Christianity 201

August 26, 2018

Sabbath: We Rest and We Worship (Part Two)

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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NIV.Gen.2.2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Yesterday and today we’re running an excerpt from an earlier book by John Mark Comer whose more recent book God Has a Name we’ve featured here before. This one is Garden City: Work, Rest and the Art of Being Human (Zondervan, 2015). John Mark is the pastor of Bridgetown Church, in Portland Oregon.

I Am Not a Machine (excerpt, part two)

…It’s a day for rest, and it’s a day for worship.

When I Sabbath, I run everything through this grid — is this rest? Is this worship? If the answer to both questions is yes, then I delight in it; if the answer is no, then I hold off until the next day.

Because the Sabbath is not the same thing as a day off.

Make sure you get the difference.

On a day off you don’t work for your employer, but you still work. You grocery shop, go to the bank, mow the lawn, work on the remodel project, chip away at that sci-fi novel you’re writing . . .

On the Sabbath, you rest, and you worship. That’s it.

That’s why Moses was teaching the Israelites to get ready for the Sabbath. To bake and boil and gear up for the day of rest.

Think of the Sabbath like a weekly holiday. You don’t just wake up on Christmas morning and think, What should we do today? No, you get ready for it. The same is true for Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July or your birthday or anniversary — you plan and prep and shop and look forward to it for days at a time. In my family, we Sabbath from Friday at sundown through Saturday, so Friday afternoons are always a flurry of activity. We clean the house and finish the to-do list and stop by the market and plan out the day ahead, and then finally, it comes.

Blessed and holy.

Here’s what I’m saying: there is a rhythm to this world. For six days we rule and subdue and work and draw out and labor and bleed and wrestle and fight with the ground. But then we take a step back, and for twenty-four hours, we sabbath, we enjoy the fruit of our labor, we delight in God and his world, we celebrate life, we rest, and we worship.

The Creator God is inviting us to join him in this rhythm, this interplay of work and rest. And when we don’t accept his invitation, we reap the consequences. Fatigue. Burnout. Anxiety. Depression. Busyness. Starved relationships. Worn-down

immune systems. Low energy levels. Anger. Tension. Confusion. Emptiness. These are the signs of a life without rest.

Maybe that’s why later the Sabbath is commanded. When Israel is at the base of Mount Sinai, God comes down on top of the mountain in a cloud of fire and smoke and lightning. And then with a voice like a California earthquake, God speaks the Ten Commandments over his people. His vision for human-ness is shrunk down to ten commands — so few a child can count them on their fingers.

And guess what the longest, most in-depth command is?

The Sabbath. It gets more real estate than any of the others.

God starts off by saying, “Remember the Sabbath day.”

So the Sabbath is something that’s easy to forget. It’s easy to get sucked into this 24/7, go-go-go, hamster wheel that we call the modern world. We’re to remember the Sabbath.

How? By “keeping it holy.”

So the Sabbath is holy, but it’s also something we have to keep holy. It’s easy to profane, to desecrate. It’s easy for it to just become another day in the rat race. Another day to fall into the pattern — work, buy, sell, repeat. We’re to keep it holy — to guard it, watch over it, treat it like a delicate flower in a New York subway.

If you’re thinking, Why should I go to all this trouble? God ends his longest commandment with the answer, “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

So, for God, his Sabbath commandment is grounded in the creation story itself.

Lots of people argue that we’re “free” from the Sabbath because it was a part of the Torah, or Law. As if it was a legalistic rule we were stuck with until Jesus. What a tragic misunderstanding.

It is true that we’re no longer under the Torah, and it’s also true that the Sabbath is the only one of the Ten Commandments not repeated in the New Testament.  But even so, the Sabbath still stands as wisdom.

There isn’t a command in the New Testament to eat food or drink water or sleep eight hours a night. That’s just wisdom, how the Creator set up the human body and the world itself.

You can skip the Sabbath — it’s not sin. It’s just stupid. You can eat concrete — it’s not sin. It’s just dumb.

You can stay awake for days at a time like Josh Lyman in The West Wing. Go ahead. God’s not mad at you. But if you do that long enough, you’ll die.

At one point, Moses calls the Sabbath a gift. That’s exactly what it is.

