Christianity 201

September 8, 2017

God is Not a Force

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. John 16: 13-14 ESV

God replied: “I am who am. Thus shall you say to the children of Israel: He Who is has sent me to you.” Exodus 3: 13-15

This may seem like more of a 101 type of topic to many of you, rather than a 201 type of discussion you expect here. But I think it’s important not only to have this matter settled for ourselves, but to have our ears tuned to hear it when spoken by people inside or on the periphery of our Christian community in order that we can offer correction and clarification.

Today we’re returning to the writing of Jeff Loach, who we often referenced in the early days of Thinking Out Loud, and have included here at C201 before. He blogs at Passionately His. Recently we caught up with about a dozen of his most recent topics. Click the title below to read this at source.

Force or Person?

God is not a force.

Many people talk about various forces in the universe, or even about certain forces that may hold divine power.  But let’s not be mistaken:  the God of the Bible – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ – is not a force.  God is one, yet three persons.

That gets confusing for some folks, because when we think of a person we think of someone with flesh and bones who walks the earth like we do.  In that sense, we can wrap our heads around the idea that Jesus is, or was, a person, but God the Father?  Not so much.

To make it more confusing, because the Holy Spirit is invisible, many people – even well-meaning followers of Christ – will refer to the Holy Spirit as a force.  But the Holy Spirit is not a force.  The Holy Spirit is a person.

The dictionary generally defines a person in human terms, but the best dictionaries will acknowledge that in Christian theology, a person is defined as one of the three members of the Godhead, i.e., the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Each is a person.  Not a force, a person.

While this can get into deep philosophy and theology, for the purposes of a brief devotional, let’s understand this:  the fact that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are persons means that God is personal, and we can be in personal relationship with God.

Lots of folks think of God as very far off, unreachable, even unknowable.  But the fact that God is not a force, but is personal, means that God is near, reachable, and knowable.  God showed his great love for us in sending Jesus as the incarnation – God with skin on, literally.  As an old song says, “He’s as close as the mention of his name.”

Forces are impersonal.  God is personal.  Let’s get personal with the God who made us, who loves us with an everlasting love, and who longs to live his life in and through us.

“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him” (1 John 4.9, NLT).

August 31, 2017

The Story of Us

by Clarke Dixon

Now suppose you were to ask me to tell you about my marriage. I might say something like “well, it is my task to put out the garbage on a Sunday night ready for Monday morning, and Sandra’s tasks are to keep the pantry and fridge stocked, buy the clothes for the boys (yes, that includes me), take the lead on the medical concerns of our children, . . . well, pretty much everything but get the garbage out. Now of course I am exaggerating but I hope that you find it odd that a question about my marriage would end up with a list of duties and expectations. Yet we do this all the time with matters of faith. A question about our faith may well lead us to speak about our duties and expectations as a Christian. Or as I fear, many in trying to pass on the faith to the next generation will focus almost solely on passing on that list of duties and expectations. This can be described as the “it is good for you” kind of faith.

Problem is, the next generation normally has no problem coming up with a set of values and ethics on their own, especially with culture and society so eager to help. If that is all the Christian faith is about, then why bother, especially as Christian duties and expectations will seem quite a bit more bothersome than what might come up with ourselves. I needn’t tell you that many in the next generations (including my own) haven’t bothered.

The Psalmist in Psalm 78 has a heart for the coming generations and is eager to pass on the faith:

My people, hear my teaching;
listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth with a parable;
I will utter hidden things, things from of old— things we have heard and known,
things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants;
we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
his power, and the wonders he has done. (Psalm 78:1-4 NIV)

We will want to notice right from the start that the Psalmist has a much bigger sense of faith than the duties and expectations. Yes, the Psalmist will go on to speak of God’s law as part of the “praiseworthy deeds” of the Lord, but there is something greater here than being grateful for a mere list of ethics. The Psalmist wants to pass on the knowledge of the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. He wants to pass on, not just the rules of a religion, but better the knowledge of the living, interacting, and intervening God.

This of course assumes that the Psalmist knows the praiseworthy deeds, the might, and wonders of the Lord. If we are to be effective in passing the faith on to a new generation (and this is a key desire of mine within my own family!), step one is to be sure we know it and enjoy it well ourselves first!! Do you know the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord? Have you seen his power at work? Are you able to articulate the wonders he has done? Can you point to where these can be found in the Bible? Can you point to where these can be found in your own life story?

Furthermore, in the rest of the Psalm (and it is a long one, rather like some of my sermons!), the Psalmist tells us a story, or better, stories. These focus on God’s people, their rebellion, God’s covering them with grace and forgiveness, God’s drawing them forward with discipline and instruction, and finally God’s preparation for the future. The story ends with Israel’s final rebellion against God, his purposes being carried forward with Judah and King David. In fact the ending has kind of an ‘unfinished’ feel to it as one suspects the story will go on. And we know it does. But the thing for us to notice is this: the Psalmist in having a heart for the next generation, spends much of his time telling the stories of God’s relationship with God’s people, or the story of us. This is more like what you might expect to hear if you asked about my marriage. How we met. How we fell in love with each other. How we fell in love with our children. You don’t expect a list of duties and expectations, but the story of us. Can you articulate the story of God’s love for his creation and humanity?

Can you tell the story of how you fell in love with God? Will you? The story goes on . . .

Read more from Clarke Dixon at clarkedixon.wordpress.com

August 26, 2017

OMG: Hearing it and Saying It

Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.NLT

Romans 12:2 Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.The Message

This week I had a discussion with someone on the topic of knowing God by his name. At one very brief point in the conversation, this person surprised me by saying they were not particularly offended by people saying “Oh, my God” or using the printed form, “OMG,” because unless identified or qualified, the God we serve is not necessarily the one being referenced. It may be the third of the Ten Commandments being broken if the reference is to something else.

