Christianity 201

July 3, 2018

The Sovereignty of the Lord

by Russell Young

 Christ is Lord! He is sovereign! How many times have you heard these words and how many times have they passed by without a second thought? Peter spoke of the sovereign Lord (2 Peter 2:1) and of the destructive heresies that will deny his authority in the end times. Jude wrote of the godless men “who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only sovereign and Lord.” (Jude 1:4) Paul taught that, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23) If the Lord is sovereign, he must rule, and others must follow. These passages have no merit if Christ is not treated as sovereign. Grace cannot displace God’s sovereignty, it comes through the exercise of his sovereignty. Eternal life can only be achieved through the life of the sovereign Christ, our Lord.

The word “lord has been translated from the Greek kurios meaning “(supremacy); supreme in authority, i.e. (as noun) controller; by implication, Master (as a respectful title):— God, Lord, master, Sir.” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary #2962) More modern doctrinal teaching often presents the concept of the Lord’s supreme authority as assuring the security of an eternal hope for those who are willing to trust him, but not necessarily follow him. The Lord’s sovereignty is seldom presented or accepted to mean that the Lord is and must be sovereign over the lives of those who would seek his eternal kingdom. “Believers” are frequently told that God’s “sovereign grace” grounded in love has assured victory for those who would “trust” in him and that nothing can thwart their hope, not even disobedience. However, trust in Christ is revealed through obedient following whatever that might entail.

Of course, God is sovereign, and nothing can alter that reality. He cannot be defeated, and his eternal plan cannot be foiled. Great comfort should be derived for believers from this fact. The aspect of his sovereignty that needs more complete recognition and appreciation is that he is sovereign over the life and actions of believers–they must relent to his rule, not merely pretend to honor him through voicing his God-given title of “Lord.” This truth has been revealed in many places in the Scriptures. He taught, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 7:21) He admonished his listeners, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Lk 6:46) Failing to put his word into practice is like building a house without a foundation. The hope of a presence in the kingdom of heaven rests in the believer doing the will of God. His will must be known and followed with an obedient response. “[Christ] became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Heb 5:9)

Do you hear his calling or do your own wishes and desires guide you actions and claim your attention? It must not be misunderstood, there is both a life to be lived and a death to be lived. The life is the life of Christ in the believer and the death is the death of the believer to self-interest. Jesus said, “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (Jn 12:25) Those who want to cling to their own lives and remain ‘captain of their own ship’ will lose all, despite any assurances to the contrary. Those who have abandoned all ownership of self and have submitted to the will of their sovereign and master will find eternal life. Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Rom 8:14) Defiance and disobedience is sin and is rejection of Christ the Lord as Holy Spirit, and it is blasphemy. (Num 15:30)

Many have heard and have accepted that Christ is their righteousness. When he took their sin, they became righteous and avoided the death they had earned. Following confession of faith, he is the means of maintaining righteousness and of refining holiness (Rom 6:19, 22) for all who obey his commands—for believers. (Rom 8:4)

The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament. Moses reminded the Israelites, “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your hearts, whether or not you would keep his commands.” (Deut 8:2) Even today God will know what is in the hearts of humankind and of those who claim his name. Are you passing the test? There is no hope for those who deny his leadership and fail to humble themselves through denying his right to rule. He is the sovereign Lord and must be recognized to be so, both in title and in practice.


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

(All Scriptures are from the NIV unless otherwise noted.)

January 12, 2017

The Final Page of the Final Chapter of the Christmas Story

by Clarke Dixon

Now that Christmas is over we might ask, where does the Christmas story actually end? Nativity plays often finish off with the visit of the magi. Some may think the story of Christmas concludes  with Mary and Joseph fleeing to Egypt, or coming home to Nazareth. Actually, the Christmas story points far beyond itself as it is part of a much larger story. The magi point beyond themselves to that larger story. Consider how the presence of the magi alludes to this prophecy spoken many years prior:

Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
2 For darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will appear over you.
3 Nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Isaiah 60:1-3

Though not kings, the magi are not Jewish and travel from afar, indicating that it is beginning; The nations are drawn to the light. It continues:

Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and rejoice,
because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
A multitude of camels shall cover you,
the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.
All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you,
the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you;
they shall be acceptable on my altar,
and I will glorify my glorious house.Isaiah 60:5-7

We cannot help but notice the gold and frankincense along with the possibility of camels. The visit of the magi is not the full fulfillment of Isaiah 60, but it is the beginning of the fulfillment. This is also pointing more generally to a greater fulfillment of a greater promise: all peoples of the earth worshipping the God of Israel.

