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Showing posts with label Gratitude. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gratitude. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Joy and Peace in the Great-in-Between - Purity 889


Joy and Peace in the Great-in-Between -  Purity 889  

Purity 880 11/15/2022 Purity 889 Podcast

Good morning,

Today’s photo of a pair of trees under a blazing late afternoon sun on the shores of the Niagara River comes to us from yours truly as I made a point of stopping at Fort Schlosser, or the “Upper Niagara Intake Observation Area” while departing Niagara Falls NY back on Thursday.  

Well, there are two trees in this photo, so I guess that makes it a natural selection to represent the second day of our work week, Two for Tuesday? Anyway, I have been to Niagara Falls on a few other occasions in the past but have never stopped at “Fort Schlosser” and so I made a point to do so as the last stop, well almost, it should have been the last stop, before going to my hostel accommodations in Buffalo.  

I can understand why I never stopped at For Schlosser before. After the grandeur of Niagara Falls, the Upper Niagara Intake Observation Area can be a little underwhelming but in truth it is a beautiful site, with wide open spaces to picnic and a long trail that runs parallel to the Niagara Scenic Parkway along the Niagara River that if followed to the West would lead you to the Falls, about 3 miles away, and if followed to the east would lead you beneath the North Grand Island Bridge to Lasalle Riverfront Park, two miles away. So Fort Schlosser may not seem like much to look at when you’re driving past it after visiting the Falls, but it could be the starting point for a great day of walking along the Niagara River.  

And I guess depending on where you are in your walk with the Lord, Fort Schlosser could represent where we find ourselves today, in the “Great-in-Between”, between our pasts and the things waiting for us in the future that could be many miles or even years away.  

One destination in all of our future is Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years beyond.   While we may be  looking ahead at those times with joyful expectation or anxiety and dread, the important thing to remember about our walk through life and specifically on the path of Christian discipleship is to enjoy the present.  Sure Fort Schlosser may not be Niagara Falls, but its pretty nice there all the same and we shouldn’t not appreciate it because we either have left the Falls behind or are looking forward to the Falls in our future.  

The enemy seeks to steal our peace by telling us two equal and opposite lies. 

1.    Things were better in the past.  

2.    Things are better in the future.  

Like any good lie, there is always a grain of truth in them if the enemy is going to be successful in deceiving us. 

Sure there were good things in our pasts, but there we shouldn’t fall in the trap of living there because our nostalgic vision that only highlights the positive or dwells on the pain, paints a picture that is distorted, one way or the other.  While we could and should appreciate our pasts, for the bad and the good, we should never let it disrupt the peace and joy that we can have today.  

Likewise, we might be in some real present struggles currently or we may have some really good things that are beyond the horizon in our futures.  But if we are focused on the future so much that we are hating the gift of our present, the enemy has won again.  

So as we enter into the second day of the week, submit to God and give Him thanks for the day He has made, today,  and resist the devil who would like to convince you that peace and joy exist only in our pasts or are far away in the distant future.  

Also, the enemy also likes to point out the things we supposedly “lack”.  He can do this with a one-two punch.   

He can stir pleasant thoughts and desire for things that are good, tempting us with circumstantial happiness, with even positive desires for family gatherings or doing acts of service to the Lord or kindness to others.   

But then after the enemy tempts you with “things that would be nice”, he slams you with the facts of your current situation that may make those things difficult to obtain.   Thus we are drawn into depression about the thing “we can’t do” and discontentment with the way things are. 

But the truth is, generally, that right now isn’t so bad, in fact things may actually be better than how they were, but in pointing out nice desires that we may not be able to do right now, our present becomes something we don’t appreciate.  

The kicker is usually these desires the enemy presents also distract us from the problems we should be focused on resolving.  So we end up fantasizing about “what if” rather than addressing the problems left on the back burner of our lives.  Instead of focusing on the “nice things” we wish we had, we would be better served to develop a plan to address the things that have been ignored that if resolved would increase our freedom and peace.   

So obviously, as we walk through this life we have to be aware our current situations and appreciate where we are and rather than fantasize and be disappointed about the things we “can’t have” now we should instead find the joy and the peace that is available to us right here, and right now, and we should not ignore the things that surround us that we could resolve.  

When we walk in the Spirit, the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth and the truth is there are good things in your life right now that you can appreciate and have peace and joy about.  There is also work to do to resolve past problems that are still a part of your present and to prepare us for the future that is always one day closer.  

