assume that most of the people you deal with are hurting. Be ready. Be prepared for the time when they might consider seeking some safety in their relationship with you. If that time ever comes, you will have bestowed on you one of life’s greatest privileges: the privilege of showing compassion.

“Discouraged people don’t need critics. They hurt enough already. They don’t need more guilt or piled-on distress. They need encouragement. They need a refuge. A willing, caring, available someone.”
(Charles R. Swindoll)

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
  Colossians 3:12 NIV

We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love.
 2 Corinthians 6:6 NLT

April 28, 2018

Justly, Kindly, Humbly

Today we’re introducing you to a writer appearing for the first time here at C201. Martha Anderson has been writing devotions at Strengthened by Grace since January, 2014 and is the author of four books available on as she explains at her site:

One is “Food for the Soul,” and it takes you through forty-five Old Testament daily devotionals, complete with some explanation and application questions. The second was just finished, “More Food for the Soul,” with seventy-eight New Testament daily devotionals…There are also three books that take you chronologically through Jesus’ life, “Jesus Changes Everything and He is Changing Me.” The 4th one takes you through the book of Acts.

To learn more click this link. Click the title below to read today’s devotional at source. I’ve added a song at the end which is based on today’s key scripture.

How to please God

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?  Micah 6:8

The prophet Micah was asking about how to please God in Micah 6.  He asked if he should come before God with thousands of animals for burnt offerings or ten thousands of rivers of oil to burn incense as a fragrant offering.   In today’s terms we might ask if we should go to church three times a week, become a missionary, or give all of your money to a good cause.

No, the answer is still the same.   God gives a picture of His true heart for how we should live in a way that pleases Him.  We should pursue justice, to love kindness and to be humble.  God’s answer to Israel and to us is today’s verse:  pursue justice, love kindness and be humble before God and others.

We find a similar response in Isaiah 58.  In that chapter, God told the people of Israel that even though they sought Him daily and even fasted to be religious, it didn’t amount to much.  God told them if they really wanted to please Him they should end wickedness, oppression, and injustice, to feed the hungry and take in the homeless.

The justice that we are to pursue isn’t just for ourselves; it is for those who have no voice.  It might be for those who don’t have the financial resources to get a good lawyer, or for children and the unborn.   God wants us to see others that are not as well off as we are and find ways to help them.

We are not to get confused and to think that ‘social justice’ is the Gospel, as some movements do.   But if I live a grace and truth filled, joyful and Jesus centered life–that should make me different. It should make me incredibly generous, and quick to embrace the messy people who have more needs than I can meet. I should be looking for ways to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

My eyes should always be looking outward, not in at my own safe little heterogeneous group or navel gazing at myself. One of my capstone verses is John 10:16 where Jesus says, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold, I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice.”

Micah 6:8 mentions both justice and kindness. Synonyms for kindness are: gentleness, affection, warmth, concern and care.   This is a fruit of the Spirit, so as I am walking in the Spirit, kindness should be front and center. That slogan about practicing ‘random acts of kindness’ is kind of funny. Really, we should be practicing ‘intentional and well thought out acts of kindness on a regular basis.’ But that doesn’t make for a good t-shirt slogan.

Finally, God wants us to be humble.  It is easier to think about the opposite trait, which is pride.  James 4:6 tells us, “God oppose the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  And in Philippians 2:3 Paul writes, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  As Tim Keller said in The Art of Self Forgetfulness, “It’s not that you think less of yourself, it’s that you think of yourself less.” That’s what God is looking for. The thing about humility is that when you achieve it, no one will notice!

If you want to know how to please God, here it is: stand up for someone who can’t speak for him or herself, do an intentional and well thought out act of kindness daily, and make sure you don’t get the credit for it.

April 25, 2018

Giving to Get

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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NIV Luke 14.12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Today we’re back with Mayfield, Kentucky pastor and counselor Josh Ketchum. Click the title below to read at source.

Life in the Kingdom

Why do we do what we do? Most things we do with an expectation of getting something in return.

Consider these questions . . .

Why did you have the last people over to your house? Why did you give your wives flowers for your anniversary? What was your expectation when you helped a poor person with gas? What was your expectation when you mowed the yard for a neighbor when he was sick?

What were you expecting? Why did you serve them? What was the repayment you were hoping to get?

