Christianity 201

September 7, 2022

Pay Attention to Small Sins

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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In 2011 and in 2012 we sourced material here from a book that I have in my library, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Enuma Okoro. Recently, a writer I was checking out online referred to commonprayer.net and since it had been awhile, I thought I would share the reading scheduled for today with people who may have joined us in the past 10 years. There is no fixed link for this set of prayers, so the link in the title below also takes you to the site. As you read/pray, consider the interconnectedness of the words which follow.

Daily Prayers for September 7

O Lord, let my soul rise up to meet you

as the day rises to meet the sun.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Come, let us sing to the Lord : let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

Song “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah”

Humble us in your presence, Lord : that we may delight in abundance of peace.

Psalm 37:11-14 (NRSVUE)

11 But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.

12 The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them,
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he sees that their day is coming.

14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to kill those who walk uprightly;

In a little while the wicked shall be no more : you shall search out their place, but they will not be there.

But the lowly shall possess the land : they will delight in abundance of peace.

The wicked plot against the righteous : and gnash at them with their teeth.

The Lord laughs at the wicked : because he sees that their day will come.

Humble us in your presence, Lord : that we may delight in abundance of peace.

CEB.Esther.7.1. When the king and Haman came in for the banquet with Queen Esther, the king said to her, “This is the second day we’ve met for wine. What is your wish, Queen Esther? I’ll give it to you. And what do you want? I’ll do anything—even give you half the kingdom.”

Queen Esther answered, “If I please the king, and if the king wishes, give me my life—that’s my wish—and the lives of my people too. That’s my desire. We have been sold—I and my people—to be wiped out, killed, and destroyed. If we simply had been sold as male and female slaves, I would have said nothing. But no enemy can compensate the king for this kind of damage.”

King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, “Who is this person, and where is he? Who would dare do such a thing?”

Esther replied, “A man who hates, an enemy—this wicked Haman!” Haman was overcome with terror in the presence of the king and queen. Furious, the king got up and left the banquet for the palace garden. But Haman stood up to beg Queen Esther for his life. He saw clearly that the king’s mood meant a bad end for him.

The king returned from the palace garden to the banquet room just as Haman was kneeling on the couch where Esther was reclining. “Will you even molest the queen while I am in the house?” the king said. The words had barely left the king’s mouth before covering Haman’s face with dread.[a]

Harbona, one of the eunuchs serving the king, said, “Sir, look! There’s the stake that Haman made for Mordecai, the man who spoke up and did something good for the king. It’s standing at Haman’s house—seventy-five feet high.”

“Impale him on it!” the king ordered. 10 So they impaled Haman on the very pole that he had set up for Mordecai, and the king’s anger went away.


NIV.Matthew5.38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Humble us in your presence, Lord : that we may delight in abundance of peace.

Mechthild of Magdeburg, a thirteenth-century mystic, wrote, “What hinders spiritual – people most of all from complete perfection is that they pay so little attention to small sins. I tell you in truth: when I hold back a smile which would harm no one, or have a sourness in my heart which I tell to no one, or feel some impatience with my own pain, then my soul becomes so dark and my heart so cold that I must weep greatly and lament pitiably and yearn greatly and humbly confess all my lack of virtue.”

Prayers for Others

Our Father

Thank you, Lord, that no sin is too small to bring the conviction of heart that may lead us to repentance and more faithful living. Convict us of our smallest sins so we might learn to delight in your ways. Amen.

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you : wherever he may send you;

may he guide you through the wilderness : protect you through the storm;

may he bring you home rejoicing : at the wonders he has shown you;

may he bring you home rejoicing : once again into our doors.

 

July 14, 2022

Hidden in the Religious Rubble

Five times, in the years 2015 to 2017, we featured the writing of John Myer at the blog Barenuckle Bible. I have no idea why that didn’t continue, but today we’re returning. Clicking the title which follows will take you there where you, along with us, can catch up on what we’ve missed.

The Mower Cometh

Find and address the things that lie within, before something else does. 

Like a lot of pre-teen boys back in the seventies, my brother and I got into lawn mowing to earn our summer candy and comics.  It wasn’t long before our gigs felt onerous under a blazing Louisiana sun.  We began trying to get done too fast, only giving the yard a cursory scan before starting the mower.  That led to running over items hidden in the tall grass while the blades were turning—a stump, a hose head, a brick, a clump of paper that exploded out from under the mower all over the rest of the yard.  Each of these yielded spectacularly unpleasant results.

And it all began with a rushed assumption that nothing needed to be picked up.

This is the mistake we Christians make on an almost daily basis.  Nothing resistant, it seems, lies concealed within the thick religious ground cover that fills our hearts.  And so skimping on internal development, we devalue the needs of our hidden regions while paying premium attention to behavioral, external issues others can see.  The apostle Paul warned that this type of avoidance ends up in Christian shipwreck (c.f. 1 Tim. 1:19) and useless ministry (“vain discussion”—v. 6).

Concern for our inward condition needs to remain central to our walk.

“Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.” (1 Tim. 1:6-7).

According to Paul, some people swerve from the things of verse 5, which mentions a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith (see my last post).  In doing so, these folks not only neglect their inner life, but deliberately avoid it.

Dealing with internal issues tends to be more abstract than simpler, workbook style self-improvement.  We prefer the pragmatic strategies to Christian living rather than the rich, truth-based, faith-based relational approach.   Jesus warned of this habit, indicting the religious folks of the day:  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence” (Mt. 23:26).

The teaching of behavioral legalism is, to some of us, tempting.  It offers short term results, bypassing the slow and steady work of grace.  That is why some people choose to try harder rather than to cry out, “wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24).

Even natural efforts that seem successful are never marked by the divine hand.  Truly, a person can attain praiseworthy standing in the religious community by the sweat of his brow.  But meanwhile, his heart can remain mixed with many motives, his conscience only as good as his sinful self-justification, and his faith little more than an object for public show.  Yet he has kept the “rules,” sometimes above and beyond his peers.

