Christianity 201

July 8, 2018

A Tower to Run To

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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The Beautiful Spirit is designed to encourage women to apply the truths of living a Spirit-filled life. It was founded in 2006 as a print magazine, reaching women around the globe. In the fall of 2017, it moved from the print magazine to a blog. Click the title below to read at source and see images, and then visit the rest of their site.

Refuge in the Names of God

Written by Sarah Hudson. Sarah and her husband, Todd, live in Vienna, Austria.

When we moved into the little house at the edge of the Vienna Woods, I had no idea what lay beyond our doorstep. As the kids and I ventured up a path through the trees, I saw the tower. It was tall and rather narrow with concrete walls, edged with stone work, curving upward in strength. There was no visible door from the path, and I figured it had been used for water or even a lookout tower a hundred years ago. Now it stood like a surprise in a modern setting, surrounded by trees with a nearby water pump and a picnic table.

Not long after we had moved to that house on “Pötzleinsdorfer Höhe,” one of my dear friends encouraged me to study the names of God. My friend and I developed a sweet bond as we prayed the names of God for each other and claimed them for our various burdens. Soon the “hidden tower in the woods” became my special place to run to when my spirit was overwhelmed. Although I couldn’t enter it, it was my symbol of Proverbs 18:10: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous man runs into it and is safe.” There in the woods, I could cry to my God El Roi*, who sees all my struggles and all my exhausted efforts. There I could beg for Jehovah Rapha to bring His healing to the brokenness and hurting. There I could meet with my El Shaddai when I wanted to quit, and He would give His grace and fruitfulness. As I saw my kids and church folks wrestling in life’s battles, I would beg for Jehovah Nissi to proclaim His victory and work His miracle. As I grew weary in my own battles with besetting sins, I would reach for Jehovah Tsidkenu to cover me with His robes of righteousness.

“Finding Him is not just a flat surface that has ‘God’ written on it. Rather it is like opening the cover to an ocean of immeasurable depth and comfort. As our Redeemer, He brings beauty from the ugliness of this fallen world.”

We moved to an apartment about 3½ years ago. I no longer visit that strong tower in the Vienna Woods, yet I continue to run headlong to the strong tower of His name. Discovering the many facets of His names has enriched my Christian journey beyond description. My prayer life has been strengthened as I plead to Him using the specific names He has revealed in His Word.

Have you ever noticed how the apostles pray in Acts 4? After being arrested and threatened, they prayed to their sovereign God for increased boldness—not less persecution. They recognized that He is El Elyon, our sovereign God. How far I have drifted from that example! Have you ever found yourself treating this sovereign God like a giant heavenly vending machine at a church prayer meeting or even in your own private prayer time? While reading about hardships in 1 Thessalonians 3 (ESV translation) I was struck again by the phrase “you are destined for this.”  We will have hardships—that’s what happens to the followers of Jesus. And of course, our Father wants us to cry to Him in our hardships. However, I find myself at such rest as I cry to Him with a deeper understanding of Who He is. This hardship is not an end but a means. It is but for a moment; but it is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond comparison. Suffering is never wasted. I cannot escape the wonder of finding God—in all His names, as my strong tower—because of the afflictions that have sent me running to Him as my refuge. My prayers have begun to shift from merely asking that He deliver and heal, to asking that I find Him in the hurting. And finding Him is not just a flat surface that has “God” written on it. Rather it is like opening the cover to an ocean of immeasurable depth and comfort. As our Redeemer, He brings beauty from the ugliness of this fallen world.

For many, many years, my friend had asked that I would make a calligraphy for her that reflected the refuge we had found in the names of our God. I am not a professional artist, nor do I have a huge overflow of time for such a project, so I put her off year after year. Finally, after a very challenging 2017, I tackled the project. I needed that meditation time, and the art was a wonderful “brain therapy” for me in the middle of the whirl of life and ministry. Of course, the result is more of a “heart work” than an art work—but a deep reminder of all we have in our God. I no longer have a tower just beyond my front door; yet the door to the tower of His name is always accessible. What safety and rest I find there, as I seek refuge in His names.

