Christianity 201

August 20, 2022

Teach Me

If it is true that you look favorably on me, let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor. And remember that this nation is your very own people.” – Moses in Exodus 33:13 NLT

“When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and when they pray toward this place and give praise to your name and turn from their sin because you have afflicted them, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them the right way to live, and send rain on the land you gave your people for an inheritance…”– Solomon’s Prayer in 1 Kings 8:35-36 NIV

Teach me your ways, O LORD, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you. – A prayer of David in Psalm 86:11 NLT

Make me know Your ways, LORD; Teach me Your paths. – David in Psalm 25:4 NASB

From the website, Theology of Work:

The original Hebrew of Psalm 86:11 reads “Teach me, O Lord, your ways, that I might walk in your truth.” To walk means, in this context, to live each day. The psalmist is not asking for God to impact only his religious life. Rather, he wants to be guided each and every day by divine truth.

The second sentence of Psalm 86:11 could be translated, “Unite my heart so that I might fear your name.” It assumes that our hearts are confused and in need of unifying. Don’t you know this reality in your life? Fearing God’s name means, as the NLT suggests, honoring God. It entails living for God’s glory each and every moment.

Psalm 86:11 assumes that we need God to teach us and to bring our inner selves into wholeness. Then we will be able to live according to God’s truth each day, glorifying him in all we do.

Teach Me: A Worship Liturgy

by Ruth Wilkinson

Jesus said,
“A time is coming and is already here,
when the true worshipers will worship the Father
in spirit and in Truth.
The Father wants such worshipers.”

Paul reminded us,
“Brothers and sisters,
I urge you by the mercy of God
to present your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and pleasing to God.
This is your spiritual worship.”

Father, I want to worship you in spirit and in truth.

Teach me to live my life in acts of worship —

Teach me, like David, to sing freely, to dance without shame,
to call out boldly, “Sing to the Lord all the Earth!”

Teach me, like Solomon, to give generously out of my abundance and my security
to point people toward your Name.

Teach me, like Paul and Silas, to faithfully speak about you,
even when running away is the obvious thing to do.

Teach me, like Elijah to take a stand in the face of my enemies, calm and courageous,
saying, “Today let it be known that You are God and I am Your servant.”

Like Isaiah, teach me to lament my inadequacy, my sinfulness, my fear,
and to be ready to be forgiven.

Like our sister the prostitute, teach me to humbly pour out gratitude,
because my many sins have been forgiven and I have reason to love much.

Teach me, like Ruth, to move forward, walking away from what’s comfortable,
saying, “Wherever you go, I will go. Your God will be my God.”

Like our sister the widow, teach me to give what I can’t afford to give,
when it’s just the right thing to do.

Like Mary, teach me to obey when I don’t understand,
to trust you for the consequences, to say “May your will be done.”

Teach me, Father, to surrender my physical life as my spiritual act of worship,
holy and pleasing to You.

 

July 21, 2022

E. M. Bounds Quotations

“I think Christians fail so often to get answers to their prayers because they do not wait long enough on God. They just drop down and say a few words, and then jump up and forget it and expect God to answer them. Such praying always reminds me of the small boy ringing his neighbor’s door-bell, and then running away as fast as he can go.” – E.M. Bounds

Unlike other entries in our quotations series, this one had a different beginning. Stu Mack blogs at Stuart Writing and wrote a reflection titled What an Old Bloke Taught Me about Prayer. He describes going into a Christian bookstore and asking for recommendations. The clerk mentioned four different authors.

…I was drawn to Bounds because her face lit up when she talked about him. She claimed that Bounds knew more about prayer than any other person living or dead, besides Jesus himself. I left the store with “The Necessity of Prayer” by E M Bounds.

The next day I sat on my shoreline rock, the waves frothing and the sun shining on my back, and I opened the book. Reading that day, I thought I’d slipped from time into eternity: time flew past with the turn of every page, but I did not notice. As I read Bounds’ words I became convinced that he was a man who not only wrote a lot about prayer, but who also was a devoted man of prayer.

Bounds entered ministry when he was in his twenties. He was a lawyer before that and he had a keen mind for information. His passion for truth led him into a deep relationship with the Bible. He was convinced that scripture held all the answers we need, a conviction which shows in his writings about prayer.

Bounds based his writings upon years of Bible meditation and reflection and prayer. One of the reasons I liked Bounds from the first meeting (reading his book) was that he loved the Bible and wrote about the Bible. Jesus is at the heart of his writings! I learned from Bounds that if I wanted to know Jesus more, I had to come by the path of prayer, and that if I wanted to learn to pray more fruitfully, I needed to be walking closer to Jesus.

There was one point that Bounds made that transformed my own prayer life. Before Bounds I struggled with prayer (actually, at times I still do). I came to a chapter called “Prayer and Desire”, and in it he wrote, “If you have no, or little, desire to pray, then pray for the desire to pray.”

I really liked that and I began to do it. I saw my desire for praying grow fast. I previously felt I had to pray, but now I was finding that I WANTED to pray; I WANTED to get to know God in the way that Bounds seemed to know God…

Stu recommends reading the biography of Bounds on Wikipedia which he describes as “pretty accurate.” Bounds lived from 1835 to 1913.

Now on to our quotations…

On Prayer

“The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on their knees. He who fritters away the early morning, its opportunity and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking Him the rest of the day. If God is not first in our thoughts and efforts in the morning, He will be in the last place the remainder of the day.”

“That man cannot possibly be called a Christian, who does not pray.”

“God’s revelation does not need the light of human genius, the polish and strength of human culture, the brilliancy of human thought, the force of human brains to adorn or enforce it; but it does demand the simplicity, the docility, humility, and faith of a child’s heart.”

“Prayer is the helpless and needy child crying to the compassion of the Father’s heart and the bounty and power of a Father’s hand.”

“He who is too busy to pray will be too busy to live a holy life. Satan had rather we let the grass grow on the path to our prayer chamber than anything else.”

“Paul, Luther, Wesley —what would these chosen ones of God be without the distinguishing and controlling element of prayer? They were leaders for God because mighty in prayer. They were not leaders because of brilliancy in thought, because exhaustless in resources, because of their magnificent culture or native endowment, but leaders because by the power of prayer they could command the power of God.”

“Prayers outlive the lives of those who uttered them; outlive a generation, outlive an age, outlive a world.”

“Prayer honors God, acknowledges His being, exalts His power, adores His providence, secures His aid.”

“I would rather have prayer without words then words without prayer.”

“The prayers of God’s saints are the capital stock in heaven by which Christ carries on His great work upon earth.”

“There is neither encouragement nor room in Bible religion for feeble desires, listless efforts, lazy attitudes; all must be strenuous, urgent, ardent. Inflamed desires, impassioned, unwearied insistence delight heaven. God would have His children incorrigibly in earnest and persistently bold in their efforts. Heaven is too busy to listen to half-hearted prayers or to respond to pop-calls. Our whole being must be in our praying.”

