Christianity 201

August 12, 2017

Get Wisdom; Get Understanding

Today we’re paying a return visit to the blog with the unusual name: Warning! Sleep Talking Zone. You really need to click through on this one because Christy, who posted this has a lot of passion which comes through in different rich text elements (bold face, larger font, etc.) which you don’t get to see here. (But you’ll feel at home, she puts the scriptures in green!) So for a better rendering of today’s devotional study, click the title which follows:

Let the Wise Listen

I just wanted to share something that stood out to me from my Bible study so far this week. This week’s Torah portion is Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11; Deuteronomy 4:6 is what I mainly want to focus on, but I will include verses 1-9 for context:

“And now, O Yisra’ĕl, listen to the laws and the right-rulings which I am teaching you to do, so that you live, and shall go in and possess the land which Yahweh Elohim of your fathers is giving you.

Do not add to the Word which I command you, and do not take away from it, so as to guard the commands of Yahweh your Elohim which I am commanding you. Your eyes have seen what Yahweh did at Ba‛al Pe‛or, for Yahweh your Elohim has destroyed from your midst all the men who followed Ba‛al Pe‛or. But you who are clinging to Yahweh your Elohim are alive today, every one of you.

See, I have taught you laws and right-rulings, as Yahweh my Elohim commanded me, to do thus in the land which you go to possess. And you shall guard and do them, for this is your wisdom and your understanding before the eyes of the peoples who hear all these laws, and they shall say, ‘Only a wise and understanding people is this great nation!’For what great nation is there which has Elohim so near to it, as Yahweh our Elohim is to us, whenever we call on Him? And what great nation is there that has such laws and righteous right-rulings like all this Torah which I set before you this day? Only, guard yourself, and guard your life diligently, lest you forget the Words your eyes have seen, and lest they turn aside from your heart all the days of your life. And you shall make them known to your children and your grandchildren.” (ISR)

There is SO much just in these few verses that really stand out to me, but I made it obvious where I am going in this post.  Verse 6 says that guarding the Torah (I have mentioned in other posts that Torah simply means “instructions”) of Yahweh is our wisdom and understanding. I couldn’t help but think of several verses in the Book of Proverbs where wisdom and understanding is mentioned.  I think it would be safe to say that wisdom and understanding is the theme of the Book of Proverbs.  Wisdom is personified and frequently referred to as “she” and “her”:

 Wisdom calls aloud outside; She raises her voice in the broad places.

Proverbs 1:20

 And now, listen to me [Wisdom], you children, For blessed are they who guard my ways.

Proverbs 8:32 

We see in Proverbs 8:32 the same exhortation to guard the ways of wisdom that we saw in Deuteronomy 4!

 1 Chronicles 22:12 we read David instructing his son, Solomon: “Only, let Yahweh give you wisdom and understanding, and command you concerning Yisra’ĕl, so that you guard the Torah of Yahweh your Elohim.”

 Job 28:28 says that the “fear of Yahweh is wisdom“, and “to turn from evil, that is understanding.

Going back to Proverbs, in the fourth chapter there is a sense of urgency concerning wisdom and understanding:

 Children, listen to the discipline of a father, And give attention to know understanding;

For I gave you good instruction: Do not forsake my Torah.

For I was my father’s son, Tender and the only one in the eyes of my mother, 

Then he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words;

Guard my commands, and live.

“Get wisdom! Get understanding!

Do not forget, and do not turn away From the words of my mouth. 

“Do not leave her, and let her guard you; Love her, and let her watch over you. 

“The beginning of wisdom is: Get wisdom!

And with all your getting, get understanding. 

“Exalt her, and let her uplift you; She brings you esteem when you embrace her.

“She gives your head a fair wreath, She shields you with an adorning crown.” 

Hear, my son, and accept my words, And let the years of your life be many. 

I have taught you in the way of wisdom, I have led you in straight paths. 

When you walk your steps shall not be hindered, And if you run you shall not stumble. 

Hold fast to discipline, do not let go; Watch over her,

for she is your life.   Proverbs 4:1-13

And in Proverbs 23:23 we read this advice: “Buy the truth and do not sell it – Wisdom and discipline and understanding.”  There are so many more verses that I could share from Proverbs alone, but I will stop there.

In the New Testament we read about Paul praying for Believers to be “filled with the knowledge of His desire in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, to walk worthily of the Master, pleasing all, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of Elohim.” (Colossians 1:9-10) And in Colossians 4:5 Paul exhorts Believers to “walk in wisdom“.

Paul is not the only New Testament writer who wrote about wisdom.  James instructs us to ask for wisdom:  “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of Elohim, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it shall be given to him.” (James 1:5) And then in James 3:17 we read:

“But the wisdom from above is first clean, then peaceable, gentle, ready to obey, filled with compassion and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.” I put in italics “ready to obey” because it is the same thing as “guard” that is used in the other verses.

Throughout the entirety of the Bible we see a consistent thread connecting wisdom and understanding to Yahweh’s Torah, and how His children must diligently guard the Torah.

The Torah of Yahweh IS wisdom and understanding. 

 Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance.
Proverbs 1:5 (ESV)

August 30, 2015

Keeping Your Thought Life Pure

This weekend at Thinking Out Loud we’ve been running two articles which deal with your thought life. (They are each double articles, so really we’ve run four over Saturday and Sunday.) You can connect with those articles here and here. In going through my files I discovered I also covered something similar at C201 — perhaps it’s a different type of purity of thoughts — and while we rarely repeat a devotional here…

Purity of Thought = Purity of Heart

Love Believes The Best

James 3:17 (NIV) But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

James 3:17(Message)Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced.

