Christianity 201

May 7, 2022

Eliminating Hinderances

I’m breaking our six month rule here, because I was already committed to introducing a new author here, only to be reminded we did this in January. However, that post was one that Pastor Will wrote in October of last year, and this one is from May, so in my convoluted logic, it does represent a gap of more than six months.

Besides, I think someone needs this today. He’s in a series in Hebrews and if you want more just click: Today’s Scripture. If you check the sidebar, you’ll discover that he’s been writing online longer than we’ve been here. Clicking the header below takes you today’s reading.

When We Listen

Hebrews 12:1-3 (HCSB)
Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart.

The greatest danger that the Jewish Christians faced was giving up in the midst of the struggles they were going through and in the face of the disapproval of their family, and turning away from Jesus and back to the rituals of Judaism. The writer of Hebrews had already pointed out the mortal dangers of such turning back (3:12-19; 6:4-8; 10:26-39). And in the Hall of Faith, he gave us a long list of those who did not turn back, but who persevered even when their goal was far off and seeming unattainable.

Now the writer encourages his readers to use those examples as models for their own lives, to persevere and stay faithful and thus stay on the path that leads to the promised reward. This perseverance includes two negative actions, things to be eliminated, and two positive actions, things to be done and embraced.

The negative actions are first to throw off everything that could hinder us in our spiritual journey. This is not talking about sin, which is next on the list. Instead, the focus of this negative action is on things that could pull us away from single-hearted devotion to God and single-minded pursuit of His calling and mission. This includes associations and partnerships that weaken our resolve or our faith, distractions that draw our minds and hearts away from God and His priorities, and any other focuses that take time and energy away from us becoming the person God has called each of us to become and from the job that He has called each of us to do.

The second negative action is to eliminate from our life sin. To many this has been deemed impossible, unattainable by human effort, and it is. However, through the presence and power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, reshaping and transforming our hearts, it is possible and essential for the man or woman of God to live without being entangled in sin which saps our spiritual vitality, and which cuts us off from God’s power to do through us all that He has called us to do. But to get to that place of victory requires acceptance of both the need to eliminate sin from our lives and faith in God’s ability to do it. It then requires focused effort on our part to ruthlessly eliminate from our lives everything that drags us down into sin, and to conscientiously avoid those situations in which we tend to compromise.

The two positive actions we are encouraged to take are both closely related. The first is to persevere in running the race, to not give up, to not allow ourselves to be sidelined by troubles, trials and persecutions, but to keep pressing forward toward the goal. In doing this, we must do the second positive action and keep our focus, not on the trials, but on Jesus, who is both our model, and our goal. Jesus Himself endured great suffering for us, and He stayed on track by keeping His focus on the goal at all times, on the prize of salvation for all humanity, and on His ultimate goal of returning to God’s side and the glory He had had with the Father when everything was accomplished.

Father, it does seem a bit strange how so many of us think about our walk with You. We believe that since You love us, we can simply breeze through our days compromising, sinning, and not giving Your agenda any but the most casual attention, and that it will all work out in the end. But the writer of Hebrews shows that for the lie that it is. You are passionate about Your agenda to save not just us, but all humanity. And our calling is not simply to get to heaven, but to live out the mission of Jesus and to pursue You agenda every waking moment with the help of the Holy Spirit and in His power. It is only as we actively pursue Your agenda that we can be empowered to run the course successfully. And it is only as we keep our focus on the goal, and on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, that we will be able to shed the distractions that cluster around us and the sins that try to weigh us down and entangle us, and to live victoriously all the way to the finish line. Thank you, Lord, for helping me to see this all so clearly. Amen.

April 30, 2022

The Common Condition

Years ago, a Christian musician introduced a song with these words: “Here we are in the human sitch and such a sitch it is.” At least that’s what it sounded like. What he was meaning was, “Here we are in the human situation…”

When we speak of such things there are two ways of looking it. First, there are things which are part of the human condition which are common to everyone. We sometimes speak of the “common grace” or “common graces” given to everyone, regardless of their standing before God. The heavens declare the glory of God. Everyone enjoys the light of the sun, and on days when it’s less visible, “the rain falls on the just and the unjust.”

Within the body of Christ, there are many blessings for the child of God, and much has been written about our identity in Christ, what it means to be joint heirs with Christ, and how, like Abraham, we can be considered a “friend of God.”

But for those of us who are believers, there are some things we need to be aware of; some pitfalls to avoid.

We don’t get it right every time

In a chapter primarily focused on our speech (literally, ‘the tongue’) James states what I believe is a larger principle,

We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. (NLT, 3:2, emphasis added)

In so saying, James reiterates a principle from Proverbs 24:6, which also holds out a promise of recovery:

For a righteous person falls seven times and rises again, But the wicked stumble in time of disaster. (NASB)

This is reminiscent of Psalms 37:23-4

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand. (NKJV, emphasis added)

There can be various reasons why we fall. We know that Peter fell (so to speak) while walking on water when he took his eyes off Jesus. What can cause us to equally lose our way?

Distractions are part of the common experience

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 tells us that,

If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. (NLT, emphasis added)

Temptation can arise from “within” and from “without.” But the promise of verse 13 is that God has equipped us with the means to withstand it, provided that we choose to avail ourselves of the defenses he has provided. Resistance is never futile!

Maybe you think it little comfort that the verse states that such temptation is “common to man” (KJV) but there is great assurance that we walk a road that many have walked before us, and many are walking even now.

Granted, your temptation and my temptation may be completely different things. One person lusts after their neighbor’s house. Another lusts after an attractive individual they work with. Another lusts after a second slice of Black Forest cake. The commonality is found in wanting what we do not have or should not have. It’s no accident that in the “second tablet” of the ten commandments, most have to do with actions (killing, fornicating, stealing, lying) while one has to do simply with desire (literally, ‘coveting’) for the things that our not ours; that are not ours to possess.

The source of temptation

While temptation can arise from within and without, temptation can also be the direct effort of our enemy, our accuser. This last key verse is what got me thinking about the common condition when I read it this morning on the NIV Bible App that I use:

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (I Peter 5:8-9, NIV, emphasis added)

There are three key elements to this verse and we tend to focus on the first two:
(a) the idea of Satan prowling like a lion
(b) the idea of resisting the devil
(c) the knowledge that this is common to “the family of believers” worldwide.

This, too is part of our common condition. The strongest Christian “superstar” you ever met faces the same temptations as you. (Perhaps even more so.)

This is why the community of faith is so important. We can help and encourage and support each other.

 

April 22, 2022

The Unspoken Lie of Genesis 3

For those of you who became subscribers of C201 because of previous contact with my other blog, Thinking Out Loud, you may remember that we occasionally linked to Kuya Kevin, an American living in the Philippines. His real name is Kevin Sanders. We somewhat lost contact with him (my fault, not his) here after running three of his articles here at C201, but this week he landed back on my radar.

