Christianity 201

July 5, 2021

Gifts Used to Bless Others Can Also Edify Yourself

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:44 pm
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A year ago we introduced Mutsawashe Chipuriro who writes at Grace Unmatched. Her articles are often inspired by videos she sees on YouTube or conversations with friends. Great devotional writing finds its themes in real life living! Click the header which appears next to read this one at her page.

Working in ministry

One morning, after I completed my chores, I started singing a song. Mid-way through the first stanza I stopped and just thought, “wow.” The way I had been singing just really blended in with the lyrics and it was beautiful. It had quite the healing effect because I was tired from the chores.

God blessed me with the gift of singing, among the many other gifts He bestowed upon me. Whenever I share the voice with others, they indicate that the voice has a certain presence to it. I never believed it until a few years back when I truly started listening my voice.

The Holy Spirit gives gifts according to how He sees fit, so that they are used well to minister to the world and, in turn God is glorified :

Now there are [distinctive] varieties of spiritual gifts [special abilities given by the grace and extraordinary power of the Holy Spirit operating in believers], but it is the same Spirit [who grants them and empowers believers]. And there are [distinctive] varieties of ministries and service, but it is the same Lord [who is served]. And there are [distinctive] ways of working [to accomplish things], but it is the same God who produces all things in all believers [inspiring, energizing, and empowering them]. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit [the spiritual illumination and the enabling of the Holy Spirit] for the common good.

To one is given through the [Holy] Spirit [the power to speak] the message of wisdom, and to another [the power to express] the word of knowledge and understanding according to the same Spirit; to another [wonder-working] faith [is given] by the same [Holy] Spirit, and to another the [extraordinary] gifts of healings by the one Spirit; and to another the working of miracles, and to another prophecy [foretelling the future, speaking a new message from God to the people], and to another discernment of spirits [the ability to distinguish sound, godly doctrine from the deceptive doctrine of man-made religions and cults], to another various kinds of [unknown] tongues, and to another interpretation of tongues.

All these things [the gifts, the achievements, the abilities, the empowering] are brought about by one and the same [Holy] Spirit, distributing to each one individually just as He chooses.

1 Corinthians 12:4‭-‬11 AMP

I’ve noticed, however, that many who posses gifts, use them to edify others but don’t believe that these gifts can in turn edify themselves as well, because at the end of the day it is actually not the person at work but, the Holy Spirit. The person is just a vessel. Therefore, if the individual is just a messenger, even the message they carry can also be delivered to themselves!

There are many people out there who are laboring for God’s kingdom. They pray for others, preach, teach, motivate and encourage, among other things yet they’re overwhelmed and troubled within. I believe that, this is why:

When you minister to others, you are pouring out. As with any vessel that empties out its contents, it has to be filled up again. Yet we’re not doing that. We go on to edify others and that’s the end! Very few go back to their tools for edification to understand why it had the power to edify.

The Holy Spirit’s gifts are for edification of the body of Christ. The parts of the body of Christ are you and I, among countless others :

For just as the body is one and yet has many parts, and all the parts, though many, form [only] one body, so it is with Christ. For by one [Holy] Spirit we were all baptized into one body, [spiritually transformed—united together] whether Jews or Greeks (Gentiles), slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one [Holy] Spirit [since the same Holy Spirit fills each life]. For the [human] body does not consist of one part, but of many [limbs and organs].

1 Corinthians 12:12‭-‬14 AMP

If you believe that your neighbor, your friend, your colleague or any other person deserves to be edified through your use of your gifts, why do you think that you are exempt?

Next time you edify someone, take time to revisit that situation. You will be amazed just how much you can be ministered unto as well!

December 11, 2020

“Not by Works…” but Works Count!

Earlier today, Lee Grady, who we’ve often featured here, posted this on his Twitter account:

Hebrews 6:10 says: “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name.”

He added,

God sees the little things you do: The kindnesses you offer, the encouraging words you give, the sacrifices you make and the prayers you pray.

The website BibleHub is one I frequently use because it can, as in today’s case, offer an endless trail of related verses such as,

Kindness to the poor is a loan to the LORD, and he will give a reward to the lender.
 – Proverbs 19:7 (CSB)

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
 – Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

He who is generous will be blessed, For he gives some of his food to the poor.
 – Proverbs 22:9 (NASB)

This is what the LORD says: “Keep your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for the reward for your work will come, declares the LORD
  – Jeremiah 31:16a (BSB)

Just as it takes several points to define a line, some find it helpful to see two or more scriptures as verifying a scriptural principle. However, this type of “verse-mining” is no substitute for reading a little extra context such as we find in Acts:

NIV.Acts.10.1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”

Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.

