Christianity 201

February 13, 2020

Starving to Do God’s Will

Today we’re returning to Biblical Diagnosis which today reminds us that we will never feel satisfied if we are not living in the will of God and doing the will of God; it will be something we hunger for. Click the header below to read this at its original site.

The Hunger of Doing God’s Will

May the Lord open our spiritual eyes, that we may understand His Will. Allow me to dig into the well-known story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob, as it relates to God’s children being spiritually fed by carrying the Will of God through good works.

We understand indeed from the scriptures that we have been created to do good works, as the Apostles, and most notably Jesus Himself have expressed in so many different ways. Doing good works is our purpose, our very reason for existing:

Ephesians 2:10 …we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.

Matthew 5:13You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

Matthew 5:14You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden.”

But arguably the most expressive and forceful way of conveying this truth is by labeling the performance of good works as our food!

John 4:34,35“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work”

Now, our life itself is tied to doing the will of God. Food is not optional. One must eat. While we may choose not to eat, the consequences – the discomfort of hunger – are anything but a choice. And if left to persist, starvation will ensue.

This truth was vividly displayed at the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. Jesus was desperate to eat…He was desperate to do the Will of God: to save souls, to recover the lost sheep.

1. Jesus and the Samaritan woman

As recorded in John 4, Jesus, was resting at Jacob’s well from his travel to Galilee from Judea, when a Samaritan woman came to draw some water. Jesus was exhausted, thirsty and hungry from the trip, and His disciples had gone into town to buy some food.

When they came back, they found Him right in the middle of something: He just had an exchange with the woman in which He showed her that He was the Christ, and that He could offer her the living water that leads to eternal life.

John 4:27-29Just then his disciples arrived, and they were amazed that he was talking with a woman. Yet no one said, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar, went into town, and told the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”

2. The hunger to do God’s Will

Note that the disciples were already amazed to see Jesus speaking with a Samaritan woman. That alone was peculiar, but what followed was far more disturbing for the disciples: they were about to witness the extent of Jesus’ hunger to do the Will of God, in ways they had never seen before. Although He was hungry, He refused to eat!

John 4:28-33Then the woman left her water jar, went into town, and told the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”  They left the town and made their way to him. In the meantime the disciples kept urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said, “I have food to eat that you don’t know about.”  The disciples said to one another, “Could someone have brought him something to eat?”

Although His disciples insisted, Jesus refused to eat. And the reason He gave was that He already had food to eat…

John 4:34My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work,” Jesus told them.

Jesus was starving to do God’s Will, and the disciples found Him right in the midst of having this hunger satisfied.

Please note that the woman left the jar. She was to return, and she did indeed return, and this time, with many people!

This is the meal Jesus was waiting for. One soul (the Samaritan woman) and many more with her about to be saved. He saw a harvest, and that was an opportunity He could not pass.

3. But why was Jesus starving to do God’s Will in the first place?

While we could simply say that Jesus always did the Will of His Father, the reason Jesus was traveling in the first place is revealing.

John 4:1-3When Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard he was making and baptizing more disciples than John (though Jesus himself was not baptizing, but his disciples were), he left Judea and went again to Galilee.

Jesus was traveling by constraint, because the Pharisees had learned about the expansion of His ministry, and that He was even making more disciples than John the Baptist. He had to stop doing the Will of God in Judea and leave town.

Then, just like an oasis in the middle of the desert, he saw a single person, even if it was just a woman, and a Samaritan at that. Everyone would have passed by, but Jesus was hungry, Jesus was starving to do the Will of God. While his disciples contemplated his physical hunger, He was eagerly waiting the return of the woman, and not just herself, but an entire crowd…a true feast!!

John 4:39Now many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of what the woman said when she testified, “He told me everything I ever did.”

No wonder Jesus had said to His disciples…

John 4:32“I have food to eat that you don’t know about.”

4. Our discomfort when we do not do His Will

This state of discomfort resulting from not doing God’s Will is akin to the discomfort one feels when hungry. It is not a choice, it just is, because just as it is a basic necessity to eat, it is a basic necessity for God’s children to do His Will.

This discomfort may manifest itself in various ways. But one of the common ways is for us to feel unfulfilled. Christians who habitually resist the Will of the Spirit carry with them the heavy burden of feeling unfulfilled.

Another way is when feels saturated, when one keeps learning but does not release that Spiritual water erupting from their inner spring.

Your prayers are not like what they used to be, they lack intensity, connection, and passion. Your learning makes little progress, you open the Bible but you are unsettled, the drive to devour the scriptures is nowhere to be found, and no matter what you do, and how many times you pray, that overall discomfort is there and it grows…

…until you start releasing…until you start “doing” – not just learning – the Will of God…until you start eating!

John 4:34,35“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” 

My friends; I exhort you to recognize when you are hungry, when you are starving. Release, Release, Release! Do the Will of God, believe in Jesus and do not resist His Will.

November 15, 2019

Choosing: ‘The Gods of This Land,’ or The Lord?

Six months ago we introduced you to an author who was new to us, Mark Stephenson who co-pastors Horizon Church of Towson, Maryland and writes at Fire and Light. In more recent articles, he’s following the story of Gideon, but in this one, just a few days prior, Joshua’s story is about to wrap up.

All Faithfulness

“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Joshua 24:14-15

Joshua was nearing the end of his life and so he challenged the people of God one last time. He wanted them to know that God was giving them land they previously didn’t own, cities that they did not build, and farms that they did not cultivate. All of this was God’s inheritance for them, but He expected them to be a covenant people. God expected them to be faithful to Him and worship Him only.

Joshua warned them against worshiping the gods of their ancestors. He then warns them about worshiping the gods of the land they now possess. The gods of their ancestors were originally the Sumerian gods worshiped in Mesopotamia and then the Egyptian gods worshiped in slavery. The local religion was a little different as it included the gods of the Canaanites (Amorites, Perizzites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites, etc). Joshua was warning them that all of it was a trap and that they should worship Yahweh alone.

In America, the god of our ancestors is a civil religion, a nominal Christianity that amounts to a powerless moral deism. It is more about being a good boy or girl and being a true American than it is about a relationship with Jesus.