I Cor. 13:7(Amplified) Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].

I Cor.13:7 (CEB)Love is always supportive,
loyal, hopeful, and trusting.

I Cor 13:7(TLB) If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.

Matt. 5:8(KJV) Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

We live in a time where when we think of purity we think in terms of moral purity. Surrounded as we are by images and ideas that are sexually licentious, we tend to characterize purity as the absence of those influences.

Surely no one would argue the importance of this, and I have written many times here and at Thinking Out Loud on the importance of controlling our thought life and endeavoring to cultivate a healthy mind.

But purity in scripture can mean so much more than abstinence from thoughts about sex or not engaging in immoral behavior. It can also mean a wholesome outlook, and a wholesome attitude.

When we look at the character of Christ, Philippians 2:5-7 does not say

5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,who did not think lustful thoughts or look covetously at women.

Yes, the scriptures are careful to tell us he did not sin:

Heb.4:15(NASB)For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

Rather, the Philippians passage talks about his servant heart. His life is characterized by the things he did do, he humbled himself, he took a servant role, he submitted himself to death.

From our opening scriptures, we see that purity of thought, or purity of heart will involve things like:

  • working for peace
  • consideration of others
  • a submissive (teachable) spirit
  • acts of mercy
  • impartiality
  • sincerity
  • getting along with others
  • gentleness
  • consistent character
  • possessing an enduring hope
  • supportive and loyal
  • trusting
  • always expecting the best

It is the last characteristic (and the verse in James) that launched this study today in my own heart. The pure in heart have a positive, non-critical spirit. Love may critique, but it doesn’t criticize. Murphy’s Law may suggest that things are going to go wrong. The Peter Principle may suggest you’re going to get reassigned to a job you can’t do well. But the Christ-follower is buoyed not by a blind optimism, but by an attitude that believes the best and expects the best.

Their outworking of spiritual wisdom begins in holiness and righteousness; that’s what makes their advice, their counsel, their entire comportment pure.

Image: WalkGood (click image to source)


The second link in the introductory paragraph is to an article which ends with this story…

We are all fighting a battle within ourselves… The illustration goes like this: There is a old Indian chief telling a story about how each of us have two rival dogs, a good dog and a bad dog. Both are always fighting each other. Sometimes it seems like the good dog is winning other times it appears like the bad dog is winning.

One of the tribal members asks, “So, how do you know which one will win?”

To which the chief replies, “It depends which dog you feed.”

February 17, 2015

Before You Act, Speak, Hurt, Get the Facts

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
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In all my writing, not just here, I try to practice the art of “trans-Atlantic cross-pollination.” I believe there are great things being said by writers and musicians in the UK that we miss out on from having a faith worldview that stops wherever we meet a large body of water. Recently, I started getting weekday morning devotions from Andy Elmes sent to me by email.  (There’s a similar service offered by Skye Jethani.) Today I want to share the one that arrived on Monday:

Good to get your facts right before you crucify someone

Mark 15:12-14 (NKJV)

Pilate answered and said to them again, “What then do you want me to do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?” So they cried out again, “Crucify Him!” Then Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?”But they cried out all the more, “Crucify Him!”

Just days before Jesus had heard this same crowd shout “Hosanna” as He entered Jerusalem, now so many in unison shouted “Crucify Him”. Sadly, this is a true testament to how fickle “the crowd” can often be. But in reality it was no surprise to Jesus, because He knew He was born to die on a cross, and their ignorant uninformed shouts were only driving things in the direction His Father had appointed them to go.

The reality here is that, while Pilate desperately looked for facts, the crowd had made its mind up. The trouble was, their collective mind was already made up – without the facts. Their opinion was based on “some things they heard” from people. Maybe it was  because they liked the people or because the people were very earnest and convincing that they felt the information making this man guilty did not need to be proved? But the real problem was, they were wrong. As they joined in with the chant of “Crucify Him” they were actually guilty of believing a bunch of well-presented lies, and of hanging an innocent man on a cross to die.

So the trial continued and the innocent man is condemned. He is whipped, mocked and hung on a cross to die like a common criminal, as they watched on still cheering. The problem for them is that, directly after His death, it is indisputably proven that the man on the cross was actually innocent, and the people who put Him there were actually guilty – guilty of not seeking out the truth, guilty of listening to only one side of the story, guilty of not giving the person accused an opportunity to relay their side of the facts or defend Himself.

Our lesson today is simple. After you have crucified someone is too late to realise you have made a mistake and that you did not have all the facts!

It has often been said that there are always two sides to any argument. It’s just immature and unjust to not find out the other side of what has happened or to check that you are indeed in possession of all the facts before joining in with a judgement. Wisdom will always wait until it has all the needed information before passing judgement. How often can one person seem so right, until the other party is heard – like the Bible puts it so well:

Proverbs 18:17 (NKJV)

The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him.

Whether it is a person, or even a church leadership, that appears to be guilty, take a moment before you join in with the crowd that shouts “Crucify” to make sure you have all the facts, because after you have killed a person’s reputation or integrity is the wrong side to realize that maybe you were wrong. Remember, there are always two sides to every story!

May 10, 2014

Devotional Double Header

This week C201 joined another blog aggregator, The Fellowship of Christian bloggers. I hope to introduce a few of the bloggers here as I encounter material that fits our vision of devotional writing. To start, I was intrigued with the title of this first one: Done With Religion by Michael Donohoe. Click the title below to link.

Colossians 3:5, 9-11 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry…Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him, a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all…

As followers of Christ, our old nature has been killed and buried. We are new creatures in Christ. We no longer have to serve sin because Christ has set us free.