His blog is simply titled Pastor Kevin Sanders, and he’s been a pastor in El Paso, Texas (for our Brit friends, it’s right on the border with Mexico) for over 15 years and recently completed his DMin from Gateway Seminary. Clicking the header which follows will take you to his site to read this, which is encouraged.

The Lie Beneath the Lie

Most of us are familiar with the Genesis account of sin entering into the world. The serpent approached Eve and convinced her that the forbidden fruit was the key to realizing her own divine potential:

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Genesis 3:4-5

We know that was a lie: the act of disobedience brought death, not divinity.

But it seems to me there was a lie underneath that lie. It was just as subtle as the serpent that delivered it. This is a lie that assaults the very character of God. Here it is:

“God is holding out on you.”

Believing this lie can lead to at least two terrible outcomes.

The first is outright disobedience. Eve, then Adam took this route. They instantaneously learned a harsh lesson: God’s prohibitions are ultimately for our protection. They exchanged fruit for thorns, paradise for pain, life for death, and glory for dust. Consequence is a cruel teacher for those who disobey God.

The second is bitterness. This may not be outright, external rebellion against God, but it’s just as toxic for the soul. Perhaps the inward, hidden nature of bitterness makes it even worse (or at least harder to recognize) than outward rebellion. The older son’s heart, after all, seemed just as far from his father as those swine his prodigal brother had fed (Luke 15:11-32). Grace and bitterness do not tend to peacefully coexist in the same heart.

I feel I should expound on this second outcome because it is one I am more familiar with than I care to admit. There have been times I have entertained the lie beneath the lie and experienced the bitterness that follows.

Life disappoints us all at some point. Here are just a few examples that come to mind:

  • That attractive man or woman that won’t pay any attention to you.
  • That job or job promotion which should have been yours.
  • That narcissist who has been blessed with so much talent and/or treasure (you, of course, would have used it all selflessly).
  • That hardship or tragedy that your neighbor deserved more than you.

Sometimes we choose to interpret some of these disappointments as God holding out on us. We often look back and see how silly we were to think this way. We realize that God was, indeed, working for our good (Romans 8:28).

We should know better. I should know better–especially when I consider that God “did not spare His own Son” for my sake (Romans 8:32).

Lord, you have loved me perfectly and blessed me more than I will ever deserve. Forgive me for those times I have failed to trust You. May I always guard my heart against lies and bitterness.


Second Helping: By the same author, The Advance of the Gospel in an Evil World

March 10, 2022

Your Greatest Temptation?

Thinking Through Luke 4:1-13

What is your greatest temptation? Perhaps you are thinking of things like speeding, shopping, snacking, or something to do with sex, but I imagine no one has thought of turning a stone into a loaf of bread, or one of the other two temptations Jesus faced in the wilderness. While the temptations Jesus faced may seem far removed from the temptations we face, when we dig in we discover that there is really one temptation here, one very subtle and dangerous temptation, one that we all face yet never think about. The fact that we never think of it makes it all the more dangerous.

So what is that one temptation that Jesus faced? What do the temptations of turning stones into bread, gaining all the kingdoms of the world, and expecting rescue from harm have in common? Each of these would take Jesus off the path of suffering, away from his calling. If Satan had said just one thing it would be “If you are the Son of God, then you don’t need to suffer.”

This is the same temptation Jesus faced later:

Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead. As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things.
Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

Mark 8:31-33 (NLT)

Jesus called Peter “Satan,” for he was saying the same thing Satan had said earlier. You don’t need to suffer, Jesus.

Jesus faced this same temptation in the Garden of Gethsemane on the morning of his execution:

He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

Mark 14:35-36 (NLT)

Everything was possible, including the avoidance of suffering and death. Jesus could have called ten thousand angels in a rescue operation and so avoid execution. He could have turned that stone into bread, he could have become the king of all the world by brute force, he could have avoided all harm. Jesus was tempted to exploit the fact he was God the Son, God with us. He did the exact opposite:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:5-8 (NRSV emphasis added)

The greatest temptation Jesus faced was to not offer forgiveness, to not take the way of the cross, to not take the path of suffering for the sake of love. It all comes back to the temptation to not love.

Love is often at the root of other temptations.

We can think of Adam and Eve when they were tempted to eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Did they fall because the fruit was so tempting, or because the promise of knowledge was so tempting, or was it because their love relationship with God was not that great? They were tempted by Satan, not just to eat fruit, but to stop loving God.

We can think of Cain and Abel when Cain succumbed to the temptation to kill his brother. Did Cain kill his brother because that was oh so tempting, or because there was a failure in their love relationship? Cain didn’t just kill his brother. Cain failed to love his brother.

Though the ten commandments had not yet been given, Cain ought not to have committed violence against his brother because Abel was created in the image of God. Just as important, Cain ought not to have committed violence against his brother because Cain was created in the image of God. Cain’s failure was not the breaking of a rule so much as it was a failure to live up to what it means to be created in the image of God. Being created in the image of God means many things, like being creative for example. But since God is love, it also means being created with the capacity, and the impulse to love. Cain fell short of living up to that image.

Humanity sunk to its worst failure in living up to the image of God when God came to us, in Jesus, and we killed him. Our failure was not just in breaking the commandment, “thou shalt not murder.” We failed to love God, miserably so. God loved us anyway and offers forgiveness, reconciliation, and relationship. God is love indeed!

We see a failure of love being played in our day. Shouldn’t “love your neighbour” also apply to nations? Where is Russia’s love for Ukraine? Where is Vladimir’s Putin’s love even for his own troops, his own people? How many Russians are losing their lives? How many Russians are losing their loved ones? Given the worldwide repercussions, how many people are now being impacted negatively by the failure of a few, to love? Before there was a temptation to pick up the sword against the Ukrainians, there was the temptation to not pick up the cross and follow Jesus.

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

Mark 8:34 (NRSV)

The greatest temptation we face is to not love, to not pick up the cross and follow Jesus in the way of the cross, the way of love.

Temptations often begin with the temptation to not love. The temptation to drink too much or eat too much can begin with a lack of self-love. Adultery begins, not with attraction, but with a failure of love. Gossip begins, not with words, but with a failure to love. Murder begins, not with the pulling of a trigger or the picking up of a sword, but with a failure to pick up one’s cross and follow Jesus in the way of love.

One definition of sin is “missing the mark.” If we were to have a confessional and I were to ask how you missed the mark this week, you might give me a list of rules you have broken. Yet we miss the mark most when we miss reflecting the image of God. We miss reflecting the image of God most when we fail to love. You can keep all the rules really well yet completely miss the mark, miss reflecting the image of God. The religious leaders did this when, though being such sticklers for the rules, they missed the mark and engineered the execution of Jesus.

