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Showing posts with label Church. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Church. Show all posts

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Celebrate Freedom Discipleship Course - Lesson 6 - Worship

Due to the fact that my household would be a bit too busy with Christmas Eve preparations, we made the decision to postpone our normal Bible Study with the Cincotti's until next week.  

But because I try to provide some form of encouragement for the path of Christian Discipleship "24/7", I have decided to launch the next lesson of the Celebrate Freedom Discipleship Course.  

As I stated previously:  "I developed the Celebrate Freedom Discipleship Course in 2020 as part of my master’s thesis in Christian Counseling to “fill in the gaps” of the Christian Twelve Step/Celebrate Recovery – Teaching Curriculums by introducing concepts of Christian Discipleship that I found important in my walk of faith and in my recovery over alcohol, drugs, sex addiction, and food addiction."

We hope it encourages you to follow Jesus and to overcome any hurts, habits, and hang-ups that still persist in your lives. 

God Bless You All,

M.T. Clark

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Listen to the podcast: Celebrate Freedom Discipleship Course - Lesson 6 -Worship - Podcast

Or Watch it on YouTube: 


Celebrate Freedom Discipleship Course 

Lesson 6: Worship

Discipleship Principle 6 – Our lives are to be an expression of our love for the Lord, a continuous act of worship. Our hearts of stone must be turned to flesh and beat to know and love the Lord more and more.  

In John 4:23-24 Jesus says But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

A major problem with the body of Christ is the twofold problem of ignorance and or a lack of application of the disciple’s call to worship.  The life-transforming power of worship cannot be understated as it can break down the barriers between knowing God intellectually and knowing and loving God experientially.  A life of worship is living in the context of our faith, where we rejoice over being rescued and given a new and eternal life that we get to experience here and now.

This lesson’s purpose is to encourage followers of Jesus Christ to use their lives as an act of worship and a continuous expression of our love for the Lord.

In Matthew 22:37 tells us, Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment.

Community Worship – The Local Church

Hebrews 10:24-25 says “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

The most obvious act of worship is to attend the worship services at a local church.  Church services contain elements of prayer, praise, and scripture reading as the purpose of Christians gathering together is to give worship and glory to God and to instruct, encourage, and motivate the body of Christ to follow Christ’s example.

The church teaches Christians how to offer continuous worship to the Lord with their lives by teaching its members how to approach God, know Him, praise Him, and communicate with Him. Prayer, praise, and Bible study are disciplines that Christians can take outside of the four walls of the church building into their private lives and the community at large.  Our community gathering is to serve the purpose to worship the Lord and to encourage one another in doing so.  Regular attendance and support of the local church are necessary components in our lives of worship. While we tend to focus on our individual journey and relationship with God, in no way should membership to a local church body be forsaken. Engagement in the local church is the primary way to learn, grow, and mature in our Christian faith.

Individual Worship - Our Daily Practice – Disciplines and Demeanors.

Romans 12:1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.

While church services may be once or twice a week, we are to worship the Lord continuously with our very lives. A daily practice of worship and communion with God is our reasonable service and is the foundation for a deep personal relationship with the Lord. If our attention and hearts are directed to God, we are blessed by His presence, guidance, strength, and love.  Our daily practice of worship will go beyond traditional Christian disciplines as we mature in the love of the Lord.

Psalm 95:6 says:  Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.

Colossians 4:2 tells us to “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving;

Prayer – From silent prayers to simple conversations with God, our first act of worship is to communicate with God. Our faith in God is demonstrated through our regular communication through prayer: making our needs and thoughts known, offering our observations, and petitioning the Lord on behalf of others. The more we pray to the Lord the deeper our relationship with Him becomes as we place ourselves humbly before His presence in reverence and love.

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In John 6:63, Jesus tells us: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.”

Bible Study – Whether integrated into prayer or studied separately, a time to read and reflect on the word of God is one of the most effective ways to know the heart of God and to hear His voice as He reveals Himself through His word. Our lives are transformed by integrating His wisdom into our lives. To read, to understand, and to be changed by His word is the full intention of Bible study.

Hebrews 4:12 tells us “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Walk – As we go about our day and walk through this life, we worship God and express our love for Him through our demonstration of our Identity in Christ through the way we live.

·       We Give Thanks.  Our worship of God begins and continues each day with a regular practice of gratitude where we give thanks to the Lord for the blessings in our life and the things we encounter, remembering His provision and His protection. 

