Christianity 201

May 7, 2021

When a Church is Not Producing Real Fruit

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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For a ninth time, we are featuring the writing of Mark McIntyre at Attempts at Honesty. While this one is church-focused, there is definitely an obvious personal takeaway you can gather from this as well. As always you’re encouraged to read these at source, so click the header below, check out other devotionals, and if you like what you see, sign up to subscribe.

No wax fruit

I have a pear tree, an apple tree, and a cherry tree in my yard. If they were not producing fruit, I could go out and buy a bunch of wax apples, cherries and pears and hang them on the trees. This would make the trees look productive to those passing by, but wouldn’t fool anyone who took the time to take a closer look.

In the same way, I have seen churches that manufacture a frenzy of activity that seems to indicate that there is spiritual growth taking place, but upon closer examination, I find only the appearance of fruitfulness.

Jesus said to the Church in Sardis,

“I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.”

Revelation 3:1, ESV

The problem lies in a faulty understanding of what it means to build the church. When Jesus builds the church, he uses the preaching of the gospel to transform individual hearers into children of God. The church’s responsibility ends with the proclamation of the gospel and the “equipping the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12). Real growth can only take place when the Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit bring about new life in the hearers.

But it seems that in 2021, the “experts” seem reluctant to wait upon God to bring growth so they invent methods to bring people in and make it appear that spiritual growth is taking place. The problem is that the fruit we produce by human methods is wax fruit and not real fruit.

The experts say you need professional musicians, concert-style lighting, slick branding, and polished speakers who won’t offend the hearers, to draw people in and, hopefully, capture their attention. Keep it fun and keep it light.

But when a church spends more effort on its style and branding than it does on teaching its members what it means to live in the obedience of faith (Romans 1:5), then little, if anything, of substance, is taking place.

I suppose it would be prudent to remind us what else Jesus wrote to Sardis:

“Remember then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.”

Revelation 3:3, ESV

When the tree no longer produces real fruit, it may be time to cut down the tree.

When the church no longer produces spiritual fruit, it’s time to find a different church.

Because if they are not producing spiritual fruit, it is evidence that Jesus has already left the building. And, if Jesus isn’t there, there’s not much point in staying.


Bonus link: If you enjoyed this article, Mark has another one from earlier in the year where he also examined a problem that can impact local churches: The situation where leaders pledge or vow to uphold the standards and practices of a denomination and then choose to do disregard those promises and their own thing. Check out Fulfill What You Vow.

November 21, 2020

Our Highest Desire for Our Children … and for Ourselves

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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If you’re a parent, grandparent, godparent or aunt/uncle, the spiritual aspirations you have for the children in your sphere of influence should also be the same spiritual aspirations you set for yourself.

Today for the first time we’re featuring the writing of Luke Wagner who serves as a volunteer pastor in Lawrence, Kansas, and writes at An Eternal Viewpoint.

Called To Influence

There is a prayer I have for all of my kids, and I think it’s one most parents who are followers of Jesus have for their kids as well.

God, empower them be the influence.

It’s simple. But it could change the world.

And honestly, being influential in the life of my kid’s beyond just being the parent is something I am still learning. Speaking life isn’t always the tendency I have, but it needs to be. Jesus gave the instruction,

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

Matthew 28:19-20

In essence, get out there and influence others for Me. Live a life that points others to Me. Tell them about Me with your words AND actions. When I see my daughter interacting with her friends and peers, I pray that she would be the influence in the group that points towards Jesus.

She doesn’t always get it right. But then, perfection isn’t the expectation.

Really, that’s the same position God takes with us. He knows perfection isn’t a reality for us in this life. But are we striving to be the influence in our circles? When guidance is sought, direction is needed; are you the one who steps up and points those around you in the right direction?

I love how Jesus begins this directive. In the verse before He says,

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Matthew 28:18

His basis for giving this directive is rooted in His ultimate and explicit authority over everything. And He doesn’t kind of suggest we do this, He commands it. This is what gut punches me, as a follower of Him, being a person of influence for the Kingdom isn’t an option. It’s not a task get to decide when and where I want to engage in.

It’s implied that this is an ongoing, constant expectation as a follower of Jesus. I mean, look at how He ends this command:

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:20

I’m pretty confident that my time on earth will end before the “end of the age” comes to pass. That leads me to conclude the expectation is to live a life of influence for Jesus. To strive every day to make an impact for His Kingdom through the interactions I have. To speak life.

That’s what I want to see in the lives of my kids.

But it has to start with me.

November 17, 2020

On Recommitting or Rededicating Your Life to Christ

The large church I attended had a room off a hallway which was used for counseling people who responded (or came forward) to the appeal (or invitation) at the end of the Sunday evening service. Sometimes the chairs were arranged in pairs so that a counselor (or personal worker) could talk to and pray with an individual and a small pre-printed index card was on one of the chairs that could be filled in with a name, address, phone number for further ministry contact (or follow-up).

There were a number of boxes on those index cards that could be checked if the person was seeking salvation, or desiring to be baptized, but there were often boxes that said assurance or re-dedication.

I’ve talked before about the fact we don’t hear much about assurance anymore. We covered it here in 2013 and also in 2015. The same could be said for recommitting or rededicating. In the ebb and flow of topical trends in the church, some things get said at the expense of other things.

For some, the concept treads on a narrower, more-Calvinistic view of the salvation process (or soteriology.) One particular site which I’m not going to link to (for many reasons) is dismissive of the need to recommit or rededicate oneself to God; to Christ; to Christ’s cause. But they did get one sentence right: “Repentance is not re-dedication.” The world may offer that ‘confession is good for the soul,’ but confession of sin is a necessary part of following after Jesus, honoring God and not grieving the Holy Spirit.

But having said that, are there times in the life of a believer when, not over specific sin, he or she needs to reset, refocus and renew?* Of course there are.

CompellingTruth.org is an outreach of GotQuestions.org who we often cite here. They offer this teaching:

The idea of “rededicating your life to Christ” is not named in the Bible, but that doesn’t mean it’s not useful. In fact, it can be an effective way to help people realize that Jesus’ forgiveness is for all of us.

