Christianity 201

January 27, 2023

Loyalty vs. Allegiance

NIV.Mark.14.17 …Herod himself had given orders to have John [the Baptist] arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 20 because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled;  yet he liked to listen to him.

21 Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.

The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” 23 And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.”

24 She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?”

“The head of John the Baptist,” she answered.

25 At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

26 The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, 28 and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. 29 On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

Mark Buchanan is Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology at Ambrose University in Calgary, Alberta, and is the author of several books including, God Walk and The Rest of God. This is the 5th time we’ve excerpted some of his writing here at Christianity 201. You are very much encouraged to read this where it first appeared by clicking the title which follows.

Many Loyalties, One Allegiance

“In your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord.” I Peter 3:15

Recently, a friend asked me to preach at his church on Mark 6:14-29

Well, I thought he was my friend: that’s the story of King Herod’s order, in a perfect storm of folly and ego and hubris and spite, to behead John the Baptist. I complained loudly to my so-called-friend. That is not the kind of text, I said, you assign to a guest preacher, and especially not to one you have shared meals and taken walks with. It’s gruesome. It’s bleak. It’s dark. And – this, I said, to finally clinch the argument – it’s inescapably political. You don’t want the guest preacher wading in on post-Covid politics, do you?

He told me to suck it up.

A few weeks before, one of the students in my preaching class quoted someone to the effect that you can have many loves but only one treasure. I liked that. I wrote it down. And it struck me, as I thought about John in the dungeon of Herod’s palace while all the revelers upstairs gorged and besotted themselves, and watched the grisly pageant of John’s head served on a platter, that something similar is true here.

You can have many loyalties but only one allegiance.

You can be loyal to your school, loyal to your girl, loyal to your guy, loyal to your flag, loyal to your tribe, loyal to your favorite airline, loyal to your political party, loyal to your theological camp.

The heart can hold a thousand loyalties

But only one allegiance.

John the Baptist got that. Herod, he was too clueless and cowardly to even know that.

John pursued the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness. Herod pursued the kingdom of self and his own fragile ego.

I think many Christians got confused about loyalties and allegiances over the past few years. Too many of us took hold of a loyalty, or three – loyalty to a political person or party, to a philosophical or medical or cultural view, to an ideology – and elevated to an allegiance.

An allegiance is our one reckoning. It is our single non-negotiable. It is our only priority. It is the sole conviction and passion that controls, moderates and, if needed, displaces all loyalties. Nothing comes before it. All things must bow to it.

It is the hill we are willing to die on.

The hill we are willing to die on. Such a poignant phrase. That gets to the heart of the matter for Christ followers. Our single allegiance is Christ, the one willing to die on a hill for us and, frankly, the only one who commands our sole allegiance.

Christ alone is Lord.

Not left or right.

Not liberal or conservative.

Not socialism or capitalism.

Not anti this or pro that.

Those are all mere loyalties.

And a loyalty must never become an allegiance, or … or, we get the world we have now: divided over a thousand things, many of them little and petty.

Our hope is built on nothing less – and nothing else – than Jesus Christ.

He alone is our sole allegiance. Everything else must bow. 

December 8, 2022

The Grinch that Stole Hope

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:12 pm
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by Clarke Dixon

What are you hoping for this Christmas? To prepare the perfect Christmas dinner? To find the perfect gift? To experience the perfect Christmas family gathering? To ensure loved ones experience the perfect Christmas? The word “perfect” is showing up there a lot, how about we try one without it: world peace?

Whatever you are hoping for this Christmas, when these things fail to happen our hope can turn to cynicism, disappointment, and even despair. We light the candle of hope during church on Sunday morning but then we snuff it out and head home to the real world where our hope gets snuffed out, sometimes as fast as the candle.

It is not just the Grinch that can steal Christmas. Our expectations for the future can steal our hope for the future. Our hopes can fade to disappointment when the hope of Christmas is stolen by unmet expectations. In fact our disappointment at Christmas may be a symptom of a bigger problem; disappointment with ourselves, others, or with God.

So what are we to do?

We ask if our expectations are wise expectations. If they are not, they will steal our hope, replacing it with disappointment. Do we have wise expectations of ourselves, others, and of God?

Let’s turn to a hope filled passage of the Bible, specifically, Isaiah 11:1-9, and ask if Isaiah’s expectations were wise.

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

Isaiah 11:1 (NRSV)

David’s family is described as a “stump” in a way that signifies that God’s people will face tough times, even destruction, interpreted by the prophet as being the judgement of God. By speaking of new growth from this stump Isaiah expressed hope that what could be perceived as the end would give way to a new beginning. This new beginning would come about with a “shoot” that represents remarkable new leadership, a great new king:

2 The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
3 His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

Isaiah 11:2-5 (NRSV)

Isaiah had hope that there would be good governance, marked by the presence of God, taking direction from God, and in good relationship with God. The new king would be righteous, helping the disadvantaged and bringing justice to those who are evil.

Those who first heard Isaiah’s hope would hardly be thinking of Jesus, but looking back, we who are Christians can not help but see Jesus and the coming Kingdom of God.

Isaiah continues with the theme of hope:

6 The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
9 They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.

Isaiah 11:6-9 (NRSV)

With animals getting along together who normally would not and children playing safely among violent creatures, Isaiah is expressing the hope that in this new beginning there would be a great sense of security. Some take these verses literally and look forward to a day in which such animals really will live together without bloodshed, but others take this as symbolic of the sense of security, peace, and safety that the hoped for new king would bring. Either way, Isaiah has great hope for the future.

But are Isaiah’s expectations wise?

Does Isaiah have a reasonable hope, or is he setting himself up for disappointment by having crazy expectations for the future?

Isaiah had great expectations for the future, but they are expectations of God and what God can do. God is the Creator, it is no trouble for God to be a Re-Creator. God can send a new king and establish a new kingdom. Our hope for the future as Christians may seem like “pie in the sky after I die” to some, but this is God we are talking about. God can do it. It is wise to have great expectations of God.

This brings us to our first word of caution as we consider wise expectations. God can fulfill sky high expectations, we cannot. We can expect God to be God. We cannot expect ourselves, or others, to be God. Might we need to lighten up a bit with regard to our expectations of others, and what we expect of ourselves? Our expectations may be unwise.

And now a second caution, our expectations of God are only wise when we expect God to do what God wants to do. If God has promised to do something, then our expectations are wise and we can have great hope. Sometimes, however, we expect God to do what we want God to do, or what we think God should want to do. We can make assumptions about what God wants to do. This can lead us to unwise expectations.

I might expect that God wants me to be pain free. Recently I have been overly active, plus doing things that I don’t normally do, like installing flooring, and moving appliances which lack handles for proper lifting technique. Add in a lack of good stretching and needless to say my muscles are not happy with me. This led to a sleepless night and a repeated prayer for relief from the pain. Should I expect the Lord to answer such a prayer like some kind of divine pharmacy? Perhaps I should learn to take better care of myself.

While I could not sleep due to a physical plain, there are those who cannot sleep because of emotional, psychological, and spiritual pain. Expecting God to simply lift such pain in the immediate future may be unwise, for God has not promised to do that. Expecting that God will simply lift all pain may just leave us disappointed with God and cynical about faith. Expecting God to journey with us in the pain, however, and to release us from all pain in the resurrection, is wise. We can have great hope. God has promised a King and a Kingdom. To have great expectations about that King and that Kingdom is wise.

We come to church and light the candle of hope, then go on our way and pin all our hopes on people who can’t meet our expectations, including, and especially, ourselves. Or we go on our way and pin all our hopes on unwise expectations of God. Hope gives way to cynicism, disappointment, and even despair when our hope is based on unwise expectations of ourselves, others, and God. Let us have wise expectations, and let us be hopeful!


Before appearing here, Clarke Dixon’s condensed sermons appear at his blog, Thinking Through Scripture.

