Christianity 201

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.

April 7, 2021

Who are you looking to in the middle of the storm?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
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Today I skimmed about 50 devotional posts from previous years, but only investigated one site further because its name, 1014 Experience Street, caught my eye and I didn’t remember that we had sourced material there before. Writer Phillip Pratt covers various subjects — he’s currently doing a series of quotations from U.S. Presidents — but I found this article from October that I wanted to share with you today. Click the header below to read this at source.

“But We See Jesus”

I’ve been meditating on vision lately: physical, spiritual, prophetic, all that good stuff. When I was younger we were admonished to be very careful to guard our ear gates and especially our eye gates: we are visual-centric people, it’s a major portion our genetic makeup. What we see, what we focus on, determines our perceptions, our decisions, our faith.

Growing up, my folks used to have two vision-related sayings on their fridge:

“What you focus on becomes magnified”
and
“How you see Him is how you serve Him”.

When you focus on imperfections (your own or others), whether that’s a mole, a scar, a lisp, a limp or other things like weight, height… it can become so magnified that it affects behavior, self image, relationships, etc. Same as when you focus on circumstances, on lack, on empty bank accounts, on sickness and infirmities, on fear-based news, on what could happen; all of these things never lead to peace.

However, when you focus on the Lord; on His goodness; His greatness; His majesty; His love; His grace and mercy; His provision; His healing power; His plans and purposes; you walk in a peace that others covet. Spend a minute with a person or read their posts/tweets and you can always tell what they’ve been focusing on and magnifying. This is not an indictment on anyone, we’re all human, but so many are focusing on and being distracted by, the storm.

There’s prophetic insight to:

– see what’s going on in the storm
– look through the storm
– look ahead of the storm

We need to be people of God who look through the storm and are able to see the form of Jesus & what God is doing.

Here are some Scriptures on seeing [the form of] the Lord:

Numbers 12:8

“With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees (nabat = to regard with pleasure) the form of the Lord…”

Hebrews 2:9 “but we see (blepō = with the bodily eye, to discern mentally) Jesus…”

John 12:21 “…we wish to see (eidō = to turn the eyes, the mind, the attention) Jesus”

Luke 23:8 “When Herod saw (eidō) Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see (eidō) Him…”

Luke 19:3 “And he sought to see (eidō) Jesus…”

Hebrews 12:2 “Looking (aphoraō = to turn the eyes away from other things and fix them on something) unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith”

Matthew 14:22-31

“But the boat [by this time] was already a long distance from land, tossed and battered by the waves; for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night (3:00-6:00 a.m.) Jesus came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw (eidō) Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately He spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I! Do not be afraid!”

Peter replied to Him, “Lord, if it is [really] You, command me to come to You on the water.” He said, “Come!” So Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw (blepō) [the effects of] the wind, he was frightened, and he began to sink, and he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus extended His hand and caught him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 

This passage perfectly highlights the importance of focus: You can be aware of the storm but stop looking at the storm and magnifying it, keep your eyes on Jesus. There’s so much going on in this world and going on around us, so much fear, so many people looking at the storm but as people of God, “we see Jesus”.

What’s in your heart right now? What are your thoughts?

If it causes fear  = you’re looking at the storm.

If it causes peace = you’re looking at Jesus.

All the news reports, prophetic words, predictions, dreams, etc; do they cause fear or faith? Do they point you toward the storm or toward Jesus?

John 14:26 “let not your heart troubled, nor be afraid”

Philippians 4:8 “…think (logizomai = meditate) on these things”

I want to highlight two Scriptures that go hand in hand:

Isaiah 26:3

“You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed (camak = to lean or lay upon, rest upon, lean against) on Thee, because he trusts Thee”

John 13:23

“Now there was leaning (anakeimai = to lie at a table, eat together, comes from two root words, ana = in the midst, among + keimai = laid down, destined) on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.”

In that room, the noise of the city, the blaring sounds of commerce, crime and community were tuned out, even the room itself was loud with conversation and fellowship; during all of this a lone disciple managed to lay his head on the chest of the Prince of Peace, of Love Incarnate and listened to the heartbeat of Life Himself. There he was safe, there he found peace in the port of the storm of life.

“but we see Jesus…”

The author and finisher of your faith will not be found in the form of the storm, only in the form of Jesus. We see in part, we may not see everything that Jesus has done for us, given to us and happening around us “but we see Jesus”.

Interesting note on Matthew 14: the sea was not calm where Jesus walked, He could have easily had a 20 foot perimeter where it was calm, like glass, but He chose not to calm the sea immediately around Him. He walked on top of the waves, He could have walked a few hundred feet and perhaps even rode a few waves with some foot surfing, who knows?

Some storms we can rebuke, some we ride out, others we sleep through, but we are never utterly cast down nor destroyed.

Your faith is founded on the Rock, the Rock is not moved by the storm.

Our focus determines our direction, our decisions, whether we are paralyzed by fear or propelled by faith. It impacts not only us but everyone around us. It’s imperative in the storms of life that “we see Jesus” and our focus is Him and Him alone.

January 19, 2021

There are No Hometown Prophets

Today I was delighted when my quest to find new writers to highlight took me to Let’s Talk About Jesus, the blog of Aaron Irlbacher, who is a Baptist pastor in Roy (that’s the name of the place!) in the state of Washington. I know I’m always telling you guys to click the links and read these articles where I found them, but today there’s a double reason for doing so, as I enjoyed reading Aaron and Jayme’s story of how they met and their early days of criss-crossing the U.S. for school and ministry positions.

So again, click the header below to read this at source. Aaron is currently in the middle of a devotional series from the Gospel of Luke. Because this was posted just hours ago, I’ve closed comments here today so that if you wish to add something you can interact with him directly.

A Prophet Has No Home

And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.

And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb,’ “Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’ “

And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.  But passing through their midst, he went away.