There are two common scenarios in which people rededicate their lives to Christ. The most common is that of an older child or young adult who accepted Christ at a young age. After years of going to church and living through the influence of his parents’ faith, he may realize his own faith is stagnant and underdeveloped. He may have never taken responsibility for his relationship with Jesus, or he may actually be living a sinful lifestyle. He comes to the realization that despite the fact he is a Christian, he wants a stronger Christian life. So he rededicates his life to Christ, taking a leap in maturity and restarting His Christian growth.

The second scenario is not strictly a re-dedication, but a realization. It involves someone who heard the gospel and thought she accepted Christ, but didn’t understand the implications well enough to have a saving relationship with Jesus. She may have gone to church the whole time, even served, but at some point she comes to know and accept the true nature of salvation. If she doesn’t realize that she was not a Christian before, she may call the transformation a re-dedication, even though it is technically a conversion.

Of course, it is not God’s intent for any young Christian to fall into a sinful lifestyle. Romans 12:1-2 says that a believer is meant to reject sin and experience continual spiritual growth. Likewise, it’s not God’s plan for anyone to misunderstand the gospel, going through the motions of a Christian life for years, before really understanding saving grace.

But re-dedication as a concept is a powerful tool. It clearly demonstrates that God forgives. He forgives old Christians who sin, and new Christians who were deceived for years. It is a spiritual deep breath, wherein a believer can refocus her relationship with Christ. Like the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) and Peter in John 21, it shows that Jesus will always take us back…

Their parent website, Got Questions looks at this from a different angle:

…In a desire to consciously choose to adhere to a newfound, deeper understanding of the gospel, believers may “rededicate” themselves to Christ.

However, falling away and returning to God is not how the Christian walk is supposed to look. Romans 12:1–2 explains that spiritual maturity is a gradual, ongoing process. Jesus said that to follow Him we should take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23). And 1 Corinthians 9:24 and Hebrews 12:1 speak of the Christian life as a race, meant to be run every day. Many people rededicate after every sin. It’s easy to get caught in a cycle of rededicating, striving to follow Jesus closely, failing, and rededicating again. But habitual sin is not a problem solved by rededicating. It’s a deeper issue that can only be solved with a greater understanding of the grace and love of God.

Still, re-dedication is a useful tool. It’s a way to deliberately reject sin and renew a love for Christ. The disciples went through a re-dedication of sorts when they saw the risen Jesus. Their half-hearted devotion turned into a desire to pour out their lives for His service. In the same way, whether because of a conviction about a sinful lifestyle or a greater understanding of the gift of Christ, we can choose to abandon our shallow devotion to Christ and devote ourselves to Him more fully…

Here are today’s key scriptures:

Lord, [earnestly] remember now how I have walked before You in faithfulness and truth and with a whole heart [entirely devoted to You] and have done what is good in Your sight (2 Kings 20:3 Amplifed).

Remember from where you have come out and do the former works (Revelation 2:5a Aramaic Bible in Plain English)

Though You have shown me many troubles and misfortunes, You will revive me once again. Even from the depths of the earth You will bring me back up.  (Psalm 71:20 Berean Study Bible)

Do you need to, in computer language, “reset to factory settings?” That is to say, do a reset back to the days when you first followed Jesus? Or a time when your level of commitment was more wholehearted?

Then recommit. Rededicate.

This prayer is from the website ThreeDimensionalVitality.com:

Dear God,

I confess that I have strayed from my first love – Jesus – and I want to recommit my life to You. Please help me to become the person You created me to be. Enable me to always live a life that is pleasing to You.

I want to be a witness to others of Your saving grace and power. Forgive me when I take back the control of my life. I want You to be Lord of my life.

Renew my passion to walk more closely with You. You know all my desires and plans. Help me to fulfill Your unique call and purpose in my life.

Renew my heart, restore the joy of my salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me. Lord, thank You for this hope I have in You. Use my life to bring You glory, honor and praise.

Thank You, Lord, Jesus for hearing and answering my prayer. In Your Name. Amen.


*In our list of ‘re’ words, there is a great crossover between re dedication and repentance but there is also one word I didn’t touch because it offers us two different paths. That word is revival. The two paths are quite distinct, but one deals with personal revival, and other deals with the collective revival of a family or a church (or in Old-Testament terms, an entire nation.)

But at this point, we can also work backwards and say that perhaps there are times when a whole family or a whole church needs to re-dedicate or re-commit. And that may be a path to consider. But start with me and then look outside to we.

July 11, 2020

The Faithful Get to Hear, “Well Done!”

at Feeding on Jesus, and this time she’s discussing a verse I’ve found to be very significant. As always, click the header which follows to read this on her blog. Also, if you like audio devotions, the day after this was posted — which is the same day we’re posting the one which follows — she prepared a 16-minute audio meditation based on a different theme.

The Trust in Your Hand

“Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2, NIV).

Have you been given a trust? Yes. Each one of us has. God has put into our hands something that He has asked us to administer. In doing so, He is looking for our faithfulness.

Sometimes we commit the mistake of looking at the trust He has given to someone else… and thinking that we should be doing whatever that person is doing. What she or he is doing looks so much more important!

Let me assure you, there will always be someone doing something that appears to have more reach, more value, more impact, and more significance than what you are doing. To counteract our tendency to fall into the comparison trap, God gave us the parable of the five talents.

Remember how the one man had five talents, the second man had two, and the third man had only one? The master was not expecting the men with one and two talents to come up with five more. On the contrary, he was absolutely overjoyed with the two talents that the second man was able to produce. His joy over the second man was equally as boisterous and overflowing as it was over the first man.

It wasn’t the numerical value of their achievements that caused him to exuberantly rejoice. It was their faithfulness. Both of them heard the same words from his lips: Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness! (Matt. 25:21, NIV, emphasis mine).

Let’s think about what this means for you. Does what you are doing with your life seem insignificant to you? Does it seem inconsequential to you than you are able to influence a small circle of people for Jesus? If so, Holy Spirit wants to open your eyes to a new perspective.

