Christianity 201

June 20, 2020

When Things Feel Hopeless

I’m currently reading The Gospel According to Satan: Eight Lies About God That Sound Like the Truth by Jared C. Wilson (Nelson books). For a formal review I’ve written, click this link.

The book is centered around eight statements which each of us at some time have heard voiced by people with a loose connection to Christianity. Perhaps you’ve even caught yourself echoing one of these yourself, hopefully at an earlier stage of your Christian pilgrimage vis-a-vis where you are today.

  • “God just wants you to be happy”
  • “You only live once”
  • “You need to live your truth”
  • “Your feelings are reality”
  • “Your life is what you make it”
  • “Let go and let God”
  • “The cross is not about wrath”
  • “God helps those who help themselves.”

This is an excerpt from chapter five which looks extensively at the Book of Job and the subject of hope, and how people are sometimes ruled by the apparent reality of what is actually subjective feelings. The link in the title below takes you to a page at the publisher’s website.

Your Feelings are Reality

In my days as a pastor, I would often find myself sitting across from people overcome with hurt. The most common question they all wanted answered was “Why?

“Why had God allowed this? Why is God doing this to me?”

As the designated religious professional, it was expected I might have an answer to that question. As it pertains to people’s specific trials and tribulations, I did not. But I would ask a question of my own, and it usually went something like this: “If you weren’t going through this would you be as close to God as you are right now?”

In all my years of asking that question, I never heard anyone say, “Yes.”…

…Christians don’t hope as the world hopes. When the world hopes, they are engaging in wishful thinking. “I hope this or that happens,” they think. They think that when a man dies, as Job says, he just fades away; he breathes his last. “You only live once.” That’s it. That’s all they can see.

But Christian hope is not like that. It defies what we can see and it is ripe with the promise of what cannot be seen.

  • We do not grieve as those who have no hope.“–1Thessalonians 4:13
  • And our hope for you is firm, because we know that as you share in the sufferings, so you will also share in the comfort.“–2Corinthians 1:7
  • There is hope reserved for you in heaven.“–Colossians 1:5
  • Christ in you, the hope of glory.“–Colossians 1:27
  • Christ Jesus is our hope.“–1 Timothy 1:1 (emphasis added)
  • We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure…“–Hebrews 6:19
  • Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.“–Hebrews 11:1 (emphasis added)

See, the world’s hope is hollow. The believer’s hope is firm. Because the believer’s hope is Jesus! And just because you can’t see him doesn’t mean he’s not real. Just because you don’t see him now, doesn’t mean you won’t see him then.

Satan wants you to believe that you are all alone, that when you are stripped down to your essence and left with only pain, that’s all you have. He does not want you to see the reality that Jesus will never leave you or abandon you (Heb. 13:5), that he will be with us all the way to the end (Matt. 28:20)…

…Everything may look bleak, our reality may be that we feel that all is lost, but if we have Christ, we defy what is visible. And we cling to hope, which demands what is invisible.


Taken from The Gospel According to Satan: Eight Lies about God that Sound Like Truth by: Jared C. Wilson Copyright © 2020 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. http://www.thomasnelson.com.

June 15, 2020

We Only Stop Sin by the Power of the Holy Spirit

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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NLT.Rom.8v9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) 10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life[a] because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters,[b] you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature,[c] you will live.

Today we’re back again at the site Discovering the Bible, written by Deborah, a retired doctor in Wales. Click the article title which follows to read at source.

Working with the Spirit

The Holy Spirit’s presence is the hallmark of a true believer; His absence should call someone’s Christian profession into question (see Acts 19:2). Christianity without the Holy Spirit is simply unimaginable; without Him there is no sanctification, and there will be no resurrection. For although our physical bodies remain mortal, and will eventually die, there is another part of us that belongs to the Holy Spirit and is suffused with His life. His supernatural power is transforming our spirits, and will eventually transform our bodies as well.

Luther said that a Christian is “both righteous and sinful at one and the same time.” We are righteous (in that we stand in a right relationship with God) but still sinful (in that sin has yet to be completely eradicated from our nature). The decisive victory over sin was won at our conversion, but there are still extensive ‘mopping-up operations’ to be done in order to overcome pockets of resistance. And this is our responsibility: we’re not passive recipients of our sanctification, but active participants in it. With the Holy Spirit inside us, we have the authority to overcome sin; but we must make the effort to exercise that authority! For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.(verse 13) We owe the flesh nothing; it is our enemy. And yet we are so accustomed to obeying it that we will continue to do so, out of sheer habit, unless we make a conscious decision to break away. We have to remind ourselves that we have received God’s gifts of the Holy Spirit and eternal life – so we have no right to carry on living according to the dictates of the flesh.

Sin is not a trivial matter. We must declare war against it – which entails repudiating everything in our lives that is incompatible with the life of the Spirit. There is no room for compromise, no space for negotiation; we must be utterly ruthless. For nothing less than our eternal destiny is at stake: if we don’t kill the flesh, it will kill us! A ‘Christian’ who does not engage in this struggle is at risk of spiritual death!

How do we put to death ‘the misdeeds of the body’? Willpower doesn’t work (not in the long term, anyway); we have to deal with sin at its source, in the mindset that is hostile towards God. In metaphorical terms, we need to cut off its blood supply, or dig it up by the roots. We can’t do this by our own unaided efforts, but only with the help of the Holy Spirit – who gives us the desire, the courage, the confidence and the resources to overcome our selfish desires and conform our lives more closely to God’s will.

Supporting Christianity 201 Financially

This is the first time we’ve ever mentioned this. You may have wondered how you are able to receive this free with no subscription fee or no pressure to donate to a Patreon account or something similar.

The answer is that there isn’t a way to give and there never will be. Given the number of articles we ‘borrow’ from other writers, accepting payment for this site would create a huge ethical quagmire. We’d be taking money for work we didn’t do. We’ve freely received, so we’re freely giving.

In return all I ask is that you enjoy the readings and feel free to share them with others. If an article particularly blesses you and it’s not by myself or Ruth, please share the material from the original source site, and follow any guidelines there for citation.


Text Footnotes:

  1. 8:10 Or your spirit is alive.
  2. 8:12 Greek brothers; also in 8:29.
  3. 8:13 Greek deeds of the body.

May 23, 2020

Darkness is Everywhere

This is our first time here sharing with you the writing of popular Christian author Christine Caine with an excerpt from her book Undaunted: Daring to Do What God Calls You to Do, which recently released in a revised and updated edition. Learn more about the book at this link.

