Peace, or shalom, is a kind of rest that comes from bedrock confidence in the holistic, universal provision of what is necessary and good. Hymnist Horatio Spafford offers one of the best descriptions of the effects and sources of peace: “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say it is well, it is well with my soul.” Consequently, a person of peace does not attack others and faces attacks by others with calmness and without rancor, since there is an assured knowledge and experience of abundance. Such a one is neither hostile, suspicious, nor “touchy” to the point of offense. The wisdom that springs out of a life from above, says the Letter of James, “is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace” (3:17–18).
The Parables: Jesus’ Friendly Subversive Speech is a new book designed especially for pastors to get deeper insights into how Jesus used His parables to communicate the gospel message to His listeners during His earthly ministry. However, this book is written in such a manner that Sunday school leaders, small group leaders, and others who engage in teaching the Bible will gain much wisdom and helpful suggestions in how to make the parables more meaningful to others.
As suggested by the subtitle of the work, Webster posits the view that Jesus used parables to communicate the gospel to the crowds on two levels: On one level, they were entertaining stories that drew in the listeners and made immediate impacts on their hearts because Jesus drew the stories from everyday life and situations. But on a deeper level, these parables could teach the subversive truths of the gospels in ways that sophisticated listeners like the Pharisees could take as insults, but the spiritually hungry in the crowds could take as a balm for their souls.
Webster states that many commentators tend to be too analytical in their analysis of the parables and thus miss the impact of the parables on their original audiences. So, he aims to be mindful of the pastor in the pulpit and the person in the pew to bring out the meaning and applications of the parables that he covers in this book. And Webster has chosen to cover the parables that appear in the Gospel of Matthew and Luke because these two accounts are the most systematic in using the parables of Jesus to illustrate His teachings on important topics; such as the true nature of salvation and discipleship, the kingdom of heaven, perseverance in faith, the value of hospitality, and the importance of the inclusion of women and the poor in the kingdom.
This volume is written in a straightforward and easy-to-follow manner that will prove useful and valuable to both clergy and layman alike. Highly recommended!
** A free electronic copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review of the contents. **
The presence of the Holy Spirit can always be recognized by the way He moves us toward what Jesus would be and do (John 16:7–15). When we inwardly experience the heavenly sweetness and power of life—the love, joy, and peace—that Jesus knew, that is the work of the Spirit in us.
Spiritual formation in Christ is the process through which disciples or apprentices of Jesus take on the qualities or characteristics of Christ himself, in every essential dimension of human personality. The overall orientation of their will, the kinds of thoughts and feelings that occupy them, the “automatic” inclinations and “readinesses” of their body in action, the prevailing posture of their relations toward others, and the harmonious wholeness of their soul—these all, through the formative processes undergone by his disciples, increasingly come to resemble the personal dimensions of their master. “A pupil is not above his teacher,” Jesus said, “but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).
There is some great advice and wisdom contained in this article on this important but difficult book of the Bible! Here is a takeaway: “Don’t allow some of the wackier uses to which Revelation has been and is being put to out there make you avoid the book itself.” From Crux Sola…………………………..
This article tackles the question of whether there is one “God’s will” for each of us, and if so, can we miss God’s plan for us through some ignorance or poor choice of ours? Here is a takeaway for me: “The reality is that we cannot fall short of God’s best for us. We cannot walk off the path that God has laid out for us. Everything that happens is, in fact, God’s plan and God’s best.” From Building Jerusalem……………………..
We don’t have to look very far into our own thinking and living to see the effects of either being sure of God or not being sure of God. I believe that scripture always presents real faith as something that is based on knowledge as well as something that goes beyond anything you could know, and involves a commitment to God and his kingdom. Those two things, knowledge and commitment, are not exclusive of one another; rather, they are related. If we do not have a knowledge of God at the foundation of our commitment, that commitment simply will not hold up. It will waver; it will not govern our lives. It will be like pulling a chair away from someone in the act of sitting down. We will not be able to hold on to our belief as God intends, by the action of his Spirit on our hearts and our minds.
