Christianity 201

January 23, 2021

Telling God We’re Serious About Him

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

Obedient and Free

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke 11:28

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

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

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

November 10, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” – Isaiah 2:3 NIV

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

It should excite us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you a Theophilus?

 

 

July 20, 2020

Incomplete Devotion

Today we’re introducing a source which is new to us, Meanderings of a Minister by Pastor Jack Jacob. (I tried to learn more, but couldn’t 100% map his name to a church site which mentioned the blog.) There are some great articles here which fit in well with what we do here, though we only repeat authors every six months. I hope you’ll click through to his site and read one or two more. Click the header below to send Jack some traffic and encouragement and read the article there.

Not Complete

The Lord said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in executing what is right in My eyes, and have done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in My heart, your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.” But Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart; he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel sin. (2 Kings 10:30–31, NASB95)

Many people do not know the name, Jehu.  Jehu was king in Israel and was used of God to do some disturbing and amazing things.  Years prior, God had told King Ahab that his sins would cause his family to be decimated and he would no longer have a male descendant to be on the throne after him.  Ahab had repented and God said He would relent until the life of Ahab’s son.  Jehu carried out that punishment.

Jehu went even further in carrying out God’s plans for revival of true worship by destroying idols, tearing down shrines to other gods, and killing those who were leading Israel to worship other gods.  He went throughout the land leading a revival.  He even got a young man to go with him to witness the purifying of religion in Israel.  In 2 Kings 10:30-31, God told Jehu that he had done well in executing the justice and judgment of God on Ahab and in leading the people to do right in their worship and individual lives.

With all the good and big things Jehu did for God, 2 Kings 10:31 tells us that he was not careful to walk in the Law of the Lord, the God if Israel, “with all his heart.”  In other words, while he had been faithful in the public, external, or “big” things, he was not careful to let that be translated into devotion with his heart.  He had failed to follow God in his own personal devotion to God and in the consistency of his walk with God.  How could this be?

When Solomon died, Rehoboam became king of Israel.  When he failed to use wisdom, and in accordance with God’s warning to Solomon, the kingdom split in two with ten tribes following Jeroboam and retaining the name of Israel.  The remaining two tribes remained loyal to the house of David and became Judah.  Jerusalem was in Judah.  That would mean for those who had sided with Jeroboam, they would have to travel to Jerusalem to worship to obey the Law.  Jeroboam did not want this to happen probably from fear of losing control of them or a desire on the side of the people to reunify after a while, so he had two golden calves built and placed them in the cities of Bethel and Dan.  He told Israel that these idols were the god that had delivered them from Egypt and insisted they worship the idols instead of going to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple where God had told them to go.

As good as Jehu had done on the bigger, more public issues, he had allowed this to continue and was inconsistent in the reforms he had instituted.  God’s evaluation is in 2 Kings 10:31.  He had done great in the bigger things, but not in his heart or the things of personal devotion.

If we are not careful, we will be tempted follow the same pattern.  We will do well in the larger, public issues like teaching our Sunday School classes, singing in the choir, or serving as a deacon and miss out on consistency in our private devotion to God.  We do not have to be hypocrites for this to settle into our lives.  Sometimes, it is just a matter of losing focus and beginning to be drawn into habits or patterns of behavior that are less consistent than the full devotion God deserves from us.

What “gods” have crept into your heart, your home, your habits, your health, or other areas that are not as consistent as your church attendance, giving, or service?  Let’s pray God will work in us to make us complete and filled up with Him and His Holy Spirit.


Unrelated: Earlier today our parent blog, Thinking Out Loud posted an article about the Bible translation used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the New World Translation. Although the article was a somewhat superficial look at the translation, and not their doctrine, some of you may be interested in reading it and comparing the wording of popular verses. If so, click this link.

May 25, 2020

God Directs Our Paths | Keeping Our First Love

This is our eighth time highlighting the writing of Mark McIntyre at Attempts at Honesty. I love his tag line, “Reflections on the interplay of the Bible and Culture.” That should be where most of us live!

Because these pieces are shorter, today you’re getting a 2-for-1 special! As always, you’re asked to click the article headers below and read these at his site.

Along the right paths

One of the advantages of reading a different version of the Bible, one that you are not familiar with, is that a different reading can trigger an insight that you never saw before.

This happened to me this morning as I read Psalm 23 in the Christian Standard Bible. In that translation the verse 3 reads:

He renews my life;
he leads me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.

Psalm 23:3 (CSB)

I’m not enough of a Hebrew scholar to know if “right paths” or “paths of righteousness” is the better translation. But I am encouraged by the CSB translation.

It is easy to wonder sometimes if we missed a sign post along the way. Things don’t turn out the way we thought they would when we were in high school or college. The actuality may look very different than what we envisioned.

But, David reminds us in this Psalm that God remains the Good Shepherd who guides us and provides for us. If we continue to look to him, especially when circumstances are difficult, we can be assured that he will lead us onto the right path.

From Psalm 23:3, I surmise that the path that we’ve been on has been the right path. We may have needed rescuing after getting lost, but we can trust that God knew about it before hand and despite our foibles has kept us on the correct path.

I will again share my favorite verse in Scripture, Philippians 1:6:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:6 (ESV)

If we follow the Good Shepherd we can’t get lost.


You have left your first love

The haunting words of the title of this post are taken from Revelation 2:4 in the middle of Jesus’ message to the Church in Ephesus. The full verse says,

But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

Revelation 2:4 (NASB)

The message to this church starts off so well. I can visualize the faces of the Ephesians as they first heard the message. I see the barely suppressed smiles as they heard their toil and perseverance praised by their Lord. Image the sense of satisfaction as their diligence in keeping the teaching pure was highlighted along with their willingness and ability to combat error.