Our old sinful nature was crucified with Christ. It was dead and buried and now a new, holy and righteous creature has risen and is alive in Christ.

We have Christ living in us and we can rely on His power to overcome temptation by His strength. Because of Him we can live a life free from the guilt and punishment of sin. The sinful nature is still in the ground and a new person now lives as one with God. He put His Spirit within us and made us His dwelling place.

When God looks at us, He sees His child that has been changed by the grace of Christ. We are now holy and righteous in His sight. Not because of anything we have done, but because of the work Christ did. We no longer have to work to earn salvation. After accepting the grace of God, we no longer have to strive to keep the law. The law was good in that it was a tutor to lead us to Christ. The law was fulfilled by Christ and now that we are His, we live by faith in the grace He provided.

In Christ, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. There is no upper level or lower level child of God. The is no Jew or Greek, male or female, clergy or laity. Each one of us make up an equally important and functioning part of the body. We are all saved by grace and living under the headship of Christ. Christ is our all in all.

May we continue to grow in Grace and let Him have the preeminence.

The second of our devotional double-header today was also from a blog with a title that grabbed me: Finding the Holy in the Mundane by Rachel Stephenson.  Click the title below to link.

 

Confident Hope

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.Ephesians 1:15-18 (NLT)

Paul begins his letter with a prayer that spills out in gratitude and praise. He writes of God’s greatness, grace and glorious purpose. Why did Paul begin with such resounding praise? So you can know.

Heavenly Wisdom

Paul continues his prayer asking God to give us wisdom—spiritual, God given understanding. It’s not the kind of understanding that is simply factual. Paul’s prayer is that we would know Him better. God reveals Himself in all creation; He wants to be known. God imparts on the believer a supernatural understanding of Himself. It’s a divine and glorious honor, reserved only for the believer.

Confident Hope

When I am trying a new recipe, I hope the finished product is yummy.  When I am learning a new skill, I hope I am able to produce the desired outcome. When I write, I hope you understand what I am trying to convey. There is an element of uncertainty in the hope I have in my skills and abilities. I may or may not be able to accomplish what I set out to do.

Paul prays that we may understand the confident hope we have in Christ. Christ is THE factor that turns a wish into a confident hope, a sure thing, and an absolute truth. Paul prays for our understanding of that hope.

The Inheritance

What is that confident hope? Read verse 18 closely.

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.

God considers YOU an inheritance—prized, valued and purchased. Knowledge and understanding is what Paul prays for you and me. Can you begin to fathom that? The God of the universe, pure and holy, considers frail, sin-sick humanity as a valued inheritance.

To understand that you must understand the value God places on humanity. God sent His Son to die to reconcile us. That is value! Jesus’ blood purchased our redemption. That is confident hope—there is power in the blood of Christ—power to redeem and purify the sinful heart.

God invested Himself in His own inheritance—US!

Father, may I come to know You better! Illuminate my understanding of the hope I have in Christ. Let me come to understand the love You have for me and the desire You have for me to know and love you more.

 


What the Bible Speaks To

In addition to Bible Gateway and Bible Hub, devotions here are sometimes prepared using TopVerses.com   I found it interesting to see their topical index; these are the things that the Bible teaches and speaks to, and it’s interesting to see these collected together in a single list:

Top Verses by Topic (The links are all live!)

November 11, 2013

Purity of Thought = Purity of Heart

Love Believes The Best

James 3:17 (NIV) But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

James 3:17(Message)Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced.

I Cor. 13:7(Amplified) Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].

I Cor.13:7 (CEB)Love is always supportive,
loyal, hopeful,  and trusting.

I Cor 13:7(TLB) If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.

Matt. 5:8(KJV) Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

We live in a time where when we think of purity we think in terms of moral purity. Surrounded as we are by images and ideas that are sexually licentious, we tend to characterize purity as the absence of those influences.

Surely no one would argue the importance of this, and I have written many times here and at Thinking Out Loud on the importance of controlling our thought life and endeavoring to cultivate a healthy mind.

But purity in scripture can mean so much more than abstinence from thoughts about sex or not engaging in immoral behavior. It can also mean a wholesome outlook, and a wholesome attitude.

When we look at the character of Christ, Philippians 2:5-7 does not say

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,who did not think lustful thoughts or look covetously at women.

Yes, the scriptures are careful to tell us he did not sin:

Heb.4:15(NASB)For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

Rather, the Philippians passage talks about his servant heart. His life is characterized by the things he did do, he humbled himself, he took a servant role, he submitted himself to death.

From our opening scriptures, we see that purity of thought, or purity of heart will involve things like:

  • working for peace
  • consideration of others
  • a submissive (teachable) spirit
  • acts of mercy
  • impartiality
  • sincerity
  • getting along with others
  • gentleness
  • consistent character
  • possessing an enduring hope
  • supportive and loyal
  • trusting
  • always expecting the best

It is the last characteristic (and the verse in James) that launched this study today in my own heart. The pure in heart have a positive, non-critical spirit. Love may critique, but it doesn’t criticize. Murphy’s Law may suggest that things are going to go wrong. The Peter Principle may suggest you’re going to get reassigned to a job you can’t do well. But the Christ-follower is buoyed not by a blind optimism, but by an attitude that believes the best and expects the best.

Their outworking of spiritual wisdom begins in holiness and righteousness; that’s what makes their advice, their counsel, their entire comportment pure.

Image: WalkGood (click image to source)

October 25, 2013

Be Careful How You Live

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:22 pm
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“Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15,16).

