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Showing posts with label Church. Show all posts

Friday, June 17, 2022

Buildings, Systems, and Communities – Finding Authentic Faith – Purity 760

Buildings, Systems, and Communities – Finding Authentic Faith – Purity 760

Purity 760 06/17/2022 Purity 760 Podcast

Good morning,

Today’s photo of a sunset just over the horizon under a canopy of clouds comes to us from a friend who captured this scene from their rural home near in Saugerties, New York. 

You know even though I was raised in a small town that was more urban and suburban than rural I have learned to appreciate the reason why so many people have chosen to live away from cities and the nearby suburbs, it’s peaceful and pretty out in the country.   Not only is there the natural beauty of the landscape and wildlife, there is also the beauty of what is not there, the noise and problems that come from our fellow man.   

So as much as I may gripe about the lack of optimal technological conditions at my countryside home, I often remind myself when I walk with my canine companion, Harley, down Waite Rd that the country sure is peaceful and the views of the “big sky” out there bring things into their proper perspective.  The problems and dramas we face in life can consume our thoughts and emotions but there is a great big world all around us that was made by a Great God who has more for us to see then just what is right before us. 

The heavens, the setting sun, and nature declare there is a God and when we look to them we can find peace and realize there are other things to consider other than our immediate pressing problems. There is a big picture and if we are focusing on our immediate concerns too much we might not see it and be blinded to its wonder and beauty. 

Last night, one of the participants in the Freedom in Christ course commented on the difficulty he had coming in to live out his faith in Jesus Christ because of all the various systems, denominations, and expressions of Christianity that are out there.  He also said that he noticed that often the members of the different systems of Christianity would deride other groups for having differing practices or traditions or would make claims to be the one true faith system of the Christian faith.  In his search for truth, this man wondered how people who all claimed to be followers of Jesus Christ could all have such different beliefs and practices and be so divided if they were all representing the same Lord.   

In my long search for truth and a personal relationship with my Lord, I encountered many of the same concerns and issues. When I came to faith in Christ in 2010, the ;last thing I wanted to do in my new life in Christ was to make a mistake and be led astray by an apostate church system, or false teacher.  I knew I was really saved by faith in Christ and now had a deep desire to be a “real” Christian and so I was very concerned of not being “blind” in my new found faith. 

Like this man, I was confused about which church I should go to and what I should make of all the different views on different points of doctrine. 

Thankfully, the Lord was with me and I credit the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit for giving me a deep desire to read God’s word, to read the Bible to know the truth about the Christian faith.  I wasn’t content to “just believe” or to “take it on faith” that a church system or pastor could be blindly obeyed or trusted without my knowing what they said, taught, and performed was right according to the Bible.  

I had seen “sketchy” people who quoted Bible verses or claimed religion but their faith didn’t give them a compassionate disposition or didn’t seem to change the way they lived. So I wanted to be able to discern if what people were preaching or teaching was consistent with God’s will. And the only way to spot a counterfeit was to know the real article.  The only way to spot a lie was to be familiar with the Truth.   

While I listened to tons of sermons and Christian teaching from various pastors and Christian teachers to learn about my Christian faith, I read the word of God for myself so I would be able to spot a phony or be able to see that the word of God was being twisted to support a particular view or buttress someone else’s personal agenda.  Arthur Cincotti, that one was for you. Buttress!

So to be safe and to not be led astray, I encourage everyone who are seeking a close relationship with God to read His word so they can know what they believe and why they believe it. Do your research. 

Choosing a church shouldn’t be a blind decision because the idea behind a local church is that you will worship and serve the Lord in that community.  We aren’t  looking for a system or a building. We are looking for a body of believers that respect God’s word and attempt to live by it. We want to be part of a community that seeks to do the Lord’s will and to represent Him on the earth. 