Luke 4:20-30, ESV

The Pattern for Jesus’ Life and Ministry

This scene effectively foreshadows Jesus’ entire ministry.

► First, Jesus arrives to teach the way of God (Acts 18:26) perfectly. He is welcomed early on and acclaimed as a teacher sent from God by all who hear Him.

► Second, His teaching creates faith in some and anger in others. Jesus’ sermons are not for tickling people’s ears (1 Tim 4:3). His words divide, but not because they are divisive. The dividing happens naturally as the result of truth-telling. Jesus came to seek and to save (Luke 19:10), but men love darkness rather than light (John 3:19).

► Third, those who reject His identity as the Christ become infuriated and endeavor to destroy Him.

► Fourth, some of the same people who praised Him initially would join the angry mob, and the masses decide to put Him to death (Matt 27:20).

► Fifth, He survives their murderous plot but leaves them without any more revelation (Luke 24:6).

Do you see it? Jesus’ interaction in Nazareth is like His entire life in miniature.

There are no hometown prophets

When Jesus closed the Isaiah scroll, the entire congregation must have stared with mouths hung open while they thought to themselves, “did he just say what I think he said?” Some of them were so impacted by His gracious words and clear self-identification as the Messiah they asked, “isn’t this Joeseph’s boy?” The toothpaste was out of the tube. You can’t put it back in now. Jesus’ declaration was clear, and his audience did understand him. He knew their thoughts of doubt, and He knew their next question. All good teachers try to answer objections before they are raised, and Jesus is the perfect teacher. He tells the unbelieving what they would say next. You all are thinking, “What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well (Luke 4:23).” After Jesus tells them what they are thinking, He moves on to tell them why they are thinking wrongly. They had become so comfortable with who they assumed Jesus was that they could no longer objectively hear from Him. Jesus’ childhood friends and neighbors still saw a simple and relatively unimportant carpenter’s son, and therefore they could not recognize the true prophet. Their knowledge of Him as a lad was apparently so loud they couldn’t hear Him as the true prophet. That is why Jesus’ critique was “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown (Luke 4:24).”

If you had to choose between Jesus and a million dollars

It’s no secret that Americans are infamously materialistic. I wouldn’t consider myself materialistic, but what materialistic person would? We all can be distracted by stuff. While material things are not sinful to have or enjoy, the problem arises when our hearts become singularly focused upon something we have, or even worse, something we don’t have but wished we did.

Jesus acutely identified this problem in the Sermon on the Mount when He said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money (Matt 6:24).” I prefer the King James translation that replaces the word “money” with “mammon.” Mammon was an old Semitic word that indicated more than simply money. Mammon was more like our word materialism than our word money, and Jesus was using the concept of materialism as a competitor against God for our hearts. Materialism easily turns into idolatry if our hearts crave something rather than God.

In Nazareth, though extremely poor by our modern standards, many of them fell prey to this temptation. Jesus addressed this sin within the hearts of His first audience. They wanted Jesus to do in Nazareth what He had done in other Galilean towns. On the surface, that is not a bad request. There’s certainly nothing wrong with petitioning the Saviour. Jesus often rewarded faith with compassion and gracious gifts of healing. What then was the problem? These Nazarites were wanting something from Jesus without wanting Him. This is a subtle distinction that we must learn and guard our own hearts against the temptation of idolatry. Idolatry may be described as adoring anything or anyone in a way that rivals our adoration for God. Natalie Grant sings this truth,

“Help me want the Healer, more than the healing,
help me want the Savior, more than the saving,
help me want the Giver, more than the giving.
Oh, help me want You, Jesus, more than anything.”

Amen Natalie.

Christian, we must open our eyes and unplug our ears to see Jesus rightly and hear Him truly. There is nothing that we need more in all the world than Him. We must learn from Mary, the sister of Martha (Luke 10:42). She chose to stay in Jesus’ presence to directly hear the Words of life from the very Giver of life. I have two hopes for you today. First, I hope you will day by day faithfully come to hear Jesus for yourself in the Scripture and not just hear from me after I have spent time in His presence. Second, I hope you will continually grow in your desire for Christ above all else. May God’s Spirit works in us all.

for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 

Philippians 2:13, ESV

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?

 

 

May 28, 2019

Three Years With Jesus… and He Still Didn’t Get It

Six months ago we featured an article which had appeared on the website The Ministry Wire. We went back this week to see what else is there. This article is by Will Berry who the site describes as passionate about ministry to children and teens. He’s one of three regular contributors to the site. Click the title to read at source.

Growing Pains

Have you ever been embarrassed by how little you know about someone that you should know a lot about? Maybe you forgot a church members name, and have been calling them “sir” or “brother” for years now, and you’re too caught up in the charade to come clean and just ask for their name? Maybe you’ve forgotten an important date like an anniversary or birthday and felt the wrath thereby incurred by your forgetfulness? It probably wasn’t as bad as Phillip’s blunder in John 14:8.

Jesus had more patience and temperance than I can fathom. He spent years with the disciples and, though He was the greatest teacher to ever walk the earth, they did not seem to “get it.” He taught them over and over again what His purpose on earth was, and they still assumed He was there to overthrow the Romans in a blaze of glory. He taught and taught about humility and service to others and yet, up until the last supper, they still viciously bickered about who would sit at Jesus’ right hand. He told them bluntly and often that He would die and rise again, but when the day came, His disciples were hiding, confused, scared, and doubting. They just did not seem to be the best listeners.

One prime example of this being played out is in John 14:1-9. Jesus is trying to comfort the disciples and explain to them that He is not only the Messiah but God incarnate. In verse seven, Jesus practically spells it out for them and basically said “I am God, the Father and I are one and the same”. I can just imagine Him pointing to Himself when He said, “and have seen Him”.