However, if we keep walking and talking with God, we will know that we are never alone as we walk from here to there and we have Him to help us and guide us in the way we should go.   

 

 

 

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

This morning’s meditation verse is:

Romans 10:9 (NLT2)
9  If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Today’s verse reminds us of all it is  that we must do in order to be saved. 

We must confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead.   That’s it.  

But as simple as that may sound, to just believe that!, the whole counsel of God would cause us to understand that confessing Jesus as our Lord and Savior means a lot.  

The implication of anyone being your lord is that you answer to them, and you obey them.  You follow their instructions and call on your life.  

And so the great news is that we are saved by faith alone, however I would never seek to mislead anyone into putting their faith in Christ is just a matter of “easy-believe-ism”.

Christ warned His disciples that the world would hate them and that they would be persecuted because of their faith in Him.  

While salvation is a free gift of grace from God, there is a cost of discipleship – our very lives. God gives us eternal life through Christ and thus we are said to die with Christ and are raised to new life with Him in His resurrection. Our old self is dead, and our purpose is to discover and live our new life in Christ.  

We are saved from God’s wrath and saved to become a part of His kingdom and to represent Him by the way we live.  

So rejoice over your salvation, but never take it lightly or lead people to believe that being a Christian is as simple as the faith it takes to become one.  

___________________________________________

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 Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Discipleship”, also known as “The Cost of Discipleship”

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Bonhoeffer’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 Sermon on the Mount

Matthew 7

The Community of Disciples Is Set Apart

The Disciple and the Unbelievers

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

¶ “Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.

¶ “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets” (Matt. 7:1–12).

There is an essential connection that leads from chapters 5 and 6 to these verses and then to the great conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount. The fifth chapter spoke of the extraordinariness of discipleship (περισσόν), while the sixth chapter spoke of the disciples’ hidden, simple righteousness (ὰπλο͂υζ). In both aspects the disciples were separated from the community to which they had previously belonged and bound solely to Jesus. The boundary became clearly visible. This raises the question of the relationship between disciples and the people around them. Did their being set apart give them special rights of their own? Did they receive special powers, measuring standards, or talents, which enabled them to assume a special authority toward others? This would have been most likely if Jesus’ disciples had now separated themselves from their environment by sharp, divisive judgments. People could even have come to think that it was Jesus’ will that such divisive and condemnatory judgments were to be made in the disciples’ daily dealings with others. Thus Jesus must make clear that such misunderstandings seriously endanger discipleship. Disciples are not to judge. If they do judge, then they themselves fall under God’s judgment. They themselves will perish by the sword with which they judge others. The gap which divides them from others, as the just from the unjust, even divides them from Jesus.

Why is that so? Disciples live completely out of the bond connecting them with Jesus Christ. Their righteousness depends only on that bond and never apart from it. Therefore, it can never become a standard which the disciples would own and might use in any way they please. What makes them disciples is not a new standard for their lives, but Jesus Christ alone, the mediator and Son of God himself. The disciples’ own righteousness is thus hidden from them in their communion with Jesus. They can no longer see, observe, and judge themselves; they only see Jesus and are seen, judged, and justified by grace by Jesus alone. No measuring standard for a righteous life stands between the disciples and other people; but once again, only Jesus Christ himself stands in their midst. The disciples view other people only as those to whom Jesus comes. They encounter other people only because they approach them together with Jesus. Jesus goes ahead of them to other people, and the disciples follow him. Thus an encounter between a disciple and another person is never just a freely chosen encounter between two people, confronting each other’s views, standards, and judgments immediately. Disciples can encounter other people only as those to whom Jesus himself comes. Jesus’ struggle for the other person, his call, his love, his grace, his judgment are all that matters. Thus the disciples do not stand in a position from which the other person is attacked. Instead, in the truthfulness of Jesus’ love they approach the other person with an unconditional offer of community.[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/@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 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] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, ed. Martin Kuske et al., trans. Barbara Green and Reinhard Krauss, vol. 4, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 169–170.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Enjoying the Journey – Don’t Fear the Falls and Don’t be “Hostel” to New Things - Purity 886

 

Enjoying the Journey – Don’t Fear the Falls and Don’t be “Hostel” to New Things -  Purity 886