And we should be discerning in what church we decide to go to. We don’t have to give them all a chance. Some are based in error. Some churches support a modern view of what is acceptable or allowable for a Christian that contradicts what the Bible says. Some so called churches don’t revere the Bible as the only source of truth for our faith. They don’t consider the Bible to be God’s infallible, inerrant, word,  or they put the views of men or “church tradition” on equal footing with the Holy Scriptures which basically says that “only these divinely anointed servants” can interpret what the Bible really means and that “laymen” need not concern themselves with reading the Bible, and that reading the Bible could be dangerous in some way because these “laymen” may “be deceived” and develop an interpretation of the Bible’s content that differs from what the “church father’s”  have determined to be true.  

This is a problem.  God comes to us personally to show us the truth of who Christ is and  He wants us to come to Him personally.

So be wise and discerning when you decide to follow a system of faith, a group, or a person to make sure that the path you are taking is based on God’s word and will for your life.   

The best way to do that is to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth by reading His word and by applying what it says to your life.

And don’t worry about making mistakes. We are forgiven by God through our faith in Jesus Christ.  When we pursue the Lord through His word we will know the truth and the truth will set us free and lead us to experience the fruit of the Spirit as we walk and talk with God. 

We can run into trouble when we are lazy in our responsibility to be authentic in our faith and decide to trust a system, a group, or a person without question and without confirming what they say, and how they say it, against the letter and the principles established in God’s word.  

With that said, we also have to be humble. The people serving in churches have dedicated their lives to the work of ministry and should be given our trust and service.  If we are going to be “real” in our faith, we have to also be real in our support of the good work that Christians are doing by joining their efforts.  

So rather than a building, a system, or charismatic leader, seek to join a community of believers that are seeking to bring more people into God’s kingdom, who believe in and practice what the Bible teaches, and who are concerned with serving others and who are attempting to help one another grow in their relationship with God.   

It is my prayer that all my friends find a community of Christians where they can grow and find their purpose in Christ.  

So keep walking and talking with God. He will show the way to go. So trust and follow where He leads you to worship. And when you get there, worship and serve the Lord with your whole heart, mind, spirit, and body.

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Today’s Bible verse comes to us from “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”.

This morning’s meditation verse is:

1 John 4:19 (NLT2)
19  We love each other because he loved us first.

Today’s Bible verse indicates that we are given the capability to love because of the Lord.  

As Creator, God loved us enough to make us fearfully and wonderfully made.  In our bodies, we have the capability to do so many things to affect change and to accomplish tasks.  In our minds, God gave us the capability of imagining new things to create solutions to problems or just to inspire us with creative works of beauty.   In our hearts, He gave us the capacity to love.   

So God first loved us by creating us. 

But because of the free will God gave us, we could also choose to not fulfill our purpose in life by rejecting God and His ways for us.   Adam’s decision to disobey caused mankind to fall into sin and to be cursed with death as the consequence of sin.  

But God loved us enough to make a way to restore us, through Jesus Christ.  

So God oved us again to save us.  And when are redeemed, we realize our value and are given eternal life with God.  And now as brothers and sisters in Christ we can also love in the deepest sense of the word.   We can love others by sharing the truth of the gospel that will bring them from death to life.  We love because God first loved us, through creating us and saving us.   

So love the Lord with all your heart, mind, and soul and share that love the we received by loving others as yourself.

 

 

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 continue sharing from Clinton E. Arnold’s “Powers of Darkness”

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Clinton Arnold’s books for your own private study and to support his work.  This resource is available on many websites for less than $20.00.

The Classical Mystery: The Rape of Kore by Hades

Fourteen miles west of Athens on the road to Corinth, the city of Eleusis was situated in a fertile agricultural area. For hundreds of years before the time of Christ, mystery rites were performed annually in the city celebrating the reunion of a mother goddess with her daughter, who had been abducted for three months by Hades, god of the underworld. According to the informing myth, Demeter, the distraught mother, wandered for days and ended the search for her daughter, Kore (also known as Persephone), in the city of Eleusis. While Demeter was at Eleusis, the supreme god Zeus finally intervened and promised to reunite Kore with her mother for eight months of every year. It turns out that Zeus had also consented for Hades (the Roman god Pluto) to take Kore as his wife. This compromise was struck between the mother and the daughter’s prospective husband.

