Christianity 201

August 31, 2015

Offering Unauthorized Fire

Leviticus 10:1 (NIV) Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. 2 So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. 3 Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke of when he said:

“‘Among those who approach me
I will be proved holy;
in the sight of all the people
I will be honored.’”

Aaron remained silent.

4 Moses summoned Mishael and Elzaphan, sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, and said to them, “Come here; carry your cousins outside the camp, away from the front of the sanctuary.” 5 So they came and carried them, still in their tunics, outside the camp, as Moses ordered.

6 Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not let your hair become unkempt and do not tear your clothes, or you will die and the Lord will be angry with the whole community. But your relatives, all the Israelites, may mourn for those the Lord has destroyed by fire. 7 Do not leave the entrance to the tent of meeting or you will die, because the Lord’s anointing oil is on you.” So they did as Moses said.

8 Then the Lord said to Aaron, 9 “You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the tent of meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, 10 so that you can distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, 11 and so you can teach the Israelites all the decrees the Lord has given them through Moses.”

These are two excerpts from the book What Would Jesus Read by Joe Amaral; two readings related to Leviticus.  In the last year, Joe turned his attention from First Century studies to the heavens. Check out our review of The Story In The Stars.For more of Joe here at C201, click this link.

Leviticus 10:1
They offered unauthorized fire

Aaron’s sons offered unauthorized fire to God. God struck them dead as a result of their sin. Seems a little strong, yet that is what the Scripture records. God is love and God is fair, but God is also just. We like to forget that sometimes.

Many Christians are taught that the God of the New Testament is not the God of the Old Testament – that the God of the New Testament is filled with love and compassion, and the God of the Old Testament is a violent, cruel, and angry God. That is simply not the case. The Bible says in Malachi 3:6, “I the LORD do not change.”

We need to understand the holiness and justness of God. He is slow to anger and he is willing to bless and love for a thousand generations. But we have to live in the reality that there are consequences to sin.

A police officer may forgive us for running a red light, but we still have to pay the fine. We must learn to live in reverent fear before the Lord and to walk in His ways. He is a loving God who guides our steps, even when we sometimes veer off the path.


Leviticus 10:7
So they did as Moses said

Have you ever used the term “scared to death”? That would apply to today’s passage. The entire camp was literally scared to death. Aaron’s two sons had just been killed for offering unauthorized fire.

God spoke through Moses, and the people did as Moses said. You can be sure that no one was considering disobeying Moses after what had just happened. This wasn’t the first time the people suffered death because of disobedience. Remember at Mount Sinai when they worshiped the golden calf? Three thousand were put to death that day.

People always judge the people of Israel for not “getting it.” They always seemed to stray away from God, get punished, get forgiven, and then stray away again. Let’s take a good long look in the mirror: are we any different today? How many times have you been forgiven for the same sin? We have all fought the same fight with our sins.

Let the fear of the Lord guide you as you strive to live for Him. He has given us His Word to be a light.

~Joe Amaral in What Would Jesus Read? (FaithWords, 2012)

 

August 18, 2015

The Seasons of Life

This came in an email from the ministry Great Big Life, from whom I subscribe to Breakfast of Champions, a weekday devotional by Andy Elmes.

Get from Every Season All it has for You

John 4:35 (NKJV)

Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!

The journey (pilgrimage) of life is certainly a journey of different seasons. The art of living well is to make sure that you live (milk the goodness out of) each and every season by both sowing into and reaping from each and every one of them. Being alive means that we will all walk through the various seasons of life. Here is a classic verse from the wisdom of Ecclesiastes to make you think this morning.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 (NKJV)

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted.

If you get the chance read the rest of this classic chapter to see the different types of seasons each and every one of us faces as we journey through this thing called life. Like King David said in Psalm 37:25, we will all experience being young and being old and every season in between. I have met some older people that live in the regret of not being a teenager anymore and I have met younger people that can’t wait for a later season of life (like being married), but the problem is they are missing the season they are in. Neither of these is good enough. The answer to how to get the most out of life is to love the season you’re in.

You can’t go back and re-live seasons gone but you can learn from them. You really don’t want to fast forward to future seasons because when the ones you are in are gone, like flowers when they have flourished, they are gone for good. The key for us all today is to carpe (seize) the one you’re in! So choose today to learn from seasons gone, love the one you’re in and, with faith and expectancy, have excitement concerning the ones yet to come that are promised by your God. Every season has something for you so make sure you harvest it out!

To everything there is a season. There are seasons of age, seasons of relationship, seasons of ministry and business, seasons for everything, and in them all there is a time to plant and a time to pluck (harvest) what was planted.

Here is some food for thought for you today as you consider the seasons that you are currently in:

• What seasons are you in today? Is it time to plant (sow) or to pluck up (harvest)?

• Are you getting from this season everything that you should be or could be? Are you milking out everything that is in the season to be had?

• What else do you need to do to enjoy and seize the season you are in?

God bless you – I pray that this season of your life prospers. Don’t say, “In four months …”, but make the decision to live large today the life God has given!


This has always been one of my all-time favorite Christian songs. If you have 7 minutes, close your eyes and enjoy Seasons of the Soul by Michael and Stormie Omartian.

July 13, 2015

Prayer: Uses and Abuses

The Heavens Declare 1Three times previously we’ve borrowed material from Alabama pastor Scott McCown’s blog, The Morning Drive. I can’t recommend his writing enough. Each Tuesday he’s been running insights on the subject of prayer. You can investigate all the articles at this link. We’re going to run one today, and then choose a second one for tomorrow. Click the title below to read this one at its source…

Using Prayer

How do you use prayer? Do you use prayer as an avenue for you or as a way to talk to God?  Before you answer think about these “uses” of prayer.