There was much good that was going on in this church. But then their satisfaction turned to horror as they heard, “But I have this against you . . .”

They had lost their first love.

How could this happen? How could they be so on track theologically and be so wrong relationally? It is not just an academic question. This is a question that church leaders should be asking in every culture and in every generation because we are prone to repeat this error.

We all have an inner Pharisee that can reshape our thinking and behavior and cause us to repeat the Ephesians’ error. We need to be vigilant to monitor what we do and also be vigilant to know when our motives for doing the right thing become wrong.

There is another danger for us. We are also prone to over correcting and swinging too far the other way. We can be so relational that we don’t offer the confrontation that is necessary to keep the church grounded in a solid understanding of “what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man” (WSC Question 3).

I have been in churches that were so focused on being loving that they allowed error to propagate within the members and did little or nothing to correct it. Lives were damaged as a result of the leaders’ negligence.

Those who over-correct in this way, while claiming love as their motivation have also lost their first love because that love should be focused on the one who is the Truth (John 14:6). Jesus was able to speak the truth at all times and to every person with whom he had contact. He also had the ability to make them feel loved as he did it.

By allowing either extreme to flourish in our churches, we are demonstrating that we have lost our first Love. If we love the one who gives the perfect example of unapologetically standing for the truth of Scripture while at the same time demonstrating love for those he encountered, then we will constantly seek to follow his example and “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).

I feel led to point out that the “sinners” were the ones that loved Jesus and were permanently changed by that love. The truth was both relational and confrontational.

 

March 9, 2019

To Help You Remember

Today we’re back at the blog Brothers of the Book, written by Bill Hood. He’s currently doing a study on the book of Numbers. I read several of the articles in preparation for choosing this one. Click the header below to read at the source.

Tassels Of Remembrance

Numbers 15

God commanded the Israelites make “Tassels of Remembrance” so that they would forget about Him.

At the end of today’s reading God tells Moses to have the people of Israel make tassels on the corners of their garments. They are to look at these tassels and remember all the commandments of the Lord.

Numbers 15:37-40 ESV
“The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after. So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God.”

Why were they to remember the commandments of the Lord? They needed to remember these commandments so they wouldn’t chase after their own self-centered desires which would lead them away from God. They were to separate themselves from the world and consecrate themselves to God; that is what it means to “be holy to your God”. Doing things our own way and in our own power was a problem then just as it is today. We forget who God is, what He has done, and what He has promised to do in the future.

This forgetfulness brought devastating consequences for the people of Israel. God brought them out of Egypt, led them safely through the wilderness, and brought them to the land He had promised them. The people sent spies into this Promised Land who came back and said “Be afraid! Be very afraid! Don’t go into the Promised Land for there be giants!” Staring at the obstacles we face in life can only do one thing, cause us to take our eyes off of God. If you are staring at your problems, you are not looking to God. We have extremely short memories. If we take our eyes off of God, we tend to forget about Him and all that He has done and can do.

In their own power, the Israelites could never have taken control of Canaan. Separate from God, they had every reason to be afraid, but they were not separate from God. God had led them here and had gone with them and would continue to go with them. How could they forget that? Only two of the spies said “Hey the land is great let’s go get it for God is with us”.

Numbers 14:6-9 ESV
“And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.”

What was the consequence of the Israelites refusing to take the Promised Land as God instructed?

Numbers 14:30 ESV
“not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.”

God killed all of the spies except for Caleb and Joshua – that’s how grievously they had sinned against Him. The rest of the Israelites age 20 and above were condemned to die in the wilderness, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua once again.

Later in today’s reading we see a man who ignored God’s prohibition against work on the Sabbath. He was found collecting sticks. The man was put to death because He forgot to observe God’s commandment. He forgot about God and it killed him. When we take our eyes off of God, when we forget about Him, we end up far from Him – the consequences of that are staggering. God loves us and He doesn’t want us to forget about Him for our own sake. He commanded the Israelites to put tassels on their garments as a way to keep Him constantly on their mind. When Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment He said this:

Matthew 22:37 ESV
“…You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

All your heart, all your soul and all your MIND. God is supposed to be first in your life. How can you forget about that which is the highest priority in your life? I don’t know, but we seem to do it every day. Or is it that we say God is number one when He really isn’t? Does what we say we believe match what we do? Brothers, it is easy for us to forget about God. The world around us is full of noisy distractions. We need to put constant reminders of God before our eyes. We need to have our own tassels of remembrance!

Vivere Victorem! (Live Victorious!)

Your brother and servant in Christ,
Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

November 30, 2018

Delighting in the Way God Works

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Back in May we introduced you to the writing of Melody who has been writing devotions at In Pleasant Places for almost six years. Her blog started from correspondence she was sharing with a friend, as she explained in her story. To read today’s article at her blog, click the title below.

To See More of Our God – Psalm 119:16

“I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.”

Psalm 119:16

This verse compelled a specific prayer of my heart: Lord, may I delight in Your statutes.

Not just obeying them because I know I’m supposed to – although we are to exercise discipline to obey even when we don’t “feel” like it – but seeking to delight in them.

Including the very difficult ones. Those we don’t understand. Those that seem impossible. Those that quite honestly can hurt to follow.

Like forgiving someone who appears unapologetic and unrepentant, with no indication of turning. Who has cut so deeply. May I delight to forgive, even under these circumstances.

Delight not because it is fun or easy, and not because of pride or self-righteousness (which would be sin on my part) – but because it shows me more of the Lord.

Delight because as I feel the deep hurt and wrestle with the decision to forgive, to love, I gain a deeper understanding of my God’s character.

Because this is who our God is. And isn’t that amazing? This is what the Living God, Creator and Ruler of all things – this is what He does. This is what He chooses.

He forgives. He loves. Even at great personal cost. He went through such pain, such suffering, to forgive sinners who had rejected Him and given Him no reason to show mercy. Let alone to show favor, to offer to bring them in as beloved children.