In Eleusis mystery rites were held every year, involving a ritual enactment of many parts of this mythical drama. The “Lesser Mysteries,” held in honor of Kore, were conducted in the early spring; the “Greater Mysteries,” in honor of Demeter, were performed at the beginning of autumn. The mystery rites symbolized a happy afterlife in the other world, but they were also closely connected with raising a good corn crop in the area each year. The following two themes are very important in this respect.

First, after another deity informed Demeter (also known as the “corn maiden”) of the abduction of her daughter, Demeter caused a severe blight on the earth, which effectively twisted the arm of Zeus to intervene. This blight, induced by divine cosmic disharmony, devastated agricultural production. Part of the “Greater Mysteries” celebrate the cosmic harmony that ultimately occurred among the heavens (Zeus), the earth (Demeter) and the underworld (Hades). This harmony was essential to insure continued agricultural stability.

Second, the local interpretation of Kore’s annual journey back and forth from the underworld was thought to be related to the seed corn used in the local agriculture. Just as Kore spent four months of the year with Hades and eight months of the year with Demeter, the seed corn at Eleusis was preserved in underground silos for four months of the year and was then sown, cultivated and harvested during the rest of the year. The activities of these gods was believed to be closely intertwined with the local agricultural economy. It was therefore important to please the gods through the annual performance of these mystery rites.

It is difficult to know precisely the deeper spiritual significance given to the mystery rites at Eleusis during the time of Paul. These rites were variously interpreted according to the religious needs of every age. Although Hades was not a symbol of evil to the Greeks, he is often represented as “grim, unpitying, [and] a severe punisher of wrongdoers.” Possibly the mystery rites symbolized protection from the harmful influences of Hades. The desire for protection is probably why the dramatic enactment of descent to the underworld is important in connection with the Plutonion, an opening to the underworld, located next to the temple at Eleusis. It is also likely that at the height of the mystery initiation, the new devotees were the awed recipients of an epiphany of the goddess Demeter herself, who would bring them happiness and the hope of a pleasant afterlife in the underworld. Paul and all of his readers in Greece, no doubt, would have been quite familiar with this famous mystery religion.

Taurobolium: Initiation into Cybele

Across the Aegean Sea in Asia Minor where numerous Christian churches were coming into existence, a popular oriental cult observed annual mysteries in honor of the mother-goddess Cybele (pronounced ku-be’le). This Asian female deity, also known as the “Great Mother” and “Mother of the Gods,” came to be worshiped in Greece and even Rome before the beginning of the New Testament period.

The best-known part of her mystery rite is an event called the taurobolium. In this rite the initiate descends into an underground pit, which is partially covered with a series of wooden lattices. Walking out onto the latticework, the priests of Cybele would slaughter a young bull and allow its blood to pour through the openings of the wood, drenching the initiate in the pit below. The Latin Christian writer Prudentius vividly describes the rite:

Through the thousand crevices in the wood, the bloody dew runs down into the pit. The neophyte [initiate] receives the falling drops on his head, clothes and body. He leans backward to have his cheeks, his ears, his lips and his nostrils wetted; he pours the liquid over his eyes, and does not even spare his palate, for he moistens his tongue with blood and drinks it eagerly.

For the devotees of Cybele this gruesome rite was filled with deep spiritual significance. The bloody “baptism” was thought to purify the initiates from their faults. Franz Cumont contends that there was even a materialistic concept of a transfer of strength to the initiate. He comments: “by moistening his body with the blood of the slaughtered steer, the neophyte believed that he was transfusing the strength of the formidable beast into his own limbs.” As with other mysteries, the initiation probably also signified some mystical union with the deity.