Knowledge and faith are intended to go together. For example, when you read Hebrews 11, the great chapter on faith, you will see faith equated with a vision of reality. We are told that Moses endured as one who sees the invisible. Faith is not a mere thought that something is true or the hope or resolve to believe it is. As Martin Luther said in the preface to his commentary on Romans:
Faith is a living, well-founded confidence in the grace of God, so perfectly certain that it would die a thousand times rather than surrender its conviction. Such confidence and personal knowledge of divine grace makes its possessor joyful, bold, and full of warm affection toward God and all created things—all of which the Holy Spirit works in faith. Hence, such a man becomes without constraint willing and eager to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer all manner of ills, in order to please and to glorify God, who has shown toward him such grace. It is thus impossible to separate works from faith—yea, just as impossible as to separate burning and shining from fire.
Here is an interesting little article from scientist and Christian apologist on why different Hebrew words are used for birds and sea creatures as opposed to land animals. From Reasons to Believe……………..
In this article, we are reminded that God’s work of creating things of great beauty and long-lasting quality often involves great heat and pressure! And not just for rock formations………..From Gentle Reformation……………………
Many progressive Christians and atheists try to argue that the Bible is full of contradictions, thus not to be trusted or very open to new interpretations. Author Frank Viola takes exception to this this. Here is a takeaway: “There are many so-called ‘contradictions’ in the Bible that people claim which really aren’t. Those ‘contradictions’ can be easily resolved if one exaamines the context, the original languages, the different ancient manuscripts, and the particular perspective of the biblical author. When one reads Scripture carefully, they will find that there are very few real contradictions in the Bible. The rest can be explained by varying perspectives or spiritual paradoxes.” From The Deeper Journey……………….
One of the main reasons for this blog is to point people to encouraging and helpful biblical blogs and websites. As such, this article is a little different because it points out a fantastic website called ThirdMill.org. This site provides FREE seminary-level courses from top evangelical scholars and seminaries. The following article is really the first lesson in a series called, “Kingdom, Covenants and Canon of the Old Testament, ” hosted by Dr. Richard Pratt, Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Editor of the NIV Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible and a translator for the New Living Translation……………………
I enjoy reading these little articles from Crosswalk. This one focuses on the image of shelter we can find in the Bible. Here is a takeaway for me: “When our journeys are difficult and our bodies remind us that this earth is not our permanent home, God does not leave us without help. He is always available to be a shelter for us to offer protection and grace.”
How do you become a really good person? You place your confidence in Jesus Christ and become his student or apprentice in kingdom living. That amounts to progressively entering into the abundance of life he brings to us. You learn from him how to live in the kingdom of God as he himself did. There is much to learn after you enter. To go through the door is not necessarily to live in the house. Our confidence that Jesus is “the One” leads us to go constantly to school with him, taking our whole life with us, and it is in so doing that love comes to pervade our life to such an extent that we are unmistakably his students. He said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). He can impose this challenge upon himself as teacher because he knows no one else can produce the human transformation he has in mind
How is one to know about God?The question that lingers in the air within our communities and world at large is: How is one to know about God? This is why the proclamation of the gospel as the knowledge of God is absolutely fundamental, essential, and unequivocally necessary for the common well-being. The preaching and teaching of the Logos of God is to reveal the nature of God and his ways. Very simply, this is what the gospel consists of. The gospel is the good, true, and real news about God. In order for us to understand the entire gospel, we must also understand it in the fullness of God. Therefore reducing the gospel to certain doctrines pertaining to things like salvation, justification, atonement, or social/political activism, as important as these are, risks overlooking that these are subsidiary to the fullness of the nature and essence of God’s person. If we merely think of the gospel as the work of Jesus during a few moments on a cross during his earthly existence, we will miss the grand entirety of his mission on earth. Most crucially, we will miss the essence of God as he is in himself, including his Trinitarian relationality, and the ways in which he provides for all of those who are created by him. This is what Paul is attempting to bring across in Ephesians 4:17–24: “Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. That is not the way you learned Christ! For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Hey!…This article is talking about me! Here is a takeaway to whet your appetite for more: “Though they walk in a world where birds feast and flowers dress like kings, they find themselves easily troubled by their own needs. Does God see them? Does God hear their cries? Is God really their Father? Their heads may nod, but their hearts hesitate. Alongside the worry they wear on their sleeve rests this badge: ‘O you of little faith.'” From Desiring God…………….