When I am hurt and offended, when I am faced with the command to forgive, to bless, to show compassion, I gain a glimpse of my Savior. Of His choice. Of His greatness and the greatness of His love. The power of it to overcome any desire for retaliation. That He would desire forgiveness and restoration, that He would choose patience in order to give so many the choice to reconcile instead of delivering the justice so rightfully due to them – so rightfully due to me (2 Peter 3:9, 15).

What great, powerful love. What astounding character. What strength to choose forgiveness when it demands so much. This is our God. This is the Savior by whose name we are called. The name above all names, because of what He accomplished on the cross.

We grasp that more deeply when we walk through a situation that brings us even an inkling of His suffering.

This is the delight I see within the statutes of our God, within the commands of how we are to walk through this life…it isn’t just some list of rules. He didn’t outline them in order to make our life difficult. It is insight into who our God is. There is purpose in each command, and it is all for our good and to display His goodness and glory and salvation to the world. So they will see Him.

O Lord, may I delight in Your statutes, delight to follow them, because they show me more of who You are. More of Your character, which is holy, righteous, blameless, faithful, pure, steadfast, and filled with powerful love. May I delight to see You here, and delight to know more deeply how holy and wonderful You are as I follow in Your footsteps. Requiring Your strength to walk in Your ways, because they are so far above my broken, fallen capabilities. Highlighting the great beauty of You and stirring renewed wonder at how You are molding me into Your character, to reflect that beauty in this vessel of clay. So may I delight. Delight to see You. Delight to walk with You in the light, experiencing You in the process, realizing the choices Jesus made as one who was fully human and fully God, and delight to know You more as a result.

November 12, 2018

The Bridegroom Prepares the Way for the Bride

Today we’re paying a return visit to Dylan Tarpley at the blog One Thing. He’s currently working his way very carefully through Song of Songs, with several blog posts devoted to a single verse. Click the title below to read at source.

Hephzibah | A Bridal Paradigm

Growing up in church, I only remember hearing people talk about God as a righteous, angry judge. While this is certainly a part of who He is, that is the only side of Him that I ever knew. This only produced fear, guilt, and shame in my heart. No matter how often I heard about how God was angry with my sin, it never seemed to help me grow out of the sin patterns that were in my life. I just ended up like Adam who tried to cover his sin and hide from the presence of God.

For others, God is a distant being that is uninterested and not involved in their lives on earth. He spoke the earth into existence and then sat back as it took its course. In this view, God has no interaction with us on earth.

While there are many facets of who God is, I believe that the most paramount way to view God is through the eyes of a bride who is passionately in love with her Bridegroom King. While God may act as a righteous judge who is angry because of sin, He is also a tender Father who longs to walk with us in the cool of the day, just as He did with Adam in the garden.

As a young man, I remember being afraid that my dad would get mad at me. This had a measure of impact on the way that I behaved, but for the most part I just kept doing the same things. I would just try to hide it from him. There came a transition though as I grew in maturity to where I was no longer afraid of him being angry with me. Rather, I actually wanted to please him. I wanted to make him proud of the decisions I made. I assure you that one was much easier than the other, and made for a much better relationship between us. I have found this in marriage as well. Your marriage will always be a struggle if you are constantly afraid that your spouse is going to leave you or be angry with you. However, I have found marriage to be easy as long as you are in love. The same is true in our relationship with Jesus. We must mature to a place where our obedience is no longer only motivated by fear, but instead by love. This is the only way to experience true holiness.

It’s easy for most people to recognize their affection for God. In one sense, it is easy to love God. He’s holy, He’s perfect, He’s beautiful. What is perhaps more difficult is for people to understand God’s affection towards them. We find this in the beginning of the Song when the Shulamite begins to explain to the Beloved, “I am dark!” This type of thinking has caused many people to reject the love of God in their lives because of a false humility and a faulty way of thinking that says they are dark in the eyes of God.

As we watch Jesus prepare for His ministry on earth, there is an interesting transaction that takes place between Him and the Father. In Luke 3, the heavens are opened and the Father declares, “You are my beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.” Even Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God, had to be baptized into beloved identity before operating in the fullness of what was intended for Him. We must begin to ask ourselves, if Jesus needed to receive affirmation from His Father, how badly do we?

David modeled this in his life as the man after God’s heart. After living in a compromised state for some time in Ziklag, God delivers David from harm and David’s response is profound. He says in Psalm 18:19, “He delivered me because He delighted in me.” If we are honest, none of us would respond this way. We would put ourselves in some sort of Spiritual time out where we would make ourselves suffer for awhile, beating ourselves up because of our mistakes. Not David though. He was so rooted in beloved identity that even in a season of compromise, He was confident that God delighted in Him.

One of my favorite illustrations of this is found in Isaiah 62:4-5

You shall no longer be termed Forsaken,
Nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate;
But you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah;
For the Lord delights in you,
And your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a virgin,
So shall your sons marry you;
And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
So shall your God rejoice over you.

What a promise! There are two words that I want you to focus on: Hephzibah and Beulah. Hephzibah means, “My delight is in her.” Beulah means, “married.” Many of us are content with the idea that He no longer calls us forsaken or desolate. We’re simply happy with the idea that He has forgiven us. Jesus longs for much more though. He does not simply want to bring you out of your desolation, He wants to give you a new name called “Delightful” and “Married.”

The entire story line of the Bible was built around a Bridegroom preparing a way for His bride. What if I told you that there was more to this journey than only going to heaven, but that Jesus died so that He could marry you here and now? It sounds too good to be true, huh? I agree, and that’s the best part. Dr. Brian Simmons has an interesting commentary on Jesus’ declaration on the cross, “It is finished!” Did you know that it was possible that Jesus actually says, “It is finished, my bride!” Jesus declared that it was the joy set before Him that empowered Him to endure the cross. You were that joy. As He was beaten and tortured, He was filled with the joy of one day being married to you.

