Thinking Out Loud

November 12, 2017

5 Ways We are A Living Sacrifice

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

“The problem with a living sacrifice is that it tends to crawl off the altar.” (source unknown)

Today we are joining with Christianity 201 as part of its weekly Sunday Worship series. To read the entire series, click this link. Our key verse reminds us that worship is something we do, but rather worship is something we are. Years ago, Christian musician Chris Christian wrote,

We lift our voices
We lift our hands
We lift our lives up to You
We are an offering1

I really try to eschew pithy illustrations and stories here at C201, but I find this one most appropriate:

A chicken and a pig were discussing how they could do something for the farmer. Finally the chicken said, “He loves a good breakfast; why don’t we give him bacon and eggs?”

To this the pig replied, “That’s easy for you. All it demands of you is an offering, but for me it demands total sacrifice.” 2

Here are some things I think will help us remember what it means to live our lives as a living sacrifice. Each starts with the letter ‘s’ followed by a different vowel.

Sacrifice

If we are to judge it, the measure of a sacrifice is not the size of what is given, but the size of what is left over.

A sacrifice will cost us and it will be consumed. There is no taking back the investment of our energies, gifts or material possessions given up in the service and pleasing of God. The last distinction is important. In service we see tangible results. But God is sometimes pleased by our giving up of things. Ask yourself: How much cash would you put on the offering plate if, as it was in Old Testament times, what was giving was then burned? That’s what our Old Testament predecessors did with the best of their grain and animals.

Set-Apartness

If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

In a world that values conformity, no one wants to be the odd duck. Yet the book of Leviticus is essentially God wanting to insure that his people could maintain a distinct identity. It was all about showing yourself to be different.3

Sinlessness

Jerry Bridges has written,

Jesus said, “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). We must honestly face the question, “Am I willing to give up a certain practice or habit that is keeping me from holiness?” It is at this point of commitment that most of us fail. We prefer to dally with sin, to try to play with it a little without getting too deeply involved. 4

Sovereignty

“There is a God. You are not Him,”

Jesus himself deferred to his Father on many occasions; providing us a reminder of who is in charge. We choose to forget this because we are driven to be in control.

Surrender

When Abraham is asked to sacrifice is only son, we have the advantage that Abraham and Sarah didn’t; we know how the story ends. They did not, and yet Abraham is willing to do whatever it takes to obey God.5

Although we speak very different languages, two symbols are universal throughout the worldwide church. One is the word “Hallelujah” which I’m told is rendered the same in most languages. The other is lifted hands as a sign of surrender.

A writer at Charisma points out that our fingers, hands and arms are also most associated with human strength, power, creativity; both in a human sense and if we examine the Biblical record of God’s actions presented in a way we can best understand them. 6

 


1 Full video at YouTube.

2 This story is often used by leadership coaches as well. Here’s a longer version with the punchline contrasting contribution and commitment.

3 We looked at maintaining a distinct identity in this March, 2017 article.

4 We included more quotes from Jerry Bridges on this topic in this article.

5 This is excerpted from a fuller look at Abraham’s trip up the mountain with Isaac at this link.

6 See the full article about lifting hands at this link.

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November 19, 2016

Holy, Holy, Holy: What is Holiness?

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:15 am

Most people know The Bible Project for their book-by-book summaries of scripture. But today I discovered this topical video posted about a year-and-a-half ago. More information about their work at JoinTheBibleProject.com.

See what you think about this explanation of holiness.

September 27, 2013

Sin: Don’t Even Think About It!

tempting

 

On Tuesday I was speaking with someone who is heading off to a small Bible college in Eastern Canada. I asked him if he needed help with textbooks, and he said that the school tends to write their own curriculum as they have a unique take on how they approach some Bible subjects. Sometimes this can be a red-flag, so I asked him to give me an example, and it actually turned out to be something I found challenging and want to share here.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says,

NIV Matt. 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Not all the teaching in this section specifically references the Decalogue, but what if we applied that “Don’t even think about it” standard to all of the other Ten Commandments? He told me that’s exactly what they did in their discussion of this passage. That got me thinking. Instead of “Thou shalt nots” it might look like this:

  1. Don’t even think about putting any other interest, hobby, passion, person, pet, or other god-to-be-worshiped ahead of me (or even on an equal place).
  2. Don’t even think about giving special place to any physical representation of something (existing or in fantasy) that then occupies a central place in your life.
  3. Don’t even think about using God’s name casually or disrespectfully.
  4. Don’t even think about doing some chores or work for pay during the time you know should be set aside for God and for the rest He commands. If it is within your power, don’t compel others to work during this time, either.
  5. Don’t even think about how, given other circumstances, you’d love to kill someone if you thought you’d get away with; or harbor the anger that rises to that level.
  6. Don’t even think about going against the values your parents taught you, or doing something against their wishes. Their values and wishes and the proverbs they taught you will lead to long life.
  7. Don’t even think about having sex with someone who is not your wife; those thoughts will consume you and furthermore, it’s not likely to ever happen, you’re just driving yourself crazy!
  8. Don’t even think about taking something that isn’t yours.
  9. Don’t even think about misrepresenting someone else or putting spin on a story so it makes them look bad.
  10. Don’t even think about comparing yourself to what your neighbor, or co-worker, or extended family member has, or to his or her spouse, and wishing you could have that life or lifestyle.

Feel free to refine what I’ve written in the comments, or take the list in Exodus 20, and rewrite it in your own personal style or adding things you feel conform to the intention of the text when combined with the application of Matthew 5.

Another thing that struck me as I studied this was how The Voice Bible rendered the “You have heard it said” sections of Matthew 5.