In America, the local gods of “this land” and this culture are gods of humanism, doubt, fear, sexual immorality, comfort, pride, and self-absorption. Freedom is defined as lack of boundaries, standards, and norms. Worshiping this sort of pantheon creates a perpetual identity crisis and a life of permissive morality.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to complete devotion to our Lord. We must reject the gods of this culture and the gods of our ancestors in favor of complete surrender to Jesus. Our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world are being imprisoned, beaten, and killed for their faith. Meanwhile the American church sits around echoing the words of enemy in the Garden of Eden, “Did God really say that was wrong?”

We, as the Church, have to return to a complete abandonment to Christ. We must declare with our words, our life, and our faith the words of Joshua, “…as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord!”

October 26, 2019

The Chain of Grace – Part One

“When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed” (Acts 13:36).

Barrel of MonkeysThere was a toy years ago called Barrel of Monkeys where you dump out a small barrel containing plastic monkeys, each one having a leg reaching down and a hand reaching up. You use the leg of one to pull up the hand of another — or take turns doing so — and then keep adding new monkeys to see how many can be lifted at one time. You end up with a whole bunch linked together, the foot of one holding the hand of the next.

The “overlap” aptly describes how each generation passes on the ways of God to their children, and then they teach these things to their children. In this case by “children” I also mean spiritual children, the next generation at your church or in your community. We’ve also looked at this concept as a “chain of grace” here and here.

I was drawn to this verse after it appeared in the summer of 2014 at DailyEncouragement.net. Stephen and Brooksyne write:

Our life is a part of the overall fulfillment of God’s purpose. Consider the first part of the second daily text, “When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation.” In the historical books we have a lot of information on David. Apart from Moses, we may have more biographical information on David than any other Old Testament personality. But the apostle Paul, preaching in a Jewish synagogue in Pisidian Antioch, makes a simple statement concerning David’s life, “When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation.”

God places us all on this earth for a season, a period of time known as our “own generation.” The amount of time we have varies; some die young, others in their middle ages and yet others at a “ripe old age”, one of the most colorful descriptions of age in the Scriptures! (See Genesis 25:8.) But like David, all of us (except the final generation) will eventually fall asleep (die) and our physical bodies will decay though our spirits will soar.

We can live our life for self or in consecration to God’s purpose. Many of you have heard the saying, “Only one life will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” Today, let us, like David, seek to serve God’s purpose in our generation! I ask you, how are you impacting others for Christ and eternity?

Authors Kerry and Chris Shook write about this passage. Be sure to read this in context by clicking the link.

…Every generation must face that same challenge. David accepted it in his day. The Gospel writer, Luke, records it in Acts 13:36 when he wrote, “David served God’s purpose in his own generation….” We’ve seen how he courageously stood against the giant Goliath, became the greatest King Israel ever had and led them to become the most powerful nation in their day politically, economically and spiritually. Think about it. David could have simply coasted out the rest of his days in ease! Yet, there was one longing, unfulfilled dream in his heart. David passionately pursued his desire to build a Temple for God, a permanent resting place for the presence of God to dwell among the people of God. Up to this time, Israel still worshipped out of a tent that went back to their wilderness wanderings with Moses. Now was the time, he thought! “This will be a lasting legacy of faith for generations to come to secure the spiritual welfare of Israel!”

David’s love for God extended far beyond his own lifetime and personal comfort. He wanted future generations to know God and love Him as well. In Psalm 22:30-31, David wrote, “Our children will also serve him. Future generations will hear about the wonders of the Lord. His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born. They will hear about everything he has done.”…

A few years ago, Australian blogger Susan Tumut wrote on this passage:

God chooses to use people to do the many different tasks that he wants completed. God doesn’t have to use people. After all he could have created robots or puppets but rather he gives us the privilege of being involved in his plans. Since God’s plans are eternal we are involved in something that has lasting significance. We can “leave our mark” on the world by being connected to the One with who has already left, and continues to leave, His mark on the world.

The tasks God gives us are not impossible. In this chapter we read that “As John was completing his work…” (v.25) and “David had served God’s purpose in his own generation” (v.36). John the Baptist and David completed the tasks God gave them to do. Vastly different tasks but both God initiated tasks. Not always done perfectly, David made many mistakes in his personal life. Yet God looked at his heart and said, “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do” (v.22).

John the Baptist had moments of doubt. He testified that Jesus was the Son of God, “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me…” (John 1:32-34). However later he was not so sure: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3). Yet ultimately John completed the task God gave him.

Likewise, we can complete the tasks God gives us.

Tomorrow: We will take a look at a different two other models of the chain of grace.

October 2, 2019

Burying Your Gifts = Living for Self

Six months ago we introduced you to the writing of Benjamin Moore. Click the title header below to read at source, and then take a few minutes to check out the rest of his site, including articles written in Spanish.

Purpose hidden life

Matthew 25:21
‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

It’s not about you

Rick Warren wrote a book titled Purpose Driven Life.

Which probably holds a record for one of the most sold books. The book begins with the statement it’s not about you.

My guess is that is not what many people expect to read.

You’re saying that my purpose is not about me?

We want the exact opposite.

Especially talking about purpose, we want to hear things like it’s all about me and my happiness, happiness is found within me, or I hold the keys to my destiny.

We want to live like the world revolves around us. And how we live and act prove it.

  • We get angry when traffic is not going fast enough.
  • Unkind thoughts pop through our heads when the waiter is taking to long.
  • If we need to talk to someone they should stop whatever they’re doing and gives us their full attention.
  • Service providers have picked up on this and have given us on-demand information, entertainment, and food.
  • Almost everything has found a way to please our immediate gratification.

But if you want a true out of this world purpose it doesn’t begin with you.

It begins with God

That’s how you can live a purpose driven life—by living with an acknowledgment and conviction that it’s about God and not you.

We have a choice

There is a story in Matthew 25 about a man who is given an opportunity to invest a large sum of money. If he just does the minimum he can at least gain some interest.

Instead, he chooses to make it all about himself. Out of fear he hides the money.

Lost potential, lost earnings, lost opportunity.

I don’t want to be like the servant who went and hid the money. What a waste of opportunity.

But what if we’re doing the same and we’re just not aware?

Is it possible that many of us are burying Gods gifts instead of investing them?

Rather than taking what God has given us and maximizing it for His glory, we have made it about ourselves and what we want.

What we want requires money, planning, energy, and most importantly time. This means there might not be anything left for God. We end up so weighed down with the weight of debt and fear of losing it all that we can never get out from under it.

After all of this, we don’t have any energy or time left for what God wants. So we hide any gifts or talents God has given us behind excuses.

And life goes by.