I am praying this prayer tonight, “Jesus, sing your song of love over my life. Baptize me in beloved identity. I want to know how You feel about me.” I encourage you to begin to meditate on this idea that Jesus died, not only so that you go to heaven when you die, but that He could be married to you, today. You are always on His mind. I want you to get alone with Him and allow His love to wash over you as you begin to feel His affection for you as His bride. The Spirit and the bride say, “Come, Lord Jesus. Come.”

July 24, 2018

Strengthening Our Minds

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Today we’re paying a return visit to the Canadian devotional blog, Partners in Hope Today.

I Will Strengthen My Mind

Just for today I will strengthen my mind. I will take a few minutes to read and meditate on God’s word, seeking God’s perspective for my life today. I will take note of one helpful thing God is saying to me and seek to behave accordingly.

There are many ways we can interact with God’s word on a regular basis. Most individuals in recovery start their day early with a bit of quiet time and read a selection from the Bible, from the Big Book, or from a meditation book – often a combination. It doesn’t matter if the words are from a traditional book or from an app on our smart phone, these truths can help us focus on a positive agenda for the day.

Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me …Then the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:9 NLT)

Our minds have long been patterned on the negative and the self-centered. By starting the day with a desire to hear from God we give ourselves fresh eyes with which to see and understand life in us and around us. God has plans for us to have a meaningful day and have a positive influence on every person and situation we encounter. We read God’s Word to get to know God and to know these good plans. Spending time with God also helps us learn His principles for life and relationship and understand how He acts on our behalf.

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.

Jesus said: “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

(James 1:22 NLT, Matthew 7:24 NIV)

Real change happens for us when we don’t just get to know God’s will but actually put it into practice. Each time we read God’s Word it’s important to ask Him to show us what He wants us to know and what He wants us to do with what He is teaching us.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank you for taking time to meet with me today as I read Your Word.   Help me to understand what You are saying to me. Fill me with courage and power to put what I read into practice. Amen

Audio for JUST FOR TODAY – I Will Strengthen My Mind


Here’s a bonus devotional from the same blog:

The Exact Nature of our Wrongs

The exact nature of our wrongs is rooted in the lie that our problems are caused by what is around us rather than what is within us. It’s time to admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being that our way of dealing with problems does not solve them. Doing things our way creates greater problems for us and for those around us.  It’s time to confess that we cannot do life on our own and to seek God to help us change our ways.

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. I’ve promised it once, and I’ll promise it again: I will obey your righteous regulations. I have suffered much, O Lord; restore my life again as you promised. (Psalm 119:105-107 NLT)

God’s instructions should be our first choice every time rather than our “choice of last resort.” We need to learn from God’s word and listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit within us. We need to heed the advice of mentors and others who have faithfully walked with God for some time. With God’s help we can put into practice all that we have learned.

It’s time to agree with God about the exact nature of our wrongs. It’s time to admit that we are guilty of wrong thinking and wrong behaving.

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. (1 John 1:8-9 NLT).

When we finally face the reality of our sins it is helpful to recall God’s loving and merciful nature. No sin is too great to be forgiven. Jesus has already paid the price for sin with his death on the cross.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I admit that I cannot do life on my own. I need Your help. I turn away from my independent and self-centered way of living. I choose to trust and follow Your way to a purposeful life. Amen

Audio for THE EXACT NATURE OF OUR WRONGS

 

December 17, 2017

Sunday Worship

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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When we started this series, I emphasized that it was to be about more than just music, because both personal and corporate worship is more than just what we sing. As I thought about this week’s column, I realized that one person who epitomizes this wider view of worship is Rory Norland, whose website is Heart of the Artist.

In On Earth as it is in Heaven (Zondervan) he writes the following; this is an excerpt from an excerpt, click the link below to read everything.

Do What Matters Most: Make Worship a Priority

Top Priority

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4). David’s devotion to worship oozes from this verse. More than anything, David wanted to bask in the beauty of God’s presence. He was enamored with God’s glory. The “one thing” David longing is for is intimacy with God and a chance to worship his heavenly Father. As you probably picked up … that first principle we discover about David’s worship involves priorities. David made worship his top priority.

Because worship was such a high priority for David, he bristled whenever God wasn’t given the honor he deserved. What stirred David to take on Goliath was not the threat he posed to Israel but the giant’s blatant disrespect for Jehovah, Israel’s God. David asked angrily, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26). God’s glory and reputation were at stake, and David felt compelled to take action. Upon confronting the Terminator from Gath, David shouted, “This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand … that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel” (1 Samuel 17:46). You can always discern your priorities, for better or worse, by what angers you or stirs you, what frustrates you and what excites you. Honoring God was the utmost priority for David.

As king, David’s reign over Israel was marked significantly by the prominent attention he gave to worship. He brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem and endeavored to build a temple because he wanted to restore worship as the centerpiece of Jewish life. David was also the first to incorporate music as a regular fixture in Israel’s worship. He appointed singers and instrumentalists (1 Chronicles 15:16 – 24; 16:4 – 7; 25:1 – 8; 2 Chronicles 8:14), formed bands and choirs (2 Chronicles 29:25 – 26), pioneered antiphonal singing where one group sings and another echoes in response (Nehemiah 12:24), and even introduced new instruments into the worship service (1 Chronicles 23:5). On occasion, David even led his people in worship (1 Chronicles 16:8 – 36; 29:10 – 22). Israel never had a king as devoted to worshiping God as David was.

Why Make Worship a Priority?

David made worship a priority because he understood that we are created, commanded, called, compelled, and destined to worship. Because God was his ultimate priority, worship was his primary activity.