Although there are important practical uses for the principle of law giving and law keeping (we will see them in next week’s post), in the end, law does not grant the boon its practitioners think it will.   It might restrain people from doing certain things through shame and threat of punishment, but it does little to change the human heart.  The things that lie hidden, lie hidden still.

Avoidance of inner life issues frequently proves destructive.  Then why do we do it?  For one thing, it is easier to allow mixture in the heart than to face it.  It is easier to bribe our conscience than to exercise ourselves unto having a good one.  It is easier to follow rules than to interact with God in authentic ways.

Regardless though, in principle a situation allowed by God always ends up exposing these concealed things.  As King James might say, “Behold, the mower cometh.”

And it can get ugly.  Once while mowing a back pasture, we hit a nest of baby rabbits.  The bloody mess that resulted traumatized my young mind.

Okay, maybe some of these experiences will happen no matter what.  How often are we aware of everything lurking in the tall grass of our heart?  I’ve certainly been caught by surprise many times, shocked at what a momentary crisis seemed to flush out of me.  These things were humiliating because I had worked so hard to do and be the opposite.  In undetected ways, my moral energy had become my god.

Now if those things can happen by “accident,” how about the objects we intentionally swerve around?  And what blessings might occur if we decided to face them in a non-compromising way, probing hidden regions more carefully?  What if we made our heart, conscience, and faith more germane to our consideration of the Christian life?

Now there’s a thought.

But these things take time to cultivate.  Maybe years.  Maybe all your life.  However, the changes that are made will prove genuine.  Grace, the redemptive work of God, builds spiritual experiences and truth into a human being, turning a person into what God requires.

June 23, 2022

I Am the Lost Child Who Needs to Come Home

Today, a beautifully written devotional from a writer appearing here for the second time, Victoria Moll who writes at Notes About Glory. On her “about” page she states that,

“I think the most exciting thing that could ever happen to a person is feeling the rush of the Holy Spirit. Its my favorite thing and I cant help but talk about it.”

Clicking the header below takes you to where this first appeared.

The Prodigal Son

I Am The Prodigal Son, weighed with the burden of a sinful heart and a rebellious nature. In the words of Paul,

“For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” (Romans 7:20-21).

This is the burden of the believer, one that hurts the soul, yet the same burden that Christ died to kill in us. I am the prodigal son. I want to go crazy and leave everything I’ve ever known behind, not believing that there are consequences to my actions. I want to be wild because my sinful nature tells me that although I know it will tear me apart, it will be fun. That I can get away with it because I can, with my dying breaths, ask for forgiveness from the Lord and let that be good enough.

But then I remember that my soul’s only purpose is to serve the Lord. That without Him and His glory, I am nothing. I remember the call from Romans 6:

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. (V 1-7)

Its passages like this that remind me that I’m the prodigal child that has to come home every day, actually. As I sit here and write about my sinful nature, the Holy Spirit in me is walking me home. He is walking me home, reminding me of the grace and mercy of my God; about the fact that there is nothing that He can’t heal.

He’s asking me to have more faith, to lean in and listen, and to sit with Him. He’s telling me that He can kill the devil in me, but I have to let Him. He’s telling me that he can sanctify me, but that I have to start doing the work, that I have to work out my salvation with fear and trembling. It’s two-way street.

He wants my obedience for the sake of His glory in my transformation. He’s asking for more because there is more, and He would know because He set it before me. He wants to put me in my limits so that I can experience a true freedom that doesn’t choke the life out of me, but rather allows me to flourish as He designed me. He wants me to grow good fruit, I just have to remain on the vine.

He loves me. 

He invites me to wrestle, but He compiles me to bow. He is my friend, but He is also my Lord, and His name WILL be honored at the end of the day. He’s in the business of conforming me, making me into the likeness of his son, who is called Holy above all things.

Its times like these when I understand the Psalms. A steady stream of lament from the flesh, then a push from the Holy Spirit, gentle like a whisper, moving me in the direction of the cross- pushing me down to the feet of the Father, compelling me to give Him glory because it’s the only thing that I know to do.

I didn’t mean for this to end up being a glorifying prose, but more of an expression of the rebellion in my heart. But in this process, I see that I, who am in union with Christ, am eternally entangled with Him for the purposes of His Glory. I can never be removed from Him, and that there is no distance that I put between me and my God that He won’t cross to steal the affections of my heart.

June 1, 2022

The Holy Spirit Makes My Sin Apparent to Me

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Has it been a year already? Today we’re back with writer, speaker, entrepreneur and marketing consultant Bill Hood, who writes at Brothers of the Book. This one is fairly representative of Bill’s devotionals, but in preparing this, I looked at five different ones and they were all great!

Clicking the header below takes you to read this where it first appeared a few weeks ago.

Acknowledge You Have A Problem

Psalms 32, 51, 86, 122

The first step in recovery either as an alcoholic or a sinner, is to acknowledge that you have a problem. Have you admitted you have a problem?

They say that the first step an alcoholic must take toward sobriety is acknowledging that he has a problem. Can a drunk be cured of his addiction if he doesn’t believe he has an addiction? A drunk won’t make a commitment to the radical life style change needed to become, and stay, sober if he doesn’t think he has a problem. A drunk must come to the end of himself, he must be broken, he must hit bottom, before he can begin his climb up out of the pit.

David was known as a “man after God’s own heart”. We have seen in our time reading about him that he was typically in right relationship with God. Yesterday we read of David’s sin with Bathsheba. David didn’t seem to be too concerned about his sin until Nathan came and made clear that he had a problem. Before I go on about this, let me share my astonishment. David had a right relationship with God. He knew what was right and wrong. He knew how much God had blessed him, and yet he, seemingly out of know where, sinned in spectacular fashion. How could he do such a thing?

