Christianity 201

October 31, 2022

Desperate for the Gospel

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Through a roundabout series of adventures, I was directed this morning to a currently inactive blog site, Deny Yourself Daily, where this was written by Susan Yenser. I knew it was meant to be shared here.

CEB.Rom.7.21 So I find that, as a rule, when I want to do what is good, evil is right there with me. 22 I gladly agree with the Law on the inside, 23 but I see a different law at work in my body. It wages a war against the law of my mind and takes me prisoner with the law of sin that is in my body. 24 I’m a miserable human being. Who will deliver me from this dead corpse?

I Need the Gospel

There is nothing more terrifying in all of my imagination than being left to my flesh, to my natural self. The thought of the Lord turning me over to the sin that so deeply burns within me is the most disgusting, most disturbing thought I ever can imagine. And yet the Lord has every right to. He has no reason to save me from the depths of depravity that is called Susan Yenser. None. I deserve to be left in my sin to die and be punished eternally for my wicked heart that is set in enmity towards God and towards my neighbor. I fail so miserably in fulfilling the law. I don’t love God with all my heart, soul, and mind, and I don’t love my neighbor as myself.

The only time I remotely show progress in doing so, it is Christ doing it through me. Not very often does the Lord show us the true depths of our own sin. But woe be to the one whom He does. Every ounce of my being is tainted with the fall and with the inclination to dishonor my Lord. The reality of Romans 7 has me turning the very same direction that it had Paul and that is to cry out WHO CAN SAVE ME FROM THIS? Who can I turn to that will take me out of this miserable state of flailing around in sin and lawlessness even when the spirit in me does not want to?

Thanks be to Jesus Christ, my Lord, who can deliver me from this body of death! The moments when all of Christ’s love and grace and mercy seem to have been removed from you so that you can sit and burn a little in the sting of your own sin, to a Christian, is it not the most terrifying of states? To see sin and to know that you cannot fight it on your own strength, is there any more frustrating of a position? It certainly doesn’t feel like it. It certainly feels like the most hopeless of all situations. To be left to myself in my sins, oh Lord, I can think of nothing worse.

My words only fail me at this point. They don’t do this topic justice. I must turn outside of myself. I, like Paul, do not cry out to myself for the remedy. I must cry out to the only, perfect, redeeming Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fulfilled the Law. He has done it for me. If it wasn’t for His righteousness I would be the savage that my heart was enslaved to be. Even when the Lord lets me feel those chains of slavery that were mine, may it not let me lose heart. Though it may for the moment, may it never keep me so down that I forget to look back up to the righteousness of my Lord that has saved me from myself and from Himself and His wrath.

Don’t give me your bankrupt preaching. Don’t give me a gospel that points me to myself. Don’t even give me a gospel that points me somewhat to myself and somewhat to Christ. It makes me want to vomit right now just thinking about it. Yes, the taste of sin in my mouth and the thought of being preached a watered down message that is pseudo-orthodox mixed in with the latest celebrity pastor’s own thoughts and reason literally makes my stomach turn with nausea. The thought that you would even try to give me more law on top of sincere disgust for the sin within myself, makes me feel hopeless.

Don’t give me the message that “God smiles when you be you.” In this state of hatred for the burning of the sin that seems to be hijacking my body and ruining my soul, DO NOT tell me that God is giving me a mulligan to re-do my life. A second chance. Don’t you see??? With this sin that is festering…I will only make it worse the second time around! I need a Savior! I need someone who did it FOR ME in my place while I sit here hopeless and unable to even move right or left without a sinful thought or deed. I need a message that will make me fall down on my face. One that will make me fight like hell. One that rages war on this sin within me and conquers it, not because of my actions, but because of the actions of Another.

I am a Christian and I need the Gospel. So much so that right now it seems so desperate as if I could not breathe another breath without it.

October 5, 2022

Jesus is Very Near

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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CEB.Rom.5.1. Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

NLT.Col.1.20 and through him God reconciled
    everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
    by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

NKJV.Acts.2.38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

NIV.Heb.2.18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

NRSVue.1John.5.4 for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.

Once again today, a new devotional source to introduce to you, The Preacher’s Blog, which is one part of the website of Eastside Church of Christ in Morganton, Georgia. Clicking the title which follows will take you to where this first appeared. Because this article is based on an old gospel song, I’ve included it as well at the end. (Some of the referenced scriptures are cited above; you’re encouraged to look up the rest.) The author is pastor Robby Eversole.

Burdens Are Lifted At Calvary

“Days are filled with sorrow and care;
Hearts are lonely and drear.
Burdens are lifted at Calvary;
Jesus is very near”
– John M. Moore, 1952.

Calvary is the most pitiful, painful, prolific and powerful place on earth. No other place on this terrestrial ball comes close to the impact on history and humanity than “the place of the skull.” Places like Pearl Harbor, Normandy, and New York hold immense value in remembrance within the hearts and fibers of millions because of the awful things that transpired there. These places are forever etched into the lives of many because of the steep price that was paid. But, add them all up, they fall far short of Calvary.

Life here on earth is difficult. The devil is daily on the grind, grinding at the lives of men doing everything within his power to make one fall. Nothing makes the devil happier than successfully causing doubt or disgust within the hearts of the saints. See, children of God enjoy something the devil can never have… “Peace with God” (Romans 5:1).

It is through the blood of the cross of Jesus that peace is realized (Colossians 1:20). The heaviest burden man would ever bear is the burden of sin (Matthew 11:28; Romans 3:10, 23; 6:23). Jesus, at Calvary, lifted the burden of sin for the whole world (Hebrews 2:9; John 3:16). And while men “struggle through life with worry and strife, I’ve a glorious hope to give cheer on the way” (Noah White, Paradise Valley). Jesus offers reprieve from the chaos. While the days are evil- Jesus offers himself to guide through the valleys of life. While the seas are rough, Jesus offers to walk upon the waves of our troubles to offer a calming word, “Peace be still.” Those “waves” which trouble life are already under the feet of Jesus, and in the midst of the storm, Jesus is very near.

There are three distinct places this author wants to bring to your remembrance about the burdens that Calvary lifts. The past burdens, the present burdens, and the future burdens.

First, Calvary takes care of the past. When Jesus went to the cross of Calvary, He did so to offer men remission from their past sins (Acts 2:38; Hebrews 8:12). When a subject made whole by Christ comes up out of the watery grave of baptism, the old man with all the sins are done away (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12-13). The burden of the past is erased and forgotten and Jesus is very near.

Second, Calvary takes care of the present. In the giving of the great commission, Jesus said, “Lo, I will be with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20b). Jesus is very active on behalf of His brethren presently (Romans 8:34; Acts 7:56). As men walk through the valley of the shadow of death, Jesus is with them (Psalm 23:4). Jesus walks with men through their struggles, and He identifies with those struggles (Hebrews 2:18). Calvary takes the present struggles and gives them perspective and power to persevere. Jesus is very near.

Third, Calvary takes care of the future. Jesus, at Calvary, is able to take the Christian struggles and turn them in to the “Glory Land Way.” No matter what is manifested in the present, the faithful know because of Jesus, the victory is won (1 John 5:4). Thus, the wonderful anthem pierces the airwaves around the meeting places of the saved, “Oh, Victory! In Jesus, my Savior forever.” No matter how sore the trial here, the Christian knows, “I’ve a home prepared where the saints abide, just over in the glory land.” This reality demands that each of Gods children march onward into battle with confidence toward God (2 Corinthians 3:4; 1 John 3:21). Jesus paved the way and spoiled the ending! Now, saints know that God holds the future in His hands. Thus, the future burdens are lifted at Calvary. Jesus is very near.

These old songs should “rev the motor” of every saint as they ponder the teachings. The Christian really is never alone and never left to bear a load they cannot take. Praise God for His Son, and the “great love wherewith He loved us” (Ephesians 2:4).

Jesus is very near, and the Father is too (Acts 17:27).


