Christianity 201

June 11, 2021

Nicodemus First Saw, Then Listened

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Today we’re featuring a writer who is new to us. Pastor Dick Woodward’s writing appears at the blog The Four Spiritual Secrets. He passed away in 2013, however new material is posted regularly excerpted from a variety of sources of his teaching. Click the header below to read this at his page.

Sharing the Gospel

“I want to remind you of the gospel…which you received and on which you have taken your stand… that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day.” (I Corinthians 15:1-4)

It is imperative we understand how to articulate the Gospel. A first step in that direction is realizing the Holy Spirit is the Evangelist and we are merely conduits through whom the Holy Spirit works…

When Jesus stayed up late with Nicodemus, the first words of Nicodemus were: “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do the works that You do unless God is with him.” (John 3:2)

Jesus earned His hearing with Nicodemus by what he had seen Him do. Likewise, we must also earn our hearing with people. This begins with our understanding that what we do demonstrates what we believe. All the rest is just religious talk.

People are not interested in our religious talk unless they are impressed by what they see us do. Nicodemus was impressed with what he saw Jesus do, so he went to hear Jesus talk. We deceive ourselves if we think it’s not that way today.

What I call religious talk is our lengthy theological explanations of what we believe. Many secular people don’t understand the simplest theological terms. They will not be interested if they are not impressed with who and what we are and the things we do.

When we earn our hearing by the grace of God, the Gospel is simply two facts about Jesus Christ: He died for our sins and He rose again from the dead, just as the Old Testament Scriptures said He would and the New Testament Scriptures tell us He did.

There is something to believe and Someone to receive.


Because his articles are shorter, we have a bonus item from the same author:

God’s Stewards

“Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful… And what do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4: 2, 7)

The biblical word “steward” is not fully understood or appreciated. It is actually one of the most important words in the New Testament. A synonym for this word is “manager.” Many people believe this word primarily relates to a person’s money, but that application falls far short of the essential meaning of this word.

When Paul asks the probing question: “And what do you have that you did not receive?” he is telling us that our stewardship applies to everything we receive from God. This means our time, energy, gifts and talents, our health, and all the things that make up the essence of our very life including all of our money and possessions.

At the age of 65 one of my friends had what he refers to as a “halftime” experience when he came to fully appreciate the word “steward.” His regular custom was to draw a line down the middle of a legal pad page. On the left side he wrote “My business” while on the right side he wrote “God’s business.” When he fully appreciated the word “steward” he erased that line because, as a very successful wealthy businessman, he realized it was all God’s business.

Remember, the important thing about a steward is that we are found to be faithful. Do you realize there is nothing in your life you did not receive from God? Do you know that you are to faithfully manage everything you have received from God? Are you willing to have a halftime experience and erase the line between what is yours and what is God’s?


Now that you’ve read two of Dick Woodward’s articles, you might be asking, ‘What are the four spiritual secrets?’ His answer only takes 63 words, but you’ll need to click here to read them!

July 11, 2020

The Faithful Get to Hear, “Well Done!”

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

The Trust in Your Hand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

January 15, 2020

Did You Bring the Right Offering to Church?

Can we return one last time to the Advent/Christmas narrative? We weren’t sure, but we knew last week there was a possibility that Clarke Dixon’s article from last week, would have a Part Two, but it didn’t get published on his blog until this week. So today, this article, and then tomorrow, Lord willing, Clarke’s regular Thursday blog post.

by Clarke Dixon

Did you bring the right offering to your church? Perhaps pastors such as myself will be tempted to say “no.” That may be based on organizational number crunching for 2019 and a realization that red is not just a Christmas color. As Christmas fades into the past, an event following that first Christmas will help us reflect on our offering.

Let us consider the Magi. We usually think of the Magi as being at the manger along with the shepherds on the first Christmas Day. However, based on Herod’s killing of Bethlehem’s 2-years-old-and-under infants (see Matt 2:16), they likely arrived later.