[click the article title above to see the calligraphy]


*El Roi: The God who sees
Jehovah Rapha: The God who heals
El Shaddai: Lord God Almighty
Jehovah Nissi: The Lord, my Banner
Jehovah Tsidkenu: The Lord our Righteousness
El Elyon: The Most High God

 

June 27, 2018

Knowing in Part

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely – I Corinithians 13:12a NLT

Today we’re back at the devotional page of Susan Barnes, who most recently has been working her way through I Corinthians. Click this link, to see the full index, or click the title below to read this one at source and comment.

Devotional Thought : 1 Corinthians 13:12b

Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12b

This thought is rather like what John writes in 1 John 3:2:

“Now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.”

Living by faith requires that we acknowledge that we only know “in part”. We know we are children of God yet we won’t know “fully” until Jesus comes and “we shall see him as he is.”

I only have to look at my garden to know that God’s kingdom has not fully come. I still have weeds! And when God’s kingdom fully comes not only will I not have weeds, but, “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4).

Heaven is described in terms of a city. God isn’t taking us back to the garden but rather to a “city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10). A city with foundations speaks of permanence, of security, and of community. The garden was a graceless state – one wrong decision and Adam and Eve were out of there. Heaven, however, is a permanent destination.

God’s grace is so amazing that we gain more than we lost in the Garden. The forgiven person is better off than before they sinned because God not only forgives us but credits us with righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). We start our Christian lives with a righteousness we could never have achieved for ourselves.

However we are not, as Paul says, “already been made perfect.” We still live with the difficulties and inconveniences of a broken world with broken people and nothing works like it should. Nevertheless let’s press on to gain all Christ died to give us (Philippians 3:12).


Writing on the first part of the verse, Susan says,

God is waiting for a face to face meeting with you and me. At the moment no matter how clearly we may think we hear from God we always lose something in the communication. We only see “as in a mirror” but the day is coming when we will see face to face and then we will really know. Really know how much we are loved, how much we mean to God and how much He wants to be with us.

 

April 24, 2018

The Unrecognized Christ

by Russell Young

Who is Christ? This might sound like an unnecessary question to pose to Christians, however an understanding of who he is to the extent that his ministry can be fully accomplished is seldom appreciated.

Many years ago, through research and prayer I had sought to gain insight concerning the evolution of Canada from a country that had once elevated Christ to one that can be termed “a post-Christian.” Most Canadians would have identified themselves as supporting Christian principles and most would have identified themselves as being of this world view. Although many would accept the designation, commitment to Christian principles in life has become lacking, is often ridiculed, and for political-correctness has been discarded. Late one night, having doggedly pursued my query for most of a year, a vision came to me and I was overwhelmed with a great sense of peace. (This has been the only one that I can recall.) It was of a whiteboard with the wording printed, “They must know him.” At the time, I accepted this to represent the need for evangelism and gave it little more thought.

Recently, in prayer, while seeking knowledge of God’s will, the realization came to me that “knowing him” meant knowing him as Holy Spirit. Although I had written on the fact that eternal salvation comes through Christ as the Holy Spirit (2 Thess 2:13, Titus 3:5; Gal 6:8), I had not connected it to my earlier vision until this day. That is, “They need to know Christ, as Holy Spirit.” This appreciation is not common even among spiritual leaders.

Paul made the association clear to the Corinthians. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:1718 NIV Italics added) Paul has also made this revelation to the Colossians and to the Galatians. “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col 1:27 NIV Italics added) “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but, Christ lives in me.” (Gal 2:20 NIV Italics added) Note that it is Christ in the believer that is his or her hope of glory, not Christ on the cross, although his life-offering is essential.