December 7, 2022

Aliens and Strangers in Another Kingdom

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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“So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? – Luke 6:46 NLT

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”Matthew 7:21 NASB

As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. – I Cor. 15:48 NIV

Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. 1 Peter 2:11 NLT

Our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. – Philippians 3:20 CSB

A year ago we introduced you to Curtis K. Shelburne who writes at Focus on Faith and also hosts a podcast with the same name. By clicking the title which follows you can read this where it first appeared, and send our contributing writers some ‘link love’ at the same time!

“Why Do You Call Me ‘Lord’ and Do Not Do What I Say?”

A fish out of water. It’s rather amazing how easy it is to be one of those finny creatures.

We’re not talking here about lip injections and a person (I’m avoiding sexism here) who paid good money to look like a large-mouth bass.

What I’m talking about is being “out of your element.” That happens to all of us from time to time, maybe right where we live and right where we’re sitting.

You get called on to do something way out of your usual area of expertise or routine. You’re asked to make a speech at a civic club or, worse, a memorial service, and you never have done that before. You get a call from a doctor’s office. Just a few moments ago, you felt fine, but now you’re a cancer patient, and you’re pretty sure either the cancer or medical science is more than capable of making you feel anything but fine. A new world, and you’ve not even left your chair.

But sometimes, the “fish out of water” discomfort does indeed have to do with a change in geography and your place in it.

I remember years ago now (Was it really that long ago?) traveling to Uganda to see sons who were doing mission work there. When I saw bullet holes at the Entebbe airport left from the famous “Raid on Entebbe,” I knew we weren’t in Kansas. The guys weren’t kidding when they said we’d probably be better off keeping our eyes closed on the journey from the airport to Mbale. We didn’t, but, wow.

And then there was the day when I’d been teaching church history in a nearby village, my son was driving me back to home base, and a soldier with an AK-47 motioned for us to stop, and we didn’t. I was simply told, “Don’t look at him. He just wants a bribe, and I don’t want to mess with it. If he was wearing “XYZ” uniform, we’d stop.”

A few days later, I was rafting down Class V rapids in the Nile with another son. I listened really carefully at the “so you don’t drown” briefing.

Years ago, my wife and I spent a few days in New York. Talk about another planet. Interesting place to visit, but I looked out of a hotel window near Times Square and realized that leaving the hotel and joining that mass of humanity also meant leaving my comfort zone and making do with a lot less personal space.

I spent the night at a fire station in Amarillo recently. My son is that shift’s captain at that station. Do I need to tell you I followed his lead? When the “tones dropped” and we headed down to the fire truck, I was excited, but sleepy and completely out of my element.

In some of these cases, and others, my sons and those who knew the “territory” were not only helping guide me, they were keeping me in one piece. I knew that. And I listened. Only a fool wouldn’t. But I don’t need to tell you that fools who are sure they’re the smartest person in the room are not in short supply, a danger to themselves and others. Unable or unwilling to listen to folks smarter or with more experience than they are, and even undercutting the folks they hired or appointed for their expertise, the un-listening dimwit bumps into stuff needlessly. And folks get hurt.

A little (or a lot) more humility is a blessing to us all.

For those of us who say we follow Christ, folks who are citizens of his kingdom first of all, this means asking his help to learn kingdom ways, even if we find that they don’t come naturally.

In humility, we need to listen to our Guide. If he really is our Lord, we need to ask for his help and his power to do what he says.


Revisit the introduction for website link and podcast site link.

Copyright 2022 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

November 1, 2022

Allies in Kingdom Advancement

Today we’re back with another article by Ben Sternke whose eponymous blog has the subtitle: “Field notes on life and mission with God after Christendom.” (There’s a lot to think about there!) Clicking the devotional title below will take you to where this first appeared.

Whoever Isn’t Against You is For You

John said, “Master, we saw someone throwing demons out in your name, and we tried to stop him because he isn’t in our group of followers.”

But Jesus replied, “Don’t stop him, because whoever isn’t against you is for you.”

John 9:49-50

Just before this little exchange, the disciples were arguing about who was the greatest within the group, and when Jesus rebuffs them by placing a child in their midst and telling them that whoever is least among them is the greatest, they turn their attention to outside the group and, in effect, say, “Well we’re definitely greater than those guys, right?”

Just like us, Jesus’s disciples are relentlessly measuring their status and honor to see who they’re better than, and who is better than them. Just like them, we have all kinds of ways of measuring:

  • Whose theology is better?
  • Whose liturgy is better?
  • Whose aesthetics are better?
  • Whose church is bigger?
  • Whose preaching is better?
  • Whose discipleship practices are better?

Instead of these status games, Jesus brings us back to the point: is God’s kingdom going forward? Well then don’t get in the way (and maybe even rejoice a little!).

These people you’re upset about, are they opposing God’s work? If not, then stop worrying about them. Do you think they’re going about the work in the wrong way? Do you think they’re not part of the right team? Don’t have the correct affiliation or the right theology? Wrong question!

Better questions: Is God’s kingdom advancing? Are the marginalized brought into communion? Are the broken healed? Are the prisoners set free? Are those in bondage being delivered? Is good news being preached to the poor? Then don’t worry about them being part of the wrong group or having bad theology.

As long as they’re not against you, they’re for you! If they’re not opposing God’s kingdom advancing, they’re your partners, and there’s absolutely no need to figure out who’s better than who.


Because that was shorter than many of our devotionals here, I thought we’d add this (even shorter!) one; which is relevant to the advancing kingdom discussed above.

The Harvest Really is Plentiful

“The harvest is plentiful…” Jesus tells the seventy-two as he sends them out as forerunners to enact and announce God’s kingdom coming near (Luke 10:2).

This initial proclamation about the nature of the disciples’ mission field is a vital key for their ability to discern where and when God is at work. If they are to stay where they are welcomed, and move on when they are not, they need to have confidence that the harvest is plentiful.

They don’t need things to work out positively in any particular town or village, as if the harvest was scarce and needs to be squeezed out of reluctant soil. No, the harvest is plentiful, so just brush the dust off your feet and move on a place where you are welcomed.

Leave judgment in God’s hands; the way that people respond is not your responsibility. Simply go out in openness and vulnerability and look for openness and vulnerability in others. Stay wherever you find it, receiving and giving in mutuality, proclaiming the nearness of God.


Reading Ben’s articles got me thinking about the potential competition that can exist between ministry organizations, which reminded me of a book that I saw a few years ago, but didn’t pick up at the time: Rooting Among Rivals: How Collaboration and Generosity Increase The Impact of Leaders, Charities and Churches by Peter Greer and Chris Horst. The publisher blurb reads:

Do ministries and churches compete? Faith-based organizations are sometimes known for what we’re against—and all too often that includes being against each other. But amid growing distrust of religious institutions, Christ-centered leaders, churches and charities have a unique opportunity to link arms and collectively pursue a calling higher than any one organization’s agenda.  (Bethany House, 2018)

I think we could all say “Amen” to that spirit of cooperation.

October 4, 2022

What Jesus Said about the “Stuff” We Own

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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NIV.Luke.12.32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

35 “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. 38 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. 39 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.

Today we have a special treat; a new source for you, the website Stained Glass Rebel from Niles First United Methodist Church in Ohio. You have a choice today as well of reading the devotional, or watching the sermon on which it is based on the YouTube video linked below. The author today is Shane Russo.

What Did Jesus Say About Material Things?

I play a lot of video games. I prefer RPGs (role-playing games). Those are the types that give you all kinds of weapons, potions, collectibles, and other stuff throughout the gameplay. But, I have a problem. I save up up video game items in my inventory or bank because I want to save them until I need them… only to have them remain unused at the end of the game. I end up holding onto these things because I am afraid to use them at the wrong time.

How does this relate to the scripture cited? It comes down to perspective, and I think ours is skewed more often than not.

As followers of Jesus, we should view our stuff the way Jesus viewed stuff. That means we should constantly evaluate how we view our stuff to make sure it’s in line with what God expects.

Are we viewing our possessions and resources the way God expects us to? Or do we tend to view things from a limited perspective of mortal creatures?

