Christianity 201

February 2, 2020

When The Book of the Law Caused Weeping

Today we’re back again at Seeds of the Kingdom the devotional page of  Ellel Ministries*, an organization with locations on many continents.  Today’s author is Peter Horrobin, Founding and International Director of Ellel Ministries. The work was originally established in 1986 as a ministry of healing in the north-west of England, but today the work has spread round the world, with Ellel Centres in over thirty nations. Where I live, there is an Ellel about an hour north of Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Click the title below to read at their website and then take some time to look around.

Tears of Joy!

They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read . . . all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law . . . This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

From Nehemiah 8:8-10, NIV

The people of God had been in rebellion against God and His Word to them in the Law. As a result they lost their covering and protection and had been carried off as captives to Babylon. But then there came a time when God stirred the heart of one of those prisoners, Nehemiah, to ask the King’s permission to return to Jerusalem and repair the walls and gates of the city. Nehemiah’s book tells the amazing story of how he did it.

Then, after they had completed their task, in spite of a lot of opposition, and all the people had been settled back into their homes, Nehemiah, with Ezra the priest, gathered them all together, in the square before the Water Gate, to hear the Word of God in the Law of the Lord. A high wooden platform was built for the occasion (the first pulpit?!), from which Ezra read to them.

Not only did he read it to them, but he explained what he was reading “making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.” Ezra was not only reading the Word, but preaching the truth. And as he did so the people came under conviction for all they had done which had been in rebellion to the living God. Tears of repentance were flowing down their faces as the Word of God impacted their souls.

Then Nehemiah made a very insightful comment – “for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” He knew this was a very holy day as he sensed that the people’s repentance was bringing joy to the Lord. And that, in turn, the joy that the Lord has, when His children return to Him, becomes the strength that everyone of us needs to rise up as men and women of God to live for Him and do the works of the Kingdom.

Our tears of repentance bring great joy to the Lord as we are restored in Him and are equipped and empowered by His presence. May I encourage you to come to the Word of God with an open heart, being willing to listen to the Lord’s voice. And when the Holy Spirit touches your life and He begins to change you from the inside out, remember that your repentance is bringing joy to the Lord and His strength will fill your life.

Prayer: Help me, Lord, to read Your Word with an open heart, listening to your gentle voice of encouragement and challenge. I’m sorry for the times of rebellion there have been in my life. I pray that You will help me rebuild the gates and the walls of my life, so that I may be strong in You and empowered by the joy of Your presence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


* What does Ellel mean?

In old English, the name Ellel means ‘All hail’ which means ‘All glory to God’
In Hebrew, Ellel means ‘towards God’
In Mandarin Chinese, it means ‘love flowing outwards (愛流).

So Ellel could be said to mean ‘All hail, Jesus, All glory to Him’ and be expressed as ‘Love flowing outwards’ into a fallen and broken world, where we are helping people move ‘towards God’.  It is all for His glory.


Read more: From the same website, Lambert Bariho together with his wife Catherine currently leads the work of Ellel Ministries in Rwanda. He looks at Romans 12:3 in an article asking the question, is there every any reason for pride?

November 7, 2016

Salvation Has Come to This House

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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NRSV Luke 19:8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

zacchaeusWe last connected with Peter Enns here in February, but I wanted to run this very recent post by him for two reasons. First, I’m currently reading his book The Sin of Certainty which we will probably run an excerpt from very soon. Second, this resonated with me because of a fresh take on Zacchaeus by Gary Burge which we touched on briefly here a few years ago. Click the title below to read this on his blog, The Bible for Normal People. Dr. Enns is a professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern College.

Zacchaeus gets “saved” and so can the rest of us . . . every day

Many of us know the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector from Jericho (Luke 19:1-10). Many of us are also probably stricken with paralysis at the sound of the Zacchaeus song, which haunts the memory of any parent who has ever done time teaching children’s Sunday school or VBS. But I digress.

Not at all unlike another famous resident from Jericho, Rahab in the book of Joshua, Zacchaeus a “sinner” (v. 7) welcomes a visitor into his home with stunning, life-shifting results.

Without Jesus even needing to say a word, Zacchaeus commits to giving half his possessions to the poor and paying back fourfold anyone he has defrauded. And Jesus responds, “Today salvation has come to this house. . . . ”

Perhaps like me, you have wondered what Jesus means by “salvation”? Perhaps you were taught that right there that day Zacchaeus was “saved” by accepting Jesus into his heart and receiving assurance of going to heaven when he died.

But that’s not happening here. Zacchaeus’s salvation is his committing to a change in life—from greed and dishonesty to generosity and justice. He is repenting, in the true biblical sense of the Greek word metanoia—a change of heart that is evidenced in a change in how one lives.

And to this change in how one lives Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to this house.”

Many of us might focus on the next life when we see the word salvation in this story. That’s how we were taught. But that misses the point.

Jesus’s declaration of salvation is tied to what Zacchaeus does with no mention of a final reward. The point is what is happening today.

Zacchaeus needed salvation, a change of life now. Don’t we all.

Zacchaeus was “saved” because he committed to changing his way of life, to bring it into conformity with the mercy and generosity of God—which is to say, Zacchaeus was becoming more truly human, an image-bearer of of God.

Salvation isn’t something that happens once to get your membership card to heaven— “once saved always saved,” as the saying goes. Salvation is something that keeps happening in our lives, needs to keep happening, as we work to conform our lives by God’s kind grace to reflect the life of Jesus.

Over the years I have learned to pray differently. Hardly a day now goes by when I do not ask for deliverance.

For a change in the tired patterns in my life.

For salvation.

That kind of prayer would have been unthinkable to me some years ago, but I have come to see what I was missing all those years.

The membership card I keep in my wallet for future consideration is of little use. I need salvation right now.

Deliver me, O Lord. Save me . . .

from broken relationships
from fear for my family
from the fear of what might be or might not be
from not knowing
from the need to know
from the need to be right
from this horrid and subtle self-centeredness
from looking down on any other human being
from feeling misunderstood and undervalued
from being defined by my past
from judging others by their past
from manipulating my neighbor with clever words
from feeling not enough
from what I cling to
from all my failings
from all my accomplishments

Not later. Not at some point in time. But now.

Right this minute.

I don’t want things to continue as they are.

Save me.

Zacchaeus finds salvation. And so can we. Every day.


[A beautiful song by Audrey Assad, “I Shall Not Want, captures this idea far better than I am able to in a blog post. Also, a major theme in N. T. Wright’s new book The Day the Revolution Began is the New Testament’s emphasis on salvation as very much now rather than simply later. And if you want to read some of my books, here you go: The Sin of Certainty (HarperOne, 2016), The Bible Tells Me So (HarperOne, 2014), The Evolution of Adam (Baker, 2012), Inspiration and Incarnation (Baker 2005/2015).]

 

 

 

August 23, 2010

Pete Wilson on Small Group Ministry

“We’ve always said we would never judge success at Cross Point by how many people we lined up in rows, but by how many people we could circle up in homes…”

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