 

 

 

 

September 19, 2022

Legalism Leads with the Law, Rather Than the Gospel

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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We’re back for a third time with author K.K. Hodge, who writes devotions at Inspirations from the Funny Farm and you can read this one at source by clicking the title which follows.

Legalism vs. Grace

Galations 2:16-21 (NLT) Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law. But suppose we seek to be made right with God through faith in Christ and then we are found guilty because we have abandoned the law.

Would that mean Christ has led us into sin? Absolutely not! Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.

My daddy is a wonderful Christian man. We know that there was only one perfect Man who walked this earth, and His name was Jesus. Daddy isn’t perfect, but I know that my daddy has been made right through the blood of Jesus Christ. He loves to tell others about Christ. He helped to build the foundation for me to become the believer that I am today, and I want to be a witness like he is to others. He told me once that his goal is to share the plan of salvation with someone at least once every single day. When he told me that, I thought, “Wow, I want to be just like him!”

I remember a situation a couple of years ago in which a pastor caused my daddy to have a bit of a spiritual battle, and it had to do with legalism. I’m not a pastor. I don’t have a theological degree. I’m just a nurse practitioner and a farmer who has a heart for Christ and for sharing His word with others, but it is my opinion from studying God’s word that grace defeats legalism every time!

My daddy was raised in a Landmark Missionary Baptist Church. Actually, the church formed in my grandparents’, his parents’, home. They were charter members. It is still a wonderful church, and we have visited from time to time. They preach the word, no doubt. As young children, we attended a Southern Baptist Church, and in our teen years, we attended another Missionary Baptist Church. We were fed the gospel at both churches. I loved both churches. I grew in my faith at both churches. The church ordinances may have differed, but the fact remains that the gospel was being preached at both churches.

Did difference in ordinances make one church wrong and one church right? I’m not here to determine that. My belief is that if a pastor/preacher is preaching and teaching the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ, then that church is doing the right thing. How do we determine that the truth is being preached? Well, we have to study the word of God ourselves.

Back to my story, this man told Daddy that the women at the church Daddy attends wear lipstick, cut their hair, wear pants, and sometimes even wear shorts, and therefore, it is wrong for him to attend that church. Y’all don’t pull out your stones or torches just yet, but I’m going to tell you about me. This girl right here wears lipstick, cuts her hair, wears pants, and yes, on a hot summer day in south Mississippi, this girl even wears shorts! BUT, BIG BUT, not little but, this girl also loves Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior more than anything else in this world. Am I going to die and go to hell because “the rules” of my church are different than “the rules” of another church? I must answer emphatically–NO! I know that my eternal home is in heaven. There is not even a shadow of a doubt in my mind!

I prayed a lot before I wrote this today. I don’t want anyone to think that I am making light of the choice of church in which one chooses to be a member. I merely want to point out that Baptists won’t be the only ones in heaven, y’all. There will be Baptists, Methodists, Non-denominationals, and Pentecostals there too (to name a few)! God isn’t going to just call one church home. He is going to call THE CHURCH. You don’t get to heaven by attending a certain church on Sunday and following the ordinances of that church. You get to heaven by placing faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. It’s a free gift of grace that was given to each of us when His blood poured out on the cross.

Legalism leads with the law rather than the gospel. The gospel stands on it’s own. It doesn’t need any help from us to give it strength. Paul reminds us of this in Ephesians 2:8-9 , “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” We can’t work our way into heaven, but we work for the gospel and Christ because of the gracious gift of salvation.

But if works are taking the lead over the gospel of Jesus Christ, this is legalism. It’s human nature to distort the glorious truths of God, and I think we have all been guilty of trying to misuse that free gift of grace. God has given us all that we need for godliness. We desire to live for Christ, and we have deep convictions that the sins in our life dishonor God. But sometimes, in the midst of our pursuit for godliness, we forget that it is only by the grace of God that we can live for Him. Unfortunately, we sometimes tend to forget that any and all godliness comes from the Father. We become all puffed up and start projecting our standards on others. We soon begin to judge people and pressure them to conform to our “God lifestyle.” We forget about the principles that the word of God reveal to us, and we teach our own preferences and practices of the law.

In Galatians 2, Paul brought up an example of when Peter went to Antioch. When Peter first arrived, he ate with the Gentile Christians who were not circumcised. But later on, when some of the friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles any longer. He was afraid of the criticism that he would receive because the other people insisted on the necessity of circumcision.

Paul later says, “Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.” Those uncircumcised believers were believers too, and they have receive the gracious gift of salvation and eternal life just like their fellow circumcised believers.

We have to learn to balance the reality that our faith is through grace alone and by faith alone. We are called to glorify God, and we are called to follow His word. Grace teaches us to separate ourselves from cultural sin, but it never teaches us to use ourselves as the standard for grace. We must look to Christ as the standard, not ourselves! The important questions to ask yourself are, “Have I received the gift of salvation? Am I a child of God?”

If you know that the answer is yes, then you know. We aren’t perfect. We are perfectly imperfect children of a perfect God, and it is through Him that we are made right. We can’t do this thing called life on our own accord, but with God we can. We were created to glorify God. If what you are doing is sharing the gospel and bringing honor and glory to our Father, then keep on doing that! That is His desire for each of us. I leave you with this a word from 2 Corinthians 12:9 that assures us, ““Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” Alone, we are weak, but the power of the Father works best in our weakness.

His grace is all we need!

 

September 5, 2022

The Opposite of Sola Scriptura

Today’s devotional study is going to be interesting, to say the least. Far more so now than when much of it was posted in March, 2017. And the title I gave today’s thoughts was chosen to be deliberately provocative.

So first let’s deal with that title. In offering the opposite of sola scriptura (the word of God alone) I realize that some, especially if you are from a tradition which holds high “the five solas,” are going to be thinking that anything that opposes this view is heretical.

Years ago, someone challenged me with the question, “Are there things we know about God that we don’t know from the Bible?” I thought about my university philosophy studies and how some of the characteristics of God were intuited or deduced based on other information we have about God. In other words, we could say ‘If God is all-knowing, but he’s also just, then _________.’ (I don’t have a particular answer in mind there, but I wanted you to see the form such reasoning might follow.)

If we were to ask, “Are there things we know about Jesus we don’t know from the Bible?’ then the answer is more clear. Even the most conservative Christians are content to draw from the writings of Josephus and others to get a fuller picture of Christ’s impact, and the life of the Early Church. The Bible tells us even as much itself, The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. John 20:30 NLT and “There are many other things that Jesus did. If every one of them were written down, I suppose the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” – John 21:25 NET

Instead, I want to propose that there is a different type of opposite to sola scriptura, one that is not to be condemned, but rather to be considered, and perhaps adopted in your own Biblical studies.

It’s usually referred to today as “The Wesleyan Quadrilateral.”

This week we visited another church, as Ruth Wilkinson (who you’ve read here regularly) was preaching. The pastor chairing the service mentioned that the week before, he had spoken about this quadrilateral, and I checked and we’d only really mentioned it here once.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. In November, 2012 it briefly was part of a devotional by we ran by Scott Lencke.

Now, while some might loathe the idea of utilizing our experience to understand Scripture, I wouldn’t say it’s completely terrible. I’m an advocate of something like the Wesleyan quadrilateral that recognizes we have more than Scripture alone in helping us understand God’s revelation. Rather this perspective takes a more holistic approach, identifying a) Scripture, b) tradition (there is such things as good tradition), c) reason (not ‘objective rationalism’) and d) experience as important in grasping the revelation of God.

So, my point is that understanding Scripture is not completely devoid of our human experience and encounter with God and his truth.

But we got ahead of ourselves. What is the quadrilateral?

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

The Wesleyan Quadrilateral, or Methodist Quadrilateral, is a methodology for theological reflection that is credited to John Wesley, leader of the Methodist movement in the late 18th Century. The term itself was coined by 20th century American Methodist scholar Albert C. Outler.

This method based its teaching on four sources as the basis of theological and doctrinal development. These four sources are scripture, tradition, reason, and Christian experience.