I cringe when I hear people argue about whether or not we have to keep the Sabbath, and if so, on what day. Some say Saturday like the Jews, others say Sunday because of Jesus’ resurrection, others think any day is fine. But all this arguing is an exercise in missing the point. The point is that there is a way the Creator set the creation up to thrive. A way that God set you up to thrive. And when we Sabbath, we tap into God’s rhythm for human flourishing.

Technically, the Sabbath is from twenty minutes before sundown on Friday evening to Saturday late afternoon (the Jewish day is measured from sunset to sunset). But most followers of Jesus Sabbath on Sunday, as it’s the day of Messiah’s resurrection, as well as the day we come together for worship. For me Sunday is a workday. And it’s exhausting. I’m up early, gearing up for a marathon day. My last teaching is at eight p.m.! So by the time I get home around eleven o’clock, I’m crawling along the floor.

Not literally. That was a metaphor.

So we follow the tradition of Friday night to Saturday late afternoon, but only because it works for our life. I don’t think what day you take is important. Genesis doesn’t say Friday or Saturday; it just says the seventh. And the writer Paul said, “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.” I guess people have been arguing about this for a while. For us, Friday night to Saturday just works great.

And for us, the Sabbath is by far the highlight of the week. My two youngest children, Moses and Sunday, are both five, so they honestly have no clue how to tell time. Tomorrow and three days from now and next week all blend into one. So every morning they ask me, Is it Sabbath? with a big, hopeful, childlike grin. Jude is nine and pretty snappy with his new watch, so he counts down all week long. Three days until Sabbath. Two days left. Tomorrow! Which comes as no surprise. In Genesis, Sabbath is the climax of the seven-day cycle. It’s on day seven, not three or four. It’s not a pause so we can recoup and then “get back to work.” If anything, it’s the other way around. It’s the end goal, what the entire week is moving toward. The climax is an entire day set aside to worship.

Just like work, when it’s done right, is an act of worship, the same is true with rest. You can rest as an act of worship to God.

You can even rest to the glory of God. When you enjoy the world as God intended — with a cup of coffee, a nap in a hammock, a good meal, time with friends, it glorifies God — it calls attention to the Creator’s presence and beauty all around us. And when you do all that in a spirit of gratitude, letting the goodness of your world and life conjure up an awareness of God and a love for him, then rest becomes worship.

Even though the Sabbath is about imitation of the God who works and then rests, it’s also a day to remember that we’re not God. We take a day off, and the world gets along just fine without us.

We’re not as important as we think.

The Sabbath is a day to embrace this reality, to let it sink in, to own it, to celebrate it. To celebrate our weakness, our mortality, our limits. To celebrate our God of strength and immortality and limitless power. To rest with him and to rest in him.

That’s why Sabbath is an expression of faith. Faith that there is a Creator and he’s good. We are his creation. This is his world. We live under his roof, drink his water, eat his food, breathe his oxygen. So on the Sabbath, we don’t just take a day off from work; we take a day off from toil. We give him all our fear and anxiety and stress and worry. We let go. We stop ruling and subduing, and we just be. We “remember” our place in the universe. So that we never forget . . .

There is a God, and I’m not him.

August 25, 2018

Sabbath: We Rest and We Worship (Part One)

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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NIV.Gen.2.2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Today and tomorrow we’re running an excerpt from an earlier book by John Mark Comer whose more recent book God Has a Name we’ve featured here before. This one is Garden City: Work, Rest and the Art of Being Human (Zondervan, 2015). John Mark is the pastor of Bridgetown Church, in Portland Oregon.

I Am Not a Machine (excerpt, part one)

In Genesis 2, at the end of the creation story, we read, “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.

As I said earlier in the book, the creation story starts with God working and ends with God resting. After six “days” of world making, it’s done. The universe is “completed.”

And you think your week was productive?

Then we read that God rested.

Make sure you catch that.

God rested.

God, who doesn’t need sleep or a day off or a vacation, who doesn’t get tired or worn down or grouchy, who is without parallel to any other being in the universe, rested.

And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I want you to remember that we are made in his image. We are made to mirror and mimic what God is like to the world.

God works, so we work.

God rests, so we rest.

Work and rest live in a symbiotic relationship. If you don’t learn how to rest well, you will never learn how to work well (and vice versa). After all, the opposite of work isn’t rest — it’s sleep. Work and rest are friends, not enemies. They are a bride and groom who come together to make a full, well-rounded life.