I submitted my life to Christ. I have sinned after that life changing moment. How can that be? I’m supposed to be a new person; the old is gone. I have the Holy Spirit residing within me, so how is it possible for me to sin once more? You know a recovering alcoholic never says he is cured. He is forever a recovering alcoholic. He knows that he is always just one thought, just one sip, away from relapse. If he truly accepted that he had a problem, and that he wanted to get better, then he accepted the fact that he would forever more need to be on his guard.

This was true for David, it is true for me, and it is true for you. I love God, and His will is what I desire most in my life. The old dead self, every once in a while, rears its ugly head, and I must be ever vigilant to keep from slipping over the precipice back into the hole. If, like David, I fail in that task, I will suffer the consequences of my relapse. What about the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is my Nathan. The Holy Spirit makes my sin apparent to me and causes my heart to break for my faithlessness. It is the Holy Spirit that helps me to acknowledge my sin, to seek forgiveness, and to get back on the straight and narrow wagon again.

Once Nathan helped David to see his sin and his need for forgiveness, David started on the path to recovery. He would still need to suffer consequences for his sin, but God’s forgiveness would mean that he wouldn’t suffer the ultimate penalty for sin – death. Psalm 51, written by David, shows us how he approached God following his interview with Nathan.

Psalm 51:3-6 ESV
“For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.”

David acknowledged his sin to God and himself. Coming face to face with his wretchedness before a Holy God brought him to a place of brokenness. It was in this state that he could find forgiveness and be brought back into right relationship with God.

Psalm 51:16-17 ESV
“For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

Brothers, every day we should become more like Christ as we discover the new creature we became the day we submitted to His authority. As we mature in Christ we should have fewer stumbles along the way and every stumble will hurt like the dickens. At the moment of every stumble, let us get on our knees, acknowledge that we have a problem, confess our sin to God with a truly broken and contrite heart, and then let us get up, go, and sin no more.

Vivere Victorem! (Live Victorious!)

Your brother and servant in Christ,
Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

May 22, 2022

Do You Have a Teachable Spirit?

Today we’re returning to the daily devotional page at Magnficent Life Ministries where fresh devotional studies are posted (wait for it) daily! This one was a two-part topic. If you click through to their page — the headers below are links — you’ll also find the same content available on video.

Are You Open to God’s Correction?

“For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11

Since the dawn of time, humans have been plagued by the fear that something terrible will happen to them. For some, this manifests as extreme worry and an inability to enjoy life; for others, it manifests as a crippling belief that they are not good enough. Regardless of its severity, this fear is too common and often results in destructive behaviors. Remember, Proverbs 29:25 says, The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”

But what if there were a different way of looking at circumstances or mishaps around us? What if some setback were simply an opportunity to learn and grow? This is not to say that bad things never happen to good people or that enemies don’t play tricks, but we can always find something positive even in the worst situations. When something bad happens, it can be tempting to see it as a sign of punishment from God because we are not expecting God’s correction of our actions.

Proverbs 3:11-12 says, “My child, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”

However, if we look at the situation objectively, we will see that God does not punish us but rather redirect us toward the right plan. It can be helpful if we think of that issue or setback as a kind of tuning. Revelation 3:19 says, “Those I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” Just as the violinist screws up the key till the tense cord sounds the concert pitch, it is not to break it but to use it tunefully. So likewise, God needs to adjust His children when they go out of tune; Because sometimes we need to go through tuning experiences to correct our life course.

This is an act of God’s correction, tuning his people so that they may be used in his service. God is constantly stretching us and tuning us so that we will produce the beautiful music of His kingdom. Sometimes people think God is punishing them because he is tuning them. But He is always working for our good. As long as we remain pliable under His hand, He will continue to tune us until we reach the perfect pitch for His kingdom. Amen. Proverbs 12:1 says, “Whoso loves instruction loves knowledge: but he that hate reproof is brutish.”

Prayer:
1. Thank you, Jesus, for your guidance and help. Thank you, Jesus, for being my guide through life, guiding me through all the storms of life.
2. Psalm 6:1 Oh LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.

Are You Open to God’s Correction? Part Two

“Blessed indeed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.” Job 5:17

How do you know if you’re open to God’s correction? There are a few ways to know if you’re open to God’s correction. The first way to know is if you’re living a life of repentance. If you’re living a life of repentance, then you’re open to God’s correction because you’re living a life of obedience. The second way to know if you’re open to God’s correction is if you’re living in submission to Him. If you’re living in submission to Him, then you’re open to His correction because you’re living in obedience to Him.

The third way to know if you’re open to God’s correction is if you’re living a life of prayer. If you’re living a life of prayer, then you’re open to God’s correction because you’re seeking Him and His will for your life. The fourth way to know if you’re open to God’s correction is if you’re living a life of fellowship. If you’re living a life of fellowship, then you’re open to God’s correction because you’re living a life of obedience to Him. And the obedience you have for God is what makes you free from sin.

Romans 15:4 says, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that we might have hope through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures.”

The bottom line is that if you want to know if you’re open to God’s correction, then you need to look at your life and see if you’re living in repentance, submission, prayer, fellowship, and obedience. If you’re not living in any of these areas, then you’re not open to God’s correction, and you need to start living in obedience to Him. Remember, the Bible is full of wisdom, and Job 5:17 is one example. This verse says that God blesses anyone willing to be corrected by Him. God is the giver of wisdom, and He will give it to us if we are willing to receive it.

It’s important to remember that God loves us and wants what is best for us. He knows what is best for us, and He isn’t afraid to correct our plans if they are not in line with His will. We need to trust Him and be willing to follow His direction, even if it is not what we originally planned. When God corrects us, it is out of His love for us. He wants us to be successful and live according to His plan for our lives. We can be assured that if we follow God’s correction, it will lead to blessing and success. Amen. Revelation 3:19 says, “Those I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.”