“A consecrated life is both a prayer life and a thanksgiving life.”

On leadership:

“We are constantly on a stretch, if not on a strain, to devise new methods, new plans, new organizations to advance the Church and secure enlargement and efficiency for the gospel. This trend of the day has a tendency to lose sight of the man or sink the man in the plan or organization. God’s plan is to make much of the man, far more of him than of anything else. Men are God’s method. The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men.”

“We are in danger of substituting churchly work and a ceaseless round of showy activities for prayer and holy living. A holy life does not live in the [prayer] closet, but it cannot live without the closet.”

“What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use, men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men, men of prayer.”


Sources: AZ Quotes, Good Reads, Anchored in Christ, Prayer Coach, Grace Quotes, Viral Believer, E.M.Bounds Online

Image: E.M.Bounds Online

July 19, 2022

Our Passport was Issued in Heaven

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

Our Citizenship Is in Heaven

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Goal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 2, 2022

Pleasing God: It’s the Only Thing

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. – Hebrews 11:5 (NIV)
When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus. – Acts 4:13 (CSB)

Christianity 201’s tag line is “digging a little deeper.” We’re looking today at something that arises periodically as an issue when people are considering ministry, either vocationally or as part of what’s called the laity. You may find yourself on the other side of this debate, but I hope you’ll catch the spirit of the article as I believe it’s worthy of our time together.

Today we’re again featuring the writing and ministry of R.T. Kendall, who despite the fact his 87th birthday is approaching in a few days, has had two books release this spring; Double Anointing (Charisma House) and Prophetic Integrity (Zondervan). This blog post appeared at his website exactly six months ago. Click the link below to read it there.

What Pleases the Lord

“Find out what pleases the Lord” – Ephesians 5:10 (NIV).

Two Scriptures have gripped me in recent months: (1) Hebrews 11:5, referring to Enoch who had the testimony before his translation to Heaven that he “pleased God”; and (2) Acts 4:13, which speaks of Peter and John having “boldness” and who were “uneducated” but had “been with Jesus”. Next to being ready to go to Heaven, the greatest accomplishment for any human being is to have pleased God – which is possible to do.

When asked what was his secret to winning so many football games, Coach Vince Lombardi replied: “Winning isn’t the main thing; it is the only thing”. So with pleasing God. It is the only thing that ultimately matters in this life. Paul’s admonishment was that we find out what pleases the Lord. Not what pleases people. Pleasing your friends can be hard to do. Pleasing your relatives can be hard to do. Pleasing your enemies is impossible to do. But pleasing God – although costly – is possible to do. If you like, Google “R T Kendall sermon Pleasing God”. I would urge all who read these lines to set as your goal for 2022: find out what pleases God and follow through with this.

Second, if you follow my tweets you will have noticed recently how gripped I have been with this thought: the danger of theological education for ministers. Strange as this may seem to some, I am coming to the conclusion that theological education does more harm than good for those in the ministry and those who plan to go into the ministry. What seminaries don’t teach students is how they might personally please God. They pass on intellectual knowledge rather than experiential knowledge by the Holy Spirit. They teach about God but one doesn’t get to know God by merely learning things about Him. Knowing about Him might even put you off Him! But knowing Him – as Moses (Exod.33:13) and Paul (Phil.3:10) aspired to do will bring you great peace, joy and incalculable satisfaction – and usefulness – whether you are in the ministry or are seen as a lay person.

I feel like a fraud writing like this. I have had a good education. By the sheer grace of God I somehow avoided falling into the trap Satan sets for those who aspire to please God. My chief mentor Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones had no theological education and often warned against going to seminary. C.H. Spurgeon had no theological education. Uncle Buddy Robinson was the greatest evangelist in the history of the Church of the Nazarene – winning some 200,000 souls to Christ – did not learn how to read until he was twenty. He was utterly uneducated. David Wilkerson, who founded Times Square Church, had minimal education in a Bible college. The man he chose to follow him – Carter Conlon – was a policeman with no theological education. Tim Dilena, chosen by Carter to be the present pastor of Times Square Church, had a secular degree from Baylor University but comparatively little theological training. The last sermon preached by Dr. Michael Eaton, probably the most learned man I have known, urged people going into the ministry not to go to seminary!

My heart is burning unlike any burden I have felt since the day I had the vision in April 1982 to begin our Pilot Light ministry at Westminster Chapel.

At age 86 I must be realistic about how many years I have left. Oh yes, I could live to be 100! But even if I thought I would live that long, I want to spend my time urging people to do two things: (1) know the Bible backwards and forwards and (2) spend much time alone with God. Read good books too – yes, of course, but be careful!

That is how Peter and John got their boldness. The Greek word parresia in Acts 4:13 is variously translated as “boldness”, “confidence”, “courage” or “without fear”. What gives that boldness and fearlessness? Time with Jesus. They were of course filled with the Holy Spirit. One more thing: “they” (meaning the Sanhedrin, the Jewish leaders) were “astonished”, “amazed” at Peter and John. How could uneducated men astonish people like that? Time with Jesus. Mind you, they had three years to be taught by Jesus! They were ready for ministry when Jesus went to Heaven.

I’m afraid no one nowadays – in a wicked world and a sleeping church – is astonished by any of us. So sad. But let us all do our best to find out what pleases the Lord…

 

R. T. Ephesians 5:10.

December 31, 2021

God’s Blessings Package Kicks in Immediately

Mid-October, we looked at the actual promises embedded in the Beatitudes of Matthew 5. At the time we began with the notion that so much attention is paid to who the “winners” are in the scheme of God’s upside-down Kingdom, but when we look at God’s version of “cash and fabulous prizes,” we discover they are so much more valuable than anything the world has to offer.

I can’t imagine any true Christ-follower who wouldn’t want to have their hunger filled; to be called God’s children; to receive God’s mercy; to know God’s comfort; to inherit the earth; to partake of the Kingdom of heaven; to see God face-to-face.

If you missed that devotional, you can read it at this link.

So when do we collect?

The passage isn’t saying that we will be blessed, it’s saying that we are.

Without looking at the text, what would you say is the primary outcome of living out The Beatitudes as presented in the opening of The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5?

A simple answer would be, “If you do these things you will be blessed.”

Now when He saw the crowds, He went up on a mountain (as Moses had done before Him) and He sat down (as Jewish teachers of His day usually did). His disciples gathered around Him.

There on the mountain Jesus teaches them all. And as He is teaching, crowds gather around and overhear His teachings, listen in, and are captivated. This, the Sermon on the Mount, is the first of the five Mosaic-like sermons in Matthew.*

And He began to teach them.