But Phillip proved for all time that there are indeed stupid questions when, in verse eight, he said, “Lord, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” He wanted Jesus to show them the Father because he did not understand what Jesus had been teaching them for ages. It hadn’t clicked. He had not been able to see who Jesus actually was, because he was too busy seeing Jesus as who he wanted Jesus to be.

Verse nine has got to be one of the most stinging rebukes of the entire Bible.

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Basically Jesus is asking, “After all this time you have still don’t understood this?” Despite years of walking with Jesus, Phillip had not grown to the level he should have. He still had the same view of Christ as before. He had not matured in his faith like you would imagine a disciple sitting at the feet of Christ would have.

Now it can be easy to make fun of Phillip and point out his flaws because they are spelled out for us. But the thought that really took hold of my heart was, “Would Jesus ask me the same question?” I have been saved for eleven years, but have I grown as much as I should have in that time? Are there lessons that I still have not gotten down despite numerous sermons, devotions, trials, and tests? Do I have greater faith in Jesus and His grace than I did last year? Am I closer to Him now than before? Or have I grown complacent in my walk with Christ? Am I content with where I am?

This thought really gripped me, because I think we often lose sight of who Jesus really is and only see Him as what we desire Him to be. Like Phillip, we try to fit Him into a box so that He matches our narrative. But He should be our friend and God who we walk with daily and learn from constantly.

My simple question for you, reader, is this: are you growing in your walk with God? Or are you stuck in a rut of failing tests over and over again where you are not experiencing the joys and benefits of yielding to God and growing? I have known plenty of Christians over the years who have not experienced the joy of having faith in God in every area, because they refuse to trust Him in areas like finances or with the lives of those around them. I have known Christians who have not experienced the peace of God because they still let little things offend them greatly. God wants to use the time we have and experiences we go through to teach and sanctify us. Is there an area of your life that you are not letting Him use?

Would Jesus have to ask you the same question He asked Phillip? Maybe you’ve been saved a year or maybe 50 years. Have you grown to the level God wants you to be at? Are you still growing? Strive for “Well done” not “Yet hast thou not known me?”

September 5, 2018

Revelation Brings the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth

We draw on resources from a variety of writers, spanning the spectrum from conservative Reformed to Charismatic. Today is the latter as we return to an excellent devotional from Rick Joyner of Morningstar Ministries.

Go to Heaven, Now

Genesis 28:12-17 tells of a remarkable experience that Jacob had, which is also relevant to us today:

And he had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth
with its top reaching to heaven; and behold,
the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

And behold, the LORD stood above it and said,
“I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac;
the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants.

Your descendants shall also be like the dust of the earth,
and you shall spread out to the west and to the east
and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants
shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

And behold, I am with you, and will keep you wherever you go,
and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you
until I have done what I have promised you.”

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said,
“Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.”
And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place!
This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

The first point that we should observe here is that to Jacob the dream was real. Dreams can be a window into the heavenly realm. For this reason dreams have been one of the primary ways the Lord has spoken to His people from the beginning. In Acts 2, we see it will continue to be one of the primary ways that He speaks to us at the end. It is becoming increasingly crucial as we proceed toward the end of this age that we understand dreams, be ableto discern those that are from the Lord from those that are not, and be able to interpret them.

The second point is that Jacob saw a gate into heaven, and when he saw into heaven he was given a revelation of his purpose on earth. The purpose of all true prophetic revelations is so His kingdom will come to earth, and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. True prophetic revelation will always be practical.

The third point is that the word translated “angel” in the text above is the Hebrew word mal’ak (mal-awk’), which Strong’s defines as: “from an unused root meaning to dispatch as a deputy; a messenger; specifically, of God, i.e. an angel (also a prophet, priest or teacher): KJV—ambassador, angel, king, messenger.” The point is the messengers that are to ascend and descend upon this ladder are not just angelic beings, but God’s messengers, which we are called to be.

The fourth point is that the messengers of God are called to ascend and descend upon this ladder. A primary purpose of prophetic revelation is to call the church to rise above the earth and to dwell in the heavenly realm now. Just as the revelation to Jacob spoke of the land he was lying on, the purpose of our entering into the heavenly realm is to bring the blessings and benefits of that realm to earth.

For the next point we need to read John 1:49-51:

Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God;
You are the King of Israel.”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you
that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe?
You shall see greater things than these.”
And He said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you shall see the heavens opened,
and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Here we see that Jesus is Jacob’s ladder. The rungs on the ladder are the progressive revelations of Jesus. When we come to know Him as our Savior we take a step. When we come to know Him as our Lord we take another. When we come to know Him as the Lord above all lords we go higher. When we see Him as the One through whom and for whom all things were made, we take another step, etc.

The purpose of our study is to see our step-by-step progression to spiritual maturity. Understanding Jacob’s ladder is the center-piece of our study, and our calling. It is the calling of every Christian to be a messenger of God, to continually enter into the heavenly realm—where we get our message or blessing for the earth. We do this by increasing our knowledge and understanding of Jesus, who He is and where He now sits—above all rule, authority, and power.

We must become more than comfortable in the heavenly realm; it must be our home—where we are more at home there than we are on this earth. I saw a sign by a church that said, “We are just a waiting room for heaven.” That is not what we are called to be. We are called to be a gateway to heaven through which people can enter into and begin to experience heaven now! Every time we ascend we will descend with a blessing for the earth. The blessing we come back with is a piece of heaven—evidence of its existence.

In this way, we should be turning every place where we are called—our churches, jobs, and homes, even the places where we shop into an outpost of heaven. The way we do this is the Way, Jesus. Even heaven would not be heaven without Him. The Lord is what makes it heaven. As we ascend by the progressive revelation of who He is, we will see more glory, and we will carry that glory with us. This is the call of Revelation 4:1-2:

After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven,
and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet
speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you
what must take place after these things.” Immediately I was in the Spirit;
and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne.