There’s a great article today at Daily Encouragement, that I hope you’ll read at source.  For those who don’t, I want to share a brief outline from a friend of Stephen and Brooksyne that appeared as an appendix, and then a short excerpt from the main body of the blog post which followed the same format. But you’re better to click the link, the article appeared as The Days are Evil.

From Mark Pullam’s letter to his family:

1. Be careful (Psalm 33:8)

a. To follow God carefully with attention to details (Deut 26:16)
b. To follow wholeheartedly (I Kings 8:62)
c. To honor, respect and to fear God  (Psalm 111:10)
d. God defines, Satan redefines  (Genesis 3:1-5)

2. Be prepared (2 Timothy 2:21)

a. For economic collapse (Federal, State and Local Debt)
b. For persecution as Christians. It will come to the US. (“Islam and Progressives, The Cross in the Shadow of the crescent” by Erwin Lutzer)
c.  For the total collapse of the US (“Implosion” by Joel Rosenberger,)
d. For the Mideast (Kings of the South, Daniel 11) to be united under radical Islamic rule
e. For a great falling away from the faith (2 Thess 2:3) (“When the Crosses are Gone” by Michael Youssef)

3. Be ready (1 Corinthians 15:53-58, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18)

a.  Rapture/return of Christ is imminent
b.  Being left behind is not a good strategy (more economic collapse will happen after the Church is gone, those becoming Christians after the rapture will face horrific persecution for the spirit of Antichrist will be reigning)
c.  It may cost our lives in the near future (Rev 13, Matt 24)

4. Stand firm (Ephesians 6)

a. In the power of God
b. With the Gospel of peace
c.  With the Belt of Truth (truth IS and never changes)  “Truth, of course, must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for we have made fiction to suit ourselves.” G.K. Chesterton, Heretics
d.  The call of God has never changed.
From Stephen and Brooksyne’s article:
1) We need to be very careful how we live. Our enemy, the devil, goes about like a prowling lion seeking whom he may devour.  Many have lowered their guard but we must resist him by standing firm in our faith.

2) We need to live “not as unwise but as wise.” We need “the wisdom that comes from heaven” (James 3:17) and this will increasingly be contrary to the wisdom of the world. Remember the old saying, “What’s popular may not be right and what’s right may not be popular.” Jesus never let the desire for acceptance or popularity among his hearers dictate the truths he would disclose or errors He would refute.

3) We need to make the most of every opportunity.  As God’s people seeking to live out our faith in these evil days we need to make the most of every opportunity, which the KJV translates as “redeeming the time.”  These opportunities abound for the Spirit led, earnest follower of Christ. Our friend Mark sought to use an opportunity to provide a serious witness reminder to his family.

4) “The days are evil.”  In seeking the true wisdom that comes from heaven I want my eyes to be open to the evil, not blinded by it.

 

August 12, 2013

Contemplation and Wisdom

Because these are shorter pieces, today we’re offering a double feature from Canadian academic John Stackhouse. First, a quotation from a prayer by a writer he admits to having theological differences with on other matters. There is great spiritual maturity in being able to see the good and the value in something written by someone who may sit on the opposite side of the table as us in other matters. Some people simply look at the name of the author and then dismiss anything they write categorically. That’s not good. The second piece is a teaser from a piece about wisdom. Click the link for each title to read at source, which you definitely need to do for the second one.

A Good, Daily Prayer from Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton has fans. Lots of them. I’m not one of them. His spirituality is neither to my taste nor lined up with my theology in many respects.

Still, his classic book New Seeds of Contemplation has played a crucial role in my spiritual and psychological life, for which I am grateful. And in re-reading it these days, I again came across a powerful prayer, structured lightly by elements of the Lord’s Prayer and the Seven Deadly Sins. I could pray this one every day for quite a while:

Justify my soul, O God, but also from your fountains fill my will with fire. Shine in my mind, although perhaps this means “be darkness to my experience,” but occupy my heart with your tremendous life. Let my eyes see nothing in the world but your glory, and let my hands touch nothing that is not for your service. Let my tongue taste no bread that does not strengthen me to praise your great mercy. I will hear your voice and I will hear all harmonies you have created, singing your hymns. Sheep’s wool and cotton from the field shall warm me enough that I may live in your service; I will give the rest to your poor. Let me use all things for one sole reason: to find my joy in giving you glory.

Therefore keep me, above all things, from sin. Keep me from the death of deadly sin which puts hell in my soul. Keep me from the murder of lust that blinds and poisons my heart. Keep me from the sins that eat a man’s flesh with irresistible fire until he is devoured. Keep me from loving money in which is hatred, from avarice and ambition that suffocate my life. Keep me from the dead works of vanity and the thankless labor in which artists destroy themselves for pride and money and reputation, and saints are smothered under the avalanche of their own importunate zeal. Stanch in me the rank wound of covetousness and the hunger that exhaust my nature with their bleeding. Stamp out the serpent envy that stings love with poison and kills all joy.

Untie my hands and deliver my heart from sloth. Set me free from the laziness that goes about disguised as activity when activity is not required of me, and from the cowardice that does what is not demanded, in order to escape sacrifice.

But give me the strength that waits upon you in silence and peace. Give me humility in which alone is rest, and deliver me from pride which is the heaviest of burdens. And possess my whole heart and soul with the simplicity of love. Occupy my whole life with the one thought and the one desire of love, that I may love not for the sake of merit, not for the sake of perfection, not for the sake of virtue, not for the sake of sanctity, but for you alone.