Jesus: Blessed are the spiritually poor—the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
    Blessed are those who mourn—they will be comforted.
    Blessed are the meek and gentle—they will inherit the earth.
    Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness—they will be filled.
    Blessed are the merciful—they will be shown mercy.
    Blessed are those who are pure in heart—they will see God.
    Blessed are the peacemakers—they will be called children of God.
10     Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness—the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

11 And blessed are you, blessed are all of you, when people persecute you or denigrate you or despise you or tell lies about you on My account. 12 But when this happens, rejoice. Be glad. Remember that God’s prophets have been persecuted in the past. And know that in heaven, you have a great reward.  (The Voice translation*)

Now first of all, I want to address that doing things because you will be (at some point in the near or distant future) is misreading the text, because Jesus is saying that the people who do or are these things (show mercy, work for peace) are already blessed. (In a parallel passage in Luke, there are also a number of woes offered, in that case, they could be seen as portends of the future, not a present state.)

But the matter of blessing is not the whole of today’s focus.

A few verses down we read,

14 And you, beloved, are the light of the world. A city built on a hilltop cannot be hidden. 15 Similarly it would be silly to light a lamp and then hide it under a bowl. When someone lights a lamp, she puts it on a table or a desk or a chair, and the light illumines the entire house. 16 You are like that illuminating light. Let your light shine everywhere you go, that you may illumine creation, so men and women everywhere may see your good actions, may see creation at its fullest, may see your devotion to Me, and may turn and praise your Father in heaven because of it.   (The Voice translation*)

If God’s people live out The Beatitudes, we shine like lights, like a city on a hill. Yes, God is light but we are also lights. We’re lights in the sense that that our only major satellite — the moon — is our planet’s nightlight. God is the source, but we reflect that light to a world that needs illumination. (In the early days of the Jesus People movement, a band recorded a song called, “I’m Happy to be the Moon.” Sadly, it doesn’t show up on YouTube!)

Matthew Henry writes:

As the lights of the world, they are illustrious and conspicuous, and have many eyes upon them. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. The disciples of Christ, especially those who are forward and zealous in his service, become remarkable, and are taken notice of as beacons. They are for signs (Isa. 7:18), men wondered at (Zech. 3:8); all their neighbours have any eye upon them. Some admire them, commend them, rejoice in them, and study to imitate them; others envy them, hate them, censure them, and study to blast them…

…As the lights of the world, they are intended to illuminate and give light to others…

It’s interesting that elsewhere Jesus instructs us not to do our good works in order to be seen by other people, yet in this teaching it is central:

Henry continues,

See here, First, How our light must shine—by doing such good works as men may see, and may approve of; such works as are of good report among them that are without, and as will therefore give them cause to think well of Christianity. We must do good works that may be seen to the edification of others, but not that they may be seen to our own ostentation; we are bid to pray in secret, and what lies between God and our souls, must be kept to ourselves; but that which is of itself open and obvious to the sight of men, we must study to make congruous to our profession, and praiseworthy, Phil. 4:8. Those about us must not only hear our good words, but see our good works; that they may be convinced that religion is more than a bare name, and that we do not only make a profession of it, but abide under the power of it.

Secondly, For what end our light must shine—“That those who see your good works may be brought, not to glorify you (which was the things the Pharisees aimed at, and it spoiled all their performances), but to glorify your Father which is in heaven.” …

Of course, we can blend the two foci of this passage and say that the light that shines is really the light of Christ, that “Blessed are…” is to be recipients of that heavenly light shining in and through us and reflected for the world to see. We get that from Isaiah 60:

See truly; look carefully—darkness blankets the earth;
    people all over are cloaked in darkness.
But God will rise and shine on you;
    the Eternal’s bright glory will shine on you, a light for all to see.
Nations north and south, peoples east and west, will be drawn to your light,
    will find purpose and direction by your light.
In the radiance of your rising, you will enlighten the leaders of nations. (The Voice translation*)

So here’s a song which links the Beatitudes of Matthew 5 to the idea of being lights; of being a City on Hill. The group is The City Harmonic.


*In The Voice translation, narrative sections are embedded in the text, and words or phrases are often amplified with additional text shown in italics.


For our daily readers, we wish God’s best to you in the new year.


Articles showcased here belong to their respective authors/blogs/websites, not Christianity 201. However, where you see an article that doesn’t begin with a link or the name of a writer or his or her source blog; or that is more of research article citing multiple sources, those are written by Paul Wilkinson and for those, you are free to use them on your own blog in their entirety provided no changes are made and there is a link back to C201. I believe that as freely as we have received, so we should freely give. Everything we have is on loan from God, and that includes what some hold so tightly to as intellectual property. Yes, I do work sometimes as a paid writer, but that’s not the motivation or purpose of C201. Bear in mind however that despite our best efforts, the photographs or graphic images that accompany articles here may have ownership we’re unaware of. If you see an image here that’s yours, let us know and we’ll remove it.

October 27, 2021

Looking into the Depths of God

NIV.John.3.1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again…5 Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit…   12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?16 For God so loved the world that he gave…”

Those 3-D Computer Generated Picture Things at the Mall

by Ruth Wilkinson

You know the ones? They look like an explosion at the pixel factory, unless you stand just so far away and refocus your eyes just right and for just long enough that a 3-D panorama leaps out, thrilling and amazing all.

Except me. I can’t do it. I’ve tried starting with my nose almost touching the glass and slowly backing away. I’ve tried gently relaxing the muscles in my eyes. I’ve tried defocusing, unfocusing, disfocusing — everything. My husband and kids go from one to the next, saying, “Hey, cool! This one’s a cow! This one’s a space ship! This one’s the ceiling of St. Peter’s Basilica, complete with Michelangelo, paintbrush in hand!”

I’m still standing there crossed-eyed and head-achy looking at an explosion at the pixel factory.

I think it would have been better if I didn’t know. At face value, they’re visually interesting; a collage of images and colours, almost a pattern, but not quite. I could enjoy them that way.

But I do know and I’m missing something. Something my family sees, but I don’t. They tell me it’s there and, for them, it is. But not for me. I want it to be. I’d like to get it. They patiently try to help and advise. They really want me to get it, too. So I keep looking.

Nicodemus was like that. John, who was one of Jesus’ closest friends while he was on earth, tells us that Nicodemus was a Pharisee; one of a group who were deeply passionate about their faith. They knew the good that God had for His people and how much He loved them. But they had some very real and legitimate concerns about how the Jews could be drawn away from God by philosophical and religious influences of other nations and cultures. Pharisees worked hard at guarding the hearts of God’s people. We like to dump on them for working too hard. Making too many rules, making the whole thing cumbersome. Getting uptight at little things. We call them “legalists” and thank God that we’re not like that.

But Nicodemus, and others, were not entirely stuck in the mud. They were wise enough, humble enough, to know that they didn’t have God all figured out and someday He’d have more to say than 10 commandments and a whole lot of rules, and they’d better not be asleep at the switch when it happened.