·       We Meditate – We remind ourselves of our salvation and freedom in Christ and renew our mind with God’s word as we shape our thoughts, attitudes, and actions to be consistent with our new life and thus join in harmony with God’s will and ways for our lives.

·       We Repent – We worship God by speaking the truth and progressively turning from our old ways. We consider our old ways to no longer be a part of who we are. We recognize that we have been given the power to overcome and need only utilize it by living according to our new life in Christ. Our old habits are surrendered for a higher call and a higher purpose. We admit to the harmful effects our habits inflicted on our minds, bodies, and our relationship with God and others. Instead of fondly remembering our old habits, we examine them with the light of truth and expose the darkness, desperation, and futile nature of how we were seeking happiness and fulfillment without God.

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·       We Love - Our successful adaptation of our identity in Christ cannot be simply the product of mental ascent or a work of cognitive therapy alone.  We must love the Lord for who He is and for What He has done for us. If our actions are motivated by love and a desire to express our love for God, we will grow because we are acting and thinking in a way that is approved by Him. While we will never be able to earn God’s love, we will accept the fact that we are worthy of His love because He said we are.  If we are worthy, the Lord has given us the power to express our worthiness through thought and action. We can change because of the love we have received.  As we grow, we share the love of God we have received with others by sharing our hope and through performing good works motivated by love. As we progress and have the revelation of our ability to love Him, we begin to proclaim our love mentally or verbally to God continuously.

·       We Forgive.  Having been forgiven of everything we have ever done; we obey the word of God and forgive others as an act of worship. We let go of our hurt and offense. Our default response becomes forgiveness. While we can protect ourselves and advocate for what is right, we will forgive because we have been forgiven. We forgive others the worst because we are not the judge, God is.  He will repay. We instead forgive and pray for the transgressor to come to know God’s love and forgiveness and to repent.  Forgiveness is a spiritual discipline that requires practice. As we learn to forgive the small things that pop up in our daily experience moment to moment, we will gain the skill of forgiveness. 

While we are not saying we must forgive everything done against us in the past immediately, we are setting ourselves on a course to realize that goal. The goal of peace can be reached through forgiveness.

Work  

1 Corinthians 10:31 tells us….  whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Our work is another place where we can worship the Lord and give Him glory. Wherever we are in our professional lives, we are to worship the Lord by representing the kingdom of God to the best of our abilities through our work performance. While there may be limits to outright evangelism at work, everyone at your place of work should know that we are Christian. While we are there to work, moments of personal conversation should be utilized to give our testimony of God’s goodness, the truth of Jesus Christ, and to encourage others to follow Him.  When co-workers encounter loss or disease, we need to offer our prayers and hope. Our conduct should represent that of a servant: performing our duties morally, faithfully, and to the best of our abilities.

The Garment of Praise – Bridging the Mind and Heart 

Isaiah 61:3 tells is “To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified."

The remedy for the”spirit of heaviness” or lack of affection for God is to worship the Lord through praise.  Those whose faith is in their head can use the key of praise to experience the truth of God’s love in their hearts and to transform their relationship with God.

Ephesians 5:18-20  tells us “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,  speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,  giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

This verse reveals the spiritual reality that our worship of God with praise and thanksgiving is directly related to the infilling of the Holy Spirit and the presence of God.

Earnestly seeking the Lord through praise can open up a whole new dimension to one’s faith as the Holy Spirit will bring joy and revelations of Biblical truth in the midst of genuine enthusiastic praise.  Praise takes the power of the spoken word of God and brings it up a notch as the word is lifted in exaltation to the Lord. During praise, the Holy Spirit will bring into remembrance moments from your journey in Christ and will encourage and exhort you to keep going and to take steps in new directions.   

Psalm 9:1-2  I will praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works.  I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High. Sing to the Lord

Scripture repeatedly commands us to praise the Lord with song indicating a loud and lively expression of our praises. These verses indicate that praise can and should be done as a private individual practice.  If we are timid or concerned with what others will think of us when we worship, we can eliminate those concerns by praising the Lord in the privacy of our homes where we can prepare our favorite songs and praise the Lord completely uninhibited. We can even take our individual praise on the road with us and sing to the Lord in the car as we commute throughout our day. God is always with us, so it is appropriate to sing His praises whenever the opportunity arises.  Our lives should be a continuous soundtrack of praise to the Lord.