Combat the Darkness

Darkness is everywhere. We live in a world full of fear and in desperate need of light.

But Jesus said,

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven. — Matthew 5:14-16

The light overtakes the darkness and the fear. It makes it all disappear. It eradicates its power. It eliminates its strength. Just as sure as morning follows night, the light of Christ is always coming — through us. As His hands and feet, we are the force that conquers the darkness. We. The undaunted ones.

The prophet Isaiah said,

Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. — Isaiah 60:1-2 NKJV

God’s glory is upon us, and His light can break through the darkest night. That’s why He wants us to partner with Him in bringing light into the dark places where oppressors try their best to shut people away.

I understand that we can get worn down by the needs in this world and wearied by them. We need sleep, rest, restoration, recuperation. That’s why God gives us the end of a day, and He doesn’t begrudge us our rest.. Isn’t this is what God meant when he asked in Isaiah 1:12,

Why this frenzy of sacrifices? — MSG

Working ourselves into a frenzy or tormenting others by working them to death is not freedom. It is enslavement.

But we are not slaves. We are free. And we have been freed for a purpose: to share what we’ve been given. The Bible tells us,

He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? — Micah 6:8 NKJV

We do justly and love mercy and walk humbly with our God when we rise ready, when we get up and go out with God to partner with Him in his purposes on the earth…

…I thought of King Xerxes in the Bible, who was persuaded by an adviser to issue an edict condemning all the nation’s Jews to death. Esther, a Jew but chosen by King Xerxes as his queen, seemed uniquely positioned to persuade the king to withdraw the edict and was urged to do so by her cousin Mordecai, who said,

Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this? — Esther 4:14

I felt much the same. Who could say that I had not been born into a reasonably affluent and free society for such a time as this? For a time when I could see the injustice and crying need so common throughout the world and stand up to combat it?

Won’t you join me? At the very least, pursue what God is calling you to do? You and I have opportunities every day to combat the darkness, the evil, that surrounds us in every country, every corner of the world. The opportunities are countless, and the needs are desperate…


Taken from Undaunted (Revised and Updated) by: Christine Caine Copyright © 2012, 2019 by Zondervan, Inc. Used by permission of Zondervan. https://www.zondervan.com

May 3, 2020

Don’t Let Them Stop You

A year ago we first introduced you to Mark Stephenson who co-pastors Horizon Church of Towson, Maryland and writes at Fire and Light. This article was posted this very morning, and is one of several great devotionals at his blog. As you are able, click the link above (or the header below) and explore more scriptures discussed at Fire and Light. (Also if the theme today sounds familiar, remember that Ezra and Nehemiah are interconnected books covering a particular time in Israel’s history.)

Opposition

When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the Lord, the God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, “Let us help you build…” 

Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. They bribed officials to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia. At the beginning of the reign of Xerxes, they lodged an accusation against the people of Judah and Jerusalem.

Ezra 4:1-2, 4-6

A large group of the people of God returned from exile to Jerusalem in order to rebuild the Temple. They were released to do so by an order from the king of Persia, King Cyrus. This was all orchestrated by the Lord.

…in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia…

Ezra 1:1

But once they started making sacrifices to the Lord and rebuilding the Temple, opposition came. Whenever we are called by God to accomplish His plans, there will be opposition. This is especially true when we are building something new or rebuilding something that should have always been. And notice the strategies of the opposition. Opposition to the Lord’s work usually goes through these same stages.

First, there’s the attempt to join the work in order to derail the work. This “friendly” and soft approach is often how opposition first arrives on the scene. If we invite the wrong people to give their input into the work we know we are called to do, it will get side-tracked, watered down, and compromised.

Secondly, there is an attempt to discourage through fear. This next wave of opposition is a series of people who are “concerned” about where this might lead. Fear is the main theme. Worst case scenario after worst case scenario gets listed as reasons why the work should stop. The attempt is to spread fear in such a way that people start getting discouraged and want to bail out.

If those two tactics don’t work, the next strategy of opposition intensifies into manipulation and accusation. The opposition starts recruiting people to their side with various forms of emotional bribery, manipulation, and false accusations about the ones leading the work of the Lord. (We read about how Absalom did this to King David in 2 Samuel 15:1-12). Lies about the leaders and character assassinations are the bread and butter of this stage of opposition.

Finally, if none of this stops the work of the Lord, the next move is making threats, including the threat of physical violence (see Nehemiah 4:11). While these threats are often empty, they can still cause a lot of pain and a lot of division.

For those who are called to step out in faith to accomplish a work of God, opposition will come. And the enemy isn’t creative enough to change his tactics. It usually looks something like the above strategies. The hard part is that many times this kind of opposition will come from people close to us. So it’s important that we face this opposition with love and grace for those who come against what God is doing. They think they are being helpful and wise even as they fight against what God is clearly doing.

I am reminded of times where I was the one pushing against and opposing a work of God. I thought I was being righteous and theologically sound. I thought I was in the right. I thought I was doing the right thing and warning against disaster. I didn’t realize until years later that I was actually fighting a work of the Lord. I didn’t realize until years later that I was the opposition; I was a puppet of the enemy. And when I came to realize my folly, I spent months in repentance for it. It was painful to realize how wrong I was. It was painful to come to an awareness of my own false accusations against those leaders God was using to lead a work of the Lord.

So when we do face opposition, we need to show grace. We need to show love. But we shouldn’t let opposition discourage us or stop us from what we’ve been called to do. God has called us to accomplish His work. It’s not our plan; it’s His plan. And we shouldn’t stop for any reason.

March 21, 2020

You Can Choose What You Think

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
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In a most timely matter, given all that is happening in our world right now, one of the devotionals this week at Devotions Daily at FaithGateway.com was an excerpt from Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado. Although it was too long to run here, I want to include a couple of excerpts from the excerpt!

You can choose what you think about

…For that reason the wise man urges,

Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.
— Proverbs 4:23 NCV

Do you want to be happy tomorrow? Then sow seeds of happiness today. (Count blessings. Memorize Bible verses. Pray. Sing hymns. Spend time with encouraging people.) Do you want to guarantee tomorrow’s misery? Then wallow in a mental mud pit of self-pity or guilt or anxiety today. (Assume the worst. Beat yourself up. Rehearse your regrets. Complain to complainers.) Thoughts have consequences.

Healing from anxiety requires healthy thinking. Your challenge is not your challenge. Your challenge is the way you think about your challenge. Your problem is not your problem; it is the way you look at it.

Satan knows this. The devil is always messing with our minds.