We don’t like to let go of something once we have it because we become afraid that we may not have it again.

We feel compelled to hold on to what we have because it gives us a false sense of permanence and security. But nothing on this earth is permanent, and the more “secure” we try to make ourselves, the more isolated and separated from others we become.

Currency is called currency because it moves from one place to another. The word is based on the Latin word that means “to run” or “to flow.” Trying to hold on to money is like trying to grab the ocean with your bare hands. Yeah, you’re going to get wet. But if you take in too much, you’re going to drown in it.

But whether it’s our personal lives or in our spiritual lives, once we have something in our possession, we keep a grip on it because we are afraid that we will not have enough. We are afraid that if we let go of what we have, we may not get it again.

But no matter how safe we think we are, no matter how secure we find our position, situations change. So we should not put our trust in the material things of this world.

By placing our trust in the things of this world to provide and sustain us, we are reducing or eliminating our trust in God to provide and sustain.

Now don’t hear me wrong. It is not evil to have things. But from the first page of scripture to the last, the overriding narrative on possessions is that we have been gifted them from God for a purpose. And the purpose is this. We have been gifted every resource and possession in order that we might live life abundantly and to the fullest. AND by “we” I mean every person on this planet.

God did not create in Genesis and then say, “Go. Compete for everything I have made…and the one with the most at the end wins!.” No. God gave and continues to give freely for the betterment of the whole of humanity.

This is why I acknowledge this every single week during the offering when I say, “God everything we have has been given to us.” And I know that when I say that it stinks of Obama to some of us. Remember when he made that comment years ago about everything we have is given to us? And remember how mad some people got because “No one gave me anything! I earned all I have.”

Working to earn what you get is a good thing. But we can still acknowledge that everything we have the possibility to gain was made available to us because of the creative act of God, and the free gift of that creation to us.

In Jesus Christ, humanity got to experience the in-breaking of the kingdom of God. What does that mean? It simply means than when we look at how Jesus lived and the example he set, we see the kind of person that will inhabit creation under God’s full reign. It means those who place their trust in his leadership will receive the blessing of God’s reign.

God gave us the gift of the kingdom when Jesus came on the scene, and because of that gift we are free to live as kingdom citizens.

But what does that mean? What is the kingdom of God really? What does it look like to live as a citizen of that kingdom?

Well, as commentator Robert H. Stein writes:

“These teachings on stewardship must be understood in light of the coming of the kingdom and in the sharing in its blessings. Because of the kingdom’s surpassing worth believers should practice such magnificent almsgiving as Luke proposed in 12:33 and recorded in Acts [2, 4, and 5]. By so doing, the great reversal is even now taking place. The ‘poor’ (Luke 6:20) have treasure in heaven, and the rich, like the fool in the parable (cf. 16:19–31), lose all: their possessions and their very lives.”

What is the kingdom of God? The kingdom of God is this world recreated into glorious newness. It is a world where there is no want because every need is met. It is a world where the selfless giving of Jesus is the norm.

What does it look like to live as a citizen of that kingdom? It looks like taking only what you need for now and giving everything else to those who need right now. In that way, every need is met, and no one wants for anything.

If living as citizens of God’s kingdom means valuing our possessions the way God does, then why do we get into a conservation mentality, or what might be called survival mode?

Many of us in our churches are in this mode right now. Why? I honestly do not think it is greed. Not usually. I do not look around our churches and see a bunch of greedy people. Not usually. Absolutely not. Quite the contrary. What I see in our churches that get into survival mode, those churches who have resources and are afraid to part with them, is not greed but fear.

Even though Jesus showed us what free and fearless kingdom living looks like, we get concerned at letting go of what we have because we do not know how long we are going be here.

That’s how this passage wraps up: Be ready for the master because you never know when he will arrive.

Another way to say that is that we never know when we are going to meet Jesus. And so, like I always do in my video games, we hold onto what we have because we want to make sure we have it for the right moment.

But also, just like my video games, we hold on to it until we can no longer use it. We live in fear of never having enough. We live in worry over outliving what we currently have. And so, we remained shackled to the illusion of security and control that holding onto our stuff gives us.

But Jesus showed us that God’s will for us is to, to quote a bumper sticker, “let go and let God.”

When we place our trust in God and not in our possessions, then we get to live in the blessing of heaven that our ours as kingdom citizens. And one of those blessings is that as servants and givers, we will be served and given abundant life in Christ.

We may not know how long we are going to be here, and that may compel us to hold onto things, but as servants of Christs that give freely as we have been given, we will end up with everything we need…which is more than we could ever hope to imagine.

And no, this isn’t a prosperity “name it and claim it” gospel I’m preaching to you. This is literally what this parable in the text is pointing to. When the master returns and sees his servants going about the business he set before them, the master becomes the servant, and the servants are themselves served. But that only happens because they were going about the business of preparing for his arrival whenever that would be.

As commentator Gavin Childress writes, ““Everyone knows what it means for the boss to be away. Most people take advantage of such a time to relax and ‘go slow’ for a while. After all, no one is closely watching! Yet for the Christian, there should be a continual awareness of God, and an hour by hour anticipation of the Lord’s return. The faithful and watchful servant would be served by his master (v. 37), for he lived in constant readiness for his return.”

And this statement by Jesus is as counter-cultural now as it was when he said it, as Craig Keener points out in his commentary on this passage. He says,

“Although a few philosophers argued that slaves were the moral equals of their masters, and one well-to-do Roman is known to have eaten on the same level as his freed slaves, masters’ serving slaves was unheard of. (The exception among Romans for the festival of Saturnalia was a deliberate inversion of normal reality.) Such an image would offend the well-to-do but would be a powerful symbol of how Jesus would treat those who remained faithful to the end.”

And so, we do not want to give us what we have because we are afraid we won’t have enough, or we won’t have it again, or that we might outlive what we have….but at the very beginning of today’s passage we have a direct command from Jesus to his disciples concerning all of this: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”

And then he follows it up with the hard task: Sell your possessions and give to the poor.”

Imagine what it would look like for our churches to live fearlessly as kingdom citizens where we used all of our possessions and resources the way God expects us to.

Imagine what it would look like if we only took what we needed for today and used the rest to do kingdom work.

August 3, 2022

Grace Isn’t How the World Works

NIV.Matt.20.8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

[If you’re unfamiliar with the section which precedes these verses, click here to start at verse one.]

A year ago we briefly visited the blog, Running to Him for the first time. Clicking the title which follows will take you to where this first appeared.

The Grace of the Parable

The parable Jesus used in Matthew 20:1-16 shows God’s outlandish grace towards us. People who follow Christ get the same reward for following Christ, the gift of eternal life with and of knowing Christ. In the parable that Jesus uses, the Kingdom of God is compared to workers in a field. Some worked all day and others were found later in the day, but they all got paid the same wage. Sounds a bit unfair, right?

Well let’s look at it in context, this story isn’t about workers in a field. It’s about the Kingdom of God. The fact is that if you’ve been a Christian your whole life or if you just started following Jesus today, you will be getting the same reward as the person who started following Jesus today.

Does that still sound unfair? If so, let’s take our scarcity mindset and throw it out the window for any conversation related to the presence of Jesus. Why? It’s because Jesus is not like us. Jesus is fully man, fully God. God operates outside of time and space. The presence of the Holy Spirit is INFINITE. Time and the limit of being present in only one place are not limits for Jesus. THERE IS ENOUGH JESUS TO GO AROUND!!

The Kingdom of God is not like the business or company you work for. The Kingdom of God is not bound by restraints of money or time limits. The Kingdom of God is bigger than all of those things. So much bigger that it’s hard for our minds to wrap around the reality of that statement.

With that being established, why would God give more of Himself to some people than to others? Those who believe in Jesus have FULL ACCESS to ALL of who He is. Not just partial access, there are no visiting hours. We can reach out at ANY TIME and ANY PLACE.