That same door is open for you right now. The Lord is calling us to come up to where He sits. Just as there seems to be no limit to the expanding universe that we can see, neither is there a limit to the one we can only see with the eyes of our hearts. He has not limited how far we can go, even to sitting with Him on His throne. What could we possibly have better to do?

You can find additional Scriptures regarding this teaching in Ephesians 1:18-23 and 2:4-7.

~Rick Joyner


Subscribers: We again apologize for the lateness of today’s devotional.

May 24, 2018

Helping People Walk with Jesus in Faith, Hope, and LOVE

by Clarke Dixon

(This is the final sermon in a series based on the tagline of our church: “To the Glory of God, Helping People Walk with Jesus in Faith, Hope, and Love”)

When we are going for a concise statement about what we are about as a church, why does love make the cut? In fact love does not just make the cut:

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NRSV)

Love is the “greatest of these”! Love makes the cut and is the greatest because love is central to Jesus. We often connect 1st Corinthians 13 and its message of love with romance and weddings. However, we ought to connect it with Jesus.

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NRSV)

Though Jesus could and did work many wonderful miracles, if he had not love, where would we be? We would be in trouble! We would be dead in our sin. While love might seem like a luxury to some, it is essential to the follower of Jesus, because it is essential to who Jesus is.

The Most Rev. Michael Curry in preaching at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle spoke about love, and in doing so, spoke about Jesus:

 . . . This way of love, it is the way of life. They got it; he died to save us all. He didn’t die for anything he could get out of it. Jesus did not get an honorary doctorate for dying. He wasn’t getting anything out of it. He sacrificed his life for the good of others, for the well-being of the world, for us. That’s what love is.

Love is not selfish and self-centered. Love can be sacrificial and, in so doing, become redemptive. And that way of unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love changes lives. And it can change this world. (The Most Rev. Michael Curry)

When we are told to “pick up your cross and follow”, we should not have in mind the idea of being weak in the will to live, but strong in the will to love.

So how do we walk with Jesus in love and help others do the same?

First, we define love as a decision and then we decide to love at every opportunity. Faced with a crucial decision, Jesus decided to love:

He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” Mark 14:36 (NRSV)

Many sermons, I’m sure, have been preached on the obedience of Jesus to the Father in this prayer at Gethsemane. But it was not just obedience to the Father. It was love for you. Jesus made the crucial decision to love, and that has changed everything. Love as a series of decisions can change many a relationship, between marriage partners, within family or friends, and of course even between enemies.

Second, we love by growing into a loving character which reflects that of Jesus. When you read the Gospel accounts of Jesus, you don’t get the impression you are reading about an impatient, or unkind man who happened to make some loving decisions. Or an envious, boastful, arrogant, or rude man who insisted on his own way apart from a few decisions to love. Rather, you get the impression that Paul had Jesus in mind when he wrote about love:

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NRSV)

In meeting Jesus in the Gospels you get the impression that love was central to his character. It still is! When people meet Jesus in the Gospels, then meet us, is it a huge contrast in character?

The best way to help others walk with Jesus in love, is to be walking with Jesus in love ourselves. But what if you feel far from being a person characterized by love? Then remember the Bible says

. . . the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23 (NRSV)

It does not say “the result of my hard work is love”, but the “fruit of the Spirit is love.” Indeed, just as love is the “greatest of these”, love is the very first fruit. You can be and do whatever God calls you to be and do, including love and be loving. He calls you to love. He calls us as a church family to help people, to the glory of God, walk with Jesus in faith, hope, and love. Our very first step is to pray!)


Clarke Dixon is the Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada.

Listen to the audio of the full sermon on which this based (30 minutes).

clarkedixon.wordpress.com

 

January 18, 2018

Powerful Men React to Jesus

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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by Clarke Dixon

Falling prey to a “research project”, my wife and I sat and listened to a lengthy sales pitch  for an air purifier. The punchline of the presentation was “if you want to live longer you will buy our product”. To that I asked the salesman if he would like to live even longer than what he suggested and began to talk about Jesus. We listened to his sales pitch for about three quarters of an hour. Within minutes of my mention of Jesus, he was out the door.

It is interesting to note how people respond, or more accurate sometimes, react, to Jesus. In our passage for this week, Mark 2:1-3;6-7, we have several different reactions to Jesus.

1 When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. 3 Then some people came, bringing to him a paralysed man, carried by four of them. .. Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 ‘Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ (NRSV)

In verses 2-4 we see people crowding into a house to see Jesus. Some even dig through a roof in an effort to get their friend into his presence. In verses 6-7 the scribes respond by assuming that Jesus has committed blasphemy when he pronounces  forgiveness upon a paralyzed man. The crowd then responds with amazement and glorify God when the man is healed. There is more excitement in verses 13-15 with a crowd gathering again, Matthew Levi responding favorably to the call to follow, and the tax collectors and sinners wanting to be with Jesus. Then the scribes react again by questioning how Jesus could possibly hang out with sinners in verse 16. They are then upset with Jesus in verses 18 and 24 over his disciples’ lack of religious observances. When Jesus heals on a sabbath day, they conspire with the Herodians in 3:6 to destroy him. To put this reaction to Jesus in perspective, Pharisees wanting an alliance with Herodians would be like Hillary Clinton seeking an alliance with Donald Trump. That is how much the religious leaders want Jesus dead.

There are a few things to notice about all this. First we see two very different reactions to Jesus. One is full of excitement and the embracing of Jesus. The other is full of fear and rejection. We see different results based on the reactions. Those who respond positively to Jesus experience healing and growth. Good things are happening! On the other hand, those who respond negatively end up thinking about murder. We also see two different kinds of people; those who know they have needs, and those who think they are needed.

Do you notice something further about those who reject Jesus and seek his destruction? They are powerful men, men of influence. The very first person to have tried to destroy Jesus was King Herod, another powerful man. Herod, representing political power wants Jesus dead and in trying to destroy Jesus, kills many infants. The Pharisees of Mark 2, representing religious power, are also bent on destruction. Unfortunately, bad things still happen around powerful men.