Prayer:
1. Oh Lord, help me know the truth about your ways that I should not sin against you.
2. I am open to God’s correction; therefore, Holy Spirit comes into my heart and shows me how to walk in the way of righteousness in Jesus’ name. Amen.

January 13, 2022

Is Division Our Passion?

Thinking Through Luke 3:1-22

  • Watch the 17-minute teaching on which this based at this link.

These are days of great division. Wherever we look, whether within Christianity or the secular world, we see people taking stands on this, that, or the other issue. It was already becoming a polarized world before the pandemic, especially in politics and religion, but it seems worse now.

The world John the Baptist stepped into was also quite polarized, with divisions running deep within society. You may think I am referring to that big division between Jew and Gentile. Actually, I am referring to divisions within God’s people, the ones coming to John in the wilderness for baptism.

One big issue dividing people in our day is how to deal with the pandemic. In John’s day the issue was how to deal with the Roman occupation. There were four main lines of thought represented by four main groups:

  • The Zealots – let’s fight the Romans!
  • The Pharisees – let’s keep God’s law and wait for God to bring judgement on the Romans.
  • The Sadducees – let’s work with the Romans.
  • The Essenes – let’s do our own thing because we are better than the Romans, and the rest of the Jews.

When John the Baptist arrived on the scene, he challenged those deep divisions:

He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,
as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ”

Luke 3:3-6 (NRSV)

What is easy to miss here is that John was calling everyone to repentance. Everyone needed to focus on God and get baptized, cleaned up, so to speak.

People would have been prone to following divisive ideas on what was needed to prepare for the Lord’s promised return to his people. For example, If you were of the same opinion as the zealots, then you think everyone needs to prepare by training for a fight, for God expects us to fight the Romans on God’s behalf. On the other hand, if you were of the same opinion as the Pharisees, then you think that everyone need to prepare by training in righteousness, keeping the Old Covenant to the letter, for then we can expect God to fight the Romans on our behalf. John the Baptist was calling for something deeper:

And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

Luke 3:10-14 (NRSV)

Particularly striking is John’s instruction to the tax collectors who had the task of collecting taxes on behalf of the Romans. John didn’t tell them to stop colluding with the enemy. John didn’t pick sides in a political fight. John did call for the very same type of thing we find central in the teaching of Jesus, the focus on matters of the heart, like generosity, integrity, and not taking advantage of others. The teaching of Jesus on character, reflected by John’s call to character, transcended which political group one might belong to. It still does.

When the question was raised as to whether John might be the messiah, the one people expected would rescue God’s people from the Romans, John was quite clear that he was not:

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Luke 3:15-17 (NRSV)

John was clear, he was baptizing with water, meaning everyone should take a look at their relationship with God, cleaning off any dirt. No one got a pass based on what side they took on how to deal with the Romans.

John was clear, the messiah will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. The Holy Spirit looks forward to the Day of Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit which we read about in Acts, chapter two. Fire refers to judgement.

Judgement? What judgement?

A clue to what that judgement is can be found in the baptism of Jesus:

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.

Luke 3:21-22 (NRSV emphasis added)

That Jesus is spoken of as the Son of God, the one with whom God was well pleased takes us back to thinking of that foundational moment for God’s people, the exodus from Egypt:

Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD: Israel is my firstborn son. I said to you, “Let my son go that he may worship me.”

Exodus 4:22-23 (NRSV emphasis added)

That son was indeed let go, but he did not always worship the God that rescued him. Reading through the rest of the Old Testament, whether reading through the historical books, or the call of the prophets to get back to God, we discover that the nation of Israel was a son in whom God was not always pleased.

No doubt the divisions running deep among the people in John’s day, were not be pleasing to God. No doubt the call, from the Zealots, for violence against the Romans was not pleasing to God. No doubt the call, from many Pharisees, to a shallow form of righteousness that did not address the problems of the heart, was not pleasing to God.

Judgement did come. Jerusalem was destroyed by Rome in AD70 following a rebellion against Rome. Everyone had to face the music, no matter their political or theological positions and posturing. Jesus told his followers to have nothing to do with it and flee to the hills. While people expected that the messiah would rescue Jerusalem from Roman control, instead Jerusalem faced judgement and everyone, Romans included, were offered a different, and better, kind of salvation in Jesus.

So what does this have to do with us?

Great energy was expended in John’s day on fueling political and religious divisions. Nothing was gained by it in the end when the Romans brought the hammer down.

The people of John’s day would have done well to let John’s baptism by water clean off their passion for their divisions. Perhaps we should rethink how much energy we are putting into division in our day. Will what we fight for today really matter at the return of Christ? Are we really walking with Jesus? Or are we walking with a divisive group? We don’t want to be so passionate about the things that divide us that we are not walking together with Jesus in faith, hope, and love.

John the Baptist called people to a baptism of repentance, a change of mind. Is there anything we need to repent of?

October 10, 2021

Jesus and the Rich Young Yuppie

Today we’re introducing you to Rev. Taylor Mertins  who writes at Think and Let Think, has co-authored three books, and hosts the Crackers and Grape Juice Podcast. Clicking the header which follows will get you direct access to today’s devotional, along with a Lego image of the ‘sorrowful’ young man who walks away from Jesus.

Jesus And The Yuppie

Mark 10.17

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 

Jesus is doing his Jesus-thing, teaching about the upside down nature of the kingdom, when a yuppie shows up and asks about the requirements for salvation.

We only know what we know about this particular character based on what scripture tells us, and his story is a cautionary tale (and a beloved one among preachers).

Notice – the rich young man is already a success story in the eyes of the world: he’s a winner.

But he wants more.

What could drive someone to such a desire? Surely none of us know of such thirst and such hunger for more.