Sabbath isn’t just a day to not work; it’s a day to delight in what one Hebrew poet called “the work of our hands.” To delight in the life you’ve carved out in partnership with God, to delight in the world around you, and to delight in God himself. Sabbath is a day to pull up a chair, sink into it, look back over the work of the last six days, and just enjoy.

The word rested in Genesis 2 is shabat in Hebrew, where we get the word Sabbath. It essentially means “to stop” or “cease” or “be complete,” but it can also be translated “to celebrate.”

Jews have been practicing the art of Sabbath for millennia. We have a lot we can learn from them. They talk a lot about menuha — another Hebrew word that’s translated “rest,” but it’s a very specific kind of rest. It’s not just a nap on the couch. It’s a restfulness that’s also a celebration. It’s often translated “happiness.” And to the Jews, menuha is something you create. It’s not just that you stop working and sit on the couch for a day every week. It’s about cultivating an environment, an atmosphere to enjoy your life, your world, and your God. It’s more of a mode of being than a twenty-four-hour time slot.

We all need a little menuha once in a while. And that’s what the Sabbath is for.

The Sabbath is a day when God has my rapt attention.

It’s a day when I’m fully available to my family and friends.

The Sabbath is a day with no to-do list.

It’s a day when I don’t accomplish anything, and I don’t feel guilty.

It’s a day when my phone is off, my email is closed, and you can’t get ahold of me.

The Sabbath isn’t a day to buy or sell — to get more. It’s a day to enjoy what I already have.

It isn’t a day to be sad.

Because the Sabbath is a day for menuha — for the celebration of life in God’s very good world.

After six “days” of universe-sculpting work, God rested. And in doing so, he built a rhythm into creation itself. We work for six days, and then we rest for one. And this cadence of work and rest is just as vital to our humanness as food or water or sleep or oxygen. It’s mandatory for survival, to say nothing of flourishing. I’m not a machine. I can’t work seven days a week. I’m a human. All I can do is work for six days and then rest for one, just like the God whose image I bear.

After God rested, we read, “Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”

There are two fascinating words here that we need to drill down on: blessed and holy.

The word bless is barak in Hebrew, pronounced like the [former] president. A barak, or a blessing, in the creation story is a life-giving ability to procreate — to make more life.

God baraked three times in Genesis.

First, God blessed the “living creatures” (the animal kingdom) and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number. Fill the earth.”

Then he blessed human and said the exact same thing, “Be fruitful and increase in number. Fill the earth.”

And then he “blessed the seventh day.” So he blesses the living creatures.

Then he blesses human.

Then he blesses, a day? How does that work?

The Sabbath has a life-giving ability to procreate — to fill the world up with life.

No matter how much you love your job or fine-tune your work/ life balance, by the end of the week, you’re tired. Your fuel cells are on empty. But rest refills us — with energy, creativity, vision, strength, optimism, buoyancy, clarity, and hope. Rest is life-giving.

Because God baraked the Sabbath day.

So that’s the first word. One more. Next we read that God made the Sabbath holy. In Hebrew, it’s this weighty, serious word — qadosh. Usually this word is used for God.

God is qadosh. He’s holy.

The rabbis make a big deal about the “principle of first mention,” which, put simply, means the first time you read a word in the Scriptures it’s kind of like a definition. It sets the stage for how you read the word all the way through.

Did you know that the first time you read the word qadosh in the Bible is right here? And what does God make holy?

Time.

This is intriguing. You would think that after creating the world, God would make a holy space — a mountain or a temple or a shrine. After all, every other religion has a holy space. Islam has Mecca. Hinduism has the Ganges River. Paganism has Stonehenge. Baseball has Wrigley Field.

But this God doesn’t have a holy space; he has a holy time — the Sabbath. This God isn’t found in the world of space — in a temple, on top of a mountain, at a spring, around a statue or a monument. He’s found in the world of time.

Heschel said, “The Sabbaths are our great cathedrals.” There is a hierarchy to time. Not all moments are created equal.

Some moments are much, much better than others.

For six days we wrestle with the world of space — the hard work of building civilization. But on the Sabbath, we savor the world of time. We slow down, take a deep breath, and drink it all in.