I think this is the sad truth for too many people around the world.

It might look different for some people but the consequences look the same. All their God-given potential buried, hidden away. It never gets invested and it never gives a return.

It’s about Him

When you start from the understanding that it’s not about you but God, you make it about God and about others.

You don’t give in to fear because there is more at stake than just your desires.

And you don’t hide your gifts, skills, and talents because it’s not about you.

It’s about God and His purpose for your life.

And when you live like that you don’t live a purpose hidden life rather you live with a purpose on full display for the world to see.

 

August 21, 2019

We’re Not Alone

Six months ago our search process took us to Pembrokeshire, Wales; and to a congregation where a large number of the leadership take turns giving the weekly sermon. This article was written by Peter Gleave and appeared on the website of Penuel Baptist Chapel, Roch.

After the Mountaintop

‘And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.’
(Mark 6:31)

Jesus is speaking to the Disciples, who were so tired. Everyone here, including those on holiday, put everything aside and rest awhile and let the Lord Jesus speak to you.

1 Kings 19:1-8

We have mountaintop experiences in life, a moment when the world doesn’t interfere with experiences with God. Elijah had a mountaintop experience, literally on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18). Elijah was representing God against 450 prophets of Baal. Things had gone on long enough, the people had to decide they were either worshipping God or Baal. So a contest took place. People thought it was a great idea. The people cried out to their god, a pagan, dead god, to help but it didn’t help one little bit. Elijah turned to the people and said, ‘Let’s make it more interesting,’ and he soaked his sacrificial bull and wood in water. He then calls on the living God, who answers. The people fell on their faces and shouted, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God” (1 Kings 18:39). The 450 prophets of Baal were executed.

The rain then comes, ending the drought. Elijah runs supernaturally in front of King Ahab. Ahab speaks to his wife, Jezebel, who declares that she will have Elijah killed. You would think the first thing Elijah would do would be to call on His God. But he runs and he runs. His faith turns to fear. He takes his servant with him, heading for Beersheba, where he left his servant.

This is like you and I. Sudden, unexpected changes come in life. We often have a mountaintop experience followed by a valley. Things take an unexpected turn in our lives – a visit to the doctor leaves us with life now going on a different path. Faith turns to fear. We may question where is God? Instinctively, we can run away to our own place.

Elijah ran to the desert and sat down under a broom tree. He asks God to take his own life. He is crying out to God because someone has said that they were going to kill him, yet he is asking God to take his life! Sometimes, in a right mess, we can’t see the way out. But God had a plan for Elijah. In the same way, God has got a plan for us.

In our confusion, sometimes we try to sort things out ourselves. Sometimes, God wants to help us and we tell Him we can do it on our own. We reach rock bottom. We get weaker and weaker. Then we hand it over to God, to safety. We need faith, to trust in God.

Elijah falls asleep under the broom tree. An angel comes along, a messenger of God. Right then, in these circumstances, the angel tells Elijah to get up and eat. Elijah smells fresh bread and water. He ate and drank and felt better. God knew where Elijah was and what He needed and He provided it. He did so supernaturally. Friends, wherever you are, on a mountaintop or in a valley, may be you feel all alone and no-one understands your position. God knows exactly what you need and will provide (Romans 8:28). We are destined, as Christians, for heaven, for eternal life. That’s the goal of where we are heading.

The angel wakes Elijah again. He tells Elijah to eat and drink again. The food sustains Elijah supernaturally, allowing him to travel for forty days and forty nights. He was equipped to go on the journey. God provides the means for the journey you go on. Rest is important. When God created the world in six days He then rested. Why? Because He wanted to enjoy that which He created. It sets a pattern for us, a day set aside to rest. Rest is so important God made it the fourth commandment. You and I, in the busyness of our lives, need to rest, relax and enjoy the world God has given us to enjoy.

Elijah’s disillusionment turned to discovery. He rested in a cave in Horeb. God asks Elijah why he’s there, not in service. Verse 10 tells us how disillusioned Elijah was, he spilled it all out to God. The Lord listened to Elijah. God already knew how he felt, but He is interested. He let Elijah finish, then He spoke. He told Elijah to go outside because the presence of the Lord was about to pass by. Elijah stood outside. The wind came. The Lord didn’t speak to him in the wind. Then an earthquake came. The Lord didn’t speak to him in the earthquake. Fire came. The Lord didn’t speak to him in the fire. Then, there was a quietness, a whisper, God’s heart speaking to Elijah’s heart. Too often we look for the grand gesture. We forget the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4:6).

That inner voice of assurance, that voice that assures us God has power. In our weakness God’s strength is made perfect. Having witnessed this, Elijah has a second opportunity to answer ‘What are you doing here?’ Elijah pours out his heart again, He hadn’t grasped the truth. So what does God do? He tells Elijah, ‘“Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place,’ (1 Kings 19:15-16). Elijah’s mantle was now to be passed on. Let’s not lose our opportunities of service.

At the end of this portion of scripture we see Elijah’s work was not in vain. He thought he was alone yet there were 7,000 of God’s people in Israel. Sometimes we think we’re alone. Yet on judgement day, when we stand before God, God will reveal what we’ve done for Him. We may not realise what a difference we can make to the people around us. By our example we can show we are different. Remember, God can take your from disillusionment to discovery. Go back and witness to where God has placed you and serve Him. When faith turns to fear, remember our mountaintop experiences. Let God equip you so you can do He wants you.

Elijah started on Mount Carmel, went to the valley and finished on Mount Horeb. He went from one mountaintop experience to another mountaintop experience. One day we will spend eternity in the presence of Almighty God. Press on, go on in the strength of God.

August 18, 2019

The Tenth Fruit of the Spirit

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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I usually put a different spin in the title here, and then run the article with the title the author originally chose. Today however, the original title arrested me in my tracks! What is he talking about?

We’re back with Peter Corak, writer of the blog My Morning Meal, Click the header below to read at source.

The Tenth Fruit of the Spirit?

It’s been a good week working through Titus as part of my morning readings. And in a letter that is so concerned with teaching, and defending, sound doctrine, what has been clear is that, in a sense, sound doctrine is not the ends but the means. The goal is not just to cross our theological i’s and dot our systematic t’s, but that high and holy teaching would manifest itself in boots-on-the-ground, godly–and goodly–living.

And so, Paul wraps up this letter, which began by emphasizing the need to present and protect the faith, with an equal, or perhaps greater, emphasis on the need for all believers to practically live out the faith.