For there is only one thing that can satisfy love and rewarded, and that is you alone. (pp. 44-45)

Give Wisdom Time to Work: S-P-I-R

Proverbs 16:23: “The mind of the wise makes their speech judicious, and adds persuasiveness to their lips.”

When I get into trouble, it’s usually because my speech has been injudicious and unpersuasive. In the technical language of psycholinguistics, that is to say, it’s been stupid or mean. And that depressingly frequent occurrence is almost always a function of speaking out of reflex rather than out of reflection.

If one has an utterly innocent heart, one can speak truly and lovingly. But judicious and persuasive speech requires more than a pure heart: it requires a wise mind.

As the Proverbs cumulatively teach, wisdom is knowledge applied according to sound values felt in properly cultivated affections and informed by the particulars of a given situation.

Wisdom applied faithfully to a frequently recurring situation can act automatically in each iteration. In every other instance, however, we must give wisdom time to operate.

So whenever I see a warning light blink on my mental dashboard, whenever an alarm chimes that something unusual is going on, whenever a sensor reports something in the current situation that is anything other than routine, I simply must slow down.

In fact, I must stop. I must refuse to react immediately, but instead insist on stopping in order to give wisdom time to deliberate like a judge so that my response will be judicious.

I have developed a short… [continue reading here]

 

Previous piece by John Stackhouse here at C201: Desiring to be Known.

August 11, 2013

Arriving at the Truth

As curator of this devotional blog, my personal Bible study time is often spent interacting with the various sources that end up here each day. But my morning kicks off with a visit to Daily Encouragement, the website of workplace chaplains Stephen & Brooksyne Weber. Here’s one they posted on Friday; you’re encouraged to read it at its original home: Always Learning.

ListenListen to this message on your audio player

“Always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7).

We surely live in the most “educated” period in human history. The other night I heard a young man being interviewed who, like so many, was having a hard time getting a job following his graduation from college. He referred to his generation as being the most “academically qualified” in comparison to all previous generations. Now it is my observation that a greater percentage have additional education and even many advanced degrees but certainly this does not necessarily lead to a knowledge of the truth. In fact for many it has shattered their faith in the truth of the Bible.

Always learning can be a commendable trait whether young or old but of infinitely greater importance is coming to the knowledge of the truth!

Today’s Bible text is from Paul’s second letter to Timothy. He is writing of conditions in the last days in which he describes as perilous.

Among the conditions of people’s hearts is deception. Among the characteristics of both deceivers and the deceived is that they are “always learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Another version states, “always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.”  Could it be that the philosophy of their day was much like ours now – make truth relative so that it conforms to our preferred outlook and resulting lifestyle, rather than accepting truth as originated from Holy Scriptures and conforming to its absolutes.

Information abounds as well as the means to acquire it. Just consider what the internet has done regarding the accessibility of information. The Amplified Bible translates this verse, “They are forever inquiring and getting information, but are never able to arrive at a recognition and knowledge of the Truth.”  I believe the emphasis and capitalization of “Truth” is significant. Paul is not merely speaking in a general sense as to what is true and what is not, but rather the supreme truth of God’s revelation in Christ.  So many, many are indeed always learning and attaining knowledge without coming to the knowledge of this truth.

In the first two chapters of Romans we have three responses to the truth: suppression, exchange, and disobedience (1:18,25;2:8).  My, these are surely responses that abound in our day.

May it be said of us in regard to our response to the truth that we are learning and fully acknowledging the Truth.  If we are doing so we will grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! (see 2 Peter 3:18)

Daily prayer: Father, You grant us access to Your presence through Your Son, Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. As we come into personal relationship with Him we begin to know the Truth that sets us free from the deceit and lies of Satan. Help us to faithfully engraft Your Word into our hearts so that we will filter all that we see, hear and read to find what You, the Source and very Essence of truth have to say to our hearts. Help us to conform to Your will in all matters.  Amen.


Technical matters: Online readers and subscribers are invited to comment on the change we’ve made in the last couple of days from setting these readings in bold type to posting them in regular type. Is the copy more readable? Less so?

Leave a comment or contact at searchlight [at] nexicom [dot] net.


I’ve really enjoyed being on Twitter since late March. It’s not about anything I have to say but about some great people I get to follow. Here are few recent things and who said them:

Chris Seay@PastorChrisSeay

I believe that God can redeem all things, and that what is broken, God fixes. He uses his people and church, to restore all things broken.

John S. Dickerson@JohnSDickerson

“Jesus takes broken folks..to show the world that he is amazing. He doesn’t need celebrities to do that.”

Louie Giglio@louiegiglio 

He who walks with God has arrived.

Jonathan Thompson@pastorJon_T

“People often get upset when you teach them what is in the Bible rather than what they presume is in the Bible.” ~ NT Wright”

Ravi Zacharias@RaviZacharias

“The God of faith is mercifully shown as one who draws near…” – Jill Carattini

Kyle Idleman@KyleIdleman 

Psalm 119:11 – … I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

Randy Alcorn@randyalcorn

“For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our king; he will save us” (Isaiah 33:22).

Pastor Jim Cymbala@jimcymbala

Breakthrough prayer isn’t born out of an “I should pray today” attitude but, instead, out of an “I must have God’s help” frame of mind.

Lee Grady@LeeGrady

“You are to love one another not because of the gain you get from one another but because of the good you can do to one another.” –Spurgeon

 

April 10, 2013

Knowing The Reality of Christ

A year ago at this time we introduced you to the blog, I Want to Believe in God by Justin Powell.  We return now where this post appeared recently under the title The Reality of Christ in Me.