We disUSE prayer when we are:

  • Not praying for national, state, local, and Church leaders.
  • Not praying for strength for the Body of Christ
  • Not praying for spiritual growth in ourselves and in the Church.
  • Not praying.
  • In Acts 13:1-3 we read of the early church’s reliance on God through prayer, Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.”

We misUSE prayer when we see it as:

  • A tool for manipulation. Like the misbehaving child who’s parents sent him to his room to pray about his misbehavior.  He came back later and was still acting up. When asked if he prayed about his behavior, he said, “Yes, I prayed you would be more patient with me.” Sometimes we pray aloud with the intent of our words changing those that hear us pray and not a sincere prayer to God.
  • As a substitute for preparation / work. Someone said, “As long as there are tests in school there will be prayer in school.”  Prayer-peration is not a substitute for preparation.  Prayer is inviting God to walk and work along-side us and to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, not what we are unwilling to do for ourselves. Maybe that is what James is warning about in Jas 2:15-17, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Don’t just pray that someone’s needs are taken care of if you are not willing to act to relieve those needs. Prayer is communication with the Father.

We abUSE prayer when

  • We make demands of God. To hear television preachers tell people to pray in a way that demands God act concerns me. God is sovereign, I am not.  God knows what is best for me, I do not.  I ask for God’s blessing, I do not demand it. Again James speaks to this, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (Jas 4:15).
  • We pray to “look good” or pious. Jesus said, “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” (Mat 6:5-7).

How do you use prayer?  Use it to open your life to God letting Him know your struggles, needs, and desires.  Trust that He will work what is TRULY best for you.


Go Deeper: Here’s a link to another article by Scott on a different subject that we considered running today, but it’s a bit longer. Check out Who Is Jesus? Really?

July 6, 2015

On Being a Tree

 Today’s post is by Kim Shay and appeared at Out Of The Ordinary, a blog that is dominantly written for women. I felt this advice could apply to male readers as well. (I made two small textual changes, but then decided to change them back!) Click the title below to read at source.

I’d rather be a tree

While preparing a seminary assignment, I had cause to look at this passage in Jeremiah 17:5-8:

Thus says the LORD:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places
in the wilderness
in an uninhabited salt land.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose trust is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when the heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

We either trust God or we trust something else, usually man, whether it is ourselves, another person, or a man-made system. It’s not wrong to trust people, but when we trust people above God, we are walking on dangerous ground. Jeremiah says that the one who trusts in man has a heart which turns away from the Lord. The result is that he is parched, dry, and sees no good. For the one who places all of his trust in man above God, this parched condition will ultimately show up when trials come. Human friends don’t always stick around when trials come, but God will not forsake us.

When we have a crisis, where do we turn first? Does turning to God in prayer come second, or even last? Do we run to a close friend before God? Our husbands? Our siblings? Our parents? Where do we find our value? Are we more worried about what others think than God? If we walk through a trial, these things will be revealed.

As women we are encouraged to be in relationships with people, especially other women. And we need those relationships. We need to be encouraged in the things of God and we need to minister to others. But it is very easy to put more emphasis on what others think of us than is good.

I picked up the book Trust, by Lydia Brownback, and I liked what she had to say about the risk of trusting too much in people:

Consider your motivations in showing love to others. If you detect an underlying compulsion to obtain a compliment or word of approval, it’s a pretty sure bet that you have placed your well-being in their hands.

Desiring the love and approval of the significant people in our lives is natural; however, if we feel we must have that to be happy, then a good desire has become a destructive one. We are attributing to people what rightfully belongs to God, which is why we are never able to live at rest with ourselves and at peace with others.

In this world of “likes” and “re-tweets,” and sharing of links, it can be a very subtle thing to begin living for the approval of others. We may think we’re putting God first because we travel only in Christian circles, or because our intent is to use social media to spread the gospel. But if we’re restless and frustrated when we’re not getting the attention we feel we deserve, that is a sign that our priorities may be off.

Notice the contrast in the Jeremiah passage: the one who trusts in flesh is a shrub; a little shrub, living in a parched, dry land. The one who trust is God is a tree, tall, strong, flourishing, and well-fed. Perhaps our times of feeling spiritually dry and frustrated are symptoms that we are trusting in man more than God. When it comes right down to it, whom do we trust? It’s a question worth asking.

June 8, 2015

On the Brink of Surrender

Genesis 22:

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

If you don’t know the story, read it in full at Genesis 22: 1-19

James 2:21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?

The story of Abraham and Isaac is certainly unique in scripture, if not in all of human history. Isaac was a child of promise, was he not? And now God is wanting Abraham to kill him? What’s up with that?

Think of the years of father and son bonding over the years. Think of Sarah finally having a child after years of barrenness and all the joy that brought. And now God asks this?

(Is Sarah in on this latest development? The text doesn’t say.)

Of course, we have the advantage that Abraham and Sarah didn’t; we know how the story ends. They did not, and yet Abraham is willing to do whatever it takes to obey God.

So the question today is fairly obvious: What does God want you to surrender? What are you holding on to that God wants to see if you’re willing to give it up?

By contrast of course we have this story in Acts 4 & 5:

4:33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need…

5:1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died…

One man wants to do whatever it takes to please God, and the story ends in life. Another decides to hold back and not fully surrender everything to God, and the story ends in death.

Today, God doesn’t ask people to kill their children; in fact some feel the story is necessary to the Bible so that people are clear that the God of Israel doesn’t ask for child sacrifice. Similarly, despite what an evangelist on television might say, no one is compelling you to sell your house and give all the proceeds to the Church. Rather the questions for us are:

  • Are you willing to do whatever God asks, even if it doesn’t make any sense?
  • Do you really trust God?
  • What are you holding back from God that, once surrendered, would bring life?