Praise as an individual practice draws you into a deep relationship with the Lord as you are continuously bringing the presence of the Lord into your environment as you bring honor and glory to Him.  Praise also lifts our spirits by keeping our spiritual eyes on the Lord and it renews our mind as we are proclaiming our identity in Christ with a musical demonstration of our faith. With every song of Praise we are binding ourselves to the Lord and reminding ourselves that we are experiencing our new life in Christ and that our membership in the kingdom of God is an undeniable fact as our fruit of praise shows that the Lord has our heart.

Psalm 149:3 says “Let them praise His name with the dance; Let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp.”  

As we praise privately, we can even incorporate the joy of dancing for the Lord into our practice.  Dancing, raising hands, clapping, and stomping feet to music engage one’s entire body as an act of worship, exercising the body as well as the spirit.  For those too timid to ever dance in public, a private practice of praise allows us to pour out devotion to the Lord without limits. 

Psalm 34:3 says  Oh, magnify the LORD with me, And let us exalt His name together.”

Our private practice of praise prepares us for corporate praise. As we praise privately, we become more confident to join and to contribute to the enthusiastic praise at corporate gatherings. As we learn to unashamedly praise the Lord publicly, we become an encouragement to our brothers and sisters in Christ to do likewise.  While our praises are directed to the Lord, they become an object lesson to others that loud enthusiastic praise is an appropriate expression of our faith and we can rejoice in it together.  Our corporate praise edifies one another and brings us together as a community joined together by the love of God.

The Heart of the Matter

All the various ways to worship the Lord that we have presented are to be done with the “heart of worship” – with genuine heartfelt devotion and love for God, as a part of our daily Christian lifestyle.

Our faith is not a political ideology or a philosophy of living with its principles and precepts. Our faith is a relationship. It’s a love relationship and so the power of worship to transform us must be fueled by a love for God.

The defining characteristic of a Christian is the love we have for God and the love that overflows from that relationship to others. 

Wrap Up

As disciples of Jesus Christ, our worship goes beyond a weekly observance. Our lives become a continuous expression of our love for the Lord as we incorporate various Christian practices to maintain and mature our relationship with Him.  More than intellectual study or following a moral code of ethics, our lives of worship are a spiritual practice that seeks the infinite wisdom of the Lord not to know facts or to show ourselves approved but to familiarize ourselves with the One who first loved us. Our obedience to biblical principles isn’t done out of a fear of punishment or out of doing one’s duty as much as it is our heartfelt response to demonstrate our love and understanding of God.

The importance of a heart connection to our faith is what makes Christ’s burden a light burden as we can endure anything for the One we love. Praise as a private spiritual practice is recommended to bridge the mind and heart of faith together and to develop a deeper experiential bond to the Lord.  Regardless of which spiritual discipline we practice, His presence is experienced the more we seek Him with our hearts and minds, worshiping Him in spirit and in truth.  

 

Review and Examine.

1.    How can worship help us in our recovery or our Christian walk? 

3.    In what ways do we worship the Lord in a church service?

4.    In what ways can we worship the Lord in our daily lives?

5.    Why is praise an important spiritual discipline? In what ways can we praise the Lord?

6.    How can our work be used to worship the Lord?

7.    What is the most important part of your worship practice? Why?


 ------Join us next week for the next Celebrate Freedom Discipleship Course Lesson----

or

Join our “Victory over the Darkness”, “The Bondage Breaker”, and "Freedom in Christ" series of Discipleship Classes via the mt4christ247 podcast!

at https://mt4christ247.podbean.com, You can also find it on Apple podcasts

(https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-mt4christ247s-podcast/id1551615154). The mt4christ247 podcast is also available on Google Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartradio, and Audible.com. 

These teachings are also available on the MT4Christ247 YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/@MT4Christ247

Email me at mt4christ247@gmail.com to receive the class materials, share your progress, and be encouraged.

My wife, TammyLyn, also offers Christian encouragement via her Ask Seek Knock blog (https://tammylynask.blogspot.com/ ),  her Facebook Group: Ask, Seek, Knock (https://www.facebook.com/groups/529047851449098 ) and her podcast Ask, Seek, and Knock on Podbean (https://feed.podbean.com/tammalyn78/feed.xml)

“The views, opinions, and commentary of this publication are those of the author, M.T. Clark, only, and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of any of the photographers, artists, ministries, or other authors of the other works that may be included in this publication, and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of any entities the author may represent.”

Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship


Friday, December 15, 2023

When You think of Me, Remeber Jesus - Purity 1222


 When You think of Me, Remember Jesus - Purity 1222 - Purity 1222

Purity 1222 12/15/2023 Purity 1222 Podcast

Purity 1222 on YouTube: 



Good morning,

Today’s photo of the slightly askew oil painting, “Ball at Sunset, 1990” by Scott Prior (https://scottpriorart.com/) comes to us from yours truly, and a generous donor to the Spring Field Museums, as I captured this work of art during my visit there last weekend.  The information card for this painting (it’s a painting!) states “Scott Pryor, who lives in western Massachusetts, is inspired by his family and everyday events. The artist works from life as well as photographs. He creates intimate and magical scenes with ordinary objects, revealing that beauty can be found in the simplest moments.”  This painting reminds me of summertime, childhood simplicity, raising my kids, and for some unknown reason, maybe because of the emotion it brings up, my wife and our countryside home.  I had to look twice at the information card because Prior’s work really does look like a photograph.  If you have the means, please support the artist by going to  https://scottpriorart.com/ - While I can’t make any claims about Prior’s faith life, I dare say we are kindred spirits of sorts as my sharing of the “photo of the day” was inspired to encourage my friends to see the beauty in the simplest of moments and to get to know the God that put all of it into being.  

Well, It’s Friday, thank God,  and I will be rejoicing at the end of the day because I will be reunited with my beloved wife, TammyLyn, and will possibly go see the Christmas with the Chosen: Holy Night – movie as we are quickly approaching Christmas.   When we think of Christmas, we should remember Jesus. We really shouldn’t have to “Keep Christ in Christmas”  as that is what the holiday is all about. Jesus, the Light of the World, The Newborn King, is what we are to remember at Christmas.   

And as disciples of Jesus, that really is what we want people to remember when they think about us. When people think of me, it is my hope that somewhere in their thoughts or comments there is something about Jesus. Whether they love or hate me, it is my sincerest wish to have the Lord glorified by my life.  The blog, the podcast, the YouTube channel, and the ministry work I do is all intended – to not point to me – but to point to Jesus, as He is the One who gave me life and affected the transformation that has happened to me over the last 13 years.   My ministry name MT4Christ or MT4Christ247 is not intended to highlight M.T. Clark – it is supposed to highlight Jesus, and it is supposed to be a play on words and an encouragement to you, dear friends, to “Empty” yourselves “For Christ”, to fill you with the Holy Spirit and to lead you into the love and freedom of Christ and God’s purpose for your life.   That’s it,  

Last night, I gave honor to my departed friend and brother in Christ, Bill Hamm, by going to His memorial service. I was actually a little late in arriving because I wanted to pay my respects in a suit, to try to convey my feelings of respect and love for Bill, and how serious I felt about the loss of his departure. Silly perhaps, but that’s the way I felt, and even though I was a little late I was able to get there in time to hear Bill’s son, Jeremey deliver Bill’s eulogy, which was sweet, tender, funny, and inspiring all at the same time as Jeremy gave testimony to his father’s simple yet deep love for his family and friends, his nonnonsense working man’s integrity, and his faithful witness for Jesus Christ.

When I think about Bill Hamm, I remember Jesus because our relationship had Him at the center as Bill and I were two sinners, transformed into saints, who were just humble students of our Savior and tried our best to follow Him. 

After the service, I greeted Jeremy and Bill’s widow and expressed my condolences and my deep friendship with their father and husband, and I was humbled by something  Rebecca related to me that took me by surprise.  She told me that: “In one of Bill’s journals, Bill had written: “M.T. Clark = Jesus”.  I of course laughed and made light of it.  But I was actually deeply moved by it, and looked at Bill’s flower-surrounded memorial photo, and laughed and shook my head as The Lord moved the events of last evening to have Bill “speak to me”.  Speaking to Bill’s photo, I said: “Okay, Bill, you get the last laugh.  Here I come dressed up in a suit to honor you, and you turn the tables, and honor me! God bless you brother.”  

Bill and I had served in the church together, walked through my recovery and serving in the Celebrate Freedom together, and in some of the last days of our friendship, Bill had honored me by attending the last class I taught at Rock Solid Church, Freedom in Christ, and he apparently had listened to the podcast too.  Bill’s note in the journal wasn’t saying I was Jesus. The fact that Bill wrote “M.T. Clark” and not “Marc Clark” speaks to that.  M.T. Clark is the new creation in Christ.  So Bill’s note was in affect saying, “The reason there is an M.T. Clark is Jesus”.  Bill saw me come into the church in 2011 and he saw “Marc” (or as some called me to their children “Mr. Marc (SMH)) and Bill saw firsthand my journey into becoming the person I was as I left Rock Solid Church. He had seen the transformation. Like one of the Magi at Christmas time, He had witnessed “the birth of M.T. Clark” and when Bill thought of me, he apparently remembered Jesus and because I went to honor Bill last night, the Lord arranged for me to know it. 