He comes as a thief

with the sole intention of stealing and killing and destroying.
— John 10:10 Phillips

He brings only gloom and doom. By the time he was finished with Job, the man was sick and alone. By the time he had done his work in Judas, the disciple had given up on life. The devil is to hope what termites are to an oak; he’ll chew you up from the inside.

He will lead you to a sunless place and leave you there. He seeks to convince you this world has no window, no possibility of light. Exaggerated, overstated, inflated, irrational thoughts are the devil’s specialty.

No one will ever love me. It’s all over for me. Everyone is against me. I’ll never lose weight, get out of debt, or have friends.

What lugubrious, monstrous lies!

No problem is unsolvable. No life is irredeemable. No one’s fate is sealed. No one is unloved or unlovable.

Your challenge is the way you think about your challenge. 

But Satan wants us to think we are. He wants to leave us in a swarm of anxious, negative thoughts.

Satan is the master of deceit. But he is not the master of your mind. You have a power he cannot defeat. You have God on your side.

So

fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
— Philippians 4:8 NLT

The transliteration of the Greek word, here rendered as fix, is logizomai. Do you see the root of an English word in the Greek one? Yes, logic. Paul’s point is simple: anxiety is best faced with clearheaded, logical thinking.

Turns out that our most valuable weapon against anxiety weighs less than three pounds and sits between our ears. Think about what you think about!

Here is how it works. You receive a call from the doctor’s office. The message is simple and unwelcome. “The doctor has reviewed your tests and would like you to come into the office for a consultation.”

As quickly as you can say “uh-oh,” you have a choice: anxiety or trust.

Anxiety says…

“I’m in trouble. Why does God let bad things happen to me? Am I being punished? I must have done something wrong.”

“These things never turn out right. My family has a history of tragedy. It’s my turn. I probably have cancer, arthritis, jaundice. Am I going blind? My eyes have been blurry lately. Is this a brain tumor?”

“Who will raise the kids? Who will pay the medical bills? I’m going to die broke and lonely. I’m too young for this tragedy! No one can understand me or help me.”

If you aren’t already sick, you will be by the time you go to the doctor’s office.

Anxiety weighs down the human heart.
— Proverbs 12:25 NRSV

But there is a better way.

Before you call your mom, spouse, neighbor, or friend, call on God. Invite him to speak to the problem.

Capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ.
— 2 Corinthians 10:5 NCV

Slap handcuffs on the culprit, and march it before the One who has all authority: Jesus Christ.

Jesus, this anxious, negative thought just wormed its way into my mind. Is it from You?

Jesus, who speaks nothing but the truth, says, “No, get away from here, Satan.” And as the discerning, sober-minded air traffic controller of your mind, you refuse to let the thought have the time of day.

Lay claim to every biblical promise you can remember, and set out to learn a few more. Grip them for the life preservers they are. Give Satan no quarter. Give his lies no welcome.

Fasten the belt of truth around your waist.
— Ephesians 6:14 NRSV

Resist the urge to exaggerate, overstate, or amplify. Focus on the facts, nothing more…

-Max Lucado

March 2, 2020

Breaking the Ten Commandments is all Stealing

“You must not steal.” – Exodus 20:15 NLT

“Will a man rob God?…” – Malachi 3:8a NASB

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen. – Romans 1:25 NIV


It’s all theft.

That was the message from a graphic that a friend posted on Facebook earlier today, originating with Bay Community Church in Comox, British Columbia, Canada.

One has to be living under a rock to not realize that the Christian is engaged in spiritual warfare. Still, I think that many “sign up” for the Christian faith without realizing the nature of the family/body/group they are joining themselves to. Consider this:

  • Imagine you are one of the people being sworn in as a new citizen
  • You correctly answer all the questions about George Washington if you’re in the U.S. or Sir John A. MacDonald if you’re in Canada
  • You attend a ceremony where you are officially welcomed as a citizen
  • You’re then told the country is at war and you are needed to serve
  • You’ve been drafted, and you truly didn’t see that coming!

In a way, that’s what happens when someone decides to live their life as a Christ-follower.  When we think of “spiritual warfare” we tend to think that

  • this is something involving angels and demons
  • this is something Pentecostal and Charismatic people talk about
  • this is the stuff of fringe Christian TV channels
  • this references stories of spiritual conflict in places like central Africa or S. America

However, if we go the other extreme, and totally discount the concept of spiritual warfare, we become hard pressed to explain much of what is taking place in our world.

The warfare model proves true.   There are spiritual forces behind a lot of things we take for granted:

Eph 6:12 For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.

But anytime we

  • see the headlines in the newspaper
  • check out the news feeds on social media
  • watch the evening news

we clearly see a conflict of ideologies; where the ideals of Christian people come into conflict with the larger world.  We enter into a situation where up is down, black is white, etc.; and everything else is turned upside down.

So it should be no surprise that the enemy of our souls wants to take the basic Judeo-Christian framework for ethical behaviour — The Ten Commandments — and see us live lives which turn those commands on their head.

I thought it interesting that the same person who posted the above graphic on Facebook had also posted this one just hours earlier, showing how the “voices” both inside and outside us can easily be identified by the type of actions they propel us to.

Truly, the person who doesn’t realize they’ve signed up for a standing army is going to be shocked when the battle comes to their front door and the persecution gets personal.

2Ti 3:12  Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

Unless we hide our personal convictions, or don’t stand up for what we’ve been taught in Church or taught from the Bible, there will come a time when our views will be in conflict with what it seems the larger society believes and practices.

Sometimes the persecution has been subtle, but in North America and Western Europe it is becoming more overt. Our values are being undermined.

It’s all theft.

December 16, 2019

God Focus Defeats Discouragement and Distraction

Today we’re again back at the website Live as If (part of StudyLight.org) This time around the writer is Sandy Shaw who we’ve featured before. Click the header below to visit the article, and check the link at the bottom for his personal site, Word from Scotland.

What Can We Do If We Feel Like Giving Up?

We have been reading in Nehemiah of the challenges he faced when leading that team of workers as they rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem.

Nehemiah made a few changes. He reorganized what was not working well.

Nehemiah 4 verse 13“So I stationed armed guards at the most vulnerable places of the wall and assigned people by families with their swords, lances, and bows.”

He did not give up on the goal – he simply reorganised how they were working.

That can apply to being out of shape – budget – being over-committed and we need to reorganise our time – or dealing with the clutter and the rubble which needs cleaned out.

Nehemiah made sure those working had support – that is crucial.