All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before him.
For dominion belongs to the Lord,
and he rules over the nations. Psalms 22:27-28

Herod figures prominently in the account of the magi and he also points to the future when he says “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” (Matthew 2:8 NIV) Of course Herod has no intention of worshipping Jesus. Herod would rather have Jesus destroyed. Herod would rather be in charge. Herod would rather attempt to grasp at a throne that truly belonged to another. Herod did not worship Jesus. But he will:

To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
and I shall live for him. Psalms 22:29

The Old Testament points to even the dead bowing down to the true king, the Creator God. The New Testament makes this even more explicit:

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11

Every knee and every tongue includes even the knees and tongues of the dead. Even Herod. So ironically, Herod was speaking truthfully about the future when he said he would worship Jesus. He will. So will you and I. The question is not if you will bend the knee to Jesus, or if you will confess that He is Lord, but when

Does the fact that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord mean that every person will experience eternal life with God? No.

Then I saw a great white throne and the one who sat on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:11-15

You and I have the wonderful opportunity to be among those who bend the knee and confess that Jesus is Lord sooner rather than later. The sooner we do, the greater the opportunity to live with the hope, peace, joy, and love, that we celebrate during Advent.

So where does the Christmas story end? With Mary and Joseph going home with Jesus? Or is the end of the story yet to come, with you and I going home?

He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. John 1:11-13

If you are a child of God, you will feel right at home in the presence of God. If you are like Herod and would rather stay in charge, rejecting God and the possibility of a relationship with Him, then you will feel right at home being separated from God. The final words on the final page of the final chapter of the Christmas story will not be you or I saying “You are unfair, Lord” but “I’m home.”


Read today’s column online at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermons.

Be aware of new blog posts by Clarke by following him on Twitter.

 All Scripture references are taken from the NRSV unless noted otherwise

April 17, 2016

Is Your Belief Sufficient to Gain You Everlasting Life?

•••by Russell Young

There are eleven occasions where “everlasting life” is used in the Word of God; most are found in the book of John and teach that it comes through believing in Christ.  “For God gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal [everlasting] life. (John 3:16, NIV)

Since “belief” is the means of gaining everlasting life one should be sure of its meaning.  “Believe” is translated from the Greek pisteuo which is defined as “to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), i.e. credit; by implication, to entrust (especially one’s spiritual well-being to Christ): -believe (-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with.” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary #4100)

Belief in the context of salvation goes beyond understanding that something is true; it means that one has sufficient faith in Christ or is sufficiently persuaded concerning the being and mission of Christ that he is willing to entrust his well-being to the Lord.  One’s conception of “belief” should not be limited to the understanding that his well-being can be assured by absenting himself of all responsibility for it by allowing Christ to do all that is necessary.  He cannot abrogate his obligations unless the Lord has allowed him to do so, and He hasn’t.  The writer of Hebrews has recorded that eternal salvation comes through obedience. (Hebrews 5:9) “Belief” means accepting the Lord’s teachings in the gospel with the commitment to honouring them with his total being…all his mind, soul, and heart. (Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27)

In Biblical times “to believe” was synonymous with obedience.  “And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed?  Se we can see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.(Hebrews 3:18, 19, NIV) One acts according to what he believes.  He cannot truly believe something and act contrary to that belief; his actions are to be congruent with his beliefs and his belief are to be in accordance with the Word of God.

The most commonly presented view of the means of salvation seems to be mental assent or conviction that Christ will deliver the confessor into His eternal presence if he acknowledges that Christ is God, acknowledges that he is a sinner, and voices repentance for his sin.  To accept the position that salvation comes through mental assent followed by confession of faith without requiring obedience, however, is contrary to much of the teaching of the New Testament.  Belief is to be ‘in the heart” (Romans 10:9) which is the motivator of one’s actions.  Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21, NIV)

Paul reported to King Agrippa that he had preached that people should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. (Acts 26:20)

There are many references to the need to obey Christ throughout the New Testament. (John 10:27, 8:51; Ephesians 5:3-7; Romans 6:16; 8:48:14) The understanding of the need for obedience should give cause for thought because many accept that they will be in the kingdom of heaven without any need for obedience or for doing God’s will.  The book of Hebrews presents: “Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” (4:11, NIV)

Whatever one claims “belief” to mean, it must incorporate the necessity for obedience to Christ over one’s lifetime; otherwise his belief will be “in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:2) He is to be lord and He is to be honoured as Lord.  It is through belief that one relents of his own lordship and allows Christ to direct his life in order that his heart might be transformed into that of the likeness of Christ, (Romans 8:29) and become an offering acceptable to the Lord. (Romans 15:16)

Belief does not save anyone since every person believes in something.  What results in everlasting life is what one believes and how he proves that belief by his actions.  Belief produces faith and faith unless it produces works is meaningless. (James 2:17) One’s belief/faith is better measured by his actions than by his profession.  Everlasting life comes through belief that is evidenced through obedience to his Lord and Saviour.