If we do not use our ability to turn our minds and thoughts toward God, we do not have contact with God. Undoubtedly God could move into the human realm and invade the mind. If God did act in such a way, what are the chances the receiver would properly interpret such an encounter, if there is no knowledge of God at all? Therefore, what human beings can and must do is progress to the point where we consciously, intentionally focus our minds on God. The minister of the gospel is tasked with the very special and essential calling of directing and illuminating our minds toward the reality of God and his ways.
This is a really great article that is ostensibly about not letting your fears about retirement overwhelm you, but it has a lot of other applications! Here is the money quote for me: “Trust God, but row away from the rocks.” From Retirement Stewardship……………………..
Some very good points to consider in this article from Bible teacher and author Nancy Guthrie. Here is a takeaway for me: “As we grow in our understanding of the larger story of the Bible, become better able to identify biblical themes that arise in whatever passage we’re in, and then as we grow in the skill of tracing that theme through to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus to what will happen when he comes again and establishes the new heaven and new earth, we see the beauty, worth, sufficiency and necessity of Jesus from all different angles. It moves us to love and wonder. And that is what we so desperately need.” From Crossway…………
As parents, our main goal is to get our children ready to be happy, healthy and responsible adults. And as Christian parents, with God’s help, to get our kids ready to represent Jesus to the world. It is a very hard task, but with Christ’s help through the Holy Spirit, parents can do it! From RickThomas.net…………………
You cannot call upon Jesus Christ or upon God and not be heard. You live in Their house, Their ecos (Heb. 3:4). We usually call it simply “the universe.” But They fully occupy it. It is their place, their “kingdom,” where through their kindness and sacrificial love we can make our present life an eternal life. Only as we understand this, is the way open for a true ecology of human existence, for only then are we dealing with what the human habitation truly is.
We must stop using the fact that we cannot earn grace (whether for justification or for sanctification) as an excuse for not energetically seeking to receive grace. Having been found by God, we then become seekers of ever-fuller life in him. Grace is opposed to earning, but not to effort. The realities of Christian spiritual formation are that we will not be transformed “into his likeness” by more information, or by infusions, inspirations, or ministrations alone. Though all of these have an important place, they never suffice, and reliance upon them alone explains the now-common failure of committed Christians to rise much above a certain level of decency.
The short answer: Because we cannot communicate the gospel clearly to others without a clear understanding of systematic theology. Here is the takeaway for me: “We do not just need the individual pearls of truths; we need the string that ties them together. Without the larger picture of God’s unfolding drama of redemption, and without systematic theology, pastors are constantly throwing out pearls to people, but they have no string to put them on and hold them together, and keep them in relation to each other. Because we left out the string, the pearls are jumbled and rolling around, and eventually get mixed up with things of lesser value, and many of them are lost in the confusion of competing worldviews that come from everything to Internet billboards to car commercials.” From Randy Alcorn and Eternal Perspectives Ministries………………………
Still today the Old Testament Book of Psalms gives great power for faith and life. This is simply because it preserves a conceptually rich language about God and our relationships to Him. If you bury yourself in Psalms, you emerge knowing God and understanding life.
And that is by no means a matter, as some suggest, of the “poetic effect” of the great language. No mere emotional lift is involved. What makes the language great and provides the emotional lift is chiefly its picture of God and of life. We learn from the Psalms how to think and act in reference to God. We drink in God and God’s world from them. They provide a vocabulary for living Godward, one inspired by God Himself. They show us who God is, and that expands and lifts and directs our minds and hearts.
If you want to know whether you truly believe in God, you have to ask yourself what you really trust. This includes when you get up in the morning, when you deal with problems in your family, and when you deal with your business or your church. Many folks who profess to believe in God, act from disbelief. They may believe that Jesus died for their sins and when they die they will go where he is, but as far as an operational belief in God here and now, they don’t have one. This is partly due to the way we’re educated in our society and in our world and partly due simply to the massive presence of natural reality. Psalm 42:10 expresses something of the despair of the individual who is crying out for God, and God does not appear. You’ll remember those words: “As with a deadly wound in my body, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me continually, ‘Where is your God?’ ” The massive presence of the physical, natural world seems to stand between us and God. We have to deal with all those physical things and processes that are all around us, and we are tempted to deal with them as if it were merely a matter of our own strength. I want to tell you that it is not an easy thing to count on God. It’s easy for us to print on our money, “In God We Trust,” but what do you believe that means for us as a nation? What does it mean to trust God? Do you think our nation really does trust God? How many people do you meet in a day who really trust God? In the decision processes at work or at home, in your neighborhood, in the quietness of your own room, are you able to really trust God?