Purity 886 11/11/2022 Purity 886 Podcast

Good morning,

Today’s photo a bright midafternoon sun shining over one of the “natural” wonders of the world comes to us from yours truly as I decided to make the best of the somewhat long drive to Buffalo by going to Oswego last night Wednesday and by skipping along the coast of Lake Ontario along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail for a time yesterday before making a bee line for Niagara Falls.   The welcome center for the American Falls may be under construction, and it may have been “offseason” but there were no lines, the crowds were small, and the observation deck was open and didn’t require a ticket!   Add to that the bright afternoon sunshine and I really couldn’t have asked for more as my trip to the Falls was the climax of my decision to enjoy my journey to Buffalo.  

Well, It’s Friday and although I am not sure what I will do with the hours between now and when I check in as a volunteer for the Evening with David Jerimiah Event at the Key Bank Center at 3:30pm, I wanted to take the time to encourage all who read or hear this message to occasionally force yourselves to enjoy the journey by being intentional in trying new things, doing things differently occasionally, and appreciating the way to your next destination.   

When I travel I am normally pretty destination driven. IF I’m going to X, let’s get to X and let’s get to X as soon as possible!  But on occasion, not too often mind you, I will make the intentional decision to go a different way, not concern myself with the travel time, and to stop and see and appreciate things along the way.   

When I first heard about tonight’s event in Buffalo, I got the sense that this would be a wonderful opportunity to “be spontaneous” and to do a small act of service to the man and ministry  that delivered “THE MESSAGE” that saved my soul and began my new life in Christ.

Even though  I could have just used today’s holiday – Happy Veterans’ Day – Thank You For Your Service – to drive out to Buffalo in time to make the event, I decided to leave Wednesday evening and use a personal day yesterday so I could take some time to visit my alma mater’s city,  and to just see where the Lord lead me as I slowly moved west to Buffalo.  

Okay maybe I wasn’t completely spontaneous because  I was responsible in scheduling the time off from work and did book my stay at the Knight’s Inn in Oswego and the Hostel Buffalo Niagara well in advance. But other than making sure I had a place to lay my head before going, I decided to take my time and to take a more scenic route and to stop at Niagara Falls before going to my 2 day hostel home in Buffalo. 

So yesterday, after dropping off an old fraternity shirt I have no use for in the mailbox of the new Psi Phi Gamma fraternity house on West 4th Street, I went to the Oswego Marina and drove along the Lake Ontario shore up to the SUNY Oswego Campus.  I took a few pictures of the lake behind Riggs and Johnson Hall and then set the GPS for Niagara Falls.  

But I quickly realized that the GPS was going against my desire to drive along the coast, so I decided to put in Sodus Point as a destination and try to keep the lake close.  I had a great morning driving around soudus bay, to the point and then stayed on lake road, making stops at B.Foreman Park, The Lakeview Shelter at Webster Pier, and the Irendequoit Bay Outlet Pier and Beach.   But when I reached the Seabreeze Amusement Park, my leisurely pace, the unfamiliarity where I was, my desire to visit Niagara Falls and to get to the Hostel Buffalo Niagara before 5pm, all caused me to take the GPS’s quickest route to the Falls.  As I headed south and realized I had only gone as far west as Rochester I was a little disappointed because I wanted to take the long way around to Niagara Falls initially but my stopping to smell the roses had taken time and I had a date with the Niagara Falls. So I hit the thruway with enthusiasm, driving very fast, and made it to the Falls around 2 pm. 

The Falls were as magnificent as ever and I took some time to intentionally sit on a park bench to enjoy the view and to thank the Lord for the wonderful weather and all the wonderful sights I had seen thus far, and of course to thank Him for where He has brought me in life.

And of course, when you think about how good life is because you are experiencing pleasant circumstances you naturally think about the people you love. So I thought about my wife TammyLyn and sent her some photos to let er know that I was thinking of her and that I wished she was with me and that I loved her. 

After some anxiety over finding a place to park my car, I eventually made it to the Hostel in Buffalo, which admittedly is a new experience and caused a bit of anxiety too!   

Think college dorm room, meets fraternity house, meets army barracks, and maybe a bit of the apartment on “Friends”… The Hostel Buffalo Niagara is a laid back pad man, can you dig it…

Okay, I’m a nerd and as I planned this spiritual pilgrimage I decided to intentionally step out of my comfort zone and stay at a hostel.  Hey if you are going to try new things you actually have to plan new things and do them so, I am doing it. 