C201 New LinkMission Statement: Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of Christian blogs and websites. Sometimes two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading.

Scripture portions from various translations quoted at Christianity 201 are always in green to remind us that the Scriptures have LIFE!

 

May 31, 2015

God’s Higher Purpose

Applegate Christian Fellowship

A couple of times yesterday, I came across the name Jon Courson who is a pastor at Applegate Christian Fellowship in Oregon and has a podcast called Searchlight.  This is a sample of his daily devotional online, which you can read at this link.  (The picture is the outdoor amphitheater they use in the summer.)

Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
Romans 8:26 27

I spent some time this week with a man in his early thirties who is on his deathbed. The body of this young man, once a good athlete and a vibrant father, is now racked by cancer. His family asks, understandably, ‘Why? Why doesn’t the Lord just take him Home? Why the suffering? We prayed for his healing and that didn’t happen. What’s the Father doing?’

In those situations, you wonder. I understand the family saying, ‘Take him Home.’ But what if, in these final days of our brother’s difficulty and suffering, the Father is putting on the final touches of the inner person shaping and molding what he will be for the next billion years in Heaven? Is that what’s happening? I don’t know, for, like Paul, I know not how to pray. The only thing I do know is that I don’t know.

Let us ever remember that while prayer is to be directed to God, it is not to be directing God. Most people, at least for part of their pilgrimage, try to direct the Lord, thinking that’s what prayer is about. ‘Let me explain the situation, Lord. Here’s what you need to do …’ we say with great piety and audacity.

Jeremiah, a godly man to be sure, prayed, ‘Save Your people, Lord. Restore the nation. Revive us.’

‘Quiet thyself,’ answered God. ‘I will not hear your prayer, for I have determined that My people must be carried into Babylon, into captivity,’ (Jeremiah 20:4).

Thus, regardless how hard Jeremiah prayed, God had a different plan, for it was through their captivity that Judah was finally healed of her affinity for idolatry.

‘We know not how to pray,’ said Paul. We feel this as well, don’t we?

Someone comes to us and says, ‘Pray I’ll get the job.’ ‘Pray this project will prosper.’ Wait a minute. So many things I thought would be wonderful proved to be detrimental, a distraction, a curse; and so many things I thought would be terrible and awful proved to be a huge blessing.

The same is true nationally. It might be that the Lord wants to close us down. That’s a possibility. Maybe the best thing that could happen to our country would be a collapse economically, politically, militarily — because that’s what it might take to heal us spiritually. I don’t know. I’m not God. Therefore, I’m not going to give Him direction on what He should or should not do. Instead, I just groan, ‘Lord, You see what’s going on in the nation. You see what’s going on with that person. You see what’s going on in our congregation. I don’t know how to pray. I don’t know what Your will is. But I just give it all to You to work out according to Your perfect and beautiful plan.’

Now, if we don’t know how to pray, then why pray at all? Understand this: Prayer is not getting my will done in Heaven. Prayer is getting God’s will done on earth. It’s not me giving directions to the Father, but rather me saying, ‘Father direct me. I open the door for You to work. I hold up this need for You. I place this situation in Your hand’. I do this all through prayer because the Word tells us that God has chosen to work through prayer, and that if we do not pray we will limit what He would do, what He could do, what He desires to do (James 4:2).

Therefore, if I don’t pray, I will never know if God got His way with Peter John, or in this congregation, or in our nation. But if I do pray and say, ‘Lord, here’s the situation. I’m not directing You, but I’m just looking to You to have Your will done’ — then I can be at peace. Whatever happens, I know I played my part; I opened the door, and since the Father knows best, I can rest. The Spirit groans through me, the Son intercedes for me, and the Father will do what’s right concerning me — but if I don’t pray, I’ll always wonder if things would have been different if I had.

This Daily Devotional is an excerpt from the book “A Days Journey” by Pastor Jon. “A Days Journey” is a collection of 365 short devotions from the New Testament.

May 16, 2015

Thankful for Mercy

Common English Bible – Phil 4:6 Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks.

A year ago we introduced you to Hajnalka Elleh who works as a translator and writes devotional blog posts in both English and Hungarian. Click the link below to read the article in both languages, and if you know someone who speaks Hungarian, tell them about this blog.

Are You Thankful? – Selected Quotes, part 1

To be always in a thankful state of heart before God is not to be considered a high plane of spirituality, but rather the normal attitude of one who believes that ‘all things work together for good to them that love God, who are called according to His purpose’. – William Law (1686–1761)

The greatest saint in the world is not he who prays most or fasts most; it is not he who gives alms, or is most eminent for temperance, chastity or justice. It is he who is most thankful to God. – William Law

Yes, ‘give thanks for all things’ for, as it has been well said, ‘Our disappointments are but His appointments.’ – A.W. Pink (1886–1952)

We can always find something to be thankful for, and there may be reasons why we ought to be thankful for even those dispensations which appear dark and frowning. ― Albert Barnes (1798–1870)

**********

Are We Thankful For Mercy? (Thomas Watson)

Our needs may send us to prayer, but it takes a truly honest heart to praise God. The raven cries; the lark sings. In petition we act like men; in thanksgiving we act like angels.

A godly man will express his thankfulness in every duty. He mingles thanksgiving with prayer: “in everything by prayer with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:6). Thanksgiving is the more divine part of prayer. In our petitions we express our own necessities; in our thanksgivings we declare God’s excellence. Prayer goes up as incense, when it is perfumed with thanksgiving.

A godly man expresses thankfulness …in every condition. He will be thankful in adversity as well as prosperity: “In everything give thanks” (1 Thess. 5:18). A gracious soul is thankful and rejoices that he is drawn nearer to God, though it be by the cords of affliction. When it goes well with him, he praises God’s mercy; when it goes badly with him, he magnifies God’s justice.