Whoever those people are that He has put in your life to impact with His love… that is your “trust” from Him. He is not wishing that you somehow were coming up with a way to be more impressive for Him. His only desire is that you would be faithful with what He has entrusted to you.

Love on that one. Encourage that one. Follow Holy Spirit’s nudges in speaking life to that one. As you do so, your life is making an indelible mark that has infinite, measureless, eternal value. What you have to contribute is incredibly important. It doesn’t matter if it’s two talents, or five, or one. If you have been pushing forward with however many talents He put into your hand, your faithfulness with your trust is bringing enormous joy to your Master’s heart.

Do you notice, in this parable, that He makes reference to that very joy? I love how the Classic Edition of the Amplified Bible expresses this: Enter into and share the joy (the delight, the blessedness) which your master enjoys.” (v. 21).

Daddy God is bursting with joy and delight over your faithfulness. Right now, He is inviting you into that joy. He wants to impart to your heart His pleasure in you, His enjoyment of you. As you steward the trust He has assigned to you, no matter how small it may seem, you overwhelm Him with delight.

In this moment, allow Him to pour into your spirit the revelation of the immense joy He takes in your faithfulness!

**********************************************

Does your assignment from the Master seem important to you? What is He saying to you about it right now?

 

July 8, 2020

Placing our Fear in the Right Place

Today’s devotional is taken from a devotional collection that was new to us, titled Hearing the Voice of God: A Devotional by David Chadwick (Harvest House, 2016). Learn more about the book at this link.

Fear God, Not Man

Today’s Reading: John 12:37-43

37 Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:

“Lord, who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”[a]

39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:

40 “He has blinded their eyes
    and hardened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
    nor understand with their hearts,
    nor turn—and I would heal them.”[b]

41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.

42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God.

Hearing God’s Voice for Today:

“Many of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”

***

Sometimes people miss the fact even many authorities came to believe in Jesus. This included influential members of the Sanhedrin, like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.

Yet a major problem persisted. Though these authorities decided to put their faith in Jesus, their fear of the Pharisees remained strong. They were afraid to follow the Lord publicly for fear of being ostracized from their synagogues. They knew they would face rejection. Not to be able to have community with other Jews was a great fear.

The human heart is complex. People want to follow Jesus, but they fear public rejection. They want to follow him, but they also want the praises of people.

It’s impossible to have both. Some people in your sphere of influence will not like you if you choose to follow Jesus. They will label you a narrow-minded, bigoted obscurantist. They will call you intolerant. They will hate you because you love Jesus. If you follow him, you mist be willing to give up the praises of people.

If you do make your faith in Jesus public, your reward in heaven will be great. If you honour him before people, he will do the same with you before the Father.

Your public recognition of Jesus here on earth will bring you rejection from some. But from an eternal perspective, it will be worthwhile. When you hear his public commendation of your witness before the Father, all the angels and saints in heaven will break out in uproarious applause.

That one moment will soothe all your hurts from people’s rejection.

Don’t be ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of the Father in heaven to change hearts–first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles. There is no such thing as a secret-service Christian. You should never want to remain quiet about all you’ve seen the Lord do and all he has done for you.

You are called to be his witness. You begin locally, then reach out globally.

Ask yourself this question often: If you were put on trial for being Jesus’ witness, would the evidence be enough to convict you?

Don’t fear what others can do to you. Yes, they are able to kill your body. But that’s all. If you fear anything, fear God, who has the power and authority to cast both body and soul in hell. He will protect you from those who desire to do you harm.

His opinion is the only one that should concern you.


Footnotes:

  1. John 12:38 Isaiah 53:1
  2. John 12:40 Isaiah 6:10

David Chadwick has been a pastor for almost 40 years.  Along with this theological degrees, he earned a Specialist’s degree in counseling.  The love of his life is Marilynn, his wife for more than 40 years.  He has three married children, and six grandchildren.  David loves Jesus, his family, the church, and basketball—in that order.  He especially loves seeing people understand the power of Jesus’s grace to change a heart.

momentsofhopechurch.org

January 15, 2020

Did You Bring the Right Offering to Church?

Can we return one last time to the Advent/Christmas narrative? We weren’t sure, but we knew last week there was a possibility that Clarke Dixon’s article from last week, would have a Part Two, but it didn’t get published on his blog until this week. So today, this article, and then tomorrow, Lord willing, Clarke’s regular Thursday blog post.

by Clarke Dixon

Did you bring the right offering to your church? Perhaps pastors such as myself will be tempted to say “no.” That may be based on organizational number crunching for 2019 and a realization that red is not just a Christmas color. As Christmas fades into the past, an event following that first Christmas will help us reflect on our offering.

Let us consider the Magi. We usually think of the Magi as being at the manger along with the shepherds on the first Christmas Day. However, based on Herod’s killing of Bethlehem’s 2-years-old-and-under infants (see Matt 2:16), they likely arrived later.

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:11 (NIV)

Being non-Jewish, the Magi do not bring an offering according to any religious rule, but rather from of a spirit of generosity. It is an interesting exercise to read through the entire New Testament, taking note of how often religious rules for giving are promoted in contrast to how often generosity is taught and modelled, especially by Jesus.

It is an interesting exercise to also consider the difference between giving out of religious duty and a spirit of generosity. For example, it is possible to earn millions of dollars, tithe a tenth of all that is earned to a church, and yet be completely lacking in a generous spirit. We would be left with incredible wealth, yet could still be stingy to everyone and every need that crosses our paths. Even though we have given much to our church community, we can be Scrooge-like in sharing our gifts of time and talents. Are our offerings of time, talents, and treasures an expression of a growing and generous spirit, or merely an expression of how religious we are? Our offering is not just a matter of accounting and number crunching, but a matter of the heart.