Hebrews 4 verse 25“Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting with other believers, but we must not do that. Instead, we should keep on encouraging each other . . .” If people fall away from worship and fellowship and commitment to Jesus Christ and the Church of Jesus Christ, all kinds of difficulties can arise and appear. This can happen if people move out of God’s will for their lives.

Do not give up – just look at things differently.

Nehemiah refocused on GOD.

Nehemiah 4 verse 14 – “Then as I looked over the situation, I called together the leaders and the people and said to them, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious.”

It was as if some were so busy working for GOD that they forgot GOD! Do you think that may continue to happen today?

“When I had lost all hope I turned my thoughts once again to the Lord.” Jonah Chapter 2 verse 7. Yes, even Jonah took his eyes and thoughts off God – as did Peter when Jesus called him to step out of the boat and walk on the water.

Remember God’s presence with you in the past. Remember God’s available closeness to you now in the present – and the promises and power of Jesus Christ for the future.

Resist the discouragement – if that is possible – and I am sure it is if you are called by Jesus Christ.

Nehemiah 4 verse 14 (Then I told them) “. . . Fight for your brothers, and your sons and your daughters, and wives and homes!”

Nehemiah was at war. We are at war. We must not dare give up without a fight.

We face battles every day – “the enemy is the accuser of the brethren” – the enemy uses weapons of distraction and discouragement – to get you away from your post – or to get you to give up your post.

Nehemiah was a man who did not know how to give up. There are not many around. Nehemiah knew how to keep going – and Nehemiah teaches us important and profound lessons, as we face whatever might be going on around us.

Nehemiah knew how to focus upon God – and resist the distraction or discouragement of the enemy.

We too can apply these very practical lessons as we serve the risen and living Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.

“Almighty Father – for Your faithfulness down through the years, we praise You and worship You, because of Jesus – and His love and sacrifice on the cross. Whatever we may be facing, reassure us this day that you will be with us and will never leave us – according to the Scriptures and the promises of Christ our Saviour. Amen.”


Word from Scotland‘ Copyright 2019 © Sandy Shaw; used by permission.

More devotions like this at Live As If.

Alexander “Sandy” Shaw is pastor of Nairn Christian Fellowship in Nairn, Scotland. Nairn is 17 miles east of Inverness – on the Moray Firth Coast – not far from the Loch Ness Monster! Gifted as a Biblical teacher, Sandy is firmly committed to making sure that his teachings are firmly grounded in the Word. Sandy has a weekly radio talk which can be heard via the Internet on Saturday at 11:40am, New Orleans time, at wsho.com.

November 4, 2019

When You’re Tired, Ticked-Off, and Tempted

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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NET.Matt.4.1. Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After he fasted forty days and forty nights he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city, had him stand on the highest point of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘with their hands they will lift you up, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Once again it is written: ‘You are not to put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their grandeur. And he said to him, “I will give you all these things if you throw yourself to the ground and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: ‘You are to worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’” 11a Then the devil left him…

Today’s devotional comes from a source we frequently link to at Thinking Out Loud only introduced here six months ago. The website A Life Overseas is an online point of connection for people in missions for whom “home” means two (or more) places; providing a place online for cross-cultural communication. Today’s writer is Jonathan Trotter. Click the original title in the header below to read at source and explore the blog.

For the Times When You’re Exhausted, Discouraged, and Tempted

Some truth is just worth remembering. These musings about discouragement and temptation spilled out six years ago; perhaps they can encourage people even still…

We moved to Cambodia about two years ago, and it’s been good. But it’s also been very hard. I’ve had my days of doubt, fear, and deep discouragement. I’ve looked around at the poverty, abuse, corruption, and I’ve despaired. I’ve heard that raspy, wicked voice taunt, “What can you do? Why are you even here? What about your kids, think of what you’re doing to them? You are completely ill-equipped for this. Did God really call you here?”

But on this mountain climb called Mission, there is a phrase that has been to me a strong foothold. When I’ve despaired, it’s grounded me, and when I’ve been near to giving up, it has given me rest and peace.

It’s what Jesus said when he came face to face with the Father of Lies, Enemy Number One, Satan:

I will worship the Lord my God. I will serve only him.

In Matthew 4, Satan attacks Jesus, desperate to win. At this point, Jesus has not eaten for forty days. He hasn’t talked with friends for forty days. He’s lonely, tired, exhausted. Hungry. And Satan himself shows up, on the prowl, to attack.

Satan won’t shut up. He keeps talking and stalking, “You want food, right? Nice, fresh-baked bread? How long has it been, Jesus? Eat.” “How about you prove God cares for you? I don’t think he does. Jump.” “OK, everyone wants stuff, power, and control. You want some? I’ll give it all to you. Bow.”

Jesus answers Satan and gives us a key.

When I’ve despaired, this key has given me hope.

When I’ve been tempted, this key has given me a way out.

When I’ve needed more strength for the climb, this key has provided it.

Over the last two years, when I could pray little else, I’ve stuttered, “I will worship the Lord my God. I will serve only him.” I’ve prayed it silently and I’ve prayed it out loud. When I’ve been discouraged, I’ve begged, “God, help me worship you. Help me serve only you.” When I’ve been tempted, I’ve declared it, as a reminder to Evil and myself; I’m with Jesus.

We sometimes imagine the Tempting of Jesus as if it were a nice chat between buddies. Satan tempts Jesus and Jesus coolly brushes it off with a simple, “Oh, Satan, you silly, the Scriptures say…” But these two were mortal enemies, the Prince of Evil vs. the Prince of Peace. These temptations were real and Jesus felt them.

So, when Jesus answers this last temptation, he was saying so much more than “No.” He was emphatically saying, “I will not listen to you, Satan. I will worship only One, and you’re not Him. I will not follow you, or obey you, or bow down to you.”

He was making a dramatic gesture towards the Father and shouting, “I’M WITH HIM!”

Anytime you wrestle with evil or temptation, you have to know Satan’s smarter than you. You do not “have this under control.” He’s stronger, has more charm, more experience. He has more time, more resources.

You can’t outlast him, outsmart him, or outcast him. But you can resist him. And you must.

How?  With this resolution: There is only One God, and I’m serving Him. Let this be your stake in the ground, your line in the sand. In stating and restating this truth, you disarm and deflate Satan, reminding him that he loses because Jesus wins.

What was Satan’s response to this declaration? He left. What was God’s response? He ministered to Jesus through his servants, angels.

Put another way, Satan responds by leaving and God responds by coming. And that’s a pretty good trade, I think.