The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God…”

So what does Cornelius receive? Nothing material or tangible. Instead he becomes the instrument by which the Apostle Peter is going to orchestrate the inclusion of the Gentile believers into one single family. He becomes the gateway of the followers of “The Way” (followers of Jesus) entering into a whole new chapter which is the beginning of the first century Christian church.

The website BibleRef.com notes that in some respects, our opening verse from Hebrews is a study in contrasts: (I’ve highlighted sections of this.)

…Their good deeds, on behalf of God, are obvious… The idea that God is absolutely fair—or “just”—in His attitude towards their good deeds is a preview of the next passage. The people who were criticized for being spiritually immature, and in danger of “falling away,” are at the same time living out a very Christ-like love for others.

This is a useful point to remember when discussing spiritual maturity. According to this passage, a person can serve God, loving others with good works, and yet still suffer from an immature approach to Christian truth. The intent of Scripture here is not to dismiss love and service, of course, but it is also not meant to relax the threat of “falling away.” Service to God is a good thing, and a sign of sincerity. But it’s important to love truth, and grow in wisdom, just as much as it’s important to live out our love for other people.

In other words, acts of kindness and service are not an end in themselves. They are simply good, but they are also just the beginning.

In some respects the verse is a pause from what the writer has been saying. It’s a deep breath before he continues with what he has been saying before. It’s not unlike the messages to the churches in Revelation in that respect, some of which begin with something quite positive but then comes the “However…” It’s not a good practice to berate people in teaching without finding places to offer encouragement to those who are sincerely seeking after God.

The website KnowingJesus.com notes this as well:

The verse in question, which immediately follows an important warning against spiritual immaturity and some elementary instructions on reaching full maturity, gives some great encouragement to believers.. who are seeking to stand firm in the faith, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.

God sees our good works and remembers them. EnduringWord.com notes:

When we are discouraged we sometimes think God forgets us and all we have done for Him and for His people. But God would deny His own nature if He forgot such things (He would be unjust). God sees and remembers.

We must however take this principle alongside the overarching concept that we are not saved by works. We have to find the balance between these two truths: God sees our deeds, but our deeds aren’t key to our salvation.

…There is also a warning as to how the opposite of this principle applies:

Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to poverty will be cursed.
 – Proverbs 28:27 (NLT)

And of course there is also a practical, pragmatic side to all of this:

Share what you have with seven or eight others, because you never know when disaster may strike.
 – Ecclesiastes 11:2 (CEV)

…So there we have it. About 900 words, all inspired today from a single post on Twitter! Thanks, Lee!


Wondering what you can do? An hour later Lee wrote,

Do you know what your primary areas of ministry are? Ask your closest friends and mentors to list what gifts they see in you. You may be surprised. Sometimes our fears and insecurities prevent us from seeing what others see clearly.

Not all my spiritual gifts began operating at the same time. I began writing for Jesus at age 22, but I didn’t start preaching until I was 42. Just because a gift hasn’t surfaced yet doesn’t mean it won’t. Keep growing spiritually and you’ll be surprised by the way He uses you!

August 30, 2020

What’s In Your Hand?

God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob–has sent me to you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation. “Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers–the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob–appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt…

“The elders of Israel will listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God.’ But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go. “And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed…

Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?”  Then the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” “A staff,” he replied. The LORD said, “Throw it on the ground.” Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it…

“This,” said the LORD, “is so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob–has appeared to you.” Exodus 3: 15-17a, 18-21, 4:1-3, 5

Earlier this week, I was thinking about the people whose Christian identity is defined by the things they do in terms of Christian service, and how much of this service revolved around church activities which ceased after the lockdown. Preparing the Communion table. Handing out bulletins. Singing on a worship team. Greeting visitors. Serving coffee.

If your entire realm of Christian service consisted of areas of ministry activity at a weekend church gathering, and you didn’t find anything to replace it, then you clearly haven’t been serving God much lately, have you? No wonder you’re anxious to return to live, in-person worship.

My wife, on the other hand, has been busier now than ever. She stepped up from her worship-leading focus to create a media-focus in a smaller church where none had existed previously.

For me, I’ve gone from feeling immobilized for the first six weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic, to a return to greater activity, including preparing these devotionals on a daily basis at a time we had previously announced we would be cutting back the frequency from its current 24/7 schedule.

As I thought about wanting to do more earlier this morning, I was reminded of God’s word to Moses.

Then the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?”

If you’ve found yourself wanting to find new ways to offer service — assuming that your personal spiritual development through prayer and scripture hasn’t waned during this period — you might want to ask yourself the same question, “What is that in your hand?”

In other words, what do you already possess that God can use, if you will allow it to be used.