When God’s spiritual plants are cut and bleed, they drop thankfulness; the saints’ tears cannot drown their praises.

Where shall we find a grateful Christian? We read of the saints “having harps in their hands” (Rev 5:8)—the emblem of praise. Many have tears in their eyes and complaints in their mouths—but few have harps in their hand and are blessing and praising the name of God.

Let us scrutinize ourselves and examine by this characteristic whether we are godly: Are we thankful for mercy? – Thomas Watson (c. 1620–1686)

**********

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”—1 Thessalonians 5:18

Matthew Henry was a biblical scholar who lived in England from 1662 to 1714. He is best known for the Bible commentary that bears his name. After being robbed one day Henry recorded this in his diary: “Let me be thankful. First, because I was never robbed before. Second, because although they took my wallet, they did not take my life. Third, because although they took my all, it was not much. Fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”

Later in life, Henry suffered a stroke. Once his friend Illidge helped the dying man get to a bed. Henry said to him, “You have been used to take notice of the sayings of dying men—this is mine: That a life spent in the service of God and communion with Him is the most comfortable and pleasant life that one can live in the present world.”

If you can give thanks during the difficult times in your life you will tend to be thankful when things are not going well. Gratitude toward Christ and thanksgiving in difficult circumstances indicate Christian maturity. Thanksgiving during tough times brings growth in Christ. Today give thanks to the Lord not because of your circumstances but in spite of them.

Source/Forrás:

http://www.spurgeongems.org/fhg1-15.pdf; http://www.gracegems.org/Watson/godly_mans_picture4.htm; and an excerpt from Peter Kennedy’s “From Generation to Generation”, 1998. Source of illustration: here.  Translated by/Fordította: wordwatcherdawn

May 15, 2015

The Waiting Room of Faith

This is both parts of a two-part e-mail devotional by Andy Elmes of the UK ministry Great Big Life. It’s about the times you sense God has a purpose and plan for you which is somewhat specific, but you’re “on hold” or at the “in-between” stage. He compares it to waiting in the “corridor” or what we might in North America call the “hallway” or even “waiting room.”

The Corridor of Faith

2 Corinthians 5:7 (NKJV)

For we walk by faith, not by sight.

Oh, how we love instant arrivals and instantaneous miracles. Why? Partially because we live in such a fast-moving world, we love things to happen “like yesterday”. The problem is, most often God is not like that. He is not in the hurry we are so often in, and does not struggle with patience issues. In fact, I believe that God is more excited about the journey we take in faith towards what He has promised us than He is about our moment of arrival.

Recently I have been considering again something that I have named the Corridor of Faith, that time between when you get a promise or a dream from God and the moment you arrive or see the manifestation of it in your life. This gap between ‘leave’ and ‘arrive’ is a corridor that God provides not with any intention to crush or destroy us but rather to refine and make us. How we perceive and behave while being in a corridor of faith can actually determine how long we spend there, because it is not a place that is a mistake but rather one of design. You see, God works in us more in the corridor of faith than we realise. Often we don’t fully see what He has done until the moment we leave it. Think about all your favourite stories in the Bible – all of them have a ‘leaving’, a ‘journeying towards’ and an ‘arriving’ to them. This week I want to concentrate on that bit in the middle – the journey or corridor of faith you pass through en route to arriving. Hopefully this will encourage you and help you understand and behave in that journey as God would have you.

Abraham left Haran with a promise but no map, and journeyed many years, not a few days, to his “promised spacious place”. Did he arrive? Yes, he did – but consider all that God did in him during that journey.

Joseph had a dream as a boy of being a person of godly prominence that would lead his brothers, and indeed a nation. Did that happen the next week? No, there was a corridor of faith to walk through first. That must have been very confusing at times. Did he arrive at the moment God gave him in his dreams? Yes he did, but again, look at what God did in him and what God made him during the journey.

These, and so many other accounts, reveal to us that when God gives us a promise or a dream there is normally always a journey or “corridor of faith” that has to be walked through. This is a God design because what He does in us as we walk by faith through the moment in between actually makes us the person He needs us to be for the promise or dream He has given us. Joseph entered his corridor of faith a dreaming boy but came out as a wise prime minister. David entered his corridor a boy with a prophecy of kingship, and came out a king able to lead a nation. What is God doing in your present corridor of faith? Are you so anxious to “land the plane” that you are missing out on what God is doing in you and through you “during the flight”? If God gave you the dream or promise and you refuse to quit or walk away then you will arrive exactly where He said you would – but don’t forget the corridor of faith, that time between ‘leave’ and ‘arrive’ will make you everything God needs you to be for your moment of arrival.

Genesis 37:5-8 (NKJV)

Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. So he said to them, “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.” And his brothers said to him, “Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

We spoke yesterday about ‘The Corridor of Faith’ – that time between dream or promise given and the arrival or manifestation of it. Let’s look further at Joseph’s Corridor of Faith to learn some things.

In our text today we see the moment when the “God dream or destination” is given. What we know about Joseph at this point is that he is just a young man, and a young man despised by his brothers. The dream related to them but was a much bigger promise, I believe, of the influential person God had appointed him to be. In the final verse you see the brother’s response to Joseph’s God-dream – a response of hatred and disdain that launched him into his Corridor of Faith. If you read on in his storyline you don’t see any form of instant arrival, rather a series of events that must have been totally confusing and given him daily the opportunity to quit on the dream. His brothers throw him in a pit and come up with a plan of faking his death; they sold him to a bunch of travelers; later in the story, when things are starting to go better, he is falsely accused of adultery, and he loses a job that looked like it was heading in the dream’s direction. He does a fairly long stretch in prison when innocent, also interpreting other people’s dreams while in there. But one day he opens his eyes, and he is Prime Minister of a nation, his brothers bowed before him, with the power and wisdom to save a nation from famine.

