Christianity 201

November 25, 2019

Making Dead Things Live: Only God Can Do This

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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This is our fourth time sharing with you the writing of melody Melody at In Pleasant Places. Click that link to read more, or click on the header below to read this one at her blog first, and then select from among other great devotionals.

Making the Dead Alive

“For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman.
But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise…
Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.”
Galatians 4:22-23,28

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

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

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

This is an act of God.

Only an act of God can do this.

How often do I miss that truth?

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

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

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

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

“And you were once dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:1-10

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

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

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

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

July 17, 2014

Scripture Demands the Highest Work Ethic

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:49 pm
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A year ago we introduced you to David Brumbelow, who blogs at West Coast Pastor.  This article appeared back in April; click the title to read at source.

The Christian Work Ethic

I went by the field of the lazy man, and by the vineyard of the man devoid of understanding; and there it was, all overgrown with thorns; its surface was covered with nettles; its stone wall was broken down. When I saw it, I considered it well; I looked on it and received instruction: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest; so shall your poverty come like a prowler, and your need like an armed man. -Proverbs 24:30-34

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. -Exodus 20:8-9

A man had trouble sleeping. He told his doctor, “I sleep fine at night, and I sleep pretty well in the morning. But in the afternoon I just toss and turn.”

Perhaps we should all go back and read the Little Golden Book about The Little Red Hen.

Some responsibilities are yours alone. Some struggles you are going to have to deal with. Work hard; provide for your family; serve the Lord; give to church and to others. Also get some rest and fun along the way. Make this world a little better, because you were here.

For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. -2 Thessalonians 3:10-11

But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. -1 Timothy 5:8

See also: Leviticus 19:13; Deuteronomy 24:14-15; Proverbs 10:4; 12:24, 27; 13:4; 21:5; 23:21; 27:23; John 9:4; 1 Corinthians 9:7; 10:31; 1 Timothy 5:18.

The Message Bible restates the text:

One day I walked by the field of an old lazybones,
and then passed the vineyard of a lout;
They were overgrown with weeds,
thick with thistles, all the fences broken down.
I took a long look and pondered what I saw;
the fields preached me a sermon and I listened:
“A nap here, a nap there, a day off here, a day off there,
sit back, take it easy-do you know what comes next?
Just this: You can look forward to a dirt-poor life,
with poverty as your permanent houseguest!” MSG

At the blog of Palmerston Evangelical Missionary Church, Canadian Pastor Phil DesJardine writes the following. Click the title to read the article in full.

Proverbs 22-24: Eyes to see

…Proverbs 24:30-34 talks about a situation where the field of a slacker is observed by a passer by, a field overgrown with thorns and weeds, a vineyard with a broken wall destined to produce a poor crop.As a side note, the broken wall was significant because crops had to be protected from wandering vagabonds as well as wandering and wild livestock. It would be terrible for a vineyard to be picked over by a herd of deranged sheep on the lamb.  HA! (yes, I know how bad that was).

Then the author says this: “I SAW and took it to heart”

He had eyes to see. He perceived the state of the slackers field, he saw the connection between the state of the field and the lack of motivation by the owner, and he took that information into his heart and mind as informative about life and how to live it. He had eyes to see.

So many in life lack that ability to see situations in life and learn from them or hear words of correction and actually pay heed to them (the Proverbs has lots to say about the wise listening to correction, but the fool ignoring it).

Let me encourage you, make asking the Holy Spirit to give you eyes to see and ears to hear part of your prayer life. It is part of allowing the Spirit to speak, guide and correct us. You won’t be sorry!

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

 

July 13, 2011

Keeping a 20/20 Spiritual Vision

My link to DailyEncouragement.net, the devotional ministry of Stephen & Brooksyne Weber is rather prominent on my personal blog because I think they represent the best of theological balance combined with appeal to a broad demographic.  Though their lives intertwine with Amish farmers, there’s an urban sophistication in their writing as well.  They know their readers, who click in from around the world.  Every day’s post is good reading.  This one is actually fresh from today!  I’ll add a permalink once it moves off the home page.

“Spiritual Myopia”

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13-16).  “For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come” (Hebrews 13:14).

I began to wear glasses when I was about twelve years old. I was near-sighted, meaning that I could see OK up close but distant views were blurry. I resisted wearing them at first but soon realized I really did see better with them. Near-sightedness is also called myopia. In my forties I started needing bifocals, since I now need correction both for close-up and distance.

Let me illustrate today’s message with a wonderful Creator-designed capability we all have and probably have never even considered. I am sitting at my desk in my home office with a clear view of my computer screen and close-up items on the desk. My eyes are automatically focused to this view.

I can raise my head and look out to a distant farm field view. Automatically, without any conscience effort on my part, my eyes refocus when I move from the close-up to the distant view. What if we were created with an adjustable knob on the side of our head that had to be turned each time we wanted to refocus, much like looking through a set of binoculars! I concur with David’s thoughts he penned three thousand years ago, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14).