Exodus 20:7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

It’s easy to take offense at the use of this phrase, because we are often taking it personally, but there’s no guarantee that it’s our God they’re talking about. For example, I have often lamented the general nature the term “god” (lower case) has and in so doing I appeal to this quotation by E. Stanley Jones, which regular readers here have seen before:

“When we say we begin with God, we begin with our idea of God, and our idea of God is not God. Instead, we ought to begin with God’s idea of God, and God’s idea of God is Christ”

In other words, while the Old Testament points to “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (see Exodus 3:6, 3:15, 3:16, 4:5 for the specific phrase in the KJV; and also look at these references) in the New Testament we speak of “the God as revealed in Jesus Christ.” That’s our God.

So on the one hand, I despair over the need to so clearly define who the God is of which we speak, and yet on the other hand I also find the “OMG” phrase to totally grate on me; but I’ve never really held the two situations in tension. The result I suppose is to be able relax a little and grant the non-churched person (or the non-Jesus-follower, or the secularist) using the phrase some grace.

…Unless…

The problem comes when believers use such phrases. (See our first key verse above.) Has that happened to you?

We covered this topic here before in a 2012 article called Exemplary Speech. In it, the writer quoted these key verses; notice the references to speech:

Command and teach these things.  Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. 1 Tim 4:11-13

In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. Titus 2:7-8

“Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from deceitful speech. 1 Peter 3:10

Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? James 3:5-11

As I’ve written previously, “OMG” and it’s equivalent are a line I simply will not cross, but it’s become increasingly common to hear believers lapse into using the phrase or typing the acronym.  For us, “God” is the God of Abraham; is the God revealed in Jesus. It should hurt us when we hear another Christian fall into the cultural speech pattern of using this and we ought to gently correct them.

With a non-believer, we actually have an Evangelistic opportunity presented to us. Like the Apostle Paul’s speech at Mars Hill in Acts 17:22ff, we can say, to paraphrase him, ‘This God who you make reference to without really knowing him…allow me to introduce you!’


Postscript: The person with whom I had the discussion skirts the problem entirely; when reading a passage of scripture together this week, he glossed over the word God in the text, substituting “The Most High.”

November 16, 2016

Receiving or Rejecting the Gift of Sabbath?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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Today we’re paying a return visit to Matt Perman’s blog What’s Best Next, where we discovered this post from a guest writer. Click the title below to read at source.

Throwing Sheep into a Pit: The Discipline of Sabbath Rest

Guest post by Rachel Poel

When I was a student, I would justify studying on Sunday by quoting Matthew 12:11-12: “He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” But many weekend afternoons, exhausted from a full week of classes, work, and studying, I would put off studying for a Monday morning test or drafting a paper due on Tuesday—effectively throwing that sheep into the pit myself.

Taking a Sabbath takes intentionality. Resting well is hard work.

There will be days when sheep are leaping into pits, when your kids all get the flu on a Sunday or your venue falls through days before a retreat. When these days come, do that work well. Your standing before God does not depend on how clear your Sunday schedule is.

But if you find yourself regularly planning projects for Sunday afternoon, consider the heart of Sabbath. God calls us to join Him in His rest. He gives us the Sabbath as a gift: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28).

How are we receiving this gift?

We don’t rest to maximize our productivity later.
We rest to remember that our worth does not hinge on our productivity.

Our struggle to let go of our to-do lists and inboxes for a day shows how much we really need this rest. We don’t rest to maximize our productivity later. We rest to remember that our worth does not hinge on our productivity. We rest because we are children and God is the Father. We rest because we are creatures and God is the Potter. We rest because we are saved and God is the Savior.

How will you plan this week to take time to know that God is God?


Rachel Poel recently graduated from Wheaton College with a BA in English Literature. Since graduating, she has been working on projects with Boldface Why.

August 23, 2016

For Many of Us, September is a New Start

In North America at least, September marks the beginning of a new season. So I’m taking the liberty of using an early January article from a very popular Christian writer, and importing it into the present calendar situation. Because I’m currently reading Intercessory Prayer by Dutch Sheets, I decided to see what online writing by him was available, and found this at his ministry blog. He posts a new article about once a month. Click the title below to read this at Dutch Sheets Ministries.

Strengthen Yourself In The Lord … sharing a personal lesson

The new year is such a wonderful time, offering us the opportunity to look back on the road we’ve walked, and then dream with God to set bigger goals and tread higher ground. As this pivotal year has drawn to a close, troubles abound in our nation and abroad; even so some still find themselves joyfully celebrating great victories in the Lord. God has blessed us with His goodness and hope for what lies ahead. While reflecting upon these things, the Lord reminds me of a paramount principle He long ago seared upon my heart. It is a fundamental truth that can help us stay in God’s will and fulfill His intended purpose for our life.

Horses and Chariots

When an alliance of enemy armies threatened Joshua and the people of Israel in their quest to possess the land promised to them, God encouraged them not to be afraid, promising to deliver the enemy into their hands. But the assurance of victory was accompanied by a set of critical instructions for maintaining their success. The Lord told them to hamstring the horses and burn the chariots they had acquired as spoils of war (Joshua 11:6). To hamstring a horse is to cut a particular tendon so as not to kill or completely maim the horse, but certainly render it useless for engaging in battle or pulling chariots of war. Disabling the horses and destroying the chariots was God’s way of ensuring Israel would not become self-sufficient and dependent on their own military strength and ability for winning future battles. Instead, they would be reminded to trust Him.