December 15, 2015

The Confession, “Jesus is Lord,” in its Original Context

Over the past few days we’ve presented you with a variety of formats and styles, but tomorrow we return to our more predictable devotional format. Actually, this isn’t the first time we’ve done a video devotional, I hope you find this as informative as I did.

This video teaching is part of a series titled Seven Minute Seminary. To see other videos in the series, either click the video link itself, or click the title below which will take you to The Seedbed Blog, where we encountered it. The teacher is Dr. John Barclay, a Professor of Divinity specializing in early Judaism and Pauline studies.

The Gospel’s Final Enemy: Empire, Satan, Sin, or Death?

June 10, 2015

Who’s In Charge of You?

You Can Have Your King, But . . .

royal scepterby Clarke Dixon

We like to pick our rulers. We pick the experts we listen to, and with so many “expert opinions” floating around we have no trouble finding someone willing to say what we are willing to hear. Or we might look to societal norms for direction. It is good to fit in and be like everybody else. Or we might let media shape our beliefs and the way we live. If it is normal practice for the likeable characters on the TV to do this or that then it must be okay for me to do this or that also.

We are not the first ones to set rulers over ourselves:

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the Lord, and the Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 1 Samuel 8:4-7 NRSV

In the days of Samuel, when judges were ruling over God’s people, they asked for a king. In asking for a king to rule over them the people are actually rejecting God’s rule and getting themselves into a great mess. Samuel tries to warn them:

He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 1 Samuel 8:11-17 NRSV (emphasis mine)

Do you see what the king will do? He “will take . . .will take . . . will take . . . ” And it all becomes “his . . . his . . . his . . .” because it is all about “him, him, him.” The people chose him, yet they become his slaves. And notice how we can choose things and become slaves:

  • We choose to drink – and become slaves to alcoholism.
  • We choose drugs – and become addicted.
  • We choose to buy whatever we want – and become slaves to materialism.
  • We choose to buy as much as we want – and become slaves to debt.
  • We choose to love whomever we want – and destroy our marriages through adultery.
  • We choose to view whatever we want – and destroy our marriages though pornography.
  • We choose to spend our time however we want – and our family suffers from neglect.
  • We choose to hold that grudge for as long as we want – and become slaves to our own bitterness.

The things that rule over us take and take and take. And our lives become focused on those things we have chosen. Samuel notes that the people will get fed up and remember the One who gives, gives, gives:

And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” 1 Samuel 8:18 NRSV

There is no help in that day as the people will bear the consequences of their decisions. We normally do. Yet there is good news there, found in those last words “in that day.” For there was another day ahead, hundreds of years later when in the midst of many peoples claiming “Caesar is Lord,” a small group were shouting something different: “Jesus is Lord.” They knew something the rest did not yet know; God had never actually abdicated His throne. Instead He was working out His sovereign purposes. He came to us, incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, died for the atonement of our sins, and was raised from the dead to be hailed “King of kings and Lord of lords.” The true King is putting all things right again. Despite the mess the people of of God had got themselves into through their own choices, God was still the King! They could turn to Him again.

We can make a mess of life when we choose people and things which will rule over us. No matter the kind of messes we have created for ourselves we have a wonderful invitation. Not to make Jesus Lord, for He already is that, but in humility to choose Him. And we find that He has already chosen us. He is always King. He is still willing to lead. Are we willing to follow?

January 8, 2015

The Longed-For Leader

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

We had already formatted yesterday’s archived devotional by Clarke Dixon when this newer one appeared online, so with his permission, we’re giving you Clarke two days in a row!  Have your Bibles open to Psalm 72 or click the link in the first paragraph.