Further, let us consider that the Magi bring their offering, not to the temple, but to a person. Are our offerings focused on Jesus? Are they focused on Jesus when they are given to an organization we call a church? It is more important that churches help people connect and walk with Jesus, than simply keep churchy and religious things happening. Since our offerings are part of personal devotion and worship, we would bring them as an act of worship, even if we were asked by God to be burn them on an altar.  But God has not asked for that. He has directed us to help people connect with Him.

Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (NLT)

Do our offerings help people connect with God and walk with Jesus?

There is another offering for us to consider as we bid farewell to the Christmas season. Let us go back to the temple, to the moment Simeon held the infant Jesus in his arms and said to Mary:

“This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.” Luke 2:34-35 (NLT)

A sword would indeed pierce Mary’s soul when Jesus was opposed by his own people, who should have known better, and hung on a cross by the Romans, who should have done better. We are barely beyond Christmas and already we are hearing about Good Friday. While we think of the offerings of the Magi, the offering brought by God for outsiders like the Magi is the real news here. God’s generous spirit is on full display!

Have you brought the right offering to church? Come to Jesus, see the gift he has for you. Then see where generosity leads you.


Clarke Dixon is a musician, motorcycle enthusiast, and pastor in Ontario, Canada. He is the single-most-frequent contributor to C201, with articles appearing most Thursdays.

August 25, 2019

Seeing God Accurately

It’s been several weeks since we introduced a new author here, but on the weekend we discovered Geno Pyse, who describes himself as “an author, poet, musician, ordained minister, and avid animal lover.”

This is part two of a two-part (so far) series. If you wish to read the first part first, click this link.

The Importance of Correct Perception of Him

In his book, Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer writes how modern man tends to think of idolatry in terms of people bowing to figures carved of stone, metal, or wood. However, idolatry begins in the mind, even if no overt worship takes place. Tozer goes on to explain that idolatry is any entertaining of thoughts about God not worthy of Him, not only worshipping something other than Him.

This has great relevance in our society that views God in so many different ways other than what He reveals in the Scriptures, and that tries to use Him for political and financial gain. This also has great relevance within modern Christendom where many of its adherents often seem to stress more as to whether or not they like the worship services, rather than truly considering if He likes them.

Nearly across the board people believe in God’s love. Certainly love is part of God’s character. The Scriptures declare, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8 [ESV]). However, it is imperative we understand His overarching attribute—holiness! This attribute is the umbrella to every other one. Holy means “set apart; other; extraordinary; transcendent.” It is the only attribute of His mentioned to the third degree—and in both the Old and New Testaments:

And [the seraphim] called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’” (Isaiah 6:3)

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8)

God’s love is a pure, holy love. His love will never be separated or go against His holiness. Jesus says the Father desires worshipers who worship Him in spirit and in truth (see John 4:23-24). So, to profess God’s love while disregarding His holiness is to make a mockery of true worship and to plummet heart first into idolatry, which leads to holy judgment.

One of the tragic cycles we read of in the Old Testament is the Israelites’ regression into idolatry. Integrating the customs, behaviors, and beliefs of the people around them into the worship of God, only to drift away from Him without even realizing it. Perplexed and angered by the prophets rebukes and confrontations, all the while indulging in the immorality of the cult religions of Baal and Astarte, and the child sacrifice of Moloch (something God declares that never even entered His mind [see Jeremiah 7:31]).

One of my great concerns for many churches today is the adapting of customs, behaviors, and beliefs of the secular and pagan society around us, trying to integrate these into the Christian faith, dismissing the very attributes and ways of God He reveals to us in the Scriptures.

Jesus said of some of the religious people of the day, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me’” (Mark 7:6-7).

And one of the most haunting things He says is, “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. 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?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23).

God is holy, but He is also loving. Although He is loving, may we remember He is also holy, holy, holy, and His love is a holy love. If we try to tweak these to accommodate our desires or to condone or justify our beloved sins, we are guilty of idolatry. To not desire God as He is is merely to desire a god of our own making.

 

August 20, 2019

Natural Abilities versus God-Given Strength

Today we’re back again at Biblical Diagnosis. I chose to go back a few months for this one which is a reminder of something we know but often forget. If you are married, I’ve included a link to this excellent article; for today’s reading here, click the header below.

No Confidence in the Flesh

Friends, it is astonishing to see just how anti-biblical some of the deeply held beliefs in our societies are. And it is even more troubling when we see that they are deeply held even by our own Christian brothers.

Take for instance, the notion that we need to believe in ourselves.

This commonly accepted belief takes many forms: We need to have faith in ourselves. We can do anything that we put our minds to. We have amazing potential that just needs to be unleashed. These are just some of the ways this belief is expressed.

We see this belief applied in every domain of our lives, all geared toward some “betterment” of ourselves, our loved ones or our community, whether it be physical fitness, career advancement, or wealth generation.

But look at how the Apostle Paul expresses one of the defining characteristics of Christ’s followers:

Philippians 3:3 – …we are the circumcision, the ones who worship by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh

The statement…do not put confidence in the flesh…refers to the fact that Christians should believe that they are incapable of doing anything worthy of anything by themselves, through some form of inner ability that – as being widely believed today – all of us may possess (what the Scripture calls the flesh).

Romans 7:18For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it.

This statement is perhaps even more troubling and echoes the sentiment of Philippians 3. Paul said that nothing good lives in him. It is incongruent to both believe that nothing good lives in you and at the same time believe that you have within you what it takes to accomplish anything worthy.

Now, you may at this point read these and call to mind the countless stories of success (your own, or of others) which attest to the contrary: Evidences which prove that indeed we have within ourselves the ability to accomplish whatever we put our minds into.

Romans 3:4…Let God be true, even though everyone is a liar

Man does indeed have an inner ability, but it is not to do anything good

How we do reconcile what the scripture says with the countless evidences which seem to affirm the opposite of what God says?

I submit to you that one may find the answer – among other places – in Romans 7:18 we just read.

Romans 7:18For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it.

Whatever we can accomplish through the strength of our will, our inner strength (however that ability is labeled) is not good.

But what is “good”?

GOD defines what is good (unless we want to define for ourselves what is good, at which point we have made of ourselves our own God). And only things that can be accomplished through Him and Him alone are considered good. Everything else is not good.