The initiate could now live in greater security and peace. The taurobolium satisfied a spiritual yearning and brought the person closer to the deity. The new access to this deity’s cosmic power, symbolized by the blood of the bull, provided benefits, such as coping with malevolent hostile influences and assuring of immortality.

Asdepius: God of Healing

The best way to understand other religions during the time of the New Testament is to look carefully at a few. I have chosen three deities who were popular for different reasons during the time of Paul. Without a doubt many of Paul’s converts in Ephesus, Philippi, Thessalonica, Corinth and elsewhere were devoted to these gods before turning to the gospel. The portraits of these three deities will give us some insight into the pre-Christian background of a large segment of Paul’s readership.

Often praised as a “savior,” the god Asclepius was one of the most popular deities among the masses during the New Testament era. Asclepius was honored throughout the Mediterranean world for his power to heal the sick and afflicted. His symbol was the staff with a snake coiled around it, similar to that of physicians today. He was perceived as a benevolent god, concerned with people’s needs. He identified with the feelings of the afflicted because he was believed to be a god-man. Many, in fact, believed Asclepius was half-human and half-divine. Because of these and other similarities to Christ, the cult of Asclepius proved to be a formidable opponent to Christianity.

Pergamum and Epidaurus were two major centers of the worship of Asclepius and were near Ephesus and Corinth, strategic centers of Paul’s missionary activities. While Paul never mentioned Asclepius (or any pagan deity) in his letters, he would undoubtedly have had a substantial number of converts who had some contact with the cult of Asclepius.

From all over the Hellenistic world, the sick and ailing flocked to Asclepian centers to seek healing from their diseases. Many reportedly received the divine healing intervention of Asclepius during the rite of “incubation,” sleeping in the precincts of the temple in order to receive a visionary epiphany from the god. When Asclepius appeared to the sick person, his healing powers were imparted and the person was healed. This appearance and the apparent healing constituted the essence of initiation into the divine mystery of Asclepius. Before sleeping in the temple, the afflicted individual needed to perform certain purification rites and offer sacrifices to Asclepius. After experiencing the healing powers of this god, it was then important to offer appropriate and acceptable thanksgiving. This rite would often take the form of a thank-offering, which the initiate commonly consumed while the god was in his temple. One writer has observed: “In the Asclepius cult the ancient concept of the sacrifice as a communion between god and man was upheld tenaciously.” This description illustrates a distinctive trait of the New Testament era in which the concept of a close personal relationship with a deity was common.

The cured were also encouraged to publicize to others what Asclepius had accomplished for them. We consequently have a number of accounts of people rendering praise to Asclepius for healing them of their illnesses. One papyrus text appears to be the introduction to a much longer document in which a man praises Asclepius because he had been healed of a terrible internal disorder during the incubation rite. Just before the text breaks off, the writer states his intention: “I now purpose to recount his miraculous manifestations, the greatness of his power, the gifts of his benefits. The history is this …”

Many of the early Christians did not dispute the evidence for supernatural events happening in connection with the cult of Asclepius. Rather, they attributed the source of the healing powers to Satan and his demons and pointed to its grave dangers. Among the church fathers, Eusebius regarded Asclepius as an evil spirit “who does not cure souls but destroys them” while Lactantius termed Asclepius an “archdemon.”

Hekate: Goddess of Witchcraft and Sorcery

The goddess Hekate (sometimes spelled Hecate) has much significance for our investigation into the powers of darkness. More than any other Hellenistic deity, Hekate was popularly known for her close connection with evil spirits, strange apparitions and things of danger. Long before the New Testament period, she was widely regarded as the mistress of evil spirits (or demons). Alois Kehl remarks, “In the common belief of Greco-Roman civilization, Hekate appeared above all as the ruler of darkness, of terror, of the dead, of demons, and of magic.”14 Because she was believed to be the ruler of the demons, she was frequently invoked in sorcery and magic; because she controlled the evil spirits, she gave magic its effective power. Because Hekate dispatched demons to carry out the magician’s wishes, her name appears repeatedly throughout the magical texts.