And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.

(Titus 3:14 ESV)

Devoted to good works–it’s something that is learned. Focused on helping others–it’s a practice to be practiced, a habit to be formed.

But what grabs my attention, in particular, is that learning to help others in need is a remedy for unfruitfulness. Thus, Paul says it’s fruit.

So, could you go so far as to say that being devoted to good works might also be considered the tenth fruit of the Spirit? That when the Spirit illuminates truth to us (Jn. 16:13); when He reveals the deep things of God (1Cor. 2:9-10); when He conveys the mind of Christ to our minds (1Cor. 2:16b)–transforming us through our mind’s renewal (Rom. 12:2)–that in addition to love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22), that He also works in us a devotion, a desire, a heightened attention towards good works?

I’m thinkin’ . . .

I can’t help but hear James say, “Amen!” to Paul’s exhortation to Titus and to our people.

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

(James 2:15-18 (ESV)

Eager to maintain good works. It’s evidence of faith, James says. It’s a remedy for a barren Christian life, Paul says. It might be thought of as the tenth fruit of the Spirit, I says.

To be sure, we have learned that we cannot rely on our good works FOR our salvation. But we also need to learn to devote ourselves to good works that come FROM our salvation.

We are saved by faith. But we are also saved for fruit. And being devoted to good works is fruit.

And, with such Spirit led, Spirit enabled, Spirit produced fruit, we will adorn, and trim with honor, the sound doctrine of God our Savior (Tit. 3:10b).

By His grace. For His glory.

Yeah, it’s been a good week.


If you want to read another recent article from the same writer, check out Training Grace. (No, I’d never considered this term before either!) This is another one of those cases where if someone who is a regular reader here decided to drop C201 to follow one of the writers we featured, I wouldn’t be upset. Peter has some great insights. But I hope you’ll stick with us as well!

August 11, 2019

Marriage Secret: Making the Lord Your Shepherd

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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CEB.Gen.2.23-24 The human said,

“This one finally is bone from my bones
        and flesh from my flesh.
She will be called a woman
        because from a man she was taken.”

This is the reason that a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife, and they become one flesh.

CEB.Mark 10.8 and the two will be one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh.

CEB.Eph.5.31 This is why a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two of them will be one body


The Voice.Ps.23.3 He makes me whole again,
    steering me off worn, hard paths
    to roads where truth and righteousness echo His name.

Even in the unending shadows of death’s darkness,
    I am not overcome by fear.
Because You are with me in those dark moments,
    near with Your protection and guidance,
    I am comforted.

Today we’re back with Arnold Reimer, for many years the pastor of Bayview Glen Alliance Church in Toronto, and his blog titled Finishing Well.

Togetherness

In a month’s time, my wife and I will have completed 65 years of marriage. We have good reason to own Psalm 23, for the Lord has been our Shepherd. He has abundantly taken care of our needs; we have rested and been fed in green pastures. Quiet waters have often restored our souls, and His leading has been by paths of righteousness. We have been nourished at His table by the cup of salvation, the bread of His Word and the overflowing oil of His Holy Spirit. Every day we experience His goodness and lovingkindness, even in our twilight years. He gives joy as our strength.

Our anticipation is a final dwelling place in His heavenly home being prepared for us by a loving Father. In the meantime, though surrounded by the shadows of death, we have nothing to fear because of God’s protective, providing presence. Our hearts are filled with praise and adoration for the multitude of His tender mercies!

How did all this happen? Were we such deserving people that God had no choice but to bless us? I will not insult you with a feeble response, other than to say: “Grace, grace, God’s grace! Grace that is greater than all our sin.”

But, that “grace” bears fruit. God put into our hearts a desire to serve Him. He led us to each other in Bible School. He filled our hearts with a longing to avoid sin in dating, and enabled us to practise the necessary disciplines we had been taught by the Scriptures. Our love for, and understanding of, each other blossomed over the three years until marriage was possible.

We are not sure if we truly understood at the time the powerful significance of God’s purpose for marriage, but it was surely there: “The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. And the man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

That togetherness is so true, important and essential that no marriage can be whole or truly happy without it. Is it easy? Does it just happen? No, indeed! It starts with the mutual ownership of the divine purpose for the union. It involves learning, humility, forgiveness, death to self, a growing desire for genuine love, time together where sharing is deep and honest, and giving to each other is constant, knowledgeable, pure and satisfying.

Whoever said it is dead right: “Fifty-fifty marriages won’t work! It must be one hundred-one hundred.” That controls selfishness, builds oneness, corrects and heals relational cracks and flaws. It makes submission to each other practical and sanctifies the promise, “Till death do us part!” Others observe with sincerity, “Behold how they love one another.”


 

August 5, 2019

Our Un-mined, Greater Capacities

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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When I was setting up devotional posts for while we would be away during the last two weeks in July, I never considered how much attention would be focused on the 50th anniversary of the manned landing on the moon.

On July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 blasted off from Florida and would land on the moon just four days later. While the spacecraft had a very sophisticated computer navigation system, this was the 1960s after all and today, I’m told that I have more processing power and functionality in the small smartphone which fits in my pocket.

Similarly, on the day that I trusted Christ as my savior and promised to make him my Lord, I had only limited knowledge of scripture and awareness of the gifts God had given me, but today, as I endeavor to mature in Christ, hopefully I have much more potential spiritual power and ability to be his witness in the world.

Unfortunately, I will never understand everything that my phone is capable of doing. There are things wired into it (even though I realize there are no actual wires anymore) that are beyond my understanding.

Similarly, there are are things that God has wired me for, so to speak, that I can choose to apply or use, or allow those gifts to atrophy. Sometimes, only as I step out in faith will I know the resident potential that exists.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. -Ephesians 2:10 NLT

In a world before time, God “planned” us for “good things” and the resident potential within us is great.

but the people who know their God will display strength and take action. -Daniel 11:32b NASB

Other translations have

  • shall do exploits (KJV)
  • will stand strong and will act (CEB)
  • shall stand firm and take action (ESV)
  • will act valiantly (NET)
  • stand strong and prevail (TLV)
  • carry out great exploits (NKJV)

…he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him… -Ephesians 1:4 ESV

Esther 4.14The challenge of course is that few of us know exactly or entirely what God has wired into us. The story of Esther is a story of someone who finds herself suddenly placed into a position which is really the turning point for the entire nation of Israel. Should she step up and take action or act valiantly? Mordecai says to her,

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
– Esther 4:14 NIV

So she takes action, but not the way I might have done it. I would have walked into the king’s chamber and said, “We need to talk.” But instead she proposes a banquet and then another. Her nation is in peril of extinction and she throws a party! Her internal wiring and predisposition is such that she is able to devise a plan and make a difference.