The Lord set this safeguard in place because there was a tendency among the people of Israel, as there is within all of us, to lean on Him in times of great need, yet fall back on our own abilities and strengths when our struggles wane. Psalm 106 illustrates this unfortunate truth. After God so powerfully delivered Israel from slavery, they quickly forgot His miraculous works and did not seek His counsel (verse 13).

History repeated itself after Israel’s conquest of Jericho when they set out to take Ai, a small and seemingly weak city. Having become overconfident and self-sufficient after miraculously winning the battle at Jericho, they did not seek the Lord’s counsel for taking Ai. Attempting to go against the enemy in their own strength and ability, they suffered a most humiliating defeat.

Friends, especially after we’ve experienced times of great success, breakthrough, or promotion, we cannot forget our source of strength! We must rely on the Lord even more, with all the “more” He entrusts to us.

Lean On The Lord

In this season, God is attempting to give us a greater understanding of His authority and strength for breakthrough in our personal lives and family, for all of our labors, and for this nation as a whole. But we won’t grasp the concept of operating successfully in God’s delegated authority if, even unconsciously, there is any form of self-sufficiency in us. We must recognize that each day we need God’s wisdom for our decisions and His strength for everything we undertake.

There are times in life when we are traveling upon what seems to be familiar ground. In those instances, it is important that one not give place to presumptuous self-sufficiency with a “been there, done that” mentality. Even in the seemingly easy times, we must be careful to heed the words of Proverbs 3:5-8:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.

It will be healing to your body
And refreshment to your bones.

Boast In The Lord

There are other times when the Lord will take us into situations where we feel a degree of intimidation, facing challenges that seem beyond our natural abilities. Following the example of the Apostle Paul, we go to the Lord and say, “Lord I want to glory in my weakness, because You then can be strong in me,” (2 Corinthians 10:17; 12:10; Psalm 20:7; Joel 3:10b).

Our greatest asset can be our area of weakness if we allow it to drive us to God, His vast wisdom, His limitless ability and His magnificent strength, rather than trust in our own.

“Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me.”Jeremiah 9:23-24a

“…The people who know their God will display strength and take action. Those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many…” – Daniel 11:32b-33a

The Lord desires to accomplish great exploits through those who take time to know Him intimately and hear what’s on His heart. He will cause them to rise up in great strength and take bold, strategic action that leads from victory to victory, bringing glory to His name.

New Strength For The New Year

Let’s make this simple yet vital principle our plumb line for moving into the New Year: trust God, not ourselves. In doing so, we won’t forget the Lord after witnessing great miracles. We won’t let our guard down or act in presumption after experiencing victory. And we won’t become like a weakened Samson who awakened from sleep thinking, “I will shake myself free and overthrow my enemies as I’ve always done,” not realizing that the Lord had departed from him (Judges 16:20).

In this New Year, God is releasing grace to trust Him more. Lean into it, take hold of it. As you strengthen yourself in the Lord, He will add strength to your abilities and release creative thoughts, wise solutions, divine appointments, great favor, good contracts, and timely sales. Struggling ministries will soar in God’s strength and families in need of help will experience breakthrough. The Lord will even bring good from your past defeats. In this coming year, let’s work hard and be diligent, being mindful of His faithfulness, and look to Him for all we need.

My friend, put your trust in Him!

March 2, 2016

The Gospel of Luke and History Matters

••• by Clarke Dixon

[click this link to read at Clarke’s sermon blog]

Many people assume that while religion might affect history, history does not affect one’s religion or lack thereof. In other words, religion is all about spiritual concepts and morality quite apart from anything that has happened. It is very often assumed therefore that theology has more to do with philosophy and science than with history. But history is very important in seeking truth, especially “religious truth.”

Take for example the our monotheistic belief in a Creator God. If God exists and is Creator, then we should expect an historical event, however long, namely, creation. Interestingly in laying out a history of our universe science points us to a beginning point, often referred to as the “Big Bang”. The history of there being a beginning fits well with the religious claim of there being a Creator. There are those who do not like the religious conclusions the historical event of a beginning leads to, so suggestions are made that perhaps there might be more than the universe we know of, perhaps a “multiverse” or something like that. Such appeals by scientists to believe “there must be something greater” sound almost religious don’t they?

Another example can be found in the religion of Islam. If the Koran is to be trusted as what God wants to say to us and Islam is to be held to be true, then revelations to Muhammad by God must be historical events. If that is what happened, then we should all become Muslims. On the other hand if what really happened is that Muhammad was making it up, or suffering from some sort of delusions, then no one should be a Muslim. Religious truth depends on what really happened in history.

The same kind of thing can be said of Christianity. If we are to believe that Jesus is Lord and Savior, then the events of history ought to support the beliefs of our religion. If Jesus did not die and rise from the dead, then I ought to be more a fan of Jesus than a follower, as one writer put it.

The interesting thing about the Gospel of Luke is that it begins with an appeal to history:

1 Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3 I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed. (Luke 1:1-4)

Notice the words that are connected with history, like “events,” “eyewitnesses,” “investigating everything carefully from the first,” and “orderly account.” The writer here is looking to help encourage the reader, Theopholis, to “know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.” Notice that he is not looking to do so through an appeal to ideas, or concepts, or philosophy, or a discussion on how to live a good life. The appeal is to events, things that have actually happened.