We push the Slow-Mo button.

Yesterday was the first warm, sunny day of the year — it hit 70. When that happens in Portland, it’s like a de facto citywide party. I had a busy day, but there was a brief moment where I was at my house and I had ten minutes to spare before I needed to head out. So I sat on my patio, in the sun, took my shirt off, and just slowed everything down. My goal was to make those ten minutes feel like ten hours.

The Sabbath is like that. It’s a day where your goal is to savor every second. Because it’s holy.

Is this how you think of holiness?

Sadly, a lot of us think of holiness in the negative — about what we don’t do. We don’t get drunk or we don’t sleep around or we don’t watch R-rated movies (unless they are about Jesus or have Russell Crowe in them). And that’s not all bad, but it’s one-sided. Holiness also has a positive side. It’s about what we do.

Later, in Exodus, there’s a gripping story about Moses and Israel out in the wilderness. They are starving to death, and so God sends this strange new food called manna. It literally falls from the sky every morning, and all they have to do is go out and pick it up. With one exception. On the sixth day twice as much falls from the sky. And on the seventh day — the Sabbath — nothing. The sky is empty.

The people are confused when they wake up on day six and there’s an extra bag of groceries, so Moses says, “Tomorrow is to be a day of Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil.

Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.

A holy Sabbath to the Lord.

This language of holy to the Lord is used all through the Scriptures. It can also be translated “dedicated to the Lord.” So the Sabbath is an entire day that is holy, set aside, dedicated to the Lord.

It’s a day for rest, and it’s a day for worship.

When I Sabbath, I run everything through this grid — is this rest? Is this worship? If the answer to both questions is yes, then I delight in it; if the answer is no, then I hold off until the next day.

Because the Sabbath is not the same thing as a day off.

Make sure you get the difference.

On a day off you don’t work for your employer, but you still work. You grocery shop, go to the bank, mow the lawn, work on the remodel project, chip away at that sci-fi novel you’re writing

On the Sabbath, you rest, and you worship. That’s it.

 

February 25, 2018

Sunday Worship

You are holy; you sit as king receiving the praises of Israel.
– Psalm 22:3 NET

Today we feature the writing of singer, composer, recording artist and worship leader Tommy Walker. Today’s writing is part testimony, part teaching.

Understanding the Breakthrough Power of Worship

I can’t remember how many times I have felt like God was a million miles away and then, in an instant, I recognized that He was closer than the air I breathe.

The Bible says in Psalm 22:3 that He actually lives and dwells in our praises. This is the mystery and the miracle of the breakthrough power and presence of God when we worship! When we worship, we affirm the truth of God’s Word, and it is being rooted deep in our hearts.

When I was 11 years old, the Jesus Movement was taking hold in my hometown of El Paso, Texas. The church I attended began to be filled with long-haired, barefoot hippies. We sang acapella songs like “Hallelujah” over and over again. It really was an authentic, powerful move of God, but I was very young, so most of the time I was bored and distracted. However, I do remember watching the Holy Spirit move on people’s lives in a special way. I remember seeing high school kids worshiping and weeping at the mention of God’s love. There was such an amazing sense of grace and unity among everyone.

One Friday night as a Christian band was playing “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know,” it happened – for the first time, while observing everyone worshiping God, I began to sense God’s presence. I’ve heard it said that worship is a picture of the Gospel in motion, and it certainly was for me that night. I saw people displaying a kind of personal, intimate relationship with God that I wanted and needed. A relationship that I knew was made possible only by the blood of Jesus.

One of my earliest memories is of my parents gathering us around my mom’s baby grand piano and having us sing the old hymns of the church for what felt like hours. At 5, I would end up lying under the piano and eventually falling asleep. I didn’t think much about Jesus and the Gospel then, but on that Friday night as the Christian band performed, the God we had sung about became my own personal God. I sensed Him saying to me for the first time “Tommy, I love you and I have called you to do great things for Me.” I wept at the thought that the God of heaven wanted to save and use a young boy like me. I surrendered my life to Jesus that night. One of my life verses has been Psalm 40:3, “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord” (NIV).

Every person is created to be a worshiper. God dwells and, I believe, manifests Himself in the praises of His people. It has always been my prayer when I write songs and lead worship that the breakthrough power of God would bring the lost to Him–just like it happened for me.