How unfair would it be for there to be levels of Christianity? Imagine Jesus saying, “Sorry, you’ve only been a Christian for a day. You can’t enter my Kingdom until you’ve been following me for at least a year.” That’s insane. The Jesus of Scripture, the Jesus I know, would NEVER do that.

The more that I think about it, Matthew 20:1-16 may not make sense when you think of it in regards to how this world works. However, having Kingdom context changes EVERYTHING. Kingdom context puts pride away. Kingdom context makes us realize that we are all on the same playing field before God. None of us are more Spiritual or Holy than the other. We are just blessed to have been called by God.


Our regular Thursday columnist, Clarke Dixon is now more than halfway through a 14-week sabbatical, but just days in he 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.

July 19, 2022

Our Passport was Issued in Heaven

A year ago we introduced you to Nathan Nass who writes at Upside-Down Savior. Nathan and is a Lutheran Pastor in Oklahoma. We have two devotionals for you from Nathan, both based on the same chapter in Philippians. Clicking the title for each will take you to where they first appeared.

Our Citizenship Is in Heaven

For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:18-20)

You’re an alien. Did you know that? It’s true, as long as you’re a Christian. The Bible from beginning to end reminds God’s people over and over again that we are aliens and strangers on earth. This isn’t our permanent home. Our true home—our true citizenship—is in heaven.

We need that reminder often, especially if we’re proud of the earthly country we live in. I thank God for the blessing of being an American. Many other people dream of American citizenship but don’t have that option or opportunity. That makes it tempting to base our identity on the country that we’re from.

Too many people live that way. Too many people live as if this world is all there is. Too many people live as if this life is all there is. Their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.” When you forget your heavenly citizenship, you naturally focus your attention on the pleasures and desires of this world. That’s okay, isn’t it? No! “Their destiny is destruction!” If we think this world is our home, we miss the whole message of Christianity, and we’re on the highway to hell.

But you’re an alien, remember? But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” When you believe in Jesus, your passport changes. Our citizenship is in heaven! If that’s the case, then it only makes sense that our hope is in heaven too. Our Savior isn’t a certain president or political party. It’s our Lord Jesus Christ! Don’t look to Washington for solutions to life’s troubles. Look up. To the cross of Jesus. To heaven. That’s your home.

So don’t let your stomach become your god. Don’t set your mind on earthly things, and watch out for those who do. Don’t set your heart on building an earthly country. Our citizenship is in heaven.

Dear Lord God, by your grace, you call me a citizen of heaven. How could I ever deserve that? Thank you for sending Jesus to open up eternal life to me. Help me to live each day as a citizen of heaven. Amen.

The Goal

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:10-12)

What’s your goal in life? What’s the burning desire that you want to be fulfilled more than anything else? It is success on the athletic field? A job title? A certain dollar amount? ____ kids? Whether you know it or not, that goal is reflected in your priorities and in how you spend your time and money.

Here was Paul’s goal: “I want to know Christ.” That sounds pretty simplistic, doesn’t it? Don’t you want to say to Paul: “All you want is to know Christ? Is that it? Don’t you know Jesus already?”

And Paul would say, “I want to know Christ so, so, so much more. To know how much he suffered for me to save me from my sins. To know the power of his resurrection and the eternal life it brings. To know the purpose God laid out for me even before the beginning of the world. To know the glory of heaven that awaits all who trust in Jesus. I want to know Christ and his resurrection so, so, so much more!”

Can I be honest? I don’t think that’s our goal. Just look at the way that you and your family spend your time. Is your schedule filled with “knowing Christ?” How about your thoughts? Think about all the ideas and daydreams that pass through your mind each day. How many of those thoughts are focused on Christ? I’m afraid we sinfully put “knowing Christ” way down at the bottom of our lists of goals.

But not Jesus. He didn’t put you at the bottom of his list. You are his goal! Jesus suffered and died and rose to win you back to God. Through his Word, Jesus has taken hold of you and made you the child of God. Right now, Jesus is in heaven preparing a room for you and me. What goal could possibly be better than this: To know Christ and his resurrection? To know Christ, even as we are fully known by him.

Dear Jesus, you know me and everything about me. Yet, even with all my sins, you came and died and rose to save me. Thanks for your love! Make it my desire to know you and your amazing grace. Amen.

May 26, 2022

Parable Shatters “Equal Pay for Equal Work”

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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NIV.Matt.20.8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

[click here to read the full story starting with verse 1]

Today we’re back for a second time with Brian Lothridge who writes at On The Way. You can read this where it first appeared by clicking the link below.

Called to Freely Give Grace

Everyone got paid the same. This story should mess with our notions of what is fair. Imagine if you were without a steady job, got up early to go to the market in order to be seen by someone hiring laborers, got picked at 6 a.m. and worked until 6 p.m. When it came time to get paid you stood at the end of the line and waited for your fair share. Those who worked one hour got paid the amount that you agreed to get paid earlier that day. So did those who worked three hours, six hours, and nine hours. But surely you should get paid more than all of them. That’s only right. And yet, here is the landowner giving you the wage you negotiated in the morning.

It’s not fair. Equal pay for equal work sounds fair. Equal pay for unequal work sounds unfair. And this is what the kingdom of heaven is like? Everyone gets an equal reward no matter when they come to the vineyard? What do we do with this?

Consider this: A day laborer did not have a steady job. Those who showed up at the marketplace seeking a job didn’t already have a job. However, they needed money. They had families to support just like anyone else. They needed the work. Hanging out in the marketplace all day would mean returning home that night to disappointed faces because you came with no food. Those who were chosen early were lucky. With each passing hour, the likelihood of finding work diminishes and so does your pay. So when someone shows up at noon, or three, or five and says, “I’ll pay you whatever is fair,” you take it because you need to feed your family. A denarius would have been a day’s wages, but if you get a late start you might expect to get paid less. However, you’d be willing to take what you could get later in the day.

How would you feel if you were the day laborer hired at noon, or three, or five and the employer paid you a full day’s wage? You’d be very happy. You’d be thankful for the generosity that means your family gets to eat for another day. You might feel a little awkward about the complaining that the workers hired first are doing. You might wonder if you really should accept this money. However, it’s not your place to refuse the generosity of the landowner and your family really needs to eat.

Some might object at this point and say this kind of practice disincentivizes workers to work hard. The workers hired first would learn the lesson that they can show up to the job late and earn the same amount of money. But do you not think the workers hired at 5 p.m. would have loved to have been hired earlier in the day? Do you not think they may have worked twice as hard in their hour because they were grateful about the work? And while it may not seem fair, the workers hired first got paid the wage upon which they agreed.

There are 140 million poor and low-income people in our country. In a nation that prides itself on being the best in the world and a nation that has some people saying it is a Christian nation, we often find that we are like those who cry out, “That’s unfair!” when poor people receive benefits. We don’t cry out when rich folk get bailouts and tax breaks or make out like bandits during a pandemic that has many of us reeling. We say, “They deserve it!” And to the poor, “Earn your keep and don’t complain.” Can you imagine Jesus holding such views?

I can’t. Especially given the nearly 2,000 verses in the Bible that talk about caring for the poor and downtrodden. Especially when Jesus says in his first sermon that he came to to preach good news to the poor and free the oppressed. Especially when right before our parable was told in Matthew Jesus tells a rich man, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

A truly Christian nation would figure out how to create an economy that shows love of God and love of neighbor instead of a love of money. A truly Christian nation wouldn’t have 140 million poor or low-income people because it would have figured out how to truly care for people. A truly Christian nation would understand that we all belong to each other and that we have been commanded to love God and neighbor. Instead, we have people in power trying to scare people away from the example and teaching of Jesus by using scary words like “socialism” and “radical left.” Instead, we have people trying to incite culture wars and say their beliefs are being persecuted.