Hence we may say, that if one desires to satisfy the passions of his flesh, he indeed has the ability to do so within himself, for his flesh is inside him. But the one who desires to do anything that is good – and hence, pleasing to God – is incapable to do so but with the help of God Himself.

Should we therefore hold onto the belief that we can do anything we put our minds to?

No, we run away from it, for that mentality only promotes the flesh, and its sinful desires, no matter holy those desires may portray themselves. Just think of the Galatians who thought it a good thing to circumcise themselves (Galatians 3:1-5).

And this applies to ALL of our aspirations in life. No matter how noble and right they might appear. If we are able to attain to them through our own strength, then we ought to know that they were nothing more than the sinful desires of our flesh.

In me dwells no good thing. I place no confidence in my flesh. I am incapable of doing anything that is good, for myself, my children or my community. I am wretched and miserable, destitute.  

Romans 7:24What a wretched man I am!

We should truly believe in our utter destitution so that we may truly believe in our utter dependence on God.

Only with the profound belief that we are destitute and incapable of doing anything good for ourselves or anyone will we cherish and hold onto our dependence on GOD, THROUGH WHOM WE CAN DO EVERYTHING THAT IS GOOD.

Philippians 4:13I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.

May the Spirit of Christ ministers to you the Word of Truth, for the glory of His own Name.


Again, if you are married, be sure to check out this article. I know we have readers who are single, separated, widowed, etc., and I don’t like to exclude people in what’s presented here, so I try not to include too many marriage-themed items.

May 13, 2018

You Have a Heart Condition

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Today we have a new writer (to us), John R. Shuman writes at Truth Fully Spoken. Click the title below to read this article in full at the original site.

Worship In The Heart

True Worship

I have done lots of reading, and all the theologians have there theories on worship…. true worship, and how it is to be done, but I look to the truth to find out what it is, because it is usually a lot simpler than they make it out to be.  So first I look to what The truth said, (Jesus Said “I am the truth…”)  and John 4:21-24 tells what Jesus said about how God wants his children to worship.

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

We must worship in spirit and in truth… The truth is easy, look around you, everywhere you go there is God, everything you see was created by God, all the joy you have was given by God.  These are the truths of the matter, there is no denying it.  But what about worshipping in the spirit?  Well, that is where the heart comes into play.

Modifying The Heart

Isaiah 29:13 reads:

13 The Lord says:

“These people come near to me with their mouth
    and honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
    is based on merely human rules they have been taught.

God says, people come and worship Him, but only from the rules they were taught, it is not in their hearts.  God knows what is in their hearts, and He knows that is where the true worship comes from.  We can go to church all of our lives, be taught to pray, be shown the love of God, even preach the good news to all we see…. But without a heart focused on God, without the “fear” of God in our soul, we are just going through the motions.

And, we read in Romans 12:1-2 what we need to do to make sure our worship is true…

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

We need to renew our minds to go against those of this world, we need to offer our lives as a sacrifice to God, we MUST renew our hearts, (the lifeblood of all we are) to the ways of God and His perfect will.

You Have a Heart Condition

We, all of us, have a heart condition.  Good or bad, we have one.  And we need to determine what our heart condition is, is our heart good and strong, or is it weak and in need of attention.  Our physical heart goes unnoticed most of our lives, but it is a huge part of what keeps us alive.  The same can be said for our spiritual heart… We go most of our lives not really paying attention to it, but it is the primary part of what keeps our spiritual life going.

Matthew 25:31-46 shows us exactly how God feels about our condition of the heart…

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Are you a sheep?  Following the shepherd, listening to his voice? Or are you a goat?  following your own ways and not listening to the one leading and just doing what the world wants?  I know it sounds like an easy question, but it really isn’t…. because to truly answer the question you need to examine your heart and most of us really do not want to know what is located there.

Heart Surgery

So, we know we want a proper heart, so we can worship God the way we are supposed to, what do we need to do?  Well, after we have answered the question dealing with the condition of our heart, we must decide if we need to correct the issues we find.  And I happen to know someone that can take care of it.  The greatest heart surgeon to ever walk this planet.  Jesus… If you want your heart to be healed, if you want to worship God as He wants you to, then all you need to do is talk to Jesus, He has a miraculous way of healing heart conditions, and any other issues you might have…

Prayer Time

God, thank you for helping me to look at my heart’s condition.  I pray that you work on my heart accordingly… making it strong and healthy, repairing the areas that require your attention.   And that also goes for the other aspects of my life.  Thank you God for fixing the broken me, and for being the great physician that you are.  I praise you for all you have done for me, and for all you are doing to keep me focused on you.  I pray for your guidance in every aspect of my daily journey, allowing me to stay focused on you.

 

March 31, 2018

Hating the Passing Things of This World

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
 ~John 8:12 NIV

Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.
 ~Ecclesiastes 1:8 NLT

Those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them. For this world as we know it will soon pass away.
 ~I Cor. 7:31 NLT

And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
 ~I John 2:17 ESV

Today’s reading is drawn from a posting of seven chapters of The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, posted by Random House at the link in the title below, where you can read all 7 chapters. This book is an all-time Christian classic if you haven’t read it.

Wikipedia fills in some information:

Thomas à Kempis,  (c. 1380 – 25 July 1471) was a German-Dutch canon regular of the late medieval period and the author of The Imitation of Christ, one of the most popular and best known Christian books on devotion. His name means Thomas “of Kempen”, his hometown, and in German he is known as Thomas von Kempen.  …Thomas spent his time between devotional exercises, composition, and copying. He copied the Bible no fewer than four times, one of the copies being preserved at Darmstadt, Germany in five volumes. In its teachings he was widely read and his works abound in Biblical quotations, especially from the New Testament.

I have made only one editing change, taking out the use of numbered paragraphs (which I believe cause readers to rush through the material) and substituting each new section with the first sentence in bold type.