She was widely believed to be an underworld goddess; that is, she wielded control over the place of the dead or the disembodied souls. Her power over the various spirits of the underworld was represented by her title “key bearer,” meaning she possessed the keys to the fortress of Hades. Because she controlled the passageway to the underworld, she could enable people to communicate with the dead. Her custodianship of Hades also enabled her to control the apparitions or souls who ascend to do the magician’s bidding.17

Her power was not only limited to the underworld. As with so many other deities of the period, she was viewed as having cosmic power. Her rule extended over heaven, earth and sea. Some texts point to her connection with the lunar element, in which she becomes associated with the moon-goddess, Selene. A few ancient writers even emphasize her role as a cosmic soul.

People worshiped her and made offerings to her for protection from evil. She was called the “goddess of the crossroads.” In popular superstition, the intersection of two roads was viewed as haunted. A statue of Hekate was commonly erected at crossroads. Her function as an averter of evil influences reflects her popular title, “protector of the gate.”

While Hekate was worshiped throughout the Roman Empire, she was especially at home in Asia Minor, where she is thought to have originated Her primary cult center was at Lagina, not far from Ephesus. Hekate is closely connected with the Ephesian Artemis, so much so that distinctions between the two female goddesses become blurred in many respects.

During his travels throughout the empire, the apostle Paul probably encountered her image along Roman roads countless times. His converts would have found it difficult to completely forsake honoring her since she was perceived to be a primary source of protection from evil spirits in daily life. Her promise of protection from the underworld would also have posed a significant challenge to the Christian gospel’s promise of life after death.[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 You Tube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTxjSNstREpuGWuL0bF3U7w/featured

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 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)

Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship



[1] Clinton E. Arnold, Powers of Darkness: Principalities & Powers in Paul’s Letters (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 1992), 38–43.

 

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Let’s Get Together, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah! – Organizations, Denominations, and Congregations, Oh My! - Purity 719


Let’s Get Together, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah! – Organizations, Denominations, and Congregations, Oh My!  - Purity 719

Purity 719 04/30/2022     Purity 719 Podcast

Good morning,

Today’s photo of, what I believe to be, an early morning sunrise over a farm somewhere along the way on my wife’s morning commute to work comes to us from my phone’s photo archives as I saved it back April 12th, and as of this morning its origin is still in question as I have absolutely no degree of certainty that a. it was taken and shared by my wife or comes from some other friend or b. it is a photo of a sunrise or a sunset! 

No, I think that’s a sunset, right? Yeah. Whatever. Whether it’s a sunrise or a sunset, I share it because of it’s natural beauty and I love how the clouds are above the sun forming a triangular heavenly “teepee” that encapsulates the sky and has the sun as a base fire.  

This heavenly tabernacle, or tent of meeting, reminds me of two things. 

Because I am currently at my countryside home enjoying the company of my beloved wedded wife, it reminds me of the ideal Christian marriage, where husband and wife are gathered together with God as their focal point of worship, purpose, and direction, as the Lord is the One who establishes the standards of their marriage covenant. 

When a husband and wife are equally seeking the Lord and His will for their individual lives and agree to obey the commandments that the Lord puts forth in His word for husbands and wives, they naturally will draw closer together and have peace and harmony, as each party will seek to love and serve the other as an expression of, not only their love for one another, but as an expression of their love and obedience to the Lord, and as a confirmation of their individual identity in Christ.

Did you know being a good husband or wife was a spiritual practice? It is, and if you are married, your role as a husband and wife isn’t just a duty it’s part of your identity and purpose in Christ. 

The second thing that today’s photo, and what I see to be a heavenly tabernacle,  reminds me of is the church, that body of Christ, that often meets in buildings with steeples that literally point to the heavens and usually have a cross at the top to remind people of Christ’s sacrifice and to encourage people to put their faith in Him. 