Upon examination of Wesley’s work, Outler theorized that Wesley used four different sources in coming to theological conclusions. Wesley believed, first of all, that the living core of the Christian faith was revealed in “scripture” as the sole foundational source. The centrality of scripture was so important for Wesley that he called himself “a man of one book”. However, doctrine had to be in keeping with Christian orthodox “tradition.” So, tradition became in his view the second aspect of the so-called Quadrilateral. Furthermore, believing, as he did, that faith is more than merely an acknowledgment of ideas, Wesley as a practical theologian, contended that a part of the theological method would involve “experiential” faith. In other words, truth would be vivified in personal experience of Christians (overall, not individually), if it were really truth. And every doctrine must be able to be defended “rationally.” He did not divorce faith from reason. Tradition, experience, and reason, however, are subject always to scripture, which is primary.

Each of the “legs” of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral must be taken in balance, and none of the other three apart from scripture should be viewed as being of equal value or authority with scripture. None of these should be taken in isolation without the balancing effect of the others, and always Scripture should have the central place of authority.

Here are some images from various places online, where people tried to illustrate the concept graphically:

Do an image search for Wesleyan Quadrilateral and you’ll find various attempts to explain it.

I’m not sure the one on the bottom left is what Wesley had in mind. This is how stereotyping leads to divisiveness. And as I said earlier, the headline I chose would immediately cause some readers to think that the opposite to “scripture alone” would be something bad, or fringe, or not Christian at all.

Personally, I think it is another way forward. It gets us past the notion “The Bible says…” and also the resistance that we’re going to meet in the broader world when we start with “The Bible says…” The pastor we spoke with this morning mentioned that one of the people he’s read says our interactions should begin with experience.

Would that make scripture interpretation subjective? Perhaps, but the truth about God and the narratives about Jesus are subjective in the sense they are going to impact lives in a very personal, very individual sense.

Besides, as Michael Simpson informed us in the same article linked above:

This is a methodology for theological reflection that is credited to John Wesley, leader of the Methodist movement in the late 18th Century. In this method, tradition, experience, and reason are employed, while being subject always to scripture, when forming and applying our theology. Each of the “legs” of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral must be taken in balance, and none of the other three apart from scripture should be viewed as being of equal value or authority with scripture. None of these should be taken in isolation without the balancing effect of the others, and always Scripture should have the central place of authority. (italics added)

In an article posted in October, 2020, Matthew Marino reminded us that:

New folk are often struck by how much Anglicans talk about “the tradition.” People sometimes assume we mean, “That’s just how we’ve always done it.” But that is not what we are talking about at all. Refusal to change is not “the tradition,” just stasis. Jaroslav Pelikan, called that, “Traditionalism, the dead faith of the living.” The Great Tradition is the living faith of the dead. What we mean by “tradition” is robust and life-altering. The Apostle Paul commended the Corinthians because they, maintain the traditions as I delivered them to you.” (1 Cor 11:2) and, “stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter (2 Thes. 2:15). So while Jesus criticized the traditions of the elders (Matt 15:3), the traditions of the Christian faith passed along both verbally and in scripture are applauded…

…Why not just go with the Bible? Because heresy after heresy and schism after schism arose in those first five centuries. The early church dealt with them and told us how to deal with them. St. Vincent of Lerins referred to the tradition as, “That which has been taught always, everywhere, and by all.” In our era many claim God giving them new revelation. Yet these “new ideas” are always remarkably similar to ideas resoundingly rejected by the Church as novelty centuries ago. “The Tradition” is Mere Christianity, the core of the faith, that which has been passed from generation to generation.

The verb form of the Greek word for tradition, “paradosis” is “handed off” or “delivered.” When Paul said in 1 Cor 11:2, “maintain the traditions as I delivered them to you.” Paul literally said, “maintain the traditions as I traditioned you.”

He used the same word when he said, For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Cor 15:3). Jude called it, the faith once for all delivered.The tradition” is nothing less than the core of the faith that is handed from generation to generation. It is the baton that must be passed, the irreducible minimum.

And so, tradition. We could also look in detail at the other two “legs” of the Wesleyan hermeneutical tool in a similar fashion.

Again, the way I framed this may upset the preconditioning of some readers, but I hope you’ll at least file it away and perhaps, a situation will cross your path sometime soon where this interpretive tool is useful.

 

 

 

 

July 12, 2022

Bind My Wandering Heart to Thee

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Today we introduce you to another devotional writer appearing here for the first time. Marilyn Daniels writes at Marilyn’s Meditations. Clicking the title which follows below will take you to where this appeared first, and from there you can check out other topics.

Prone to Wander

Lamentations 3

There is some good theology written into many hymn lyrics. One particular favourite links our human struggles with those of the writer of “Come Thou Fount of Ev’ry Blessing”. In May 1758, when he was only 22 years old, Robert Robinson penned “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” for his sermon on Pentecost Sunday. In the following year of 1759, the lyrics of this powerful hymn were included in a small hymnal entitled A Collection of Hymns used by the Church of Christ.

His loudest praise is for “streams of mercy that never cease”. Surely he had been reading Lamentations 3:22-23. “The Lord’s compassions never fail”, Jeremiah was inspired to record. In fact God’s blessings are new every morning, because He is a faithful and loving God! “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed”. What a glorious truth!

Young Robinson recognized that his salvation was fixed upon the “mount of Thy [God’s] redeeming love”. Although Jeremiah calls himself “the man who has seen affliction” (3”1) he relies on the fact that “the Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him” (3:25). After all, Robinson’s testimony went like this: “Jesus sought me when a stranger, wand’ring from the fold of God”. Amazing how he worked that truth into poetic form to be sung in ages to come by many believers for whom Jesus had “interposed His precious blood”.

He knew his Bible. It was to “grace” that he was indebted. It was God who daily bound his wand’ring heart to Himself. Jesus Himself assures us “No one can snatch them [His sheep – His followers] out of My hand….no one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10:28).

Yet the struggles of each human heart are very real. Reading through the Bible there is no one who has not wrestled with temptation, no one who has not wandered, Abraham, Moses, David, to name a few. Yet they trusted in the God who “Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love” (Lamentations 3:32). The prophet then prescribes a remedy: “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord” (3:40), lest today we find ourselves unforgiven because we did not repent. The prophet feared he had been cut off (3:54), but in the end “You heard my plea,…… You came near” and “You redeemed my life” (3:56-58).

We are only saved by the goodness of God who “binds my wand’ring heart” to Himself. In fact our salvation is sealed for what purpose? – to worship God in His courts above (Revelation 7:9-10). Our worship rises up as a sweet smelling sacrifice, spreading everywhere “the fragrance of the knowledge of Him [Christ]…”…and blessing God because “we are to God the aroma of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).

Reflection:

Through His Holy Word God reassures us that, though we are prone to wander, He is ever faithful to those who call upon His name for their salvation. We trust Him to exemplify the kindness to which He calls us, as representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ here on earth. He gives meaning and purpose to each of His children and through the power of His Holy forgiveness enables us to pass on to others all that we have received from Him – grace, mercy, peace, joy and love. Praise the Lord! (1 John 1:8-10)

May 28, 2022

The Bible in One Short Sentence

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
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Today we want to return to an author that we featured only once here, in 2012, and share for the first time an archived post from his blog from 2016. David P. Kreklau blogged at For the Glory of God, which you can also reach by clicking the header which follows.

I Am God: The Point of the Bible

Listening to a seminary lesson years ago, the professor asked what the central theme of Scripture was for the whole Bible.  What would you say?  Well, he entertained several opinions and he eventually offered that it’s hard to settle on one.  I thought at the time, “Seriously? It’s redemption… right? RIGHT?”  But thinking about it now, even the events that stand inside God’s great redemptive historical narrative are all meant for a very specific purpose: to glorify God.  This glorification of God is all for the purpose of Him demonstrating His greatness… more than that, His holiness, which means His “set apart” self.  I.e. He is the only God, the one true God.