Jesus did not miss the mark. Jesus chose the cross when the temptation was to pick up a sword instead. We are loved. We are helped in growing into the image of God. The first fruit listed in the fruit of the Spirit is love. That is no accident!

You will be tempted this week, to not love someone, to stop loving someone. Let us seek God’s help in loving others, especially if the person we are to love has treated us like dirt. God is an expert on how to do that! Jesus is an expert in picking up the cross. Jesus is an expert in not succumbing to the greatest temptation we could ever face, the temptation to not love.


They’re still a “shrunken” version of weekly sermons, but Clarke Dixon’s blog — articles from which appear here most Thursdays — is now called Thinking Through Scripture.

February 4, 2022

Out with the Old

Today we’re back at Whole Life Worship, a website we first visited four years ago. Dr. Douglas M. Lee is a pastor, teacher, conference speaker, worship consultant and seminary professor. He is currently Lead Pastor for the New Hope Missional Communities. He also serves as a Department Head for Artists in Christian Testimony International and is an adjunct professor at Azusa Pacific University/Seminary.

You’re encouraged to click the header which follows to read this where we located it and/or click the link at the end to subscribe to their devotions.

Transformation: Making Room for the New by Getting Rid of the Old

I had a good conversation with a friend the other day. She was really excited about some new and exciting stuff she was going to add to her life. She wanted to serve others in new ways. She wanted to do new things to improve her relationships. And she wanted to start some new spiritual practices in her life. I was excited for her, as there was a lot of good thought and reflection behind these new choices. Not wanting to squelch her enthusiasm, as a friend I needed to ask this question:

“So, what are you going to give up in order to make space for these new, exciting things?”

Silence.

Finally she said, “Hmmm. That’s a good question. I need to think about that.”

When we find something new that will change our life for the good, it will always involve getting rid of the old ways. Why? First, because we are limited: in time, in space, in energy and in focus. Second, because keeping the old ways will always short circuit our efforts in allowing the new to take root.

We’re in a series about Biblical Transformation. We’ve been looking at Romans 12:1-2 and seeing how different aspects of this WholeLifeWorship model is also God’s way of transforming us into the best versions of ourselves (if you missed the first three devotionals – no worries, just click here). This week we’re looking at how we can make room for God to transform us by getting rid of the old way of how we’re used to doing things.

The Apostle Paul put it like this:

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world.” (Romans 12:2a)

In other places, he writes, “With regard to your former way of life, put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires” (Eph 4:22). “Put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (Col 3:5). All this points out to Jesus’ very basic teaching of discipleship, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

So, what’s behind all of this? Why is it so important to get rid of the old patterns in our lives?

1. There are active forces that are working overtime to keep us from being transformed into the image of Christ. Paul identifies these forces as “the world, the flesh (false self) and the devil” (cf. Eph. 2:2-3a). They have established some bad “default” settings in us and want to keep us there at all costs; lest we become transformed to Christ-likeness

2. The pattern of the world wants us to conform to its values. These forces seduce us with the lure of money, power, success, significance and fame to lead us down a dead-end road. They whisper messages that cause fear, anxiety, insecurity, lust and greed to keep us confined to these values. This causes us to become increasingly more self-referenced, self-righteous, and self-preoccupied.

3. The endgame of these forces is to “deform” us. They want to make our lives smaller and smaller so that we settle for a life that is based on mere comfort and existence. They want to keep us from having any lasting impact on others and in the world. They want to so shrink our souls so that the image of God within us shrivels to oblivion. They want your life and mine to become “purposeless” and “wasted.”

The Good News is that, through the power of Christ and the Spirit, we can overcome these forces, we can take steps to not be conformed (or deformed) by the world’s patterns, and we can make room for God to transform us for the good! Paul writes in Romans 6 that if we are united in Christ, we are no longer slaves to sin (or the forces of darkness) because if we have surrendered ourselves to Christ. We are set from the power of sin over us!

So, what are some practical steps we can take to rid ourselves of the old worldly ways so that we can make room for the new, transformed life in Christ?

1. Take time to be silent and ask God to point out where we are conforming to the world. I believe that we already know where we are falling short, but we’re too afraid or ashamed to confront it. Being still and quiet before God allows us to be enveloped in His loving and safe presence. From there, we can receive and embrace the Spirit’s pointing out this issue in our lives.

2. Believe in God’s grace and strength to overcome the world. These areas are so ingrained in our lives that it seems impossible for us to get rid of them. We need faith and trust in God’s grace and strength to remove these psychological and emotional barriers. Remember, that we can do “all things through Him who gives us strength” (Phil. 4:13)

3. Ask the Holy Spirit to empower us moment by moment so that we can be victorious over the powers of darkness in our lives. We cannot overcome the powers of the world, flesh and the devil in our own strength or will-power. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen us in our innermost being (Eph. 3:16). We can ask the Spirit for help every day in our personal times with Him, as well as in the moment where we are feeling the temptation to revert back to the old ways.

One of the most powerful moments of my life was when the Lord helped me overcome the power of sexual addiction. By giving into sexual temptation, I was becoming deformed by this sex-crazed world. But the Lord helped me not to conform to this any longer by following these steps I just mentioned. It was a major victory where I saw the power of God at work in my life. But more than that, this process became a spiritual rhythm that I continue to use to get rid of the “trash” in my life. By making choices each day to stop being conformed to the world’s pattern, I create the needed space in my life to be transformed by God.

So, I encourage you to step further into Biblical transformation by proactively seeking to dismantle the worldly mindsets, attitudes and activities in your life – using God’s Holy Spirit power at work within you to overcome the old pattern of life to make room for the new!

Remember, “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world!” (1 John 4:4)


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November 29, 2021

Knowing Your Identity; To Whom You Belong

Our continuing quest to find new sources of devotional material for you took us today to the page of “Come and See” daily devotions. “Evangelical Ministries International is a ministry with a Vision to ensure the Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached throughout the world.” They are based in London, UK. After reading several, we chose a two-part topic for today. Click the links to read these where we found them.

Never Lose your Identity (I)

You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1st John 4:4, New King James Version).

Knowing our identity is important because this determines our position in the physical and spiritual realms of life. People with little insight into their identity are easy prey to the devil and his desolate fallen agents, as they are confused and so their agony and eventual defeat is inevitable.

The Bible records that Immediately after the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist, an important announcement was made by Almighty God concerning Jesus’ identity: and suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ (Matthew 3:17, New King James Version).  This revelation was essential for the purpose of Jesus Christ to be fulfilled. It upset the devil and he immediately reacted by doing what he does best: “to steal, kill and to destroy.” (John 10 verse 10a, New King James Version).