Created to Worship

In Isaiah, God refers to his people as those who are “called by my name, whom I created for my glory” and those “I formed for myself that they might declare my praise” (Isaiah 43:7, 21). First Peter 2:9 confirms that you and I were created to worship God: “But you are a chosen [ people], a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (emphasis added). If you love to worship, if it feels right to you, it’s because you’re doing what you were created to do.


Other excerpts from the book:

“Why does the Bible keep nagging us to give thanks? It’s because we quickly forget all that God has done for us; we take him for granted. According to Romans 1:21, when we fail to honor God and give him thanks, our hearts become darkened. Indeed, if left unchecked, ingratitude leads to negativity, bitterness, cynicism, and despair.”

“We too need to scour the Bible to learn how God wants to be worshiped. For it doesn’t matter how you and I want to praise God. It’s not ultimately important whether worship makes us feel good or if the music is to our liking. True worship must always be offered on God’s terms, not ours. So we need to learn how God wants to be worshiped.”

[Source]

April 12, 2017

Is it Gratitude or Is it Love?

Ronnie Dauber is a Christian author who lives in Canada with her family. She has written several young adult novels and six Inspirational books. We’re introducing here today at C201 for the first time.

When I started reading this article, I thought it was rather elementary, but then I looked at the central question — gratitude vs. love — and I started to really examine my own heart. In what follows she says love isn’t an automatic response, “like sending out Christmas cards where we receive one from somebody and then send one back out of response because it’s the right thing to do.” We have to get past that and know that “we are only able to praise Him and worship Him from our heart—and we can only do that when we truly love Him.”

Click the title below to read at source — it’s more visually interesting that way — and look around the rest of her website.

Gratitude or Love

As Christians, we are supposed to love God, but how many of us actually know why we love God? Sometimes we get confused between the gift and the giver and we tend to value the gifts and the promises more than we value the actual One who gives them to us. So we need to know our own heart and what our response is to God: is it gratitude for the blessings or love because He is our Father?

Many of us have been at a store at some time or another and found ourselves to be slightly short in cash when we’re paying for our purchase. We fret and get embarrassed and then a total stranger will step in and give us that bit of money and not want anything in return. They were being very kind and understanding in our situation and they acted in a totally Christian way. But do we love them for their gift or are we just very grateful for their kindness?

It’s very easy in this materialistic world to confuse gratitude with love, and we need to understand what love is and why we love God. And we need to know the difference because if what we feel for God is not love, then we could be deceiving ourselves.

We love God because He first loved us! But this love is not an auto response—it’s a heartfelt commitment. This isn’t like sending out Christmas cards where we receive one from somebody and then send one back out of response because it’s the right thing to do. And it isn’t like an offering plate where we see others putting bills into the offering and then decide that we really should do the same. Loving God is not an auto-response and it’s not an obligation.

When God says that He loved us first, He means that He really loved us first! He loved us when we were so deep into sin that we mocked Him and cursed Him. He loved us because He created us and He knows that sin has distorted our heart and that there is deathly punishment for that sin. But—because He loves us—He is willing to forgive us for everything we’ve done against Him when we accept His salvation. Jesus actually died that horrific death on the cross because He loves us. He didn’t do it just to be a recognized hero. He wanted us to live! He wanted to take upon Himself all of our sins so that we wouldn’t have to stand in judgment and be punished for them one day.

Salvation is personal; it’s not an automatic pardon for everyone. Jesus died for everyone, but not everyone is saved. To receive His salvation, we need to accept and believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross and then rose again on the third day and now sits on the right hand of God in Heaven. Salvation requires repentance and submission to Christ. It’s not automatic. We must receive it and when we do, we will feel His love for us in our heart and we will want to love Him back.

  • We love him, because He first loved us.—1 John 4:19

Jesus became the atonement for the sins of every single person ever born, which means that He died for everyone’s sins, but not everyone will receive it. The Inclusion religion says that everyone is automatically saved and that God accepts us just as we are, sin and all, but the Bible says that we must repent and accept Jesus as Lord and be born again into the Kingdom of God.

  • For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.—Matthew 26:28

Jesus is the only way for any of us to get to God, our Father. He provided salvation out of love for His Father and out of love for those who the Father loves. That’s you and me! And all we have to do is receive it and accept it and no longer want to belong to this world. We become part of His elect family and we wait for Jesus to return as King. But as we wait, we share the love with others and we treat them with the same love and compassion that God has extended to us.

  • Jesus saith unto him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.”—John 14:6

This is God’s amazing love for us! And there is no one more deserving of our praise and worship than God! And we are only able to praise Him and worship Him from our heart—and we can only do that when we truly love Him. And our praise and worship to Him is our heartfelt response to His love for us, and so in our heart we become one with Him and His love lives in us. God did what He promised He would do; He took our sins away at the cross and finished His plan of redemption for us.

Confusion comes when preachers focus on what God will do for us now that we’re saved, rather than on what He did for us so we could be saved. We are grateful for the blessings that God gives us, but we don’t love Him only because of the blessings. Our love for God is true when we can love Him even without the blessings because He is our Heavenly Father and He loves us.

When we get saved we realize in our heart all that God went through to save us from sin, and so we are able to love God because of this love that He has always had for us. We are moved with compassion! Our hearts are filled with gratitude for this gift of life that He has given to us through Jesus. And then we can also realize that He wants to bless us and we can receive the blessings as a child. We read the Bible and know what His promises to His children are, and we can expect and trust that God will take care of us just as He promised He would. All these things are given to us because God loves us and we now belong to Him.