How does the writer know what has happened? While the Gospel writer does not identify himself, the earliest records of such things all point to the writer being Luke whom Paul called “the beloved Physician” in Colossians 4:14. This Luke was very often a companion of Paul and would have had plenty of time and opportunity to rub shoulders with the eyewitnesses of the events described in the Gospel. Though too long a discussion for today, there has been no good reason to doubt the early records on the authorship of Luke. Therefore, while those of us who are Christians believe Luke is inspired by God in the first place and therefore to be trusted, even those who do not believe have good reason to stop and consider what Luke has to say. Far too many people don’t give the Gospels fair consideration out of a belief they were written too late to be of benefit in sorting out history. But history itself points to their value in knowing what the eyewitnesses had to say.

So what does Luke say has happened? I am condensing things very much, but if we were to read Luke straight through from beginning to end we would find that Jesus’ birth was unique to say the least, being born of a virgin. Jesus’ teaching was also unique and had a very keen appeal to justice and equality. In his teaching Jesus also pointed to his own unique nature, to the point of being considered blasphemous. He was continually an annoyance to the religious leaders. He was continually a sought after person by the average person for he performed miracles while still being very down to earth about it. He taught in parables and had much to say about the Kingdom of God and how people should act in that kingdom. He eventually annoyed the religious leaders to the point that they engineered his death at the hands of the Romans. But he rose from the dead, appeared to the disciples, showed them how he fulfilled the Hebrew scriptures, and he said:

46 Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. (Luke 24:46-48)

Even Jesus here is appealing to accurate history: “you are witnesses of these things.”

What has happened in history should affect how we make history; it should affect our response to God. The things that have happened ought to affect our religion and religious views. We see this happening with the disciples as we read the final words of the Gospel:

52 And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53 and they were continually in the temple blessing God. (Luke 24:52-53)

The Gospel concludes with the idea that all the events Luke had carefully investigated and recorded led and will lead people who know about them to worship Jesus and to an experience of joyful celebration before God.

Luke teaches us to not begin with the question “what religion should I believe or practice?” Rather we begin with the question, “has God done anything that we should know about?” Does history record anything for us to consider? Yes, Luke along with the other Gospel writers have recorded some very important history for us. From Luke’s careful recording of history we learn, not so much what religion to practice, but that God is real, and God’s love through Jesus Christ is real. What will the history of your life reveal about your love for Him?


Click back to previous Wednesdays for Clarke’s overviews of Mark and Matthew

All scriptures: NRSV

February 25, 2016

Delighting in God’s Message to Us

NLT Ps. 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart,
    that I might not sin against you.
12 I praise you, O Lord;
    teach me your decrees.
13 I have recited aloud
    all the regulations you have given us.
14 I have rejoiced in your laws
    as much as in riches.
15 I will study your commandments
    and reflect on your ways.
16 I will delight in your decrees
    and not forget your word.

35 Make me walk along the path of your commands,
    for that is where my happiness is found.
36 Give me an eagerness for your laws
    rather than a love for money!
37 Turn my eyes from worthless things,
    and give me life through your word.

130 The teaching of your word gives light,
    so even the simple can understand.
131 I pant with expectation,
    longing for your commands.

Today we’re paying a return visit to author J. D. Greear’s blog where he writes about seeing past reading God’s word as duty or requirement, but being passionate and excited about God’s revelation to us. What follows is the introduction to a series of articles which appeared on February 22, 2016. Clicking the title below will take you to the original source from where you can navigate to other items, which I will also try to link at the end of the article here.

Why Do We View the Bible with Drudgery Instead of Delight?

he longest chapter in Scripture is an enraptured poem, and its theme is not romance or sex or adventure or nature…it’s the Bible itself. The writer of Psalm 119 understood something we often miss—that the greatest beauty in the world is God’s Word. That’s why, in this four-part series, we’re going to reflect on the immense value of the Bible. The Bible is the astounding story of God’s love for us—a story so precious that no other book even compares.

Let me start with a candid admission: the Bible can be intimidating. For Christians, we don’t shy away from the Bible because we’re opposed to it; it’s just that, if we’re completely honest, we have a hard time getting excited about it. We often feel about the Bible like we do the “terms and conditions” page that comes up when Apple wants to put new software on our computers. We stare at page after page of tedious mumbo-jumbo, and just want to know, “Where’s the ‘accept all’ button?”

We’re not anti-Bible. We like the parts about Jesus. And some of the fun Old Testament stories. And most of the psalms. We just have a tough time seeing the forest for the trees.

And rightly so. There’s a lot going on. The Bible has over 1,600 commands. Forty different authors. Over 3,000 characters (31 of whom are named Zechariah!). And then there are the genealogies, where Abima-shazam begets Mel-shizzle, the son of a Banana—or, at least, that’s how it sounds to us.

So when we come across a poem like Psalm 119, in which the author repeatedly talks about his “delight” in God’s Word, we legitimately have no idea what he means. “Delight” is one of the last words we would use for our experience with Scripture. What is it about the Bible that he knew that we don’t? Why was his experience with the Bible “delight” while ours is drudgery?

There are several reasons (and we’ll get into the rest of them later this week). Today, I want to focus on just one: the Bible is revelation from God, not enlightened thoughts about God.

Nowhere in Psalm 119—or in the entire Bible—do we find Scripture referred to as our thoughts about God. It’s always God’s miraculous unveiling to us. You might not see that distinction as all that meaningful, but it makes all the difference in the world.

Our culture, you see, relegates the Bible to one collection of thoughts about God—good ones, perhaps, but not unique. Every religion, we think, has got something to offer, and we’re all just trying to figure this thing out together. So when we look at the Bible, we assume that it’s an honest attempt by mistaken individuals to grasp at the unknowable.

Jesus never believed that. He used the Scriptures all the time, and every time Jesus used the Bible, he did so authoritatively. Jesus believed that when the Bible spoke, God spoke. Even as the very Son of God, he saw himself as the explainer and fulfiller of Scripture, never its corrector. He even said that heaven and earth would pass away before one dot of the Bible would become untrue (Matt 5:18).