The devil duly sought to destroy the identity of Jesus, as the Bible relates: the tempter came to him and said, ‘if you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread. (Matthew 4:3, New International Version). The devil then attempted on two more occasions to test, discredit and question the identity of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Refer to Matthew 4:6-8).

Today’s key Bible verse reveals our real identity because it states that we belong to God and not the devil; the verse also assures us of a positive outcome to any situation we may encounter in life. We overcome life’s trials because the Spirit of God lives in us: For the Spirit in you is far stronger than anything in the world.” (1st John 4:4, The Message).

Recall that when Jesus was betrayed and delivered up for trial, the main charge against Him was centered on His identity. The Bible states: but Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, ‘I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.’ (Matthew 26:63, New International Version). This further suggests how relentless Satan is about stealing our identity or confusing us about our true identity in Christ Jesus.

Your new identity in God through Jesus Christ, holds the key to your victory over the devil and his ugly works in your life. But if you confront him as a natural man, you will be defeated because he is used to the ways of individual men and women; however he cannot deal with Spirit-filled saints of God. John 3: 8 states: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit”. Moses did not confront Pharaoh as a mortal man but as a god. Here, the Bible states: so the Lord said to Moses: ‘See, I have made you as God to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet.’ (Exodus 7:1, New King James Version).

Your spiritual source is Christ Jesus and you are born of the Spirit of God: this is your true identity and you should never doubt this. Also, never allow the enemy to steal your identity through deceptions.

Let us pray: “Father, You live in me by your Holy Spirit. I refuse to be confused regarding my true identity in You,” in Jesus’ Mighty Name, Amen.

Never Lose your Identity (II)

You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1st John 4:4, New King James Version).

If the devil repeatedly challenged the identity of Jesus Christ, then he will certainly attempt to do the same to all of us. Apostle Peter cautioned us saying: be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1st Peter 5:8, New King James Version). When we refer to the term ‘identity’  we are not concerned with physical appearance, which is of no importance in spiritual warfare. Instead we refer to our identification with the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who died for our sins and was resurrected on the third day.

The size of Goliath was irrelevant when David challenged him (1st Samuel 17 verses 1-57) and they both understood the place of divine identity in warfare; both men identified with their deities. Thus, Goliath cursed David in the name of his gods, while David answered him saying: you come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. (1st Samuel 17 verse 45, New King James Version).

David made this declaration based on his awareness of his covenant identity in God through Abraham, knowing that this gave him the spiritual advantage needed to defeat Goliath. He later declared in Psalms 139 verse 14:I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. (New King James Version).

As mentioned in the first part of this series of devotionals, the exploits of Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry were traceable to his awareness of who He was. We must all be aware that the wicked spirits of this world do not recognize or respect anyone based on physical features such as the colour of their skin, size of their muscles or degree of intellect. Nobody can fight and win spiritual warfare using those attributes. For example, when the seven sons of Sceva tried to imitate the Apostles, they were beaten and stripped naked by the demon which possessed the man whom they encountered. The evil spirit said: Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you? (Acts 19 verse15, New International Version).

When we accept Christ Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, by giving our lives to Jesus Christ, we automatically assume the spiritual identity of the Son of God. This enables us to function like Jesus: For in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring. (Acts 17 verse 28, New King James Version). We must realize that we are programmed for success and not failure, victory and not defeat, faith and not fear, blessings and not curses, progress and not regress, life and not death.

Let us pray: “Father, You live in me by your Holy Spirit. I will not be confused regarding my true identity in You,” in Jesus’ Mighty Name, Amen.

November 19, 2021

Moments of Great Spiritual Vulnerability

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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We don’t know what your experience has been in the last 24 hours, but our blog is somewhat fried and we can figure out why. We can’t access previous articles by date, or search references to keywords or writers.

We were planning to migrate this blog from WordPress to another platform in the new year, when WordPress stops supporting the classic editor in which I am typing now; but we may make the switch earlier.

I didn’t want subscribers to not have something to read today, however, so I’ll keep posting things here for a little while longer.

Ergo, our friends Stephen and Brooksyne from Daily Encouragement to the rescue. This is a rather powerful devotional as you’ll see from the title below, which, when you click it, takes it to their site.

Bathsheba Moments

Message summary: A lesson for all of us to heed as we face our own Bathsheba moments.

Listen to this message on your audio player.

“Now at evening time David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance. So David sent servants and inquired about the woman. And someone said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” Then David sent messengers and had her brought, and when she came to him, he slept with her” (2 Samuel 11:2-4).

Joshua is a young man we see in the course of our chaplaincy ministry at Audrey’s. He is very thoughtful and this last Tuesday used the term “Bathsheba moment”. I asked him if he had heard that expression in a sermon or just came up with it himself. He sheepishly responded, “Well, I guess myself”.

As so often we preachers are inclined to do, that gave me an idea for a message. I shared a teaching on Esther moments and wrote about it here. An Esther moment is a time in our life when we especially recognize God’s will for our lives in a specific situation, like when Mordecai said to Esther, “And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?

But we are all susceptible to Bathsheba moments as well. I’ll define a Bathsheba moment as a time of intense temptation.

Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see,
Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see,
For the Father up above, is looking down in love,
So be careful little eyes what you see.

David was subjected to a visual temptation, placing him in a Bathsheba moment. All around us we are bombarded with visual temptations; billboards, magazine ads, images on the web. Sometimes even in the course of reading or watching the news a visual temptation will pop up as an ad on the side of the screen.

Today let us consider David’s Bathsheba moment and what led up to his adulterous sin with Bathsheba recorded in 2 Samuel 11. We have here a profile of an individual’s incremental slide into sin, instructive of the many ways we all may be confronted with Bathsheba moments.

“Now at evening time David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house.” The is innocuous enough. Perhaps David had trouble falling asleep. Occasionally we take night walks through the country, but never on the roof of our home! (Of course architecture was quite different in that culture and time period.) Walks are good for our health and there was certainly nothing wrong with David taking a walk.

“And from the roof he saw a woman bathing.” This phrase prompts a critical question. Was she doing this knowing she might be seen? There are those who seek to allure others by their dress (or lack thereof). I wonder about the lighting conditions. You can see a lot on a clear night with a full moon. Perhaps there was also some lamp light or this was early in the evening. Some versions suggest this was early evening when there would have been some daylight. In the course of walking around “he saw”. This may have been inevitable. Perhaps like a billboard along the highway the brief glance just couldn’t be avoided.

“And the woman was very beautiful in appearance.”  David’s glance turned into curiosity and once the assessment of her beauty became pleasing to his eyes David lingered. This was the starting point of his problem. Centuries earlier Job in asserting his integrity states, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl” (Job 31:1).

The next incremental step was taken when “David sent servants and inquired about the woman.” All of us would agree that was a bad decision! What is he inquiring for? He was a married man and knew the seventh commandment by memory. That should have settled it.