We all have one life to live on this side of eternity and what we will be remembered for matters. Without Christ, your hobbies, preferences, interest, and accomplishments won’t amount to anything, only those who make Christ their Lord and Savior move on to eternal life and if we have received the gift of our salvation, we really should use our lives to honor God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  

So keep walking and talking with God, and don’t care if people love you or hate you for it but be sure to do what you can to encourage people to know, love, and follow Christ, and that someday when they think of you, they remember Jesus.

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For those who want more evidence for Christianity than my simple encouragements provide, I offer apologist, Frank Turek’s website, https://crossexamined.org/ .

Today’s Bible verse comes to us from “The Quick Scripture Reference for Counseling” By John G. Kruis.

( While Bible verses on various topics of Counseling can be found with a quick Google search, we encourage you to purchase this resource to support the late author’s work. (https://www.amazon.com/Quick-Scripture-Reference-Counseling-Kruis-ebook/dp/B00CIUJZT2?ref_=ast_author_dp )

This morning’s meditation verses come from the section on Church Discipline.

1 Corinthians 5:11 (ESV)
11  But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.

Today’s verse fall under the fifth point of our counseling reference guide resource’s section on Church Discipline

5. Do not fellowship with one who will not repent.

Today’s verse advises us to not fellowship with those who are guilty of wanton sin and claim to be a Christian.   Get a load of that list – sex immoral (that’s anyone having any type of sex – outside of a marriage between one man and one woman), drunkards (oh yeah, let’s party), greedy and swindlers (the materialism in the American church may make you blush), and those “revilers” ( those angry people who criticize all the time).  

Okay, shots fired at the church, men and women down!  Considering the local congregations and the things I see and have seen in the building known as the church it is surprising that we get together at all because if we followed this principle, over half the people gathered in the church building would be prevented from crossing the threshold.  

While I completely understand how we want to encourage people to come to church and to “consider following Jesus” , our faith is supposed to be evidenced by our changed lives and if we welcome in people who agree nominally, in the name of, but not in the spirit of, Jesus and disobey virtually everything the word of God says about Christian living, we really need to consider if out “loving the sinner” is the tactic we should take.  While we don’t want to be legalists, we certainly don’t want to convey that regular unrepented sin is “okay because you have been forgiven”. That’s an error that can have serious consequences here on earth and possibly in eternity as other verses in the Bible indicate that people with this list of sin in their lives are fooling themselves to think that they are actually “in Christ”.  

So, listen to the Lord and don’t associate with people in known sin, but at the same time listen to the Lord in case He wants to use you to bring them back into the grace of His love and to guide them to repentance.   Light and darkness do not have anything to do with one another, but ours is also the faith of bringing people out of the darkness to live forever with the light of the world. So shine the light of Jesus and allow Him to move people to be born again, repent, and live.  

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As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk.

Today we are sharing from “God is in the Manger- Reflections on Advent and Christmas” – By Dietrich Bonhoeffer.   

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage you all to purchase Bonhoeffer’s books for your own private study and to support his work.  This resource is available online for less than $10 at many sites.

God is in the Manger – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

ADVENT WEEK THREE -  REDEMPTION

DAY FOUR

Look Up, Your Redemption Is Drawing Near

Let’s not deceive ourselves. “Your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28), whether we know it or not, and the only question is: Are we going to let it come to us too, or are we going to resist it? Are we going to join in this movement that comes down from heaven to earth, or are we going to close ourselves off? Christmas is coming—whether it is with us or without us depends on each and every one of us.

Such a true Advent happening now creates something different from the anxious, petty, depressed, feeble Christian spirit that we see again and again, and that again and again wants to make Christianity contemptible. This becomes clear from the two powerful commands that introduce our text: “Look up and raise your heads” (Luke 21:28 RSV). Advent creates people, new people. We too are supposed to become new people in Advent. Look up, you whose gaze is fixed on this earth, who are spellbound by the little events and changes on the face of the earth. Look up to these words, you who have turned away from heaven disappointed. Look up, you whose eyes are heavy with tears and who are heavy and who are crying over the fact that the earth has gracelessly torn us away. Look up, you who, burdened with guilt, cannot lift your eyes. Look up, your redemption is drawing near. Something different from what you see daily will happen. Just be aware, be watchful, wait just another short moment. Wait and something quite new will break over you: God will come.