After graduating from high school, I went to Bible college, and one of the areas I learned about was spiritual warfare. At first I resisted the training because I met people who spent so much time rebuking the devil. I thought they were giving the devil too much attention. To this day, I don’t agree with everything I saw there, but over time I have recognized that we are in a battle and there truly is an enemy that is out to destroy us.

Several years ago when I was doing a worship event in a poor neighborhood in Zambia, I sensed a darkness all around us–poverty, violence, abuse, hopelessness, hunger. We worshiped the Lord every night for more than an hour before we felt we could even begin to present the Gospel. Only then did we sense a real breakthrough in the spirit, and we saw hundreds come to Christ.

Through that event and others like it, I came to realize that worship is how we allow God to fight our battles for us. You may be familiar with the story of Jehoshaphat. Second Chronicles 20:22 says, “As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated” (NIV). What a strange battle plan–but the result was that the Lord won the battle for them! There is something inherent in the act of worship that enables us to encounter the power of God like nothing else. It is not effective to simply tell someone to stop worrying; stop being proud; stop being self-consumed, distracted, insecure, bound and materialistic. But it is effective to tell them to start worshiping. When we make that decision to fix our eyes on Jesus, we quickly realize that God has already begun to release the grip these tendencies can have on our lives.

Worship is a declaration of our weakness and God’s strength. I challenge you in your next point of need to make that hard choice to be a worshiper and let the breakthrough God fight your battle for you.

When we worship, the invisible God is at work doing invisible and powerful things. We get realigned, refreshed and refueled; we find unspeakable joy and indescribable peace. We discover the breakthrough strength of God, which enables us to walk in the truth, live in His presence and see Him fight our battles for us. It is how we can put the beauty of the Gospel on display, receive His many blessings and at the same time be a blessing to the world.


If you’re not familiar with Tommy Walker’s music, here is one of his best-known songs, He Knows My Name

 

November 20, 2017

The Canaanite Curse

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Genesis 9.24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,

“Cursed be Canaan!
    The lowest of slaves
    will he be to his brothers.”

26 He also said,

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Shem!
    May Canaan be the slave of Shem.


Deut. 20.16 However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. 17 Completely destroy[a] them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you. 18 Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God.

Today we pay a return visit with Peter Enns whose writing is always thought-provoking. Click the title below to read at source.

Looks Like the Canaanites Got a Raw Deal

God’s command to exterminate the Canaanites (along with everything else that breathes) remains one of the more gruesome stories in the Bible (see Deuteronomy 20:16-20).

This story presents readers with a real—not imagined—moral and theological dilemma, but my point isn’t to get into all that here. [You can read more here and also in The Bible Tells Me Sowhere I take a whole chapter laying out the issues.]

Here I just want to say that this command wasn’t an afterthought. As the Israelites tell the story, the Canaanites were doomed from the start for something that happened nearly at the beginning of human history—Noah and the great Flood.

This flood killed every living creature; only Noah and his family were saved in a big boat, along with enough animals (1) to repopulate the earth later and (2) to sacrifice to appease God.

After the waters subsided and everyone de-arked, Noah planted the first vineyard, made wine, and got drunk. Like a state college freshman, he collapsed naked inside his tent in a drunken coma.

His youngest son, Ham, went into the tent, saw him his father lying there naked, and went out to tell his brothers, Shem and Japheth. Rather than gawking, the two brothers walked backwards into the tent and covered their father with a garment.

It’s hard to know exactly what’s going on here, but, apparently, the two brothers handled the situation correctly whereas Ham didn’t. So, when Noah woke up, he did what any normal father would do with when faced with the same dilemma—he cursed Ham’s descendants forever.

Three guesses who Ham’s descendants are (and the first two don’t count): the Canaanites.

It strikes me that the very first words out of Noah’s mouth after he woke up weren’t, “What a night! What was I thinking!? I’ll never do that again!”

Not even, “Ham! Get in here! How dare you look upon my nakedness?!”

Instead he said,

“Cursed be Canaan; lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers.”

Not, “Cursed be Ham,” or “Cursed be Ham and all his descendants,” but “Cursed be the line of one of Ham’s sons—Canaan.”