It’s time for the Church to reclaim the radical teachings of Jesus and demand more just systems that will contribute to the common welfare of everyone. Remember, we call ourselves Christians. We may forget this at times but calling ourselves Christians doesn’t simply point to the club we belong to or the side for which we cheer. Calling ourselves Christians means that we are calling ourselves “little Christs.” That’s a big name with a big responsibility to act as little Christs both individually and collectively. The responsibility leads us to read the words of Jesus and figure out how we are to truly follow him in our time and place. It’s not to get caught up in the culture war or align ourselves with any one nation or political party. It’s to give allegiance to Christ and to the kingdom of God for which he gave his life.

Whether we identify with the laborers hired first, last, or somewhere in between, the exemplar in the story is the landowner, who is seen as generous or unfair, depending on your perspective. The landowner has made all the laborers equal. Even though they all put in different amounts of work, they all had to put bread on the table. That was their great equalizer. The landowner met the need they all had.

Isn’t that what God does for us? There is no earning our way into the kingdom of God. It’s all grace; it’s all a gift. There may be some people we see in the next life and wonder how fair it is that they are there when we did more and were faithful longer. And God will say, “Are you mad at my generosity? I gave you what we agreed upon, and I didn’t have to hire you at all.”

And if Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is near, and Paul says we are temples of the Holy Spirit, living stones of the temple that is Jesus’ body, should we not work for the kingdom of heaven here and now? Should we not strive to make a more just and equal society? Should we not grumble when the poor receive help but instead advocate for policies and advances that would lift them from poverty? Would that not bring us closer to a Godly nation?

What would it be like if we truly imagined the kingdom of God was among us? That is how Jesus lived his life. He hung out with tax collectors and sinners, healed the sick, spoke truth to power, and encouraged people to be who they were created to be. He lived as though the kingdom of heaven was here, even amidst the brokenness of our current reality. This is the task at hand for the church. If we truly want to be the church we are called to be, if we truly want to advocate for a nation that served as Christ served then we must be brave enough to be little Christs, treat the last as the first and the first as the last (making all equal), and speak truth to the powers that be in Washington, D.C. and in Albany and all the halls of power.

We are essentially called to be the managers of the vineyard. The landowner hired the workers and set the wage of grace and we get to dole it out. We are called to make sure everyone receives grace, whether they deserve it or not.

I challenge us to read this story anew this week as well as the chapter before it. Read the sermon on the mount in chapter 5-7. Spend some time in prayer with God and hear where God is calling you to act in the realm of creating the kingdom of heaven here on earth. What action can you take? Can you donate money or goods to charity? Can you volunteer with a charitable organization? Can you get to know the poor and advocate on their behalf? Can you write to your local, state, and federal representatives about a policy that will help people? Use the authority God has given you to spread the grace of God to all.

 

April 21, 2022

Time For Change

Thinking Through John 20:11-18

by Clarke Dixon

When will things ever change? Why does everything keep changing?

Which statement resonates with you? Perhaps they both do. We humans desire change, but then we also resist change. Sometimes we push for change, yet sometimes we push back when things are changing.

We cannot talk about Easter without talking about change!

A big change happened at Easter, which inspired a lot of change, which of course also meant a lot of pushback. What was that big change?

Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.
“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”
She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus,…

John 20:11-14 (NLT emphasis added)

Jesus was dead. Now he is alive. That was a big change! And that changed everything!

The fact that Jesus is alive changes everything

That Jesus, though crucified, was now alive meant rethinking who Jesus was and is. Those religious leaders who thought he was a fraud would need to reconsider. Those who saw Jesus as great teacher or miracle worker but merely a great teacher or miracle worker, would need to reconsider. Those who wondered if Jesus might be the expected Messiah, though having their hopes dashed by his crucifixion, would need to rethink their expectations of the Messiah. This rethinking of the identity of Jesus led to Jesus being reconsidered as “The Word made flesh and dwelt among us” (see John 1:14) and “King of kings and Lord of lords” (see 1st Timothy 6:15) and “My Lord and my God!” (see John 20:28).

That Jesus, though crucified, was now alive meant rethinking how we relate to God; no longer through the old covenant, but through Jesus.

That Jesus, though crucified, was now alive meant rethinking the God’s priorities; from making Israel great again, to connecting people with God and God’s kingdom wherever they may live, whatever their nationality may be.

That Jesus, though crucified, was now alive meant rethinking who is invited to live and lean into the Kingdom of God; anyone and everyone.

That Jesus, though crucified, was now alive meant rethinking how people relate to one another when it comes to class divisions: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” Galatians 3:28 (NRSV).

That Jesus, though crucified, was now alive meant rethinking ethics; no longer living by the letter of the old covenant law, but the teaching and example of Jesus.

Since Jesus is risen, since Jesus is king, that changed everything! It meant changing anything that did not fit the Kingdom.

A Kingdom Pivot

The word pivot has been used a lot recently with reference to adapting to a pandemic. We church leaders needed to change how we led worship and how we gathered people together when worship gatherings were stopped. We all have needed to learn to live with masks and social distancing. The reality of a nasty virus meant the need for a pivot in how we live.

The reality of Jesus risen from the dead means there is need for a “Kingdom pivot.” Since Jesus is the king, what does life look like in His kingdom? What needs to change?

An example of a Kingdom pivot

Here is an example of the Kingdom pivot from our Scripture Focus:

She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”
She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”
“Mary!” Jesus said.
She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).
“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.

John 20:14-18 (NLT)

Jesus is alive and a woman in the first to know! Why didn’t Jesus go straight to the disciples? According to scholars women were not even allowed to be witnesses in those days. It was a man’s world. Jesus showed himself alive first to a woman as a call for a change in attitudes toward women.

Some Bible teachers have pointed out that since an apostle is one “sent out” with a message, Mary is the first apostle! This is a huge sign that in the Kingdom there will be a different attitude toward women. This Kingdom pivot is aligned with the teaching of Jesus when Martha wanted Mary to take her proper place. Mary was doing what women were not supposed to be doing, learning. Yet Jesus affirmed her choice to learn. Change was coming.

Not everyone could handle this change in attitudes toward women, indeed we see evidence of this in the New Testament itself, and in churches around the world right down to our day. Change gets messy. For myself, I’m glad to be part of a convention and church that supports women in leadership at all levels. To me, this is an important Kingdom pivot.

The Kingdom Pivot in our lives

Jesus is alive. Jesus is king. That changes everything. Are we prepared to change anything that does not fit the Kingdom?

What does a kingdom pivot look like in your life right now? It might be a change in habits or attitudes. It might be seeking help for change in a battle with an addiction. It might be a change in the way we treat others, whether family, friends, strangers, or enemies. It might be a change in our attitudes toward a certain people group. It might be a change in our attitude toward ourselves. I came face to face with my tendency for perfectionism when the pandemic hit and worship and preaching went online. My imperfections were suddenly recorded on camera! We perfectionists tend to beat ourselves up when we end up being less than perfect, which we always do. People don’t beat themselves up in God’s Kingdom. There is a Kingdom pivot needed in my life. What Kingdom pivot do you need in yours?

Are we open to these changes or do we resist them?

In Conclusion

Jesus is alive and is king. That changes everything. So be prepared to change anything that does not fit his kingdom.


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Ontario Canada. Read more at Thinking Through Scripture.

April 18, 2022

“A Certain Man”

There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard… – Matthew 21:33

For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. – Matthew 25:14 NASB

A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other fifty. – Luke 7:41 NET

A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers. Luke 10:30 YLT

A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard – Luke 13:6 KJV

A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many guests – Luke 14:16 AMP

There was a rich man who received an accusation that his manager was squandering his possessions – Luke 16:1 HCSB

A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return. – Luke 19:12 NASB

Although I didn’t stick with the KJV in this list, it often uses the phrase “A certain man;” as an indicator that Jesus is about to tell a story. A fictional story. Many commentators have said that when he says, “a certain man;” he might as well be saying “Once upon a time…” To our ears that indicates a fable. To those listening to a rabbi teach, the purpose might not be entertainment, or even to describe a moral principle, but rather to teach a spiritual lesson, to relate it to the number one theme in Jesus’ ministry, what the Kingdom of God is like.