I know that’s hard for 21st-century minds to accept. How could something written by fallible humans be the word of God? I’m not saying it’s an easy or obvious doctrine—any more than Jesus being 100% God and 100% man is easy or obvious. The Christians doctrine about the Bible is patently miraculous. But it’s also the way Jesus (and the author of Psalm 119, and every other author of Scripture) saw things.

And here’s why that matters: if you see the Bible as a collection of enlightened thoughts, a consensus of wise people “doing the best they can,” that’s not going to inspire a lot of delight. Sure, there may be parts that are interesting, even inspiring. But as C. S. Lewis once pointed out, we’ve always had wise writings, and we usually don’t follow them; why would we listen to this one if we don’t listen to all the others?

Seeing the Bible as enlightened thoughts might inspire us. More often than not, though, it’ll just confuse us, because we’re still responsible to figure out which parts are worth keeping and which parts aren’t. At first, keeping ourselves in the driver’s seat might seem appealing. But it’s actually a huge problem. There isn’t much use in getting a map if you know that 20% of it isn’t right, but you don’t know which 20%. You might as well not have the map at all.

And that’s precisely the beauty of the Bible. If we’re lost in darkness, stumbling along in life—as Christianity says we all are—then we don’t need enlightened thoughts from the best stumblers. We need, as Psalm 119:89 says, “a word established in the heavens.” We need someone from above to show us what we can’t see down here. We need God himself to pull back the veil.

 

January 25, 2016

God Calls Out: “Where are You?”

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Something different today wherein a scripture medley is inter-woven with words God might speak to you*; followed by a prayer. We’ve highlighted the scriptures as we always do, but try to see this as a continuous flow. The writer, Jeremy Mark Lane is the author of Dearest Son and Dearest Daughter.

Click the title below to read. Then click “devotionals” to learn more about the books.

Dearest Son – Where are you?

Where are you? I called this out to the first man and I call it out to you now. Where are you?

But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” – Genesis 3: 9-10

You hide because your view of me is incomplete. You view me as Creator of all you see, Master of Heaven and Earth. You fear me as the Righteous Judge. Your mind tells you that I am the Lord.

You are correct – I am these things.

I am the God of the Universe.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  – Genesis 1:3

I am the God that builds nations.

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. – Genesis 12:2

I am the God that tolerates the worship of no other.

Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves any gods of cast metal: I am the LORD your God. – Leviticus 19:4

And I am so much more. Starting right now, I ask that you view me for all that I am.

My dearest son, I am your most Loving Father. You are my son. You do not realize it, but you are the son of the Most High King. You are royalty. I have waited as a patient Father for you to take your rightful place, my son, but I seek to wait no longer. I deeply desire to have a relationship with you. To spend time each day with the child I love so dearly. My heart aches for you. All of the questions you have, I will answer.

But first…I ask again.

Where are you?

Answer, “I am here, Father. I am here.”

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.  – 1 John 3:1

You need not hide from me ever again, my dearest son. You are loved.
PRAYER
 Father,

I know, until now, I have spent my life hiding from You. I was afraid. I was naked, exposed, with all of my mistakes and regrets and worries and problems and imperfections on display. I didn’t want You to see them. I didn’t want You to be disappointed in me. I didn’t want to discuss it. I was afraid of Your judgment.

Why would the Creator of all things tolerate my mess? I ran out of fear and shame. I have sought out other idols – things that I thought could bring me happiness, bring me purpose –  and I have chased after them. I have captured them and watched them turn to poison in my hands. I have so many questions for You. There are so many things I don’t understand.

I thank You for Your patience. And for Your love. I thank you for not giving up on me, though You’ve seen me at my worst. I realize now that there is no hiding from You. I understand that You know everything about me, and that you still deeply desire to have a relationship with me. To spend time with me every day. I understand that this is love. The love of my Father.

Thank you for who You are. I am here, Father. Amen.


*On my other blog, we’ve discussed the idea of writing as though God is speaking in the first-person, as it relates to a book which as topped the Christian bestseller lists for several years, and has proved controversial in some places. However, the approach is also used in other books, Come Away My Beloved, a classic by Frances Roberts, 66 Love Letters by Larry Crabb and a half dozen books in the His Princess series by Sheri Rose Shepherd; all of these without controversy.


Do you have a writer you’d like to suggest? Is there a Bible passage you’d like us to look into? Feel free to use the submissions/contact page.

October 27, 2015

Does God Stack the Deck Against Us?

It’s been a couple of years since we last visited the blog of Joel J. Miller; and this article is a very, very good fit here at C201. You may have noticed I usually give the republished articles a different title above than the what follows below, but today I think the author’s title very accurately captures the dilemma in reading the Matthew and Exodus passages.

Click the title below to read this at the author’s blog along with some comments people have added there.

Does God stack the deck against us?

There is a curious passage in Matthew’s gospel in which Jesus rebukes several cities. “Woe unto you, Chorazin!” he says, repeating the same for nearby Bethsaida and Capernaum (11.21, 23).

Why? Because Jesus performed miracles in each city and they ignored the wonders. They observed the miracles and did not repent. They failed to respond as they should have. But can we blame them?

Who’s fault is it?

Right after upbraiding these cities, Jesus thanks God for hiding “these things from the wise and understanding . . . for such was thy gracious will” (vv. 25-26). How can these cities be responsible for not responding if God denied them understanding?