Ham has four sons, yet only Canaan and his entire bloodline are doomed—which seems a bit extreme, given the fact that he himself hadn’t done anything.

Plus, two of Noah’s other sons are Cush and Mizraim, the ancestors of the Egyptians who held the Israelites in slavery. So how about cursing their bloodlines?

But no. Only this one son of Ham has his descendants consigned to a perpetual subhuman legacy of enslavement to the descendants of his brothers—namely the descendants of Shem, from which come the Israelites.

It looks like whoever wrote this story has a bone to pick with the Canaanites.

If we read this in another ancient book, we’d call it propaganda—a story to justify, not explain, hatred of the Canaanites. At least that’s what it looks like.

Israel’s later sworn enemies, the Canaanites, are set up as failures from the beginning, and no treatment—not even extermination—is too harsh for these people whose ancestor’s father saw his father drunk and naked.

This isn’t going to end well for the Canaanites.

 

February 14, 2016

God’s Commands: More on The 613 Commandments

Today’s post by Russell Young is a response to the February 3rd post, The 613 Commandments.


ten_commandments

There seems to be a great deal of confusion over whether or not the believer needs to obey God’s commands. This should not be so because the Word is quite clear if it is examined.

The Lord said that He did not come “to abolish the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17) Therefore, they still have relevance; HOWEVER, Christ came to fulfill them. It is the manner in which He fulfills them that has brought on so much confusion. He said, “Anyone who breaks the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19)

The manner in which the Lord accomplishes the Law and the Prophets is important. It is often accepted that the sacrifice of Christ on the cross provides one’s eternal salvation but this is not so. The writer of Hebrews has recorded: “For this reason [to cleanse our moral consciences from acts that lead to death] Christ became the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may [not will] receive the promised eternal inheritance-now that he had died as a ransom to set the free from the sins that they had committed under the first covenant.” (Hebrews 9:15, NIV) Accordingly, the sacrifice of Christ relieved the believer from the consequences of the sins that he had committed while under the first (Old) covenant and became the mediator of a new covenant.

The Lord’s “mediation” is not by words only, it is by His life. Paul wrote of a “mystery” that had been kept hidden and was now being revealed and that mystery is “Christ in you [the Holy Spirit], the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27) The Christ who had lived a sinless life in the body that the Father had prepared for Him in the womb of Mary is the same Christ who is prepared, if obeyed, to live a sinless life in the body of the believer. The ONLY passage that references “eternal salvation” states that it comes through obedience. “He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Hebrews 5:9, NIV) It is common to mistake the need for obedience as an issue of “works” while it is really faith in practice.

To further understand the means in which the Law and the Prophets are being fulfilled, Paul wrote: “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4, NIV) That is, Christ is prepared to met the righteous requirements of the law in us. He was victorious in the flesh of Jesus and He will be victorious in the believer but it does demand obedience. His ministry must not be seen as having been completed; He is living personally and intimately in all of those who have confessed His lordship. (Romans 5:9-10)

Are we under the law? Absolutely NOT! We are now servants to Christ however, and are under His lordship. How does this satisfy the law? His convicting work though one’s conscience will lead him to avoid sin or to repent and confess it when sin occurs. What a wonderful Saviour! What a wonderful God! What personal love!

It is those who are led by the Spirit who are NOT under the law. (Galatians 5:18) It is those who are led by the Spirit who are sons of God. (Romans 8:14) And, it is those who are led by the Spirit who will reap eternal life. (Galatians 5:7) The Law and the Prophets must be fulfilled, but it will be accomplished by Christ in one. Paul taught that you are to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” (Philippians 2:12) and that he was given “the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:16)

Those who reject His leadership will suffer judgement for their rebellion and disobedience in light of His provision, starting with the household of God. The One who is in the believer will be his Judge.

The law must be completed but the Spirit enlightens, leads and empowers the obedient for its accomplishment. The believer need not walk around under the oppression of the law because Christ will satisfy it for the obedient. As Paul has recorded, “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant-not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6, NIV)

Doesn’t this make your heart rejoice?

 

August 28, 2014

Trust in the Lord with all your Heart

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The summer camp where my wife and I met and where our boys attended and later worked on staff is named Camp IAWAH, an acronym for “In All Ways Acknowledge Him.” So it’s no surprise that Proverbs 3:5-6 is a verse we all know by heart. My son Aaron wrote this on his blog last week; it’s short, but I wanted to share it here…


Proverbs 3:5,6

In the Bible, this passage reads “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and rely not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your path straight.”