Let me underline this thought again: a boy with a crazy dream entered the corridor of faith, and a man able to lead a nation stepped out. Where did the change take place? In the corridor. It was what happened as he continued to journey by faith through things that did not make sense that made him the person God had seen when he gave him the promise.

God also promises us according to what He knows we really are, but sometimes He needs to journey us through a Corridor of Faith so that we can “find ourselves” and discover the potential we actually possess. I am not talking about sickness or infirmity, I am talking about ‘stuff’ – things that happen that don’t make sense at the time, but later, when you look back, you smile because you see that God was working in that moment for your good – not to harm you or allow harm on you but to make you the person He knows you can be. Faith is trusting God in the moments that don’t make sense, trusting Him that indeed in “all things He works for your good”. Trusting that God is not obsessed by our present moment, like we can so often be, but rather He is focusing on the larger picture of our lives. He is doing things now that will produce great things later. In these moments you need to believe that though weeping may endure for a night, rejoicing will come in the morning. It’s often not until we are leaving a Corridor of Faith, or a confusing moment, that we look back and fully understand the Godly ‘why’ to what just happened.

Trust Him – when you think you have worked it out and when you have not got a clue what His next move is, He who began a good work in you (started your journey) will complete it (bring you to a place of great arrival)!

May 14, 2015

“It’s a God Thing”

This article by Shane Pruitt is somewhat topical, as it looks at a popular Christian cliché that some of us use. I wasn’t sure whether to post it here or at Thinking Out Loud, but I thought the content was a good match here at C201. As always, click the title below to read this at the blog I Already Am.

Should We Be Saying, “It’s A God Thing”?

It's a God ThingIt was a total “God thing!”

If you’ve spent much time around church people, you’ve probably heard (and maybe said) this statement hundreds of times.

“It’s a God thing” is used in Christian culture when things unexpectedly work out the way we wanted them to. We raised the total amount of money for our mission trip, the chips fell our way, we were totally surprised by an event that popped up from out of the blue.

But, inevitably this statement always follows something good that has happened to us—a story of healing, a rare coincidence that worked out well for us, finding a parking space, getting a job or when our child stops warming the bench in time to hit the game-winning shot.

Who’s in Control?

Should this statement be a part of our vernacular? Well, first, let’s see if the phrase is even biblically accurate:

“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!” (1 Chronicles 16:31).

“Our God is in the heavens; He does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3).

“Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps” (Psalm 135:6).

“The heart of man plans His way, but the Lord establishes His steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

“Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isaiah 46:10).

These five compelling verses tell us one clear thing: God is sovereign. And, there are literally dozens upon dozens of other verses that say the exact same thing.

God has supreme authority, control and power over all that has happened, is happening and will happen in the future in all times across all history. God has the right, the authority and the power to govern all that happens in accordance to His divine will. He has the right and the power to achieve His purposes. He is in control of circumstances that dictate whatever He wills to come to pass. He has complete control of everything and there is nothing that happens that is not done by or allowed through His will.

So, is the statement “It’s a God thing” accurate? Yes, of course, it is.

The great things that happen in our life—it’s a God thing! When things go our way—it’s God thing! We get that promotion we’ve been wanting—it’s a God thing!

All Things for Good

However, there is a flip side to that coin. When things don’t go our way—it’s still a God thing. When we don’t get the promotion that we’ve been wanting—it’s a God thing. Times of suffering, times of tribulation, times of loss—God thing, God thing. It’s all within God’s sovereign plans.

If God is truly sovereign, then He is in control of the “bad” days just as much as He is in control of the “good” days. Sometimes His plan is not what we may want or would plan for ourselves. Sometimes it’s hard to see where He is during the hard times. But we can trust that He’s there, that He cares, that this world is fallen, but He’s in control.

True faith is being able to say, “It’s a God thing” even in the midst of suffering, difficulty and heartache. When something doesn’t go my way, I can still know, trust and believe that God is working out all things for His glory and my good.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Maybe, the best way to look at the statement, “It’s a God thing” is to really understand that everything that is and occurs are all “God’s things” and not mine. And He can do what He wants with His things, including me.

(This Article was also picked up by RELEVANT Magazine online)

Go Deeper:  For a similar theme by the same author, check out Why We Stopped Saying, As Long As They’re Healthy”

May 11, 2015

Will I Find Faith on the Earth?

Several months ago we stumbled on a unique daily devotional site, Rhetorical Jesus written by Jack Wellman. Using a simple 3 paragraph format, plus a prayer, each day’s readings are supplied with an image tailor-made for posting on Facebook or Pinterest.

Every day we post items and here and tell you to click through to read them at source, but in this case, I really want you to experience the format and see the social media graphics. Daily devotions were never like this when I was young. The title below is the link. Is there someone you know who might enjoy this? Tell them about it.

Will I find faith on the earth when I return? Do you trust Me to avenge all wrongs?

Luke 18:8

I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

Leave Justice to God

In this chapter, and particularly in the first part of this chapter, Jesus gives us the Parable of the Persistent Widow. Apparently, there are some issues she wants addressed where she had been wronged and wants justice executed by the unrighteous judge. Jesus ends this parable by saying that He will avenge all that is wrong in this world and that everyone will be held accountable for what they’ve done in their lifetime, including everything they’ve said (Rom. 14:10-12; Matt. 12:36). Jesus is asking the rhetorical question, “Will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them” (Luke 18:7)? The obvious answer is, of course, He will, and there will be no long delay when He returns.