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:11 (NIV)

Being non-Jewish, the Magi do not bring an offering according to any religious rule, but rather from of a spirit of generosity. It is an interesting exercise to read through the entire New Testament, taking note of how often religious rules for giving are promoted in contrast to how often generosity is taught and modelled, especially by Jesus.

It is an interesting exercise to also consider the difference between giving out of religious duty and a spirit of generosity. For example, it is possible to earn millions of dollars, tithe a tenth of all that is earned to a church, and yet be completely lacking in a generous spirit. We would be left with incredible wealth, yet could still be stingy to everyone and every need that crosses our paths. Even though we have given much to our church community, we can be Scrooge-like in sharing our gifts of time and talents. Are our offerings of time, talents, and treasures an expression of a growing and generous spirit, or merely an expression of how religious we are? Our offering is not just a matter of accounting and number crunching, but a matter of the heart.

Further, let us consider that the Magi bring their offering, not to the temple, but to a person. Are our offerings focused on Jesus? Are they focused on Jesus when they are given to an organization we call a church? It is more important that churches help people connect and walk with Jesus, than simply keep churchy and religious things happening. Since our offerings are part of personal devotion and worship, we would bring them as an act of worship, even if we were asked by God to be burn them on an altar.  But God has not asked for that. He has directed us to help people connect with Him.

Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (NLT)

Do our offerings help people connect with God and walk with Jesus?

There is another offering for us to consider as we bid farewell to the Christmas season. Let us go back to the temple, to the moment Simeon held the infant Jesus in his arms and said to Mary:

“This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.” Luke 2:34-35 (NLT)

A sword would indeed pierce Mary’s soul when Jesus was opposed by his own people, who should have known better, and hung on a cross by the Romans, who should have done better. We are barely beyond Christmas and already we are hearing about Good Friday. While we think of the offerings of the Magi, the offering brought by God for outsiders like the Magi is the real news here. God’s generous spirit is on full display!

Have you brought the right offering to church? Come to Jesus, see the gift he has for you. Then see where generosity leads you.


Clarke Dixon is a musician, motorcycle enthusiast, and pastor in Ontario, Canada. He is the single-most-frequent contributor to C201, with articles appearing most Thursdays.

May 18, 2019

Truth, Time, Talent, Treasure

In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.
 – I Cor. 4:2 NASB

Once again we’ve returned to Lightsource, but this time with an older devotional (Aug., 2018) which was used to introduce a one hour sermon on video by Dr. David Jeremiah. Clicking the link in the header below allows to read both the content posted here, plus watch the video.

4 Priorities for Living: How to Glorify God with Our Days & Talents

The word “steward” has gone misunderstood, especially in a biblical sense. Commonly the term refers to flight attendants or volunteers helping us find our way in a museum. We are aware of stewards, but we may not be living out the term properly as Christians.

Perhaps you encountered a stewardess who served you on your flight to that latest mission trip overseas. Maybe you went to a baseball game or theater and a steward helped you to find your seats. These are people who are helping to manage something that is not their own. So what does this mean biblically?

A proper way of defining stewardship for a christian should begin with acknowledging that God is the owner of everything. We are stewards of the things we have in this world, not owners. All that we have is from God, our money, our possessions, our family, and notably our time and talents.

In school, children are taught how to manage their money efficiently. Books have been published teaching readers how to manage their finances in a biblical manner. But it is less-likely that you will find a class about managing our days and talents to bless others. Unless of course you open the teachings of scripture. Below we have outlined four priorities of stewardship spoken from David Jeremiah.

Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom. – Psalm 90:12

The Priorities of Stewardship

Be a steward of truth…

God has entrusted to us as followers of Christ to be managers of the Truth that is the Gospel, among believers and non-believers alike. “On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.” 1 Thessalonians 2:4

Be a steward of time…

This may be the most important aspect of stewardship. Time is more valuable than money, gold, or possessions. Time cannot be replaced like money or things. The Lord expects us to make the most of our time and will reward that. “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

Be a steward of talent…

You might be thinking you have no talent. But it isn’t true. God has made you from His image and useful to the body of Christ by word or by strength. “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11

Be a steward of treasure…
David Jeremiah says that, “Giving will never work if it’s random.” We should plan to set some money aside on the first day of the week. Which in our time, we know as each Sunday. Believe that God will allow you to prosper. “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.” 1 Corinthians 16:2

 

April 15, 2016

The Valiant Woman of Proverbs 31

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:37 pm
Tags: , , ,

A capable wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. …Strength and dignity are her clothing,and she laughs at the time to come.She opens her mouth with wisdom,and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household,and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her happy;her husband too, and he praises her…

Today we pay a return visit to the online resource, Theology of Work. Clicking the title below will take you today’s post, form which you can navigate your way to other sections.