Nicodemus and friends found Jesus very interesting. There was definitely something going on there beyond cool stories and sleight of hand. He wasn’t just a nice guy who knew a lot. He was extremely 3D. N & Co. realized that and they went to work trying to refocus in order to figure out the picture. They listened and followed and asked questions.

Everything they saw fit with everything they heard. Jesus wasn’t a fake. He wasn’t loopy. But he might be dangerous.

These guys cared genuinely about keeping people in line with God and Jesus was saying things just different enough to make them nervous.

All we know about Nicodemus is that:

1. He went to the trouble of getting alone with Jesus and asking some questions.

2. He risked his reputation to give Jesus a fair hearing.

3. When it came down to it, he made the choice to step up and take ownership of his respect and love for, and relationship with Jesus. We don’t hear anything else about Nico.

Tradition says he became a Christ follower and given John 19, I think he probably did. If so, he would have sacrificed a lot: prestige, power, family maybe, reputation. Maybe, in those three turning point moments, he found himself wishing he didn’t know. Life was good before Jesus. Obeying the rules was easier. Simpler. Walking through this relationship is a whole other layer of paint.

But in exchange, he would have fulfilled his mission as a true Pharisee. To know God’s voice and obey.

To look into the depths of God and see what’s hidden there. Love. Truth. Life.

October 17, 2021

Even Better Promises

Only a year ago, I looked at the second half of each of the clauses in the section of Matthew 5 known as “the Beatitudes.” It’s the part we don’t spend as much time with, because in its list of ‘who stands to receive what,‘ we get focused on the who, but often miss the what.

In a way, so we should. The shock value of the sermon is that this is further evidence of the ‘upside-down,’ ‘first-shall-be-last; last-shall-be-first’ Kingdom that Jesus is about to usher in. It continues with the ‘you-have-heard-it-said’ section where Jesus takes conventional ideas about how God would have things work and replaces them with ‘but-I-say-to-you’ statements which up-end those conventions.

But back to the ‘whats.‘ Here is just that part of the text from Matthew 5:

  • theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • they will be comforted.
  • they will inherit the earth.
  • they will be filled.
  • they will be shown mercy.
  • they will see God.
  • they will be called children of God.

Let’s look at those:

■ What does it mean to be told that yours is the kingdom of heaven; or to receive the kingdom? Later in Matthew, Jesus reiterates this offer when the disciples try to turn away the children.

But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” 19:14 NLT

Just a few chapters earlier he says,

And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven (16:19a, NKJV)

The possession of the keys implies a sense of ownership; a sense of legitimate belonging.

■ About the next group he says, they will be comforted. What does it mean to receive comfort? Usually it means that someone comes alongside you and places their arm or arms around you. In his final discourse on the way to face the cross, Jesus says this very thing,

and I will ask the Father, and He will give to you another Comforter, that He may remain with you throughout the age. (John 14:16, Literal Standard Version)

The word used is also advocate, helper, and counselor in other translations.

■ Of the next group he says, they shall inherit the earth. If your theology is all about exiting this earth, and heading for ‘heaven,’ this may not be as meaningful as it is if your eschatology covers the concept of ‘the new earth.’ Exiled to Patmos Island, John wrote,

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. (Rev. 21:1, NIV) (the word ‘sea’ is well-translated, but can be interpreted as ‘there was no longer any chaos;’ in other words, a re-birthed world.)

This is not the earth as you know it, but one you would want to inherit.

Jesus’ words here echoed a verse in Psalms:

But the meek will inherit the land and delight in abundant prosperity (Psalm 37:11, Berean Study Bible) (watch that word, prosperity however, we’ll get to it in a minute!)

■ Of the next group we are told, they will be filled. This reminds me so much of the words spoken at the climax of one of the most important feast times:

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.” (John 7:37, NASB)

What, never thirst again? No, never thirst again! (This is an old gospel song lyric I couldn’t resist including!)

His beatitude here echoes the words spoken prophetically

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.” (Isaiah 55:1-2, NIV)

■ The ones who fit the next category are told they will be shown mercy. Who would not want receive God’s mercy? This conditional promise will be repeated in the same teaching session, just a chapter later when the disciples ask how to pray, he will tell them to say,

Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us. (Matthew 6:12, GNT)

and then will amplify this two verses later,

“If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done.” (6:14-15 GNT)

■ To the next group is the promise, they will see God. A popular hit song in 1971, based on a prayer by 13th-century English bishop Saint Richard of Chichester, includes the lyric “to see thee more clearly.” This should also be an offer you wouldn’t want to refuse.

This was the prayer of Paul,

I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to Him in His death (Philippians 3:10, Berean Study Bible.)

■ There are eight beatitudes, but the promise in the eighth is the same as the first, so the last of the seven groups we’re looking at are told, they will be called children of God.

This reminded me of the words of John,

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. (I John 3:2, NLT)

Earlier, in his gospel, John wrote,

But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name. (John 1:12, CSB)

But wait, there’s more!

These things are what is on offer for those who follow Christ, but I wanted to take this a step further.

Many today subscribe to what is called “the prosperity gospel,” or “the health and wealth gospel.” They believe that earthly riches await those who will simply believe and trust God and then receive these blessings by faith. We often see these people as having great faith; perhaps we think their faith is greater than ours.

But God’s offer is so much better. Who would want a new house, or a new car, or an expensive vacation when, God is so much more than a game show host giving away cash and fabulous prizes?

His promises include the earth; the kingdom, his comfort, fullness, mercy, intimate relationship, identification with him. Why would you settle for things that perish? In the same teaching passage, he says,

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19, NLT)

So why would he place those short-term, consumable things on offer when he is willing and able to grant you so much more, including the kingdom itself?


The Sermon on the Mount gets the most attention, but it’s but one of four teaching passages or discourses found in Matthew’s gospel. For the other four, use the “Archives” search tab in the blog’s sidebar, and select “August, 2020” and look for four articles appearing August 7, 8, 9, and 10.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 25, 2021

The Safety and Protection David Knew

For a weekend reading, we’re introducing another new source to you. Salty Saints are a husband/wife team that’s been serving our Lord Jesus Christ together for 14 years. Their tag line for the blog is, “Sprinkling some salt and shining our light all over this world for Jesus!” Angela, who does most of the writing, is currently in a series on the Psalms. Click the header which follows to read this there, and then explore more well-written, thoughtful devotionals.

Psalm 27

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
    so why should I tremble?
When evil people come to devour me,
    when my enemies and foes attack me,
    they will stumble and fall.
Though a mighty army surrounds me,
    my heart will not be afraid.
Even if I am attacked,
    I will remain confident.

The one thing I ask of the Lord—
    the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
    delighting in the Lord’s perfections
    and meditating in his Temple.
For he will conceal me there when troubles come;
    he will hide me in his sanctuary.
    He will place me out of reach on a high rock.
Then I will hold my head high
    above my enemies who surround me.
At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy,
    singing and praising the Lord with music.