What a Really Great Ruler Really Looks Like

A longed-for leader devotional Bible studyWhether we think of heads of state, or heads of families it seems so many rulers are prone to questionable, even unconscionable, decisions. What does a really great ruler really look like? Psalm 72 points the way (I encourage you to read it by clicking the link). There are some things to note:

First, this psalm is a prayer. And so we are reminded to pray for people in authority. We may hear of decisions made by dictators and elected officials, mums and dads, and shake our heads in disgust. But do we bow our heads in prayer for them? What a great change there can be for many people when there is godly change in the life and thinking of a person in authority. And if you and I stand in places of authority, we stand in the need of prayer.

Second, what is the key word of this prayer? Let us consider the first two verses:

Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son. 2 May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice. Psalm 72:1-2 NRSV

While justice and righteousness are important words, there is one word in the first two verses that shows up more often: ‘Your.’ Here is a plea for a ruler not to rule with their own sense of justice and righteousness, but to rule with God’s. Also, we are directed to the think of the people we have authority over not as ‘our’ people, but God’s. Rulers may think they are tops, but they are really stewards accountable to a higher authority. I might be pleased with how my young boys are becoming young men. But is God? They are His, my leadership in their lives needs to please God, not me. And it needs to be according to God’s standards, not mine. Notice too, that the call is made for the authorities to take special notice of the poor. Yes they are God’s too, and how they are treated will not go unnoticed.

Third. What rulers throughout history have shown themselves to be answers to this prayer? Sadly, far too many have fallen far too short of a godly rule. This is true within nations and within families. But there is one who fits this prayer precisely, Jesus the Messiah.

In the Christmas story, the magi serve a theological purpose, they point to Jesus as being the ruler this Psalm longs for. Though not precise in the details, the nations have arrived bearing gifts:

10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts. 11 May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service. Psalm 72:10-11 NRSV
11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:11 NRSV

The book of Revelation paints a picture of the ruler this Psalm longs for. The king’s reign is eternal. The king reigns with justice and righteousness. The reign of the king is good news for the oppressed. The kingdom is secure. People blossom. These are things common to the king longed for in Psalm 72 and the King of kings and Lord of lords revealed in Revelation.

Jesus points to himself as the one who fulfills the longing of this prayer. He describes himself as the good shepherd. He is the good shepherd who loves the sheep, not like the bad shepherd, Herod, who killed off many young boys in an effort to rid the world of Jesus. Jesus is the good shepherd who loves the sheep, not like the bad shepherds, the religious leaders, who would seek his life. Jesus is the good shepherd who loves the sheep, not like the bad shepherd, Pilate, who would authorize his death. Jesus is the good shepherd who loves people, who helps people. The psalm longs for a king who

…delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper. 13 He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. 14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight. Psalm 72:12-14 NRSV

So precious is our blood in His sight that He shed His own blood to help us in our greatest need. All our earthly needs come and go, but our need for salvation from the sin that separates us from God is something we carry into eternity, unless of course there is an authority that can help. In Jesus there is.

If you are a person in authority, are you an answer to this prayer? Whether you are a person in authority or not, do you know the One who is the greatest answer to this prayer?

December 29, 2014

God Desires Top Spot

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:24 pm
Tags: , , ,

Our thoughts today are from one of the foremost Christian devotional sites, Daily Encouragement by Stephen and Brooksyne Weber. To read this at source, click the title below. Underneath the title is a link to an audio version, which the Webers try to post most days. If you know someone with a computer who would benefit from that, tell them about Daily Encouragement. Click the icon which follows:

Daily Encouragement dot Net banner

“Christ Preeminent”

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

“He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30). “He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent” (Colossians 1:18).

Child, for us sinners poor and in the manger,
We would embrace Thee, with love and awe;
Who would not love Thee, loving us so dearly?

We trust each of you had a delightful Christmas celebration with your family and friends yesterday. Of course some of you may still have plans over the next several days as you gather with others in the glorious celebration of our Lord’s birth.

Yesterday we enjoyed brunch with friends and afterwards visited a nursing home where we sang Christmas carols with the residents. So many of the familiar Christmas hymns we know by heart, including all the verses. What a joy to sing them out as the residents joined in as the familiar words struck some chord in their memory. After all, many of them have sung the beloved Christmas carols for 80 to 90 plus Christmas seasons.

For many years Brooksyne has enjoyed studying the hymns and has numerous books of hymn backgrounds which we sometimes share on this site. Some of the golden spiritual gems overlooked in familiar hymns are included in the verses deleted from modern hymn books. Our introductory stanza (above) is a lesser known verse from one of the best known Christmas hymns written by John F. Wade about 1743. It was trans­lat­ed from La­tin to Eng­lish by Fred­er­ick Oak­e­ley in 1841.