But how can we be sure that we really love God and are not just seeking the blessings? When we really love God, we crave to study the Bible so we can know Him, and then we obey His instructions for us and we don’t try to change any part of His law to suit ourselves. We are totally sold out to God and follow Him all the way, and we’ll see that our heart becomes filled with the same passion for the lost souls of this world as His heart was for us when we were still lost. We will want to share the gospel with others, and we’ll want to help people, and we’ll want to be part of the ministries of God that go out into the world and preach the gospel of Christ. We will love people with the same passion as God loves us and we’ll know that’s what in our heart is a true love for God!

  • If you love Me, keep My commandments.—John 14:15

 

February 5, 2017

The Book of the Law Was Lost

by Russell Young

During the time of the kings of Judah, the Book of the Law became lost.  This is a curious thing.  By King Josiah’s time the temple had fallen into a state of disrepair and with its neglect, any regard for the law as given to Moses from God. The Book had been in the temple all along but had not been seen; its value had become unrecognized. However, the kings had been practicing a form of religion.  They had been honoring Baal, the sun, moon and constellations, Molech, Ashtoreth, Chemosh, and Milcom.  The hearts of the people had been corrupted by the worship the gods that had been introduced by Solomon for his many wives.

When King Josiah heard that the Book of the Law had been found, he ordered that it be read to all the people from the least to the greatest and he “renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD—“to follow the LORD and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant.” (2 Kings 23:3 NIV) This was the everlasting covenant; it will never be aborted.

The LORD prophesied through Isaiah that he will bring the earth to destruction because it “has been defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant.” (Isaiah 24:5 NIV) This condemnation rests on those of the church age since it refers to the end times or the time of the destruction of the earth.

By that time, the Book will have been lost again—at least in the hearts, minds, and practices of the world’s people. Paul has prophesied that in the last days they will “[have] a form of godliness but denying its power.” (2 Tim 3:5 NIV) Paul was speaking to those who were practicing a form of religion, but their religion lacked any power—much like the people of King Josiah’s time. It might be wise not to think of Paul’s statement as referring to strange gods, but to dishonouring practice concerning the requirements of the living God.  Peter wrote that “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” (1 Pet 1:3 NIV) That is, the Holy Spirit has been given us so that everything we need for life and godliness is available. Paul cautioned Timothy to stay away from those who neglect the power of God. (2 Tim 3:5)

Is the church of today practicing a form of godliness that lacks the power of the Spirit? Has the Book been lost again even in the understanding of people of people that have many copies of the Bible within their own homes?

Those of the church should not be confused; they do not have to live under the requirements of the Old Covenant.  They have been freed from it, but they are still required to love the lord their God with all their mind, soul, and heart. (Mt 22:37) and loving him requires obedience to him. (Jn 14: 23, 24) Those in the church are assured that the requirements of the everlasting covenant, the law and the statutes, will be fulfilled within the framework of the New Covenant. “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law (the Old Covenant)” (Gal 5:18 NIV) Paul has written, “And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8: 3─4 NIV)

Paul’s teaching to Timothy was that many will have a form of godliness but that form would lack the power of the Spirit. That is, in the end people will have accepted release from the bondage of the Old Covenant, but will not have committed themselves to the law of the Spirit (Rom 8:2) or to the sovereignty of God through the New Covenant.  This is serious neglect. Such practices that neglect the sovereignty of God in their lives will transpire because the “priests” of the New Covenant will have allowed it to exist, just as the priests of kings of Judah had allowed the teaching of the Book of the Law to be abandoned. For the everlasting covenant to be fulfilled, the Book will have to be found again and according to Isaiah’s prophecy, it is evident that the truths of the Book will be permanently lost resulting in the earth’s destruction.

The Lord will be satisfied with nothing less than one’s love for him with all the heart, soul, and mind.  Those who are “lukewarm” he will spit out of his mouth. (Rev 3:19) It is only through the power of the Spirit that righteousness leading to holiness can be achieved and without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Heb 12:14) Believers need to search their houses and find the Book again if it has been neglected or lost.


eternal-salvation-russell-youngRussell Young is a weekly contributor to Christianity 201 and the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514 $17.99 US

October 21, 2015

Commit Before You Step Out

Life and God. Before You Take Another Step . . .

by Clarke Dixon

There is a God, but religion is for those who are into that kind of thing. Or so would say many people who go through life believing in God without much of an understanding of who God is. They believe that God exists with a kind of “there is Someone out there watching over us,” but as for being able to describe God, they would rather leave that for the fanatics. It is a bit like those who own a car, but leave the tinkering to the mechanic, or own a home, but leave the renovations to the handyman. As for knowing much about God, leave it to the pastors and Jesus-freaks. Leave it to the people who are “into” that kind of thing. But is this enough? Is wise to go through life with such an ambiguous sense of who God is and what God is like?

Following forty years of wandering in the desert, the people of God stand ready to enter the promised land. This is to be their next step, yet they are not quite ready just yet. Before they take this big step they must prepare their hearts and minds spiritually, which is why Moses gives a series of addresses, or sermons, which are collected together as the book of Deuteronomy. Part of what they need to hear is the following:

1 Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the LORD your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy . . . You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:1,5 emphasis mine)

Before God’s people can take the next big step, they must commit to loving God with all they’ve got and with all that they are. The first thing to note is that it is very difficult to love someone in such a way if you don’t know them. And we should note that in this very verse, God has already made clear who it is they must love. It is “The LORD” that is to be loved. Whenever we encounter “The LORD” all in capitals in our English Bible translations we must understand that this is standing in place of the name God has given for Himself. This name is considered so holy that God’s people, especially among our friends in Jewish circles, do not dare pronounce it. So we say “the LORD” instead. The point is that this is not God in some generic sense that is to be loved. This is a very personal God who has revealed Himself, making Himself known, even by name. God’s people will not be taking another step without committing to loving this very God they are in relationship with. There is no ambiguity at all here about who God is.