You know what a mine disaster is. In recent weeks we have had to read about one in the newspapers.

The moment even the most courageous miner has dreaded his whole life long is here. It is no use running into the walls; the silence all around him remains.… The way out for him is blocked. He knows the people up there are working feverishly to reach the miners who are buried alive. Perhaps someone will be rescued, but here in the last shaft? An agonizing period of waiting and dying is all that remains.

But suddenly a noise that sounds like tapping and breaking in the rock can be heard. Unexpectedly, voices cry out, “Where are you, help is on the way!” Then the disheartened miner picks himself up, his heart leaps, he shouts, “Here I am, come on through and help me! I’ll hold out until you come! Just come soon!” A final, desperate hammer blow to his ear, now the rescue is near, just one more step and he is free.

We have spoken of Advent itself. That is how it is with the coming of Christ: “Look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Bonhoeffer’s Advent sermon in a London church, December 3, 1933

Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

Luke 21:28[1]

---------------------------more tomorrow------------------------

Join our “Victory over the Darkness”, “The Bondage Breaker”, "Freedom in Christ" series of Discipleship Classes via the mt4christ247 podcast!

at https://mt4christ247.podbean.com, You can also find it on Apple podcasts

(https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-mt4christ247s-podcast/id1551615154). The mt4christ247 podcast is also available on Google Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartradio, and Audible.com. 

These teachings are also available on the MT4Christ247 YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/@MT4Christ247

Email me at mt4christ247@gmail.com to receive the class materials, share your progress, and to be encouraged.

My wife, TammyLyn, also offers Christian encouragement via her Ask Seek Knock blog (https://tammylynask.blogspot.com/ ),  her Facebook Group: Ask, Seek, Knock (https://www.facebook.com/groups/529047851449098 ) and her podcast Ask, Seek, and Knock on Podbean (https://feed.podbean.com/tammalyn78/feed.xml)

“The views, opinions, and commentary of this publication are those of the author, M.T. Clark, only, and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of any of the photographers, artists, ministries, or other authors of the other works that may be included in this publication, and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of any entities the author may represent.”

Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship



[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas, ed. Jana Riess, trans. O. C. Dean Jr., First edition. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 40–41.

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Have Yourself an Imperfect Christmas & “Why You Shouldn’t Be Defensive” – Wisdom from Dr. Neil Anderson - Purity 1218

Have Yourself an Imperfect Christmas & “Why You Shouldn’t Be Defensive” – Wisdom from Dr. Neil Anderson - Purity 1218

Purity 1218 12/09/2023 Purity 1218 Podcast

Purity 1218 on YouTube: 



Good morning,

Today’s photo of an imperfectly decorated unlit pre-lit Christmas tree topped with a Santa hat comes to us from yours truly as I captured a view from River House’s living room Christmas decorations for 2023.  Yeah, the lights aren’t working so I bought 200 lights and wrapped them around the tree to “get it done”, even if it isn’t perfect. An electronic switch to prayerfully fix the light problem is on the way. But whether it fixes it or not, the tree is up!

An imperfect manger scene featuring only two of three wise men is also on display. Actually the third wise man in on display. He, the one bearing a treasure chest of gold,  is there, he is just in a plastic sandwich bag because somewhere along the line he literally lost his head. It’s in the bag too. So I guess he sort of represents the dangers of carrying cash at Christmas time, but he is still standing in his clear sandwich-body bag, although his head is not on his shoulders, because he has been decapitated, but he still showed up to honor Baby Jesus, despite his sorry state, although he is respectfully staying in the background as he doesn’t want the supernatural miracle of his being raised from the dead, headless, to disturb the awe and wonder of the first Christmas.   But seriously, I think I will get some super glue to try to fix – the Gold giving wise man's head like I did last year or the year before. Some things just don’t stay fixed no matter what you try, I guess. We are not perfect, and the world is not perfect, so join me in giving up any illusions that we would somehow be perfect and give up the bondage of the dream of “the perfect Christmas”.  

Well, It’s Saturday, and I apologize for my silliness and my imperfect Christmas decoration display, but as we draw ever closer to Christmas, I wanted to assure all my friends that you don’t have to be perfect, your Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect,  when we “do something for the Lord” it doesn’t have to be perfect, and perhaps most importantly we don’t have to defend ourselves.