Hear me as I pray, O Lord.
    Be merciful and answer me!
My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
    And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”
Do not turn your back on me.
    Do not reject your servant in anger.
    You have always been my helper.
Don’t leave me now; don’t abandon me,
    O God of my salvation!
10 Even if my father and mother abandon me,
    the Lord will hold me close.

11 Teach me how to live, O Lord.
    Lead me along the right path,
    for my enemies are waiting for me.
12 Do not let me fall into their hands.
    For they accuse me of things I’ve never done;
    with every breath they threaten me with violence.
13 Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness
    while I am here in the land of the living.

14 Wait patiently for the Lord.
    Be brave and courageous.
    Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

This Psalm really resonated with me this morning. With all that is going on in this evil world right now and the fear-driven agenda that’s all around us, the best thing we can do is remind ourselves of God’s character and goodness and the safety and protection we find in Him, just as David did. The dark and the unknown are things that scare us, but we need to remember that the Lord is our Light and our Salvation, our Fortress and Protector. No matter what may come, we can remain confident that He will take care of us always.

Even if we get to a point where we are surrounded by enemies, attacked, and suffer violence for our faith, we can rest assured that God will guide, guard, and keep us. We can be bold in the face of whatever lies ahead.

Three things that I notice that David did: He

  • reminded himself Who God is (built himself up in his faith),
  • he desired more than anything else to worship in the Lord’s presence, and
  • he prayed and waited on God.

These are all the very same things we can and should do when we are facing trying times. These are the things we should do at all times, actually!

As followers and disciples of Christ, we need not fear what tomorrow holds for we know Who holds all tomorrows! So let’s work on building up our faith in these days by seeking the Lord consistently through His Word and becoming a living sacrifice, worshiping and honoring and giving Him praise in all things, and communicating with Him in prayer about everything. There is nothing we can’t go to Him with and He already knows our heart and all of our thoughts, so let’s talk through those things with Him and receive His peace, joy, and direction.

As David had assurance that God would always be with him and never leave or abandon him, we can be sure of this too. No matter who else may leave our side, He won’t. No matter how hard things may seem and how alone we may feel at times, He sees us and feels great mercy and compassion toward us and He offers us comfort and even joy that passes all understanding. He IS a good, good Father and verse 10 says, “He will hold me close.” That’s awesome to think of, isn’t it? I imagine Him just holding me in His arms close to His chest as the kindest, loving Father in such a warm embrace and just never letting me go.

This also says that He teaches us the way we should go. We have to be constantly seeking Him in order to be guided along life’s journey by Him. He will show us which path to take and it will always be the narrow one. Remember that broad is the way that leads to destruction and MOST are on it. So we must stay on the narrow path that leads to life, even if it’s a lonely path because everyone else seems to be on the other one.

David was confident that he would “see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living” but he knew that he had to be brave, courageous, and patient. This holds true for us as well.

We are sure that we will see His goodness, in life and in death, and we must face both in this same way. We do not need to give in to fear, for that is Satan’s number one tactic. We must be brave and courageous…these are characteristics that God has always instilled in and demanded of His soldiers. Cowards have no place in the Kingdom of God and Heaven. And much patience and endurance (to the end) is going to be needed for all that lies ahead until we meet Jesus face to face and are ushered in and hear that long-awaited, “well done, my good and faithful servant.”

These are just some thoughts I had as I read this beautiful and encouraging Psalm this morning and thought I would share with all of you. I hope you have a blessed day in the Lord! Remember, let’s be about the Father’s business!


Read more: Here’s another shorter devotional from Salty Saints based on Psalm 29: Click here. (Actually, all of the recent articles we looked at are really good!)

August 8, 2021

A Devotional Three-for-One Special!

For the third year in a row, we’re bringing you a trio of short-form devotionals from The Bare Soul Daily Devotional by Rick Roeber (aka The Barefoot Runner). Click on each of the headers below to bookmark or read at source.

The Valley of Decision

Joel 3:14 – “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.”

The day of the Lord will characterize itself in a terrifying way to most. However, the day of the Lord can also be a day of great victory. For those of us who have accepted the Lord Jesus, our day of the Lord has come and God has already entered into judgment with our sin through the Lord Jesus Christ. Only as we have accepted Him as our sacrificial Lamb, will we then have moved from judgment to mercy as our sin has been forever atoned for by Christ’s perfect life.

The tragedy is that most will be caught in the conundrum of their own indecisiveness, not accepting the Lord’s most gracious gift before their respective death or His eminent return. If only they had known how close the Lord was to them in this time of decision! He patiently waited for their response but there was none.

As the writer of Hebrews tells us, if today you hear His voice, do not harden your heart but give your life to Him for He is full of love and abounding in mercy (Hebrews 4:7).

Divine Recognition

Acts 4:13 – “Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.”

Have you ever recognized someone as having been with Jesus? They aren’t difficult to spot. As the Pharisees witnessed, the hallmark of these folks is their immovable confidence in what they believe. How does confidence of this type manifest itself? Well, it starts in secret and spills out publicly. It oozes out of believers that truly believe their Lord and desire to spend time with Him. It comes by searching out His Word, and then living it to the best of their ability. It comes by living out the Great Commission and spreading the love of Jesus Christ to their communities, counties, states, countries, and finally to the world. Godly confidence is something that cannot be self-created but is a by-product of living and breathing the Lord Jesus Christ on a daily basis.

Do you want to provoke amazement as the Pharisees experienced? They merely acknowledged the confidence of Peter and John, that they were uneducated but yet they recognized the Lord Jesus in them. Confidence in one’s standing with the Lord only comes by getting into that secret place with Him — to pour out one’s heart and to pour over His word. Then, when we come out into the public light, there will be little to mistake any of us from having been with our Risen Lord.

Love and Compassion

Matthew 20:34 – “Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him.”

Often people confuse God’s compassion with His love. The Lord certainly loves at all times, for this is His nature (Proverbs 17:17), However, His compassions are often kindled according to His great will (Hosea 11:8). These ebb and flow in perfect measure as He touches and mends lives. Jesus’ nature did not always look loving, yet He never failed in this respect, even when He was angry or openly grieved. Likewise, His compassion was always at work although it was most demonstrative when God’s heart was “kindled.”

Always know God is a loving Father, even when He does not appear that way. The sign of a mature believer is patiently discerning how the Lord chooses to reveal Himself through His compassion. When God does touch us, there is a new awareness of His love and kindness and a greater desire to follow Him no matter where He might lead.


Bonus content:

It’s been awhile since we shared anything from Ruth Wilkinson. Today we have two video teachings for you in what will eventually become a series of four or five, which are based on the hymn Holy, Holy, Holy.

Click these links for

July 1, 2021

Ready to Meet Your Maker?

Thinking Through 1st John 5:6-21

by Clarke Dixon

So you have become a Christian trusting in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. But are you sure you are ready to meet your Maker? Should I be bringing you a “Shrunk Sermon” right now on how you need to try harder and do better so that you will be okay on the day you meet your Maker?