[At risk of going off on a tangent — which I’m about to do anyway — I should say that when this verse was impressed on me, I was actually holding my toothbrush in my hand. There are people who take things like this quite literally, but I’m sorry to say I don’t have a wonderful toothbrush analogy to share, or a vision of how the toothbrush represented something significant. You can feel free to leave a comment. Or maybe not.]

The thing in your hand might be:

  • an email address you can use to get in contact with someone you haven’t heard from in a long time
  • a conversation you can start with the person(s) walking their dog by your house each night after supper
  • a bank balance that’s been untouched by restaurants and recreation that can be used to make a donation to a needy individual or a smaller, underfunded charity
  • a talent for sewing, woodworking, baking, automotive-tinkering, etc., that can be used to bless someone with a physical gift or the gift of your time
  • a Christian book, novel, study resource, sermon audio, DVD, etc., that can be passed on to someone who might enjoy it

and so many other things I could list here.

The writer of Ecclesiastes offers this (9:10)

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.

BibleHub.com notes that Paul echoes this in two passages,

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters – Colossians 3:23

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. – Romans 12:1

Again, what have you got at your immediate disposal?

We’ll continue this thought tomorrow with a re-broadcast of an article which looks at this verse:

Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.
– Eph 5:16 KJV, NLT

all other scriptures NIV

July 26, 2020

The God You Can Know; The God Who Wants to be Known

NLT.Phil.3.10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death

There has been quite an outpouring of tributes following the death of J. I. Packer. I would say more than I expected. I posted a very brief tribute to him at Thinking Out Loud, and just eight days ago I ran a series of quotations by him here at C201. But today I felt led to see if anyone had posted a larger book excerpt — transcribing things is half the battle — and found this excerpt from his most popular book.

Knowing God was first published in 1973, with a 20th Anniversary edition published in ’93. You can learn more about the book at the website of its publisher, InterVaristy Press (IVP), where you will also find this tribute. Knowing God may also be read as a 365-day devotional published by IVP under the title Knowing God Through the Year.

The excerpt below was not originally paragraphed so what appears may slightly vary from the paragraphing in my print copy (which I can’t locate right now!) Material below is © InterVarsity Press.

Knowing God

…[U]nlike horses, people keep secrets.

They do not show everybody all that is in their hearts. A few days are enough to get to know a horse as well as you will ever know it, but you may spend months and years doing things in company with another person and still have to say at the end of that time, “I don’t really know him at all.”

We recognize degrees in our knowledge of our fellow men. We know them, we say, well, not very well; just to shake hands with, intimately, or perhaps inside out, according to how much, or how little, they have opened up to us. Thus, the quality and extent of our knowledge of other people depends more on them than on us. Our knowing them is more directly the result of their allowing us to know them than of our attempting to get to know them.

When we meet, our part is to give them our attention and interest, to show them goodwill and to open up in a friendly way from our side. From that point, however, it is they, not we, who decide whether we are going to know them or not.

Imagine, now, that we are going to be introduced to someone whom we feel to be “above” us; whether in rank, or intellectual distinction, or professional skill, or personal sanctity, or in some other respect. The more conscious we are of our own inferiority, the more we shall feel that our part is simply to attend to this person respectfully and let him take the initiative in the conversation. (Think of meeting the queen of England or the president of the United States.) We would like to get to know this exalted person, but we fully realize that this is a matter for him to decide, not us. If he confines himself to courteous formalities with us, we may be disappointed, but we do not feel able to complain; after al, we had no claim on his friendship.

But if instead he starts at once to take us into his confidence, and tells us frankly what is in his mind on matters of common concern, and if he goes on to invite us to join him in particular undertakings he has planned, and asks us to make ourselves permanently available for this kind of collaboration whenever he needs us, then we shall feel enormously privileged, and it will make a world of difference to our general outlook. If life seemed unimportant and dreary hitherto, it will not seem so anymore, now that the great man has enrolled us among his personal assistants.

Here is something to write home about-and something to live up to!

Now this, so far as it goes, is an illustration of what it means to know God. Well might God say through Jeremiah, “Let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me”—for knowing God is a relationship calculated to thrill a person’s heart. What happens is that the almighty Creator, the Lord of hosts, the great God before whom the nations are as a drop in a bucket, comes to you and begins to talk to you through the words and truths of Holy Scripture.

Perhaps you have been acquainted with the Bible and Christian truth for many years, and it has meant little to you; but one day you wake up to the fact that God is actually speaking to you—you!—through the biblical message. As you listen to what God is saying, you find yourself brought very low; for God talks to you about your sin, and guilt, and weakness, and blindness, and folly, and compels you to judge yourself hopeless and helpless, and to cry out for forgiveness.

But this is not all.