And although my anxiety level was up, because Mr. Spontaneity hasn’t stayed in Buffalo before and couldn’t reserve parking, WHAT!, I have now, this morning, settled down, now that  I have gotten some sleep and my horror movie fears of murder, theft, and sexual assault at the hands of strangers were baseless.  

I am currently in the “Lounge” typing this out and may even be so bold as to do the podcast if no one else is around…. 

Anyway, I am alive and well and looking forward to this afternoon and tonight’s event where I will be able to serve, worship, praise, and thank the Lord for who He is and for all that He has done.  

So, it is my prayer that all who hear this will enjoy the journey of this life by connecting with God thought faith in Jesus Christ and then by travelling with God everywhere you go.   And even if you have fear and anxiety of doing new things or doing things differently, let me encourage you that when you do them with the Lord, you never have to worry because He will never leave you and He will guide you in the way you should go. 

So keep walking and talking with God, it’s the only way to travel!

 

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

This morning’s meditation verse is:

Hebrews 12:11 (NLT2)
11  No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

Today’s verse tells us a hard truth but reminds us of a greater purpose.  

Today’s verse tells it like it is: discipline is painful!   Some of the changes that will help us to become more like the people God made us to be will require some concerted effort to renew our minds and possibly shape our bodies to accomplish.  The changes that we want and the deeper relationship with God requires that we be disciplined in instituting solutions and in the regular application of Biblical wisdom through Bible study and prayer.   

Developing new habits and crucifying the flesh can be a daunting task but if we remain diligent in our seeking the Lord and in doing what He directs us to do, we will eventually create new godly habits and see significant results as our minds are renewed and our hearts are surrendered to God.  

So discipline might be painful but as today’s verse assures us, it will reap a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in the way. So keep at it, keep pursuing the Lord and the person He wants you to become.    

___________________________________________

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 Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Discipleship”, also known as “The Cost of Discipleship”

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Bonhoeffer’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 Sermon on the Mount

Matthew 6

On the Hidden Nature of the Christian Life

The Hiddenness of Practicing Piety concludes

Asceticism is self-chosen suffering; it is passio activa, not passio passiva, and, therefore, most vulnerable. Asceticism is constantly threatened by the godless, pious wish to make oneself equal to Christ through suffering. One’s own claim to take the place of Christ’s suffering, to complete the work of Christ in suffering, namely, killing off the old self in us, is also lurking dormant within asceticism. In this, asceticism usurps the bitter and ultimate seriousness of Christ’s work of salvation. Here asceticism makes a dreadfully harsh show of itself. Voluntary suffering should serve only better ministry and deeper humility on the basis of Christ’s suffering. But here it becomes a terrible distortion of the suffering of the Lord himself. It wants to be seen; it becomes a merciless living reproach to other people, for it has become the path to salvation. In such “public” ostentatiousness, its reward is really squandered, because it is sought from other people.

“Put oil on your head and wash your face” could likewise become an opportunity for subtle pleasure or self-praise. But that would misinterpret it as a disguise or mask. Jesus, however, says to his disciples that they should remain humble in the voluntary exercises of humility, that they should never burden others with such exercises, using them as a reproach or a law. Instead, they should become grateful and joyous that they are permitted to remain in service to their Lord. What is meant here is not the cheerful face of a disciple seen as a Christian stereotype, but the proper hiddenness of Christian deeds, the humility which does not know of itself, just as the eye does not see itself, but only others. Such hiddenness shall be revealed one day, but only by God, not by oneself.[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/@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 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] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, ed. Martin Kuske et al., trans. Barbara Green and Reinhard Krauss, vol. 4, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 160–161.


Monday, August 29, 2022

Re-emerging to Work with Gratitude - Purity 822


 Re-emerging to Work with Gratitude - Purity 822

Purity 822 08/29/2022  Purity 822 Podcast

Good morning,

Today’s photo of a view of the beach at Rapid Bay from the inside of a cave comes to us from Dave Baun Photography (https://www.facebook.com/DaveBaunPhotography) who reports that this location is one of his favorite places to drive to in South Australia and even know there is quite a bit of cave rock obstructing our view, we can see enough to understand why.  