Vengeance Is Not Mine

The church of God is not perfect, of course, and Paul may be addressing this when he tells the church at Rome to not judge our brothers and sisters for what they do and don’t do in areas where the Bible is silent or in nonessential areas. He wants them to trust that God will judge everyone for everything they’ve done and that He will judge rightly. Therefore, we should not be putting ourselves in the judgment seat, where God is the One Who deserves to sit. Each one of us will have to stand before God to give an account to Him. We are not to sit in God’s judgment seat and be the judge of others or take revenge on them when that’s not our job (Rom. 10:10-11).

Will Jesus Find Faith When He Returns?

This also is a rhetorical question where Jesus asks if He will find faith on the earth when He returns. The answer seems to be no, He won’t. This doesn’t mean that those who have repented and trusted in Christ won’t have saving faith, but looking at the context of Luke 18:1-8, it seems to be whether we will trust God to be the ultimate judge over all things. Even if we are troubled by what others are doing, will we have faith in God to make a perfect judgment on these things? Does He need our help? The faith that seems to be the subject of which Jesus speaks about is the faith that He will settle all accounts when He returns to the earth to judge both the lost and the saved. Do we trust Him to do that? Will we have the faith that He will eventually judge these things? The saved will be judged for their works, and their eternal rewards will be passed through the fire and either they will be burned up or the precious stones and gold will survive the fire (1 Cor. 3:12-15). For those who have never repented, justice will be executed perfectly according to what each one has done in their life (Rev. 20:12-15). God will “give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night” and “give justice to them speedily”; of that we can all be sure.

A Closing Prayer

Great God in heaven, I know that you look at the thoughts and intents of the heart and not only at the outward deeds and will execute perfect justice someday. Please help me to not judge others in areas that are not for me to judge and to accept others even when they do things differently than I, for I am not their judge, but You are. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

April 14, 2015

Head for the Hills

Psalm 121 – The Voice

A song for those journeying to worship.

I look up at the vast size of the mountains—
    from where will my help come in times of trouble?
The Eternal Creator of heaven and earth and these mountains
    will send the help I need.

He holds you firmly in place;
He will not let you fall.
    He who keeps you will never take His eyes off you and never drift off to sleep.
What a relief! The One who watches over Israel
    never leaves for rest or sleep.

 The Eternal keeps you safe,
    so close to Him that His shadow is a cooling shade to you.
Neither bright light of sun
    nor dim light of moon will harm you.

The Eternal will keep you safe
    from all of life’s evils,
From your first breath to the last breath you breathe,
    from this day and forever.

Today’s post is from Jon Foster, a pastor in Port Hope, Ontario, Canada.

Higher Than the Hills

God can do anything, anytime, anywhere, and in any way. There’s just nothing he can’t do. Do you believe it? In Luke 1:37, the angel Gabriel was commissioned to take that message to Mary, the soon-to-be mother of Jesus. He keenly assured her that “with God nothing is impossible.” She was not too small, weak, or insignificant to benefit from the personal touch of God on her life. Later, in his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul made it clear to his readers that they too were beneficiaries of the same divine power. Speaking of God, he wrote: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

To put limits on what God can do is simply wrong. Yet we do this more often than we’d like to admit. There are times when we feel tempted to “throw in the towel” saying, “It’s hopeless! I’ve tried and tried but this is a no-win situation.” But giving up without intently looking to God for help is just another way of saying, “This is impossible… even for you, Lord.” Ouch! …and we wonder why we’re not making progress. Simply put, God can’t help us overcome obstacles that we are unwilling to face with faith.

I like to think of God as the great “Picture Changer.” He specializes in transforming what seems hopeless to us into pictures of promise and blessing. But sometimes He allows us to reach the end of our rope because it’s often only when we’re there, hanging on for dear life, that we get desperate enough to invite Him to come and take control. And when He comes, He comes not as a mere tinkerer, but one who has the power to completely alter the landscape of our lives according to His good purpose.

In Psalm 121, the psalmist wrote, “I lift up my eyes to the hills where does my help come from?” In the old days, a person fleeing for his life would often escape to higher ground; they would, as the saying goes, “head for the hills!” There were logistical (and tactical) reasons for this. Not only could “the hills” provide suitable hiding places — they also gave you a better chance of spotting your adversary before he saw you! The benefit of higher ground is even more obvious when the imminent danger is from rising floodwater. But in the very next verse we learn that the psalmist’s confidence ultimately was not in mere physical or logistical advantage. No, he had his eyes much higher than the hills! In verse 2 he declares, “My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2). The help he was looking for is the same kind of help we all need in order to be the kind of spiritual overcomers the Bible says we can be.

In these modern times (and in this part of the world), it’s easy for us to take for granted that “help is on its way.” We have developed structures and systems to ensure our well-being and, to a large degree, we have put our trust in them. But true spiritual help will not come from these “hills.” True spiritual help comes only “from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

At the beginning of a new year it’s appropriate to acknowledge our ultimate source of help and strength. We don’t know what the year will bring but we do know that there will be both challenges and blessings. And we know that we serve a God with whom “all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). Take some time to affirm your trust in God. Let him know that you are serious about walking with Him, abiding in Him, and being fruitful for Him.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank you that with you, all things are possible. Thank you for making me your child and giving me new life in Christ Jesus. Thank you for your promise to be with me each and every day and to provide the strength and help required to overcome every obstacle. Help me to walk closely with you so that others may see enough of you in my life to inspire them to put their trust in you. I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

February 24, 2015

A Cross-Carrying Kind of Life

cross at Grace ChurchThis is one of two posts in a series by Deb Wolf who blogs at Counting My Blessings. This is her third time appearing here at Christianity 201 and we do appreciate the work she does on her site; the tag line is “Encouraging you with stories of faith, hope and love.” Click the title below to read at source and/or read part two, “Jesus Answer to the Fear of Cross-Carrying.