In our day it seems there is an epidemic of doubt among Christians. Not doubt in God’s existence, but in our standing with God. In the apostle John’s day it seems there was an epidemic of doubt thanks to a certain group of false teachers.

So John wrote a letter. What John said to the Christians of his day in addressing their doubt is going to help us with ours in ours.

Here near the end of John’s letter we find the main point:

And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

1 John 5:11-13 (NRSV)

What is the main point? You can have confidence!

Since you have the Son, you have life! John does not say “Whoever has kept all the rules has life, or whoever has been religious enough, or knows enough, so that when you meet the Son, you will perhaps get life,” but “Whoever has the Son has life.” It is clear that John believes his readers have the Son. He says that he wrote the letter “so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Note the tone of confidence! John knows they have life, they should too!

The word “know” shows up a lot in the final paragraphs of John’s letter:

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. . . . We know that we are God’s children, and that the whole world lies under the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

1 John 5:13,19-20 (NRSV emphasis added)

John did not say “you need to know,” but you know already. Note the confidence! Reading between the lines, and knowing that the false teachers were, according to Bible scholars, spreading an early form of Gnosticism where you are saved through increasing your knowledge, John was in effect saying “don’t let the false teachers tell you that you need something more, that you are lacking knowledge, that you need to learn from them.” Whoever has the Son has life.

In our day, many Christians have doubts, through false teaching, but also through incomplete teaching.

For example, God is thought of by many primarily, and sometimes only, as a judge. While that is to be taken seriously, Jesus taught us to also think of God as our Heavenly Father, as we see, for example, in the Sermon on the Mount and the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus also said “if you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9). Want to know what God looks like? Jesus is the best picture we have!

There are two very different kinds of relationships we can experience, egg shell relationships and solid rock relationships.

In egg shell relationships you are not sure where you stand. You think it could all fall apart at any moment. You start each day knowing that you need to be the right kind of person, doing the right things in order to be accepted, to be loved, to still be in the relationship at the end of the day. In this kind of relationship, the phrase “suffer the consequences” is important. You try, and try, and try harder, and keep trying. You live in fear.

In solid rock relationships you are sure where you stand. You have confidence that you are loved. You are able to lean into that love, you are able to live out of that love. You live in confidence.

People often portray God as the God of egg shell relationships. It is a “suffer the consequences of your actions, and even your thoughts,” kind of relationship.

In Jesus we see that God is the God of solid rock relationships. He suffered the consequences of what we have done so that we might enjoy the consequences of what He has done. God is faithful, not fickle. That solid ground allows us to lean into God’s love, to live out God’s love in all our relationships and in all of life. Yes, we can always be growing and doing better at living out the Christian life. But that is a walk of confidence, not fear.

So are you ready to meet your Maker? If you trust in Jesus, you already have.


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Cobourg, Ontario and articles here appear first at his blog, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon.

June 16, 2021

God is Always Up to Something!

Do you agree with today’s title? I believe God is always active and orchestrating things behind the scenes, but we often frame this type of discussion in terms of our subjective experience of unanswered prayer(s). Or we dismiss key passages in Isaiah such as the one which follows today as no longer applying to us, or only claimed by Pentecostals and Charismatics with a penchant for signs and wonders.

But the popular worship song Waymaker reminds us,

Even when I don’t see it, You’re working
Even when I don’t feel it, You’re working
You never stop, You never stop working

We sing those words on Sunday mornings, but do we believe it? I know my own faith can falter in a season like the one we’ve been through this past year.

Today we’re back with a mash-up of three devotionals from “Breakfast of Champions” by Andy and Gina Elmes. To get these sent to you by email, go to Great Big Life and click on Breakfast of Champions.

Don’t dwell on the past

Isaiah 43:18-20, NIV
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

Forget former things! It will cost you your future to live in the past, and that is a far too expensive a price to pay. If those former things you need to forget were negative it is time to forget and move on. If those former things were positive it is time to give thanks for them and move on to what God has for you next.

Make sure that you spend your life living for what God is doing now, not forever wandering down memory lane; memory lane is great to visit every now and then but it is not where we live! To live there would cost you the ‘weekly rental payments’ of your present and your future…

Trade in your old moments for His new ones

Isaiah 43:16-21, The Message
This is what God says, the God who builds a road right through the ocean, who carves a path through pounding waves, the God who summons horses and chariots and armies — they lie down and then can’t get up; they’re snuffed out like so many candles, “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.”

…We need to daily resolve that we will not live our lives desiring to be in moments that have passed but rather to be a part of the moment that now is. Ever had a postcard from somewhere real nice that had the classic message written on it, “Wish you were here”? It is great that the sender thought of you, but the truth is you are not there and you will never be there for the sunset captured in the photo on the postcard. But the good news is you can be a part of the “what God is doing” postcard of today.

The Bible and the history books are like catalogues of great moments that happened, that you were neither at or a part of. Plus, you don’t own a Tardis or converted DeLorean time machine, so you cannot be in them. If God had wanted you there then He would have put you there – but the good news is, He had something even better in mind for you. The truth is God wants you alive today, to live for what He is doing today.

These verses say, “Look, I am doing a new thing”. So trade in your desires to be back in a moment that has been and gone for the honour and excitement of being in a moment that, like an artist, God is still painting.

If you “make the trade” then, in the future, when people say, “Did you hear what God did in 2021?”, you will be able to say, “I know because I was there when it happened!” If you keep your heart set on moving with the God who does new things you can say that about every year of the rest of your life, because our God is always doing a new thing somewhere.

Perceive, know and give heed

Isaiah 43:18-19, AMP
Do not [earnestly] remember the former things; neither consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Concerning the new thing that God is doing and “causing to spring forth”, He asks us to do three things to relate to it:

• Perceive it
• Know it
• Give heed to it

Perceive it

According to the dictionary, to perceive is to “recognize, discern, envision, or understand”. We need to make sure that we are at a point in our daily spirituality that we are able to sense and perceive what God is doing in a person’s life or any given situation.

It would be a shame to miss the wave of something God was doing because our senses, or ability to discern “new things”, were numb – maybe numbed from carnality or distraction. Make sure your “taste buds” for spiritual things are sharp and able to know the flavour of our God doing something new in your day.

We need to know it

Know when God is bringing a change of season. Jesus said to a crowd, mentioned in the Scripture below, that they knew how to discern natural changes like the weather and then He rebuked them for not being able to sense or know when a spiritual change of season was at hand. Let’s make sure we do not fall into the category of the ignorant, but stand with those who can feel the wind of change when it blows.

Luke 12:54, NKJV
He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?

Give heed

Finally, He wants us to give heed to it – another way of putting that would be to be aware of it or live in accordance with it. Let’s make sure we understand when God is doing something new and that we are passionate to be a part of it, and not bound to a previous moment. Choose to live in accordance with what He is doing today and not just what He has done.