Well it’s Monday again and as we emerge from the safe confines of the weekend to reemerge to the bright lights of the world of the working, I am encouraging everyone to face the day with an attitude of gratitude because even though my staycation is over, in reflecting on my “life of work” this morning, I realize how blessed I have been to be able to work over the years to provide for myself and my family to bring me to where I am today.  

So even though I suppose I could be facing the day with a sour puss because my time off has expired, simply reflecting upon the twists and turns of all the different jobs I have had has me counting my blessings today instead.  

As much as I recognize the truth that God is sovereign and is in control, I also recognize that because He gives us free will much of our lives are the result of our choices and that obviously includes where we find ourselves on our life’s career path. 

While our eternal destiny depends on our covenant relationship with God, through faith in Jesus Christ, I believe our professional lives are a combination of our efforts and God’s providence.    

We can choose to quit. We can choose to never apply. We can choose to be a diligent worker or we can choose to be less than that and reap the benefits or consequences of our performance.  So there is lots we bring to our career path. 

However, for us to believe that we are somehow “self-made” men or women is to display the heights of ignorance, pride, or self-deception.  

God made us. God choose when we would be born and where we would begin our lives.  God gave us our “able bodies” that allow us to work.  God gave us our brains to think and store intelligence. God also gave us our temperament – those inborn talents and personality or attitudinal predispositions that make us uniquely who we are. And God may have made also all in His image but He didn’t make us equal or the same in all these different areas, all of which play a huge part in what type of career we have now. 

Also because I know that God shapes the history of the world according to His overall purposes, His will be done, I have to believe that there are also no “lucky breaks”.  Remember God put you where you were and made you who you are, so you getting the job you have today may not be a miracle but we would be foolish to think that God’s providence didn’t play some part in where you are today.  

However, because of our free will to act foolishly and “miss the mark”, we can’t assume that where we are today is God’s perfect will for us either.  We may have been tempted or deceived by some aspect of our career path that led us to do what we do now.   We may have been tested and we may have not chosen wisely. 

For instance,

1 Timothy 6:9-10 (NLT2)
9  But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction.
10  For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.

Pursuing riches is just one way we could have possibly wandered from God’s plan for us and may have resulted in “many sorrows”.  

In my path, I resisted working for the phone company. In my youth, I didn’t want to follow in my mother’s footsteps and I applied for all kinds of positions without any success.  

I had a heart to help people and became a residential counselor for the psychiatrically disabled.  I did that for two years and that is where I met my ex, and no she didn’t live there – shots fired.  But I loved my ex and wanted a family and the low income I made as a counselor would have meant a life of financial struggles and so remembering my middle class existence I decided to “go corporate” and the last 25 years of work for “the phone company” was a result of my desire to have a family.

And of course, as many know, that had mixed results.  After 19 years, my marriage ended in divorce but my kids stayed with me. They are twenty somethings and struggling with the decision of what to do with their professionally  and we live together in a little house down by the River. 

My life was tumultuous at times through those 25 years at my job, that was full of changes itself, but I have no regrets.  My job provided the means to house my family, raise my kids, and have quite a number of wonderful years even though it didn’t work out like I hoped when I started way back when.     

I don’t regret my career because it was instrumental in bring to where I am today and while I would never think of it as God’s perfect will for me, when I go to work today I will give it my best effort to do a good job. 

Our choices are sometimes regrettable but the good news is that God gave us free will and if we find ourselves in a place we don’t want to be we can change it. So if you are dragging into Monday hating your life, pray and allow God to direct your next steps.  He may call you to endure or He may encourage to boldly go where you never thought to go.  

When we are in Christ, we are never without hope or without the help of the Lord. So we follow His path and where ever we go we do our best to represent Him by doing the best we can and by helping and supporting the other people we encounter along the way. 

So let’s go to work. Let’s do the best job we can do today to represent the God who made us and to share His love.  And let’s keep walking and talking with Him to follow where He would have us go.  

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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

This morning’s meditation verse is:

Philippians 2:13 (NLT2)
13  For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

Today’s verse encourages us that God is working in us to want to do and to give us the power to accomplish what please Him.  

Hey, God is with us. If you put your faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit indwells you!  The Holy Spirit will convict us and encourage us to stop doing the things that displease God and will encourage us to do the things that please Him.  

In discerning the spirits, we need to know that the Holy Spirit is not a condemning voice. Those would be the spiritual forces of darkness.