Jesus gives us a challenging principle in Luke 14:12-14. He says for us to have a dinner and not invite our friends or family. Don’t invite those who have wealth or those similar to you that will “pay” you for the invitation. He says rather to “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.” The reason you will be blessed is because they “cannot repay you.” In fact, you may not receive any earthly payment or satisfaction, but you will be “repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

Who loves like that? What if we did? What if we loved simply to love. What if we let our expectations of what we will (or should) get out of it go?

It would transform our relationships and our attitudes.

Consider these thoughts . . .

What if I loved my wife today without expecting anything, but only offering to her my service and complete acceptance for who she is? It would foster sincere and true love in our marriage. It would free her and me to love, rather than acting out of fear and pressure.

What if I chose to invite people to my home who are different from me, who I don’t really know, but people whom need a friend and whom I haven’t really learned their story?

What if I chose to love others in my family in a way that communicates I respect who they are and the choices they make, rather than punishing them when they fail to meet my imposed expectations?

What if I sought to release my focus on what I get and chose to simply love for the sake of Jesus? Isn’t this the love of Christ? Christ’s love is unselfish and done without the expectation of payment. He loved us on Calvary’s cross, while we were his enemies (Rom. 5:8-10).

Consider your motives for your actions toward others. Choose to intentionally love others without the expectation of anything in return. Choose to love without expecting any repayment. Even take it one step farther, go find someone to love who can’t really give you anything (a young child, a poor stranger, or a elderly person). You will be blessed when you do!

NIV Romans 5.8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

January 11, 2017

Becoming a Person Given to Hospitality

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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NLT Genesis 19:1 That evening the two angels came to the entrance of the city of Sodom. Lot was sitting there, and when he saw them, he stood up to meet them. Then he welcomed them and bowed with his face to the ground. 2 “My lords,” he said, “come to my home to wash your feet, and be my guests for the night. You may then get up early in the morning and be on your way again.”

“Oh no,” they replied. “We’ll just spend the night out here in the city square.”

3 But Lot insisted, so at last they went home with him. Lot prepared a feast for them, complete with fresh bread made without yeast, and they ate

I’ll grant you the above story doesn’t end well, but it was referred to by today’s writer, so I’ve included it. Today we’re paying a return visit to the website Bible Universe. In addition to the article — click the link below to read at site — I’ve also included a link to some additional resources they offer at the end of today’s reading.

Importance of Hospitality

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:2

In the twilight two strangers drew near to the city gate. They were apparently travelers coming in to tarry for the night. None could discern in those humble wayfarers the mighty heralds of divine judgment, and little dreamed the gay, careless multitude that in their treatment of these heavenly messengers that very night they would reach the climax of the guilt which doomed their proud city. But there was one man who manifested kindly attention toward the strangers and invited them to his home.

Lot did not know their true character, but politeness and hospitality were habitual with him; they were a part of his religion–lessons that he had learned from the example of Abraham. Had he not cultivated a spirit of courtesy, he might have been left to perish with the rest of Sodom. Many a household, in closing its doors against a stranger, has shut out God’s messenger, who would have brought blessing and hope and peace.

Every act of life, however small, has its bearing for good or for evil. Faithfulness or neglect in what are apparently the smallest duties may open the door for life’s richest blessings or its greatest calamities. It is little things that test the character. It is the unpretending acts of daily self-denial, performed with a cheerful, willing heart, that God smiles upon. We are not to live for self, but for others. And it is only by self-forgetfulness, by cherishing a loving, helpful spirit, that we can make our life a blessing. The little attentions, the small, simple courtesies, go far to make up the sum of life’s happiness, and the neglect of these constitutes no small share of human wretchedness.

Seeing the abuse to which strangers were exposed in Sodom, Lot made it one of his duties to guard them at their entrance, by offering them entertainment at his own house. He was sitting at the gate as the travelers approached, and upon observing them, he rose from his place to meet them, and bowing courteously, said, “Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night.” They seemed to decline his hospitality, saying, “Nay; but we will abide in the street.”

Their object in this answer was twofold–to test the sincerity of Lot and also to appear ignorant of the character of the men of Sodom, as if they supposed it safe to remain in the street at night. Their answer made Lot the more determined not to leave them to the mercy of the rabble. He pressed his invitation until they yielded, and accompanied him to his house.