Furthermore, this call to love is introduced with an emphasis on the identity of God:

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 emphasis mine)

In order to love the LORD, you must know the LORD. Notice that Moses does not say, “There is a God” which ends up being a rather vague statement, but rather and more specifically, “The LORD is our God.” And it is “the LORD alone” who is our God, not some other god. The identity of God is not in question for God’s people as they prepare for their next step. There is no ambiguity at all here about Who God is.

Furthermore, in knowing the Lord God’s people will fear the Lord:

1 Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the LORD your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, 2 so that you and your children and your children’s children may fear the LORD your God all the days of your life. (Deuteronomy 6:1-2 emphasis mine)

You cannot fear, or give the highest reverence and honour to, God if you have an ambiguous idea of who God is. As they stood ready to enter the promised land, God’s people knew exactly whom they were to fear.

Furthermore, in fearing the LORD God’s people will obey the LORD:

1 Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, 2 so that you and your children and your children’s children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. 3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. (Deuteronomy 6:1-3 emphasis mine)

You cannot obey God if you have a vary vague notion of who God is. As they stood ready to enter the promised land God’s people knew exactly whom they were to obey, and what laws He had given.

Furthermore, in loving, knowing, fearing, and obeying the LORD, God’s people will commit to always readying the next generation for the same:

6 Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7 Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9 and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)

You will be of no help to the next generation in learning to love, know, fear, and obey God if your knowledge of Him is very vague. As they stood ready to enter the promised land, God’s people knew exactly whom they were to nurture their children’s faith in.

As they stood ready for the next step, God’s people had a very specific knowledge of God. He is the One who rescued them from Egypt, He is the One who led them these last forty years, He is the One who revealed His name to them, He is the One who revealed His law to them, He is the One who is keeping His covenant promises. He is the One who will go with them into the promised land. He is the Creator. No ambiguous knowledge of God here.

And we know even more about God today. He is the One who came to us in Jesus Christ to teach us how to live, to show us how to love, to redeem us through His death, to give us hope through His resurrection, and to call us through His Spirit. There is so much more we could say about the identity of God, but I will just refer you to the entire Bible to find out more. For now, let me encourage you to not take another step in life without first taking a leap into the arms of Jesus. There is no need to go forward with an ambiguous sense of who God is. You can forward in relationship. You might leave fixing cars to mechanics and renovations to a handyman, but don’t leave knowledge of God to those who are “into that kind of thing.” You are the car in need of repairs, you are the renovation project. God is the mechanic, God is the handyman. Don’t take another step without leaping into His arms. You can face each step ahead, even if that step is forward into death, with God’s presence, with a knowledge of God, knowing and experiencing His power and love.

All Scripture references are taken from the NRSV

Clarke Dixon 10 21 15

May 25, 2015

When Love Output Exceeds Love Input

Matt. 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

We make a point to try to revisit writers who have appeared here before. Such is the case with Mark McIntyre at the blog Attempts at Honesty. To read this at source, click the title below.

water pumpLove, duty and honor

When a pump tries to put out more water than it takes in, it experiences a condition called cavitation. The end result is that the internal turbulence caused by the cavitation tears up the pump and eventually renders the pump useless. The pump only works well when it takes in as much as it tries to put out.

I find a cavitating pump a fitting metaphor for what I’ve observed in churches over the years. The Apostle John tells us in 1 John 4:19 that we love because God loved us first. John also tells us in John 13:35 that love is to be the distinguishing mark of the church. Jesus himself told us that the two great commands are to love God and love our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40).

We are commanded to love, but the source of that love must be God himself. I have firsthand experience of what happens when the church tries to convey love without relying on God as the source of that love.

Without reliance upon God as the source of love, the church (and the individuals that make up the church) tends to replace love with duty or honor. Duty is a sense of responsibility to others. Honor is an attempt at maintaining a reputation. One is focused outward the other is focused inward.

Both duty and honor are good things in themselves. There is nothing wrong with having a proper sense of responsibility to our fellow man. I see the connection between duty and fulfillment of the second command to love your neighbor. There is also nothing wrong with wanting to have a good reputation. One of the qualifications that the Apostle Paul gives us for a church leader is that he is to be a man of good reputation (1 Timothy 3:2).

The problem is that even these good things are no substitute for experiencing and conveying the love that God has for us. Duty without love becomes a hard, unyielding taskmaster. How many times have I seen people “serving” in church with little joy and even less fruit? Duty without love produces zombie Christians who lurch around but are not fully alive.

Honor without love becomes narcissistic or forces one into very superficial relationships. I cannot let you too near to me if I want to maintain the illusion that I have everything under control. Therein lies the pressure to be superficial. The narcissistic tendency manifests itself in the “look at me” aspect that rears it’s head in churches. People want to be seen “doing ministry” and get hooked on the affirmation that it provides. The smiling face may hide an ugly heart.

Perhaps we all have an inclination toward these false foundations. But I find that when I am properly connected with the love of God, I want to serve those around me because I want them to experience the same sense of God that I have. When I am properly connected with the love of God, I don’t have to worry about my reputation. If I am following God, my reputation will take care of itself. Also, if I am experiencing the love of God, I don’t have to worry that you will see my failures and weaknesses. God knows all about my failures and loves me anyway.

As with the cavitating pump, failure to allow the love of God to be the driving force and the content of our message will cause a life to eventually fall apart. If you have any doubts about this, I point you toward the most chilling words that Jesus ever uttered in Matthew 7:21-23. In this passage Jesus tells us that many who worked for duty and honor will not find entry into Heaven. It is only those who have been in relationship with him and have experienced his love and forgiveness will gain entry.

The stakes are very, very high.

 

March 16, 2015

Lovers will always Outwork Workers

Today we pay a return visit to Mary Agrusa from the blog The Thought Just Occurred to Me. As always, you’re encouraged to click the headline below to read this at source. (We had a tough time choosing which item to run, if you like C201, you’ll like the devotions there.)