What lessons are here for powerful men today?

First, when powerful men meet Jesus, they should be prepared to trade in their pride for humility. They should learn a lesson from King David who had learned to say “The Lord is my Shepherd” (Psalm 23:1). While our minds tend to run to the thought of a shepherd’s protection and care, the thought is also of the shepherd’s authority. King David knew that he was answerable to a higher authority. He was not the true king. God was, and is. Powerful men do well to remember that.

Second, when powerful men meet Jesus, they should be prepared to trade in their fear for trust. Herod feared losing his Kingdom to a baby born in Bethlehem. The Pharisees feared losing their grip on the people through religion. Both would have done well to trust what God was doing in their midst, and in fact to join in.

Third, when powerful men meet Jesus, they should be prepared to trade in their religion for relationship. Not only are the scribes powerful, they are also religious which can be a deadly combination. We have many examples of this with a fundamentalist form of Islam leading the way. When you see darker moments within Christianity look deeper and you will see people exercising religion without a solid and growing relationship with Christ.

Fourth, when powerful men meet Jesus, they should be prepared to trade in their own evil and embrace the goodness of Jesus. Jesus raised the question of good and evil:

1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2 They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” 4 Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. Mark 3:1-6 (NRSV emphasis mine)

It is ironic that the religious leaders do not respond by stating the obvious correct answer but instead react by living out the wrong one. They succumb to the evil in their hearts. They storm out on the very person who can help them with that!

In our day powerful men are being called out for bad deeds. We can think of #metoo and the “Time’s Up” movement. People in our day are realizing that even in a secular society, morality matters and sexual freedom is a myth. There must be limits and boundaries, but who, or better, Who gets to set them? Just think of how these powerful men would have treated women differently had they been embracing the goodness of Jesus.

You may not be powerful, or a man, but do you need to make similar trades in your life? Trading pride for humility, fear for trust, religion for relationship, and our evil for His goodness? Not to rush you, but the trade deadline is coming up!


read more from Clarke at clarkedixon.wordpress.com

 

July 9, 2016

“If You Knew the Gift of God”

John 4 10

Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.” – John 4:10 NLT

At BibleGateway.com, the IVP Commentary writes:

…The [Samaritan] woman has asked Jesus a question, and he replies with another of his cryptic sayings: If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water (4:10). She could not have understood in depth what Jesus was saying, as is the case with his other cryptic sayings, but she could have picked up on something in it that would point her in the right direction. The phrase gift of God was a very common expression, “a comprehensive term for everything that God bestows on man for his salvation” (Schnackenburg 1980a:426). So this term should have at least indicated to the woman that Jesus was talking about God’s revelation. The image of water is also used in both Jewish and Samaritan sources as an image of God’s revelation, the Torah, as well as of the Spirit.

On the basis of such general associations she could have understood Jesus to be saying, in effect, “If you knew the Scriptures and the salvation they reveal and if you were aware of my identity as Messiah, then you would ask me as the bearer of revelation and salvation and I would give you revelation and salvation.” The woman does in fact have some knowledge of the gift of God in that she expects the Messiah (4:25). She obviously would not understand the role of the Holy Spirit and the death and resurrection of the Son of God, but she could have understood that Jesus was speaking of the revelation of God. She could also see he was implying not just that his request for water that was strange, but that his own identity was unusual. The purpose of the conversation is to reveal something of this identity.

The woman’s reply shows that she misunderstands Jesus entirely (4:12). She does not make any of the connections that Jesus’ cryptic saying might have triggered. Rather, she thinks he is talking about physical water…

Gary Henry at Wordpoints.com looks at this verse:

“And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God’” (Revelation 21:3).

WHATEVER SECONDARY BLESSINGS FLOW FROM GOD, WE OUGHT TO SEEK NONE OF THESE AS DILIGENTLY AS WE SEEK GOD HIMSELF. We must be those who seek God primarily for His sake, because He is our God and we long to give ourselves to Him.

Selfishness and manipulation are nowhere more out of place than in our relationship with God. And selfishness here would be quite self-defeating, as it always is. If we’re concerned only with the other things God can give us, we’ll miss the greatest Gift of all. “God’s chief gift to those who seek him is himself” (E. B. Pusey).

When we speak of “the gift of God,” we should think of God as both the Giver and the Gift. Jesus, for example, said to the Samaritan woman at the well, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” (John 4:10). What is the living water which only God can give? Paul would later write that “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). But concerning eternal life, Jesus had gone to the heart of the matter on the night of His betrayal when He prayed: “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). God gives us life by giving us Himself. Other blessings may flow from a right relationship with God, but that relationship itself is God’s greatest gift to us. If we have God and His Son, we have the highest thing to which we can aspire. “He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9).

Even when we try to appreciate what God should mean to us, we can hardly grasp the glory and grace of a God who would give Himself to such people as we are. But it would take a hard heart indeed not to be moved by Jesus’ simple words: “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” (John 14:23). This seems much too good to be true. Only God could make it true.

“God, of your goodness, give me yourself for you are sufficient for me. I cannot properly ask anything less, to be worthy of you. If I were to ask less, I should always be in want. In you alone do I have all” (Julian of Norwich).

Finally, this from Jeff Davidson at Rising Above Ministries:

…“He told me all that I ever did,” she exclaimed to her friends.

But there was one thing Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well that changed her life. He had looked right into her eyes and said, “if you knew the gift of God…” (John 4:10)

If you knew the gift of God.

That’s really the question for all of us you know.

If we knew the gift of God we could be set free from guilt and shame. If we knew the gift of God we could be liberated form bitterness, anger and frustration. If we knew the gift of God we would find freedom from anger, envy, disappointment and despair.

If we knew the gift of God, life would never ever be the same. If we knew the gift of God it would truly set us free.