Earlier I mentioned there would be a bonus link today to some other resources at Bible Universe. First of all some general interest ones:

  • Keys to Bible Symbols — a great help if you’re wanting to follow the thread of various “types” used in scripture or in terms of literary imagery.
  • Keys to Bible Numbers — similar to the above, but dealing with the meaning of different numbers.

Also, do you know a Christian who is also a medical doctor? Bible Universe (dot com) recently ran a series of three short devotionals to encourage people in that profession.


Encouragement for the Christian Physician #3


Encouragement for the Christian Physician #2


Encouragement for the Christian Physician #1

April 20, 2015

Totally Depraved…Without Christ

Gal 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Today we pay a return visit to Sunny Shell who blogs at Abandoned to Christ. To read this at source, click the title below.

Total Depravity and a Small Act of Kindness

Yesterday, on my way home from the grocery store, I was overwhelmed by a very small act of kindness. Not one done to me, but one I was able to offer a total stranger.

As I neared a construction area in my neighborhood, I saw a man driving a truck wishing to come out of the alleyway. He was unable to because no one driving either north or south would allow him entrance onto the main road since we all had to share a single lane due to the construction. I understand. It was rush hour and everyone was trying to get home.

When it was my turn, and I had the right of way, I stopped and waved him in. He was hesitant and looked to the car coming southward, but they saw me and stopped too. The driver of the truck smiled, carefully drove out, and gave me a warm wave of thanks. I smiled, nodded and waved back. Then I smiled and waved at the driver who joined me in this very small act of kindness and they smiled and waved back.

Unexpectedly, as I thanked God for this opportunity to show a stranger this very small act of kindness…I began weeping. I was overtaken by the fact that I could experience such joy over something no one else involved in this situation would probably ever remember. I mean, this isn’t the kind of thing anyone goes home and writes about (well…obviously…present company excluded). This very small act of kindness isn’t something we’ll eagerly tell our family and friends or even years from now, reminisce fondly and repeatedly tell our grandchildren about. It’s simply a very, very, very small act of kindness.

So why am I writing about it? Why am I telling you about it? Why is this small act such a big deal?

It’s a big deal because the instant I thanked God for allowing me to experience exuberant joy for such a small act of kindness, I realized how very depraved I am without Christ. As I thanked God for allowing me to notice that other person, the small need he had at the moment, and that I was able and desired to meet that need, filled me with joy.

Realizing I’m far too self-absorbed, selfish, and so many other words that begin with “self”, to notice another human being, let alone a need they might have, I wept with thanksgiving in my heart to the Lord. In actuality, we’re all a bit too self-something or other. We all complain too much, we all feel more entitled than we ought, and we all suffer from outright pride, or pride cloaked in self-loathing.

Our eyes are too fixed on self rather than on Jesus and that’s why we disobey Him and why many won’t acknowledge Him as who He is—the one true God, Creator of all we see and can’t see, the King of kings, the Lord of lords and the only way of eternal salvation. Whether we want to admit it or not, and regardless of how meek a person may appear, disobedience to God in any form originates from pride. We all have it. And we all suffer from how it manifests itself—total human depravity.

But here’s the thing, total depravity doesn’t mean I’m as depraved as I can be and neither are you. Total depravity means we’re all sinful and totally incapable of saving ourselves. But because of God’s common grace, no human being is as depraved as they can be. Evil does not dominate the earth because God is God and He is gracious. The sun shines on both those who bear the righteousness of Christ as well as those who reject Him. God causes the rain to fall on the ground and bear fruit to feed both His children and His enemies.

Without God’s common grace poured out to all creation, no human would be safe from constant evil bombarding them from their first breath to their last. None of us would ever be able to experience any joy in participating in any act of kindness, small or great because we simply wouldn’t even think to do it. We’re all too self-actuated. We are all that depraved (Rom 3:10-12).

Admitting I’m totally depraved without Christ isn’t self-loathing. And it isn’t depressing. It’s actually an act of great confidence, that is, confidence in Christ’s finished work on the Cross on my behalf. Those whom God has chosen to grant repentance that leads to saving faith, willingly bring and see all things in the light of God’s truth so that it’s clear that any and every good has been carried out by the mighty and compassionate hand of God (John 3:21)—even a very small act of kindness.

“For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”

“Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”

Prayer request for regular C201 readers: Please pray for me (Paul) and my wife (Ruth) as we are going through an extremely stressful time right now in various areas of life.

