Thursday, April 29, 2010

What I’ve been reading…

I continue to read the daily devotion Thrive by Matthew Jacoby. On Monday I read this:

The truth is that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself by His death on a cross (2 Corinthians 5:19). It is important to recognize that in Christ, God Himself was taking on the cost of our sin. God did not give up someone else for our sins. Jesus Christ was and is God in the flesh. Jesus Christ is God paying the penalty for our sins.

Charles Wesley wrote the hymn, And Can It Be, with the following line: How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

How can one adequately respond when we consider what God has done for us?

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Devotional Thought : 1 Corinthians 8:1-2

Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. 1 Corinthians 8:1-2

Paul is saying if someone comes to us with a problem; and it doesn’t really matter whether their problem is to do with food sacrificed to idols, or something more relevant to our culture; having the right answer is not enough. We might be well qualified and be able to give the right doctrinally correct response in any given circumstance, but that is not enough. If we respond by simply telling someone what they ought to do, it is not enough.

The other part of our response needs to be love. Do we genuinely care about the person we are giving advice to? Or are we only interested in how wise and clever our advice sounds? Paul tells us knowledge alone puffs us up and makes us proud. If we genuinely want to help someone we need to do it in love.

Selwyn Hughes often said, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” One of the best ways we show we care is by listening. Mostly people can work out for themselves what they should or shouldn’t do. What people really need is a sounding board so they can talk through the issues with someone who is prepared to listen objectively and then allow the person to come to their own conclusions.

The Amplified Bible puts it like this: Yet mere knowledge causes people to be puffed up…, but love…edifies and builds up and encourages one to grow [to his full stature]. If we respond with love, not information, we encourage others to grow into their full potential.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Scripture is "God-breathed"

None of the views, mentioned in my last post, accurately portray God’s intention. God wants us to know Scripture is “God-breathed” not dictated but totally inspired by God right down to the very words that were used. God did not take over the hand of the author, neither does he leave the author to his own devices.

Over many centuries and in many different settings God inspired a wide variety of people from different backgrounds, to write down stories, events, histories, poetry, songs which eventually became known as the Bible. The Bible also uses figures of speech, pictures, parables and allegories much like we do today. God did not dictate the words but nevertheless inspired the authors to write down the exact words that He wanted written. God was able to do this because it had always been part of God’s plan for these authors to complete this task so God had been arranging the exact education and upbringing so they would write in the way He desired. As time passed, God’s word was translated into many different languages. Yet we can have confidence the original meaning has been preserved as historical finds have helped us realized just how accurately the Scriptures have been handed down to us.

It is interesting to reflect on the fact that in the same manner as God inspired the Scriptures, God works in our lives. He does not turn us into robots or puppets nor does he abandon us; but rather he works through our lives.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

How did God inspired the Bible?

In 2 Timothy 3:16 we read: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.

The term “God-breathed” means inspired. But how did God inspired his thoughts to be written down?
1. Did God allow particularly gifted or “inspired” men to compile a history of events? But would this really be God inspired?
2. Did God just inspired men to write and left it up to them to decide what to include and what to leave out? Would this accurately reveal God’s thoughts?
3. Perhaps only parts of the Bible are inspired and therefore the Bible just contains the word of God rather than is the word of God? But how would we know which parts were really inspired?
4. Did God inspire men with ideas and let them write using their own words? Would this accurately reflect God’s intentions?
5. On the other hand, did God inspire the words by dictating the Scriptures word for word and completely overpowering the authors?
6. Or perhaps the inspiration happens when we read the Bible?

My thoughts in my next post.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Devotional Thought : 1 Corinthians 7:30-31

…those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away. 1 Corinthians 7:30-31

It is a common theme throughout the Bible. The world is not our home. We are only “aliens and strangers” (Hebrews 11:13). For this reason Paul doesn’t want us to become engrossed in the things of this world and tells Timothy a similar thing: No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life (2 Timothy 2:4 NKJV).

However some days heaven seems a long way off. We depend heavily on our sense of sight and forget there is a whole other world that is invisible to us. The devil enjoys lulling us into a false sense of security and slowly we find ourselves getting engrossed in the attractions of this world.

In "The Silver Chair" C.S. Lewis gives us an amazing picture of the devil's tricks in this regard. The witch in the story takes the children captive and holds them underground. Time passes and the children’s memories grow dull. The witch tells them it was all a dream and there never was such a place as Narnia (heaven) or such a person as Aslan (God). The children are on the verge of falling for the witch's lies when Puddlegum deliberately puts his foot in the fire. The pain wakes him up to reality. Sometimes it is pain that wakes us to reality. When we grieve the death of a loved one or live with an unresolved tragedy we realize this world is not all there is.

Remembering there is a better world still to come helps us to avoid becoming engrossed and entangled in this one.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Theology : does it help?

Are we are a two part person or a three part person? Soul/spirit and body; or soul, spirit and body? Trichotomy or dichotomy?

I don’t think it really matters which one you believe. I personally find it a helpful way of thinking about a person – as soul, spirit and body but I don’t necessarily think that is definitely the way it is.

By thinking about them separately I can understand God giving rebirth to my spirit and communing with me by his spirit. I can understand that my soul has been “crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). I also understand that now, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).

However I think we place too much emphasis on big theological words like trichotomy and dichotomy. Theology is supposed to help us understand more about how God works and not confuse us with words we barely understand. Nor is theology meant to be like the man in this picture who just fills his mind with information. Unless theology helps in practical ways to better understand God then it is really of little value.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Book Review : The principle of the path

The principle of the path by Andy Stanley (Thomas Nelson, 2008) is a fun book to read. Andy tells lots of good stories, many of them personal illustrations to make some very valid points. He admits that much of what he says is obvious and he is right, however sometimes in the busyness of life, we miss the obvious.