I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. –Philippians 4:12

I’m learning some truth to this verse in this season of life.  I’m going through things that in past seasons would have exhausted me and brought me down, but God has strengthened my spirit through past trials so that I am able to stand in the reality of Christ in me.  Through this reality I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13)

This world is beautiful but at times it can seem that everywhere we go we run into darkness.  When this happens I turn inward—to Christ in me—and ask the Spirit not only to give me comfort but to release His light to those around me and change the atmosphere.

And so, I do my best to do all things without complaining and disputing, that I may become blameless and harmless, a child of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom I shine as a light in the world. (see Phil 2:14-15)

I choose not to slander, I choose not to gossip or join in the complaining.  I keep quiet amongst those who partake.  I ask the Lord for strength to be swift to hear and slow to speak.  And I ask for wisdom that I may only speak life instead of childish, defensive words rooted in insecurities.  Christ is my security.  I do not need the affirmation of those around me.  They look for affirmation of other unbelievers to affirm their own insecurities rooted in their guilt of choosing unbelief in a God that they are mad at.  We must be careful not to get mad at God because of misunderstandings.  We were not made to understand everything.  We were made to live and to love.

I’ve caught myself daydreaming here and there about being old and close to the end of my earthly life.  To some this may appear morbid but I’ve just lost my fear of death and I long for that day that I can go and be face to face with God.  But I know that it’s a long journey from where I’m at and that day. 

For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. (see Phil 1:23-24)

So I seek to know Him more in this world.  I seek to have His will done on earth as it is in heaven.  I seek to be conformed to the image of His Son. (see Rom 8:17) I seek to not only live for Him but to live with Him—to walk with Him.  I seek to live His will for my life.  To change the lives of youth and speak life into the lost and the seekers of meaning.

You all are partakers with me of grace. So be confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. (see Phil 1:6-7)

Live in the reality of His love.

October 8, 2012

God Gives Us Boundaries

Today we return to our online friends, Stephen and Brooksyne Weber at the blog Daily Encouragement, where this appeared last week under the title, The Blessing Of The Ancient Landmarks.

“Set up signposts, make landmarks; set your heart toward the highway, the way in which you went” (Jeremiah 31:21). “Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set” (Proverbs 22:28).

Back in the 90’s we pastored in Taunton, Massachusetts and lived in a parsonage that was only about 15 feet from a major highway, Route 44 which goes from Plymouth, MA to Providence, RI. The heavy traffic and steady stream of strangers who walked in front of our house posed danger to [our daughter] Ester.

The church generously built a fenced deck on the side of the parsonage which gave Ester some “safe territory” for play. I also drew an invisible line from the parsonage driveway to the church entrance where she was allowed to walk without our being present. Ester still refers to the boundary lines and does so with fond memories. The safety zone gave her a sense of security and I believe she remembers it as a visible reminder of our genuine love and concern for her well-being.

It’s interesting to pause a moment and consider the many boundaries we had as children and the many we still have as adults. It’s not uncommon to use a stone to mark the boundary between properties. These landmarks (generally stones in the Biblical period) testify to a great Biblical principle first articulated by Moses in the law in Deuteronomy 19:14.* This law is a practical expression of the eighth commandment which states, “Thou shalt not steal.”

Proverbs 22:28 alludes to this verse but I believe this text has a powerful spiritual application as well. “Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set.” In the entire area of faith and morality God has established what we may call “ancient landmarks” in His Word. These ancient landmarks are primarily found in the Law, but are repeated and elaborated on throughout the entire Bible.

Our spiritual ancestors through the history of the Church have set a pattern for living by seeking to express these ancient landmarks. These landmarks may be our fundamental doctrines, our Biblical pattern for living and standards of holiness or deeply held spiritual convictions.

In ancient Israel landmarks were sacred because all property was a gift from the Lord. A timeless application is that life is a gift from the Lord and He has set forth His landmarks for our good. These landmarks are sacred.

But people have always meddled with these ancient landmarks. They’re tampered with today, moved and even removed in ways that our forefathers would never have imagined. Many are being seduced and deceived by radical, revisionist, blasphemous attempts to reinvent Jesus, reinterpret the Bible and redefine marriage. Would anybody have believed when I was born in 1954 that within the next 50 years homosexual “marriage” would actually be a source of serious debate?

Man has always been tampering with landmarks, moving them one way or another to suit his whims, sometimes removing them altogether. The cultural and intellectual elite purport to know best and so many of the undiscerning masses follow. “Get rid of that ancient landmark”, many shout, “we don’t need it anymore”.

I appreciate this note from a study Bible. “The ‘landmark’ may be a spiritual standard, established by our spiritual forefathers, God-honoring and God-blessed. There is a tendency for each new generation to try to modernize the ways of their fathers and, in view of the universal law of decay, this is more often a mistake.”

I thank God for the ancient landmarks expressed in His Word. Psalm 119 is best known as the longest chapter in the Bible, but it’s also a chapter that constantly reinforces the Psalmist’s love for God’s spiritual landmarks with verses such as, “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long” (v. 97).

May the Lord give us a love for His Word and His landmarks along with a resolve to abide by them even when others seek to move or completely remove them. In fact I expect humankind to keep moving and removing them until the inevitable judgment. But as for me, I’ll leave them alone.

Prayer: Father, there is no limit to all that You have provided for us such as material blessings, physical health, the love of family and unending promises that You have already fulfilled or that are yet to be fulfilled. But You have also set visible and well-defined boundaries that are for our own good.

Temptations to either toe the boundary line or cross over into enemy territory will always be there, but You give us the power to resist and discernment to recognize the alluring deceit of the evil one. Help our eyes and hearts to remain focused on Your innumerable blessings and provisions as we stand against the god of this age who seeks to destroy us.