February 28, 2014

Having the Understanding to Know God

NIV Jer. 9:23 This is what the Lord says:

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,
24 but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord.

I chose today’s scripture passage first, and then scanned the internet to see who had done a good job of presenting this passage. That led me to a sermon notes blog by New Zealand’s Sam Hight. What follows is the first 60% of the article, you’ll want to click through to read the entire piece.

Boast in the Lord

I want to break this passage down into manageable bits to start, just to make sure that we understand the general idea of what is being said.

So first, we have three things which we are not to boast in: wisdom, might, and riches. Second, we are told the thing which we should boast in: our understanding and knowledge of the LORD. Third, that particular understanding and knowledge of the LORD is given some more detail to help us get the message properly.

That seems pretty straight forward… But is it? Well, maybe it is, but we should take a careful look, just in case we miss something.

One of the biggest problems among Christians today, is that the words of the Bible are not considered carefully enough. People who say that they care a great deal about God don’t take the time to really read what he has said to us in the Bible.

It’s too easy to walk away with just a general impression of what is written. An impression which is more in line with your preconceived ideas which you have brought to the text. If we really want to learn from God we must be willing to have our ideas shaped by scripture, and not just look to support what we already believe with a vague interpretation of a verse which seems to support our view.
As the saying goes, “the devil is in the detail.”

So, some questions to get us thinking deeper about this passage:

  1. How is this boasting supposed to work in practice? What does it look like? Do we walk around yelling “I know God, I know God”? Do we wear a T-shirt or a wristband which proclaims our allegiance? Is that boasting correctly?
  2. How often should we be boasting? Can we boast all the time or are there certain occasions which suit boasting best?
  3. What are these things that God practices: “steadfast love”, “justice”, and “righteousness”?
  4. How does God practice these things? Does it mean that he needs to keep trying until he gets it correct? That sort of practice? Well obviously not, because God is perfect and unchanging… so what then?

That’s a lot of questions, and we could ask more if we wanted. So maybe it isn’t as simple as we might have first thought… It just highlights that we have to take the time to read and think carefully.

Let’s take a look at BOASTING

In my preparation, the more I considered this passage, the more I realised that I didn’t know what it actually meant to boast in knowing and understanding God.
Prior to reading this scripture, my understanding of boasting was that boasting is always a bad thing. But what we find here is that boasting is not always a bad thing because we can boast in God and it’s considered a good thing! It seems that boasting itself is neither good nor bad, but what you boast in is what makes it good or bad.

So what exactly is boasting?
Psalm 34:1-3 gives us a quick picture of boasting the right way. Let’s read it:

1 I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2  My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
3  Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!

I really enjoy that last line: “let us exalt his name together!”

So boasting about something is when you communicate that that something is important, and in doing so you are usually outspoken about that thing. You stand up at every opportunity and make a big deal of it. For example, you might buy something new, a new car perhaps, and you are very proud of your new car and you take every opportunity to speak of how great a car it is. It’s so fast, it has a really loud stereo, what a fantastic safety rating, you got it at the lowest price, and so on. People might start to get sick of hearing about it from you because you go on and on and on and on and on; and you keep saying it in such a way that you show to them that you think your car is better than theirs!
Boasting about a new car like this would be a bad sort of boasting.

Now, I want to make a distinction here, because it’s not always bad to talk about your new car. It is bad if you talk about it like it is more important than it really is, and it is bad to talk about it to the point that people are annoyed with you. You have to watch people’s reactions to what you say, and if it clearly annoys them in the way I’ve described then you need to stop. It’s just polite in most situations anyway. You also have to check yourself – to see whether you are making an idol out of your car, your new phone, or whatever it may be.

Okay, so we know what boasting is, and we’ve seen some good boasting and some bad; but what about these three things that we are told not to boast in? Wisdom seems like a good thing. The Bible constantly tells us that it is a good thing, especially in the book of Proverbs. But we are not to see it as something to constantly speak about or to deliberately remind people about in ourselves. We’re not to tell people that we are wise. The same goes for might and riches. They are not bad things, a lot of good can be done for God and for his people using wisdom, might, and wealth, but we shouldn’t make them our focus when talking about ourselves and we shouldn’t be deliberately drawing attention to ourselves through them. Why? Because doing so glorifies our self. It shows a lack of humility. If we boast about our wisdom, our might, and our riches (or our new car), we are effectively boasting about our self, and raising our own importance above God and that is very wrong.