1 IAWAHI used to work at a summer camp that had a beautiful forest on its property. It has kilometers of trails with stunning vistas overlooking lakes and groves of tall trees that stretch into a cathedral-like canopy. I wandered around in this forest during my time off to unwind. Eventually, I had the beaten paths memorized. I got bored. I started to deviate from the paths and I learned how the trails ran relative to each other.

I found cool ancient dead trees with branches that stretched up like flames. I found skulls, rivers, new vistas, and other things that had always been a couple meters or a half-kilometer off the path. So long as I remembered where the sun was, I always made it back to camp in one piece and on time.

If we rely on our own understanding of the world, we only re-walk a path that we’ve been on a thousand times before and we miss out on the whole. We understand only a fraction of what there is to understand in the world. We need to reach out and challenge ourselves from time to time. I like doing abstract thought exercises because they help me to explore. Sometimes I find something worth coming back to and other times not. I try to understand things that it seems a lot of people reject on principle. I play devil’s advocate and wonder ‘what if’?

Some would call it dangerous. To them I say, life is. There are no guarantees in life except for that those that walk the beaten path will remain eternally blissfully ignorant. Sometimes we get lost. Sometimes we ask ‘who am I, what am I doing, and where am I going?’ As long as we stay focused on the source of our direction, we won’t stay lost. When I feel depressed or worried, sometimes I simply pray ‘God, you’re here.’ Christians often say that God doesn’t promise life will be easy, but he promises that he’ll stay with us through the hard times.

This is my first rule. Don’t trust your limited perspective. Get the larger picture. Follow the light that guides you and you’ll always find your way home.

~Aaron Wilkinson

March 4, 2014

Can We Know What God’s Up To?

A year ago we introduced you to the writing of Mary Agrusa and today we pay a return visit to her blog, The Thought Just Occured to Me. As always you’re encouraged to read articles here at their source.

I really like the tension that this short article sets up. We have a verse that presents the idea that God’s ways are beyond anything we can understand, but then we remember in Hosea where it’s written, “So let us follow on to know the Lord.” It reminds me about a statement someone once made about prophecy and the Lord’s return, “We don’t know the day nor the hour, but we can know the times and the seasons.” There is a balance to be found in this tension.

Enjoy reading, You Just Never Know What God’s Gonna Do…Really?

For who has known or understood the mind (the counsels and purposes) of the Lord, so as to guide and instruct (Him) and give Him knowledge? But we have the mind of Christ, the Messiah, and do hold the thoughts (feelings and purposes) of His heart. 1 Corinthians 2:16 Amp.

“You just never know what God’s gonna do!” I’ve heard this from both the pulpit and the pew and bought the lie hook, line and sinker. What God’s going to do will remain a mystery if one never bothers to crack open a bible and find out. The Apostle Paul wrote that believers have the mind of Christ, right now. In Heaven we’ll possess greater understanding of the totality of God’s plans and purposes. We don’t need to wait until we get there to take advantage of the mind of Christ. We can do that now.

God gave us this gift to help us comprehend how He operates. Paul wrote in the verse above that no one is in the position to tell God how to do anything. The mind of Christ helps us align our thought processes with His. It’s easier to get on board with a program when you understand the rationale behind it.

We can know beyond a shadow of a doubt what God will do. What we don’t know is how and when He’ll do it. This is where we get tripped up. If we knew everything in advance (my preference) we would go through life and never exert one ounce of faith. Having things spelled out in intricate detail ahead of time eliminates the one thing that pleases God – faith.

As children, when situations arose, our parents assured us that they’d handle them. They didn’t bother to bore us with details we wouldn’t understand. We’d take their word at face value and consider it done. This is how childlike faith in God operates. The mind of Christ helps us really know personally our Heavenly Father, His character and how He operates. We know what He’ll do and are pleasantly surprised with how He does it.

Don’t believe the religious mumbo-jumbo that God’s ways are beyond comprehension. Dig into His word and discover for yourself how He works. The next time someone tries to tell you that, “You just never know what God’s gonna do,” you can respond, “Really?”