May we not move the landmark of the faithful to join with the ranks of the faithless. In Your name, Jesus, we pray. Amen.

~Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

June 8, 2012

The Right Kind of Family Fight: Fight For Your Family

Mark O. Wilson, author of Filled Up, Poured Out, which I reviewed a few weeks ago, posted this at his blog the week after Mother’s Day under the title Kilkenny Cats and the Home Squabble.

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands, the foolish one tears hers down.” Proverbs 14:1

I used this verse in my sermon last Sunday, reminding the mothers to build up the house. Of course, this doesn’t apply to mothers. Anybody who lives in a house is responsible for the upbuilding.

Wisdom builds the house. Foolishness tears it down.

When we fail to think before we speak and act, we’re likely to tear the house down. We’ve been given two ears and one mouth, and they should be used in that proportion.

Sometimes, in a passion to say right things, we say things wrong and hurt people. We’re wrong in our rightness, and unwilling to budge an inch in spirit. I think this is at the heart of the polarization in our state and nation. People are eager to share their opinions, but few are humble and patent enough to take the time to listen and understand others.

Too many homes are marked by unhealthy conflict and misunderstanding. Sometimes, it’s just a slow simmer of frustration. Frequently, it leads to checking out, and giving less than one’s best. Occasionally, it erupts into full-scale, brutal warfare. In the squabble, hurtful and destructive things are spoken that can never been undone. Rash words in a fit of anger can destroy the very fabric of the relationship.

As the old rhyme goes:

There once were two cats of Kilkenny.
Each thought there was one cat too many.
So they fought and they fit,,
And they scratched and they bit
‘Til excepting their nails
And the tips of their tails,
Instead of two cats there weren’t any.

Perhaps this is why Proverbs 19:11 reminds us it is “to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”

It’s very possible to win the battle (argument) and lose the war (relationship.) Here’s a question: Is what we’re fighting over worth the fight?

Occasionally, it is. Sometimes, there is a significant principle or human right at stake, and only a good fight will set it straight. However, most of the time, our conflicts are over lesser things. We let our selfishness stand in the way, then hold stubbornly to our opinions as a “matter of honor.” Little issues become major eruptions when we stake our significance on them.

Conflict is an emotional state, and the issue will not be resolved when either party is in that state. You can’t argue someone out of it. The only way to help another person move from the state of conflict is through kindness and patient understanding.

Argument may force the other person into a corner, forcing him to agree – but it will only be a surface agreement, and definitely not be an agreement of hearts. As the old adage goes, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

Here’s an idea: fight FOR your family instead of fighting against them. What dreams and hopes to you have for your family? What actions can you take to gently move in that direction? If you don’t do anything different, you will keep following the same path with the same patterns. I appreciate Andy Stanley’s observation, “Direction, not intention, equals destination.”

Weigh your words. Bite your tongue. Think twice. Then, as Colossians 4:6 says, “let your conversation be full of grace, seasoned with salt so that you ay know how to answer everyone.”

~Mark O. Wilson

June 30, 2011

Lord, May I Be Worthy of You

Jim Greer has a whole series on his blog called “400 Year Old Prayers.”  This one ran recently, and I’ve included his introduction, and also his link to the entire series which appears at the end.

The following prayer is from the largely forgotten deposit of the Puritan Movement of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It testifies to the richness and color of evangelical thought and language, as well as their devotion to the Savior. This prayer and others can be found in a book titled “The Valley of Vision”, by Arthur Bennet. I have included them in this blog so that others can use them in their own prayer life as a springboard to a more faithful walk with Jesus. These prayers are 300-400 years old! They were written in old English, but that should not get in the way if you don’t let it.

Need of Jesus

Lord Jesus,

I am blind, be my light,
ignorant, be my wisdom,
self-willed, be my mind

Open my ear to grasp quickly your Spirit’s voice,
and delightfully run after His beckoning hand;

Melt my conscience that no hardness remain,
make it alive to evil’s slightest touch;
When Satan approaches may I flee to your wounds,
and there cease to tremble at all alarms.

Be my good shepherd to lead me into green pastures of your Word,
and cause me to lie down beside the rivers of its comforts.

Fill me with peace, that no disquieting worldly gales may ruffle the calm surface of my soul.

Your cross was upraised to be my refuge,

Your blood streamed forth to wash me clean,

Your death occurred to give me a surety,

Your name is my property to save me,

By you all heaven is poured into my heart,
but it is too narrow to comprehend your love.

I was a stranger, an outcast, a slave, a rebel
but your cross has brought me near,
has softened my heart,
has made me your Father’s child,
has admitted me into your family,
has made me joint heir with yourself.

O that I may love you as you have loved me,
that I may walk worthy of you, my Lord,
that I may reflect the image of heaven’s first-born.

May I always see your beauty with the clear eye of faith,
and feel the power of your Spirit in my heart,
for unless he move mightily in me
no inward fire will be kindled.

For More of these old Prayers, visit our prayer page http://notforitchingears.com/prayer-of-the-week/400-year-old-prayers-1/

May 6, 2011

Proof Texting the Celebration of a Terrorist’s Death

Stuart James at Credo House (Reclaiming the Mind blog) posted this, as apparently Facebook and Twitter were counting the Bible verses people were using to either justify or condemn the celebration following Osama Bin Laden’s death.  His was a top ten list

Top ten most quoted bible verses on social media following the death of Osama bin Laden:
1. Proverbs 24:17 “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice.”