His whole point of Scripture is to demonstrate that “I Am God.”

Redemptive History

The Bible, as a whole, is about how God preexisted creation, God spoke into existence that creation of all things (including us and our world), God entered into creation to redeem what we destroyed, and God is making and will ultimately finish making new that creation.

Recall that in the Garden of Eden, He had one rule: do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17)… the basic gist of this command: “You can do anything but be God because I am God.  Do not try to be God!”

So naturally… we tried to be God (Genesis 3).

And then He spent the rest of the Old Testament describing how despite our treason of trying to be God (when only He is God), He would find a way to rescue us…

And then He begins the New Testament revealing how God, at great personal sacrifice, made a way through Jesus Christ to redeem us from our treason.  He continues the New Testament by revealing how God, through the Holy Spirit, picks up the mantle of redemption in the Church Age, and He finishes the New Testament with a glimpse of the close of history and what it looks like when God’s plan has come to fruition.

Scriptural Pronouncements

When Moses first meets God in the burning bush in Exodus 3, God tells him His name is “I AM WHO I AM (written about previously here).”

The intro to the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 start with “I am the Lord your God,” which pretty clearly states the thesis of this blog.  He goes on to spend the next three commandments basically saying “do not try to be God or make any other gods because I am God.”

In the Gospel of John, we see Jesus make several pronouncements of His divinity, statements of “I Am” followed by supporting clarifications:

I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst (John 6:35).”

I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12).”

I am the door.  If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture (John 10:9).”

I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11).”

I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die (John 11:25-26).”

I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).”

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit (John 15:1-2).”

And one additional statement that speaks to Christ’s preexistence of Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish faith (but I would argue is also indicative of His preexistence to all creation as a whole), is John 8:58, “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am.’ ”

In fact, the beautiful irony is that we could never make ourselves God.  Yet out of love when we least deserved it, He made us one with God through His Son, and gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit to live in us.  We are now one with Him, and at the end of all things, everything will be renewed… including our perspective where we will no longer have a mutinous desire to be God, but will joyously spend the rest of eternity proclaiming the breath-taking glory of He who is the one and only God (Cf: Revelation 4).

A Final Word

One final thought to drive home this thesis: at the beginning of Scripture, He gives us the one rule that basically says, “Don’t be God because I am God.”  And I already spelled out above how the Ten Commandments and the whole of Scripture underline this message that “I Am God.”  So when we come to the consummate kingdom, one may notice that there are no longer any rules… and one might say, “Well why not?  Can’t we break that one rule again like we did before?”  But this time, the difference is that God has come to live in the lives of believers and we are now one with Him.  We are no longer alone in our wretched selves, but, as 2 Peter 1:4 says, we have become partakers in His divine nature.

Thus, so it is that the only thing that will keep us from usurping God… is FROM God.  Left to ourselves, we cannot coexist with Him without trying to usurp Him.  The only answer is for Him to come to us and help us let Him be God… which is what he did through Christ Jesus… the one and only God… the one and only way to God.

He Is God.

January 25, 2022

To Make Up His Jewels

When I was a kid in Sunday School, we sang a little chorus, complete with King James era lyrics:

When He cometh, when He cometh
To make up His jewels,
All His jewels, precious jewels,
His loved and His own:

Like the stars of the morning,
His bright crown adorning,
They shall shine in their beauty,
Bright gems for His crown.

I had forgotten all about this song until I found the devotional which appears below. It’s based on older versions (KJV and NKJV) of Malachi 3:17a. Here’s the NASB:

“‘And they will be Mine,’ says the LORD of armies, ‘on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will have compassion for them just as a man has compassion for his own son who serves him.'”

I went to BibleRef.com for some commentary, but was especially struck by this summary statement of chapters 3 and 4:

The final message, completed in chapter 4, is an appeal for God’s chosen people to return. God would prefer to see them redeemed, than to be destroyed, when the end finally comes. (emphasis added)

Remember that, as I believe verse 17 is a microcosm of both chapters, as fleshed out in today’s devotional.

We periodically pay a visit to the devotional page at the Presbyterian Church in Canada’s website. Click the title below to read at source. The author of this piece is Martin Wiles.

Junking For Jewels

Romans 8:29For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (NLT)

Jewels can sometimes be found among the junk.

My wife calls it “junking”, and she does it quite often. When possible, I usually tag along. We don’t actually visit junkyards or stores, but we call what we do junking because we do it among a lot of discarded stuff — stuff that many term junk. However, we adhere to the old cliché, “One’s man trash is another man’s treasure.”

Our junking takes place occasionally at yard sales, but more often in thrift stores. Any time when we go to a conference or on vacation, she searches for thrift stores, maps them out, and visits each one. Once our jewels are discovered, we take them home and make them look more like the treasures they once were. We place them in the dishwasher or washing machine, splatter them with lemon oil, or tighten their loose joints with a screwdriver or hammer.

Once our jewels are cleaned and repaired, we decide. Some we choose to keep in our home. Most we resell, sometimes for a handsome profit. One person’s junk has helped us to make ends meet.

When God gazes down from heaven, He sees discarded people littering the shelves of the earth — people whom others have rejected, abused, and scorned. These are people whom He created and loves, but many of them have rejected Him. Sin has duped them, causing them to think that they no longer need God in their lives. Sin has led them in directions that are slowly killing them emotionally, spiritually, and physically. But God keeps junking.

Those who allow God to purchase them through repentance, forgiveness, and salvation, He cleans up. The blood of Christ washes them, the grace of God changes their perceived purpose, and the strength of God allows them to enjoy life once again. As God molds them into the likeness of His Son, they are transformed from junk into jewels.

Malachi 3:17a“They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels.” (NKJV)

God is in the business of making jewels of what many consider junk. Are you one of the ones whom He’s cleaning up and restoring?

Prayer: Father, thank You for Your amazing grace that makes us more than we could ever be in and of ourselves. Amen.


Here’s the second of the three verses of When He Cometh at Hymnary.org.

He will gather, He will gather
The gems for His kingdom;
All the pure ones, all the bright ones,
His loved and His own.

Like the stars of the morning,
His bright crown adorning,
They shall shine in their beauty,
Bright gems for His crown.

May 21, 2021

Reconciled to God Through Christ

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NIV.Col.1.21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

Today we’re featuring Matthew Breeden and a sermon outline from 2018 for the above passage, posted at the website of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Round Rock, Texas. Click the header which follows below to read at their site.

The Message of Reconciliation

Introduction

As Paul writes to this young church, this gathering of new believers in Colossae he wants them to understand the centrality of Christ and their need for Him. As we considered verses 15-20 we answered the question, “Who is Jesus?” We made the observation that one of the greatest errors of all time is denial and minimizing of who Jesus really is.

As we come to verses 21-23 it is important to acknowledge another point of error: many (if not most) people believe that we are born basically good and that our default position is right standing with God. This, however, is not the teaching of Scripture and as Paul writes to the Colossians he wants them to know their need for reconciliation as well as the significance of what Jesus has done to make reconciliation of sinful men to God available.

Our Need for Reconciliation (1:21)

Paul is writing this letter to people who are now in Christ, they have received the Gospel, but he wants them to have a very clear understanding of who they were before Jesus. He describes their pre-Christ condition in three ways:

  • Alienated – Before we are reconciled to God we are separated or estranged from Him by our sin (Ephesians 2:12).
  • Hostile in Mind – Before we are reconciled to God we have minds that are hateful toward Him. So, our “alienation” isn’t passive separation – we are active in our enmity toward Him.

The Source of Reconciliation (1:22a)

While we were born as enemies and haters of God, separated from Him, God took the initiative to reconcile our relationship to Him. That reconciliation, however, came at a price. The mending of this broken relationship took a sacrifice, it was made possible only by the broken body of Jesus (Colossians 1:20; Romans 5:10-11; Ephesians 2:12-16).

