Christianity 201

May 1, 2017

Devotional Potpourri

Three parts today. One a comparison of two similar Biblical texts. The second from the liturgy my wife wrote for our Sunday worship yesterday with particular emphasis to how we were created in God’s image. The third some advice to pastors and church leaders, or anyone else who finds themselves so very busy.


Sitting in church yesterday, I was struck by the ways in which Paul’s opening words to the Ephesians in chapter one were similar to his opening words to the Colossians. Here’s Ephesians in the NLT:

15 Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere,16 I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, 17 asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. 18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.  19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him…

And Colossians in the CEB:

9 Because of this, since the day we heard about you, we haven’t stopped praying for you and asking for you to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, with all wisdom and spiritual understanding. 10 We’re praying this so that you can live lives that are worthy of the Lord and pleasing to him in every way: by producing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God; 11 by being strengthened through his glorious might so that you endure everything and have patience…

For deeper study, print off this section and underline the specifics of his requests for both churches and their spiritual maturity. It’s also interesting to note that his sentences — where we’ve cut off the last verses in the middle — run on as he switches from the quoted sections to the basis on which they can place their confidence in Christ.

  • He made it so you could take part in the inheritance
  • He rescued us from the control of darkness
  • He transferred us into the kingdom of the Son
  • We can trust in the incredible greatness of God’s power
  • We can trust in the power that raised Christ from the dead

If you want to read the full chapters click here for Col. 1 and Eph. 1 in the translations quoted.


Creation Meditation

by Ruth Wilkinson

Heavenly Father, Creator, Sustainer, World Filler –
You created us with eyes because
You see beauty and joy, pain and brokenness
And so must we.

You created us with ears because
You hear words of faithfulness, promises of love and cries of need
And so must we.

You created us with mouths because
You sing joy, shout truth and whisper comfort
And so must we.

You created us with hands because
You create and build, reach out and touch and embrace
And so must we.

You created us with feet because
You are the God who goes where You are needed,
who walks alongside those who need you
And so must we.

Heavenly Father, Creator, Sustainer, World Filler –
You are the God who named us because
You have a name.
You gave us our true name.
You know who we are.

We are yours.


A Word for Weary Pastors

by Mark O. Wilson
(click here to read at source)

Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

As pastors, our calling is to be be with Jesus, as his beloved children, rather than slaving away as his hired servants. Our work for Christ must flow from his overwhelming love for us. Otherwise, we’re living in frantic illusion.

Souls require breathing space to be healthy.

Consider these words from veteran pastor, William C. Martin:

If you fill your calendar with important appointments
you will have no time for God.
If you fill your spare time with essential reading
you will starve your soul.
If you fill your mind with worry
about budgets and offerings,
the pains in your chest and the ache in your shoulders
will betray you.
If you try to conform to the expectations
of those around you
you will forever be their slave.

Work a modest day
then step back and rest.
This will keep you close to God.

August 6, 2013

Keeping Joined in Relationship

Today we’re sharing an article from the blog of Chip Ingram, noted author and host of Living on the Edge, a daily Christian radio show. You can read this and other articles at Chip’s blog; to read this one on its original page, click on this title: It’s All About Relationship.

I’ll never forget the time when I was a very young and very ambitious Christian in graduate school. I was teaching a class, leading a campus ministry, and even doing some basketball coaching on the side. All the while, my emotional and spiritual “batteries” were getting lower and lower.

Soon after I graduated, a friend and I began leading a Bible study at another college campus and it rapidly grew to over 150 students. Then one night, I was getting ready to teach and I realized that I had nothing to say. It was only an hour and a half before the students were going to show up and I was terrified! I had no idea what I was going to do.

I remember crawling into a small closet with only a tiny light and my Bible, and just crying out to God. At some point, I desperately said, “God, something about my life isn’t right. Please, help me!” Then I opened up my Bible and my eyes landed on John 15. I read this passage out loud:

I am the true vine. My Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch joined to me that does not bear fruit. He trims every branch that does bear fruit. Then it will bear even more fruit. Remain joined to me, and I will remain joined to you. No branch can bear fruit by itself. It must remain joined to the vine. In the same way, you can’t bear fruit unless you remain joined to me.” (vv. 1-2, 4)

In this passage, Jesus is talking to His disciples right before His death. He uses an allegory of a vineyard to illustrate the goal of our lives as believers and how we can have the most rewarding life that He intended for us. As I read the passage, I realized the reason I was so exhausted and I didn’t have anything to say to the group was because I was not connected to the vine, which is Jesus.

So, maybe you’re wondering, how could I not be connected to Jesus if I was a Christian? It’s true I was a Christian, and I was even reading my Bible and praying! But it was at superficial level. I was so busy that I never had time to really take in God’s word and pray deeply. I was too busy to be still and know that He is God.

The truth was, I had gotten to the point where I was literally, physically, and emotionally burned out. I was serving God in many ways, but I didn’t really have a close relationship with Him. I wasn’t joined to Him.

What I discovered is that God’s goal for our lives is not about our busyness or the activity we do for Him. Our goal is to bear “fruit” for the purpose of glorifying God and building His Kingdom. And the way we bear this fruit is only through cultivating a close relationship with Jesus.

So what is “fruit”? Galatians 5:22-23 says,

“…The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

I am the vine - You are the branchesRemember, since this fruit is the “fruit of the Spirit”, by its nature we can’t produce it on our own strength, by trying harder or by being more religious. The only way we can bear this fruit – and fruit that lasts – is when our relationship with Jesus becomes our first priority and we remain joined with Jesus.