May you know God doing something new in your life today.

May 25, 2021

Choosing the Better Part

NIV.Luke.10.38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I spent a long time today trying to locate just the right devotional reading for us. This one is from Nehemiah Zion and the blog Raising Zion. This looks like a good resource, and you can start discovering more by clicking the header which follows.

How To Get Far Better In Life?

What does it mean to get far better? There are two kinds of Christians, one that seeks God more, another that seeks everything else more than God. Mary chose a far better thing by sitting at the feet of Jesus. Martha was loving too, but her concern was carnal rather than spiritual. (Luke 10:42)

We get far better in life at the feet of Jesus

What do we get at the feet of Jesus that makes us far better in life? I’d like to share five things we receive which makes us live a far better life in Christ.

Word of God (Deuteronomy 33:3) (Hebrews 4:12) (2 Timothy 3:15-17)

“Yea, he loved the people; All his saints are in thy hand: And they sat down at thy feet; Every one shall receive of thy words.” (‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭33:3‬)

Forgiveness of sins (Luke 7:47)

“Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.” (‭‭Luke‬ ‭7:47‬)

Deliverance from bondage (Luke 17:12-14) (Luke 8:35,36)

“And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: and they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.” (‭‭Luke‬ ‭17:12-14‬)

Exposed self (Revelation 1:17)

“And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:” Revelation‬ ‭1:17‬

John beheld the glory of Jesus and fell flat as dead. It reveals how frail and undeserving we are of even being in His presence. Isaiah reveals how he was exposed of his unholy natures in the presence of God.

Rejoicing = worshipping (Matthew 28:9)

“And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.”(Matthew‬ ‭28:9‬)

There is adoration, and freedom at the feet of Jesus. Mary and the other Mary’s immediate response was worship as they saw their loving Saviour. As I write this my heart leaps in joy trying to visualize the scene. The very presence of Jesus is one of great peace, rest, joy and love.

As believers we live in the utmost joy that can come only from heaven. Believers who are unable to enjoy God’s presence are often found focused on carnal thinking and outward displays. So many are busy bodies (spiritually) but have zero fruit. Constantly quarrelsome and bitter in their hearts. Such can never begin to understand the joy of God’s presence.

Get down, let your tears wash the feet of Jesus. Spirit baptized believers are betrothed to Christ, eagerly awaiting His coming. Maranatha, Praise God and Amen!



Bonus item: This from Wisconsin writer Glenn Hager at his self-titled blog. He is the author of two books about his own journey An Irreligious Faith and Free Range Faith.

Christianity in 100 Words

Saw this somewhere and decided to take the challenge.

Jesus. Christianity is based on Jesus, not a church or a prescribed set of beliefs.

Love. Christianity is based on love, loving God, loving others (especially those we do not understand), and loving ourselves (in a healthy, non-arrogant sort of way, since he loves us).

Life. Christianity is woven into our lifestyle, not something tacked on, not something to sign off on, not something that happens on a special day or in a special place.

Grace. Christianity is based on grace, grace that always gives us hope, even in our darkest hours and deepest failures, and is extended to others.

March 6, 2021

Looking at the Face of God

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If we compiled a list of the five authors we’ve featured here most often, Elsie Montgomery would be in that list.  She has been faithfully writing daily at Practical Faith since 2006.

For 2021, she decided to do something different, and use the alphabet to provide word prompts for themes. “God directed my thoughts to the alphabet and 2×26 equals the weeks in a year, and that He can be described by many English words beginning with those 26 letters.” (Never say you can’t think of anything to write!)

As always, please support our contributing writers by clicking through (it send them traffic) and reading this on her site. Click the article title which follows.

Seeing God?

During their wilderness travel, the Israelites sinned and Moses interceded for them. In that conversation, he asked God to “Please show me your glory” but God said to him:

(Exodus 33:19–23) “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But, you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live. Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

I picked FACE as a word about God for today. In Hebrew, FACE is a plural noun. It means “the presence or proximity of someone understood in terms of the face; with the implication of being before or in front of them.” This supports the idea that much can be known about someone by the look on their face.

However, God says no one can see His face and live. Then other passages speak of seeing the face of God. This stumped me. I found an article in a theological word book about this Hebrew term. The section is long but the content is helpful. Here are a few main points:

The face identifies the person and reflects their attitude and sentiments, much the same as we talk about how another person feels according to their facial expression. In the Bible, “face” can also refer to behavioral patterns as well as revealing human emotions, moods, and dispositions.

For instance, a “hard” face indicates defiance, impudence, ruthlessness. A “shining” face is evidence of joy while a “shamed” face points to defeat, frustration, humiliation. A “fallen” face indicates very strong anger or displeasure. The phrase “to hide one’s face” means to show aversion or disgust and “to turn away the face” is to reject.

There are more examples, many of which are applied to God. God’s face “shines” as a sign of favor and good will, or “falls” in anger. He also may “hide” his face. The phrase “to see God’s face” probably indicates someone is visiting the sanctuary to worship. It includes “to see” or “to appear” suggesting the idea of “appearing before” God rather than seeing His face even though it is said that Jacob and Moses saw God “face to face.” Even so, Moses, Elijah covered their faces in God’s presence. These who saw Him were overwhelmed with astonishment and gratitude and awe.

In the New Testament God is manifested in Jesus. John 6:46 says “Not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.” He is not only the Word through whom God is heard but also the image through whom God is seen.

(Hebrews 1:3) He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high . . . .”

GAZE INTO HIS GLORY. My eyes cannot ‘see’ the face of God nor do I get a full look at the face of Jesus Christ, yet when He walked on earth He was ‘seeable’ — His disciples could say, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) and “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” (2 Peter 1:16)

Their testimony helps me see the face of my God and Savior. It also makes sense of the reason why the Bible tells me to keep my focus on Jesus because by seeing Him, I am transformed to be like Him. This is the blessing in this pandemic isolation — for it has given me the time and motivation to draw near and see Him more clearly, not so much His face but the wonderful qualities of who He is.


What can be known about God? For starters we can know he exists. Here’s a bonus article from the same writer, The Fundamental Truth.

January 23, 2021

Telling God We’re Serious About Him

This is our fifth visit to Truth or Tradition, sponsored by Spirit and Truth Fellowship International. We appreciate their grace in allowing us to use this material, and each of you can help us reciprocate by reading today’s article at their website. Click the header which comes next.

Obedient and Free

I was thinking to myself one evening recently, I really want a tattoo of God’s name “Yahweh” on me. It instantly reminded me of how in Isaiah, God says, “Behold! I have engraved you on the palms of my hands”. Which in turn got me thinking, “Ouch!” Imagine a tattoo on the palm of your hand!? One of the most sensitive areas of the body, containing dozens of nerves. Safe to say…it would really hurt! Something would have to hold a lot of value for you to choose that specific area. I wondered whether that was why God chose the imagery of palms—to bring home how much His people mean to Him?