The better way, if you absolutely must talk about these things, and sometimes we must, especially when educating the next generation to come, is to speak of them as blessings from God. Or wait until someone notices them and then use the opportunity to glorify the Giver of wisdom, the Giver of might, the Giver of wealth.

I really want you to get this: It is not wrong to be wise, to be mighty, to be wealthy… but it is wrong to be using those aspects of yourself to make yourself to be seen as more important than you really are… to be making an idol out of your giftings. It can be a fine line between being honest about your God-given abilities and making too much of yourself in a not so humble way; but you should never define yourself primarily by your wisdom, your wealth, or your great achievements.

It might help to remember that, in any case at all, the person who understands, and knows God, is always in a far better position than the person who is wise, mighty, and rich.

When we talk about ourselves, the things that we boast about the most are what we become known for. What do you think you are known for?

Clearly, every person on the planet who is honouring God wants to be known for their faith in him, but let’s tease this out a little more by presenting the different options of what a person can actually boast in and be known for.

A person can be known in the way that secular society and non-Christians want to be known

Society would have you believe that it is foolish to believe in Jesus Christ, and that it is better to be known for being rich and smart. In fact, even a lot of religious people think it’s foolish to believe in Jesus Christ, and they put their “wisdom” above him and over his word. They say that man evolved from a common ancestor to apes and that the Bible is just being metaphorical or poetic when it talks about six days of Creation and Jesus performing miracles. Their wisdom is more reliable than the Bible to them, and this becomes their boast.

But know that their judgement will come. Jeremiah and the other prophets speak of the judgement which will come on those who boast about their false wisdom and who claim to be religious and follow God.

That’s awfully negative, but it is truth, and we shouldn’t shy away from the truth in shame. But that negative is not for the people of God. We have a positive boast and a positive eternity to look forward to.

How else can a person be known? What about as someone who call them self a Christian but makes the wrong things their focus?

Do you want to be known as someone who boasts about the false prosperity gospel of health, wealth and happiness, someone who ignores the obvious truth that we must suffer? 2 Timothy 2 says to share in the suffering as a good soldier of Christ. And Jesus said in Matthew 19 that only with difficulty will a rich person enter the Kingdom of Heaven. “God, make us poor if that will help us enter in!” You won’t hear them saying that!

Do you want to be known for boasting in the latest false revival of false spirituality? You know the ones, where miracles are reported left, right, and center, but nobody can really pin down an actual case. These things are really just people making things happen in their imaginations – many times they genuinely believe, but they’ve had the wool pulled over their eyes. Years ago, and to my shame, I used to be a part of a church where people went up the front for prayer and to feel what they thought was the Spirit and to fall over. God has given us a powerful psyche and we can use it for good or for bad – don’t use it to fool yourself into believing something that is stupid when you look back on it. I thank God that he showed me the error of my ways, and the greatness of his glory – you can’t resist God’s Spirit but you can resist a guy yelling in a mic and pushing you.

It’s sad, but you probably couldn’t count the number of leaders in the last few years who have been at the center of so-called “revivals” and who have lasted a short while before being caught having affairs, stealing money, or falsifying miracles. But let’s move on from that to a far better boast…

A person could instead be known for their love and commitment to God through their boasting of him and his great works:

Let me outline how I think we are meant to boast about the LORD:

[continue reading here]

October 31, 2013

Counterfeit Kindness

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Today’s readings are from the devotional ministry of the late Selwyn Hughes, author of the Every Day With Jesus series of devotional materials published by Crusade for World Revival (CWR) in the UK. What follows is a three-day sample of the online devotions available at Every Day Light. They are currently in the middle of a series on the fruit of the Spirit.