Robert Farrar Capon, in his seminal work on the parables, imagines the innermost thoughts of this yuppie with Jesus like this:

“Oh yes, I have had what once I would have called success. I moved the vices out of the city into a chain of reconditioned lighthouses. I introduced statistical methods in the Liberal Arts. I revived the country dances and installed electric stoves in the mountain cottages. I saved democracy by buying steel… But the world is not better and it is now quite clear to me that there is nothing to be done with such a ship of fools adrift on a sugarloaf sea in which it is going very soon and suitably to founder. Deliver me, dear Teacher, from the tantrums of my telephones and the whisper of my secretaries… deliver me from these helpless agglomerations of disheveled creatures with their bed-wetting, vomiting, weeping bodies, their giggling, fugitive, disappointing hearts, and their scrawling, blotted, misspelled minds, to whom I have so foolishly tried to bring the light they do not want… translate me, bright Angel, from this hell of inert and ailing matter, growing steadily senile in a time forever immature, to that blessed realm, so far above the twelve impertinent winds and the four unreliable seasons, that Heaven of the Really General Case where, tortured no longer by three dimensions and immune to temporal vertigo, Life turns into Light, absorbed for good into the permanently stationary, completely self-sufficient, absolutely reasonable One.” (Capon, The Parables of Judgment, 42).

The yuppie certainly has a problem: he is a winner who cannot fathom, whatsoever, the end of his winning. He is positively bewitched by the idea that there are no limits to what he can achieve by his own power.

Jesus responds by adding insult to injury and gives the man an impossible list of goals to achieve, namely the Ten Commandments. But the yuppie assures the Good Lord that he is, was, and forever will be perfect in the eyes of the Law.

And then, as Mark puts it, Jesus looks at the young man, loves him, and says something like, “Okay hotshot. There’s only one thing left for you to do: sell everything you have and give it to the poor. Hopefully removing all your winnings will free you to see that the only real way to win is by losing, the only way to be great is to be the least, the only way to live is to die.”

But the yuppie walks away sad, because he has many possessions.

And yet, here’s the really sad part: the yuppie walked away from the only really good news he would ever hear. Because all of that winning, in whatever form it took (material, moral, or even spiritual success) would eventually pass away like the wind in his death.

Or, as Jesus puts it, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?”

The rich young man couldn’t stand the thought of being a loser. But Jesus saves sinners (losers) and only sinners.

In the strange new world of the Bible, only the winners lose because only the losers can win – that’s how reconciliation works. If winning could’ve saved the world we would’ve done it a long time ago. Evil cannot be destroyed by moral score-keeping. The only way to save the world is to do what God did – by taking evil out of the world by taking it into himself in Jesus, nailing it to the cross, and leaving it there forever.

What must we do to inherit eternal life? Well, nothing. Nothing because, we can’t save ourselves.

But, thankfully, Jesus is in the business of making something of our nothing.

August 31, 2021

Remorse for Past Sin

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
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In Daniel 9, we see Daniel praying on behalf of the nation:

“O Lord, you are a great and awesome God! You always fulfill your covenant and keep your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and obey your commands. But we have sinned and done wrong. We have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations. We have refused to listen to your servants the prophets, who spoke on your authority to our kings and princes and ancestors and to all the people of the land.

I can’t help but think as I read this that what he prays collectively has to begin individually, it has to begin with me. This is often contrary to our nature. We think ourselves righteous. It’s harder to pray:

But I have sinned and done wrong. I have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations. I have refused to listen to your servants…

And yet, each time I ignore the commands of God, or rationalize some behavior, or allow myself some license in some area of thought or action, I am scorning God’s commands.

When our pastor spoke on this on Sunday he said you can’t always choose the place you live in, but you can decide where you are going to live toward. He contrasted living toward Jerusalem with living toward Babylon.

Our service ended in a time of confession, and then I sought someone to pray with me individually. I admitted that I am not living toward Jerusalem 24/7. I am distracted by worldly ideas.

If you’re a guy, maybe you are tempted by the girl at the mall in the miniskirt. That’s now how my brain operates. For me it’s ideas and concepts. One single phrase or sentence in an online article can be as devastating to me as the girl at the mall is to you. My worldview warps; my mindset skews.

Psalm 139 ends with the type of mind inventory I need constantly:

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

About six years ago we looked at a quotation by Jerry Bridges where he says, “We never see sin aright until we see it as against God.”

In Psalm 51, David writes:

Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
    I have done what is evil in your sight. (v.4a)

but he realizes he needs help to get back to the standard:

Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and make me willing to obey you. (v.12)

If I were truly, truly sorry for past sins, I would never repeat them.

In the linked piece above, we included this graphic image:

We have to be truly sorry for our sin. Not the collective our, but the individual our.

I have to be truly sorry for my sin.

Heb. 10:25 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.

Prov. 15:10 There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way; whoever hates reproof will die.

 

 

April 6, 2021

There’s Never Been a More Last-Minute Conversion Than This

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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Again this year we return to the writing of Matt Tullos and an item he posted in March which seems very appropriate for the days following Easter. Encourage the ministry of authors we feature by clicking on the headers like the one which follows to read on the original source site. Follow Matt on Twitter @mtullos.

Today, You Will Be With ME

Listen to this meditation on the Scattered Feast Podcast!

The mystery of salvation is never more astounding than this moment.

A few feet away from Jesus another man languished under the brutal hand of the Romans.

Just another man whose life would seemingly melt into the thin pages of history…

This was his day to die and be forgotten. And then He spoke these words

“Remember me when you enter into your kingdom.”

One sentence… a declaration, a cry into the bleak chasm of unworthiness.

“Remember me…”

This convicted rebel could do nothing.

He couldn’t earn his way into right standing.

He couldn’t grow into righteousness and worthiness of grace

His time was up.

He had no hands for service.

No feet for walking

Few words left to say in this brief and consequential day

Remember me…

It was almost like a shot in the dark, a wing and a prayer, a last desperate plea to the mercy of a Messiah

Remember me.

Jesus replied to this unnamed vagabond.