The principle of the path is simply that our destination in life is determined by the path we choose. Our destination in life, whether it is in relationships, in finances, in spirituality, will not be determined by our good intentions, by the advice we receive, or by our dreams. Ultimately our destination is determined by the path we choose, that is, by the choices we make.

We often disconnect an undesirable outcome with the choices we have made. For example if someone continually buys things on credit, then they will always be in debt. Yet sometimes these very people acted surprised to find themselves slipping deeper and deeper into debt. Andy discusses the reasons why we do this. We make decisions with our heart, based on happiness now. We then use our minds to justify our heart decision. We also deceive ourselves when we think we are the exception and will avoid the consequences that other people have experienced.

Andy quotes from many Bible passages, especially the life of King Solomon – the wisest man in the Old Testament – yet his life did not end well. Andy seeks to teach us how to avoid the same pitfalls.

The principle of the path is a great read. It is full of practical, down to earth, common sense, which actually, isn’t that common!

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Devotional Thought : 1 Corinthians 5:9-11

I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. 1 Corinthians 5:9-11

Paul was never overly concerned about offending Christians who were doing the wrong thing. Several times he instructs the leaders to have nothing to do with certain people (2 Timothy 3:5, Titus 3:10) even telling Titus to sharply rebuke a particular group of people (Titus 1:13). Yet these days it is often the Christians walking around on ‘egg shells’ trying not to offend anyone in the mistaken belief that this is the most loving thing to do. Obviously Paul didn’t think so. Love doesn’t stop us pointing out to our children their misdeeds. Rather it is because we love them that we correct them.

However it is interesting that Paul makes a clear distinction between those people who call themselves brothers, and “the people of this world”. Paul expects us to associate with people of this world, “otherwise we would have to leave this world”. Jesus’ prayer confirms this: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15).

Paul teaches us that when it comes to immoral behaviour our response to people depends on where they are spiritually. We are only to avoid those people who claim to be a Christian while living an immoral life style.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Weekend away

I’m going away for the weekend, leave tomorrow, be back here on Tuesday. I’m going to visit my three children and their spouses, which will involve quite a few hours of traveling. But will be worth it.

For those very observant souls you may have noticed that I have skipped 1 Corinthians 5 in my devotional thoughts. Over at the Bible Study Place we are actually up to 1 Corinthians 9. Normally at the end of each week I write a thought for that chapter so I have several devotional thoughts stored up. However when I went to post the thought I have written for 1 Corinthians 5, I didn’t like how I had ended it. I didn’t have time to rewrite it at the time, so I posted 1 Corinthians 6 instead. I have now ‘fixed’1 Corinthians 5 and will post it on Tuesday it will be about v.9-11.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Devotional Thought : 1 Corinthians 6:12

"Everything is permissible for me"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"—but I will not be mastered by anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12

When you read Old Testament history you realize there is something seriously wrong. God’s people were constantly going astray and following foreign gods. Neither the threat of punishment nor the reward of blessing was enough to keep God’s people from disobeying him.

In the beginning God told Adam not to eat from “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17). God did not intend for us to have the knowledge of good and evil, being in relationship with God would be enough to keep us from evil.

However Adam did eat and now tend to think in terms of good and evil. Is drinking alcohol, surfing the internet, playing computer games good or evil? If we do those things we think are good we congratulate ourselves and become self-righteous. If we do those things we think are evil we feel guilty and condemn ourselves. God didn’t intend for us to be self-righteous or self-condemning.

“’This is the covenant I will make with the house 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.’” (Jeremiah 31:33). God’s laws are to be written on our hearts and once they are written there, we don’t need to think in terms of good and evil.

So the Christian life is not about strictly adhering to a code of conduct because Paul tells us that everything is permissible. However it is important to check our hearts and work out what is beneficial and what is not.

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Saturday, April 03, 2010

Hitting the road

I last wrote about my bike here in November last year. However that was just before summer and I tend to avoid physical activity in heat. Now that the weather has cooled down and Easter is here I have more spare time than usual, so I have been on a couple of bike rides. Prior to this I had been trying to build up my stamina at the gym, but there is a big difference between doing 10k in a gym on an exercise bike than doing 10k on a real bike. For starters there are hills! (In the gym I program the bike for a flat track.) Secondly there are bumps! Thirdly there are bends in the road!

There must be a spiritual analogy here somewhere. Hmm…

Perhaps it is like being a Christian in isolation to being a Christian in community. A Christian in isolation is like riding a bike in a gym. There are no obstacles, no distractions, no interruptions and I’m not in danger of falling off. It’s all plain sailing; however you don’t actually go anywhere. Being a Christian in community means there are relationship difficulties, unrealistic expectations, problems all over the place and I’m in constant danger of being hurt. However it is this environment I grow. I learn to forgive, I learn to love, I learn the joys of fellowship, and in the final analysis the pain is worth it. If, for no other reason than, it is God’s idea for his people to be in community.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

An Easter thought

Normally I post a book review on Thursdays, but not this week. About six weeks ago, I decided to take up the option of doing some study which I wrote about here. So I’ve been reading text books rather than my normal reading which I’m finding more worthwhile than I expected! I’ve discovered that I take a lot of things for granted. Some of the things I believe, like the Bible is inspired, like Jesus is God, I’ve just accepted without giving them a lot of thought. So it has been good to take some time to look more deeply into different areas of my faith and I have found it to be very confirming.

As celebrate this Easter, I thought this quote from my theology book, Truth Aflame by Larry Hart (pg. 297), would be appropriate:

The scandal of Christianity has been and always will be the person and work of Christ – that he was God incarnate and that through his death and bodily resurrection he offers the only means of salvation to humankind.

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