Take a moment and remind yourself of the gift of God. And then let go of what you’re holding that keeps weighing you down.

 

 

August 6, 2015

Is Jesus a Person or Just an Idea?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death – Phil 3:10

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” – John 14:9

Today we’re going to do something we don’t normally do — we have “six month” rule — and spend a second day at the website GCD (Gospel-Centered Discipleship) and this time around the featured writer is Portland, OR pastor and author Brad Watson. To read this at source, click the title below.

The Scandal of Jesus

Despite the talk about the biblical gospel of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, we rarely stop to take in, reflect, or meditate on the life, character, words, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Christianity is nothing without Christ, yet we often rely on second or third hand descriptions of Jesus from books, blogs, preachers, movies, and music. All of these things are helpful and involved people using their gifts to make Jesus clear. However, at some point, to get to know Jesus and understand his message, you have to go to the source and read a Gospel account. Why? Because Jesus is God manifest in human form (Col 1). The fullness of God dwelt in him. He is the Conqueror of Sin, Author of Salvation, Giver of Life, Rescuer from Darkness, and Initiator and Sustainer of All Creation.

Jesus is not an idea but a person. A person who lived, spoke, acted, befriended, rebuked, and made the intentions of God’s love clear. What did he do, what did he say, how did he teach us to be restored humans, and how do you worship and follow him? The answers to those questions are scandalous because he is not a contestant in the competition to be your best friend, but he is claiming and proving himself to be fully God. He is not simply the center of a worldview but God. He is not the example for effective discipleship only, but he is the Savior of the World who descended from heaven into the world.

Making Jesus in Our Own Image

For many years I was content with my favorite stories of Jesus: walking on water and the feeding the thousands. I also had a choice selection of teachings: the beatitudes, the great commission, loving your enemies, and the cost of discipleship. Lastly, I had my favorite parables he told: the prodigal son, the soils, the good Samaritan, and the wedding feast. These weren’t just my favorites; they were my entire playlist.

In the end, I chose to make Jesus into who I wanted him to be. I didn’t take in the whole of his life or his teaching, but the bits and parts that appealed to me most. To me Jesus was the collision of my preferences. He oddly, approved of my political, economic, ministerial, and personal preferences. Jesus had my personality even. Journeying through life proved my Jesus wasn’t enough for me or the world I inhabit. The Jesus I had fashioned was too small.

Making Jesus Our Method

Then, I began to read the Gospels to discover the best way to be a Christian and make other Christians—which is a noble task but not the primary task of reading a Gospel. I wanted the best practices, techniques, and tools for making disciples. I didn’t read them to follow Jesus myself. Stop reading the Gospels to figure out how to “make disciples for Jesus” read it to “be a disciple of Jesus.” That’s when you will make disciple of Jesus.

I realized I was quoting Jesus as a proof for my model of ministry and not worshiping and wondering at God incarnate. The Gospels are theology and story—not pragmatics. It is the most captivating true story about what God is like, what he does, and what he wants for us. The story of Jesus unfolds in our mind as our story. We long to be reminded of our God’s most visible moment. This story changes what we believe, who we are, and the world we live in. The Gospels are not “how-to manuals.” They are theology and story.

You can’t use Jesus to perfect a method. The only effective discipleship models come first from beholding Christ and only then walking humbly in stride with him and the way he loved the Father, submitted to the Spirit, and loved neighbor. The point of the Gospels is not that Jesus chose twelve guys and spent a lot time with them. The point is the Kingdom of God breaking into the kingdoms of this world through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Jesus is the point of the Gospels.

I didn’t know Jesus because I hadn’t tried. I tried to find myself in Jesus (as the hero playing his role), instead of finding God in Jesus. I tried to use Jesus for my purposes, not to glorify him in wonder and worship. I had avoided confrontation with Jesus and it had left me the same. I yearned for transformation in the midst of the holy God who was pleased to dwell as a man on earth.

This month GCD is committing the majority of our articles to the endeavor of knowing Jesus through the Gospel of Mathew. We hope you will join us in the wonder, bewilderment, conflict, and challenge of knowing Jesus.

How to Join Us in This Journey

Read the Gospel of Matthew. One of the reasons Jesus’ life ends up feeling like a random collection of anecdotes and one liners is we rarely read through it all together. We may have done so in our early days of faith but have since neglected it. We invite you to spend August reading the Gospel of Matthew. Read a chapter a day. As you read, contemplate the passage. Here are some helpful questions:

  • What is Jesus saying or doing?
  • What does that say about his character?
  • How are people reacting to him? How does that expose your reaction to Jesus? How would your friend who doesn’t believe in Jesus respond to this?
  • How is Jesus proving to be the true humanity? The true Prophet? The true Priest? The true King?
  • What is most challenging about Jesus?

Pray the Gospel of Mathew. Practice Lectio Divina, Read, Reflect, Respond, and Rest.

What We Pray and Anticipate Will Happen

You will encounter the scandal of Jesus not being who you want him to be. You will find that Jesus is not a warm cuddly lovable loser. Instead you will discover he is the Prophet who says: This is the truth. You will find that Jesus is not an all accepting cuddly bear. Instead you will discover that he’s the King who says: This is true humanity. You will find that Jesus is not just a philosopher of good ideas on the ideals of life but someone who says: Love looks like and does this. You will find Jesus as the Priest who says: Access to God is closed, but I will make a way to usher you into unity with God. Lastly, there’s the scandal that Jesus is God. You will find a holy, completely other, Jesus.

May 14, 2012

Seeking Earnestly

Today’s devotional find is Carl Gobelman’s blog, A New Creation, where these thoughts appeared today under the title, Truly Seeking Jesus.

