Thinking Out Loud

June 13, 2015

Who Rules You?

Each Wednesday at Christianity 201, I’m joined by Clarke Dixon, a Canadian pastor, who allows me to share the content from his blog, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon. It’s a win for us and our readers, and I felt that this week’s article would also fit well here. As we say regularly at C201, click the title below to read at source.

You Can Have Your King, But . . .

royal scepterby Clarke Dixon

We like to pick our rulers. We pick the experts we listen to, and with so many “expert opinions” floating around we have no trouble finding someone willing to say what we are willing to hear. Or we might look to societal norms for direction. It is good to fit in and be like everybody else. Or we might let media shape our beliefs and the way we live. If it is normal practice for the likeable characters on the TV to do this or that then it must be okay for me to do this or that also.

We are not the first ones to set rulers over ourselves:

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the Lord, and the Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 1 Samuel 8:4-7 NRSV

In the days of Samuel, when judges were ruling over God’s people, they asked for a king. In asking for a king to rule over them the people are actually rejecting God’s rule and getting themselves into a great mess. Samuel tries to warn them:

He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 1 Samuel 8:11-17 NRSV (emphasis mine)

Do you see what the king will do? He “will take . . .will take . . . will take . . . ” And it all becomes “his . . . his . . . his . . .” because it is all about “him, him, him.” The people chose him, yet they become his slaves. And notice how we can choose things and become slaves:

  • We choose to drink – and become slaves to alcoholism.
  • We choose drugs – and become addicted.
  • We choose to buy whatever we want – and become slaves to materialism.
  • We choose to buy as much as we want – and become slaves to debt.
  • We choose to love whomever we want – and destroy our marriages through adultery.
  • We choose to view whatever we want – and destroy our marriages though pornography.
  • We choose to spend our time however we want – and our family suffers from neglect.
  • We choose to hold that grudge for as long as we want – and become slaves to our own bitterness.

The things that rule over us take and take and take. And our lives become focused on those things we have chosen. Samuel notes that the people will get fed up and remember the One who gives, gives, gives:

And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” 1 Samuel 8:18 NRSV

There is no help in that day as the people will bear the consequences of their decisions. We normally do. Yet there is good news there, found in those last words “in that day.” For there was another day ahead, hundreds of years later when in the midst of many peoples claiming “Caesar is Lord,” a small group were shouting something different: “Jesus is Lord.” They knew something the rest did not yet know; God had never actually abdicated His throne. Instead He was working out His sovereign purposes. He came to us, incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, died for the atonement of our sins, and was raised from the dead to be hailed “King of kings and Lord of lords.” The true King is putting all things right again. Despite the mess the people of of God had got themselves into through their own choices, God was still the King! They could turn to Him again.

We can make a mess of life when we choose people and things which will rule over us. No matter the kind of messes we have created for ourselves we have a wonderful invitation. Not to make Jesus Lord, for He already is that, but in humility to choose Him. And we find that He has already chosen us. He is always King. He is still willing to lead. Are we willing to follow?

September 2, 2014

Francis and Lisa Chan on Marriage that Matters

A few days ago I was asked to recommend a marriage book for a couple who are not presently following Christ, but would understand the book was purchased in a Christian bookstore. Given the broad application of the advice it contains, I recommended Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs, with The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman as a second choice.

You and Me Forever - Francis ChanIn many respects, You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity would not be for the couple in question. The reason? This is spiritually hardcore; a book for the fully devoted follower, or the person (or couple) that desires to move things spiritually to the next level.

As the full title indicates, this is a book about looking at your marriage through the lens of eternity, or to put it another way, looking at the present with eternity in view. Francis leads the teaching, but Lisa weighs in with an identified, substantial contribution to each chapter.

I’m sure there are other reviews of this book out there, and there will be more, but I’m going to go out on limb here: I’m not sure this is a book about marriage at all. (Perhaps I just like to be provocative.) Rather, I think this is a book about making Jesus Christ Lord over every detail in your life that happens to come packaged disguised as a marriage book!

If you know the ministry of Francis Chan, you know what I’m getting at. Spiritually intense. That’s a good thing, by the way; I need that, you need that.

The challenge is that a marriage — especially a really, really good marriage — can be just the thing that actually separates you from God. Your children — especially your really good looking and super-intelligent kids — can stand between you and God. The book advocates a life that is totally sold out to Christ first and foremost; not “How to have a happy marriage.”

But as scripture promises, if you do that, “all these things will be added unto you.”

My best advice: Get two or three copies of the physical book; one for both of you to read either individually or together, and one or two additional copies to share with couples in your sphere of influence. (Click the book image above for more details.)

This book has the power to really shake things up.


If your local Christian bookstore doesn’t have You and Me Forever, let them know it’s available to stores wholesale exclusively through Send the Light Distribution.

August 12, 2014

“My goal tonight is to talk you out of following Jesus Christ”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:00 am

This 32-minute video is the type of teaching that drew me to the ministry of David Platt. Recorded at the Urbana conference, presented every two years by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

February 7, 2011

I Love You With All My Intestines

Okay, I’m a little behind on post-weekend blogging, and I can only blame so much of that on the Superbowl, since I missed most of the first quarter anyway. So here’s one from the February, 2009 archives that I’ve had to do some major remixing on, since it hinged on a link to something else which no longer exists…

accept-jesus

  • easychristianityI LOVE YOU WITH ALL MY LIVER
  • I LOVE YOU WITH ALL MY GUT
  • I LOVE YOU WITH ALL MY SPLEEN

From what I’m told, any one of these expressions is an acceptable translation — in some languages — of the English, “I love you with all my heart.” For most of us, while the brain is the center of all cognitive activity involving the senses, memories, logic, reason, etc.; we use the heart to represent the will, our emotions, our affections.

So it’s not a stretch to imagine some preacher in some time past, trying to get across what the “Lordship of Christ” means, or attempting to communicate the idea of submitting everything to His will, being the first to voice the phrase, “accepting Jesus into your heart.” Perhaps he was speaking to children at the time. It’s not in the Bible, but it does get the point across.praying-boy-and-dog

Or it did. Now it’s become trite. So, just as we need to constantly update Bible translations, now is the time to update some of the ancillary or peripheral language we use when conversing with our friends. (Also, is a ‘personal’ Savior anything like a personal computer?)

The problem is that it is very hard for some people — especially new Christians — to know where the Bible ends and additional, peripheral language begins.  Of course some terms — like Trinity — don’t occur in scripture at all, but no one would want to jettison them entirely as unnecessary.

But the other problem comes when our children get older, and we find ourselves in the position of having to ‘undo’ certain terms that we’ve used ourselves.   Where might our children be in their understanding had we never introduced the “accept Jesus” phrase, only to have to make mid-course corrections in their understanding of what it means to make Jesus Christ lord of their lives?

The Bible says that we should “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength,” (Deut 6:5) but hopefully we realize that loving God with all our hearts is a simple turn of phrase for something that is much deeper, and much more real.

Bonus link: Danny Spence suggest six other phrases that are equally extra-Biblical (i.e. outside the Bible) in this short post.


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