Who is Christ? He is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He not only offered his life a sacrifice on the cross to complete the covenant of the law and as a propitiation for sins (Heb 9:15), he was resurrected so that we might be given his Spirit to lead a righteous life. (Gal 3:14, 6:78; Rom 8:4, 1314)

Knowing who Christ is requires knowing him as Spirit since the fullness of his ministry is also defined by the Spirit’s ministry. It is this aspect of Christ that needs to be known. It is Christ as Spirit who enlightens (Jn 16:13), leads (Jn 10:27, 16:8; Rom 8:14), and empowers (Rom 15:13; 2 Tim 1:7) for righteousness. (Gal 5:5) The warning has been given that those who blaspheme the Spirit will never be forgiven. (Mk 3:29; Lk 12:10; Heb 10:26) Blaspheme means to sin defiantly. “But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native born or alien, blasphemes the LORD.” (Num 15:30 NIV) The writer of Hebrews has also revealed an “expectation of judgment and of raging fire” for those who “deliberately keep on sinning.” (Heb 10:2627 NIV) The person who would be “eternally” saved must obey Christ (Heb 5:9) and do the will of the Father. (Mt 7:21)

Knowing Christ requires recognizing his holiness and authority and honoring it. Christ said that he was the way, the truth, and the life (Jn 14:6). The Spirit is his life. It is this aspect of Christ that seems to have been missed and it is through honoring this person that commitment and self-discipline are required. Neglect of his life has resulted in Canada becoming a post-Christian nation. The power of Christ for eternal salvation and for ministry is being lost.

The Spirit was sent to “convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (Jn 16:8 NIV), however tradition has carried the church in Canada more than conviction by the Spirit and without conviction truths become cast aside and are lost. Without conviction people do not contend for the faith. Without conviction the righteous requirements of God are replaced with personal interests and desires. Without conviction, the Spirit, Christ in us, will not be honored as our lord or sovereign and cannot minister for the confessor. Many accept the designation of being Christians, but do not live his life. They have hearts, attitudes, and practices that are difficult to distinguish from the multitudes that surround them; consequently, Christian values have been replaced by those of the worldly multitudes and Canada has lost its Christian identity. The power of God has been usurped by the prince of the power of the air.

Concerning the last days Paul wrote that people would have “a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” (2 Tim 3:5 NIV) The power of God is exercised through his Spirit. The sovereignty of God as Lord and King is seldom acknowledged, even from pulpits, and his lordship other than as a title.

Jesus Christ as Holy Spirit is the unrecognized Christ, and he needs to be honored through obedience for those seeking his eternal kingdom. “He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Heb 5:9 NIV) People need to know who he is, that he is the Spirit. His reality needs to be recognized.)


Author Russell Young lives in Ontario, Canada and is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  His column appears here every other Tuesday.  To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.  There is also a feature-length article at this link.

 

March 18, 2018

Your Voice Should Be Recognized in Heaven

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Today’s devotional is from the Prevailing Family Network site, based in Lagos, Nigeria, Africa. It was slightly edited for flow. Click the title below to read at source:

Personal Praise

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. – Psalm 103, NIV

I just want to make two points points in this message.

The first point is this: It is important we understand that our worship to God is personal, God sees us as individuals in the place of worship. Each of us is expected to come to a point God will say, ‘That’s James worshiping… oh, Johnson is praying now… that’s Jane praising me’ in other words, your voice should be recognized in heaven.

Sometimes we think like how can God have my time when there are billions of people in the world? Of course He does have time for each of us, in a church of one million members in attendance God recognizes the voice of each one, the story of Cain and Abel confirms what I am sharing here. It is important you realize that as we gather to worship or worship personally God is waiting to hear your voice.

The second point is this: It is important you realize and acknowledge what God has done for you. Don’t allow the thought of the things God has not done overwhelm your heart to the point that you forget His goodness; rather thinking of His goodness will give you reasons to bless the Lord.

The psalmist considered this absolutely important so he spoke to his soul, ‘Bless the Lord, o my soul‘ he enumerated good great things God has done for him. God has been good to everyone include you, no matter what you’re going through now, if you think deeply you will realize the goodness of the Lord.

I know you still have questions to ask God, questions like; why am I going through this? Why me? In the midst of your challenges and trials God is still good, and as you worship Him continually, He is committed to walking you out of the tempest storms.

God bless you, do have a praise-ful week.

PRAYER.
* Lord whatever will make you reject my praise please remove it.
* Your praise will not depart from my mouth.


We have two worship songs that were suggested by today’s reading. The first one was just presented here three weeks ago, but fits so well we’re repeating it with a slightly remixed version. The next one appears for the first time.