So take off the holiday stress, try to relax a little bit, and try to do the best you can to make merry this Christmas, and leave the rest up to God.  

We as fallible human beings are not perfect but those of us who have put their faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior have a perfect advocate who has paid for all of our sins, and who gives his righteousness to us.  We don’t have to be perfect in the things we do, earn our salvation, or defend ourselves because Christ has done that for us. 

And since, I imperfectly forgot to set my alarm this morning and am a bit short on time, as I will be headed for the Amazing World Dr. Seuss Museum today, for Grinchmas – of really forgive me, I decided to share this message from Dr. Neil Anderson that I received as a morning devotion earlier this week in my email that I found to be very encouraging as my recent failure to be certified as a Deeper Walk Prayer Minister on time caused all kinds of emotions and the desire to defend myself.   So, please enjoy this wisdom from Dr. Neil Anderson, called:

“WHY YOU SHOULDN'T BE DEFENSIVE

While being reviled, He [Jesus] did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously (1 Peter 2:23).

There are two reasons why you should not be defensive when there is a critical, negative evaluation of you.

First, if you are in the wrong, you don't have a defense. If you are criticized for saying something which is out of order or doing something which is wrong, and the criticism is valid, any defensiveness on your part would be a rationalization at best and a lie at worst. You must simply respond, "You're right; I was wrong," then take steps to improve your character and behavior.

Second, if you are right, you don't need a defense. Peter encouraged us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus who "while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously" (1 Peter 2:23). If you are in the right, you don't need to defend yourself. The Righteous Judge, who knows who you are and what you have done, will exonerate you.

A dear lady entered my office with a well-thought-out list of 'things for me' and 'things against me'. I suggested that she share the 'things for me' first. That didn't take long! As she was going through the 'things against me', the part of me that is made of earth wanted to respond to every allegation. But I didn't. When she was finished, there was an awkward pause before I said, "It must have taken a lot of courage to come in and share that with me. What do you suggest I do?" She started to cry. Nobody tears another down from a position of strength or judges another without being judged. Judgmental people are people in pain. If you can learn not to be defensive when someone exposes your character defects or attacks your performance, you may have an opportunity to turn the situation around and minister to that person.

Lord, give me the courage not to react defensively. You are the only defense I need, and I entrust myself to You, who judges righteously.

-Neil Anderson”

Amen. When I received my negative evaluation, I tried to explain myself at first but the decision to delay my certification was made and I have not defended myself or tried to talk the instructor into changing his mind since. Instead, I have chosen to receive the ministry development plan they have prepared with thanks and will consider what it indicates about the areas where I need improvement and will consider when, how, and if I will pursue meeting its requirements.  Today’s message reminds me that I don’t have to defend myself and my faith reminds me that I don’t need the approval of men, or a certification in prayer ministry, to be fully accepted, secure, or significant in Christ.  

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For those who want more evidence for Christianity than my simple encouragements provide, I offer apologist, Frank Turek’s website, https://crossexamined.org/ .

Today’s Bible verse comes to us from “The Quick Scripture Reference for Counseling” By John G. Kruis.

( While Bible verses on various topics of Counseling can be found with a quick Google search, we encourage you to purchase this resource to support the late author’s work. (https://www.amazon.com/Quick-Scripture-Reference-Counseling-Kruis-ebook/dp/B00CIUJZT2?ref_=ast_author_dp )

This morning’s meditation verses come from the section on Church Discipline.

Colossians 3:16 (NIV2011)
16  Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

Today’s verse is the second of two verses that fall under the first point of our counseling reference guide resource’s section on Church Discipline

1.    Discipline begins with personal admonition.

Today’s verse encourages us to teach and admonish one another with the message of Christ but to also be thankful for receiving it and to allow it to produce joy in our hearts to the point that we make a regular practice out of worshiping the Lord in song.  

Wisdom and knowledge of Christian theology and of what the Bible actually says is a huge key to our walking out our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ, but today’s verse also encourages us to be grateful and to sing with gratitude to God in our hearts.  Our faith is not just head knowledge. Our faith is a love relationship with God, or at least it is supposed to be, and so if the “message of Christ” hasn’t penetrated our hearts to cause us to love the Lord with al of our hearts, minds, souls, and strength, we may want to start singing to stir our souls to “feel the love” of God experientially.  