We will never know what we’re wired for and what potential we have until we put ourselves out there and take action.

It’s also good to remember that we are image bearers of a creator God whose attributes we only scratch the surface of understanding.

For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. -Isaiah 55:9 NLT

But as it is written, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” -1 Corinthians 2:9 ISV

I don’t believe that we should start claiming a false promise that we can do what only God can do, nor should we buy into the idea of unlimited human potential, but we need to take the encouragement that we were created by a God of infinite capacity.

Are there things in your internal wiring that you haven’t discovered or haven’t used? A gift God has given you which you haven’t tapped into?

July 2, 2019

Eternal Salvation Comes Through the Fullness of God’s Grace

by Russell Young

God’s grace is any act of his goodness or graciousness to humankind, especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude. It can be provision of a comfort as the Lord’s provision of the plant provided to shelter Jonah from the sun’s heat or the bread provided to Elijah by the ravens, and it can be implicit in the attainment of his eternal kingdom. His grace was seen many times in the life of the Israelites on the Exodus. The waters of the Red Sea and the Jordan were parted so they could cross on dry ground, their shoes and clothing didn’t wear out, they were provided with manna and even water from a rock. His grace was evidenced in the miraculous acts of Jesus and by his sacrificial offering on the cross for the justification of a sinful people. The provision of the Holy Spirit and of the Word that informs men of God, of his plans, and of the means of salvation are acts of grace. Any blessing of God’s goodness expressed in the life of a person is an act of grace.

When the Word says that people are saved by grace, it is presenting that God’s goodness and graciousness as expressed in the lives of people delivers them from a danger that would have brought destruction. When addressing God’s grace, it is important to identify the act that has met a particular need. What is the act and what is the outcome?

“Work” is the opposite of grace. Work is human centered and is often a person’s effort to please a holy God. The Israelites had been required to honor God through keeping the covenant law. When it is reported that salvation is by the grace of God, it means that a person’s deliverance is achieved by the God’s merciful and gracious intervention in that person’s life so that he or she can avoid danger and loss. His grace for eternal salvation is not necessarily specific to a single act but through the fullness of his provision or through many acts. In fact, a person’s eternal salvation is not accomplished by a single act of the Lord, but by the fullness of his love and mercy and that over time.

  1. The Lord’s visitation to humankind, the incarnation of God in the form of a human being, to reveal God and to appreciate the trials of the flesh were by their gracious provision.
  2. The Lord’s sacrificial death in the place of people so that they could be justified and redeemed from their death penalty and provided a better hope through the New Covenant were acts of grace.
  3. The Father’s gift of the Holy Spirit so that the sinful nature that brings death could be defeated is an act of grace.
  4. The life of Christ as Spirit to enlighten, lead, and empower for righteous living is an act of grace.
  5. The Lord’s mediation of his own blood in the role of High Priest for the forgiveness of sins is also an act of grace

Salvation is by God’s grace and it must not be considered otherwise; however, it is not achieved by a single act of his goodness. The real need of people is to be conformed to the likeness of the Son of God becoming an offering acceptable to him (Rom 15:16) and should not be limited to the forgiveness of sin in the believer’s life. The Lord’s gracious ministry and intervention in the life of believers is extravagant and goes well beyond his death on the cross. His grace and love are much more expansive.

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:11−14) In this reference the grace of God is our teacher.

On leaving Ephesus, Paul committed the elders to God and to the word of his grace, which could build them up and give them an inheritance among those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:32) The word of his righteous requirements was to “build them up” so that they could become “sanctified” and participate in the inheritance of the sanctified. These were the “elders.” They had made a confession of faith; however, the sacrificial offering of Christ was not enough to meet the fullness of their requirements because they still had to be built up by working out their own salvation through the sanctification that comes by the word and the Spirit. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.” (Rom 14:17−18)

The opportunity for salvation has appeared to all peoples. The grace of God that brings salvation teaches them to live properly. God’s grace comes through the Word, which is Christ himself (Rev 19:13), who has revealed God and the words of salvation, and it requires the Holy Spirit who brings God’s words to remembrance as well as empowering the obedient to live righteously, to be sanctified. The fullness of God’s grace needs to be appreciated and honored.



Russell Young’s column appears here on alternate Tuesdays. His first book, Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? is available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link. There is also an extended article at this link

February 28, 2019

Jesus Measures Output, Not Input

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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NIV.Matthew 15.10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” …

17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.” [also found in Mark 7:17-23]

Once again we’re back with Arnold Reimer, for many years the pastor of Bayview Glen Alliance Church in Toronto, and his blog titled Finishing Well. These days my oldest son attends that church, making him the third generation in our family to have some connection there. The title which I gave this piece — not the one in the link below — just came to me as a very concise way of summing up what Jesus said in the above passage. Overall, Pastor Reimer goes beyond the often heard line of ‘having a purpose in life,’ and defines what’s needed as a “holy purpose.”

Purpose

A lawyer once asked Jesus to identify the “great commandment in the Law”. Jesus responded: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” The Old Testament statement, from which He was quoting, used the word “might” rather than “mind”. The point is we must love God with the totality of our being. The heart is fundamental to life itself. The soul is the fountain of emotion, passion and personality. The mind is the place of reason, understanding and will. And might combines the whole being into something active, strong and enduring.

Every faithful follower of Christ must purpose in his/her heart to love the Lord God with such determination and commitment. It is to be the very motive and focus of godly living. It is the foundation upon which life with its multiplicity of activities is to be built. Our relationships, thoughts, words, work, pleasure, learning, must all flow from, display and enhance our purpose to love God. That must be our unique and distinguishing feature.

Do not think for one minute that such a path is easy. Challenging such a holy purpose is the world, the flesh and the devil.

Never underestimate the impact and influence of the world upon us. Jesus’ great prayer for us is instructive. “But now I come to Thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy made full in themselves. I have given them Thy word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world even as I am not of the world. I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” Beware of the subtle attraction, allure and demands that draw us away from God and into the ways of this world’s systems. The hugely enhanced communication of our day tends to flood our minds and hours with images and influences that are destructive.