Also, the use of “a certain man” doesn’t necessarily indicate a parable, and John uses it differently as do the Old Testament writers.

All this is introduction for today’s return to the devotional blog Get Along With God. They use different writers, and the one we’re reading today is John Enslow. Click the header which follows to read where we sourced it.

Parables – God With Us

All the parables of the Bible are God’s attempting to connect our earthly experience to His heavenly reality. I love when God connects our tangible experience with something deeply spiritual and heavenly. For example, His speaking to His agrarian culture about grapevines, fields, wine, oil, vineyard relating it all to His Heavenly Kingdom. When He used their earthly experience to reveal His heavenly reality, they saw in the Spirit so much clearer. They knew what they knew, and He met them in their experience to communicate something beyond their earthly understanding.

Christ wasn’t simply speaking about elusive Kingdom concepts, He was making things more tangible and real for their hearts by share Kingdom realities through earthly experiences. These parables just solidified it in their life, heart and spirits. Parables are intended to connect our awareness by plugging it into heaven’s reality. It is simply genius!

Being a Child – God With US

I am so grateful He knows us like this on such a deep level. That He doesn’t speak beyond our ability to make a connection to His meaning. While the mind of the flesh sees it as foolishness, the receptive childlike heart can grasp deep meaning from simple examples. And in actuality, it is only as we enter in with a childlike heart, that will we see meaning beyond the ordinary.

Imagine, our God is able to connect our hearts, our living, our experiences with His Kingdom. Who else could take something that is mere dirt and reveal something extremely eternal.

The parables of God are a further expression of God With US—Emmanuel! God wants to be with us in our lives to bring us beyond our lives into His Heavenly Reality. Remarkably He does this by coming into our experience and awareness and then surpassing it with His own. He so wants us with Him and comes to be with us.

Parables Today

Our lives are a continual opportunity to receive His parable reality. Jesus will uses our living expressions to communicate His deep truths. The Gospel is deeply tangible and totally relevant to my now moments. He will speak into my living experience just as I know it. This is who He is, God with me – God with US!

So as we live our lives in Him, let’s let Him be God with US. Let’s look for Him to connect our individual experience with His unique design. Le’s listen to hear His voice as He wants to reveal Himself deeply to us. He is so willing to be God with us as He reveals Himself to us.


Second Helping: By the same author, check out I am the Dwelling of God – A Living Tabernacle.


Old Testament Parables: If you’ve been in the church for any length of time, you know there is often intense discussion as to whether all of the narratives in the Old Testament are describing real events. And just because Jesus quotes the story, doesn’t mean the story happened. (If I’m speaking to a group of people and say, “It’s just like what happened to Jack with his beanstock;” that doesn’t mean I believe in magic beans.)

The two narratives most often discussed in this context are Job and Jonah. What do you think? Do you read these as literal events which happened as described? And as hard it is to gauge reaction this last question with everyone, does it really matter if they are parables?

 

November 18, 2021

Time to Make Christianity Great Again?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Thinking Through Acts 10:44-48

by Clarke Dixon

There is no doubt that Christianity does not enjoy the esteem and influence that it once did in this part of the world. No doubt there are many who would love to make Christianity great again. This being so, there is an event recorded in the book of Acts which should be cause for reflection.

To understand the importance of this event, we will want to go back to the Old Testament. Let’s go back to Genesis where God called Abraham and made two key promises. The first was “I will make you into a great nation” (12:2 NLT). The second was “All the families on earth will be blessed through you” (12:3 NLT).

As we read through the rest of the Old Testament, we may get the impression, from Exodus right through to the book of Malachi, that it is all about the special nation that descended from Abraham. We read about the founding and formation of God’s people, the giving of the law, their relationship with God along the way, their lack of relationship with God along the way, their exile due to a lack of relationship with God, and their return from exile thanks to God’s commitment to the relationship and his promises.

Reading through the Old Testament, therefore, we might get the impression that the focus is almost entirely on the first promise to Abraham, of making him into a great nation. The other promise, of all nations being blessed, for the most part seems to fall off the radar.

Enter Jesus. The attitude of people toward Jesus, as they considered whether he was the Messiah or not, could be summed up with the question: “Is this the one who is going to make Israel great again?”

God’s old covenant people had been through a lot including exile and the return from exile. They continued to face hard times as they had been under foreign rule quite often since the return from exile, and were now under the thumb of the Romans. Perhaps Jesus is the one who will fix this Roman problem and bring them back to being a sovereign nation? The mood in the air pointed to a focus on the first promise of making Israel great. Even the apostles were caught up in it when following his resurrection,

…the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”

Acts 1:6 (NLT)

While the apostles still had in mind the promise of making Israel great, Jesus pointed to another promise, the promise of the Holy Spirit:

He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Acts 1:7-8 (NLT)

The Holy Spirit did indeed come upon a great crowd of people which we can read about in Acts, chapter two. But all these people, though coming from different nations, were part of God’s old covenant people. The idea of making Israel great again could still linger, the promise of blessing all the families of the earth could still be largely off the radar. Until we get to Acts, chapter ten. Here Peter had a rather “un-Jewish” vision, while Cornelius, a non-Jew had an angel visitation resulting in the invitation of Peter to the home of Cornelius, another rather “un-Jewish” thing to happen. Peter then spoke to them about Jesus, and,

as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too. For they heard them speaking in other tongues and praising God.
Then Peter asked, “Can anyone object to their being baptized, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?” So he gave orders for them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

Acts 10:44-48 (NLT)

If there was any doubt before, there was no doubt now, that Jesus’ purpose was not about making Israel great again, but about making the world great at last, fulfilling the promise to Abraham that “All the families on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3 NLT).

This fulfillment of the promise challenges us in our desire to make Christianity great again.

Let’s remember that while the Jews hated being under Roman rule, most nations, and many Jews, could see the benefit of Roman rule. New roads were built along with new buildings and facilities like gymnasiums. And there was the “peace of Rome.” Nations under Roman rule, and there were many, could count on protection from attack, both from beyond and from within the empire. The Roman army would intervene, and it was a very good army.

While Rome brought peace, it did so, as at least one Bible teacher has pointed out, by “the power of the cross.” Rome ruled and kept peace through the use of brute force and brutality. The empire had peace, but it was an ugly empire, with an ugly, and precarious, kind of peace. In contrast, Jesus brought a different kind of peace, a beautiful lasting peace with God and others. Jesus brought peace by the power of cross, but it was not peace won by brute force and brutality, but rather peace won by love, grace, and forgiveness.

Through Jesus, God was not making Israel great again by making it like Rome as some had hoped. Rather, through Jesus, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, God was, and still is, inviting everyone to the Kingdom of God. This is a good kingdom, one of love, justice, and goodness.

Rome had accomplished the bringing together of many different peoples together in one peaceful empire. That peace was held by the power and brutality of the cross. Jesus brings people together in one peaceful kingdom. That peace is held by God’s forgiveness, grace, mercy, and love made evident at the cross.

Which cross do we use? Are we a people of brute force? Or are we a people of love and grace? Christianity can not be made great again through brute force. There is nothing great about that. Perhaps we need a better focus than making Christianity great again anyway. Perhaps a better focus is the blessing of all the families of the earth.


Clarke Dixon had a significant birthday yesterday, but hey, we’ll never tell! His the devotions here come to us via his own site, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon. To watch the full sermon on which today’s message is based, click this YouTube link.

April 9, 2021

The New Normal, the Status Quo, and Jesus

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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NIV.Matt.21.33 “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.

35 “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37 Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.

38 “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

by Clarke Dixon

A year ago at this time we were talking about a new normal. That new normal now feels like the status quo with masks, social distancing, outbreaks, and lockdowns. Even as vaccines are rolled out, it feels like life under a pandemic is now the status quo, that these changes will be with us forever. At least that how it feels. The new normal has become the status quo and we are stuck with it.

This is eerily reminiscent of another great disruption.