When You Don’t Want a Cross-Carrying Kind of Faith

There is a verse in the Bible that did anything but give me peace and contentment. I tried to pretend I was obedient, but my heart knew it terrified me.

Then He [Jesus] called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. Mark 8:34–35

[Last Wednesday] was Ash Wednesday—the beginning of Lent. For the next six and a half weeks followers of Jesus will fast, pray, and ponder His journey to the cross.

Followers who are called to deny themselves, carry their cross, trust and obey . . . lose their life for Jesus.

I didn’t want to carry my cross. I liked my comfortable safe life. Sure there were some problems and pain, but life—my life, my kid’s lives, my husband’s life, complete trust and obedience . . . what could happen to a life lost to cross carrying.

My doctor and a counselor said I was “high-strung,” anxious.

Lack of Faith

I knew I was a fear-filled worrier. Seriously, I turned worry into an art form. Not surprising. Look around. Have you seen all the truly terrible things that can happen?

I didn’t want to admit it, but I knew it was lack of faith.

But that verse and others like it:

But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.” Acts 9:15–16

For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in His steps. 1 Peter 2:21

 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. Matthew 10:38

Giving Up Fear for Faith

“I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith . . . I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

It’s true. In this world there will be trials and sorrows. Worry doesn’t prevent it. Fear won’t keep it out of reach.

Trials and sorrows did happen, but.

What a small yet important word.

“You will have trials and sorrows. But take heart, because.

Take heart [don’t lose your faith], because…

I have overcome the world
I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.
Be sure of this: I am with you always.

Through trials and sorrows Jesus was faithful, and because of His faithfulness my faith grew. Faith that was greater than my fear. Faith that was impossible when I focused on my fears, but grew when I kept my eyes on Jesus.

Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Hebrews 12:1–2

January 29, 2015

Persevering Grace

Our goal at Christianity 201 is to provide representation from a wide swath of doctrinal and denominational perspectives. Today’s bears both the perspective and the language of the Reformed or Calvinist tradition. This is Richard Phillips on

God’s faithfulness to preserve His own

 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

Philippians 1:6 develops the theme of God’s preserving grace—which ensures the perseverance of His own—in three points.

First, Paul reminds us that since God has begun our salvation, we can rely on Him to complete it: “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.” God always finishes what He starts, especially the salvation of His people.

It is in this way that God’s preserving grace fits with the other doctrines of grace. God the Father chose us in eternity past, and the Bible says that God’s purpose in election must prevail (Rom. 9:11). God the Son offered an atoning sacrifice for these same elect people. Should they fall into condemnation, then His blood would have been shed for them in vain. But He insists that not one of them shall perish and none shall be plucked from His hand (John 10:28). Likewise, the Holy Spirit brought these same elect sheep to eternal life by the irresistible working of His grace. Should eternal life be lost, the Spirit’s work would prove ineffective. Therefore, as faith is the gift of God’s grace, the Christian’s perseverance is the work of God’s continuing grace.

Second, Paul says that God, having begun His work in our lives, “will bring it” to completion. This indicates that God not only guarantees the completion of our salvation, but is actively involved in the believer’s life to bring this to pass. God works in our lives in the way a craftsman works to finish a product he has created. He smooths out the lines, sands the rough places, and puts its pieces together in proper proportion. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes:

God does not merely initiate the work and then leave it, he continues with it; he leads us on, directing and manipulating our circumstances, restraining us at one time and urging us on at another. Paul’s whole conception of the Church is that it is a place where God is working in the hearts of men and women.

God’s work is manifested in His will playing out in our lives. This is what Paul says a bit later in Philippians: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:1–213). Being a Christian is not easy. Persevering in faith requires warfare with sin, labor in prayer, plowing in God’s Word, and performing His will in the world. We are God’s workmanship, Paul says, and this means we are called to “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). God will see to it that His work for each of us is carried to completion. By His preserving grace, He will carry us to our destination in heaven. We are called to work this out, but, Paul insists, God is all the while working it in us (Phil. 2:13).

Third, we can see in Philippians 1:6 our certainty of successful “completion” if God’s saving work truly has begun in us. Far from dreading the future, as we must if we look for signs of hope within ourselves, every believer possesses a hope that is certain for the most joyful, glorious, and holy destiny through faith in Jesus.

One of the reasons I love Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress is the portrait he paints of the eternity God has secured for every believer. Speaking of the believer’s entry into heaven, he writes:

I saw in my dream the two men enter the gate. As they did, they were transfigured. They had garments that shined like gold. Harps and crowns were given them. The harps for praise and the crowns for honor. Then I heard in my dream all the bells in the city rang again for joy. It was said to them, “Enter into the joy of your Lord.”

This may be a fanciful rendering from the Bible’s promises, but still it is our future history and not fantasy. For as Paul insists, God brings us to completion. One of the meanings of the Greek word translated as “bring to completion” is “bring to perfection.” That is what God has promised to do for every sheep who hears Christ’s voice and who shows the reality of his or her faith by following after Him through life. Whatever hardships, disappointments, or failures await us in this world, a Christian can anticipate the certain fulfillment of David’s exultant words in Psalm 16:11: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Terribly flawed though we all are now, God will bring our journey to completion and us to perfection, so that arrayed in perfect holiness we will live forever in His love.

This excerpt is adapted from What’s So Great about the Doctrines of Grace? by Richard Phillips

January 28, 2015

You Don’t Need to Have a Position on Every Issue

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:37 pm
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Regular midweek contributor Clarke Dixon will return next week.

Opinion - Theological Issues

Perhaps you’ve been in churches where candidates for the position of pastor are being interviewed by the leaders or the congregation to see where they stand on particular issues. If a church has gone through a period of turmoil over specific areas of its ministries, it’s important to know which side a person takes. If there is a particular aspect of Bible teaching the church desires, it’s necessary to know the pastor’s skills on those areas. If the church members have a strong feelings toward certain doctrinal patterns, the candidate needs to be able to define their position.