Even more deadly than the world is the flesh. Hear our Lord’s assessment: “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.” A poet explains: “God, harden me against myself, this coward with pathetic voice, who craves for ease and rest and joys. Myself, arch-traitor to myself, my hollowest friend, my deadliest foe, my clog whichever way I go. Yet one there is can cure myself, can roll the strangling load from me, break off the yolk and set me free.” Only the liberating work of Christ and a learned obedience to the gracious voice of the Holy Spirit can save us from self!

And then there is the devil. That roaring, devouring lion, that angel of deceptive light, wants his way with us. He is a liar, an accuser, a murderer, a god of darkness, despair, doom and death. He would ensnare us were it not that Jesus has defeated him, put him to open shame by the victory of Calvary. Praise God forever that “greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.” Exult with the Apostle who said, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

If you would love God with your whole being, immerse yourself in His love- letter to us, the Bible. Cultivate the beauty of His presence by prayer, hymns, obedience, thoughts, fellowship and conversation. Let His Spirit pour out His love into your heart. He will control you, speak to you and lead you into paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. What a life-changing purpose by which to order our lives!

 

 

February 5, 2019

“Well Done” Starts Today

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Matthew 25.21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

which repeats 2 verses later as:

Matthew 25.23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Don’t know the story? Read it here.


A year ago we introduced you to the writing of Chicago area Youth Pastor Joshua Nelson who writes at The Sidebar Blog.  Tomorrow we’re linking to two posts he wrote about youth in the church, and older members of the church. (They’re also linked below.)

Click the header below to read this at source.

Well Done

It is hard to express in words alone the torrent of emotions that accompany laying a loved one to rest.

Even for those who were not particularly close to the person being grieved for, the whole experience can still be incredibly emotional.

Thankfully, joy can be found in the midst of the mourning if the loved one knew Jesus as Savior.

As Billy Graham said when speaking of his own passing, “I will be more alive on that day than ever before.” And he was right. For believers, when we pass from this temporary life into the eternal we will, in fact, be more alive than ever before because we will be with our Lord, the giver of life itself.

But the process is still, understandably, painful. I think that one of many reasons why funerals are so difficult for us humans is because death causes us to reflect. Death causes us to think about life. How did they live their life? How has my own life been lived thus far? How will I now choose to live?

Recently, I attended a funeral service of a faithful and incredible man of God. And it may sound weird to say, but I was truly and deeply blessed. (You know that someone lived their life well when their funeral service is a blessing to people, and a true celebration of life.) I was encouraged to hear about his love and devotion to his God and to his family. I was awed by his steadfast and upstanding character. And I was grateful for the legacy that he left behind.

There is no doubt in my mind that the moment when this man stepped into eternity he heard the words “well done, good and faithful servant.”

Those words actually come from a parable that Jesus told in Matthew 25. You should read the passage for yourself, I promise it will be worth it. But one of the main takeaways is that what you do today matters for tomorrow.

Jesus tells of a master who entrusts a few of his servants with various amounts of money and then he leaves to go on a journey. He returns and discovers what each of his servants has done with the money. The master is very pleased with the servants who have done something with what was entrusted to them and have doubled it.

He tells them “well done.”

But one of the servants was lazy and did nothing with what was entrusted to him, and the master was very displeased with him.

I want to live my life in such a way that at the end of the road I will hear “well done.”

But “well done” starts today. The choices that we make today are literally forming our character. Each and every day needs to be a “well done” kind of day.

There are no shortcuts in a life well done. We cannot just simply hide what has been entrusted to us away and wait till the end and expect a pat on the back.

The only way to hear “well done, good and faithful one” at the end of your life is to do well during your life.

I am thankful for godly men and women who set examples for us to follow and be encouraged by. I am thankful for a God who doesn’t just leave us in the dark, but actually gives us answers to our problems and frustrations in the Bible. I am thankful for Jesus and the promise of eternal life.

And I am motivated to live my life in a way that will please my Lord.



Two more articles by the same author:

  • Regarding the youth in his church, someone once suggested to him they should “just sit on the sidelines until their time came.” That prompted the article Too Young For Church. However…
  • …Then, a week later, the other side of the coin: “Just as the Body is deprived if young people are not championed, so too is the church deprived if the elderly are forgotten.” Check out Too Old for Church.

 

 

 

October 1, 2018

God’s People Suffer; Worldly People Prosper; Is That Fair?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Once again we’re back with pastor, author and Bible translator Christopher R. Smith at the blog Good Question. (You can get lost in some of these discussion questions; I strongly recommend a visit!) Click the title below to read this one at its source.

Why does God allow his people to suffer while worldly people prosper?

Q. Why does God allow his people to suffer while worldly people prosper?

Your question is exactly the same one that’s asked in Psalm 73:

I envied the arrogant
    when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have no struggles;
    their bodies are healthy and strong.
They are free from common human burdens;
    they are not plagued by human ills.

Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
    and have washed my hands in innocence.
All day long I have been afflicted,
    and every morning brings new punishments.

The psalmist eventually gets an answer to this difficulty, and I’ll discuss it in a moment. But first I’d like to observe that the perception that God’s people suffer while worldly people prosper actually represents a snapshot from a particular moment in life. If we think back over our whole lives, and if we look at the people all around us, we realize that God’s people actually go through seasons of prosperity and seasons of suffering over the course of their whole lives, and so do people who live without any particular devotion for God. If we took the snapshot at a different time, it might show the godly people we know prospering and the worldly people we know suffering.

But I think the perception nevertheless points to an important issue. We would expect, everything else being equal, that God would bless those who live in devotion to him, that God would protect them from misfortunes, and for that matter that they wouldn’t create so much suffering for themselves as those who live without regard to God. In other words, we would expect a positive correlation between godliness and prosperity, and a positive correlation between ungodliness and suffering. But we don’t see this in our world. I think that’s the real concern, and it is indeed borne out by experience.

So what’s the explanation? The author of Psalm 73 finds one part of it by taking a longer-term view. He sees that in the end, the wicked will not prosper. “How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!” People who pursue a path of ruthless selfishness in this life are sowing the seeds of their own destruction. God has set up the moral universe that way. And even if these consequences are not experienced in this life, they will be experienced ultimately, when God finally judges the world. As Paul wrote to Timothy, “The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever.