Romans 8:1 (NKJV)
1  There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

 So the Holy Spirit in us would encourage us to change from our worldly ways to follow God’s ways but He wouldn’t beat us up about it. God wants us to freely choose to be with Him and He likewise wants us to choose for ourselves His path for living.   

God does not have a nagging or condemning voice. He invites us to trust Him and live according to His ways with love.  We might consider it a “tough love” at times because of the mess we have made that we have to climb out of but while God will lead you into a path that doesn’t compromise on holiness and righteousness, He will never beat you into submission. God knows what’s best for us and He will encourage us to take a path that may include some suffering but it will be for our overall good.  

The good news is that, like today’s verse tells us, He not only gives us the desire and the encouragement to do what pleases Him, He also gives us the power to accomplish it.  

That power isn’t usually some miraculous sign or wonder, God’s power in us comes from trusting in Him and asking for His strength and guidance.   His intuitions will lead us to good things we wouldn’t have thought of. His strength will cause us to endure and overcome things we never thought were possible.   

So don’t doubt it. God is working in you. He is giving you the desire and provides the power to do what please Him.

______________________________________________________________________

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.

15 The Powers and Society

In the Pauline letters the emphasis is on the threat the powers pose to the individual Christian and to the church. This threat comes in a large measure from the temptation of the flesh. It also comes from a larger organized front, which Paul characterized as “the world.” We will now look closely at the nature of “the world” as Paul envisioned it and determine how the powers influence the world and work in conjunction with it to lead humanity astray.

Recent Interpretations of the Powers

Since World War 2, there has been a growing trend among scholars in the West to interpret Paul’s references to principalities and powers almost exclusively as the structures of our existence. The powers of darkness are “demythologized” and described in terms of religious structures (especially tradition), political and economic structures (as, for example, imperialism, nationalism, dictatorship, socialism and capitalism), the set of values held by a given social grouping (accepted morality, public opinion and interest, ideas of social status, concept of justice and so on) and intellectual structures (ologies and isms). All of these structures and values exert a controlling influence on society. They are also capable of becoming evil (“demonic”) and may stand in the need of redemption. Many of those who interpret the powers along these lines emphasize political structures. Responding to the powers thus becomes a mandate for political activism. In commenting on Ephesians 3:10, for instance, one writer remarks, “Announcing Christ’s lordship to the powers is to tell governments that they are not sovereign … to witness in a biblical way to the principalities and powers is to engage in dangerous, subversive political activity.”

For many of these interpreters a major factor that leads them to a “structural” interpretation is the modern Western world view, which denies the reality of the actual existence of evil spirits. In chapter thirteen, I attempted to show that there is ample reason for revising the modern world view to affirming the actual existence of evil spirits and angels. If this premise is accepted, there is no need to demythologize the powers in order to interpret their meaning for us. Our task needs to be focused on determining how the powers influence “the world” in its variety of expressions; that is, through political structures, values, traditions and so on.

Evangelical scholars identifying the powers with structures often express their concern to grapple with the question of structural evil as part of a quest to develop a biblical basis for social ethics. This is a commendable goal and one that evangelicals have neglected. I would suggest, however, that it is erroneous to equate the powers with the structures. As I will argue, we ought to distinguish between the powers of darkness and the structures of our existence. The two categories are ontologically distinct. One is personal, the other is nonpersonal; one possesses intelligence and the ability to will, the other does not. Truer to Paul’s letters is to say that the powers exert their influence over the structures of our existence than to make the powers coextensive with the structures.

Not all evangelicals writing on this topic equate the powers with structures. In his book on social ethics Robert Webber contends that the powers are spiritual beings at work in the world, that they are nonmythological, and that they have an ontological point of reference in time, space and history. In the course of his discussion of the powers, however, their ontological distinction from the structures of existence becomes blurred. At the end of his analysis he states that there really is no firm distinction, but rather a dual reference at each occurrence: “The word powers is used in two different ways: it may refer to the spiritual powers of evil or to the powers which we have called ‘the structures of existence.’ ”

For Webber the powers even have a positive side: “We know that the powers are God’s creation which serve as agents to provide order, guidance, and meaning.” In this latter comment he is clearly referring to the structures of our existence, not evil spirits. But the problem with this view is that he confuses the terminology and inaccurately identifies Paul’s “principalities and powers” terminology with the concept of structures. This problem is not just with words; it is also a conceptual problem. An evil spirit is not nationalism; a demon is not a tradition; the principalities and powers are not structures. I would contend that there may be a relationship, however, between an evil spirit and nationalism, in that an evil spirit may incite excessive patriotism.