We go back to the early chapters of Genesis when Adam and Eve were in the garden of Eden, in perfect relationship with God Who gave them life. The expectation was that they would live forevermore. This is a picture of what humanity could have been.

All that is life-giving was theirs, except for one condition, they were not to eat from one particular tree. I think you know what happened next.

Adam and Eve ate the fruit and plunged us into a new normal. They were kicked out of the garden, barred access to the tree of life, and death was now the expectation. Rebellion against God and God’s ways became the status quo. We can think of Cain killing Abel. The expectation of death became the status quo. We can think of Abel being killed by Cain. The picture of what humanity could have been became a picture of what humanity is; a people who are in rebellion against the Giver of life, a people who could always expect death because of separation from God. The new normal became the status quo.

Yet God gave us signs of hope, signs that this new status quo would not last forever.

We can think of a fresh start with Noah, a new beginning. Yet shortly after hitting the reset button, there was a return to the status quo of rebellion against God Who gives us life, and the expectation of death.

We can think of the promise God made to Abraham, to create from him a nation through whom all nations would be blessed, a promise reiterated to Isaac, and Jacob. We see progress on that promise through the rescue of Jacob’s descendants from Egypt. This will be a different kind of people, a people in relationship with God. Yet in the wilderness we see these rescued people living according to the status quo of rebellion against God Who gives life, and the experience of death.

We can think of the giving of the law as sign of hope, so that God’s people could be a different kind of people who, far from rebelling against God, would walk according to his law. They would operate according to a good sense of justice. For example, it was to be an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, instead of an arm and a leg plus an eye for an eye, and a head for a tooth. They would not sacrifice their children. They would take care of the vulnerable. They were to be a light to the other nations as they lived according to God’s law. Yet they did not have a very good track record of keeping the law. They succumbed to the status quo of rebellion against God Who gives life, and the expectation of death.

We can think of the sending of prophets as a sign of hope, so that God’s people could get back on track. Yet the response to the prophets pointed to the status quo of rebellion against the God Who gives life, and the experience of death.

There were many signs of hope. Yet the status quo persisted. The new normal, from the great disruption at the Garden of Eden, remained the status quo. It was like the discovery of a vaccine during a pandemic, and yet nothing seems to change.

But there was one more sign of hope. God sent His Son.

Jesus told a parable of a landowner who sent messengers to the farmers who were working his land. They kept beating up and killing the messengers. In the story of Jesus it was symbolic of God’s people ignoring and sometimes killing the prophets that God sent. In the story the landowner finally sent his own son. They killed him too. That points to Jesus. For God so loved the world that he sent His only begotten son, and we killed him! Rebellion against God and the expectation of death had become so normal, that we even killed Immanuel, “God with us.”

On Good Friday we recognize the status quo of rebellion against God and the experience of death made so visible at the cross.

But on Sunday there was a true sign of hope, of change, of the status quo being disrupted and the possibility of something new. The stone was rolled away, there was no body, for Jesus had risen from the dead. That is the greatest disruption to the status quo the world has ever seen. Jesus was obedient. Jesus is alive. This was different!

Our rebellion was no match for God’s love. In a world where rebellion was normally dealt with through power, through armies, and violence, God did not respond to our violence with his. Jesus took the nails.

One would expect that to be the end of it, the expectation of death is the status quo, correct? But Jesus rose from the dead, then told the disciples to go invite anyone and everyone to the Kingdom of God, to be part of His royal family.

Even those who were involved in the crucifixion of Jesus could respond to his invitation. It would be up to the enemies of Jesus whether they would stick with the status quo of rebellion against God and the expectation of death, or step into a new normal, a new normal of intimate relationship with God, walking with Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, a new normal of living in Jesus, a Kingdom life that challenges the status quo of a world gone mad, a new normal of the fear of death giving way to the anticipation of everlasting life, a new normal made possible by the grace of God, forgiveness in and though Jesus.

It would be up to the enemies of Jesus, those who crucified him, whether to stick with the status quo of rebellion against God and the expectation of separation from God in death, or to step into a new normal.

And it is up to us.

Will it be status quo? Or will we enter into the new normal Jesus brings?

When Adam and Eve sinned, they ushered in a new normal. That new normal become the status quo. That status quo made the events of Good Friday predictable. There was rebellion against God. There was death. The events of Easter Sunday were not as predictable. The stone was rolled away, Jesus was not in the tomb, he had risen! This is the greatest disruption to the status quo there has ever been in the history of the world. There is a new normal, a new way of life, a new expectation of life.

It is brilliant!

You are invited to step into it.


Watch message in context of the entire online worship expression (26 minutes) from Clarke Dixon’s church in Ontario, Canada or watch just the sermon (15 minutes).

February 2, 2021

Living New Covenant Means Welcoming New People

The transition from Old Covenant to New Covenant involves the story of a man named Cornelius. If you’re unfamiliar with his story, click the link which appears at the beginning of today’s devotional.

A year ago we introduced you to Paul T. Reynolds who lives in the Cayman Islands, where he oversees Children’s Ministry at First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman. You can read more of his writing at his blog, where he’s currently working through the Book of Acts. He is the author of 66 Books, One Story.

Living for God for People

Acts 10:1-23a (AD 42)

Verse two is not a comprehensive statement of what it means to be a good Christian, but neither is it incidental.

The Roman Centurion Cornelius was a “devout and God-fearing” man (not just him, but also his family). Furthermore, he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly (v.2).

God repeated the point for emphasis, two verses later: Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.

James shared similar thoughts from God when decrying moral hypocrisy, stating that Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world(James 1:27).

In both instances, a point of emphasis is a dual perspective on what being a Christian looks like: holy living (involving personal relationship with God and behaviour) and caring for those in need.

Cornelius – a righteous Gentile and a man of authority – was then told by God to send for a nobody; a mere fisherman, a poor man with no-one under his command. Cornelius had no problem with what God said, and did as he was told.

Peter, on the other hand, did not immediately do as he was told. In his vision (v.11-16), God told him what Jesus told him – that the old civil and ritual codes were fulfilled and therefore no longer relevant. He needed to change his understand of right and wrong.

Does that mean that other aspects of God’s teaching might have reached their sell-by date and need to be traded in for more enlightened perspectives?

Well, that depends.

Is the teaching in question, part of the system of civil and ritual law that Jesus said was fulfilled and therefore ended? Or is it part of the moral law, the nature of God himself, reaffirmed by Jesus or the apostles?

Cornelius, with his upbringing surrounded by idol-worship and sexual immorality, knew that his culture didn’t change God’s nature. God’s nature must and did change him.

Peter, with his upbringing dominated by hypocritical leaders, was struggling to understand that his nature wasn’t exactly the same as God’s nature. God’s nature must, and would eventually, over time, change him.

Fight the part of you that doesn’t care about the eternal destiny of people you don’t like.

And hold firm to God’s calling on your life; pursuing your relationship with Him in prayer and holy living, and helping the needy.


What happened next? The continuation of the story in the rest of Acts 10 and Acts 11 is important. Click to read the next blog post in this series: Even to the Gentiles.


Mission Statement: Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from the widest range of Christian blogs and websites. Two posts might appear on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives, or from different parts of the world. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading. Your suggestions of articles and websites to consider are always welcome.

Scripture portions from various translations quoted at Christianity 201 are always in green to remind us that the Scriptures have LIFE!

September 3, 2020

For Thine is the Kingdom… But Mine is the Driver’s Seat

by Clarke Dixon

Wouldn’t everything be better if we were in the driver’s seat? If we were in control and called the shots? This thought may cross our minds as we watch the news. Who thought it was a good idea to . . . ? Why don’t they . . . ? We might think it when we watch loved ones make foolish decisions, at least foolish in our eyes. What are they thinking?!

If only everyone would ask us, everything would run better. But we sit at the phone and world leaders never phone to ask our advice. Neither, it seems, do our friends and family members. We would love to be in the driver’s seat and make the all the important decisions but we don’t even feel like we are in the car.