The Imitation of Christ and Contempt for the Vanities of the World

“Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness,” says the Lord. These are Christ’s own words by which He exhorts us to imitate His life and His ways, if we truly desire to be enlightened and free of all blindness of heart. Let it then be our main concern to meditate on the life of Jesus Christ.

Christ’s teaching surpasses that of all the saints, and whoever has His spirit will find in His teaching hidden manna. But it happens that many are little affected, even after a frequent hearing of His Gospel. This is because they do not have the spirit of Christ. If you want to understand Christ’s words and relish them fully, you must strive to conform your entire life to His.

What good does it do you to be able to give a learned discourse on the Trinity, while you are without humility and, thus, are displeasing to the Trinity? Esoteric words neither make us holy nor righteous; only a virtuous life makes us beloved of God. I would rather experience repentance in my soul than know how to define it.

If you knew the entire Bible inside out and all the maxims of the philosophers, what good would it do you if you were, at the same time, without God’s love and grace? Vanity of vanities! All is vanity, except our loving God and serving only Him. This is the highest wisdom: to despise the world and seek the kingdom of heaven.

It is vanity to seek riches that are sure to perish and to put your hope in them.

It is vanity to pursue honors and to set yourself up on a pedestal.

It is vanity to follow the desires of the flesh and to crave the things which will eventually bring you heavy punishment.

It is vanity to wish for a long life and to care little about leading a good life.

It is vanity to give thought only to this present life and not to think of the one that is to come.

It is vanity to love what is transitory and not to hasten to where everlasting joy abides.

Keep this proverb often in mind: The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. Therefore, withdraw your heart from the love of things visible and turn yourself to things invisible. Those who yield to their sensual nature dishonor their conscience and forfeit God’s grace.

 

April 1st is Christianity 201’s 8th Birthday!
While Christ’s resurrection is the dominant theme in our thoughts tomorrow, Christianity 201 concluded its eighth year this evening, and now begins year nine of providing devotional content and Bible study discussion material. Our motto continues to be “digging a little deeper.” My hope is that we’ve provided helpful resources for your devotional and Bible study reading and have introduced you to many new authors who are doing the same online.    ~Paul

July 16, 2017

Make an Effort

by Russell Young

How disturbing it is to hear the proclamation that everything has been done for the believer and that all that is required of him or her is to sit back and enjoy the ride. The Lord said, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” (Lk 13:24 NIV)

The teaching of God’s “sovereign grace” has pervaded the thoughts and teachings that are being directed to those who sincerely want to gain God’s eternal kingdom. The term “sovereign grace” does not exist in the Word; consequently, its understanding is a construct of man. Certainly, God is sovereign over all things and over the application of his grace. In this sense, God’s grace is really God’s sovereign grace. The problem is that the interpretation and application of grace has evolved into an understanding that may not be biblical.

The Hebrew word often accepted as applying to grace is chen which means,

1. Favor, grace, charm
• a. favor, grace, elegance
• b. favor, acceptance (biblestudytools.com)

The Greek term for grace is charis and has been defined as, “the unmerited or undeserving favor of God to those who are under condemnation.” (Paul Enns, Moody Bible Handbook of Theology, 196) A common understanding may be “unmerited favor,” but that can have a very broad application, or a very narrow one. Many New Testament scholars have accepted that God has completed the eternal salvation of the confessor because of his or her belief. Even in this, however, the understanding of belief varies from person to person.

The Lord taught that an “effort” was required. This thought is often dismissed because an effort is not consistent with the understanding of God’s sovereign grace, and implies “works” which is clearly presented as being ineffectual in the achievement of the believer’s eternal hope. Somehow the requirement of ‘effort’ must be understood in relation to both grace and works.

Peter wrote that “[Christ’s] divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Pet 2: 3─4 NIV) He has identified that it is through his “precious promises” that we may “participate in” the nature or soul-likeness of Christ and by so doing escape the corruption caused by evil desires. It is through the knowledge of his promises that a person can become like him. Knowledge in itself does not accomplish anything; knowledge must be used or correctly applied before it can have an effect. The application requires “effort.”

Although many teach that eternal salvation was accomplished at the cross through belief in the efficacy of the blood of Christ, Paul taught that through his sacrifice Christ “redeemed us from the curse of the law…so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” (Gal 3:13─14 NIV) Every person carries the sentence of death because he or she has transgressed the law. Christ bore our sins and the penalty attached, restoring fellowship with God so that he might gift the Spirit. The Spirit is Christ in the believer. (Col 1:27; 2 Cor 3:17, 18) This is grace! Freedom from deserved death and the gifting of Christ as Spirit.

Paul tells us 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 8:4 NIV) Living according to the Spirit takes effort. The Spirit is given to enlighten (increase knowledge), to lead and to empower for righteousness. The writer of Hebrews states, “[Christ] became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Heb 5:9 NIV) Obedience requires commitment and effort. Paul also taught that “if you are led by the Spirit are not under the law,” (Gal 5: 18) and that “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:14 NIV) Further Paul wrote that we shouldn’t be deceived because the way we live could result in eternal life or destruction. {Gal 6:7─8) There are many other commands for obedience and by definition, obedience requires effort.

Obedience should not be confused with “works.” Works refers to unassisted efforts of humankind, and specifically refers to the works of the law or the completion of the law of Moses. Paul wrote that because of the weakened sinful nature humankind could not complete it. The hope of the believer is accomplished through faith in Christ, through conviction of his ability to meet the believer’s need.

The great requirement of humankind is to be transformed into the divine nature of Christ so that we become like him. (Rom 8:29) This transformation demands the practice of death to self-interest and to the evil interests of the flesh as availed through Christ and by the submission of the believer to his rule so that the law of the Spirit of life (Rom 8:2) might prevail and the narrow door entered.

April 22, 2017

The Essence of Our Lives: To God and To the World

Once again we’re paying a return visit to the daily devotional section of the online Bible resource Blue Letter Bible and also returning to the subsection, Pastor Bob Hoekstra’s Day by Day by Grace.  These are related devotionals which ran a day apart and so we’re including links for both parts.