Most likely you will recognize the refrain:

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Millions declare that Christ is Lord. So today we ask the following heart-probing question to our readers,  Who is Christ to you?

1) For some Christ is popular. An ungodly entertainer may throw a shout-out thanking God at an awards ceremony. A politician may quote a Scripture text to score political points though he or she gives little regard to God in lifestyle choices or life principles. Consider the crowds and disciples that followed Jesus in John 6 at the height of His popularity, but when it got tough they abandoned Him and the cause for which He died. (See John 6:66)

2) For genuine followers, Christ is present in your life. The Psalmist declared, “Thou art with me.”  Jesus reassured the disciples on the mountain before He ascended to heaven, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Psalm 23:4, Matthew 28:16-20, Hebrews 13:5)

3) For some Christ is prominent. By prominent, I mean that it is well demonstrated and evidenced by others that you are a follower of Christ. Your family, co-workers, and neighbors know that you are a Christian. It is commendable that Christ is prominent.

John the Baptist is one of the great Bible characters. His God-ordained role was to prepare the way for the Lord Jesus. He did his work faithfully and earnestly desired that Christ become more and more prominent.  One of the simplest, yet profound, statements indicating this is found in the daily text, “He (Jesus Christ) must become greater; I must become less.” Another version states, “He must increase, I must decrease.”  That’s not only an appropriate statement for John but is a godly mindset and heart attitude for each of us!  This is an ongoing commitment that needs refreshing and renewal on a regular basis, whether in the mundane of everyday life or the major challenges we face over the years.  Every day we should awaken with this theme on our hearts; “He must become greater; I must become less.”

4) For a relative few Christ is preeminent. Yet this alone is the proper outlook for one who claims that Jesus Christ is Lord. This is God’s gold standard concerning what His Son should be to us. Christ Preeminent, what a glorious truth!

From the Miriam Webster dictionary we find the following synonyms to describe one’s preeminence: cardinal, chief, dominant, first, greatest, main, master, number one, sovereign, supreme. These adjectives well describe the attitude we should have toward Christ if He is preeminent in our lives.

This phrase from Colossians is translated differently in various translations. The NIV states, “In everything He might have the supremacy.” In the NASB it reads, “He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” The Greek word (proteuon) means “to be first, to have the first place, to hold the chief place.” He is reigning as the preeminent Being in the universe. He always has been and always will be. The ESV states, “that in everything He might be preeminent.”

I examine my life today and I encourage you to do the same. Is Christ preeminent in your life? Is He the reigning King of your heart’s allegiance? May Christ’s reign and preeminence be evident in each of our lives, not just during the Christmas season but all through the next year until we draw our final breath on this side!

  Daily prayer: Father, anything good or praiseworthy in me is simply a reflection of the abiding presence of Your Holy Spirit. I want to grow in Your grace and knowledge, and will do so if You are preeminent in my life. That means You will reign supreme and be of first importance to me, having greater influence than any other person or cause. I want to walk in humility today as I pray, “Jesus, must become greater in my life,  I must become less.” I ask You to be at the center of my thoughts, my attitudes, and my actions so that Your preeminence is seen in all I do and say. In the name of Jesus I pray.  Amen.


Thanks, Stephen and Brooksyne. As I read this, I really had to examine whether I had ever considered the distinction between #3 and #4. Christ is certainly prominent in my life, but that prominence is not the same as preeminence.

August 19, 2014

A Message to Prime Ministers, Presidents and Kings

We continue today with weekly contributor Clarke Dixon.  You can also read this at his blog by clicking the title below:

Biblical Message to World Rulers: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid. Reflections on Psalm 2

There is no shortage of rulers, now, and in recent memory, who have plunged or kept the people under their care into darkness. We think of Bin Laden and the recruitment of people into lives of terror. We think of the Taliban and remember the dismal treatment of women. We think of Boko Haram and the atrocities committed of late. We think of those associated with the new “Islamic State” and the reports of beheadings, kidnappings, forced conversions, and executions. Already the rulers of these organizations are responsible for thousands dead and thousands more living in terror this year. But we can also look back to other atrocities within living memory. There is Hitler responsible for 10 million deaths, 6 million of which were Jews, and we are not even counting those who died in battle from the war he started. Stalin is said to be responsible for 7-13 million dead, some say much more. Mao is said to be responsible for 40-50 million dead. How many more lived, but lived in terror? These rulers and all like them have something in common beyond being responsible for plunging people into darkness: they are mentioned in the Bible. Consider:

1 Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and his anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.” (Psalm 2:1-3 NRSV)

These verses originally speak to the rulers surrounding Israel in Old Testament times, and the “anointed” referred to the earthly king of Israel. But they also point to Jesus Christ as true King, and to rulers throughout all of history and even today who operate in ways that are far from the Kingdom ways of the Lord. No thought is given by all such rulers to the possibility that Jesus Christ is “King of kings, and Lord of lords” (Rev 19:16) and that they are subject to His rule. They are expected to follow Christ as they lead others.