2. Psalm 138:8 “The LORD will make PERFECT the things that concern me”(KJV). (NIV: “The LORD will vindicate me; your love, LORD, endures forever—do not abandon the works of your hands.”)

3. Proverbs 21:15 “When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.” (Rick Warren started this one):

4. Ezekiel 33:11 “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?”

5. Ezekiel 18:23 “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”

6. Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

7. Proverbs 11:10 “When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.”

8. Proverbs 24:18 ” … or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them.” (The popularity of this verse is due to it finishing the sentence begun by the #1 most popular verse.)

9. Proverbs 24:1 “Do not envy the wicked, do not desire their company;” (probably an effort to quote Proverbs 24:17)

10. Proverbs 28:5 “Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully.”

…but the list continues at this Christianity Today post with 14 more verses, though you’re fine just to stay with the ones listed here.   Personally, I think this was a good time not to weigh in on the discussion either way, but to practice the silence that Proverbs teaches is the hallmark of wisdom.

…I know some of you are thinking that this is more the kind of thing I would post at Thinking out Loud, but I believe that those of us who desire spiritual maturity — and to reflect spiritual maturity — should be very careful when it comes to polarized debate or polarizing reactions to current events.

Knowing God, and knowing the character of God means that there is no conflict between verse #1 and verse #7 or between verse #3 and verse #5.  It means living in the complexity of the tension that exists between two conditions, not a simple either/or type of response.

October 6, 2010

The Essence of the Gospel

In certain circles it has become, if nothing else, fashionable to discuss the question, “What is the Gospel?” to the point where I am beginning to think that non-believers will simply know it when they hear it.   I just worry that sometimes we over-analyze something we should simply be living.

That dismissiveness aside,Tullian Tchividjian has been busy on Twitter compiling short statements expressing various aspects of the gospel.  Apparently, the gospel can’t be contained in a single statement.   Blogger Barry Simmons assembled a couple of lists at his blog The Journeyman’s Files both here and here.   I linked to it today at Thinking Out Loud, but thought we’d spell out a few of the statements here for C201 readers…

  • The gospel reminds us that we become more mature when we focus less on what we need to do for God and more on all God has already done for us.
  • The gospel tells me my identity and security is in Christ–this frees me to give everything I have because in Christ I have everything I need
  • The gospel tells us we don’t need to spend our lives earning the approval of others because Jesus has already earned God’s approval for us
  • When you understand that your significance and identity is anchored in Christ, you don’t have to win—you’re free to lose
  • Christian growth doesn’t happen by working hard to get something you don’t have. It happens by working hard to live in light of what you do have
  • The world says that the bigger we become, the freer we will be. But the gospel tells us that the smaller we become, the freer we will be.
  • The gospel explains success in terms of giving, not taking; self-sacrifice, not self-indulgence; going to the back, not getting to the front
  • The gospel empowers us to live for what’s timeless, not trendy–to follow Jesus even when it means going against what’s fashionable
  • Because of Christ’s finished work, sinners can have the approval, acceptance, security, freedom, love, righteousness, & rescue they long for
  • The only antidote there has ever been to sin is the gospel—and since we never leave off sinning, we can never leave the gospel.
  • Because of Christ’s propitiatory work on my behalf I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, praise or popularity.
  • The vertical indicative (what God’s done for me) always precedes horizontal imperative (how I’m to live in light of what God’s done for me)
  • When you are united to Christ, no amount of good work can earn God’s favor and no amount of bad work can forfeit God’s favor
  • Jesus came not to angrily strip away our freedom but to affectionately strip away our slavery to lesser things so we might become truly free
  • The irony of the gospel is that we truly perform better when we focus less on our performance for Jesus and more on Jesus’ performance for us
  • The gospel tells us that what God has done for us in Christ is infinitely more important than anything we do for him.
  • Isn’t it ironic that while God’s treatment of us depends on Christ’s performance, our treatment of others depends on their performance?
  • We need God’s gospel rescue every day and in every way because we are, in the words of John Calvin, “partly unbelievers until we die.”
  • Daily sin requires a daily distribution of God’s grace
  • The hard work of sanctification is the hard work of constantly reorienting ourselves back to our justification.
  • Grace can be defined as unconditional acceptance granted to an undeserving person by an unobligated giver.
  • The law tells us what God demands from us; the gospel tells us what God in Christ has done for us because we could not meet his demands.
  • Paul never uses the law as a way to motivate obedience; He always uses the gospel.
  • When you understand God’s grace, pain leads to freedom because deep suffering leads to deep surrender!
  • When we depend on things smaller than Jesus to provide us with the security and meaning we long for, God will love us enough to take them away.
  • The gospel is the good news that God rescues sinners. And since both non-Christians & Christians are sinners, we both need the gospel.
  • The gospel grants Christians one strength over non-Christians: the strength to admit they’re weak.
  • The gospel isn’t just the power of God to save us, it’s the power of God to grow us once we’re saved.
  • When we transfer trust from ourselves to Christ, we experience the abundant freedoms that come from not having to measure up.
  • The gospel makes wise those who know they’re foolish and makes fools out of those who think they’re wise.
  • It never ceases to amaze me that God’s love to those who are in Christ isn’t conditioned on how we behave but on how Christ behaved for us.
  • In the gospel, God comes after us because we need him not because he needs us. Only the gospel can free us to revel in our insignificance.
  • Mt. Sinai says, “You must do.” Mt. Calvary says, “Because you couldn’t, Jesus did.” Don’t run to the wrong mountain for your hiding place.

Remember these is only about half the list; click on both of the above links to get the full list; and thank-you Barry for compiling this.