“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

There’s never been a more outrageous last minute, death’s door, Hail Mary conversion that this.

And today you will be with me in paradise.

Paradise-  such perfect word.

It’s a reference to the Garden of Eden before the fall.

Before hiding, shame, war, and death…

Eden, when all was right with the world and Jesus said, today everything will be made right with you.

The same is truth for all of us. The second declaration on the cross reminds us that it’s not about our nice tidy lives and good living that will usher us into the second Eden when he makes all things new.

It has nothing to do with us.

It’s not about the perfection of the man. It’s about the man of perfection. It’s not about one’s glory. It’s about the glory of one. It not about the greatness of your labor. It’s about the labor of his greatness. The gospel isn’t about your story. His story is the gospel. And that’s why they call it GOOD news

And one we’ll see the one who got there first, the one who walked, arm in arm, with Jesus into grand opening of the Father’s house. Because of the words that brought the ugly edifice of self-attained righteousness and works based acceptance crumbing down.

Today you will be with Me in paradise.

February 14, 2021

As We Search Our Hearts

Two days ago we looked at our susceptibility to sin. There are a few verses I realized could have also been included, one of which follows in the excerpt from something by Elsie Montgomery we ran in September:

…Every day I need to ask Jesus what the psalmist asked: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23–24) This is one prayer that God is so faithful to answer quickly that I’ve often said if you pray it, you better duck!

I decided to continue tracing back the history of the particular scripture appearing here.

Just over a year ago, we shared a devotional from Gary Henry:

…We are hurt far more by the malignancies in our character than by the illnesses in our body. And it is the removal of these sins in the heart that God is concerned with. The Great Physician desires to restore our spiritual health and wholeness.

If we want to improve, we must be honest and open to the truth about our character right now. Not even the Great Physician can help us if we’re not willing to be examined. Trying to hide our symptoms and pretending that nothing very serious is wrong will only result in our getting worse. An accurate diagnosis will be humbling, to be sure, but we should still want to know the whole truth. David’s prayer is that of an honest man: Search me, O God, and know my heart . . . see if there is any wicked way in me (Psalm 139:23,24). We must desire to see ourselves as God sees us…

In December, 2017, Colin Sedgwick included this same verse, but looked at the life of Asa in both 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles and used the analogy of someone having what we call a Jekyll and Hyde character. More than anything else, God hates hypocrisy. Think of the word duplicity and the image is clear of a person who presents a double character. Colin also introduced the idea of a Asa as having an Achilles heel, a weak spot or vulnerability to certain types of sin. He wrote,

…I have to admit, that’s where his story strikes uncomfortably at my heart… Yours too, perhaps. As you search your heart and examine your life, do you see there a big, ugly “But”? Yes, you’re a genuine, sincere Christian. Yes, you want to please and serve God. Yes, you are happy to worship, pray and evangelise. But

If we fail to deal with that “but”, I’m not suggesting that we will lose our salvation. But there are, I think, two things we will lose.

First, our peace of mind. Like Paul in Romans 7:14-25 we will feel ourselves to be “wretched” because we are torn in two.

And second, we will lose our effectiveness for God. Putting it another way, our cutting edge will be blunted.

In August, 2017, I wrote a devotional based on a sermon I had recently heard, that was based on this passage:

“O Lord, you are a great and awesome God! You always fulfill your covenant and keep your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and obey your commands. But we have sinned and done wrong. We have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations. We have refused to listen to your servants the prophets, who spoke on your authority to our kings and princes and ancestors and to all the people of the land. Daniel 9:4-6

I added,

…each time I ignore the commands of God, or rationalize some behavior, or allow myself some license in some area of thought or action, I am scorning God’s commands.

When our pastor spoke on this on Sunday he said you can’t always choose the place you live in, but you can decide where you are going to live toward. He contrasted living toward Jerusalem with living toward Babylon

In November, 2015, Rev. Gregory Crofford raised the dramatic account of Ananias and Sapphira whose duplicity cost them both their lives. He introduced this verse to the discussion:

For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” 1 Peter 4:17, NIV, italics added

Way back in July, 2012, a writer we used several times but knew only as “Cloudwatcher” also touched on the Psalm 51 verse, but introduced this from James 3:11 as well:

Both fresh water and salt water don’t come from the same spring, do they?

I read that verse today and marvel at the duplicity that seems to spring forth from the accounts of fallen Christian leaders; how their words and their actions did not line up. There was, as one person voiced earlier this weekend, apparently a lack of “a congruent life.”

Going back to December, 2011; we come full circle with Elsie Montgomery who noted Spurgeon brought up this scripture in the context of taking a personal spiritual inventory:

Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds. -Proverbs 27:23

[Spurgeon] points out that a wise merchant occasionally takes stock. He opens his accounts, examines what is on hand, and determines whether his trade is prosperous or declining. This practice is easily transferred to those who belong to Jesus Christ. Those who are wise will often take stock to make sure that our hearts are right with God. We ask Him to reveal sin and life-patterns that need attention.

That’s all for today; I hope this leaves all of us with much to consider.


For those of you who read the tags which appear after the title, this devotional is tagged with an assortment of search terms from all the devotionals used!

Looking for more content? This weekend I listened to the second part in a recent sermon series, Unleashed by Kyle Idleman based on the Book of Acts. If you’ve got time, sit back and listen to Complacent to Committed.

 

 

 

 

February 3, 2021

Growth Through Conversion Means Welcoming New People

Yes, this article has a similar title to yesterday’s, because after reading about the church welcoming Cornelius yesterday, I found myself thinking similar things after reading a devotional based on a story that takes place earlier in Acts where the church welcomed one of its greatest foes, Saul of Tarsus. (Though this process took some people longer than others!)

But first I need to apologize. We do have a six month rule, and I see it’s only been eight weeks since we last borrowed some material from Stephen and Brooksyne Weber at Daily Encouragement (and that one followed another by only 3 months) but I felt this was well-written and worth our consideration today. So pleeeeze, click the title below and read this at Daily Encouragement.