The Goal of Reconciliation (1:22b)

In the first part of verse 22 Paul reminds the Colossians of their completed reconciliation. While reconciliation is complete in Jesus, there is also an on-going process – there is an ultimate goal of our reconciliation that is still being worked out.

The goal of our reconciliation is to move us from being people who are marked by evil deeds to being people who are holy and blameless and above reproach. This is something God does in us, but we are also called to strive for it in our daily lives (Ephesians 1:4; Philippians 2:12-13).

The Condition of Final Reconciliation (1:23)

Paul is writing to a people who he fears are being tempted to trust other things, besides Christ, for their salvation. And so he wants to make this clear: The only way that you can have the hope of reconciliation is if you have a faith that is certain to the end.

What we know from other parts of Scripture is that for those who have true saving faith, that kind of faith will never fail and it will never falter. True faith is God given and will never fail. But nevertheless, while those who are in Christ are secure in Him, our aim should always be to remain steadfast and stable in faith (Philippians 1:6; 2:1-13).

Application:

  • Do you understand the position you were in without Christ? If we don’t understand who we were we will never understand the magnitude of our salvation.
  • Do you understand the source of reconciliation? If we don’t understand the price that was paid in order to reconcile us to God, then we will never have the proper level of appreciation and gratitude for our salvation.
  • Do you understand the goal of your reconciliation? If you don’t understand the aim or the goal of your salvation then you will never grow or mature in your faith the way God intends.
  • Do you understand the ongoing nature of salvation? If you don’t understand that salvation is an ongoing process then it’s possible that you have not fully understood the work of God in your life.
  • Do you understand your call to be an ambassador? If you don’t understand the call to share the message of salvation with others then you are forsaking one of the greatest gifts that God has given – thejoy of helping others experience reconciliation with God (2 Cor. 5:17-21).

March 30, 2021

Jonah’s First Converts and Easter Atonement

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In the very popular children’s resource, The Jesus Storybook Bible author Sally Lloyd-Jones illustrates that many of the best-known narratives from the Hebrew Bible are foreshadowing the coming of a Savior. Not surprisingly, the book is subtitled, “Every Story Whispers His Name.”

This is true even more so for the book of Jonah, as Jesus himself make a direct connection between the prophet’s three days in the air chamber of a great fish, and his own three days in the tomb before resurrection.

For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
– Matthew 12:40 (all scriptures NIV except as noted)

Who were Jonah’s first converts? We don’t know anything about their spiritual history from the text in Jonah chapter one, but we know that after Jonah is tossed overboard,

At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him. (v16)

In other words, Jonah’s first decisive act on the way to Nineveh (or technically, at this stage, on the way to avoid Nineveh) ends in the ship’s crew making an offering and prayers.  (Sidebar: As with much of the Old Testament, we see a collective spiritual response on behalf of the crew as a whole, there isn’t the emphasis on personal response that we have today, though it can certainly be inferred.)

To repeat, the first revival meeting Jonah sets in motion is in the hearts of the crew, a long time before reaching his originally requested destination.

A few other things are worth noting here.

First, the responsibility for the situation is placed on Jonah, just as the weight or burden of our sin is placed on Jesus.

The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” (v11-12)

The Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 53:6 reads,

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Peter directly refers to this passage in 1 Peter 2:24,

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed

The men in Jonah’s story resist the prophet’s suggested solution to their dilemma. They don’t want to be responsible for taking a life. In the same way, Peter — yes, the same Peter who we just quoted — seeks an alternative solution.

Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:21-22)

and again we read that at the moment of Jesus being arrested,

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (John 18:10)

Jonah’s nautical crew are filled with remorse at the necessary action they take:

Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.”

In the Jesus narrative, Pilate sees the innocence of Jesus and wants no part in his death,

When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” (Matthew 27:24)

The Roman Centurion acknowledges who Jesus really is,

The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, “This man truly was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54 NLT)

The Jonah narrative continues,

Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.

The idea of throwing Jonah overboard was Jonah’s idea.

Similarly, the idea of Jesus giving his life was the plan all along.

And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day.” (Luke 24:46 NLT)

(Bible scholars tell us that the beginning of God’s redemptive plan can be traced all the way back to Genesis 3.)

Jesus offers up his life willingly, just as Jonah offered himself up as a sacrifice so the men on the ship could be saved.

There are probably many other parallels I missed. I didn’t consult commentaries for this one, but simply responded to the text as I was reading. Clearly God is preparing the hearts of the people living under the first covenant for what will occur in the new covenant…

…So who were Jonah’s next converts? You might say the next great spiritual awakening happens in the heart of Jonah himself, but for that, you’ll have to read chapter two.

 

 

 

April 19, 2020

Jonah and the Psalm

by Ruth Wilkinson

I recently posed this question as an informal Facebook poll: “Did the story of Jonah happen literally as it appears in the Bible?” The majority said yes. No surprise. The Church has been defending the story’s miraculous nature since the early Church Fathers. For many, it’s even a test of faith in God’s sovereignty; can you believe God didn’t do it, without believing God couldn’t do it?

JonahintheWhale_RuePeople often say that it “must have happened—Jesus says it did.” Fair statement, but one that needs some thought. What is the relationship between Jesus and Jonah?

Let’s assume that the event literally happened to Jonah, son of Amittai, prophet to King Jeroboam. That Jonah’s psalm in chapter 2 was his prayer, recorded as he prayed it.

Why would Jonah sing his gratitude to God in the middle of this mess? Why does Jonah never expresses remorse?

And where does Jesus fit in?

Now the Lord had appointed a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the fish three days and three nights. Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish.

Matthew records Jesus saying: “…For as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.” Matthew 12:40 (HCSB)

Both events involve a prophetic man who comes back after three days of being given up for dead, but in all other respects, narrative contrasts are greater than similarities.

  • Jesus is in conversation with God all through his approach to the grave: Jonah is silent until he can’t stand it any more.
  • Jesus laments God’s turning His face away; Jonah is the one who turns his back.
  • Jesus enters his grave as an act of submission: Jonah embraces death as part of his rebellion.
  • Jesus, as God, returns by an act of power and of will: Jonah as vomit.

I called to the Lord in my distress, and He answered me.
I cried out for help in the belly of Sheol; You heard my voice.

Jonah finally breaks his silence. Some suggest he’d been unconscious, others that Jonah physically died and was resurrected, based on Matthew’s “sign of Jonah,” and the reference to Sheol.

For Christians, “Sheol” can bring to mind medieval pictures of Hell, but to Jonah the image is very different. Sheol was beneath the earth, the farthest place from Heaven, where the dead descended to (or were raised from if God opened the gate). Those who entered it became silent shadows, without knowledge, passion, or hope. Yet God ruled there, and in the Messiah’s day the righteous would be released to joyously participate in His kingdom.

Some see a connection here with 1 Peter 3:18-20 and Ephesians 4:9 but there’s no real support in scripture for the idea of Jesus “descending to Hell.” Peter speaks of earth, and Paul of the past, not of metaphysics. Instead, they drive home for us the understanding that Jesus overcame time and space to walk in the dust, and “humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross.”1

You threw me into the depths, into the heart of the seas,
and the current overcame me. All Your breakers and Your billows swept over me.

For modern songwriters, switching ‘voice’ mid-song is a no-no. Not true for the Psalmists who switch from addressing God, to His people, to the writer’s own soul and back again. Jonah moves from speaking about God, to direct, dramatic accusation.

Jesus also recognizes God’s hand in directing his path, but He does it with an attitude of humility and submission that culminates in His prayer, “If this cannot pass… Your will be done,”2 modelling not blame but trust and obedience.

But I said: I have been banished from Your sight,
yet I will look once more toward Your holy temple.
The waters engulfed me up to the neck;
the watery depths overcame me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.

Jonah has what he wanted—to be far from the face of God—and realizes he should have been more careful in his wishing.

He’s bound and suffocating, tangled in something beyond his strength. He echoes Psalm 88: drowning, God’s wrath, an innocent sufferer, accusation, demands for rescue, loneliness.