And one he sent reported, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? When the messenger reported “the wife of Uriah the Hittite”, that should have once and for all settled it!

But “Then David sent messengers and had her brought, and when she came to him, he slept with her”. It was all downhill from there on out. The Life Application Bible note brings a thoughtful truth:

“The deeper the mess, the less we want to admit having caused it. It’s much easier to stop sliding down a hill when you are near the top than when you are halfway down. The best solution is to stop sin before it starts.”

The chapter ends with this timeless assessment of sin from God’s perspective: “But the thing David had done displeased the LORD”. The following chapter and remainder of the book chronicle the harsh consequences that affected his entire family for generations.

It is a powerful reminder that sin’s price tag always includes consequences, a lesson for all of us to heed as we face our own Bathsheba moments.

Be encouraged today, (Hebrews 3:13)
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

 

Daily prayer: Father, help each of us to be on guard against the trappings of the devil and remain steadfast in resisting temptation at each step.  We want to live in a way that pleases you, Father, as You have taught us. You command us to resist all sexual sin, and in doing so, we will control our mind, body, and spirit. We will live in holiness and honor, not in lustful passion as the pagans do, in their ignorance or willful disobedience to You. We want to guard our hearts against the lure of the enemy, so that we continue to experience the holy and abundant life that You have provided for us. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

See II Thessalonians 4:3-5, Proverbs 4:23

August 18, 2021

Guarding Your Heart by Not Loving the World

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Each week we try to introduce two or three writers appearing here for the first time, both to highlight or showcase their work, and to encourage them in their writing. This time around, unfortunately, I didn’t see an author’s name, but wanted to share the content with you. They call themselves The Center City Christian. There’s a reference here to the NHEB. I had to look that one up, and it’s the New Heart English Bible. As always, you are strongly encouraged to click the header which appears next, and read this at its source. (I don’t just suggest you do that, I do it myself and read three articles in choosing this one.)

Real Talk – The Wellspring of Life

Each time I return to 1 John, I get punched. God’s Word “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 NIV) But the Good News is “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 NIV)!

While reading, I came across these verses:


1 John 2:15-16 KJV

15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.


These verses are crucial because the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life constitute the golden rule of satanism—”Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” in other words, “Do what you want”—developed by Aleister Crowley.

These are the three areas used when the serpent tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-6), and Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13). Do you know how Jesus rebuked the devil? He used Scripture! Isn’t that interesting?

These are attitudes of the heart:

The lust of the flesh—do I have the mind of Christ (Philippians 4:8), or is my mind preoccupied with gratifying my physical desires?
The lust of the eyes—does the amount of material possessions I crave or accumulate figuratively outweigh the amount I give?
The pride of life—is how important I am what is most important to me?

Proverbs 4:23 NHEB

Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it is the wellspring of life.

Proverbs 4:23 tells us to guard our hearts. How can we do that? In this post, we’re going to focus on knowledge of Scripture. We began by saying that God’s Word “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” By reading the Bible, we can understand what God values—in this case, self-control, generosity, and humility. 1 John 2:15-16 speaks on what “is of the world.”

Lastly, Jesus was able to resist the devil’s temptations not only because He knew Scripture but also because He obeyed it—the devil knows Scripture too. The apostle Paul wrote Ephesians 6:10-17 about the armor of God; think of these verses as steps—equipping yourself with each piece of armor to walk in each day; to wear as protection against the enemy’s attacks. Ephesians 6:17 tells us that God’s Word is the sword of the Spirit.


 

July 27, 2021

The Mess of Samson’s Life

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Over the years we have frequently featured devotionals from Charles Price, Minister at Large for The Peoples Church in Toronto and this is approximately the 20th time we are doing so over eleven years. (Some additional posts here were simply shorter quotations.) You’re encouraged to click this link if you wish to follow these teachings. Or click the header which directly follows to read today’s devotional at source.

Samson’s Beginning

“Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.”   

—Galatians 5:16-17

Before Israel was a monarchy, Israel was a theocracy, meaning, “God ruled.” How did God do that? He placed His Spirit on an individual, anointing them as “judge” over Israel. Samson was one of the judges, but this did not mean he sat with a long wig in a courtroom listening to the errors of people’s ways and sentencing them accordingly. Judges were civic and military leaders of the nation of Israel.

Before his birth, Samson’s mother was told,You will become pregnant and have a son…the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines” (Judges 13:5). Samson was set apart by God to be a Nazirite, which was an outwards sign of the inward dependence upon the Spirit of God.

From conception, Samson was equipped by God with the resources of the Spirit of God to deliver Israel from the Philistines. We are told, “He grew and the LORD blessed him, and the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him” (Judges 13:24). As we study Samson’s life, we see a recurring phrase, “The Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon him” (Judges 14:6, 19; 15:14). In the 20 years that Samson was a judge, the Spirit of the Lord was upon him, empowering him with supernatural strength. Yet, a recurring problem Samson had was getting involved with the wrong women.

Samson’s life began to unravel when he succumbed to the desires of his flesh instead of God’s will. As Samson went to check out his enemies, he found that the Philistines were not as bad as he thought. In fact, one of them was very attractive and he told his parents, “I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife” (Judges 14:2). Samson was going against what the Lord commanded in Deuteronomy 7:3, “Do not intermarry with them.” His parents tried to persuade him otherwise, but Samson was adamant. Even while he was filled with the power of the Spirit, we are confronted with the awful mess of Samson’s life, shaking us to ask, “How did this happen?”

      Paul taught in the New Testament,Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). As Christians, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit when we believe, but that does not mean we will no longer sin or be tempted to sin. May we heed to the words of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies.”

Prayer: Dear Lord God, thank You for placing Your Spirit in me when I professed faith in You. Continually guide me to walk faithfully in Your ways and Your truth.

Samson’s Downfall

“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

—Genesis 4:7

If we had to choose the strongest man in the Bible, we would all say “Samson.” With his bare hands, he tore apart a young lion. How was Samson so strong? Because God chose him and empowered him by His Spirit as a judge of Israel. The symbol of Samson’s strength was his hair, which he was told to never cut, not because there is strength in hair, but because that was a symbol of the Nazirite vow he had taken. But Samson had one major problem—getting involved with the wrong women. Judges 16:4-20 tells us the tragic downfall of Samson.

The Philistine leaders said to Samson’s wife, Delilah, “…lure [Samson] into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him….Each one of us will give you eleven hundred shekels of silver.” She agreed and asked Samson, “Tell me the secret of your great strength…” Samson answered, “If anyone ties me with seven fresh bow-strings that have not been dried.” Delilah did that, but Samson easily snapped the strings. She went to Samson saying, “…you lied to me. Come now, tell me how you can be tied.” Samson replied, “If anyone ties me securely with new ropes that have never been used.” Delilah did that, but Samson broke loose. Again, Delilah said, “Tell me how you can be tied.” Samson said, “If you weave the seven braids of my head into the fabric on the loom and tighten it with the pin…” But once more, when the Philistines came, Samson pulled free. 