The House Of Judas

Message summary: Are you willing to take risks when God leads? I find this a probing question that I’m very uncomfortable with!  I’m really not sure that I always am. (I would stumble over the thought, “Is this REALLY God leading?”)  If you were approached by a former ISIS member, newly converted to Christ, who needed a place to stay, would you open your home to him?

►►Listen to this message on your audio player.

“Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias’. And he said, ‘Here I am, Lord’. And the Lord said to him, ‘Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying'” (Acts 9:10,11).

Have you ever considered or studied about the “bad” people in the Bible? Brooksyne used to have a book called “Bad Girls of the Bible: And What We Can Learn from Them”.

Probably near the top of any list of “bad” people in the Bible would be Judas Iscariot who betrayed the Lord. That may tend to give the name Judas a bad ring. There are many Bible-based names commonly used such as David, Paul, John, Peter and my own, Stephen! But I don’t recall ever meeting anyone named Judas. However there were several men of good character in the Bible named Judas and today we want to consider the most obscure. In fact it wouldn’t be surprising if most of our readers have never even considered this particular Judas.

If we were to ask you to name the first named person Saul met after his dramatic conversion experience you would probably answer, Ananias, who had the special call to pray for Saul.

Well, as you can see from the text, the correct answer is a man by the name of Judas. “The Lord told him,Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying‘”.

Immediately following his conversion it appears that Saul stayed in Judas’ house. This must have been a strange call to Judas to provide hospitality to Saul. We have no idea how Saul got to his house or what depth of faith Judas had.

We are also not told how the message of Christ initially reached Damascus, but clearly God had a people in this city and Saul’s goal, when he journeyed there on the road to Damascus, had been to wipe them out.  Perhaps “the Way”, as Christ’s followers were then called, was a result of returning pilgrims who had been among those saved on the day of Pentecost. Or perhaps it was a result of the scattering of the believers following Stephen’s martyrdom (Acts 7,8).

Damascus is to this day the capital of Syria and, since the time of the New Testament, there has been a remnant of Christians in Damascus and throughout Syria as well as neighboring countries in the Middle East. Based on my understanding of history; Christians, Jews, Muslims and various other groups such as the Yasidi have lived in relative harmony up to the present time.

But with the rise of militant Islam in the last 50 years this has all changed. In our own day ISIS is attempting to complete the same mission of persecuting and destroying followers of Christ that Saul had abandoned in exchange for preaching Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God (Acts 9:20) to the utter amazement of those who heard him. They responded, Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose that he might bring them bound to the chief priests? (9:21).

However, reports are coming out of situations similar to Saul’s conversion such as an ISIS member BEING converted to Christianity due to having dreams of a man who appeared to him in white who said, “You are killing my people”; remarkably similar to the message that Saul heard!!! (Acts 9:4).

Interestingly, God had a special job for this Judas and, although the Biblical record gives us very little information about him, we can be thankful for his willingness to invite Saul into his home; to partake of his food, to lodge in his sleeping quarters, and to be among his own family members.

Are you willing to take risks when God leads? I find this a probing question that I’m very uncomfortable with! I’m really not sure that I always am. (I would stumble over the thought, “Is this REALLY God leading?”)

The writer of Hebrews reminds us: Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:2). To have some sense of what Judas’ choice was like, what would it be like for you to welcome Saul into your home? If you were approached by a former ISIS member, newly converted to Christ, who needed a place to stay, would you open your home to him?

Daily prayer: Father, You have a work for all of us to do, we, who claim to be Your followers. Sometimes it’s going, sometimes it’s doing, and sometimes it’s just making ourselves available to Your leading. However You choose to use us, it requires our faith and trust to be firmly rooted in who You are, in Your commands, and in our hearing Your voice, most especially in uncharted territory when we are asked to step out of our comfort zone. Help us to be among those with whom You could say to Your Son, Jesus, “This is my child with whom I am very pleased.” Your commendation is our incentive to be listening, obeying and trusting in You as we journey here below. Amen.

The other men named Judas in the New Testament:
Actually there are several other men named Judas in the New Testament:

1) A half brother to Jesus:Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?”  (Matthew 13:55).

2) Another disciple with the same name:Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” (John 14:22) This apparently was Judas, son of James (see Acts 1:13)

3) An early church leader:Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers. (Acts 15:2). This may have been the same Judas as referenced in Matthew 13:55.

 

 

 

November 22, 2020

Radical, Dramatic Change Can Occur When Least Expected

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Can people change? Of course they can. The why and how is often more predictable than the when and where.

Today we’re featuring a writer here for the first time. writes at Our Living Hope. If you’ve got the time, click the link to the blog and spend some time with some really well-written devotions. Click the title below to read this one at source.

U-Turn

“As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day”. 1 Samuel 10:9.

An instantaneous change in a person’s life is possible with God. Many people in the Bible experienced a U- turn in their lives, when they least expected it, because God intervened in their paths. King Saul was searching for his father’s donkey when he was anointed the king of Israel by Prophet Samuel. When he left him, God changed Saul’s heart to become a new person. A new purpose was given to his life. We might be be searching and going after things which doesn’t cause transformation in our lives. We got to turn to God.

God intervenes in a person’s life, in the most unexpected ways. Even in our ordinary days God can work in extraordinary ways, since he always seeks to change us, transform us, make his own, and fulfill his plans through us. Sometimes the transformation is gradual, but a turn towards the right direction starts the change. When a person turns to God, their Saviour, everything is possible in that person’s life.

The following lines were written about George Muller, the man of great faith, who impacted many for Christ through his life and service,

His own brief account of his boyhood shows a very bad boy and he attempts no disguise. Before he was ten years old he was a habitual thief and an expert at cheating. In time, card-playing and even strong drink got hold of him. The night when his mother lay dying, her boy of fourteen was reeling through the streets, drunk; and even her death failed to arrest his wicked course or to arouse his sleeping conscience. And—as must always be the case when such solemn reminders make one no better—he only grew worse”.