At His loneliest moment, Jesus draws instead from Psalm 22 and its anticipation of praise in better days. Like Jonah, Jesus grieves God’s absence. Like Jonah, He identifies Himself as an innocent. Unlike Jonah, He actually is one.

At least Jonah is looking in the right direction—back where he came from.

I sank to the foundations of the mountains;
the earth with its prison bars closed behind me forever!
But You raised my life from the Pit, Lord my God!
As my life was fading away, I remembered Yahweh.
My prayer came to You, to Your holy temple.

Jonah continues to deny the cause of his trouble—his own choices. But something has changed.

He’s run as far as he can but still has a connection to the One from whom He ran. He knows to whom he speaks, how he will sound in those ears and what the response is likely to be.

In the darkest place possible, his heart and mind turn to the brightest. In the grip of the worst monster, he looks toward the most loving Father. At his farthest from home, his mind turns to the Holy of Holies, the centre of all Creation.

To “remember” is not just to recall, but to be intentionally mindful. Of the past—what God has done. Of the present—where He meets us. Of the future—in which he awaits.

This is where Jonah comes closest to Jesus, who in His own climactic moment on the cross contradicted His own sense of abandonment and declared the words of Psalm 31:5, “Into Your hand I entrust my spirit…” trusting God to “…redeem me, Lord, God of truth.

Jonah, weakened and lost, cannot save himself but Yahweh-remembered can and will. Jonah is freed from the pit.

Those who cling to worthless idols forsake faithful love

Has Jonah learned anything? Has he changed? He hasn’t admitted his guilt. We see no contrition. Instead, he condemns “those” who forsake faithful love which comes from the God that Jonah fled. So who is he talking about?

Those” sailors whose misfortune it was to give Jonah a ride? They’d been pagan until they met with Yahweh. Afterward they’d sacrificed and made vows to the LORD, a step toward becoming “Hebrews.” But Jonah didn’t see that happen. He was already underwater and sinking. All Jonah knew of them was that they were “those who cling to worthless idols.” Perhaps he assumes they’ve lost their chance.

Those” Ninevites, violent and cruel people? He’s endangered his own life to scuttle their chance at receiving the faithful love of God. Is he hoping that this proverb is a promise?

All that’s left is himself—the prophet who clung to the idol of his nationalistic hatred, forsaking the faithful love of God. Jonah’s not the only prophet to object to his assignment. So did Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Jeremiah. He is, however, the only one who upped sticks and ran. The others spoke honestly to God and received His response. Jonah built a wall of silence and refusal between himself and God.

Jonah and Jesus again part ways. Jesus didn’t only accept His role, He chose it. “…He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men.”

One rabbinic writer said:

Jeremiah sought the honor of God and the honor of Israel;

Elijah sought the honor of God and not the honor of Israel;

Jonah sought the honor of Israel and not the honor of God.”

One might even substitute “Jonah sought the honor of himself…” Jesus sought the honor of the Father through obedience, pursuing and rescuing those who clung to their idols and could not, on their own, find the freedom of letting go.

…but as for me, I will sacrifice to You with a voice of thanksgiving.
I will fulfill what I have vowed. Salvation is from the Lord!

Then the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

The fish has been carrying around 180 extra pounds of ballast. Enough is enough. The LORD lets her off the hook. It’s time for Jonah to head inland.

Three days of silence, a burst of eloquent gratitude, and either hypocritical self-righteousness, or an excuse to head to Jerusalem instead of Nineveh. No wonder she was sick.

Jonah heads reluctantly to Nineveh, wanders around—in silence for three days—before delivering his message.

But Jesus spent His ministry reaching out and being available to not only men like Himself, but to enemies and invaders, strangers and rejects, women and children, heretics and hypocrites. After His resurrection, He allowed only moments to pass before reconnecting with the people he’d come to save.

****

However… what if instead of Matthew’s rendering, we look at Luke’s record of the same statement: For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation. Luke 11:30 (HCSB)

Despite the fact that Luke wouldn’t have heard it first hand, his understanding of the Jonah/Jesus parallel seems better grounded: just as Jonah’s message of God’s grace toward Nineveh had “overturned” the city, so would Jesus’ overturn the world.

The verb in Jonah’s message to Nineveh seems intentionally ambiguous. Throughout Scripture, it’s translated as demolished, overturned, overthrown, transformed or turned around. Those who (eventually) heard it inferred a threat of destruction, creating fearful repentance. But was this true prophet of Israel not also used to point to an alternative fulfillment?

Nineveh was beautifully, life-givingly “overturned.”

So, yes. Jesus wanted us to remember this story. He wanted us to learn from it.

I’d argue that the least important question about this story is whether it “happened.” What matters is that we learn from Jonah’s mistakes and are free to not repeat them. That we learn from Jesus’ example and are free to make it real in our lives.


1 Philippians 2:8 HCSB

2 Matthew 26:42

April 13, 2020

On the Cusp of the Four Cups

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Okay, I don’t know why I chose that title for today’s devotional, but there is definitely something afoot in Luke 22: 13-23 about cups. We join the Passover meal (aka The Last Supper) in the middle of the story, where Jesus takes the second of four cups. Then the third. Bread in between. Only Luke offers this sequence.

That there are two cups in this story probably confuses new Christians who are accustomed to the Communion or Eucharist where there is one instance of bread and one instance of cup. The cup-bread-sequence needs to be understood.

I was thinking about this reading Devotions by Chris by Chris Hendrix in a post entitled The Promise of Redemption.

A traditional Passover meal, called a Seder, is a meal to commemorate the Israelites leaving Egypt. They recline to eat instead of sitting in a chair, eat matza (unleavened bread), bitter herbs and four cups of wine. The first cup of wine represents sanctification, which is the process of being made holy. It’s to remember that God’s people are to be set apart. The second cup represents the joy of Deliverance, a reminder that we are no longer under the yoke of slavery. The third cup is the cup of redemption. It was after eating the lamb as a reminder of the price paid for redemption. The fourth cup is the cup of restoration, a reminder that God would make His people a nation.

Think back to the night Jesus was betrayed (Good Friday). The disciples prepared the Passover meal where Jesus had told them to (Matthew 26:19). There’s no recording of the first cup of wine, but in Luke 22:17 we see the second cup where Jesus says He won’t drink it again until the Kingdom has come. We then read where Jesus broke the matza and blessed it. In verse 20 it says He lifted up another cup (third – redemption) and told them that He was making a new covenant confirmed with His blood as the Passover lamb. Matthew and Mark then say the went to the garden after this cup. While Jesus was on the cross, John 19 records that Jesus said He was thirsty. They lifted up sour wine to Him (fourth cup). Verse 30 says when He drank it, He said, “It is finished” and died. He finished the Passover meal and the fulfillment of it in that moment to redeem us and to restore us to God.

This drove me deeper into tracking down the cups in a Jewish context which took me to Chabad.org and this article which states,

G‑d uses four expressions of redemption in describing our Exodus from Egypt and our birth as a nation:

1. “I will take you out…”

2. “I will save you…”

3. “I will redeem you…”

4. “I will take you as a nation…”

Our sages instituted that we should drink a cup of wine, a toast if you will, for each one of these expressions. We recite the Kiddush over the first cup, we read the Exodus story from the Haggadah over the second cup, we recite the Grace after Meals over the third cup, and we sing the “big Hallel” (Psalms and hymns of praises to G‑d) over the fourth cup.

 There are a number of explanations as to the significance of the various stages of redemption conveyed through each of these expressions. Here is one:

1. Salvation from harsh labor—this began as soon as the plagues were introduced.

2. Salvation from servitude; or the day the Jews left Egypt geographically and arrived at Ramses.

3. The splitting of the sea, after which the Jews felt completely redeemed, without fear of the Egyptians recapturing them.

4. Becoming a nation at Sinai.

During the Seder we can experience these elements of redemption in a spiritual sense.