February 20, 2018

Ancient of Days

Daniel 7.9 ‘As I looked,

‘thrones were set in place,
    and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
His clothing was as white as snow;
    the hair of his head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire,
    and its wheels were all ablaze.
10 A river of fire was flowing,
    coming out from before him.
Thousands upon thousands attended him;
    ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
The court was seated,
    and the books were opened.

11 ‘Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. 12 (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.)

13 ‘In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man,[a] coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

When we were launching our Sunday Worship series of articles, we discovered the blog Ascents. We made a return visit this week and noticed this particular topic, which had been discussed in the church service we attended on Sunday. The writer is Tim Adams.

The Ancient of Days

The other day, I posed a question to my family and a few friends asking whether or not we should refer to Jesus Christ as the Ancient of Days, as many songs we sing in church do. I felt that I had already come to an opinion on the subject, but I wanted to encourage them to research the question for themselves and articulate a position.

One of the dangers of internet research is the fact that anybody armed with a laptop, tablet, or smartphone sitting in a secluded corner of Starbucks can publish their ramblings, credible or not, on the world wide web. What I found when I asked Mr. Google for the identity of the Ancient of Days was that opinions were many and varied. It seemed as if all those people with laptops at Starbucks had weighed in on the issue.

Obviously, as with all questions like this, the place we need to go for clarity and guidance is not Google, but Scripture. When we do, we find that the phrase, Ancient of Days, only appears in the 7th chapter of the book of Daniel. Here, Daniel is describing a vision consisting of 6 primary characters: 4 beasts representing 4 earthly kings, the Ancient of Days in all His glory and power, and the Son of Man who receives from the Ancient of Days an everlasting kingdom. From this passage we can see that the Son of Man and the Ancient of Days are separate persons. From Christ’s own words we know that He is the Son of Man and that he has received all authority from God, the Father. Therefore, the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7 cannot be Jesus Christ.

So there. Another theological mystery solved and more ammo to shoot down the biblically illiterate, contemporary Christian songwriter. Well, not so fast Marshall Dillon (ancient TV show reference). There may be other things to consider. First, Ancient of Days, is a title God has given to Himself referencing His own eternality. In other words God precedes time itself. But, Jesus is also eternal. John 1 tells us that He was there, one with God the Father, at the beginning of creation. Therefore, Jesus is, in fact, ancient of days. Perhaps not the Ancient of Days, but ancient of days, nonetheless.

I know what you’re thinking. “Tim, could you possibly split a smaller hair?” Probably, but here’s why it’s important. When we worship, when we pray, and when we join voices with other believers to teach and admonish each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, we must take great care to regard God in a manner that is worthy of Him. In Scripture, God has given us insight into certain truths and mysteries about Himself; and, while we don’t yet know Him perfectly, what we do know must be proclaimed in truth with authority; and, whatever we proclaim must be informed by and filtered through the lens of Scripture. Also, it’s usually risky to refer to Him in ways He has not referred to Himself.

As we worship, as we pray, and as we speak of God, let us always be mindful of who it is we are talking to, or about. He is God, the all powerful creator of all that exists, and the sustainer of life itself. To know Him is eternal life. It has been said that as God is infinite, we will be spending eternity learning about God. What an amazing thought. But until that day, as imperfect as we are, let’s always strive to see God as He has revealed Himself to us in His Word.


Prophetic books are complicated. Before we leave this subject today, I know some are wondering, ‘Is Daniel really the only place where ‘Ancient of Days’ is used?’ It may be that you’re making a connection to Revelation where we read.

‘Look, he is coming with the clouds,’
    and ‘every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him’;
    and all peoples on earth ‘will mourn because of him.’
So shall it be! Amen.

which is a reference to Daniel 7:13.

Who you think is being referred to in Revelation, probably has much to do with how you’ve heard that text explained, but Tim raises a good point distinguishing between who appears in the Daniel 7 passage.

…While you’re thinking about that, we couldn’t let this text go by without including the worship song, Ancient of Days by Ron Kenoly.

Texts today: NIV

 

 

February 15, 2018

Seeing Jesus: Time to Clean Our Glasses?