This morning I was speaking briefly with a woman who I would consider as having a deep spiritual life, and in the course of discussing of something else, I asked her what her belief is concerning women in ministry.  (It made sense in context…)

She never did answer the question.

Instead, she quoted the middle sentence of three that occurs in Jeremiah 31:33:

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.

Having an opinion, or a position, on such an issue seemed almost irrelevant to her.  Although she didn’t say all this, obviously it wasn’t necessary…

  • to work it out in advance, since she was trusting God would show her His desire, His direction at whatever time it was needed; it’s not that she didn’t understand the question, but more like she didn’t understand my need to ask
  • to amass knowledge on the topic; this is something that came out in a few commentaries as I studied this passage; we put such a huge weight on diagrams, logical constructs, backing verses, etc. but none of this education ensures that we truly know the mind or the ways of God
  • to establish a position categorically; part of the holiness of God is that He is can’t be tamed, can’t be put in a box; it’s possible that the situation or context of any given issue could override the need to have a rule or policy written in stone, such as when David’s men ate the consecrated bread in the temple
  • to determine consensus; the point of the verse, and verse 34 which follows it, is that each individual will independent access to God…and will know Him. [Eerdman’s Bible Commentary, p645] hence there is no need for a collective opinion, a poll, a referendum on God’s desires
  • to practice anything less than grace; the whole point of the verse is God’s announcement of a New Covenant, something not mentioned in Jeremiah until this point

So…should the congregation ask the prospective pastor their questions as to doctrine and practices? Absolutely, but they shouldn’t expect to put God or the pastor in a box. And the individual being asked should not be evasive or mysterious, but should consider the type of answer I was given when I asked.

Or maybe there is a whole set of other questions that matter more, but we don’t know to ask them of each other.

We are simply too caught up in trying to cross ever ‘t’ and dot every ‘i’ and tying our theology together with a nice bow. Some categorical, hypothetical questions can’t be answered until you’re in the middle of the situation, and that’s where you often find that God surprises you.

 

January 6, 2015

If It Were Not So I Would Have Told You

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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CEB John 14:1 “Don’t be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me. My Father’s house has room to spare. If that weren’t the case, would I have told you that I’m going to prepare a place for you? When I go to prepare a place for you, I will return and take you to be with me so that where I am you will be too. You know the way to the place I’m going.”

Thomas asked, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you have really known me, you will also know the Father. From now on you know him and have seen him.

John’s quotation from Jesus in John 14: 1-6 begins with four statements, the fourth seeming a bit uncharacteristic:

  1. Don’t be afraid
  2. Trust Me
  3. God’s house contains many ‘mansions’
  4. I would have told you if anything were different

In many translations this last comment is bundled into the phrase which followed or even appears as a unified question, “If that were not true, would I have told you that I’m going to prepare a place for you?”

Of course, there is a lot of mystery about what awaits beyond this life about which Jesus has not told us. But this passage is seen as the clearest promise of the second coming. The NIV Application commentary states:

The KJV “mansions” (for Gk. monai, “rooms”) was a seventeenth-century expression for modest dwellings; thus, 14:2 should not build a picture for us of heavenly palatial residences. This is not Jesus’ point. God’s “house” refers not to the church but to the heavenly dwelling where he lives (cf. Heb. 12:22; Rev. 21:9–22:5), and a mone is a place of residence there with him. This word is related to the common Johannine verb meno, to remain or abide. To “remain” with Jesus is the highest virtue in John’s Gospel (15:4–10), and he is promising

Matthew Henry sees the “I would have told you” as a direct comment to The Twelve:

If you had deceived yourselves, when you quit your livelihoods, and ventured your lives for me, in prospect of a happiness future and unseen, I would soon have undeceived you.” The assurance is built, [1.] Upon the veracity of his word. It is implied, “If there were not such a happiness, valuable and attainable, I would not have told you that there was.” [2.] Upon the sincerity of his affection to them. As he is true, and would not impose upon them himself, so he is kind, and would not suffer them to be imposed upon. If either there were no such mansions, or none designed for them, who had left all to follow him, he would have given them timely notice of the mistake, that they might have made an honourable retreat to the world again, and have made the best they could of it. Note, Christ’s good-will to us is a great encouragement to our hope in him. He loves us too well, and means us too well, to disappoint the expectations of his own raising, or to leave those to be of all men most miserable who have been of him most observant.

It’s interesting that this would seem to affirm their confidence in him and his teachings and ministry, but next he is going to quiz them as to where he is going.  The IVP NT Commentary notes:

After speaking of himself as the agent of their future access to the presence of God, he throws out a statement that steers them toward the next stage of his revelation: You know the way to the place where I am going (v. 4). This could be taken as a question: “Do you know the way to the place where I am going?” Whether or not he is asking a question, Jesus seems to be alluding to his earlier teaching about being the gate through whom the sheep “will come in and go out, and find pasture” (10:9; cf. Talbert 1992:204). If he is alluding to this, the disciples miss it. Indeed, all of Jesus’ teaching in these chapters is mystifying to the disciples (cf. 16:25). But he is walking them through it so the Spirit will be able to unpack it for them later (14:26). This statement (or question) triggers the next question by a disciple, which leads Jesus to further develop the thoughts he has already expressed in very condensed fashion.

The point is that they knew in part and saw only in part.  But pieces of the puzzle were not doubt starting to come together.  I like to think that in these moments they were also struck by an increase in his passion as he imparted these truths to them for what would be the final time.

The second statement, “If it were not so,” really relates to the second, above, which we’ve rendered as “trust me” or better, “Do you trust me?”

 

 

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