Yes, there is temptation and despair and discouragement. And evil. But there is still Hope, and his name is Jesus. And I’ve decided that with everything in me, until my last breath, I will worship the Lord my God. I will serve only him.

I hope you’ll join me.

August 13, 2019

The Flesh, The Flesh!

by Russell Young

Much of the Word deals with the flesh. Although its power for good is limited, it’s attraction to evil is great. To live in the flesh is to live according to its persuasions and interests. Those who honor its demands are appeasing a dying animal since life is in the spirit, not in the flesh which will go to the destruction of the grave.

The flesh is the greatest weakness of humanity. To accommodate its desires, people steal, live in sexual immorality, are pretentious, exhibit anger and hatred, and are enticed to lie, to cheat, and to take advantage of the weak. Paul calls it “the body of (that brings about) death,” (Rom 7:24)

The attractions of the flesh caused Adam and Eve to fall into sin according to the appeal of the forbidden fruit and the flesh is the sole cause of the ruination of those who live on this earth. John has written, “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” (1 Jn 2:16) Those who have a worldly interest and a desire for its things, have fallen prey to the demands and temptations of the flesh and, from God’s perspective, are idolatrous (Col 3:5) and his love for them has departed. “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 Jn 2:15) God will not be mocked!

People interact with their surroundings through the senses of the flesh—taste, touch, smell, hearing, and sight. The Lord taught that it was better to cut off a hand or a foot, or to pluck out an eye if they cause a person to sin than to go into hell. (Mk 5:43−47) Trying to appease the flesh, as tempted through the senses, produces sin. As understanding that pleasure can be derived through the senses develops, that knowledge feeds the soul and stimulates the mind and the natural spirit to submit to temptations and to seek the unlawful pleasures before them.

The flesh, if allowed to be gratified, will destroy the soul and with it a person’s hope of glory. The “evil inclination” of the thoughts of the human heart grieves God and pain his heart. (Gen 6:5−6) Because of this pain he has determined to eliminate humankind except for those who would, through the leading and power of the Spirit, be conformed to the likeness of his Son. The Lord taught, “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” (mt 13:41) Sin should remain an issue of concern.

Paul taught that salvation could not be gained by the works of the law because the law had been weakened by the sinful nature that plagued humankind. God’s righteous requirements had to be accomplished in another way if his creation was to be preserved.

God has provided an effective solution; the presence and help of the Holy Spirit. “[God] condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met by those who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:3−4) Paul had agonized about his wretched state which his body produced and found that the solution to righteousness came through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:17, 18)

The interests of the flesh have destroyed God’s creation. They have caused wars that pit nation against nation, and anger that destroys relationships among neighbors, acquaintances, and family members, but when the soul has been transformed and the perishable has become imperishable righteousness will reign forever bringing peace, love, and the absence of pain.

We have not been left without a caution. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Pet 5:8) Believers have been told to put on the full armour of God so that Satan might be defeated. (Eph 6:10−18) Where the flesh is weak and will bring about the confessor’s downfall, the Word and the Spirit provide all that is necessary to gain victory over the flesh and over Satan’s tactics to bring destruction through it. Faith in Christ, obedience to his leading, will allow the believer to overcome all that can be hurled at him or her.

Paul’s encouragement that “there is no condemnation for those in Christ,” (Rom 8:1) is often misrepresented. Freedom from condemnation applies to those “in Christ” and it is dependent on their willingness to live according to the Spirit. (Rom 8:4) Accordingly, Paul remained conscious of his need. He wrote, “I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Cor 9:27) While the flesh is weak, the Spirit is strong. Justification through the blood of Christ frees the believer from slavery to the law of sin by giving him or her the promised Spirit (Gal 3:14) who can provide victory over all that Satan can entice through the flesh. Victory is not a gift of the Spirit, however; the believer must live in obedience to him (Heb 5:9) and must choose to contend for victory. Be on guard! The flesh is your enemy when its interests prevail over the convictions of the Spirit. Believers have been called to “count” themselves dead to the flesh as pledged through baptism and they have been reminded to carry their cross so they can commit the body to death when it takes on life and its interests re-emerge.



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.

August 2, 2019

De-Mystifying Spiritual Warfare

Eph 6:12 For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.


“Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.”  Luke 10:19

About a year ago we borrowed an item here from the the New Wineskins blog at Patheos by Josh Draffern, and yesterday I decided to see what he’s been writing lately, where I came across this article. I really felt this opened a frequently-discussed topic in a new way, and I hope you’ll agree. Click the title below to read this at source, and bookmark the site so you can make return visits.

What If You Could Take the Mystery Out of Spiritual Warfare?

What if you could take the mystery out of spiritual warfare? Growing up as a church kid, there were several Bible passages that continually fascinated me. Whenever the story of David and Goliath was told (1 Samuel 17), I would imagine that I was there in the crowd, watching history unfold. I loved imagining that like Peter I might have had enough faith to walk on water when Jesus gave the invitation (Matthew 14:22-33). Right up near the top was Paul’s picture of spiritual warfare and the description of the armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-18. The imagery of swords and shields was very compelling for a middle school boy, and the thought of fighting demons seemed like the real life version of all those fairytales I heard growing up where the hero slayed the dragon and saved the princess. For years, that’s where my understanding of spiritual warfare remained: medieval sword fights and imaginary battles with demons.

What if you could take the mystery out of spiritual warfare? When I finished high school and went off to a Christian college I continued to be interested in the topic of spiritual warfare and for the first time was exposed to books outside my narrow field of evangelical teaching. The good news was that there was a whole spectrum of teaching on spiritual warfare out there, especially from the pentecostal and charismatic stripe of Christianity, that claimed to know all sorts of fascinating information about spiritual warfare. The bad news was that too often these books left any semblance of biblical grounding behind and relied on supernatural revelations that changed from book to book. In the end, I was left with little I could trust and less I could understand.

What if you could take the mystery out of spiritual warfare? After college I spent two years overseas in Africa as a missionary through the International Mission Board, the missions agency of the Southern Baptist Convention. There in Africa I saw two distinct demonic manifestations happen with my first month of being there, moments that made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. Finally, this seemed like what I had always expected spiritual warfare to be like! But as quickly as they appeared, they dissipated. No more demonic manifestations after that, nothing that fit the stereotypical episode of spiritual warfare. Just normal, mundane, everyday life. Could spiritual warfare exist if nothing extraordinary appeared to be happening?