You come to realize as you listen that God is actually opening his heart to you, making friends with you and enlisting you as a colleague; in Barth’s phrase, a covenant partner. It is a staggering thing, but it is true — the relationship in which sinful human beings know God is one in which God, so to speak, takes them onto his staff, to be henceforth his fellow workers (see 1 Cor 3:9) and personal friends.

The action of God in taking Joseph from prison to become Pharaoh’s Prime Minister is a picture of what he does to every Christian: from being Satan’s prisoner, you find yourself transferred to a position of trust in the service of God. At once life is transformed. Whether being a servant is a matter for shame or for pride depends on whose servant one is.

Many have said what pride they felt in rendering personal service to Sir Winston Churchill during World War II. How much more should it be a matter of pride and glorying to know and serve the Lord of heaven and earth! What, then, does the activity of knowing God involve?

Holding together the various elements involved in this relationship, as we have sketched it out, we must say that knowing God involves, first, listening to God’s Word and receiving it as the Holy Spirit interprets it, in application to oneself; second, noting God’s nature and character, as his Word and works reveal it; third, accepting his invitations and doing what he commands; fourth, recognizing and rejoicing in the love that he has shown in thus approaching you and drawing you into this divine fellowship.


NIV.I Cor.9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

July 11, 2020

The Faithful Get to Hear, “Well Done!”

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

The Trust in Your Hand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

April 28, 2020

Coming Alongside a God Who Does Miracles

NIV.Mark.6.35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”

They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”

38 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”

When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”

39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.

Today’s thoughts are from the devotional section of the NIV Bible website and are drawn from The Maxwell Leadership Bible, 3rd Edition (available in NIV and NKJV editions) by John Maxwell.

Working Alongside a Miracle-Working God

…The feeding of five thousand story is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels. It breaks down how a biblical miracle works: A few sense a need, and each individual takes responsibility and gives his or her all, regardless of the odds, then Jesus works a miracle.

WHEN THERE IS A NEED. . .

Every miracle in the Bible begins with a problem, a need. Before he fed the five thousand, Jesus was moved with compassion when he saw a multitude of people who were like sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6:34). The problem posed by this huge crowd of hungry, hurting people was the catalyst for the miracle.

If you have a problem, you are a candidate to work alongside a miracle-working God. That problem in your family, business, church, or community is your ticket to a potential miracle.

SENSED BY A FEW . . .

Jesus taught this crowd all day until the disciples told him it was getting late and the people had nothing to eat (Mark 6:35 – 36). These men were the ones aware there was a problem. Only a few, maybe only you, need to sense a need for a miracle to occur; a majority is not needed.

AND EACH INDIVIDUAL TAKES RESPONSIBILITY . . .

The disciples brought Jesus the problem and a solution. They suggested he send the people away to get something to eat. Jesus responded, “You give them something to eat.” (Mark 6:37).

God isn’t interested in our solutions or suggestions. He’s interested in our participation. This is where the miracle can often break down. God wants to involve you in his miracles. When you back away from that involvement, you back away from your influence and miss working alongside a miracle-working God.

AND GIVES HIS OR HER ALL REGARDLESS OF THE ODDS . . .

The disciples searched the crowd and found a boy who had five barley loaves and two small fish (John 6:9). This boy didn’t need a miracle to be able to eat — he already had food. Instead, he was asked to give.

There may be times when you don’t need a miracle, but God needs you to be a channel for a miracle that will bless someone else. You’ll give your all, despite the odds.

The disciples’ request for this boy’s lunch surely made no sense to him. How could his five loaves and two fish feed thousands of people? But he gave it to Jesus anyway.

How many miracles might you have missed because God asked you to do something and you didn’t do it because it didn’t make sense? As a leader, you must obey God even when you’re comfortable and don’t need a miracle, when his commands don’t make sense, when his instructions seem too simple, or when he asks for what seems to be too much. You never will learn to trust God until you learn to obey him. That’s when the miracles happen.

THEN JESUS WORKS A MIRACLE

Jesus took that boy’s small lunch, thanked God for it, and instructed the disciples to distribute the food among that crowd of thousands. Not only did everyone eat until they were full, there were twelve baskets of leftovers (Mark 6:39 – 44). Surely the disciples, the crowd, and the boy were changed forever by this event.

TAKEAWAY

We value the spectacular things God can do, but the greatest miracle when you work alongside a miracle-working God is what happens inside you. Being God’s channel changes your faith and increases your capacity for leadership influence beyond anything you can imagine.


Taken from The Maxwell Leadership Bible, 3rd Edition by John Maxwell Copyright © 2018 (NKJV edition) and Copyright © 2019 (NIV edition) by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. http://www.thomasnelson.com.

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

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