This morning I have a whole mash up melody of musical theatre and theatrical moments in my mind as the consideration of today’s photo, marriage, and the church have bounced around my mind as I reflect on my faith walk, things happening in my life right now, and the mystery of how the “church” and individual “come together” has my thoughts spinning as I consider the paradoxes and expectations of a life of Christian discipleship.   

In considering, the individual and the “church” a whole cavalcade of questions and concerns regarding the various aspects at play in that dynamic came to the fore front of my mind.  

In regards to the church, different types of buildings, forms of worship, traditions, and denominations are all out there for us to choose from.  What the “church” means to one person can be completely different to someone else. Just a few options for your church include:  

·       Steeple or no steeple,

·       conservative or liberal,

·       Bible only or Bible and church tradition,

·       Liturgical verses Non-liturgical,

·       Pipe organ, choirs, or contemporary worship music,

·       Women preachers or no women preachers,

·       Denomination or non-denominational

·       Gifts of the Spirit or not so much

Just these options alone can make your head spin and are a perfect reason for the unbelieving masses to question the Christian faith.

But I would challenge those who would say that agreeing to become a Christian means a loss of freedom, because obviously with all the possible combinations of these variables, there is actually great freedom in how one decides to worship as a Christian that can accommodate your personal convictions and preferences.

And that is what it comes down to right? It comes down to your personal relationship with the Lord and how you choose to worship the Lord.

As individuals endowed with the freedom to choose what we believe and what we do, as much as we may like to rely on “the church” to determine our life of faith, it really is our decision and how we will express our life of faith that will determine the relationship we have with the Lord.  

As I considered the idea of coming together as a body of believers I thought of the old Hayley Mills Song “Let’s Get Together” from Disney’s the Parent Trap that says:

‘Let's get together, yeah yeah yeah
Think of all that we could sha-are
Let's get together everyday
Every way and everywhere
And though we haven't got a lot
We could be sharin' all we've got
Together 

Let’s get together, as the body of Christ, as a body of believers, think of all that we could sha-are, right?  Coming together to support one another in our faith with common traditions and forms of worship is a good thing but I have to be honest when I say that sometimes our expectations of what we will receive from membership with a church can be challenged as our interactions may be less than ideal, or loving as we hoped for, as people will invariably disappoint one another from time to time and if we aren’t growing in our practice of forgiveness and cultivating the fruit of patience, we could easily become offended or disillusioned at some of the things that can happen in a church.  

When I thought of that Hayley Mills song, for the life of me, I thought the lyrics said somewhere “Let’s get together, yeah, yeah, yeah, we could have lots of fun.” But they don’t,  and just like how I could be wrong about how I thought I had a perfect old pop culture reference from my memories to poke fun at our gatherings as a church, our expectation for a perfect church family where we can be completely fulfilled and satisfied in our walk of faith could also misguided and incorrect.  

Expecting others to bless us or to give us what we need in terms of our relationship with God is a tall order for anyone to fulfill and reveals a misunderstanding of our faith. Expecting another person, a member of clergy, a pastor, elder, or friend – or a whole collection of others, that corporate body of believers, gathered together in unity, to provide you with satisfaction and purpose reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of what our faith is: a personal relationship with God.  

So yes, we should follow a spiritual leader for regular sessions of worship, and we should join a corporate body of believers to support and encourage one another in our faith,  but we can’t expect that leader or our brothers and sisters in Christ to establish and maintain our personal relationship with the Lord.  

So yes, there are many options of how we can worship the Lord in a corporate setting, and it may be a little scary to contemplate:  Organizations, denominations, and congregations, OH MY! But we should humble ourselves and choose one, where the word of God is preached, and where we can worship and serve the Lord faithfully.  

But we shouldn’t expect our membership in that church to completely fulfill our relationship with God. To be honest, we can’t have a true personal relationship with God through these means. Sure we can worship and serve the Lord there but think about your relationship with God like it was a relationship with your spouse. 