Third Verse of a Hymn

Yet I have this against you: ‘You have forsaken your first love,’” (Revelation 2:4 NIV).

“One day on our way out of church, she turned to me and said, ‘Sometimes I feel like the third verse of a hymn.’” Immediately I knew what she meant. In our church, we sometimes skip the third verse of a hymn if the service is running late. ‘I feel like the third verse of a hymn’ was Mom’s way of saying she felt left out. My mother’s unique ability at description was intersecting with her common problem of feeling lonely.”1

It seems God felt the same way: overlooked, forgotten, left out – and this was by the church. How did this happen?

The Ephesians weren’t slackers. The preceding verses of Chapter Two contain praise from God for their activities. Hard workers who had no tolerance for wicked men, they stood firm in the face of pressures and hardships. This church did many things right and therein laid the problem. The Ephesians lost sight of the Lord of the work and focused on the work of the Lord.

Their failure isn’t unique. It’s easy to be so busy for God that time to spend with Him somehow evaporates. Ask a pastor (maybe not your own) how much quality time with God does his/her schedule permit. Don’t be surprised at the enormous demands they face daily – and that’s just church business – not life in general. Cell phones, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, texts and other social media increases their exposure to those in need of instant help. Down time for any reason, like time spent with God, is difficult to carve out.

How many Christians, if they were honest, would admit their time with God’s not what it should be (whatever that means)? Maybe more than you’d think. To prove their allegiance and commitment to the cause, schedules are packed with things to do for God – activity instead of intimacy. God found this unacceptable with the Ephesians and He hasn’t changed.

We need to make a shift. Focused time spent with God produces greater results than lives cluttered with good, necessary works. Mike Bickle from IHOP, Kansas City believes lovers will always outwork workers. A deeper relationship diminishes the pressure to perform for God, others and ourselves. Attention directed toward His priorities frees up time and resources to accomplish tasks sans burnout.

God needs the permanent top spot of our “to-do” list. Forsake good things to obtain the best. At first this may feel awkward and uncomfortable; the urgent is loathe to relinquish its tyrannical hold. Any who purpose to know God, not just know about Him, never suffer disappointment. They discover the object of their affection. God’s pleased too because He really enjoys their company.

How about you? What changes can you make to allow more quality time with God? How will this improve your relationship with Him? What kinds of questions will you ask Him during your extra time with Him? How do you think this will impact your life?

The opening quote is from David Fessenden’s book, From Concept to Contract. Plan to write a book? This is a must read. A writer and editor, David gives practical insights into things to do before you start to write your book and continues throughout the process to publication.

1David Fessenden, From Concept to Contract (Galax, VA: Sonfire Media, 2011) pg 14

January 20, 2015

Keep Your Love Alive…And the Gospel Will Be Preached

We used a brief excerpt a year ago from the daily devotional Johnny B. Daily. Sometimes we return to a previous source only to find that they’ve stopped writing, or have lost the focus that we saw evident at an earlier stage. So it’s nice to go back and see someone faithfully writing, in this case since June, 2006.  For our return visit we find Johnny going verse-by-verse through Matthew. This is actually two posts, and our headline above is our attempt to link the two thoughts in the consecutive verses.

But first, Johnny always starts each day to his readers with these words:

God is good all the time, all the time God is good.  TOO BLESSED TO BE STRESSED!!!!

I love his passion and the personal tone with which he writes to his readers. To reach each piece below at source, click the individual titles:

Is your love cold? Is your love all about you? Matthew 24:12,13

Yesterday I visited with you about false prophets. Do not get me wrong, many preachers on the radio and TV are good God fearing Bible teaching men; just be aware of the ones that are not. Johnny, are you judging them. No, but the Bible says to test them by the word. Do this and see for yourself.

Matthew 24: 12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

Jesus is telling us here that with false teachings and loose morals comes a very destructive element. What is this element? LOVE that IS NO MORE! Huh? Because of false teachings, or teaching about caring for yourself, that you will prosper and do well and loose morals we lose the love for God and the love for anything except SELF!!

Look around, where is your focus? Are you thinking only of yourself? If so, you love is not for God first; then love neighbors and family. Hmmm! Something to think about. If you are #1 then you cannot truly love.

13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

However, with Jesus there is always hope. If you endure, don’t compromise your Christian beliefs, stay true to the one true living GOD, then you shall be saved. These are Jesus’ words.

Come my friend, now, take time this very moment to pray, asking God to make you strong and a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ. Love you all.


The song, “Just spreadin’ the news” should be our theme song. Matthew 24:14

Matthew 24:14 tells us that before Jesus returns, the Good News about the Kingdom, the message of salvation, would be preached throughout the world.

This was the disciples mission. This is your mission. To take the Good News to others worldwide. Are you sharing the word with others? How can you more effectively share the good news where ever you walk? A man had lots of little small crosses and he would lay one on the sidewalk of businesses he entered when the Spirit moved him. He said he has yet to exit and the cross still be there — YES, someone picked it up. A great way to stir the curiosity and move people. What way can you leave small subtle hints? Hints to stir people and get them to thinking about Jesus, about salvation, about eternity after death.

Your walk in life should be one way to share the gospel. So others look and say what does he/she have that I don’t have? Hmmm!

Jesus talked about the end times and final judgment to show his followers the urgency of spreading the Good News of salvation to everyone.

Here are Jesus’ words: 14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

May your day be filled with glory from our Father in Heaven. Love you all.


I’m not sure that the original text is meant to read this way, as a conditional promise, but as we join the two verses we could say: Kindling our love for God and faithfully enduring means that the gospel will go out into the world.

Oh, and I almost forgot, Johnny ends each day’s writing with these words:

In Christ’s Love and Grace

To which we add, Amen!

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