What if you could take the mystery out of spiritual warfare? Once I came back to the United States and began working full-time in local churches as a youth pastor, I began to see the evidence of spiritual warfare all around me. Good Christian marriages were falling apart left and right, entirely preventable divorces were being filed, and kids were left with emotional scars from a broken childhood that would threaten to haunt them for generations. Good kids from good homes were making bad decisions that left life-long consequences. Division and strife riled through churches as the enemy seemingly went unchecked in our midst. Like a dull ache in the back of my head, I knew we were being defeated in spiritual warfare, but I didn’t know how to fight back. Should I purchase a sword and shield? Did I need to go demon hunting or go searching for territorial powers like the books I read in college suggested? Should I wait for an undeniable demonic manifestation and deal with it then? Even after decades following Jesus and reading the Bible, the mystery of spiritual warfare remained simply that: a mystery.

What if you could take the mystery out of spiritual warfare? As the years went by and I became a senior pastor of a local church, I had the opportunity to teach through the armor of God in Ephesians 6 on a number of occasions. In preparation for a message, trying to grasp the armor of God in a way that could help my congregation (and myself) better understand Paul’s teaching on spiritual warfare, I tried a different approach, one I ultimately believe was prompted by the Holy Spirit. Instead of focusing on the pieces of armor, as I had always done and as commentaries always did, I ignored the pieces of armor completely and simply focused on what was attached to the pieces of armor. That small shift changed everything.

When you think of a marriage, if you had to settle on one image or one event that best encapsulates a marriage it would most likely be the wedding day. A wedding is a beautifully scripted ceremony that visually captures and celebrates the love and commitment between a husband and wife. From the flowers and the cake to the wedding dress and corsages, the beauty and elegance of the wedding ceremony celebrates the finest of what a marriage should be. Yet no one would try and make the argument that the only way to properly be married is to dress up every day in your tuxedo or wedding dress and walk down a rose petal strewn church aisle. In fact, if someone made a routine of putting on their wedding dress or tux so they could be married that day, he or she would be missing the whole point. Marriage isn’t the tuxedo or wedding dress, those are merely symbols. It’s the love and commitment represented by the wedding ceremony that’s the key.

When Paul writes to first century Christians to instruct them on the basics of spiritual warfare, he gives them a metaphor to hold onto, a symbol. He describes spiritual warfare in terms that mirrored the physical warfare every reader would have been familiar with. Every first-century believer reading Paul’s letter to the Ephesians would have been painfully aware of the power of the Roman soldier. And just as the Roman army conquered the known world of the time, Paul instructed early Christians on how to be just as victorious in the spiritual battles that raged around them. But the pieces of armor have always been a metaphor. It doesn’t make any more sense to think the key to spiritual warfare is putting on pieces of armor than to think that the key to a successful marriage is to wear your wedding dress or wedding tux every single day. The key isn’t the pieces of armor, but what’s attached to the pieces armor. Right there, hiding in plain sight, we discover the steps we need to begin to win the war in the spiritual.

 

This is an excerpt from (hopefully) an upcoming book to be published on spiritual warfare. [For meaningful conversations on this and all my other content, join my Facebook Group: Josh Daffern Digital]

 

June 8, 2019

Falling Prey to the Lies that Lead to Failure to Trust

Today we’re making a return visit with Ted Gosard who blogs at Jesus Community.

leaving (instead of living) the lie

Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you scoffers
who rule this people in Jerusalem.
You boast, “We have entered into a covenant with death,
with the realm of the dead we have made an agreement.
When an overwhelming scourge sweeps by,
it cannot touch us,
for we have made a lie our refuge
and falsehood our hiding place.”

So this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who relies on it
will never be stricken with panic.
I will make justice the measuring line
and righteousness the plumb line;
hail will sweep away your refuge, the lie,
and water will overflow your hiding place.
Your covenant with death will be annulled;
your agreement with the realm of the dead will not stand.
When the overwhelming scourge sweeps by,
you will be beaten down by it.
As often as it comes it will carry you away;
morning after morning, by day and by night,
it will sweep through.”

Isaiah 28:14-19

I think it’s far more common than we imagine, just how we live in lies. And I’m thinking of Christians, too. Specifically I’m thinking of myself, included. Part of what got me thinking this way were two posts quoting Dallas Willard who says it quite eloquently in the details spelled out in Scripture (here and here).

We live lies in a multitude of ways. Essentially living in the truth is “truth in Jesus” and an important aspect of that is living in the Father’s care, so that we’re free to seek his kingdom and righteousness, not encumbered with any of the cares common to humanity, or part of our culture. That is so much more easier said than done.

When one is weighed down, maybe nearly stricken with panic, that’s a sure sign one is not living in the Father’s provision, or as it’s been called, his providential care. We’re failing to trust in God, at least not to the extent needed. We need to take our hands off so to speak, but through prayer, find our way into that peace that frees us up to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness.

Patterns in our lives will have to be broken, and that can be hard. It will require effort by us, but an effort essentially to let go, and let God take over. We need to find his peace. Part of this is not just to be freed up to put first things first, but with the prior commitment to that.

As the text above tells us, life simply doesn’t work well when we make a lie our refuge. And God won’t let it work well for those who name his name, who profess faith in him.

This is something we need to strive to enter and remain, come what may. God has us, as we seek first of all to live in his care and love and will. Part and parcel of being followers of Jesus in and through him.

May 17, 2019

Don’t Allow it to Grow and Develop: Cut it Down

NIV.John.8.34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.


NLT.Heb.10.26 Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. 27 There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies. 28 For anyone who refused to obey the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us. 30 For we know the one who said,

“I will take revenge.
    I will pay them back.”

He also said,

“The Lord will judge his own people.”


NLT.Rom.6.1. Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?

We’re back once again with pastor and counselor Josh Ketchum who writes at Life in the Kingdom. Click the header below to read at source. (Scriptures cited in today’s reading are quoted above.)

Letting Trees Grow

I have one small tree that grows on my pond bank. I have cut it down before, but because the roots are still there it comes back and grows quickly. It doesn’t really bother me that it is growing. It is not in a place where the roots will damage the pond and I have just let it grow. I know I have a chain saw! In fact, I let numerous undesirable trees and branches grow on my farm.

I don’t look at those trees and worry about how I am going to get rid of them, which was a former concern of mine. If I had access to a saw, I would vigorously cut any tree or branch I thought I may ever want down. But now, I am empowered because of my saw. I brazenly say to the tree, “Grow if you want, I can cut you down whenever I am good and ready!”