Expecting your relationship with God to be complete through your local church alone, is like deciding to have a relationship with your wife through her father.   

I love my wife TammyLyn and I want a personal relationship with her.  Now her father, Cliff, has known TammyLyn all of her life. He loves her and knows a lot about her.  I could go to Cliff and learn many things about TammyLyn and together we could give thanks and praise her at Cliff’s house.  We could even agree to get together once a week to remember the things TammyLyn has said and done in her life and to declare our love for her.  Through this process, I could learn about TammyLyn and grow in my love for TammyLyn. I could even ask Cliff to tell his daughter that I love her for me.

But would this process, of loving my wife though her father, at his house, be the best way to be in a personal relationship with TammyLyn?   Wouldn’t it be better for me to establish and maintain a relationship with TammyLyn by myself, without an outside party to bring us together, without a formal structure, that takes place once a week, to show her my love?  Shouldn’t I talk to TammyLyn directly?

Of course, I should.

And likewise, our relationship with God was never intended to operate solely through a service of an ordained minister or even through the corporate gathering of a like minded body of believers. Our relationship with God can include these things but to really receive His love and express our love for Him, we need to go to Him directly. 

So start today or keep walking and talking with God. The mystery of our faith and our purpose in Christ can be unraveled as long as we seek God’s presence in our lives and ask Him to guide us to where we should go, continually.  

Although  I may have felt nervous and uncomfortable in my initial attempts to talk to TammyLyn, and believe me I was, it was easier with time, as we got to know one another, and we understood that we loved one another.   

Just so you know, God loves you. He sent Jesus to earth to show us how much He wanted to be with you. He revealed the truth of the gospel to forgive you, to heal you, and to live with you forever.   So no matter how uncomfortable or nervous you may be about “talking to God” or “in prayer”, remember that the Lord has already accepted you and He wants your love for Him to increase and for your personal relationship to grow. 

So let the Lord know that you appreciate what He has done and that you don’t want just to see Him once a week at church. Tell Him you aren’t really sure how this works but that you want to know Him more and to be with Him every day.

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Today’s Bible verse comes to us from “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”.

This morning’s meditation verse is:

Isaiah 57:15 (NLT2)
15  The high and lofty one who lives in eternity, the Holy One, says this: “I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.

Today’s Bible verse reminds us of the exalted status of the Lord Almighty but also shows that He is love because He restores the broken when they are humbly come to Him in repentance.   

The Lord is high and lifted up! The heavenly realm is “who knows where”.  I have actually seen  Christian teachings that utilized astronomy and scripture to show how the positioning of various stars coupled with certain Bible verses lead the presenter to believe that heaven was somewhere in the “north of the universe”.  Apparently others were more specific and theorized that heaven is located in the star cluster Pleiades!

I will just let that go because I don’t know and it doesn’t really matter where heaven might be located because no matter where it is I am assured that those who put their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and who die before His return to earth are guaranteed to find it someday.  

As good as it is to know that Christians will never really die because to be absent with the body is to be present with the Lord, it is also very good to know that God is present with us in the here in now through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and through the utilization of the wisdom of the word of God.  God is with us!

And as today’s verse indicates although He is “in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble”, He is also willing to “restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those” who come to Him  “with repentant hearts”.   

God will restore us and will give us courage when we turn from our sins and choose to live according to His wisdom and ways.   

Our relationship with the Lord God Almighty who is high and lifted up, is happening here on earth and we get to experience the joy of being restored, strengthened, and empowered when we choose to follow His will and His purpose for our lives.  

 

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 continue sharing from John Piper’s “Don’t Waste Your Life”.  

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase John Pipers’ books for your own private study and to support his work.  This resource is available on many websites for less than $5.00.