And then we pray, and we might pray as if God has called us looking for our advice. Sometimes, perhaps often, we don’t just pray to God, we tell him how to answer our prayers. We want to be in the driver’s seat, even with God in the car.

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, especially the last lines, we will be caused to consider and reconsider just who should be in the driver’s seat of our lives:

For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen

The Lord’s Prayer (traditional)

The traditional ending to the Lord’s Prayer is not actually part of the prayer Jesus taught. But it is Biblical, the language being very similar to a prayer of David:

Thine, O Lord is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all.

1 Chronicles 29:11 KJV

David prayed this prayer while God’s people were experiencing their “glory days” as a nation. David was a good king, a loyal king, who though not perfect, had led the nation well. Under his leadership the twelve tribes gelled together into one nation, he led many military victories, built a grand palace for the royal family, and now was preparing for Solomon to take over as king including the provision of all Solomon would need to build a temple for the LORD. Solomon had already been declared king as well, so this was a time of transition from a great king to his son.

As we read about this time of transition, what might we expect from David? We might expect David to gloat, “look what I’ve done, look at my power, my victories, my majesty, my kingdom that I have built, and how I am exalted over it all. Look now at my son who is ready to take my place as your king.”

Does David gloat? No, David prays:

Yours, O LORD, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all.

1 Chronicles 29:11 NRSV (emphasis added)

David was a great king, but God is preeminent, the true and greater king. David knew it. David knew that it was far better to be a servant of the true king than to be a king.

This focus of God as king is found throughout the chapter. Where we might expect the word for temple in the first verse, we find the word meaning palace or fortress instead, as in the LORD is not just God who will reside in a temple as gods do, but is also the king who will reside in a fortress as kings do.

Also within Chapter 29, which is focused on preparations for the building of the temple, Bible scholars see allusions to Moses and the building of the original tabernacle. In other words, though we now have a king instead of a prophet as leader, nothing has really changed. The LORD is still our God, our leader and protector, our true king.

David could gloat, and the people could praise him. The focus, however, is on God the true king. God is preeminent. David knew that it was better to be a servant of the king than to be a king. David knew that it was a privilege to serve the Lord as a passenger and not as the one in the driver’s seat.

When we pray, we may be tempted to take the driver’s seat, to tell God what should be done, and how it should be done. As we pray “thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever,” we are reminded that we are not in the driver’s seat. We will gladly take the passenger seat and let God take the wheel.

If David knew that God was preeminent, Peter, Paul, Matthew, Mark, Luke, James, and so many others we read of in the New Testament knew that Jesus is preeminent:

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:9-11 NIV

When we pray “thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever” we are not just thinking of and praying to some generic idea of God, a God that cannot be known. We are praying to God who has revealed himself to us supremely through Jesus Christ. We are speaking, not just to our king, but to the one who has given us the right to call upon him as our Heavenly Father.

The Lord’s Prayer begins “Our father.” May prayer be for us an experience of being a child of God. It ends with “thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory.” May prayer be for us an experience of being his servant who seeks his glory. Being a child and servant of the one true king is far better than being a king. May prayer become for us an experience of letting God take the driver’s seat in our lives.


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada. This reflection comes from an “online worship expression” which has replaced their regular church service due to pandemic precautions. The teaching segment alone can be seen here.

July 30, 2020

Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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by Clarke Dixon

Do our prayers sound like the Lord’s prayer? Notice I am not asking if we pray the Lord’s Prayer itself, but rather if our prayers reflect it. Jesus did not say “pray this,” but rather “pray in this way.” Do our prayer requests sound like the requests found in the Lord’s prayer?

In twenty-three years as a pastor, having received many prayer requests, and having attended many prayer meetings, the number one prayer concern that has shown up is for good health. This is not surprising as health is so important. Surprising, however, is that though Jesus was known for healing many, many people, when he taught us to pray, he did not teach us to pray for good health!

What are the first prayer requests Jesus put before us to pray about?

hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Matthew 6:9-10 (NRSV)

We may find that our prayers often begin from a self-centred place. Indeed we might not even feel like praying until something happens to us that causes us to go looking for help. It is not wrong to pray out of our needs, for the Psalmists often do, therefore we are in good company. We cannot pray, however, as Jesus taught us to pray and stay in a self-centred place. When we pray as Jesus taught us to pray, we learn to focus on God and God’s agenda for the world.

What does that agenda look like? What does it look like when God’s will is being done? The Bible teaches us what life in the Kingdom looks like. Let us take just two examples:

I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Amos 5:21-24 (NRSV)

In the kingdom of God, people experience justice and righteousness. Far too many empires have been marked by the opposite.

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

Matthew 25:34-40 (NRSV)

In the kingdom of God, even those considered as “the least” are valued and helped. Far too many empires have oppressed their people rather than helped.

We sometimes have a negative reaction to the idea of a “kingdom.” We want democracy! In Bible times, however, a kingdom was considered a good thing, a safe place. You did not want to find yourself on your own, defenseless against marauders who lusted after your possessions, your land, and your family members. You wanted to belong to a people who could stick together and be stronger together. It was even better if the people you belonged to had a good army, and a good king. The king of a kingdom was supposed to take care of the people and ensure their safety. In fact kings in ancient times were often referred to as shepherds.

In the Kingdom of God, people are taken care of. God is our shepherd. There is a good king indeed, one who is concerned for the welfare of his people.

We cannot pray as Jesus taught us to pray and stay in a self-centred place. We will focus on God’s kingdom and the good king’s love for all kingdom people. We will focus on others, and God’s concern for them.

If there is a focus on self here as we pray ‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” it is on how we might be part of the problems of this world, rather than the solutions. It is on how we might be supporting the empires of this world, rather than advancing the Kingdom of God. Let us consider these words from the Apostle Paul:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2 (NRSV)

There is a word for being transformed in one’s mind: repentance. The New Testament Greek word behind our English word “repentance” literally means to have a change of mind.

Did you know that repentance can become self-centred? It becomes self-centred when our line of thinking is nothing but “I repent so that I can go to heaven.” Such assumes that the greatest problem to be solved is the disruption in my relationship with God, which will negatively impact my future. It is all about me.

Repentance runs much deeper than that. It is not just about negative consequences of sin for ourselves. Let us read again the passage from Amos above and consider how the injustice and unrighteousness was negatively impacting others. Let us read again the passage from Matthew 25 above and recognize the potential for positive and negative impact on others. Repentance is part of a growing relationship with God, yes, but it is also about leaving behind the old ways of empire and their negative consequences in the lives of others, to live instead in God’s kingdom ways, which have positive consequences. Repentance is not just about me getting to heaven, but about God, through me, making life a little more heavenly for everyone around me.

When we pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” we will want to be aware of the old empire ways which harm others. When we do go to a self-focused place, we will consider if we are living in old empire ways, we will consider our impact on others. We do not want to stand in the way of God’s coming kingdom. Far from standing in the way of the experience of God’s kingdom, we will be ambassadors for God’s Kingdom.

Jesus became for us the ultimate example of living out the prayer, of becoming the answer to the prayer for God’s kingdom to come and God’s will to be done. Jesus’ life was an example of helping people, until of course his kingdom principles got him into trouble with the empires of the world, the Jewish leadership, and the Roman leadership, each trying to protect their own interests, each seeking to advance their own agendas. Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, on the night he had to decide between fighting the bullies, or flight from them, said “not my will, but thy will be done.” He chose the cross.

At the cross we saw how things work on earth. We saw how empires work. We saw the best man the world has ever known beaten up, mocked, and crucified as empires tried to hold onto their power. At the cross we also saw the ultimate example of things happening on earth as they do in heaven. We saw, and still see today, God’s love and grace overwhelming the powers of hatred. At the cross we saw an answer to the prayer “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” As we learn to pray that prayer, we will learn to pick up our cross and follow.


Clarke Dixon is a Canadian pastor. This reflection comes from an “online worship expression” which has replaced their regular church service. Read more of Clarke’s writing here each Thursday, or at the source, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon. (Or should that be ‘shrunken sermon?’)

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