Since Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords, He has the right, in fact the obligation, to execute justice with regards to those who rule:

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord has them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.”
7 I will tell of the decree of the Lord:
He said to me, “You are my son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron,
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
(Psalm 2:4-9 NRSV emphasis mine)

Revelation makes the connection between Psalm 2 and Jesus quite clear:

15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, “King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Revelation 19:15-16 NRSV emphasis mine)

Keep reading in Revelation and you will learn what happens next to “the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of the mighty” (v18). It is not pretty.

Can you imagine that day, when the each ruler of the earth will stand before the judgement seat of Christ to give an account for how they ruled? Can you imagine the questions that will be posed to them?

  • Why did you not follow Me? Why did you not follow the example I set of servant leadership? I am the Good Shepherd, who laid down His life for the sheep. Why did you not do likewise?
  • Why did you not lead people to Me? Is it not your duty as a leader, as a shepherd, to lead your people to greener pastures? Why did you instead plunge them into darkness?
  • Why are you making excuses? Did you not notice the greener pastures? Did you not see the positive impact My people have had in the world, wherever they have been truly following Me?
  • Why are you making excuses? Did you not notice how people have been following Me for many, many, many generations. Did you seriously think Christianity was just a passing fad? Did it never cross your mind that maybe your rule and your cause was the passing fad?
  • Did you stop to consider the positive impact upon your people had you drawn close to Me? The potential was too profound to ignore the possibilities.
  • Did you stop to consider the eternal implications for you in your relationship with Me? The potential was too profound to ignore the possibility.
  • Did you put any effort at all into exploring the evidence for My claim to being your Lord? Did you ponder the evidence for the truth of Christianity? As a leader, ought you not to have taken a lead in the most important questions ever asked?

Can you imagine it? And can you imagine what would happen if rulers everywhere would seriously explore the Christian faith? Can you imagine what kind of world we would live in if rulers everywhere would repent from their sins and turn to the Lord following the example of the Good Shepherd who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NRSV)?

Final questions: Are you aware that you have people in your realm of influence? Are you aware that you may be considered a ruler of this earth? Are you aware that those same questions could be posed to you?

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
with trembling 12 kiss his feet,
or he will be angry, and you will perish in the way;
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Happy are all who take refuge in him.
(Psalm 2:10-12 NRSV)

Let us pray for those who are living in darkness. Let us pray for the rulers who plunge or keep their people in darkness. Let us be encouraged that this world’s story is far from over and that darkness will give way to light. Let us pray that we will serve well, whenever and wherever we reign, and that in doing so we will reflect light into the lives of our families, friends, and enemies.

August 5, 2014

“Lord, to whom can we go?”

I discovered this article over a week ago, and hesitated using it here because I would have to reformat it. But I kept returning to it and decided to just go for it. The blog is named Redbird’s Roost and the author also links to a large number of faith-focused blogs by women. To read this at source, click on the title below:

Is Jesus Your Kind Of Christ?

“As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” John 6:66-69 (NASB)

Some persons have a fixed notion of what the Messiah, the Christ, ought to be. He has to conform to that idea or they will not have Him. The five thousand whom Jesus fed expected a Christ who would deliver them physically from the humiliation of political bondage to Rome. Some of Jesus’ works had led them to believe that He could gain that freedom for them. A new Moses, He could feed them with bread from heaven and do other marvelous things for them. If Jesus would be that kind of Christ, they would gladly have Him.

But we read that “many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” How did that come about? Jesus simply refused to be their kind of Christ. He offered Himself to them as “the bread which came down from heaven” (John 6:14). He said other things that were strange to their ways of thinking, and it was all too much for them to take.