However, even this assurance may be small consolation to a person who’s faithfully trying to serve God in this life but who is struggling with suffering, persecution, and failure. The psalmist has a further insight that addresses this concern. He describes going into the temple, encountering God there, receiving reassuring insights, and finally saying to God,

Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And there is nothing I desire on earth besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.

The psalmist realizes that what matters most, in this life and the next, is knowing God and loving God. In a mysterious way that we cannot understand, God works through all of the events and circumstances of our lives to help us know and love Him better. This includes allowing suffering at times. In those times, we need to trust God and cling to him all the more.

I’ve written another post that you might find helpful. It’s entitled, “Why do some people seem to suffer more than others?” In that post I observe that Amy Carmichael often said, “The love of God is very courageous.” She meant that God will courageously trust us to accept difficult situations as a part of His plan that we will only understand in the end, when we can see everything clearly. I think we have a hint of this in the middle of Psalm 73:

When I tried to understand all this,
    it troubled me deeply
till I entered the sanctuary of God;
    then I understood their final destiny.

It may not be until we enter the heavenly sanctuary of God that we are no longer troubled deeply by the problem of human suffering and the fact that it seems to affect godly people as well as ungodly ones. But when we do come into that sanctuary, we will understand not only the final destiny of the wicked, but the glorious destiny that God has been preparing us for all along, even through suffering.

This,” as the book of Revelation says, “calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people.


By today’s author: Ever wondered about descriptions in the gospel in terms of how things appeared, or what the dimensions are with buildings, or the layout of the surrounding territory? Read how a graphic novel helped Christopher Smith better understand physical locations and perspective in the Gospel of Mark.

July 10, 2018

Honoring God by Giving Him Our ‘Today’

Today we’re rejoining author, pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie. Click here for his devotional and blog page, or click the title below for this article.

Carpe Diem: The Value Of Today

Life is filled with opportunities, but the big question is what we do with them. Do we let them slip by, saying, “Maybe next time. There is always another day”? Or, do we seize them? We may not have as much time as we think.

Dr. Leslie Weatherhead calculated the average length of a life using the hours of one day to illustrate the importance of recognizing the value of time. He concluded that if your age is 15, the time is 10:25 a.m. If your age is 20, the time is 11:34. If your age is 25, the time is 12:42 p.m. If you’re 30, the time is 1:51. If you’re 35, the time is 3:00. If you’re 40 the time is 4:08. At age 45, the time is 5:15. If you’re 50, the time is 6:25. By age 55, the time is 7:24. If you’re 60, the time is 8:42. If you’re 65, the time is 9:51. And if you you’re 70 the time is 11 p.m.

Psalm 90:12 reminds us, “Teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom” (NKJV). Or as the Living Bible puts it, “Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should.”

Ephesians 5:15 says, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise” (NLT).

Jesus told the story of a man who went on a journey and left his money with his servants. This was not an uncommon thing in those days. A wealthy man or a ruler would have many servants in his household, from those who performed basic labor to those who managed the financial affairs of his household, even his business. In many cases some of the man’s servants would be better educated and skilled than he was. Highly trusted slaves had a virtual free hand within prescribed areas of responsibility while the owner was at home.

When the owner would go on a journey, he would leave full authority in the hands of these key servants, who would have the ancient equivalent of a power of attorney. So Jesus described a scenario in which a wealthy man went on a journey and left the key servants in charge of his possessions. It’s difficult for us to know exactly what sum he left them, but one possibility is that he gave the equivalent of $5,000 to the first servant, $2,000 to the second servant, and $1,000 to the third.

What is Jesus’ story saying to us? I think it’s quite obvious. Jesus is like that wealthy man who goes on a journey, which spans the day he left this earth to the day he returns in the Second Coming. We are the servants he has invested in, and we are to take what he has given us and use it for his glory while we await his return.

In the New Testament a word that is often used for “slave” or “servant” is the Greek word doulos. It’s a term that describes a unique class of servant, not someone who was made that way by constraint or by force. A doulos was someone who had been freed by their master yet still chose to serve out of love. The servant was so thankful for this pardon that he or she would willfully choose to serve.

The apostle Paul often referred to himself as a doulos, and that is what we are as followers of Jesus Christ. Christ has paid an incredible debt for us. He has pardoned us. He has forgiven us. And now we should become his voluntary servants, not because we have to but because we want to – because we love him. We recognize that he has instilled certain things in our lives that we are to use for his glory. Certain gifts. Certain talents. Certain resources. Everything.

Paul wrote, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20 NLT).

Jesus said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23 NLT). This doesn’t mean that we must take a vow of poverty. It simply means we recognize that it all belongs to God. Our lives belong to God. Our families belong to God. Our possessions belong to God. Everything is his.

In Jesus’ story, the first servant took what he had, invested it, and received a 100 percent return. He doubled his master’s investment. The second, though he had less, did the same thing.

This demonstrates that it isn’t a person’s talent that matters as much as how he or she uses that talent. God never demands from us the abilities we don’t have. But He does demand that we should use, to the full, the abilities that we do possess. We may not be equal in talent, but we should be equal in effort.

Take what God has given to you and do the most that you can with it for his glory. God can do a lot with a little. If you don’t believe me, just ask the boy with the five loaves and two fish who gave everything he had to Jesus. It didn’t seem like a lot, but Jesus used them to feed a hungry multitude. Jesus can take a little, bless it and multiply it. He can use it beyond our wildest dreams.

If we will humble ourselves, take what we have and offer it to God, if we will be willing to do what he has placed before us and be faithful in the little things, then he will give us more to do. I would rather try and fail than never try at all. Any time you take a chance, you can fail. But it’s better to try than to never take chances and never have anything happen in your life.

So seize the day. Seize the moment. Seize the opportunities before you. Don’t put it off too long, because you may not have as much time as you think. Be productive with your life. Be productive with your time. Seize the opportunities God has given you.

September 16, 2017

God Doesn’t Owe You

Nine years ago, in what was probably one of the shortest posts at Thinking Out Loud, I wrote this:

After walking a couple of dogs for a half-hour each, and cleaning out 14 cat cages, my son draws this conclusion about his first day helping out at the shelter:

“I volunteered for 90 minutes today at the animal shelter.   Somebody owes me.”

Is this a misunderstanding of the concept affecting his generation, or have we failed as parents?   Do we ever feel that way when we do things for God?

I thought about when reading this article by Jonathan Parrish who writes at Walking With Christ Daily, now in its 6th year. To read this at source and then check out their archives, click the title below.