My little power trip may sound silly to you. But I bet you have something that is similar. Some issue you used to feel pressure to deal with, but now because you can easily handle it you just let it go for now.

I think we often do the same thing in our lives with sin. We know, it should be cut down. We know, we shouldn’t allow it to continue to grow and develop. It is undesirable and isn’t going to produce anything good in our lives, but we feel empowered. We feel like we are in control. We can handle it! So we let it grow, thinking we can whip out a chainsaw and wack it down anytime we want.

Unfortunately sin doesn’t work that way. There are some real dangers and problems with letting sin just grow and hang around in your life.

First, it will deceive you. You don’t really really have control over sin, you are really a slave to it (John 8:34). If you don’t cut it down when it is small, it will grow and overtake you so that you will have great difficulty cutting it down.

Second, even though sin can always be cut out by the power of Christ, it will forever leave a stump. It will leave a permanent scar in your life. It leaves shame, regret, and consequences.

Third, if you know the tree is sin and you are letting it grow in your life, then you are insulting the grace of God (Heb. 10:26-30). The blood of Christ is not a chainsaw to be left in our garage and pulled out when we need it to forgive our sins. God forbid! (Rom. 6:1-2). Christians should hate sin! When we know of sin in our lives, we should want to get it out of our lives as quickly as possible.

Do you have some trees growing in your life that you are neglecting to cut down? Are you thinking you don’t really have to quit those sins, because anytime you want you can turn to Jesus for forgiveness? Don’t be foolish! Repent today.

May 13, 2019

Signs and Wonders: A Note of Caution

If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder,  and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,”you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. That prophet or dreamer tried to turn you from the way the Lord your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you. – Deuteronomy 13:1-5 NIV

I was really struck by this passage last week listening to a podcast.

So how could this happen?

What follows is from Matthew Henry. I’ve modernized the text in some places, and items in square brackets and lighter typeface are added by myself.

A Strange Premise

How is it possible that any who had so much knowledge of the methods of divine revelation as to be able to impersonate a prophet should yet have so little knowledge of the divine nature and will as to go himself and entice his neighbours after other gods? Could an Israelite ever be guilty of such impiety? Could a man of sense ever be guilty of such absurdity?

We see it in our own day, and therefore may think it the less strange; multitudes that profess both learning and religion yet exciting both themselves and others, not only to worship God by images, but to give divine honor to saints and angels, which is no better than going after other gods to serve them; such is the power of strong delusions.

It is yet more strange that the sign or wonder given for the confirmation of this false doctrine should come to pass. [i.e. that the prayer is answered, or the miracle takes place.] Can it be thought that God himself should give any countenance to such a vile proceeding? Did ever a false prophet work a true miracle?

It is only supposed here for two reasons:

1. To strengthen [could he mean exaggerate?] the warning here given against following such a person. “Though it were possible that he should work a true miracle, yet you must not believe him if he tell you that you must serve other gods, for the divine law against that is certainly perpetual and unalterable.’’ The supposition is like that in Gal. 1:8 , If we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you —which does not prove it possible that an angel should preach another gospel, but strongly expresses the certainty and perpetuity of that which we have received.

 2. It is to fortify them against the danger of impostures and lying wonders (2 Th. 2:9 ): “Suppose the credentials he produces be so artfully counterfeited that you cannot discern the cheat, nor disprove them, yet, if they are intended to draw you to the service of other gods, that alone is sufficient to disprove them; no evidence can be admitted against so clear a truth as that of the unity of the Godhead, and so plain a law as that of worshipping the one only living and true God.’’ We cannot suppose that the God of truth should set his seal of miracles to a lie, to so gross a lie as is supposed in that temptation, Let us go after other gods.

But if it be asked [and it must be asked]: Why is this false prophet permitted to counterfeit this sign/wonder? [why did the miracle work?] then it is answered here (v. 3): The Lord you God is testing you. He allows you to be faced by such a temptation to test the quality of  your faith, that both those that are perfect and those that are false and corrupt may be made made obvious. It is to test [and shape] you; therefore see that you pass the test, and stand your ground.’’

A Necessary Warning

1. Not to yield to the temptation: you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer.

Not only must you not do the thing he [or she] tempts you to, but you should not so much as patiently hear the temptation, but reject it with the utmost disdain and detestation. [i.e. walk away before they are finished talking!] Such a suggestion as this is not open to negotiation, but you should cover your ears! “Get thee behind me, Satan.” Some temptations are so grossly vile that they will not bear a debate, nor may we so much as give them the hearing. What follows (v. 4),

Some temptations are so grossly vile that a discussion isn’t necessary, nor may we so much as give them the time of day. What follows (v. 4), You shall walk after the Lord, may be looked upon,

(a) As prescribing a preservative from the temptation: “Stay focused on your work [sacred and secular], and you keep out of harm’s way. God never leaves us till we leave him.’’ Or,

(b) As providing us with answer to the temptation; by responding, “It is written, Thou shalt walk after the Lord, and cleave unto him; and therefore what have I to do with idols?’’

2. Not to spare the tempter, v. 5. That prophet shall be put to death, both to punish him for the attempt he has made (the seducer must die, though none were seduced by him—a design upon the crown is treason) and to prevent them from doing further mischief. This is called putting away the evil. There is no way of removing the guilt but by removing the guilty; if such a criminal be not punished, those that should punish him make themselves responsible. And you must purge the evil from among you [KJV: “mischief must be put away”] the infection must be kept from spreading by cutting off the gangrened limb, and putting away the mischief-makers. Such dangerous diseases as these must be taken in time.


Matthew Henry as sourced at BibleStudyTools.com

March 6, 2019

The Power Against Us vs. The Power Within Us

Today again we’re back with the writing of Don Merritt at The Life Project. He’s currently in the middle of a study of 1 John.

A Warning and a Helper

Text: 1 John 2:18-27

So far in this letter, John has given us a reminder of the supremacy of Jesus Christ; who He is, what He is and His nature. John gave us a comparison and contrast of what the “Light” is, and who is and who is not “in the light.” Then John reminded us of who we are in Christ and how amazing that is.  In the previous section, John warns us not to love this world, and now John is taking us to the front lines on a battlefield, where it becomes plain why he has taken us on this journey to show us just who we are, and just who “they” are.

Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

1 John 2:18-19

This is the first mention of the term “antichrist” in the Bible. It means someone who is against or in place of the Messiah.  In these verses, John mentions twice that we are in the “last hour,” which is interesting when you consider that many will suggest today that there are more hours to come.  Whoever these antichrists were, or are, they appear to have been hanging around us, and then to have gone rogue. If nothing else, in these two verses, we can be sure that these rogues were hanging around, but they were never “in the light.”  Recall the descriptions of “in the light” and “in the darkness” in vv. 1:5-2:11… These characters were the ones in darkness.