It’s really the same question that arises from the Exodus. We hear repeatedly that Pharaoh hardened his heart. But we also hear that God hardened his heart. How can Pharaoh be responsible for his actions when God prevented him from showing mercy to the Israelites?

The answer lies in the opening of Romans.

“[T]he wrath of God,” says Paul, “is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth” (1.18). God can be “clearly perceived” in his creation (v. 19), but according to Paul, we’ve pushed that perception out of our consciousness.

What we have in the case of the three cities and Pharaoh is not a case of God judging for what God makes impossible. Rather, God’s denial of revelation is simply confirmation that they’ve rejected the truth that was already available to them.

God did not, in other words, stack the deck against. He confirmed the already-existing state of affairs—that they had denied the truth and wanted nothing to do with him.

Him who has, him who has not

Jesus gives us another angle from which to view this problem a bit later in Matthew. After Christ tells the Parable of the Sower, the disciples ask him why he won’t give it to his listeners straight. Why all these opaque stories?

“To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given,” says Jesus. “For to him who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (13.11-12).

The curse of the cities manifests the drama of this dynamic. The three cities have little, and what little they have is being taken away. Meanwhile, the disciples have much and so to them more is given.

Why do they have little? Because, as Jesus quotes Isaiah, “this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed. . .” (v. 15).

This is just another way of saying what Paul says in Romans 1—only perhaps more so because, as Paul also says, the Jews had extra revelation from God.

They closed their eyes to the revelation that was offered. What right do they (or we) have to complain for God’s refusal to grant more?


Joel J. Miller is a writer and editor with more than fifteen years of experience in the publishing industry, including as a vice president and publisher for Thomas Nelson, an imprint of HarperCollins. He is part of the Orthodox tradition and blogs at Theology that Sticks.

Digging Deeper: How does today’s article relate to the subject of free will versus divine election?

 

September 20, 2015

Did God Need Our Love, or Have Extra Love to Spend?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
 -Revelation 4:11 NIV

Today’s devotional is going to be uncharacteristically short, but I hope the question it poses will stay with you. In some ways it continues where we left off yesterday.

I was skimming a back issue (May/Jun 2011) of Every Day With Jesus by Selwyn Hughes and I ran into a question that I’ve heard asked in different ways, but never this succinctly:

“Theologians often debate the question: Did God create us that we might love Him or that He might love us?”

In other words, you could ask if God’s creation of mankind came out of a need or out of an overflow; because of a dirth or because of a glut.

Hughes answer was,

“The proper answer to that question is, I think, that primarily God made us to be loved by Him. We were made to be the subject of His benevolence, and His great desire for us is that we might become the sons and daughters in whom He is well pleased.”

He then quoted the KJV version of Revelation 4:11 (above) “thou has created all things and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”

“To some that might sound as if God is interested only His pleasure, but it is in pleasing Him that we reach our highest potential. His pleasure is our pleasure.”

I believe that for Hughes, this isn’t a conclusion drawn from a single verse or proof text, but through a lifetime of study out of which has emerged an understanding of the character and ways of God.

I also believe that a fuller understanding of what we call the Godhead, a more overt way of expressing the idea of God as a self-contained community of Creator, Word, Spirit (or Father, Son, Spirit) reveals to us that there is already love of the Father for the Son and the Spirit, and the Son for the Father and Spirit; the Spirit’s work being pleasing to both Father and Son.

In other words, God’s creation of us reflects a surplus of love, not a shortage.

All other implications of God’s love for us stem from such an understanding. Rather than starting a list here, let me leave it open: What areas of the Christian life are affected by knowing this principle?


Enjoy listening to this Maranatha! Music version of The Love of God (4-min. audio only; the play button should appear in the center of the image; otherwise double-click):

July 31, 2015

Wrestling With God in Prayer

Today we turn to author, pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie from his daily devotional blog.

The Ultimate Objective of Prayer

And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.”

When I was a new Christian, I always prayed for things for myself.

  • Lord, bless me.
  • Give this to me.
  • Provide this for me.

But as A. B. Simpson wrote,

Once it was the blessing, now it is the Lord;
once it was the feeling, now it is His Word;
once His gifts I wanted, now the Giver own;
once I sought for healing, now himself alone.1

As we start growing spiritually, we will start saying more often, “Lord, I just want You. I want more of You. I want to know You better. No matter where I go, everything is good as long as You go with me, and I go with You.” That is a mark of spiritual maturity.

Jacob, after years of conniving and scheming, met his match when the Lord Himself showed up and they had a wrestling match (which of course Jacob lost). It started out with Jacob trying to overpower what may have been an angel or perhaps the Lord Himself. In the end, Jacob was hanging on to Him. It started off with cunning, and it ended up with clinging. It began with resisting, and it turned into resting.

Wrestling with God in prayer doesn’t mean getting God to do what we want Him to do. It means that we are going to completely surrender to what He wants to do. That is the ultimate goal.

When Moses said to the Lord, “Please, show me Your glory,” he was saying, “God, I want to see You now. I want You to actually show Your face to me.”

That really is what prayer is all about. It is not about getting stuff from God. Prayer, when it reaches its ultimate objective, is getting God. It is God that you want—it’s closeness with Him.

 


1 We printed the complete text of this poem (and later it became a hymn) in a blog post here several months ago. Click to read Not the Benefits but Christ Himself. At the end of that post we added:

Amplifed Bible – Philippians 3:10,11 [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] That if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body].

Today’s blog post was shorter, so if you’d like to read one more, here is another devotional from Greg.