The effect of seeing Jesus clearly makes a dramatic difference and clears up partial misunderstandings or complete misunderstandings as to who he is and why he came.

by Clarke Dixon

Reading through the Gospel of Mark you may notice a reticence on the part of Jesus to fully reveal his identity. For example:

27 Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29 He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” 30 And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. Mark 8:27-30 (emphasis added)

Peter gets it right, Jesus is the Messiah! But the disciples are to keep that fact to themselves. We also see the reticence of Jesus to reveal his identity at his “transfiguration” on the mountain. There Jesus’ identity is made even more clear:

2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. . . 7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. Mark 9:2-4;7,8

Jesus here is confirmed as being more than just the promised Messiah. He is also in some way superior to the law, as represented by Moses, and the prophets, as represented by Elijah. You can imagine the excitement of Peter, James, and John who I’m sure couldn’t wait to tell the others about what they had just seen! But then . . .

9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean. Mark 9:9-10 (emphasis added)

Why the secrecy? Why didn’t Jesus just tell everyone who he really was on the first day of his ministry? The reason is quite straightforward. Jesus kept his identity quiet because partial understanding can lead to misunderstanding. People had a partial understanding of what to expect from the coming Messiah. Such a partial understanding of the Messiah could quickly turn into misunderstandings about Jesus.

It may have escaped our notice, but is surprising nonetheless, that “Messiah” was not at the top of the list for the identity of Jesus in the mind of the public. Let us read again:

27 [Jesus] asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” Mark 8:27,28

While Peter gets it correct, “the Messiah” was not even on the list for people generally, never mind at the top. Why? Because in expecting the Messiah, the people were expecting something different than Jesus. They were expecting a focus on the Kingdom of Israel along with a message of doom for the Romans. Jesus was instead teaching about the Kingdom of God along with a message of repentance for Israel.

Even Peter, immediately following his confession of Jesus as the Messiah, displays this partial understanding:

Mark 8:31-33 (NRSV) 31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

Peter is thinking on human things, like the Kingdom of Israel and taking back the land from the Romans. A suffering then dead Messiah is not going to help with that! If Peter is going to misunderstand Jesus’ role as Messiah, everyone else is too.  Jesus immediately tells the people to “deny themselves and take up their cross and follow” (v.34) The Messiah was expected to tell them to “pick up the sword and follow”.  A cross meant death by Romans rather than death to Romans. What kind of Messiah would lead us toward our deaths?! Only following the resurrection of Jesus would it all start to make sense.

Since a partial understanding of the Messiah would lead to terrible misunderstandings about Jesus, he keeps quiet publicly about his identity until less than a week before his death.

So what does this have to do with us today? Most people you rub shoulders with know something about Jesus. However, it may be a partial understanding, which can lead to a misunderstanding. Let us consider a few examples:

Partial understanding: Jesus was a great teacher. True!
Misunderstanding: We should only go to Jesus for wisdom.
Full understanding: Jesus is also God the Son, the Saviour. We go to him not just for wisdom, but for salvation.

Partial understanding: Jesus was a prophet. True!
Misunderstanding: Jesus was just one prophet among many.
Full understanding: Jesus is also God the Son, unique in his teaching, his miracles, his claims. He is the only one who could reconcile us to God, and the only one who did.

Partial understanding: Jesus was a man. True!
Misunderstanding: Jesus was only a man.
Full understanding: Jesus is fully man, but also fully God.

Partial understanding: Through Jesus we are saved from hell, from separation from God. True!
Misunderstanding: Salvation from hell is all we need to think about, care about, or sing about.
Full understanding: We are not just saved from the consequence of sin; separation from God, we are also saved from its power as we walk in the Spirit.

This last one is an insight from John Stonestreet and Brett Kunckle in their book A Practical Guide to Culture.
Partial understanding: In Jesus we are “saved from . . . “ True!
Misunderstanding: Now that we have been saved from something, there is nothing for us to do.
Full understanding: We are also “saved for”. We are saved for for relationship with God, and for good works in our relationship with the world and everyone in it.

Do we allow a partial understanding of Jesus lead to misunderstanding? Do we see clearly who Jesus is? Perhaps it is time to clean our glasses.

(All Scripture references are taken from the NRSV)

The full sermon can be heard here.