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” (John 6:26-27)

Some of the more potent sayings from Jesus of Nazareth come from the closing words of the famous Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14). This passage depicts all of humanity on either one of two roads: The wide road that leads to destruction or the narrow road that leads to life. In fact, most of the sayings at the end of this sermon serve to differentiate true followers of Christ from false followers of Christ. What makes this difficult is that it’s often the case that one cannot readily discern the true from the false followers easily. False followers refer to Jesus as “Lord” (their doctrine is right) and they do many things in his name (their actions are right), yet Jesus will turn them away by saying “I never knew you” (they didn’t have a saving relationship with Christ).

The truth of the matter is that there are no shortage of people who admire and seek to follow Jesus, but they aren’t truly seeking Jesus. Today’s passage from John’s gospel illustrates this phenomenon. The context of the passage is Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000. After the miraculous feeding, Jesus and his disciples travel to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. When the crowd that was fed the day before realized that Jesus went to the other side of the sea, they proceeded to follow him. When they find him, the crowd said to Jesus, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus responds with the passage cited above. Note three things about Jesus’ initial response to the crowd:

  1. Jesus correctly diagnoses their true intent
  2. Jesus negatively exhorts them
  3. Jesus positively exhorts them

Jesus begins by correctly diagnosing their true intentions. The crowd wasn’t following Jesus because of the signs and wonders he was performing, but because they were fed to the full by Jesus. In other words, they didn’t want Jesus, but they wanted what Jesus could do. If you’re a follower of Jesus, why are you following him? Are you seeking Jesus or what Jesus can do for you? How many Christians come to Jesus for life improvement? Having problems in your marriage? Come to Jesus and he’ll help you have a successful marriage. Having problems making ends meet financially? Come to Jesus and he’ll help you manage your finances. The problem with all of this is that Jesus becomes a means to an end, rather than the end itself.

Of course, people who are seeking Jesus for all the wrong reasons aren’t completely to blame. For many years now, Christianity has been marketed as relevant for meeting the needs of 21st century people. People don’t want to hear boring doctrine, but want a Christianity that meets their felt needs and helps them navigate the travails of life (at least that’s what we’re told from the slick marketers of contemporary evangelicalism). If Christ is preached as a means to an end rather than the end itself, then all you’re doing is creating shallow (and false) followers of Christ.

Secondly, Jesus negatively exhorts them by telling them not to labor for food that perishes. One of the great roadblocks to truly seeking and following Jesus is our propensity for being bound up in earthly desires (represented by Jesus as “food that perishes”). In the well known Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13), Jesus illustrates one of the false converts as the seed that landed in the week-choked soil. When it sprouted, it was choked by the weeds and died before bearing fruit. Jesus explains to his disciples that this represents the man who receives Jesus joyfully, but the cares of the world choke the life out of the person and he ends up falling away. Following Jesus is not easy. For many it means losing friends and family, for others it means losing wealth and status, and for some it may even mean imprisonment or death. If we’re more concerned with the cares of this world, then we’re not following Jesus.

Of course, it’s not enough to negatively exhort someone without also positively exhorting them. If we’re not to labor for the food that perishes, then what are we to do? Jesus continues, “[Labor] for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” Jesus will, of course, go on to say that HE is the bread of life (John 6:35). The food that endures to eternal life is Jesus himself! The Bible continually exhorts us to seek after the eternal, not the temporal; the imperishable, not the perishable; the spiritual, not the physical. As it pertains to our discussion, we need to seek Jesus, not the blessings he bestows. This is not an either/or exhortation, but a both/and. If we seek Jesus, we get the blessings he bestows as well. What does Jesus say in the Sermon on the Mount? “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). However, if all we seek are the blessings Jesus bestows, we get neither Jesus nor the blessings.

Jesus concludes this passage by saying, “For on him God the Father has set his seal.” The seal being referred to here is God’s seal of approval. That Jesus is the Son of God is authenticated by his miraculous signs. The feeding of the 5,000 corroborated that Jesus was indeed the Jewish Messiah. Jesus never performed a miracle that was superfluous. They all pointed to his redeeming work as Messiah — bringing sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf and making the lame walk all point to Christ restoring creation to its original design; a reversing of the effects of the fall. Yet the people that followed Christ to the other side of the sea were more interested in the sign that what the sign pointed to. This is a danger that some Christian traditions that over emphasize spiritual gifts run into; they’re more interested in the gifts than the giver of the gifts.

Bottom Line: It’s not enough to seek Jesus. It’s not enough to admire Jesus. It’s not enough to even follow Jesus if we’re not seeking, admiring or following for the right reasons. Jesus is not a life coach who will help you be a better you. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords! His signs and miracles point to that reality, yet we labor so hard in this life to make this life more bearable. Rather we should seek Jesus because he’s gateway to eternal life! He’s the REAL FOOD that leads to eternal life, not the perishable food of this world. Seek Jesus as he really is, not as some life improvement solution, but Son of God upon whom the Father has set his seal of approval.

~Carl Gobelman

January 18, 2012

Confessions of a Recovering Legalist: Ten Things Jesus Never Said

Ever heard of “Christian karma?”  Some people think God works that way; that some things that come into our life journey are ‘payback’ for choices we made, and things we did in the past.

Yesterday we dug up a classic interview clip from 100 Huntley Street, Canada’s daily Christian talk show, produced by Crossroads Christian Communications.  Can you handle a video clip two days in a row?  We decided to see who Moira Brown has been interviewing lately, and we found this one, with author with Will Davis, Jr., author of Pray Big and the new Ten Things Jesus Never Said.

Note: The link takes you (sometimes)  to the 2:30 mark in the video where the discussion of this book begins; you can go back to watch the intro if you wish.  If it doesn’t you can jump to 2:30.  You can also look at ALL the interviews from the television program at this link.

June 8, 2011

He Died for Our Life: John Calvin

One of the joys of putting this together everyday is being able to mix on one site some of the best writing from both Reformed and Arminian perspectives.  This particular item by Calvin appeared on Tullian Tchividjian’s blog, the pastor of Coral Ridge Church in Florida and grandson of Billy Graham.  He called it Gospel Gold from John Calvin.  Pay particular attention to the detail in the paragraph beginning “He died for our life…” which details things outside the usual list accomplished through Christ’s suffering and resurrection.