Another article by a different author at the same website offers various interpretations of the four cups.

We were liberated from Pharaoh’s four evil decrees: a) Slavery. b) The ordered murder of all male progeny by the Hebrew midwives. c) The drowning of all Hebrew boys in the Nile by Egyptian thugs. d) The decree ordering the Israelites to collect their own straw for use in their brick production.


The four cups symbolize our freedom from our four exiles: The Egyptian, Babylonian, and Greek exiles, and our current exile which we hope to be rid of very soon with the coming of Moshiach.


The words “cup of wine” are mentioned four times in Pharaoh’s butler‘s dream (Genesis 40:11-13). According to the Midrash, these cups of wine alluded to the Israelites’ liberation.

The website of Chosen People Ministries shows each of these fulfilled in Christ:

The ministry of Messiah speaks to each of these four promises:

Messiah sanctifies us – “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth” (John 17:19).

Messiah delivers us – “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

Messiah redeems us – “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).

Messiah is our joy – “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).

But the view suggested at the top of today`s devotional, that Jesus completes the Passover meal with the wine mixed with vinegar on the cross is occasionally challenged. Religion professor Jonathan Klawans states,

Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples did not take place on the first night of Passover. There is a real difference between John and the synoptics on this question, and John’s chronology continues to make much more sense to me: Jesus was tried and killed before the holiday began. By Seder time, he was buried.

Which begs the question, was this truly a ‘second cup, bread, third cup’ scenario? I would argue that it was a Passover meal. The notes in most Evangelical study Bibles would argue that it was, indeed a Passover meal, but suggest that the completion takes place at The Marriage Supper of the Lamb. (Notice the parallel lamb reference.)

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he added, “These are true words that come from God.”
 – Rev. 19:9 NLT

Back to Luke, I believe this ‘third’ cup is indeed Jesus of Nazareth saying, “I will redeem you.” He redefines both the bread and the wine, and most importantly, becomes our Passover lamb.

But that doesn’t dismiss Chris’ idea quoted at the outset, because you could accept that the wine/vinegar mix is cup number four if you are still anticipating cup number five. Yes, five.

You see, I didn’t give you the entirety of the first quotation from Chabad.org and I’m going to give them the last word, because I think the imagery from a Christian perspective is rather obvious!

There is actually a fifth expression in the above mentioned verses: “And I will bring you to the land which I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you as an inheritance.

While the Exodus from Egypt and the birth of the Jewish nation were permanent, we have yet to be brought to Israel on a permanent basis.

In honor of this verse we have a fifth cup at the Seder: the Cup of Elijah. This cup is set up for Elijah during the second half of the Seder, but we do not drink it. Elijah will announce the arrival of Moshiach1, who will bring all Jews to Israel, for good.


1(lit. “the anointed one”) the Messiah. One of the 13 principles of the Jewish faith is that G-d will send the Messiah to return the Jews to the land of Israel, rebuild the Holy Temple and usher in the utopian Messianic Era.

 

April 10, 2020

For Me He Died: A Good Friday Collection

 

Wounded for me, wounded for me,
There on the cross He was wounded for me;
Gone my transgressions, and now I am free,
All because Jesus was wounded for me.

Dying for me, dying for me,
There on the cross He was dying for me;
Now in His death my redemption I see,
All because Jesus was dying for me.

– early 20th Century hymn; vs 1, William Ovens, vs. 2, Gladys Toberts


…It’s like sitting in church and hearing a great sermon and then deciding that someone else that we know has to hear it; the idea that this time of year is a great opportunity for the benefit of somebody else. But this time of year comes around in the Christian calendar not so much for anyone else but for me. This is my time to sit and contemplate that it was my sin that led Christ to the cross to die in my place. This is why Jesus came; because we needed a savior.

-Early Christianity 201 post


Christ died. He left a will in which He gave His soul to His Father, His body to Joseph of Arimathea, His clothes to the soldiers, and His mother to John. But to His disciples, who had left all to follow Him, He left not silver or gold, but something far better – His PEACE!

– Matthew Henry


For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Christ], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

-Colossians 1:19


The Blood deals with what we have done, whereas the Cross deals with what we are. The Blood disposes of our sins, while the Cross strikes at the root of our capacity for sin.

~ Watchman Nee


It must have been agonizing for Jesus – the Word of God made flesh – to acknowledge that in what was about to happen – the powers of darkness, which He could have no doubt thrown back with a single word – had been given free reign.

– Grant Gunnink; quoted at Daily Encouragement (C201 link)


For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

– I Cor. 1:18


My hope is in the Lord
Who gave Himself for me,
And paid the price of all my sin
at Calvary.

For me He died,
For me He lives;
And everlasting life and light
He freely gives.

Hymn, My Hope is in the Lord, © 1945 Norman J. Clayton Publishing © Renewed 1973


May I never put anything above the cross of our Lord Jesus the Anointed. Through Him, the world has been crucified to me and I to this world.

– Galatians 6:14


The Jews thought that in being crucified, Jesus failed at being the Messiah, the Greeks thought that in being crucified, Jesus failed at being God, people today think that in being crucified Jesus failed at doing anything relevant – but if God can be spoken of as failing at anything when Jesus was crucified – God failed to treat us as our sins deserve.

-Clarke Dixon (C201 link)


Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

-Ephesians 5:1,2


It was our sin and guilt that bruised and wounded Him.
It was our sin that brought Him down.
When we like sheep had gone astray our Shepherd came,
And on His shoulders He bore our shame.

Meek as a lamb, that’s led out to the slaughterhouse,
Dumb as a sheep, before it’s shearer;
His life ran down upon the ground like pouring rain,
That we might be born-again!

Our God Reigns, verses 3 and 4


But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

-Hebrews 2:9


The problem of sin is that it is a contagion and a captivity, which involves our complicity.

As a stain, sin is like a contagion that must be cleansed— as a virus must be eradicated from the body.

As blame, sin involves our complicity and thus blame must be borne.

As a power which leads to the penalty of death, sin is a captivity from which we must be freed.

In His death on the cross, Jesus purifies us from the stain of guilt, removes from us and bears in Himself the blame, and frees us from the power of Sin and Death.

Good Friday, indeed.

-Glenn Packiam (C201 link)


And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God

-Hebrews 10:11-12


Into the cross of Jesus
Deeper and deeper I go,
Following through the garden,
Facing the dreaded foe;
Drinking the cup of sorrow,
Sobbing with broken heart,
“O Savior, help! Dear Savior, help!
Grace for my weakness impart.”

-Oswald J. Smith, Deeper and Deeper (C201 link)


It is true that I deserved death for sin just as do all of humankind. I had been caught in Satan’s deceits and those practices that were offensive to my creator and sovereign. Had justice been served neither I nor anyone else would have survived. Satan would have won. There would not have been a single person suitable for God’s presence.

– Russell Young (C201 link)


■ Here is the embedded link to the Good Friday (and Communion Service) playlist we’ve been promoting all week. This will play continuously as long as you leave this page open, or you can click through to YouTube and watch it (some of the songs are lyric videos) there. Unlike the hymns quoted above, these are all modern worship cross-centered songs.

 

November 3, 2019

Rebirth for the Reborn

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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We’re back again with Melody who writes devotional material at In Pleasant Places.  To read today’s article at her blog, click the title below.

Making the Dead Alive – Galatians

“For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman.
But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise…
Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.”

Galatians 4:22-23,28

If those of us who are in Christ are children of promise, born again into eternal life out of the promise of God and through His decided, gracious, miraculous work, is there anything He will not do for us, for our good, for our building up and strengthening, for our being made in Christ’s likeness? If we are children of promise, born of His will and purpose and delight, is there any faithfulness or provision He would withhold or miss?

This is significant. Because it highlights that God is not passive in making us His own. He is not passive in making us alive in Him. We have been born again. Born into a new existence, a new creation, life breathed into our spiritual nature that was dead. Not sick or struggling or confused. Dead.