The Valiant Woman (Proverbs 31:10-31)

A remarkable connection between the book of Proverbs and the world of work occurs at the end of the book. Lady Wisdom, who we meet at the beginning of the book (Prov. 1:20-33, 8:1-9:12), reappears in street clothes in the final 22 verses of the book (Prov.31:10-31) as a living, breathing woman, termed “the virtuous woman” (KJV). Some translators use “wife” instead of “woman,” probably because the woman’s husband and children are mentioned in the passage. (Both “wife” and “woman” are possible translations of the Hebrew ishshah.) Indeed, she finds fulfillment in her family and ensures that “her husband is known in the city gates, taking his seat among the elders of the land” (Prov. 31:23). But the text focuses on the woman’s work as an entrepreneur with a cottage industry and its servants/workers to manage (Prov. 31:15). Proverbs 31:10-31 does not merely apply to the workplace; it takes place in a workplace.

The book of Proverbs is summarized, then, in a poem praising a woman who is the wise manager of diverse enterprises ranging from weaving to wine making to trade in the market. Translators variously use the words “virtuous” (KJV), “capable” (NRSV), “excellent” (NASB), or “of noble character” (NIV) to describe this woman’s character in Prov. 31:10. But these terms fail to capture the element of strength or might present in the underlying Hebrew word (chayil). When applied to a man, this same term is translated “strength,” as in Prov. 31:3. In a great majority of its 246 appearances in the Old Testament, it applies to fighting men (e.g., David’s “mighty warriors,” 1 Chronicles 7:2). Translators tend to downplay the element of strength when the word is applied to a woman, as with Ruth, whom English translations describe as “noble” (NIV, TNIV), “virtuous” (NRSV, KJV) or “excellent” (NASB). But the word is the same, whether applied to men or women. In describing the woman of Proverbs 31:10-31, its meaning is best understood as strong or valiant, as further indicated by Prov. 31:17, “She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong.” Al Wolters argues on account of such martial language that the most appropriate translation is “Valiant Woman.” Accordingly, we will refer to the woman of Proverbs 31:10-31 as the “Valiant Woman,” which captures both the strength and the virtue carried by the Hebrew chayil.

The concluding passage in the book of Proverbs characterizes this woman of strength as a wise worker in five sets of practices in her workplace. The high importance of this section is signaled in two ways. First, it is in the form of an acrostic poem, meaning that its lines begin with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, in order, making it memorable. Second, it is placed as the climax and summary of the entire book. Accordingly, the five sets of practices we observe in the Valiant Woman will serve as a framework for exploring the entire book.

To some people in the ancient near east, and even to some now, portraying a woman as a model of wise entrepreneurship would be surprising. Despite the fact that God gave the gift of work to men and women equally (Genesis 1 and 2), women’s work has often been denigrated and treated with less dignity than men’s. Following the example of the book, we will refer to this wise worker as she, understanding that God’s wisdom is available equally to men and women. She functions in the book as an affirmation of the dignity of every person’s work.

As always in the book of Proverbs, the way of wisdom flows out of the fear of the Lord. After all the Valiant Woman’s abilities and virtues are described and honored, the source of her wisdom is revealed. “A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Prov. 31:30).


Bonus item: We’ve run this before on the other blog, but I wanted to return to a song about a modern day Proverbs 31 woman.

March 18, 2013

Remaining Faithful in His Absence

Luke 19:11-27 (NIV)

The Parable of the Ten Minas

11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’

14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’

15 “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.