See other sermons in this series at Clarke’s blog; look for entries in January and February, 2018

December 18, 2017

Let us Follow On to Know the Lord

There are, in our churches, many people who are part of the activities and busyness of the church, but are making no effort to dig in any deeper into knowing the mind of God and the ways of God. Surveyed, they would say that they are followers of Christ, but they have little pursuit after God during the week through resources such as the Bible books and podcasts; prayer; conversations and contacts with other believers centered on Christ.

We often say,

  • Just because you know all about Christ, doesn’t mean you truly know him or are known by him;

But there is an equally true opposite to this,

  • Just because you’re now part of the church, it doesn’t mean you’re automatically making any effort to know more about Him.

The phrase, “follow on to know the Lord” is from the KJV version of Hosea 6:3. Better known would be a rendering such as the NIV

Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.

Other translations have,

  • Let us try to know the LORD (Good News)
  • Oh, that we might know the LORD! Let us press on to know him! (NLT)
  • And let us have knowledge, let us go after the knowledge of the Lord; (Bible in Basic English)
  • Let’s do our best to know the LORD. (CEV)
  • Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord  (ESV)
  • Let us strive to know the Lord (HCSB)

so I found it interesting that on closer observation, the KJV actually includes the word “if.” The first of the two commentaries below make note of this.

Gill’s Notes on the Bible:

Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord,…. The word “if” is not in the original text, and the passage is not conditional, but absolute; for as persons, when converted, know Christ, and not before, when he is revealed to them, and in them, as the only Saviour and Redeemer, so they continue and increase in the knowledge of him; they earnestly desire to know more of him, and eagerly pursue those means and methods by which they attain to a greater degree of it; for so the words are, “and we shall know, we shall follow on to know the Lord”; that grace, which has given the first measure of spiritual and experimental knowledge of him, will influence and engage them to seek after more. The Jews, when they are quickened, and turn to the Lord, will know him, own and acknowledge him, as the Messiah, the only Redeemer and Saviour; and will be so delighted with the knowledge of him, that they will be desirous of, and seek after, a larger measure of it; and indeed they shall all know him, from the least to the greatest, when the covenant of grace shall be renewed with them, manifested and applied to them.

The words may be considered as a continuation of their exhortation to one another from Hosea 6:1; thus, “and let us acknowledge, let us follow on to know him”; let us own him as the true Messiah, whom we and our fathers have rejected; and let us make use of all means to gain more knowledge of him: or let us follow after him, to serve and obey him, which is the practical knowledge of him; let us imitate him, and follow him the Lamb of God, embrace his Gospel, and submit to his ordinances. So Kimchi interprets it, “to know him”; that is, to serve him; first know him, then serve him;

Barnes Notes on the Bible:

Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord – Rather, “Then shall we know, shall follow on to know the Lord,” i. e., we shall not only know Him, but we shall grow continually in that knowledge. Then, in Israel, God says, “there was no knowledge of Him;” His “people was destroyed for lack of it” Hosea 4:1, Hosea 4:6. In Christ He promises, that they should have that inward knowledge of Him, ever growing, because the grace, through which it is given, ever grows, and “the depth of the riches of His wisdom and knowledge is unsearchable, passing knowledge.” We “follow on,” confessing that it is He who makes us to follow Him, and draws us to Him. We know, in order to follow; we follow, in order to know. Light prepares the way for love. Love opens the mind for new love. The gifts of God are interwoven. They multiply and reproduce each other, until we come to the perfect state of eternity. For here “we know in part” only; then “shall we know, even as we are known. We shall follow on.”

Where shall we “follow on?” To the fountains of the water of life, as another prophet says; “For He that hath mercy upon them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall He guide themIsaiah 49:10. And in the Revelation we read, that “the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of watersRevelation 7:17. The bliss of eternity is fixed; the nearness of each to the throne of God, the “mansion” in which he shall dwell, admits of no change; but, through eternity, it may be, that we shall “follow on to know” more of God, as more shall be revealed to us of that which is infinite, the Infinity of His Wisdom and His Love.

Are you following on to know the Lord?

I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.
 –
Jeremiah 24:7

Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
 –
identical verse found in Isaiah 2:3 and Micah 4:2


Last two scriptures are NIV, balance of material today includes material at StudyLight.org


 

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.

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