“Of course a man that had been so profligate and prodigal must at least begin at conversion to live a changed life. Not that all at once the old sins were abandoned, for such total transformation demands deeper knowledge of the word and will of God than George Müller yet had. But within him a new separating and sanctifying Power was at work. There was a distaste for wicked joys and former companions; the frequenting of taverns entirely ceased, and a lying tongue felt new and strange bands around it.”

At private meetings at Halle University, God touched George Muller’s life and caused a complete turn around. Everything that was holding his life for the bad came to an end when he decided to hold on to God. He went on to change the life of others through the Gospel of Jesus. If he can do to him, he change your life too!

In the Bible, Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus, Zaccheus on a sycamore tree, the other thief on the cross, Moses before the burning bush, and Peter by the seashore everyone experienced this U-turn when they met God personally, he changed their hearts and gave a new direction and purpose to their lives. Even today Jesus is able to change your life upside down, he is able to give you a new start, new heart, a spirit, a new direction and purpose, so that you will live for him. There is nothing impossible with God.

Do you believe an U-turn is possible in your life?

Confess your sins, and ask God to change your life today.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I seek a change, and only you can provide it. I turn to you. In your Name. Amen.

Bible Reading: Isaiah 9.


Second Helping:

…We all have experienced this in our school or college days, when the teacher or professor enters the classroom there will be a different atmosphere. Till then there will be noise, and a continuous buzz because of much chatter , but when they enter, suddenly the class would become silent. Yes, the presence of the teacher can make a difference.

God’s presence in our life should make a difference to our nature and actions…

By the same author, click to read He Watches Over.

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.

June 13, 2020

The Tomb of the Prophets

NIV.Luke.11v47 “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them.

Today’s devotional subject was in response to a request by a reader.

Throughout scripture we find definite definite support for landmarks and memorials. We’ve covered this theme here at least three times previously:

So why do those who built tombs for the prophets show up among the list of “woes” proclaimed by Jesus? Is it suddenly wrong to remember those who have gone before? There must be something else going on.

The IVP Bible Commentary notes that:

The second woe for the scribes is for their support of the slaying of the prophets. Now this woe contains irony: “you build the tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them.” They built these tombs, no doubt, to show how they honored the prophets. But Jesus argues that in fact it shows their support for killing these divine agents! By building the tombs, he says, you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did. Here is one of Jesus’ fundamental critiques of the leadership: they have been disobedient as their ancestors were…

The Wikipedia reference for “tomb of the prophets” states,

The Tomb of the Prophets Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi… is an ancient burial site located on the upper western slope of the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem. According to a medieval Jewish tradition also adopted by Christians, the catacomb is believed to be the burial place of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, the last three Hebrew Bible prophets who are believed to have lived during the 6th-5th centuries BC. Archaeologists have dated the three earliest burial chambers to the 1st century BC, thus contradicting the tradition.

Is that what’s referenced here?

As with all adventures in Biblical archeology, the journey is (pardon the pun) rather rocky. One article I read suggested that Haggai was buried near the tomb of the prophets. I think this is an example of a situation where we can get mired in the details — ‘Is this the right city?’ ‘Were they from the same family? ‘Was that the first cup or the third cup?’ — and miss what the passage is there to teach us. We shouldn’t get too caught up in what the Bible does teach us, especially when referenced to a 21st Century online encyclopedia in which many people (including me) have editing privileges.

Matthew’s version of this, in chapter 23, verses 29-32 is more detailed, but for greater context (and since it also mentions tombs) I’ve picked it up here starting two verses earlier:

NIV.Matthew.23v27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!

On this Matthew passage, the website BibleStudyTools.com quotes John Gill,

Now our Lord must not be understood as blaming them for barely building the tombs of the prophets, and garnishing the sepulchres of the righteous, which they might have done without blame. But because they did all this, that they might be thought to be very innocent and holy men, and far from being guilty of the crimes their forefathers were; when they were of the very selfsame blood thirsty, persecuting spirit; and did, and would do the same things to the prophets and apostles of the New Testament, their fathers had done to the prophets of the Old.

What can we apply from this? The Wycliffe Bible Commentary has an interesting take:

The martyrs of one generation become the heroes of the next. It was easier for the children to build monuments to the prophets than for their fathers to obey them.

And perhaps the tombs were to ‘seal in’ those prophets as The Eerdman’s Bible Commentary suggests:

Although they built elaborate tombs for the prophets, they were really at one with their ancestors who had killed them by making sure they would stay dead. God in His wisdom had foreseen what they would do; their attitude to the prophets and apostles of the church would simply be the culmination of a long history of persecution of his messengers and judgment would follow. (emphasis added)

The International Bible Commentary echoes this,

The only prophets they honor are dead prophets.

This is the constant challenge of scripture and Christian teaching. If certain things are true — in their case it was the words of the prophets — then it may mean that I am going to need to make adjustments to my life.

I love how Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God Study Bible indicated these types of passages using a wrench as a symbol to represent adjustment. (The Bible is based on the author’s “7 Realities of Experiencing God” of which #6 is, “You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing.”)

The Life Application Study Bible confirms this, noting in reference to Jesus that even as he is speaking, they are in fact doing the exact same thing. They are choosing not to answer the call for adjustment, response,

God’s prophets have been persecuted and murdered throughout history. But this generation was rejecting more than a human prophet — they were rejecting God himself.

There is always the danger of ourselves doing the same thing: Covering over a situation where our ancestors were complicit in something we would rather forget by appearing to be taking the opposite side. It appears noble, but not when we recognize that motivation is itself incorrect, and not until we realize that the heart attitudes are common to us today and require repentance.

 

 

 

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.

 

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