Ironically, singing to the Lord can actually be a means to an end in experiencing gratitude and joy for the Lord in our hearts. While singing to the Lord should certainly be a “fruit” of our transformed life, if we are feeling a little cold or don’t know what the love of God feels like, we can use worship and praise to get us there.  

The knowledge of God going from our heads to our hearts may be just a matter of surrendering and reflecting on the joy of our salvation and celebrating what the Lord has done for us as we sing along with worship. When we reflect on our salvation experience and the things the Lord has provided us with in the body of Christ, the Holy Spirit may move in our spirits to show us what being a Christian is all about – the love of God in us! 

Being a Christian really is something we should be excited about. Now please forgive me, but any love song can be directed toward the Lord and be a means to express our love for God and a means to receive love from God.  

For example, the Pointer Sister’s song – “I’m so Excited” speaks in general terms and the love in it can be directed to God.   The songs lyrics proclaim: 

“I want to love you, feel you.

Wrap myself around you.

I want to squeeze you, please you.

I just can't get enough.

And if you move real slow, I'll let it go.

 

I'm so excited, and I just can't hide it.

I'm about to lose control and I think I like it.

I'm so excited, and I just can't hide it.

And I know, I know, I know, I know, I know I want you.” (https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/pointersisters/imsoexcited.html) 

Lord! , I want you Lord! I do want to love you; feel you and I am excited about it.   

So try to give worship a try – use Christian songs or repurpose some pop favorites with God as the object of your desire and you may experience the exciting life of peace, joy, and love that the Lord has for you. 

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As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk.

Today we are sharing from “God is in the Manger- Reflections on Advent and Christmas” – By Dietrich Bonhoeffer.   

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage you all to purchase Bonhoeffer’s books for your own private study and to support his work.  This resource is available online for less than $10 at many sites.

God is in the Manger – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

ADVENT WEEK TWO -  MYSTERY

DAY SEVEN

An Unfathomable Mystery

In an incomprehensible reversal of all righteous and pious thinking, God declares himself guilty to the world and thereby extinguishes the guilt of the world. God himself takes the humiliating path of reconciliation and thereby sets the world free. God wants to be guilty of our guilt and takes upon himself the punishment and suffering that this guilt brought to us. God stands in for godlessness, love stands in for hate, the Holy One for the sinner. Now there is no longer any godlessness, any hate, any sin that God has not taken upon himself, suffered, and atoned for. Now there is no more reality and no more world that is not reconciled with God and in peace. That is what God did in his beloved Son Jesus Christ. Ecce homo—see the incarnate God, the unfathomable mystery of the love of God for the world. God loves human beings. God loves the world—not ideal human beings but people as they are, not an ideal world but the real world.

We prepare to witness a mystery. More to the point, we prepare to witness the Mystery, the God made flesh. While it is good that we seek to know the Holy One, it is probably not so good to presume that we ever complete the task, to suppose that we ever know anything about him except what he has made known to us. The prophet Isaiah helps us to remember our limitations when he writes, “To whom then will you compare me …? says the Holy One.…” Think of it like this: he cannot be exhausted by our ideas about him, but he is everywhere suggested. He cannot be comprehended, but he can be touched. His coming in the flesh—this Mystery we prepare to glimpse again—confirms that he is to be touched.

Scott Cairns, in God with Us

To whom then will you liken God,

or what likeness compare with him?…

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Have you not known? Have you not heard?

Has it not been told you from the beginning?

Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,

and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;

who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,

and spreads them like a tent to live in;

who brings princes to naught,

and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

Isaiah 40:18, 21–23[1]

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Join our “Victory over the Darkness”, “The Bondage Breaker”, "Freedom in Christ" series of Discipleship Classes via the mt4christ247 podcast!

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Email me at mt4christ247@gmail.com to receive the class materials, share your progress, and to be encouraged.

My wife, TammyLyn, also offers Christian encouragement via her Ask Seek Knock blog (https://tammylynask.blogspot.com/ ),  her Facebook Group: Ask, Seek, Knock (https://www.facebook.com/groups/529047851449098 ) and her podcast Ask, Seek, and Knock on Podbean (https://feed.podbean.com/tammalyn78/feed.xml)

“The views, opinions, and commentary of this publication are those of the author, M.T. Clark, only, and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of any of the photographers, artists, ministries, or other authors of the other works that may be included in this publication, and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of any entities the author may represent.”

Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship



[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas, ed. Jana Riess, trans. O. C. Dean Jr., First edition. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 30–31.