 

I Live for Your Progress and Joy in Faith

To see this we need a definition of faith. Ordinarily faith would mean trust or confidence you put in someone who has given good evidence of his reliability and willingness and ability to provide what you need. But when Jesus Christ is the object of faith there is a twist. He himself is what we need. If we only trust Christ to give us gifts and not himself as the all-satisfying gift, then we do not trust him in a way that honors him as our treasure. We simply honor the gifts. They are what we really want, not him. So biblical faith in Jesus must mean that we trust him to give us what we need most—namely, himself. That means that faith itself must include at its essence a treasuring of Christ above all things.

Now we are in a position to see why Paul’s two aims for his life are in fact one. According to verse 20, his aim is to magnify Christ in life; and according to verse 25, his aim is to promote the progress and joy in the Philippians’ faith. That is why he believes God might let him live. This would be his life: to labor for their “progress and joy in the faith.”

But now we have seen that faith is essentially treasuring Christ. The word “joy” in verse 25 (“for your … joy in the faith”) signals that this treasuring is a joyful treasuring. And if Christ is joyfully treasured, he is magnified. That is the single, all-embracing passion of Paul’s life. In other words, Paul is saying, “My life is devoted to producing in you that one great experience of the heart by which Christ is magnified—namely, being satisfied in him, joyfully treasuring him above all else. That’s what I mean when I say, ‘For me to live is Christ.’ That is, for me to live is your Christ-magnifying faith.”

The Christian Life Is Many Deaths

It would be a great mistake at this point if we separated the way death honors Christ from the way life honors Christ. The reason this would be a mistake is that the life of a Christian includes many deaths. Paul said, “I die every day!” (1 Corinthians 15:31). Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Daily Christian living is daily Christian dying. The dying I have in mind is the dying of comfort and security and reputation and health and family and friends and wealth and homeland. These may be taken from us at any time in the path of Christ-exalting obedience. To die daily the way Paul did, and to take up our cross daily the way Jesus commanded, is to embrace this life of loss for Christ’s sake and count it gain.

In other words, the way we honor Christ in death is to treasure Jesus above the gift of life, and the way we honor Christ in life is to treasure Jesus above life’s gifts. This is why Paul used the same word “gain” in relation to Christ at death and in relation to Christ in life. Not only did he say, “To die is gain,” but he also said, “Whatever gain I had [in life!], I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7–8).

Pain and Pleasure as Ways to Make Much of Christ

All of life for the Christian is meant to magnify Christ. This can happen through pleasure, and it can happen through pain. We are focusing here on the pain. The reason for this is not that a thousand pleasant things don’t come our way as Christians. Nor is it that we should not enjoy them as gifts of God and glorify him with thanksgiving. We should. That is what the Bible teaches. “Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4–5). And it is true that “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me” (Psalm 50:23).

The reason I don’t stress this is that we are spring-loaded to see the pleasant side of truth. We are fallen, comfort-loving creatures. We are always on the lookout for ways to justify our self-protecting, self-securing, self-pleasing ways of life. I know this about myself. And I am glad that this is not all bad. God “richly supplies us with everything to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).

How We Handle Loss Shows Who Our Treasure Is

But what I know even more surely is that the greatest joy in God comes from giving his gifts away, not in hoarding them for ourselves. It is good to work and have. It is better to work and have in order to give. God’s glory shines more brightly when he satisfies us in times of loss than when he provides for us in times of plenty. The health, wealth, and prosperity “gospel” swallows up the beauty of Christ in the beauty of his gifts and turns the gifts into idols. The world is not impressed when Christians get rich and say thanks to God. They are impressed when God is so satisfying that we give our riches away for Christ’s sake and count it gain.

No one ever said that they learned their deepest lessons of life, or had their sweetest encounters with God, on the sunny days. People go deep with God when the drought comes. That is the way God designed it. Christ aims to be magnified in life most clearly by the way we experience him in our losses. Paul is our example: “We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:8–9). The design of Paul’s suffering was to make radically clear for his own soul, and for ours, that God and God alone is the only treasure who lasts. When everything in life is stripped away except God, and we trust him more because of it, this is gain, and he is glorified.[1]

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

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Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship


[1] John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2003), 70–73.