Have we set the terms on which we will have Jesus? Have we said to ourselves, “If Jesus does thus and so for me, I’ll follow Him”? Often what we do today is not to reject Jesus outright, but to distort His mission and message so as to get rid of Him less painfully. Perhaps we gladly accept the idea of His Saviorhood and reject His Lordship over all of life, or we gladly accept the idea of His demanding Lordship and ignore His gracious Saviorhood. Or we may do other things that minimize His real mission.

Most of us who have met Jesus would be reluctant to give Him up. He has an eternal fascination. But we may be confused and frustrated as to who and what He is and what He expects of us. Among the five thousand who heard Jesus and were fed by Him were many who forsook Him temporarily and later came back to Him to be faithful disciples. A loud minority can work havoc among a confused majority or can confuse a majority and take advantage of it. Looking for leadership, the majority often takes the ideas of a vocal minority too seriously. Suppose a few leaders had openly accepted Jesus’ teaching. Would most of the people gone along with them? We don’t know, of course. But it is quite likely. Years ago, a famous preacher presented a sermon on the theme, “The Hope of the World (Is) in Its Minorities.” But ignorant, prejudiced, selfish minorities can cause great mischief–as can majorities when confused in value judgments.

Who stirred up the crowd that wanted to make Jesus King? Who cause the confusion? Could it have been Jesus’ own disciples? They were slow to understand His teaching and His plans. Mark tells us that Jesus made His disciples go to the other side of the lake. Was it because the disciples themselves had added to the popular misunderstanding about the Messiah and about Jesus in particular? It is certainly true that sometimes Jesus’ truest friends make it difficult for others to believe in Him and take Him for what He actually is. Some potential disciples, therefore, have to wait for the air to clear a bit before they are ready to commit themselves to Jesus.

It must have been appalling when many went away from Jesus disappointed. Doubtless Jesus felt the pain of it and the disciples shared Jesus’ pain. Was this the way to win a world to God?

The disciples could have parted company with Jesus then. The situation was right. They were free. “You do not want to go away also, do you” Jesus asked.

Jesus does not force us to follow Him or to continue to follow Him. The best religion is free, spontaneous response to the promise and challenge of God’s love. The community has to compel its citizens to conform to certain forms of behavior. It does this through laws, courts, and certain judgments. However, every true Christian is a Christian by his own choice. God has given us the freedom to walk out–anytime. But Simon Peter replied to Jesus’ question, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

As far as the disciples were concerned, all escape routes were closed. The disciple, of course, could walk away from Jesus physically; they could join the departing crowd physically. Nothing could prevent that. But psychologically and spiritually they could not leave. They were too closely bound to Him by love and conviction to ever leave Him. Staying with Jesus was their hearts’ deepest desire. In Him they had discovered the depths of reality; eternal life, the experience of God.

How can we explain it when a man stands with a minority–or even alone–on some vital issue? Or doggedly goes on believing in God when others around him are losing their faith one by one? Or faces crushing tragedy without giving up? The answer is very simple: Jesus Christ has given them something–an illuminating experience of God–that brings meaning to life. Because of what Jesus has done, there is something to live for, and even die for. Simon Peter would no doubt have a hard time explaining all his reasons for continuing with Jesus, but he put his finger on the basic, the most important reason: none can measure up to Jesus Christ in answering our deepest needs, especially our need for God.


Is there a subject you’d like to see covered here? A scripture verse you’d like addressed? Another devotional blog you’d like to recommend? Leave a comment any time in the current post or better still go to this page.

August 2, 2012

Seeing a Different Set of Possibilities

You’ll notice there isn’t the usual green scripture text here today, but there is most definitely a scripture reference. This is from the blog Fibonacci Faith, written by Richard Dahlstrom, where it appeared under the title, Imagine: The Importance of Envisioning a Different World.

The authors of “Colossians Remixed” write:  If with Christ you died in your baptism to the principles of autonomous consumerism that still hold the world captive, then why do you live in a way that suggests that you are still in the iron grip of its ideological vision?  Why do you submit yourself to its regulations to consume as if there were no tomorrow, to live as if community were an impediment to personal fulfillment, to live as if everything were disposable, including relationships, the unborn, and the environment? Why do you allow this deceitful vision to still have a hold on you?  Don’t you know that copulating with the idols of this culture is like climbing into bed with a corpse that is already decomposing?”