May 25, 2015

When Love Output Exceeds Love Input

Matt. 7:21 “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. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

We make a point to try to revisit writers who have appeared here before. Such is the case with Mark McIntyre at the blog Attempts at Honesty. To read this at source, click the title below.

water pumpLove, duty and honor

When a pump tries to put out more water than it takes in, it experiences a condition called cavitation. The end result is that the internal turbulence caused by the cavitation tears up the pump and eventually renders the pump useless. The pump only works well when it takes in as much as it tries to put out.

I find a cavitating pump a fitting metaphor for what I’ve observed in churches over the years. The Apostle John tells us in 1 John 4:19 that we love because God loved us first. John also tells us in John 13:35 that love is to be the distinguishing mark of the church. Jesus himself told us that the two great commands are to love God and love our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40).

We are commanded to love, but the source of that love must be God himself. I have firsthand experience of what happens when the church tries to convey love without relying on God as the source of that love.

Without reliance upon God as the source of love, the church (and the individuals that make up the church) tends to replace love with duty or honor. Duty is a sense of responsibility to others. Honor is an attempt at maintaining a reputation. One is focused outward the other is focused inward.

Both duty and honor are good things in themselves. There is nothing wrong with having a proper sense of responsibility to our fellow man. I see the connection between duty and fulfillment of the second command to love your neighbor. There is also nothing wrong with wanting to have a good reputation. One of the qualifications that the Apostle Paul gives us for a church leader is that he is to be a man of good reputation (1 Timothy 3:2).

The problem is that even these good things are no substitute for experiencing and conveying the love that God has for us. Duty without love becomes a hard, unyielding taskmaster. How many times have I seen people “serving” in church with little joy and even less fruit? Duty without love produces zombie Christians who lurch around but are not fully alive.

Honor without love becomes narcissistic or forces one into very superficial relationships. I cannot let you too near to me if I want to maintain the illusion that I have everything under control. Therein lies the pressure to be superficial. The narcissistic tendency manifests itself in the “look at me” aspect that rears it’s head in churches. People want to be seen “doing ministry” and get hooked on the affirmation that it provides. The smiling face may hide an ugly heart.

Perhaps we all have an inclination toward these false foundations. But I find that when I am properly connected with the love of God, I want to serve those around me because I want them to experience the same sense of God that I have. When I am properly connected with the love of God, I don’t have to worry about my reputation. If I am following God, my reputation will take care of itself. Also, if I am experiencing the love of God, I don’t have to worry that you will see my failures and weaknesses. God knows all about my failures and loves me anyway.

As with the cavitating pump, failure to allow the love of God to be the driving force and the content of our message will cause a life to eventually fall apart. If you have any doubts about this, I point you toward the most chilling words that Jesus ever uttered in Matthew 7:21-23. In this passage Jesus tells us that many who worked for duty and honor will not find entry into Heaven. It is only those who have been in relationship with him and have experienced his love and forgiveness will gain entry.

The stakes are very, very high.

 

February 13, 2015

God: From A to Z

Scripture verse in greenAt first, I thought this was a rather contrived premise for an article, but then, the more I thought about it, it’s all scripture so it’s all good. We put scripture verses in green here as a reminder that God’s word is life. Today, the entire article is in green.  (I know, I should have saved it for St. Patrick’s Day.) This is from the blog Abundant Life Now by Robert Lloyd Russell, click the title below to read at source and look around the rest of the site.  Oh… and slow down as you read each verse; think of the theme and what this reveals of God’s nature and His character.

God Alphabet

~ God’s Interactions with His People ~

Almighty God (to bless us) ~ “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless’” (Genesis 17:1).

Blessed God (to cheer us) ~ “According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust” (1 Timothy 1:11).

Compassionate God (to bear with us) ~ “For the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the place of His inheritance. He found him in a desert land and in the wasteland, a howling wilderness; He encircled him, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye. As an eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its young, spreading out its wings, taking them up, carrying them on its wings, so the Lord alone led him, and there was no foreign god with him. He made him ride in the heights of the earth, that he might eat the produce of the fields; He made him draw honey from the rock, and oil from the flinty rock” (Deuteronomy 32:9-13).

Defending God (to protect us) ~ “The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; my father’s God, and I will exalt Him. The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is His name” (Exodus 15:2-3).

Eternal God (to secure us) ~ “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you, and will say, ‘Destroy!’” (Deuteronomy 33:27).

Faithful God (to assure us) ~ “By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised” (Hebrews 11:11).

Gracious God (to bless us) ~ “So he prayed to the Lord, and said, ‘Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm’” (Jonah 4:2).

Holy God (to sanctify us) ~ “I will not execute the fierceness of My anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim. For I am God, and not man, the Holy One in your midst; and I will not come with terror” (Hosea 11:9).

Indwelling God (to establish/guide us) – “God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn” (Psalm 46:5). “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

Just God (to clear us) ~ “Tell and bring forth your case; yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the Lord? And there is no other God besides Me, a just God and a Savior; there is none besides Me” (Isaiah 45:21).

Kind God (to supply us) ~ “Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies” (Psalm 103:4).

Loving God (to cherish us) ~ “The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you’” (Jeremiah 31:3).

Mighty God (to deliver us) ~ “And because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them; and He brought you out of Egypt with His Presence, with His mighty power” (Deuteronomy 4:37). “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Near God (to sustain/comfort us) ~ “He is near who justifies Me; who will contend with Me? Let us stand together. Who is My adversary?” (Isaiah 50:8). “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6).

Omniscient God (to watch over us) ~ “Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul” (Psalm 121:4-7).

Powerful God (to strengthen us) ~ “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion” (2 Timothy 4:17).

Quickening God (to change us) ~ “Even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Ephesians 2:5).

Righteous God (to justify us) ~ “Oh, let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, but establish the just; for the righteous God tests the hearts and minds” (Psalm 7:9). “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Romans 5:9).