A while back, a friend of mine sent me this nugget of gospel gold from John Calvin. It comes from a stunning preface to Pierre Robert Olivétan’s French translation of the New Testament (1534). Another friend, Justin Taylor, added line breaks to make it easier to read.

Calvin wrote:

Without the gospel

everything is useless and vain;

without the gospel

we are not Christians;

without the gospel

all riches is poverty,
all wisdom folly before God;
strength is weakness,
and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God.

But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made

children of God,
brothers of Jesus Christ,
fellow townsmen with the saints,
citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven,
heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom

the poor are made rich,
the weak strong,
the fools wise,
the sinner justified,
the desolate comforted,
the doubting sure,
and slaves free.

It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe.

It follows that every good thing we could think or desire is to be found in this same Jesus Christ alone.

For, he was

sold, to buy us back;
captive, to deliver us;
condemned, to absolve us;

he was

made a curse for our blessing,
[a] sin offering for our righteousness;
marred that we may be made fair;

he died for our life; so that by him

fury is made gentle,
wrath appeased,
darkness turned into light,
fear reassured,
despisal despised,
debt canceled,
labor lightened,
sadness made merry,
misfortune made fortunate,
difficulty easy,
disorder ordered,
division united,
ignominy ennobled,
rebellion subjected,
intimidation intimidated,
ambush uncovered,
assaults assailed,
force forced back,
combat combated,
war warred against,
vengeance avenged,
torment tormented,
damnation damned,
the abyss sunk into the abyss,
hell transfixed,
death dead,
mortality made immortal.

In short,

mercy has swallowed up all misery,
and goodness all misfortune.

For all these things which were to be the weapons of the devil in his battle against us, and the sting of death to pierce us, are turned for us into exercises which we can turn to our profit.

If we are able to boast with the apostle, saying, O hell, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? it is because by the Spirit of Christ promised to the elect, we live no longer, but Christ lives in us; and we are by the same Spirit seated among those who are in heaven, so that for us the world is no more, even while our conversation is in it; but we are content in all things, whether country, place, condition, clothing, meat, and all such things.

And we are

comforted in tribulation,
joyful in sorrow,
glorying under vituperation,
abounding in poverty,
warmed in our nakedness,
patient amongst evils,
living in death.

This is what we should in short seek in the whole of Scripture: truly to know Jesus Christ, and the infinite riches that are comprised in him and are offered to us by him from God the Father.

Do yourself a favor and read this over and over and over. It’s nutritious!

March 2, 2011

Searching for the Deeper Christian Life

Found this at the blog The Narrow Path where it appeared today under the title, Our Life in Christ.

Certainly not all of the mystery of the Godhead can be known by man–but just as certainly, all that men can know of God in this life is revealed in Jesus Christ! When the Apostle Paul said with yearning, “That I may know Him,” he was not speaking of intellectual knowledge. Paul was speaking of the reality of an experience of knowing God personally and consciously, spirit touching spirit and heart touching heart. We know that people spend a lot of time talking about a deeper Christian life–but few seem to want to know and love God for Himself. The precious fact is that God is the deeper life! Jesus Christ Himself is the deeper life. And as I plunge on into the knowledge of the triune God, my heart moves on into the blessedness of His fellowship. This means that there is less of me and more of God–thus my spiritual life deepens and I am strengthened in the knowledge of His will.

–A.W. Tozer

January 22, 2011

Captivated By A Person

Peter Mead is full-time with Operation Mobilization in the UK.  He blogs at Biblical Preaching where this article appeared this week under the title, Shine the Light on the Core Issue

It struck me afresh recently that many in our churches may be missing a very crucial element of Christianity.

They know the answers, they’ve prayed the prayer, they go to church, they live good lives, they may even witness (or they know that they should), they have grown to enjoy Christian gatherings, they see the emptiness of the world’s alternatives, they can explain the gospel, they look the part, they serve the church, they teach the children, they give to the collection, they make sacrificial decisions, they pray and they mean it and on it goes.  So much Christianity wrapped up in one life, but yet, what is missing?

Christ.

Christianity is not religion, nor is it ecclesiology, nor is it church participation, nor moral and ethical living, nor family tradition, nor schedule commitments, nor participation in a social gathering, nor any number of other things people seem to make it.  Christianity is about being in relationship with Christ.

When I first met my future wife and then returned home to England I spoke about her to folks here.  I remember one particular conversation.  I was enthusing about the person who I thought I might actually get to marry.  He was melancholic about the whole concept of relationships.  I shared information about her.  He shared complaints about the whole structure of dating and courting and marriage in his experience.  I talked about her.  He had yet more to say about the “institution” of romance.

I suppose you could observe that we were talking about the same thing.  The difference was that I was captivated by a person, he was not.

I wonder how many in the church today are ticking the boxes and we all assume they are safely in the family of God, but actually they are not.  One of the most overlooked verses in all of Scripture is in I Cor.16 where Paul states that “if any man does not love Christ, he is accursed.”  Perhaps we should be far slower to assume people are already born again based on the indicators of their confession, conduct and church participation.  Perhaps we should be looking for that delight that comes only from someone who knows someone special.  And perhaps in our preaching we should look for ways to shine the light of the Word beyond the peripheral issues, through the created “christian” structures that people hold to be their faith, and show the empty place where Christ should be captivating the heart and changing everything from the inside out.

– Peter Mead

Peter’s current product involves giving leadership to Cor Deo, a full-time mentored study and ministry training programme lasting five months involving  studying together during the week, then participating in ministry together during the weekends.  For further information about Cor Deo, either to pray for the ministry, or to find out more about participating, the Cor Deo website is www.cordeo.org.uk.

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