Still contemplating the idea of a tattoo, I thought, it would be so great to have something so permanent of my faith. I very quickly heard God remind me, “Nothing is more permanent than your salvation.” His tender and true answer made me smile; I answered Him, “But it would be such a cool way to show my dedication to you, how else could I show that?” And I heard Him softly say, “Obey.”

So gentle and loving, yet so loud and profound to my heart. May God’s still small voice always be louder to us than anything the enemy shouts at us. Humbled by my Heavenly Father’s soft and succinct answer, I pondered – I guess we can do all sorts of things outwardly to try to prove and show we’re committed to God, but if we are not obeying, then are we really committed? Have we really dedicated our life to God, and made His Son, Jesus, Lord of our whole heart and life?

It reminded me of how in John 14:23, Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him”. The phrase “keep my word” stands out. We keep things that are important to us; that have meaning to us; that can benefit us. So how do we “keep” and obey God’s Word?

With love. We’re called to love God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, and with all our strength. Second to this, we are to love our neighbour as ourselves. If we truly love God, and our Lord Jesus, we will have a sincere and deep desire to obey them. I truly believe the instruction in John 3:18 to not just love in word, but in action and truth also, is not only direction for how we treat other people in our lives, but also how we walk with our God, and Saviour; we are not just to say we love them, but live like we do, with our actions in line with and “keeping in step with the spirit” (Gal. 5:25).

Nevertheless, we must not confuse obedience with empty works of the flesh—either acting out of fear that they won’t love us if we don’t obey, or that maintaining our salvation is determined by how “good” we are. Christ has already accomplished everything on our behalf, and the thankfulness that overflows from that should mean we can’t help but express our love through willing obedience—not obligation—and an abandonment of our own fleshly impulses and desires, replaced with an enthusiasm and determination to do the Will of God and know that God’s will is for our good and His glory.

In exchange for Christlike obedience, surprisingly, comes freedom. You wouldn’t necessarily consider that being in obedience means you are free. However, as Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, then you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Not my truth, not your truth, not your best friend’s, aunt’s, or cousin’s truth, but THE Truth—the one and only Truth that breaks strongholds and sets captives of sin free! Free from condemnation, free from the wages of sin, free from the enemy’s grasp, free from people’s opinions, free from shame or the pressure of perfectionism. Free to love without man-made conditions and rules.

For “if I speak with the tongues of men and of angels but do not have love, I have become a sounding bronze, or clanging cymbal. And if I prophesy and know all the sacred secrets and all the knowledge, and if I have all trust so that I can move mountains, but I do not have love, I am nothing.” We are nothing if we are not loving, and we cannot love the way we are called to if we are not in obedience to God and His word. So much good comes from obedience to our Heavenly Father, but obedience is not always easy, and it likely at times takes sacrifice, even suffering in this life. Nevertheless, if we give it our best shot at being faithful to our God and the Lord through word and action, no doubt we will be witnesses to that good—and even moreso in the ages to come. We may not reap all the blessings this side of eternity, but we know there is a day coming where we will be rewarded if we do not give up.

“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it.”

Luke 11:28

Just like a parent who loves their children regardless of obedience, but whose heart sings when their child heeds their words and direction, how much more must God love us regardless of our downfalls but His heart rejoices all the more when we have a willingness to obey Him and actually do.

Maybe I’ll get a tattoo, maybe I won’t, but something more important resulted from that simple musing; a sweet exchange between me and my Heavenly Father, and a renewed desire to follow Him and obey His Word whatever the cost, just as Christ exemplified so perfectly.

How can we show God we are serious about Him in our lives? We obey. And how do we do it? With love.

November 10, 2020

I Want to Know More (Spiritual Knowledge) and How to Use that Information (Spiritual Wisdom)

Today marks the longest title for a devotional here! I could have made that more concise, but I wanted to frame what follows within the title itself.

The basics of our faith are simple enough that even a child can understand. In fact, a child-like innocence is almost a requirement, since our sophisticated, adult, intellectual, rational processing can sometimes put us at a disadvantage.

Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.
 – Matthew 18:3 NLT

Contextually, this chapter begins with a teaching on spiritual humility, but the model of child-like exuberance with which we enter the Kingdom makes it clear that child can understand all that’s needed to be understood to turn (ESV), change (NIV), become converted (NASB, NKJV) from a recognized pattern of sin to a desire to live, through the power of Christ’s atonement, a sin-rejecting life. (See how easy it is to lose the child-like language and make it complicated!)

But what comes next? Hopefully a desire to gain some sophistication in our knowledge of the one who saved us, who we endeavor to serve.

Let us know, Let us pursue the knowledge of the LORD. – Hosea 6:3a NKJV

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.” – Isaiah 2:3 NIV

And sometimes, this is where the subject matter can start to get dry for some people. It shouldn’t. We’re getting to know a someone. We want to follow that person the same way the students of a rabbi would follow his life and teachingWe want to be able to convey all of this to others so they can join us.

It should excite us.

My wife is working on a graduate degree in theology. This week they asked the following essay question. I’d love to reprint her answer here, and perhaps we’ll circle back to that at some point, but instead I’ll offer my own.

After morning worship one Sunday, you are chatting with a man named Bob, and he learns you are studying… Bob says, “Systematic Theology? Why would you waste your time with that? What’s the point of all those endless debates? We just need to get on with the mission!” How do you respond to Bob? …

I contemplated this earlier today, and all I could think of when I thought of the word theology was Theophilus. We meet him in the introduction to Luke’s writings:

NIV.Luke.1.1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

NIV.Acts.1.1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach…

Theophilus’ name means a lover of God, or a lover of the things of God, or, if I may, a lover of theology! The name may refer to an actual person, or it may be a poetic way of indicating all those who have a heart for God as revealed in the life of Jesus.

From there I thought about all that is written about key people in our world. Especially sports heroes and entertainers such as actors, musicians, authors, etc.

Think of all the statistics that are kept on players of all types of sports (including, perhaps sadly, their financial earnings.) All those numbers! Is it boring? Yes; to me. I’m not a sports guy. To my friend Gary who has a ravenous appetite for all things hockey? Not at all.

Think of all the little details that websites like IMDb keep on actors. What they’ve done on television, in movies and on stage in live performance. All that data. Is it boring? For me; yes! (Seems I’m not a fan of the arts, either. Sorry, folks!) But to others, the information is almost intoxicating.

What about Jesus? I want to know more. The background information is never boring. And the implications of his life and teaching — to bring us back to the topic of theology — are always filled with material for discussion.

Theology will always seem boring if we don’t have a love for God; a desire to follow on and know more about Jesus. But if we are a Theophilus, we’ll want to soak it up like a sponge.

Are you a Theophilus?

 

 

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