Delilah confronted Samson,How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me?” Then we are told, “With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was sick to death of it. So he told her everything….‘If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.’” Delilah let Samson fall asleep on her lap, and while he was sleeping, she shaved his hair. This time, when Delilah yelled, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” Samson thought he could easily break free, but could not. Afterwards, we read the most sobering words in Scripture, “he did not know that the LORD had left him.”

Under the new covenant, the Lord does not leave us in terms of our salvation. But in terms of His power, His presence, His working and the bearing witness of His Spirit with ours, God can become distant. Through Samson’s story, we can learn that the true source of our strength and abilities comes not from ourselves, but from God alone.

Prayer: Dear Lord, what a sobering story about Samson, and how a man who was full of Your Spirit did not realize Your Spirit had departed from him. Humble my mind, remembering that my strength and abilities come from You alone. Thank You, Lord.

Samson’s Undoing

“Then the Philistines seized [Samson], gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding corn in the prison.”

—Judges 16:21

You’re halfway through the series! Click here to continue reading. There is a poignant illustration from a African preacher you won’t forget.

Samson’s Redemption

“Then Samson prayed to the Lord, ‘Sovereign LORD, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more…’”  

—Judges 16:28

In part four of the series, Charles Price notes that Samson makes into the “gallery of faith” in Hebrews, but that tragically, “You can have saved soul, but a wasted life.”

Click here to read the ending of this four-part devotional.

 

January 21, 2021

Genesis 3 and The End of a Golden Era

Ed. Note: Today we’re repeating the very first column we carried from Canadian Pastor and regular Thursday contributor Clarke Dixon, which appeared here on October 18, 2012.


by Clarke Dixon

A Golden Era is a time we look back upon with fondness, a time we think of as having something special about it. We might think of the golden era of cars, which for me would be the 1980s as I could still do my own oil changes on the cars I owned from that era. Since those cars I have not even been able to find the oil filters never mind change them. And we might think of the golden era for music. Eighties again with bands like U2, and REM, and other bands I could easily spell.

As for the Bible, there is no doubt that Genesis chapters 1 and 2 are a golden era. In those good ole days God “saw that it was good.” Also, Adam was over the moon about his new partner Eve and both of them could enjoy a full relationship with God. All is good. But it didn’t last very long. In fact in my edition of the Bible there are 1048 pages and the golden era is done by page 3! So what went wrong?

We might jump to the conclusion that everything went wrong when Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit and that this is primarily a matter of obedience. However things began to unravel before that and in fact the disobedience was a symptom of a bigger problem. What is the root problem? Let’s look at where it all starts going wrong:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” (Genesis 3:1,2 NIV)

You can’t hear the serpent’s tone but you can imagine it: “Did God really say . . ?” I imagine the tone to be one that sows ominous seeds. It is a bit like my Dad’s complaint about how the Irish (which includes my Mum, my brother and I) will ask a question while giving the answer they want to hear: “you don’t really want to do that, do you?” On the lips of the serpent to Eve, “Surely God didn’t say something as silly as that, did he?” The seeds of doubt are sown. Eve corrects the snake somewhat, but then comes the punchline:

“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5 NIV)

The seeds of doubt give way to a blooming assault on trust. The serpent’s words may as well be “God is a liar, listen to me for I know better.” This is not merely a matter of obedience, this is primarily a matter of trust as Eve and Adam end up placing their trust in the serpent rather than God. Not only that but Eve trusts her own judgement, and Adam likewise, over God’s:

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Genesis 3:6)

We live in a time and place where the serpent’s words are like an echo that keeps coming back like a broken record (did I mention record players and the golden era of musical gadgets?); “God didn’t really say that, did he? God doesn’t really even exist, does he? You don’t really believe that, do you? Your religion is full of fools who are lying to you, trust us.” Seeds of doubt in previous generations have given way to a blooming assault on trust in our day. How must we cope as we see the core problem of the fall in Genesis 3, misplaced trust, replayed over and over again in our day? Two things:

  1. Training in apologetics.
    With Adam and Eve the problem was not merely that they stopped trusting God, but rather that they placed greater trust in the serpent and in their own ideas. And so today, I don’t think the problem is that people stop trusting God, or fail to place their trust in God, so much as they place greater trust elsewhere. Experts say this and that about such and such, and “we trust that, end of story”. However, there are many wonderful experts who have much to say about the same things from a Christian perspective and who evidence a wonderful trust in God. We do well to learn this stuff! There are many great resources for apologetics available, we might even call it a golden era of apologetics (email me for recommendations if you like).
  2. Follow Jesus.
    Just as there was a temptation at the beginning of humanity, there was a temptation at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. If you take a moment to read Luke 4:1-13 you will see something remarkable. With every temptation Jesus responds to the devil with “it is written” and a quotation from the Old Testament. “Actually, what God says is . . .” and Jesus begins his ministry with a complete trust and confidence in the Father.

As we live in such a skeptical society as ours, assaulting trust on every side as if we are somehow stuck in Genesis 3, let us commit to being more knowledgeable Christians who follow Jesus closely. And remember, by the grace of God the golden era is ahead of us!

 

October 27, 2020

What Motivates You Not To Sin?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:37 pm
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“We never see sin aright unless we see it as against God.” – Jerry Bridges


Yesterday I was scrolling through blog posts here from 2011 and came across the name Clay Gentry whose writing was highlighted three times in total. It was nice to go back to his blog and find it still active; find him still writing. His blog at claygentry.com is called Sharing the Good News of the Lord.

Click the header below to read this online, including contact information there for Clay if you want to reach out to him.

The #1 Reason Not To Sin

What motivates you to not give into temptation? Now, I realize, depending on the situation several different reasons might be cited. For example, an unhappily-married couple facing the temptation of divorce might stay together for the sake of the kids. Or, an employee may not steal because he or she is afraid of getting caught. Or, a teenage couple may abstain from sex because of the fear of pregnancy. These reasons are all well and good, however, there is one fatal flaw they all share… the motivation for not sinning is temporal in nature.

When the kids get older or leave for college, the marriage ends. When the employee figures out how not to get caught, he or she steals. When the teenagers no longer fear pregnancy, they will have sex. In essence, so long as our reasons for not sinning are solely based on our ever-changing circumstances, we will eventually yield to temptation and thus sin.

However, there is another approach to overcoming temptations; a motivation that will keep us from sinning. What is this reason you ask, well consider with me the example of young Joseph from Genesis 39:6b-10. In this reading, we find Joseph as a slave in the house of an Egyptian named Potiphar. But trouble is at hand in the form of Potiphar’s wife.

“Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Come sleep with me.” But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God? And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to go to bed with her.” (Genesis 39:6-10 ESV)

Did you notice what motivated Joseph to resist what must have been an intense time of temptation? It was not merely his position or the kindness of his master; but more importantly, it was his relationship with God. Read it again, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” For Joseph, his relationship with God was the #1 reason not to sin. He would do nothing to compromise that relationship.

Consequently, if we want to overcome temptation then we have to see our relationship with our Heavenly Father as the #1 reason not to sin. He has saved us and thus calls for us as His children to live lives of holiness before Him (cf. 1 Peter 1:15-16). Therefore, may our prayer echo that of the Psalmist, “[Lord] may [we] store up Your words in [our] heart, that [we] might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11).


The quotation from Jerry Bridges appeared most recently in this June, 2019 article here, Sinning Against Another, Against Yourself, Against God.


The last time Clay Gentry appeared here was in a 2014 piece on the danger of over-contextualizing which we were only able to use in part. The article is still online; check out The Contextual Meaning of Romans 15:4.

September 16, 2020

We Fail; He Helps us Back Up… Each and Every Time

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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One writer in our frequent-flyer club here at C201 is Elsie Montgomery who has appeared here more than 20 times.  This very personal reflection appeared yesterday at her blog, Practical Faith. Click the header below to read and find more great devotionals like this one.

One Prayer God Quickly Answers…

2 Samuel 11; Psalms 62–63; Ezekiel 18; 2 Corinthians 4

Reading the familiar story of David and Bathsheba reminds me again of one hard truth: strong desires blind my eyes to reality and truth. David wanted this woman and went against all that he knew was right. He seduced her, used his power to manipulate the death of her husband and tried to cover up his sinfulness with lies.

His actions beg the question: How can a person overcome strong desires? These include lust, desire for power, popularity and fame, even the desire to eat too much or drink too much alcohol. The list is long. David loved the Lord but his desire for a woman ruined his desire for doing the will of God. I don’t want that.

The Apostle Paul was also a man who loved the Lord. He lived with a strong determination to turn away from sin and live a godly life. What made the difference? These verses explain:

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:1–6)

Paul knew that blindness caused by sin is also blindness from the evil one whose goal is to keep people from seeing the glory of God in Jesus Christ. It is in knowing who Jesus is that changes everything. Paul was given that vision while on his way to persecute and destroy Christians. When he saw the risen Christ, he called that amazing experience “light shining out of darkness” and from that moment on, his life changed.

I understand Paul’s experience. Mine was similar. I read the Bible for nearly two decades but it was darkness to me; I didn’t understand any of it. Then one fall day, while reading another book that had a Scripture verse in it, Jesus shone into my life. I instantly knew that He was God in human flesh and that He came to save me from my sin. He shone in my heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

The biggest difference is that my life didn’t change as rapidly as Paul’s life! He was zealous for God before that great event, but I was zealous for me, with many strong desires for what I wanted. God keeps shining light into my life and is amazingly patient with me yet I am slow and forgetful, stubborn and selfish.

However, the Lord does give me an understanding of how Satan works. I know that I can be in the dark with those I-wants and that all of them must be yielded to Him. The more I give up the more I gain. That is, when I refuse to act in disgraceful or underhanded ways, or to be cunning or try to mess with what the Bible says or run my own life, then seeing the glory of God is easier and desirable. This battle against sin is won by losing.

APPLY: Every day I need to ask Jesus what the psalmist asked: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23–24) This is one prayer that God is so faithful to answer quickly that I’ve often said if you pray it, you better duck!

Later: This application is proven once again. Today God gave me a test . . . which I flunked! It happened a very short time after writing the above words. Again, if you pray those verses and mean it, He will answer quickly.

August 28, 2020

Lead Us Not Into Temptation, But Deliver Us From Evil

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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by Clarke Dixon

As we pray the Lord’s Prayer we might wonder why God would lead us into temptation in the first place. This traditional wording for the Lord’s Prayer is rather unfortunate. When I rode my motorcycle here today I might have prayed ‘Lord, may I not be enticed by this beautiful weather to keep motorcycling instead of getting to work.” Or I might have prayed ‘Lord, may I not fall off.’ Those are two very different prayers and both those ideas work for the Greek word for temptation. Most Bible scholars think the latter is in view, the idea of being tested, of facing trials and great difficulties.

As with the most of the Lord’s Prayer, we want to remember these requests are in the plural. It is not ‘Do not lead me, personally into testing, deliver me from evil,’ but ‘do not lead us, as a people, into testing, deliver us from evil.’ The people standing by Jesus as he taught may have had in mind the entire nation of God’s people. They could have considered the very real possibility of another national tragedy as the kind of testing they were praying to avoid.

God’s old covenant people were used to national tragedies. The Assyrians took out the Northern tribes some time before the Babylonians took the people of Judah into exile. These times of great trial, tribulation and testing happened because of the sin of God’s people. Now God’s covenant people were back in the promised land, as promised, but the Romans were also in the land as an occupying army. There was a very real danger of being led into a great and terrible time of testing again. In this context, the prayer might be understood ‘forgive us rather than lead us into tribulation by driving us into exile again, deliver us from the evil Romans.’

Jesus would go on to answer the prayer in quite a different way. In fact God’s old covenant people did experience great tragedy at the hands of the Romans with Jerusalem being destroyed along with the temple. Jesus, however, did something far greater than deal with the danger God’s convent people faced in losing their land to the Romans. He dealt with the danger we all face in losing life due to separation from God through sin.

Rather than deliverance from the Romans through victory over the Romans, it was deliverance from sin in a victory that even the Romans could share in. It was victory over and deliverance from evil itself. It was, and is, a victory open to all of us.

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:54-57 (NIV)

Before we think this means we will never face times of trial and testing, let us also consider the following:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials [the same word traditionally translated as “temptation” in the Lord’s prayer], so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1:3-9 (NRSV emphasis added)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials [the same word traditionally translated as “temptation” in the Lord’s Prayer] of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:2-4 (NIV emphasis added)

As these Scriptures make clear, we are not rescued from all suffering; we will face times of trouble and adversity. God does not send those troubles to destroy us. God uses those troubles in our lives to help us grow. His ultimate plan is to deliver us from evil and its consequences. God will answer the prayer. Even when the troubles before us threaten our lives, the day is coming when we will look back and say “God has delivered us from evil! God has taken care of us!”

Jesus taught us to pray “lead us not into great testing, but deliver us from evil.” As we pray that, let us thank the Lord our prayer is already answered in Christ.