The greatest thing you’ll ever do for you and for your relationship with God is to remain joined to Jesus. Remaining joined means hearing and reading God’s Word for the purpose of putting it into practice. It also means responding to the Spirit’s prompting and being obedient. Then the Holy Spirit supernaturally produces “fruit” through us. We just have to take the time to cultivate our relationship with Him.

This week* we’re starting the series, Authentic: How to Be a Christian Without Being Religious. In it, we will explore how to live a life of faith, how to portray Christ’s love and character in our everyday activities, how to know if we are growing spiritually, and how to develop a dynamic and close relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s my hope and prayer that through this series, we’ll learn how to have a deeper, more intimate relationship with the living God.

Keep Pressin’ Ahead,

Chip Ingram, Teaching Pastor
Living on the Edge

*this appeared July 28th

May 6, 2013

David Honest Before God

Psalm 143 New International Version (NIV)
Lord, hear my prayer,
listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
come to my relief.
Do not bring your servant into judgment,
for no one living is righteous before you.
The enemy pursues me,
he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in the darkness
like those long dead.
So my spirit grows faint within me;
my heart within me is dismayed.
I remember the days of long ago;
I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.
I spread out my hands to you;
I thirst for you like a parched land.[a]

Answer me quickly, Lord;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.
Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,
for I hide myself in you.
10 Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground.

11 For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life;
in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.
12 In your unfailing love, silence my enemies;
destroy all my foes,
for I am your servant.

Footnotes:

    1. Psalm 143:6 The Hebrew has Selah (a word of uncertain meaning) here.

Our thoughts today come from the blog of Ruth Graham, daughter of Ruth and Billy Graham. This appeared a week ago under the title Honest Prayer.

Friday I went to Dallas to speak to the Christian Women in Media conference. Neat ladies. I had a message all ready but then last Wednesday it was as if I heard the Lord tell me it was not His message!He asked me to change it. I hate when He does that!

He seeemed to want me to speak from Psalm 143. That Psalm is a desperate cry for deliverance and guidance – and who doesn’t need that? Those of us in ministry (mothers, dads, workers, teachers… every believer) feel often under attack and need to know how to respond, where to turn, who to trust…all the things King David was feeling. I love his honesty.

David faced perilous times…as do we. He didn’t turn to friends, shopping, drink, pornography… He didn’t try to find a temporary escape. David needed deliverance – so do we. Not usually from guns and swords…but from fear, pride, anger, jealousy, self-righteousness. The Bible teacher, Jill Briscoe, calls them “snakes in my garden”. King Solomon called them “little foxes that spoil the vines”. What are your “snakes”, “little foxes? We all have those things that wear us down. Weaken us. Defeat and discourage us.

I love the way David approaches the Lord – not with a particular posture or fancy, spiritual words he just says, “Hear me! Pay attention, Lord! Lend me you ear. And answer me!” He reminds himself of God’s character…”Be true to yourself, God, in your faithfulness and righteousness”. We dare to reach out for God because of His character. We have nothing in ourselves.

But then David sort of backs away from God’s righteousness because David knows he deserves judgment…so he appeals to God’s mercy!

He tells God what is going on…he has an enemy that has gotten inside him persecuting his soul. It had gotten under his skin and was eating him alive. David is really low. He feels like he is living in a tomb – gloom and unhappiness surround him. He’s overwhelmed, barely hanging on. He’s not in a good place. Where are you?

If you look at the Psalm you can see the 3 steps down: he is focused on 1.) the enemy, 2.) the darkness, 3.) his emotions. That focus will defeat you every time!

When you get overwhelmed you can’t get out by yourself. David had been there before. What had he learned? “Be still and know that I am God.” Turn our focus on to God and His unchanging character. And then David remembers what God has done for him in the past. The times He delivered David. The comfort and encouragement from God. It it is important to remember what God has done for us in the past. And if you are like me, I tend to forget so I keep a journal. And I review it periodically.

David physically appeals to God with outstretched arms. A posture of desperation and surrender. Are you weary and desperate?

David tells God to answer him quickly. I love that! He needs God NOW! He doesn’t want God to hide from him.

Have you ever felt like God was absent? Heaven’s doors were locked from the inside? You feel like you are suffocating. You are not alone. Many saints have experienced that from time to time. It is such a valuable – but hard – learning time.

David speaks to God as a friend. He is our friend, too. We can be honest with Him. He can sort through the anger and 4-letter words. He is so much bigger than all of that!

David wants to hear God’s loving-kindness in the morning. Does God have your ear in the morning? Or are you distracted by the television news, your day’s schedule? Do you read your email before you hear from God?

David declares His trust in God…How ’bout doing that first thing in the morning while you are still in bed? Just say, “Lord I trust you today.” David trusts God’s unchanging character. We can too. But we have to know what His character is. I challenge you to make a list of God’s characteristics…holy, just, faithful, redeemer, help, near…

Then David asks God to teach him ow to walk and where to go. David wants to move forward but needs God’s help. How many of us as parents love to have our children look to us for help and advice! God loves us to acknowledge our dependence on Him. And why should God do that? David say he offers “all his heart” to God. That delights God. And David asks for deliverance because his refuge is God Himself. David has learned that the only basis for life is God.

He asks to do God’s will, to lead a balanced life and to be revived. Not for his sake but for God’s name’s sake. Is that our motivation?

David appeals now to God’s righteousness. He now sees it as his only way. His hope. His refuge. The way through the situation.

David asks that his enemies be silenced and destroyed. David is specific.

What enemies in your life need to be destroyed? Silenced? Negative self-talk? Self-importance? Pride? Comparison? Insecurity?

Are you nearing burn out? Are you desperate for God to answer? Do you need direction?

Follow David’s example by pouring your heart out to God, being honest with Him, declaring your trust in Him. He will deliver you. Maybe not in your time or way. But in His perfect time and way.