A Fragrance of Christ to God

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge…For we are to God the fragrance of Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:14-15)

In addition to the characteristic of triumphant living, God also wants to develop in our lives the fragrance of Christ. “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge.”

Just as there are physical fragrances that can be noticed by our physical senses, there are also spiritual fragrances that can impact us spiritually. If a woman generously applies perfume to herself, others will certainly notice the fragrance of that perfume. If a person consistently presses on to know the Lord, others will definitely be impacted by the fragrance of His knowledge.” This is described as the fragrance of Christ.” This is that spiritual aroma that emanates from the lives of those who are getting to know the Lord. It is a validating reality that the Lord Jesus Christ is dwelling in their lives and is being evidenced through their lives.

As we are getting to know the Lord more and more, this spiritual aroma of Christ blesses even God Himself. “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ.” Yes, God is the first one who savors this Christlike fragrance.

Our ministry and testimony is always primarily unto the Lord. We who believe in Jesus Christ are to be finding out what is acceptable to the Lord (Ephesians 5:10). We are not here on earth to please ourselves. “Do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). We are here to please our God. “Brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God (1 Thessalonians 4:1).

What ultimately pleases our heavenly Father is His beloved Son. When the Father looked down from heaven at the baptism of His Son, He exclaimed, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:17). When our Father looks down upon our lives today, He wants to enjoy the fragrance of His Son emanating forth from our lives. “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ.

Heavenly Father, I long to bless You by the fragrance of Christ through my life. I am sorry that the stench of selfish flesh is what sometimes emanates from me. Lord, help me to get to know You more and more, so that the knowledge of You can produce the aroma of Christ in and through me, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

A Fragrance of Christ to Every Person

Now thanks be to God who…through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death to death, and to the other the aroma of life to life. (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)

The fragrance of Christ is one of the great characteristics that God wants to build into our lives by His grace. “Now thanks be to God who… through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge.” This spiritual aroma, which results from getting to know the Lord, blesses the heart of God. “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ.” The Father loves to see the life of His Son being expressed in and through our humanity, even though this requires our dying to self. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh (2 Corinthians 4:11).

As we are getting to know the Lord more and more, our God is not the only one who is impacted. This spiritual aroma of Christ impacts every person we meet. “God…through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” This includes both the saved and the unsaved. “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”

This fragrance affects those who know the Lord: “the fragrance of Christ…among those who are being saved.” For those who are enjoying life in Christ, that heavenly scent in our lives is “the aroma of life to life.” Christ’s fragrance in us draws them to seek abundant measures of that life which they have already entered.

This spiritual scent also influences those who do not yet know our Lord: “the fragrance of Christ…among those who are perishing.” To them it is “the aroma of death to death.” They are dead in their sins, and this aroma makes them more aware of their deadness, more aware of their need for Christ.

When this fragrance is emanating from our lives, we are not the cause. God is the active agent, working in and through us to bring forth this heavenly scent. “Now thanks be to God who…through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge.” This work of God’s grace is available to us every day we live and every place we go: “the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.”

Father God, I long to know You more and more. I want to have this fragrance of Christ emanating up to You and out to every one I meet. I praise You that this is a work You do by Your grace. So, I humbly bow, trusting You to work in me this way, through Christ, my Lord, Amen.

 

May 30, 2016

How Does This Advance the Kingdom?

Even Christians can get caught up spending time on internet rabbit trails that distract us from our spiritual purpose.

Even Christians can get caught up spending time on internet rabbit trails that distract us from the purpose for which God made us.

Starting out the day on social media most of you probably check into the minutiae of your friends’ lives. You wouldn’t have done this a decade ago, the option simply did not exist, and yet here you are, ten years later, finding it necessary to know how the sunset looked last night from the cabin where Jason is staying, and what Sandra had for breakfast. What were you using this time for previously? What has been sacrificed in order to pursue this level of awareness about your acquaintances and relatives?

As I’m preparing the news and opinion updates for Wednesday’s link list at Thinking Out Loud, I am suddenly arrested by the question, “How does this advance the Kingdom of God?” Truth be told, a lot of our energies and efforts go into things which are not necessary to the building of the God’s Kingdom.

As I thought about various verses that could anchor these thoughts, I came across the following devotion by Juli Camarin. (Click the title below to read at source.) One sentence in the 1st paragraph really stood out for me: “… it makes sense that everything we do should originate and proceed from faith, otherwise we are acting of our own accord.”

Everything that Does Not Come from Faith is Sin—Romans 14:22-23

So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:22-23)

Faith pleases God. In fact without faith it is impossible to please God ( Hebrews 11:6 ). So it makes since that everything we do should originate and proceed from faith, otherwise we are acting of our own accord. Faith is relying on and believing in God’s provision instead of ourselves. Hebrews says that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” ( Hebrews 11:1 ). The King James Bible says that faith is a substance and the Amplified says that is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope” ( Hebrews 11:1 Amp ).  So in the kingdom of God, faith is very important.

Paul says in today’s passage that “everything that does not come from faith is sin” ( Romans 14:22-23 ). This seems like a radical statement, but knowing how important faith is to the believer helps put into perspective everything he has been saying in this entire chapter. We are to exercise our personal convictions as if in God’s presence keeping ourselves striving to know and obey his truth and will. When we operate in this way, we are operating in faith and God is pleased with faith. This gives us the freedom to live without reservation in His presence and he accepts this. In fact the Bible tells us that we are blessed by this liberty ( Romans 14:22 ).

In the same way, the man who has misgivings or an uneasy conscience about the things he does, whether it is eating or drinking or something else, this man is not acting out of faith and so stands in condemnation before God. This is because he is not true to his convictions and brings judgment on himself. If our conscience condemns us then we will not have boldness before God. The awareness of sin will keep us from having the confidence we need to approach God in faith. This is why it is better not to do those things which go against our convictions, even if we see others doing it. Whatever does not originate and proceed from faith or is done without a conviction of its approval by God, is sin for us. It is better for us to keep a clear conscience before God so that we may boldly approach His throne and find grace.