Saving God (to free us) ~ “And it will be said in that day: ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation’” (Isaiah 25:9).

Truth-keeping God (to encourage us) ~ “Who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; Who keeps truth forever” (Psalm 146:6).

Unchanging God (to secure us) ~ “For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob” (Malachi 3:6).

Victorious God (to overcome for us) ~ “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Wise God (to enlighten us) ~ “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

Xcellent God (to be our example) ~ “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth, who have set Your glory above the heavens!” (Psalm 8:1).

Yearning God (to look after us) ~ “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me” (Isaiah 49:15-16).

Zealous God (to keep us) ~ “As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3).

~ Robert Lloyd Russell

January 28, 2015

You Don’t Need to Have a Position on Every Issue

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:37 pm
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Regular midweek contributor Clarke Dixon will return next week.

Opinion - Theological Issues

Perhaps you’ve been in churches where candidates for the position of pastor are being interviewed by the leaders or the congregation to see where they stand on particular issues. If a church has gone through a period of turmoil over specific areas of its ministries, it’s important to know which side a person takes. If there is a particular aspect of Bible teaching the church desires, it’s necessary to know the pastor’s skills on those areas. If the church members have a strong feelings toward certain doctrinal patterns, the candidate needs to be able to define their position.

This morning I was speaking briefly with a woman who I would consider as having a deep spiritual life, and in the course of discussing of something else, I asked her what her belief is concerning women in ministry.  (It made sense in context…)

She never did answer the question.

Instead, she quoted the middle sentence of three that occurs in Jeremiah 31:33:

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.

Having an opinion, or a position, on such an issue seemed almost irrelevant to her.  Although she didn’t say all this, obviously it wasn’t necessary…

  • to work it out in advance, since she was trusting God would show her His desire, His direction at whatever time it was needed; it’s not that she didn’t understand the question, but more like she didn’t understand my need to ask
  • to amass knowledge on the topic; this is something that came out in a few commentaries as I studied this passage; we put such a huge weight on diagrams, logical constructs, backing verses, etc. but none of this education ensures that we truly know the mind or the ways of God
  • to establish a position categorically; part of the holiness of God is that He is can’t be tamed, can’t be put in a box; it’s possible that the situation or context of any given issue could override the need to have a rule or policy written in stone, such as when David’s men ate the consecrated bread in the temple
  • to determine consensus; the point of the verse, and verse 34 which follows it, is that each individual will independent access to God…and will know Him. [Eerdman’s Bible Commentary, p645] hence there is no need for a collective opinion, a poll, a referendum on God’s desires
  • to practice anything less than grace; the whole point of the verse is God’s announcement of a New Covenant, something not mentioned in Jeremiah until this point

So…should the congregation ask the prospective pastor their questions as to doctrine and practices? Absolutely, but they shouldn’t expect to put God or the pastor in a box. And the individual being asked should not be evasive or mysterious, but should consider the type of answer I was given when I asked.

Or maybe there is a whole set of other questions that matter more, but we don’t know to ask them of each other.

We are simply too caught up in trying to cross ever ‘t’ and dot every ‘i’ and tying our theology together with a nice bow. Some categorical, hypothetical questions can’t be answered until you’re in the middle of the situation, and that’s where you often find that God surprises you.

 

December 22, 2014

He Knows His Own

In revisiting one of the writers we’ve used previously here, we discovered the blog She Reads Truth. There was so much material here to choose from; this certainly is a website we can recommend. We ended up with this post from October, which is part of a series on I & II Peter, this one authored by Debbie Eaton. Click the title to read at source and then take a few minutes to look at what the various writers at that site are studying.

She Reads TruthHe Knows His Own

Text: 2 Peter 2:1-9, John 10:27-30

The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment
2 Peter 2:9

A couple weeks ago I was able to spend time with a dear friend who has brain cancer. The day was beautiful in Southern California and there was an ocean swell creating huge waves at the beach. I decided it would be a great outing for us to walk the beach and witness the power of nature. It was spectacular.

I did not expect that our conversation would explore the deep meaning of life.

Does God know and love me?
Do I believe in God?
Do I have a purpose?
Why do bad things happen to good people?

In our most difficult times we seek to understand who God is. We seek to know our purpose and place at this time in history.

The dilemma today is that we are influenced by so many voices — the media, magazines, celebrities, spiritual leaders, politicians, bloggers, Facebook and Twitter, to name just a few. Unfortunately, God’s truth can be diluted or falsely negated in the midst of these loud voices. God warned us that there would be false teachers who would tickle our ears and have us believe that we can solve our own problems, that we can pick and choose the theology that fits our needs and justifies our choices. These false teachers twist the teachings of Jesus.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.”
John 10:1

Jesus warned that there is a thief and robber who will steal, kill and destroy. The Thief’s voices are alluring and seductive and we must stay on guard, as we are susceptible to listen and even believe. It is critical that we know the Savior’s voice.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
John 10:27-28

Jesus came for all, and He will pursue each lost soul to come and know Him, to know His voice. He knows us by name, He chooses us to be His own and His love will never fail. The Lord also will judge the unrighteous and rescue us from our trials. God’s promises remain true forever!

Tune into the voice of God today. In God’s Word and in the counsel of the Holy Spirit you will find wisdom, discernment, protection, shelter, security, comfort, conviction and, most importantly, TRUTH.

My friend knows Jesus. Her future is unknown and so is mine. That day at the beach we spoke about how life seems unfair, yet how grateful we are for knowing the Savior’s voice.

Do you know and hear his voice?
What voices crowd out God’s voice in your life?

 

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