Spiritual formation in Christ is the process through which disciples or apprentices of Jesus take on the qualities or characteristics of Christ himself, in every essential dimension of human personality.The overall orientation of their will, the kinds of thoughts and feelings that occupy them, the “automatic” inclinations and “readinesses” of their body in action, the prevailing posture of their relations toward others, and the harmonious wholeness of their soul—these all, through the formative processes undergone by his disciples, increasingly come to resemble the personal dimensions of their master. “A pupil is not above his teacher,” Jesus said, “but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).
Here is the main takeaway for me from this article: “God is using (and will use) your anxiety disorder to teach you amazing things about your own weakness, your quivering need for him at every moment, and the powerful life that you can receive when you’re bowed in submission to him. Your anxiety disorder, in other words, serves a critical spiritual purpose.” From Pierce Taylor Hibbs……………….
God nevertheless pursues us redemptively and invites us individually, every last one of us, to be faithful to Him in the little we truly “have say over.” There, at every moment, we live in the interface between our lives and God’s kingdom among us. If we are faithful to him here, we learn his cooperative faithfulness to us in turn. We discover the effectiveness of His rule with us precisely in the details of day-to-day existence.
With the rise of the Internet and social media, we have seen the growth of a number of negative trends and factors in society, one of which is the glorification of personal opinion. This article makes the cogent point that our opinions about things have become new idols for us. Here is a takeaway for me: “It’s possible that never in the history of the world have human beings felt more entitled to their own feelings and opinions…. Social media has filled in the gap between fool and expert, and it is filling the world with foolishness disguised as expertise.” From Your Mom has a Blog…….
Joy is a positive outlook of hopefulness based upon a pervasive, overall sense of well-being. Joy, like love, has a “feeling” component that is pleasant. Yet joy, like love, is not a feeling. Joy maintains a positive posture in life that assumes that good will be supported and eventually triumph over any apparent obstacle. Therefore, joy is fully compatible with the experiences of pain, disappointment, or sorrow, because joyfulness always takes a wider view of circumstances and works with hope to expect good to prevail. Joy enables patience, faithfulness to commitments, and the all-important ability to defer instant gratification. Joy gives one the ability to say no, or perhaps a very firm “not yet,” to the immediacy of desire. Both responses are evidence of joy’s ability to overcome the tyranny of the urgent, since one is joyful with the present state of affairs, whatever that may be. The bearing of joy on the good life should be obvious. It is indispensable to steady contentment and perseverance in any task. Joy liberates from the demand or temptation of immediate satisfaction, which resists waiting for what is good or best. Accordingly, joy is the best platform from which to make any sound investment.
I really enjoyed reading this brief article from author Gary Thomas. My takeaway: “What will help us obey God’s commands is an engaged heart, a heart that is enlarging in love, a heart that feels new things, and feels them more deeply than it did before.” From The Navigators………………………
In the spiritual life it is actually true that “where there is a will there is a way.” This is true because God is involved and makes his help available to those who seek it. On the other hand, where there is no will (firm intentions based on clear vision) there is no way. People who do not intend to be inwardly transformed, so that obedience to Christ “comes naturally,” will not be transformed. God will not pick us up and throw us into transformed kingdom living, into “holiness,” against our will.
Experimental [practical], prayerful implementation of solitude, silence, fasting—and other appropriate practices, such as service, fellowship, worship, and study (there is no such thing as a complete list of spiritual disciplines)—will certainly liberate us into the riches of Kingdom living. They are the key to the keys. We do not have to live under the thumb of our circumstances. For most, it is a considerable test of faith to take control of how they spend their time. But that is up to us. And putting time-tested, biblical disciplines for the spiritual life into sensible practice will soon lead us into an abundance of the life that is eternal in quality and power.
Here is a takeaway for me from this article: “Our identity in Christ is one of those critical truths that, if grasped early in our Christian life, will avert all kinds of problems and issues later on. In Christ, we get to know the God of the gospel, Father, Son, and Spirit.” From Desiring God…………….
It is so important to not only read our Bibles, but to also meditate on the Word. Here are some tips on some creative ways to make that practice more interesting and meningful. From Two Journeys……………………….