(In the summer, Clarke Dixon enjoys riding his motorcycle to the church he pastors. This reflection comes from an “online worship expression” which has replaced regular church services due to COVID-19 precautions. The reflection alone can be seen here.)

August 4, 2020

The Enemy’s Lies Often Sound Quite Practical

NIV.Matt.4.1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[c]

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’[e]

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

When I go looking for new authors to introduce here, I often end up with a short list of three or four. Then in choosing which article to run, I’ll again narrow it down to two or three. But this time, I took one look at this and said, ‘That’s the one.’

Willie Riggs describes himself as an artist, writer, and entrepreneur. And a Christian. Some of the things on his site are done as short stories and others are more devotional, like the one below. Again, don’t just read the articles here, but click through and enjoy them at their source. Click the header which follows.

The Promises of Satan

Remember when Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness? The story is usually portrayed as a great battle; as two sworn enemies locked in cosmic combat. Except, from the casual observer’s standpoint at least, Satan didn’t come at Jesus hurling attacks. He came at Jesus with… solutions.

Jesus was hungry. Why not turn these stones to bread?

Jesus was going to face danger. Why not test the limits of God’s protection now?

Jesus came to save the world. I will give the world to you, and you can bypass the suffering of the cross entirely.

Satan promised Jesus the entire world if Jesus would just bow down and worship him. It wasn’t the first time Satan made a promise. Remember Adam and Eve in the garden? “If you eat this fruit, you will not die! You will be like God!

Satan Makes Us Promises Every Day

We hear a lot of sermons about the promises of God, but it isn’t just God who makes promises. Satan makes us promises every day.

If you only do it once or twice, it won’t really affect you.

If you want it, it’s up to you to make it happen. You can’t just rely on God.

If you vote the right way, the government can keep you safe and secure.

If you worry enough, eventually you will figure it out.

If you compromise your beliefs, you’ll achieve your goals. This is a special circumstance.

If you want to, you should be able to. You deserve this.

If you put on a facade, everyone will like you more.

If you don’t do it today it’s no big deal. You’ll have plenty of time tomorrow.

The Difference Between God and Satan’s Promises

On the surface, the promises of Satan don’t seem all that dangerous. The things Satan promises make sense to us. The way Satan goes about doing things feels natural to us, at least in the beginning. His promises produce quick, often instantaneous, perceivable results.

In contrast, the promises of God often go against common sense. They make no sense to us whatsoever. Nor do they seek to appeal to our natural inclinations. How is giving away money supposed to increase our wealth? How is focusing on the needs of others supposed to make our lives fulfilling? God’s promises challenge our assumptions about life at every level. They go against everything we see and believe to be true. They require faith to pursue. And unlike Satan’s promises for instant gratification, God’s promises often require long periods of faithfulness and consistency before they are shown to be true. Some will never be proven true this side of heaven.

But probably the most significant difference between the promises of God and the promises of Satan is that every single promise of God is true, while every single promise of Satan is a lie.

The Truth about Satan’s Promises

Satan promises that dabbling in drugs and alcohol will bring you happiness. It won’t. He promises that watching porn together will improve your marriage. It won’t. He promises that if you find the right person, make enough money, or enjoy enough of life’s pleasures, you will feel fulfilled. But you won’t. And perhaps Satan’s biggest promise of all, the promise he makes to each and every one of us, is that even though every other person in the history of the world has been destroyed by following his path, that we are the exception. We will be the one that finally makes it work. We will come out the other side unscathed.

Only we won’t.

All of us are faced with decisions each and every day. Promises come at us from every direction. Some will make sense, and others will go against everything our senses are screaming at us. But when it comes down to it, you really only have one decision you have to make.

Who are you going to believe?


  1. The Greek for tempted can also mean tested.
  2. Deut. 8:3
  3. Psalm 91:11,12
  4. Deut. 6:16
  5. Deut. 6:13

July 25, 2020

Being Saved vs. Being Safe

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

At least once a year I like to highlight the writing of pastor, author and evangelist Greg Laurie, of Harvest Church in Riverside, California; Harvest.org. Here are two shorter devotions for you today. If you click through (on the titles below), you’ll see an option where you can have Greg’s devotions delivered to your mobile device each day.

Hold on Tight!

Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

—Jude 1:21

I don’t keep myself saved, but I keep myself safe.

God saves me. That’s established. But I keep myself safe, which means that I keep myself in the love of God.

Though God’s love is unsought, undeserved, and unconditional, it’s possible for me to be out of sync with His love.

Jude wrote, “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (1:21 NKJV). He was basically saying, ‘Keep yourself away from those things that are unlike Him. Keep yourself from any influence that violates His love or brings sorrow to God’s heart. And keep yourself in a place where God can actively show His love to you.’

In John 17 Jesus prayed to the Father, “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one” (verse 15 NKJV).

In this context “the world” refers to a mentality. It’s talking about a culture, a way of thinking, and the world system under the control of Satan. That’s why the Bible calls the devil “the god of this world” (see 2 Corinthians 4:4 NLT).

There is God’s part and our part. If you were on a diet, for example, you wouldn’t hang around donut stores, would you?

Just as donuts aren’t good for diets, there are things that feed sin. That’s what Jesus meant when He taught us to pray, “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13 NLT).

Basically, that’s saying, “Lord, help me not to put myself in a place where I could fall into sin.”

So, God will keep you, but if you’re yanking your hand out of His hand, that’s a problem. God is holding on to you. But the question is this: Are you holding on to Him?


What Jesus Wants for Us

I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
—John 17:21

Before I heard the gospel message, the love that Christians had for each other won me over. I watched them on my high school campus and thought, “Is this for real, or are they making this up? Is this an act? Do these people really love each other?”

After all, I was used to hanging around with people that I liked. Certain kids hung around certain kids. But as I watched the Christians, I realized they were from every kind of background imaginable, yet they obviously had something in common.

When Christians are unified and when they love one another, it’s a powerful witness to a lost and divided world. And that is just what Jesus wants for us.

In John’s gospel we find His prayer for us: “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me” (17:21 NLT).

Now, I’m not calling for unity at any cost because the most important thing is truth. But sometimes Christians divide over ridiculous things. They’ll get upset over some minor thing, so they decide to leave fellowship altogether.

It reminds me of a story I heard about a man who had been stranded on a desert island. When rescuers finally found him, they noticed he’d built three huts on the island.

“I built those huts myself,” he told them.

“Wow! What is this hut here?”

“That’s my house.”

“How about this one?”

“That’s my church.”

“That’s fantastic! And what’s the third hut?”

“Well,” he said, “that’s the church I used to go to.”

As Christians, we should seek to live in unity and love one another as Christ has loved us.


Hi again, this is Paul, the editor and publisher of Christianity 201. Today I’d like to ask readers for prayer concerning some yet-undiagnosed health issues. Thanks.

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