This paraphrase of Colossians 2:20-23 is intended to shake us a awake because God knows that we fall into the slumber of the curse far too easily, which is the sleep of accepting the world in which we live as ‘normal’.  When this happens we lose our capacity to imagine a better world, which leaves us stuck in status-quo lives.  The greatest tragedy though, is that we don’t know we’re stuck, having accepted the captivity to cultural mores as “normal”.  In such a paradigm, faith is stripped of its transformative power, having been reduced to simply a matter of adding a dash of Bible reading, chastity, piety, and a few key doctrines about Christ’s deity to our “normal” lives, the way we add seasoning to an omelet; nothing changes other than the hope that things taste a little better with Jesus.

John Lennon did a better job of imagining a different world than the church has done.  What steps can we take to recapture our imagination?

1. Get out – By “out” I mean, out of the prevailing winds and waters of the culture.  Jesus withdrew to a quiet place to pray, often to the mountains.  This is perhaps more significant than we realize, not only the praying, but the withdrawing.  This is because our spirits and psyches quickly adapt to our image saturated culture, resulting in our passive acceptance of things that should horrify us.  A simple walk in the park, listening to the birds, watching the ocean, and paying attention to the rhythms of life sustained by the Creator, becomes a sort of ‘reboot’ for the soul if we practice actually paying attention and giving thanks.  These regular forays into the realm of silence and solitude create a soul attuned to how the world ought to be, so that we come to see ourselves as sojourners, foreigners, in our daily living.  We’ll recoil at the disposability of everything: relationships, plastic water bottles, the elderly and ill, employees who are reduced to ‘units of production’.  We’ll grieve over the obsession with body image that’s literally killing young girls, even as we grieve over the damage to health that comes from people sitting, eating fake food, watching TV, and calling it a life – withdrawn from sustaining sunshine, health giving food, and the vibrancy that comes from movement of body, mind, and spirit.

Perhaps the greatest impediment to imagining a world of hope and beauty is our passive acceptance of things just as they are.  They way out of that prison will always include changing the air we breathe – breaking out of the prisons of consumerism, nationalism, violence, and individualism, so that we’ll be free to inhale the life giving air of Christ’s peace, beauty, simplicity, and hope.  But this won’t happen by using our precious discretionary moments only to sit  in front of the TV, or the computer screen.  We need an alternative reality, because as it turns out, we are in fact transformed by the renewing of our minds, not by the inspiration of reality TV.

2. Become obsessed with Christ’s reign.  Jesus says something about the impossibility of serving two masters in the context of his exhortation to live more carefree, like the birds, and less like the anxious striving that usually seems to be the lot of those seeking to make their mark in this world, or at least get their fair share of economic pie.  What’s most interesting to me about this section of Jesus’ famous sermon is that Jesus says we can’t serve two masters.  It’s noteworthy that he doesn’t warn us about the danger of trying to serve the kingdom of God and the kingdom of upward mobility.  He says that you CANNOT serve both; it’s an impossibility.  Whichever one you serve, you’ll hate the other.

Wow.  That’s challenging!  If I try to have my “kingdom of this world” cake, and seek to make Christ’s reign visible, I’ll fail – every single time.  I need, then, to become obsessed with only one of these two options, and Jesus makes it clear that the best option is to choose His reign as our obsession.  This will mean that everything – my time, money, property, body, vocation, travel plans, vacation, sexuality, recreational pursuits, exercise program – can all fall under this single consideration:  “what will best make Christ’s reign visible?”  Far from being constrictive, I find this single focused approach to life to be liberating as everything is brought under the single consideration of making Christ’s reign visible.

Of course, if we’re going to go this route, we need to become obsessed with understanding the kingdom.  Otherwise we’ll create, in Jesus name, some sort of controlling legalism, or prosperity/healing thing, or obsession with creating conversions while we ignore the entire glorious physical dimension of Christ’s reign.  All of these have been tried, and they all end up being ugly.  We’d better be working hard to get it right.  This is where good reading can help, like this book, or this book, or even this book. Understanding  the kingdom, coupled with our pursuit of intimacy with Christ will conspire to create something beautiful:

An imagination saturated with a Christ formed view of our world, and some clear steps regarding our part in making it visible.

You may say that I’m a dreamer – but I’m not the only one.

Imagine that.

~Richard Dahlstrom


Book links were part of the original article; at C201, readers are encouraged to support their local Christian bookstore, if you are still fortunate enough to have one. Titles recommended were:

  • Surprised by Hope by N. T. Wright
  • The Unshakable Kingdom by E. Stanley Jones and
  • an e-book by the blog’s author, titled The Colors of Hope

Not linked, but referred to was the book, Colossians Remixed: Subverting The Empire by Brian J. Walsh and Sylvia C. Keesmatt (InterVarsity Press, 2004)