God Reminded Me What He Owes Me

Tonight while doing my devotional God took the time to remind me what He owes me or any other person. God owes me nothing. There is nothing that I can give or do for God that would require God to owe me a favor or something in return. Lets take a look a single moment in the book of Job.

“Who has first given to me, that I should repay him?
    Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.” Job 41:11 ESV

That is God speaking directly to Job.  Job has had a pretty rough time, He has lost everything. He lost his children, home, servants, flocks, and even his own health. He is complaining to God wanting to know why. God reminds him who is God. That he owes Job nothing but his grace. I know its hard to see grace in the beginning of Job when all that bad stuff is happening, but God showed Job grace when He told Satan, do what you will but you can’t kill him. He chose to save Job’s life, we see that grace in our own in the cross, when God chose to save our lives from sin, instead of condemning us to a second death. God is reminding him that He is God. That he created everything he had and would have. In Romans and Psalms this thought is mentioned again

“Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”
Romans 11:35 ESV

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein,
for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.

Psalms 24:1-2 ESV

God owns everything. We forget that so often when things don’t go our way. Everything around us, belongs to God. God is allowing us to be stewards of His stuff while we are here on earth. We are stewards of his money, we are stewards of the Gospel, we are stewards of our families and what ever else you can think of.  God has given us everything including our salvation and His mercy.

So the next time you think God owes you something just remember he has already given you everything.


Because we often get first time readers, every few months we like to review our purpose statement:

Mission Statement: Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of Christian blogs and websites. Sometimes two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading. 

Usage: Items written by Paul Wilkinson contain no links and you are free to use the material provided you link back to C201 and don’t change the wording of quoted sections. For other writers, follow the link in the title and then see if their policies apply to what your planning.

Scriptures: This year we had several trees cut down on our property. Ever broken up a small tree or sticks and been aware of the green color inside? Green shows that there is (or at least was!) life inside. That’s why we highlight scripture here in green. To show that while the words of the various writers whose material we borrow are helpful and instructive, it’s God’s Word that brings life. Individual verses are sourced at BibleHub.com; multiple verse passages are sourced at BibleGateway.com

Writers: We’re always looking for contributions. Check out the ‘submissions’ page.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
 -Galatians 6:9 NIV

September 12, 2017

Appointments with God

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
Tags: , , ,

NET 1 Timothy 4:8 For “physical exercise has some value, but godliness is valuable in every way. It holds promise for the present life and for the life to come.” 9 This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance. 10 In fact this is why we work hard and struggle, because we have set our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of believers. ©NET

If my schedule permits, I do prefer writing these devotional studies myself rather than importing than from the various sources we use in the course of a year. I find doing so forces me to spend time in scripture, immersed in a particular theme.

If you’re at a small group meeting and you contribute something verbally, it’s much easier to just say it than to have to commit to print. Knowing the words will be here for successive hours, days, months and years means fine tuning what it is you really intend to express.

But regular readers here will notice a disconnect between the words “forces me” and what we talked about in the last Sunday Worship column, which involves doing things wholeheartedly out of joy and delight. If you missed, you can read that article here. Just because I love to do something doesn’t mean I do not face the busyness and distractions common to us all.

However doing something joyfully can also mean that, while I see the benefit which occurs in my life by spending time in God’s word (versus the days I don’t get to do this) it doesn’t mean I have organized my life to the point where this flows naturally into my daily schedule. For you that might mean blocking out the time in your daily schedule; for me that means facing a 5:31 PM deadline each day knowing that subscribers are expecting something in their in-box.

And so it is we speak of spiritual disciplines. This term really grates on some people because of childhood memories of what constitutes discipline, namely punishment. (Often this intersects with the category of people who have problems with seeing God as Father, again because of painful memories.) I much prefer the term spiritual practices.

Another verse which evokes negative images for people is 2 Timothy 2:15, at least in the way many of us learned it as children: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (KJV) Besides “shew” and “needeth,” the issue is actually the choice of the word “study” which is not used by other translations that are not derivatives of the KJV. “Study” tends to remind us of cramming for an exam. It’s not a positive image for many people, especially people who didn’t do well in school! Again, since we’re using the NET Bible today, better to go with, “Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately.” It’s talking about diligence; applying ourselves to present our best to God.

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The term “spiritual discipline” is a frequently used tag on this site, but though it’s often covered here, I wanted to end with this list, posted in 2012 at the website Soul Shepherding for those less familiar with the concept. The author is .

Disciplines of Abstinence (Self-Denial)

These are ways of denying ourselves something we want or need in order to make space to focus on and connect with God.

Solitude: Refraining from interacting with other people in order to be alone with God and be found by him. (Solitude is completed by silence.)

Silence: Not speaking in a quiet place in order to quiet our minds and whole self and attend to God’s presence. Also, not speaking so that we can listen to others and bless them.

Fasting: Going without food (or something else like media) for a period of intensive prayer — the fast may be complete or partial.

Sabbath: Doing no work to rest in God’s person and provision; praying and playing with God and others. (God designed this for one day a week. We can practice it for shorter periods too.)

Secrecy: Not making our good deeds or qualities known to let God or others receive attention and to find our sufficiency in God alone (e.g., see Matthew 6).

Submission: Not asserting ourselves in order to come under the authority, wisdom, and power of Jesus Christ as our Lord, King, and Master. (If you think of this as submitting to a person as unto Christ then it’s a discipline of engagement.)

Disciplines of Engagement (Christ in Community)

These are ways of connecting with God and other people, conversing honestly with them in order to love and be loved.

Bible Reading: Trusting the Holy Spirit-inspired words of Scripture as our guide, wisdom, and strength for life. (Related disciplines include Bible study, Scripture meditation, and praying God’s Word.)

Worship: Praising God’s greatness, goodness, and beauty in words, music, ritual, or silence. (We can worship God privately or in community.)

Prayer: Conversing with God about what we’re experiencing and doing together. (As we see in the Lord’s Prayer the main thing we do in prayer is to make requests or intercessions to our Father for one another.)

Soul Friendship: Engaging fellow disciples of Jesus in prayerful conversation or other spiritual practices. (Related spiritual disciplines or practices include small groups, spiritual direction, and mentoring relationships.)

Personal Reflection: Paying attention to our inner self in order to grow in love for God, others, and self. (The Psalms in the Bible model this.)

Service: Humbly serving God by overflowing with his love and compassion to others, especially those in need. (Also tithing and giving.)

 

 

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