Warm goodwill to others

Colossians 3
“… clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (v.12)

The fifth virtue listed in the fruit of the Spirit is kindness. The King James Version uses the word “gentleness” but there is little doubt that “kindness” is a more faithful translation of the original Greek word — chrestotes. “Kindness” is a very beautiful word; it means “a kindly disposition, or warm goodwill toward others.”One commentator says that if you wanted to express Christianity in one English word, you would use the word “kindness.” To speak, for example, of an “unkind Christian” is almost a contradiction in terms. There is some evidence that in the early centuries of the Church, non-Christians used the words “kindly” and “Christian” as synonyms. Tertullian, one of the Church Fathers, said, “The words were so allied in meaning that no harm was done by the confusion.”I once asked a church youth group, if I had the power to give them just eight of the fruit instead of nine, which one would they be willing to do without. Almost everyone in the group said “kindness.” When I asked why, they explained that for them, the word conjured up a picture of weakness and sentimentality. I told the group that they were obviously unaware of the true meaning of the word “kindness,” and that a kindly disposition does not necessarily mean maudlin sentimentality. So let’s be quite clear what we are talking about when we use this word: kindness is a supernatural virtue endowed upon us by the Holy Spirit, engendering within us a warm goodwill to others. How much of it, I wonder, will flow out to others today from you and me?

Gracious Father, help me today to be clothed with kindness. Make me a person who can show warmth and goodwill to others. I ask this for Your own dear Name’s sake. Amen.

For Further Study
Romans 12:1-101 Corinthians 13:4Ephesians 4:32

What kindness is not

Ephesians 4:17-32 “Be kind and compassionate to one another …” (v.32)

We saw yesterday how a group of young people had a wrong concept of kindness, viewing it as just maudlin sentimentality. It is surprising how debased the word “kindness” has become, in both Christian and non-Christian thought.

Some Christians accept the word because it is used in Scripture, but have no real desire to acquire the virtue because, to them, it smacks of sentimentality and weakness. The world uses the word but, separated as it is from any thought of God, “kindness” comes out as a mild compensation for a lack of firmness and clear thinking. People say, rather patronizingly in some cases: “Oh, he’s a kind fellow” — and they leave it there. The word has come to wear thin in the currency of the world (and in some parts of the Church), so there is a great need to see it minted afresh and gleaming bright in the commerce of modern-day Christian life.

Think with me still further about what kindness, the fruit of the Spirit, is not. Kindness is not being a “do-gooder.” In fact, the word in the original Greek does not imply active goodness but a disposition of goodwill, although active goodness may be one expression of it. Many think of kindness as giving money to people who have a financial need, but just giving money to people who appear to need it, without being guided by the Spirit, can result in great harm. Giving to people at the wrong time can take away from them something more precious than is being given. There are few things in which we have more need of the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit than in our giving.


O Father, help me to discern between what is true and what is counterfeit. I want my kindness to be genuine kindness — the sort of kindness that helps people, not hurts them. Amen.

For Further Study

2 Peter 1:1-71 Thessalonians 3:121 Peter 1:22

A debased word

Romans 2 “… not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” (v.4)

We continue looking at counterfeit forms of kindness. Kindness is not indulgence. Supernatural kindness can be severe — severe because it loves so deeply that it can come up with a hard refusal. It is based on God’s kindness, which can cut when, just like a surgeon, He insists on cutting out of us moral tumors that threaten our spiritual health. But always God’s severity is our security. It is redemptive; He loves us too much to let us go. Kindness, which is the fruit of the Spirit, is like that.

Again, kindness is not a substitute for clear thinking. In being “kind” to one person, people can often be unkind to another. The wrong kindness — that is, kindness which does not operate on clear guidelines and right thinking — can deride justice. For example, a businessman remarked to his wife that he was dismissing the chauffeur on the grounds that he was an unsafe driver. “He nearly killed me today,” he said. “That is the third time.” His “kind” wife answered: “Oh, don’t dismiss him, dear — give him one more chance.”Another example of misguided kindness comes out of the law courts. A woman on trial for murdering her husband was acquitted chiefly because of the efforts of one “kind” lady on the jury. Explaining her attitude to someone after the trial, she said: “I felt so sorry for her. After all, she had become a widow.” By such examples as these, “kindness” has become a debased word — a fact that can hardly be denied. People have found it easier to be “kind” than truthful. How desperately the word cries out to be redeemed.


O God, take my hand and lead me through the fog and confusion that surrounds this word. Help me understand that true kindness can be a cutting kindness — kindness that gives life and not lenience. Amen.

For Further Study

Isaiah 63:1-9Psalms 17

Today`s two-for-one special: Enjoy the song Sacred Invitation as recorded by Seth Condrey.

July 3, 2010

Do It Anyway

This is attributed to Mother Teresa:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.