I can purposefully not refocus when I move from a close-up view to a distant one but it’s really hard.  Look out to a distant view and stare at your hand and see how blurry and out of focus the distance is at the periphery. Try to move your hand and keep your eyes focused the same as the close-up, although you are looking at a distance. For me it’s next to impossible. My eyes just automatically refocus!

Today I want to consider a condition that many of us have which I’ll call “spiritual myopia”.  We may have a focus on the close up view but have trouble seeing and focusing on the bigger picture spiritually; that which is at a distance. It seems that spiritually speaking having a distant “faith” focus does not come automatically. I have to very purposefully focus on that by faith.

Hebrews 11 is known as the Faith Chapter and is a great commendation of men and women who lived by faith.  “This is what the ancients were commended for” (v.2).  Hebrews 11: 13-16 is an incredible interjection by the divinely inspired author of Hebrews. Prior to this Scripture passage and afterward Abraham is the focus, but this section broadens the scope using the phrase, “all these people”, which may mean those who were with Abraham, or it may be referring to all the people of faith mentioned in this chapter.  Either way you consider it, this powerful portion is certainly true of all people of faith.

But the part that grips my heart is the phrase concerning the “things promised” they had not received at the time they died.  “They only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.”  They did not have spiritual myopia.

In overcoming our tendency to being diagnosed with spiritual myopia:

1) We must have divine correction.
2) We must train our eyes for distant focus.
3) We must train our will to focus on the distant future.
4) We must place our affections on that which is yet to come.

I struggle with spiritual myopia when I am not focusing on God’s promises that are yet to be fulfilled.  I am not seeing them and welcoming them from a distance. In fact the spiritual distance may become invisible since my focus is fixed upon that which I see without effort.

Like the people who long ago lived by faith I need to regularly confess, “I am an alien and stranger on earth.”  Like them I want to be “longing for a better country—a heavenly one.”  May the Lord give each of us a distant heavenward focus! “For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.”

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

May 20, 2011

My Nose Can See

Today a guest post from the author known as Seymour Clearly…

It was about 12:30am when I, chronic nighthawk that I am, decided to burn off my remaining energy and go for a long walk; a fairly recent habit I’ve gotten into since moving back to our home town.

As I stepped out into the still night and mused over the beauty of the cheddar-tinted half moon that hovered over the back half of the town, I began to stroll the many neighbourhoods that make up this wonderful little town and which Nancy, my wife, had once dubbed “Sweetville” shortly after our settling here the first time.

Halfway into my walk I began to close my eyes and inhale deeply, saying a few prayers as I ambled along.  As I did so, I became electrically aware of something I’d never really experienced before.  My nose could see!  I mean, I know it’s always been able to smell stuff.  But I’d never actually accessed its lavish abilities.  I learned that when you really give it full reign, you can actually use your nose to assess where you are, what your eyes may or may not be perceiving and even what’s up ahead in your travels.  The olfactory proboscis bounces back information to your brain like a radar device and you find yourself reckoning, “That’s a maple tree!” … “Oh, and that’s water – I smell the falls coming off the pond!” … “Apple blossoms are up ahead!” … “Must be recycle day – smell all of that card-board!”…

I got to thinking that a living and vibrant faith, once it’s been handed to us by the Creator above, creates within us the same kind of powerful awakening that would ensue upon our receiving say, a new set of eyes with which to view things, or in my case, a super-awake nose with which I could identify my surroundings!.

Unconventional thinking is how lives are changed.  If we always see things the same way, we can never grow or properly identify the world around us.  Faith is unconventional, and oft thought as being futile and ‘blind’.  But the faith Christ gives us is not that at all.  Faith in God is learning to see through His senses.  What was mundane to us due to our limited scope or that which might have been completely ignored by us before is gradually (or sometimes rapidly) thought of quite differently.  We begin to hurt over things that hurt our Lord.  We are enthralled by things that enthrall the Spirit of the Kingdom we become new citizens of.  Real faith changes our outlook and bridges the gap between what we’ve always known, and what we have yet to know about the familiar things in our lives..

If we learn to fully access the portion of faith God lovingly gives us, we’ll realize that it isn’t so much about our moving mountains as it is our knowing how the mountains move us..

“Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.”

1

Blessings in Christ to all.

1. Words: At­trib­ut­ed to Dal­lan For­gaill, 8th Cen­tu­ry (Rob tu mo bhoile, a Com­di cri­de); trans­lat­ed from an­cient Ir­ish to Eng­lish by Ma­ry E. Byrne, in “Eriú,” Jour­nal of the School of Ir­ish Learn­ing, 1905, and versed by El­ea­nor H. Hull, 1912, alt.