The primary practical danger in limiting our interpretation of the powers to the structures is that it is reductionistic. It unreasonably restricts how we understand the work of the devil in Paul’s day and in our day. Specifically it overlooks the direct and immediate work of an evil spirit in the life of an individual—either through overt demonization (“giving a place to the devil”) or the devil’s classic work of directly tempting people to sin.

Evangelicals (especially Pentecostals and Charismatics) have traditionally had a much easier time reckoning with the work of Satan on an individual level as opposed to a societal level. In light of this problem the many recent works dealing with the topic of the relationship between the powers and the structures of our existence is a necessary corrective to an individualistic outlook.

In my analysis of various writers on this topic, I have found two Pauline texts that surface as crucial to the debate but which are frequently misunderstood. They are Ephesians 2:2 and 3:10. I offer two necessary correctives to some of the current discussion about the relationship between the powers to the structures of our existence.

1. The references to “air” and “spirit” are not references to “spiritual climate.” When Paul spoke of “the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (Eph 2:2), a number of interpreters have assumed he was speaking of something like “the climate of opinion.” Some would go so far as to suggest that Paul was referring to culture or world view. This view does not have a long history in the interpretation of this passage. The origin of this idea can be traced back to an essay written by Heinrich Schlier in 1930, later translated into English and published as a small book. Schlier explained that the “air” and “the spirit” of this passage is “the general spiritual climate which influences mankind.” He said it exercises a control, a domination that usually begins “in the general spirit of the world, or in the spirit of a particular period, attitude, nation or locality.… Men inhale it and thus pass it on into their institutions and various conditions.… It is so intense and powerful that no individual can escape it.”

This view has had an undue amount of influence on the course of subsequent treatments on the theme of principalities and powers. The single greatest difficulty with this view is that it would have been unintelligible to a first-century reader. I have argued in detail in another context that Paul is using spirit here in the sense of a personal being. Likewise, Paul intended air to be understood in a literal sense; both Jews and Gentiles commonly regarded the air as a dwelling place for evil spirits. The following lines from various Greek magical papyri illustrate this perspective:

For no aerial spirit which is joined with a mighty assistant will go into Hades.

Protect me from every demon in the air.

I conjure you by the one who is in charge of the air.

A first-century A.D. Jewish document aligns itself with this concept: “For the person who fears God and loves his neighbor cannot be plagued by the aerial spirit of Beliar since he is sheltered by the fear of God” (Testament of Benjamin 3:4).

In Ephesians 2:2, the reference to spirit is simply a reference to a personal evil force, and the reference to air is representative of the common belief that demons inhabit the air. One simply cannot press the reference to air in this context to find a precise metaphysical description of the dwelling place of an evil spirit.

2. The church is not called to proclaim a message to the powers. In Ephesians 3:10, some have seen a divine mandate for the church to preach to the powers. In this passage Paul explained that God’s “intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.” This passage is not a warrant for raising a prophetic voice against the corrupted structures of our existence. In the context of Ephesians and of Pauline theology as a whole, the passage is merely asserting that the very existence of the church testifies to God’s wisdom. This passage confirms that God has foiled the wisdom of the demonic powers, who thought they could end God’s redemptive plans by inciting the political and religious leaders to put Jesus to death (1 Cor 2:6–8). God raised Jesus from the dead, and he became the head of a worldwide body of believers who would spread the good news of his offer of salvation everywhere. As 1 Corinthians 4:9 asserts (as well as numerous Jewish documents), the angels carefully observe the affairs of humanity. The evil angels, the principalities and powers, now see Jesus actively redeeming the lost through the church.

The only message the church is called to proclaim is the gospel, and that gospel to people all around the world who have not heard its good news of liberation and deliverance from captivity in Satan’s kingdom. Both the existence of the church and the continued evangelistic growth of the church demonstrate to the powers that they are in fact powerless to impede the redemptive work of God.[1]

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[1] Clinton E. Arnold, Powers of Darkness: Principalities & Powers in Paul’s Letters (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 1992), 194–198.