We don’t just see things differently. We don’t just try to live a different way because it’s healthier or nicer to others or makes sense. This isn’t some realization we finally came to or were convinced of.

This is an act of God.

Only an act of God can do this.

How often do I miss that truth?

If we see beauty in the glory of God and desire it over ourselves, it is because God acted to cause that in us. If we see wisdom and power and grace and mercy and wonder and true reality in the cross of Jesus Christ and His amazing resurrection from the dead, if we see our own sin and depravity and know He is our only hope and how astounding it is that God would send His Son to save us, if we see this and surrender in humble praise because Jesus willingly gave Himself up for our sake, choosing to save us and not Himself because there was no other way for us – if we see this, it is because God Himself spoke powerful light into our hearts and made our dead soul alive to see Him.

This is why things that seem so clear to those who have been made alive are so baffling and ridiculous to those who are still dead (1 Corinthians 1:18). The dead cannot see it. It is true that God can work through conversations and reasoned arguments, and we are commanded to be ready at all times to give reason for the hope that we have with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). But let us never forget that the Lord must act for anyone to see Him as He is, to see salvation and the cross and even their own captivity in darkness.

This is why prayer is essential, always. That God will provide opportunities to share our hope, that He will act in power and great mercy to open their eyes, that they will not harden their hearts and neglect such a great salvation at a devastating cost.

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” 1 Timothy 2:1-6

“And you were once dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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.” Ephesians 2:1-10

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’…So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:13-17

“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart…And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord…For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:1-6

We are ambassadors of Christ, given the ministry to implore those around us to be reconciled to God and to know the hope that we have in this mighty God who is faithful and true and who saves us and seals us forever (2 Corinthians 5:20; Ephesians 1:13-14). Living this out in weakness as jars of clay to show the surpassing power and glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:7), let us always point to our Savior and Lord, rejoicing humbly at what He has done in us and believing firmly in what He is able to do in others.

Our God is mighty to save. He makes the dead come alive, exchanging a heart of stone and giving one of flesh and life in its place – He has already done this in us, and His power reaches to those who do not know Him yet. Our God does this, and may all blessing and honor and glory and power and praise be His for His mighty works done to ransom us and show us the wonder of His glory.

July 11, 2019

In a Precarious Position

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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by Clarke Dixon

Have you ever felt a sense of desperation? Like you are having, not just a bad day, but a bad year, or even a rotten season of life? You will be able to relate to Ruth and Naomi, who at the beginning of Ruth, chapter two, are in a precarious position.

Naomi is a widow, who not only lost her husband and sons, but therefore also lost the rights to the family land. Ruth is a foreigner, and a Moabite at that! The Moabites did not a great reputation among the Israelites. Neither Naomi nor Ruth had a livelihood. These were desperate times for them.

Despite their precarious position, Ruth chapter two is all about hope. Where we can find hope when we are in a precarious position?

Now there was a wealthy and influential man in Bethlehem named Boaz, who was a relative of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech. Ruth 2:1 (NLT)

This book is full of hints, and chapter two begins with one; though Naomi and Ruth are destitute, there is a rich man in the family! Now, back to poverty:

One day Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go out into the harvest fields to pick up the stalks of grain left behind by anyone who is kind enough to let me do it.”
Naomi replied, “All right, my daughter, go ahead.”Ruth 2:2 (NLT)

Poverty was the reality for Naomi and Ruth. Picking up the leftovers from the harvesting was what the poor did in ancient Israel. In fact the Old Testament law instructed that leftovers ought to always be left over for the relief of the poor. We should also note the danger that Ruth is in. She planned on sticking close enough to the women labourers for the sake of safety.

So Ruth went out to gather grain behind the harvesters. And as it happened, she found herself working in a field that belonged to Boaz, the relative of her father-in-law, Elimelech. Ruth 2:3 (NLT)

The keys words here are “as it happened.” Remember the well-off family member from verse 1? Ruth unknowingly just happened to pick his field.

Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The Lord be with you! ”
“The Lord bless you! ” they answered. Ruth 2:4 (NIV)

Remember that well-off family member from verse 1? He just happened to be drop by. Talk about Ruth being in the right place at the right time! But what kind of man is he? Is he kind, or blind to the needs of the poor? We will soon find out.

Then Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?”
 And the foreman replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi. She asked me this morning if she could gather grain behind the harvesters. She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter.”
 Boaz went over and said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields. Stay right behind the young women working in my field.  See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. I have warned the young men not to treat you roughly. And when you are thirsty, help yourself to the water they have drawn from the well.”
Ruth 2:5-9 (NLT)

As it turns out, Boaz is a kind man, a godly man. Talk about Ruth being in the right place, a the right time, with the right kind of person! Coincidence? No, the reader is to clue in that God is working unseen in the background on behalf of Ruth and Naomi. Despite their precarious position, there is hope!

God is working, unseen, in the background of your life in surprising ways. God is caring for you, even when you are not aware. 

Let us take a moment to see things from the perspective of Boaz. First, consider the blessing Boaz speaks over Ruth:

May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.” Ruth 2:12 (NLT emphasis added)

Keep that in mind as we continue on with the story.

Ruth heads back to Naomi at the end of the day with a good haul of food, and the happy news that the owner of the field was a very kind man. Naomi asks for his name and upon hearing the name, Boaz, says,

“The Lord bless him! ” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our guardian-redeemers. ” Ruth 2:20 (NIV)

Here is another hint. Help will come! Boaz is not just a kind man, he is a ‘guardian-redeemer’ to Naomi, and therefore, Ruth. An NIV footnote describes the Hebrew word behind ‘guardian-redeemer’ as “a legal term for one who has the obligation to redeem a relative in serious difficulty.”

Talk about Ruth being in the right place, at the right time, with the right kind of man, with the right kind of relationship to her. He is one who has a potential obligation to help. In fact, he may have an obligation to marry Ruth in order to restore the land to the family. Let us skip ahead to the next chapter where Ruth carries out instructions from Naomi on how to approach Boaz with a marriage request.

 When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down. In the middle of the night something startled the man; he turned—and there was a woman lying at his feet!
“Who are you?” he asked.
“I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.” Ruth 3:7-9 (NIV)

Most translations focus in on a request to be covered by Boaz’s cloak. However, there is something profound about the Hebrew word that gets lost in translation. The English Standard Version brings out well that a word we have seen earlier is used again:

He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” Ruth 3:9 (ESV emphasis added)

Boaz spoke in verse 12 of Ruth seeking refuge under the wing of God, not knowing that Boaz himself would be asked to take Naomi and Ruth under his wing. God was working through Boaz on behalf of Ruth and Naomi. God may care for someone through us. You may be the person God uses to bring hope to someone in a desperate situation, you may become the answer to someone’s prayer for refuge.

There is something bigger hinted at here in Ruth, chapter 2. This is the first we hear of Boaz being a ‘guardian-redeemer,’ the one who can help family members in desperate situations. There is a desperate situation that we all face. We experience separation from God, an incredible loss of relationship with God due to sin. As Naomi had lost the rights to the land, land that was originally a gift from God, so we have lost our right to eternal life, life that was originally a gift from God. We need a redeemer, to restore what has been lost. There is a story of redemption in the Book of Ruth that hints at a bigger story of redemption. In the Book of Ruth we learn how God cared for Naomi and Ruth through Boaz. In the Bible, in its entirety, we learn how God cares for us through Christ. There is a redeemer, and his name is Jesus.

God cared for Ruth and Naomi. God cares for us. God cared for Ruth and Naomi through Boaz. God cares for others through us. God is our refuge when we find ourselves in a desperate and precarious situation. He is our redeemer.


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Cobourg, Ontario; a small(er) town about an hour east of Toronto, Canada whose writings appear at C201 most Thursdays. Read more here or at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon.

 

 

February 11, 2019

Redeeming the Irredeemable

Today we’re back for the second time at across Awakened to Grace, which features the writing of Joy Bollinger. Click the title below to read at source and then explore other articles on her site.

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