16 “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’

17 “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’

18 “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’

19 “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’

20 “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’

22 “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’

24 “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’

25 “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’

26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’”

For today’s study you will have to click through to the original source, because although it’s in point-form,  it is quite lengthy to include here.  I wanted to run this as an example of what a good expository (i.e. verse-by-verse) Bible study or preaching outline looks like.  The study is formatted so you just need to hover your mouse over the scripture references to see the verse in question.  Gene Brooks is the pastor of Union M. Baptist Church, Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

Personal note before we begin: There is a whole other story going on — concerning a King and the people of a far country —  in verses 12, 14, 15a, and 27 that bookends the story we are more familiar with and is often overlooked. Gene addresses this briefly, but it’s something some of you might want to dig into for future.

Here is the link to continue reading.  Take the time to study both the form and the substance of this. I’ll be checking to see how many of you are clicking through, okay?

August 30, 2012

Taking Up The Offering: It’s OK to Ask

Since some of you are in leadership, here’s a great piece by Blake Coffee at Church Whisperer on asking people to give when that goes against your basic personality or instincts.  You’re encouraged to read it at his blog — click the title link — where it appeared as…

A Spirituality of Fundraising


Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:17-19

This year has been and will continue to be a huge transitional year for our ministry, Christian Unity Ministries. This is the year we will transition from a small, church consultation ministry operated by Blake and a few of his friends in their spare time to a full-fledged, global non-profit organization with a paid staff and active arms operating in churches and denominational entities all over the world. Last year’s budget: approximately $75,000. The 2013 budget: approximately $350,000. That, my friends, is a God-sized transition!

One of the most painful transitions, it seems, is the one going on in me…the transition toward becoming the visionary leader this new organization will require. And, just to get very specific here for purposes of this post, I am thinking primarily about the transition into becoming a leader in matters of money and fundraising. Anyone who knows me very well at all, knows that I have simply never been very passionate about fundraising. I have long recognized the eternal truth that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. And so, it has always been easier for me to just avoid talking (or thinking) about money rather than having to delve into any theology concerning it.

But scripture really does not permit that, does it? A truly Biblical worldview really will not coexist with a fear of this conversation…in fact, a truly Godly perspective demands that we (as Christ followers) have a well-developed theology concerning money and wealth. So it is with fear and trepidation that I read Paul’s admonishment to me and to you and to young pastor Timothy and to every other leader of Christ-followers about our role in teaching and mentoring others: Command them …to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

My friend, Barry Nelson, is Director of Development at Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary & College. Earlier this year, he gave me a copy of Revolution in Generosity, a compilation of profound writings from Christian leaders on the spirituality of fundraising (find that resource here or Google it…I believe it is crucial reference material for every leader of every Christian organization). That work’s project leader and editor, Wesley K. Willmer, makes this point this way:

If we view giving as an instrument of transformation, we will support our givers through a consistent program of prayer and personal interaction, accepting the fact that it is the Holy Spirit, not our personality, that influences how they give. The change will take time, both for those asking for and those giving funds. But as we embrace the transformational model, the focus shifts from the gift and getting money to seeing God’s power work in individual lives. Revolution in Generosity, p. 40.

And so, the transformation in me (and in my leadership) takes root in the deepest passion of my spiritual life: my desire to see lives being changed. When my heart says to God, “I don’t want to raise funds…to talk about money…” God’s voice says back to me, “Then you don’t want to be about real life change…about real discipleship.”  So, I am not raising funds…I’m raising Christ-followers.  I can get comfortable with that!

Blake Coffee

Here’s another good article at Church Whisperer, Good-sized Vision v. God-sized Vision.  Preview:

For both churches and individuals, there is a difference between a good-sized vision and a God-sized vision….

I am thinking this had to be a disturbing and frightening scenario for the disciples who, for almost three years, had awakened each morning and simply allowed Jesus to set the agenda for the day.  The only thing he asked of them was that they follow him.  It was an easy arrangement, one that led them through amazing and miraculous moments and obviously changed them forever.  Now, Jesus was leaving them and telling them “you guys take it from here…go and do this ministry!”   …continue