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

1 John 2:20-23

Now we have a little more information: The rogues John is talking about deny that Jesus is the Messiah.  That is a bald-faced lie, and those who are in the truth would never make such an assertion, so these guys were not in the light. No person who denies that Jesus is the Messiah is in the Son, and if a person is not in the Son, they are also not in the Father:  They are antichrist, and there are many of those in the world.

As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—eternal life.

1 John 2:24-25

These two verses are the warming: Make sure that you hang on to what you know about Jesus Christ.  If you do, you will remain in Him and inherit eternal life. Do not listen to the rogues. By the way, this is why I said above that John has taken us to the front lines on a battlefield.  It is a spiritual battlefield in a spiritual war, where the antichrists in our midst will attempt to pry you away from the Truth.  Resist, and do not listen to their lies:

 I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.

1 John 2:26-27

John invokes the anointing of the indwelling Holy Spirit in urging us to remain in Christ in these verses.  Consider this: Here is a warning that there are those who try to lead us astray, to turn our backs on our Lord.  They are fighting against us in a spiritual war, and this can sound really scary.  Oh it’s great in the movies, when their innocent victims are lured into evil by magical powers, having no way to resist.  Take heart! John is pointing out to you and me that we have within us, at our disposal greater firepower by tenfold!  He is the very Holy Spirit of God, the third Person of the Godhead; if we are focused on our relationship with our Lord, and we take these “battles” to Him, there isn’t even a contest, for “greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world.”

One final thought and that’ll be it for now… You know all those stories and books and movies about evil forces that lead the righteous astray?  “The Exorcist” “The Omen” etc., etc…? They really freak people out, which is why they make so much money, right?  People become afraid, and being afraid becomes a distraction for some.  At the same time, you have in these verses a very simple way to discern who the liars and antichrists are; a third grader can understand it.  You also have a solution to defeat the lie that a third grader can understand: stand on the truth of the Word of God, and reject outright the lie.

As simple as this is, many will become so uncomfortable because of the stories and the idea of spiritual warfare, that it almost makes me wonder if these stories of myth, legend and popular fiction are actually part of the lie itself, so that we won’t fight back, and our superior firepower will never be brought to bear on our foe.  Hmmm… do you think we need to have a healthy relationship with the Lord?

I do!

 

January 16, 2019

Five Practices Needed to Ward Off Lack of Faith

The major takeaway I took from today’s devotional is that spiritual warfare is not always an external battle; it may begin with an inner fight.

Today we’re paying a return visit to the devotional page at Daily Paradigm Shift. We visit these blogs either annually or every six months in the hope that at some of them you’ll see writing which resonates and want to bookmark or subscribe to their sites.

Today’s writer is Brian Maisch.

5 Tactics for Fighting Unbelief

It could be argued that the greatest enemy in our spiritual walk is unbelief. Someone might say, “No, it’s Satan.” However, as one of my favorite Christian teachers likes to say, “The bible doesn’t say, ‘pick up your cross, deny the devil, and follow Jesus.’ It says, ‘Deny yourself, and follow Jesus‘ (Matthew 16:24 NIV emphasis added.)

In Mark Chapter 9, Jesus’ disciples are unable to cast a demon out of a boy. Then Jesus shows up on the scene and is able to cast it out. When they get alone with Jesus, the disciples ask Him why they couldn’t cast out the demon, and Jesus tells them that it is because of their unbelief. Jesus’ exact answer to the disciples is, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20 NIV).

Related Post: 4 Ways to Remain Grounded and Steadfast in Your Faith

Brothers and sisters, we live under an open heaven! Satan has already been defeated. Jesus has given us the authority in the heavenly realms to unlock any door that needs to be unlocked in order to carry out His will on this earth. Matthew 18:18 NIV says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” The only battle left to fight is the one we fight with ourselves to dispel unbelief and to trust God!

If the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in us, then there is absolutely nothing the enemy can put in front of us that is more powerful than that Spirit. It’s not even a competition! Therefore, the enemy’s main tactic is to get us to doubt. He is constantly trying to instill unbelief, while the Holy Spirit is constantly working to instill faith. The enemy’s main tactic is to twist the truth in such a way that we begin believing things that are incorrect about God and incorrect about ourselves. Sometimes it seems like the enemy’s main weapon is the Bible itself! He twists and distorts scripture to confuse people and keep their lives from bearing fruit for the Kingdom.

So how do we practically fight? I wanted to provide a quick list of things that have helped me experience victories in fighting unbelief:

#1. Spending intimate and meaningful time in the presence of God.

Spending intimate and meaningful time in the presence of God is the most important activity in our lives. It helps us to establish a relationship with our creator. It is where we learn His nature, His voice, His touch and His will. This is how we practically allow Jesus to teach us and guide us in every step of our lives.

#2. Reading God’s word.

Maybe it would be better to say falling in love with God’s word. This goes right along with the first point. God’s word brings clarity and insight into the things that God is saying to us. It shows us God’s nature, and helps us to understand His will.

#3. Guarding our hearts and minds.

The enemy has set up the world system to fight for our affection. It will constantly try to turn us away from Jesus, and towards our own selfish desires. Therefore, we have to draw lines in the sand. We have to protect ourselves from destructive mindsets and behaviors. Part of that process is controlling what we allow into our minds. Over the years, I have had to stop watching certain television shows that I knew were destructive, distance myself from certain friends who were pulling me in the wrong direction, and surround myself with people who would hold me accountable in my areas of struggle.

#4. Hanging around people with outrageous faith.

Bill Johnson, senior pastor of Bethel Church, always says, “If you want to slay giants, then hang around a giant slayer.” We all need people in our lives who stretch our faith and compel us to deeper levels of reality in the Kingdom!

#5. Fasting.

There have been so many times where I could feel the snares of the world getting a hold of me and smothering the faith in my life. Declaring a fast is a way to draw a strict line in the sand, and to separate ourselves from the worldly things that have become louder than heavenly things. Whether it is food, social media, television, or all the above, fasting is great way to unplug from the world and get plugged back into God.

These are just a few tools that have helped me in my journey. The bible provides many weapons for fighting unbelief. No matter what weapon you choose, the most important thing is engaging in the fight! Instead of rolling over and giving in to yourself, make the choice to proactively fight to dispel unbelief!

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