As believers we are to live by faith. This is a process and comes by knowing God and His promises. If we do not know what he has said, then we cannot operate out of faith in accordance to those things. Today I encourage you to renew your mind to the truth that faith pleases God and whatever you do, should be done by operating in faith. I pray that you will hold true to your convictions and walk in the liberty to which you have been called in Christ Jesus. Do not let others hinder you. Let God reveal to your heart those things which are acceptable and good and live in this way. Live your life rooted and established in faith and you will be blessed in everything you do. May God continue to sanctify you through this word as you proceed and operate in it today, amen!

While Juli’s article takes the passage in several different directions — including sin and personal convictions — it also raises another question that takes me back to where we began today: Does this proceed from faith?

So two questions to leave you with:

  • Am I currently using a lot of time and energy on things which do not advance God’s purposes and plans and the building of His Kingdom?
  • Do my aims and activities proceed from faith

Go Deeper: Juli is blogging her way through Romans. Have you ever considered journaling or blogging your way through a book like Romans, one of the Gospels, Hebrews, or an First Testament book? WordPress and BlogSpot blogs like this one are free. You don’t have to do it daily (as I did) or keep it up for six years (as we have here), but you can simply, as you are able, write down your thoughts as you work through a few verses, a paragraph or chapter-by-chapter. Consider yourself challenged! You might even find yourself doing some research.

April 28, 2016

Let’s Get Spiritual

If today’s header bears a mild resemblance to an old Olivia Newton-John song, I apologize for the fact it’s now stuck in your head. Perhaps the article’s own title below will help clear your mind! Jim Thornber writes at what we always call the “other” Thinking Out Loud blog and he’s been featured here four times previously. Click the title below to read at source.

So, You Want To Be “Spiritual?”

The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” — 2 Chron. 16:9

Worship LeaderWhen you hear someone say, “That is a very spiritual person,” what do they mean? I’ve often heard that description used, but when you ask the person who said it what it means, they are often at a loss. I know what it doesn’t mean. To be a “spiritual” person does not mean you walk around silently like some kind of ancient mystic, listening to the quiet breath of God for instructions on what to say and how to pray. It doesn’t mean you’re always ready to say something prophetic and give a word of knowledge and have miracles following you. It doesn’t mean you can quote a thousand different verses on any given subject. Try this for a definition of spirituality: Living your life in harmony with God.

To be spiritual means you make God’s thoughts your thoughts, God’s priorities your priorities. What is important to God is important to you. What burdens God burdens you. When He says, “Go right” you go right, you don’t say, “Why?” A spiritual person decides to follow God knowing that God doesn’t need to explain Himself to anyone. A spiritual person is one whose heart is sensitive to the things of God. 2 Chron. 16:9 says, The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” God is looking for men and women who are completely dedicated to Him.

When I think about a spiritual person I think of David, who was completely dedicated to God in every aspect of his very earthly life. And his was a very earthly life. In Psalm 18:29 David says, “With your help I can conquer an army. I can leap over walls with a helping hand from you.” Can you envision a leaping David? Can you see him running, coming to a wall and leaping over it without hesitation and continuing his run? Eugene Peterson describes David as

“running toward Goliath, running from Saul, pursuing God, meeting Jonathan, rounding up stray sheep, whatever, but running. And leaping. Certainly not strolling or loitering. David’s is a most exuberant story. Earthy spirituality characterizes his life and accounts for the exuberance. Earthy: down-to-earth, dealing with everydayness, praying while doing the laundry, singing in the snarl of traffic. Spiritual: moved and animated by the Spirit of God and therefore alive to God” (Leaping Over A Wall, pg. 11).

Spirituality means you invite God into your everyday, very ordinary, dull, repetitive sameness and converse with Him about the dullness, the hopes, the dreams, the disappointments and the surprises, the decisions about what to make for dinner and how to pray for a child with cancer. The most spiritual people are the most ordinary people. They aren’t necessarily the religious leaders we see on television, but the unseen housewives and workers we never see up front who are affecting the lives of men and women all over the world without ever getting their names mentioned in Christianity Today or appearing on Christian television.

A spiritual person is a man or woman who longs to please God. They know going in that loving God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength is not going to please every one of their friends or all their family. It certainly didn’t please all of David’s brothers. But a spiritual person, although they are concerned with the thoughts of others, do not make what other people think their prime motivation for doing what they do. They know that at the end of their lives they must answer to God, so they look to make their every moment count in the sight of God. And when they fail, which they will (although hopefully, not quite as dramatically as David failed), they turn quickly to God, grieve over their wrongs, and allow His grace and forgiveness to guide their future actions. A spiritual person is an everyday person who chooses to put God first in everything they do.

So, are you ready to be “spiritual?”


 

 

November 12, 2015

We Were Created to “Do”

This week I paid a return visit to What’s Best Next, the blog of Matt Perman, only to discover that since I was last there, Zondervan has released the book, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done. The following is adapted from the book and can also be read at source by clicking the title below.

To Be Productive is to Be Fruitful in Good Works

What Does God Want Done?

Good works. What God wants done are good works.

We see this right in Matthew 5:16, where Jesus sums up for us the entire purpose of our lives:

“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

That is the purpose of the Christian life summed up for us in one sentence. The entire purpose of our lives—what God wants from us—is to do good for others, to the glory of God.

We also see this in one of the most important passages on productivity in the Bible—Ephesians 2:8-10:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing: it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Likewise, Titus 2:14 tells us that Jesus

“gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”

And Jesus says in John 15:16,

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.”

Being Fruitful in Good Works

Hence, good works are part of the purpose of our salvation. In one sense we have been doubly created for good works. God created us to do good works, as we see in the creation mandate in Genesis, and here we see that we are also re-created in Christ to do good works.

Productive things, then, are things that do good. Productivity always has to be understood in relation to a goal, and God’s goal is that we do good works.

Hence, we can define productivity in this way: to be productive is to be fruitful in good works. 

Adapted from What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done.


Today’s song is by Keith Green and was suggested by the devotional reading.

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