This translations also breaks down specifically the origin of “You have heard it said…”

  • 21 As you know, long ago God instructed Moses to tell
  • 27 As you know, long ago God forbade His people…
  • 31 And here is something else: you have read in Deuteronomy that
  • 33 You know that…
  • 38 You know that Hebrew Scripture sets this standard…
  • 43 You have been taught…

The Voice puts its “You have heard…” sections in italics in this version to indicate that yes, the translators have taken a liberty with the original text in order to provide clarity. What is especially worth noting here is that we generally read these with the inference that Jesus is now introducing something new, but these readings imply that the wider implications of what Jesus taught have been implicit in the text all along, if only we could see it that way.

  • 22 But here is the even harder truth
  • 28 You may think you have abided by this Commandment, walked the straight and narrow…
  • 34 But I tell you this: do not ever swear an oath. What is an oath? You cannot say, “I swear by heaven”—for heaven is not yours to swear by; it is God’s throne. 35 And you cannot say, “I swear by this good earth,” for the earth is not yours to swear by; it is God’s footstool. And you cannot say, “I swear by the holy city Jerusalem,” for it is not yours to swear by; it is the city of God, the capital of the King of kings.

Jesus’ teaching is clear: Don’t even consider wandering from the path, from God’s default settings, even for a moment!

NIV II Tim. 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus

 

 

image: Toon Pool

June 3, 2012

Two Audiences, Two Responses

If you spend any amount of time in the Christian blogosphere, by the time Christmas rolls around, you are going to have had enough of the discussion of Christianity and Homosexuality. This blog is no exception.  Some of you are glazing over even as you read this, and a few of you have already clicked away.  Bye, bye. Try again tomorrow…

However, I was very impressed with an exercise that took place at Team Pyro (aka Pyromaniacs) (Gasp, yes, a reformed blog) over the past week, where readers were asked by Frank Turk to compare and contrast two different approaches to this problem, one from John Piper, who is speaking largely to a very loyal Christian following, and second from Timothy Keller, who attracts secularists, skeptics and seekers in rather refreshing numbers; people who, as Team Pyro pointed out, will never venture into the Christian blogosphere.

I decided the videos were worth posting here as well, but you need to (a) read Frank’s introductions and (b) read some of the comments.  So here are the links to part one and part two.  As huge as this issue is, it’s a microcosm of how we deal with similar issues within and outside the church. Jesus was rather rough on the Pharisees, but had a great deal of grace for sinners. I like what Keller did here especially and think it’s worth watching a few times. (And don’t remind me about Joel Osteen’s response.) 

Please remember if you decide to comment here, that this is about the nature of the response depending on who is the audience. Comments here (and at Pyromaniacs) should be limited to this particular focus or will otherwise be deleted.

August 21, 2009

Carlos Whitaker on Being “That” Person

Filed under: Christianity, Faith — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:15 pm

I originally posted this on February 3rd of this year, but I think it bears repeating.

Carlos Whittaker:

After standing in a room tonight with a hundred or so AMAZING people who all are “somebody”, I realized again…
It’s not who you know…It’s Who you serve.

At the end of the day it is not about getting “the deal”
At the end of the day it’s not about writing “the song”
At the end of the day it’s not about meeting “the man”
At the end of the day it’s not about your church hitting “that number”
At the end of the day it’s not about speaking at “the conference”
At the end of the day it’s not about writing “the book”
At the end of the day it’s not about losing “those pounds”
At the end of the day it’s not about being invited to “that party”
At the end of the day it’s not about being on “the list”
At the end of the day it’s not about opening for “that band”
At the end of the day it’s not about dating “that girl/guy”
At the end of the day it’s not about hitting “those stats”
At the end of the day it’s not about getting “that award”
At the end of the day it’s not about selling “that number of copies”
At the end of the day it’s not about creating “the perfect sermon series”
At the end of the day it’s not about solving “that problem”
At the end of the day it’s not about preaching “that message”
At the end of the day it’s not about shmoozing “those reps”
At the end of the day it’s not about everyone lifting “those hands”
At the end of the day it’s not about praying “that prayer”

All that crap is just crap.
It does not matter.
It is not your identity.
It will ALL go away.

But what will not go away is that moment that you stopped believing all your self righteous lies and found your identity in Christ alone.
Not the deal, the song, the man, that number, the conference, the book, those pounds, that party, the list, that band, that girl/guy, those stats, that award, that number of copies, the perfect sermon series, that problem, that message, those reps, those hands, or that prayer.

It is about Christ in you the hope of Glory.
So let’s make a deal.
For today, myself included, let’s not drop one name, not unless it’s His.

Carlos Whittaker blogs at Ragamuffin Soul. See this post here, or check out the rest of the blog with this link.

May 15, 2009

The Law and the Gospel

One of the joys of blogging is that you get to experience sectors of the Christian world that you might otherwise miss.    Even if you’ve been walking with Jesus for years — or in some cases, like mine, decades — there is always something new to learn.

Deborah DrapperSeveral weeks ago I linked to the YouTube postings of a BBC documentary on 13-year-old Deborah Drapper.    Her story is a mixture of elements:  A somewhat isolated, innocent, homeschooled girl in rural England who somehow has no fear when it comes to wading into a group of partying teens on a Friday night to ask them some serious faith questions.    Her style is forceful and direct; a style gained from listening nightly to podcasts from Ray Comfort’s Way of the Master website.

So when I learned this week that Deborah had a blog, I took a few minutes to scan it, and in that short time a phrase somewhat jumped out at me several times:

The Law and the Gospel

Having seen the entire BBC show helped here, and if you haven’t you’re at somewhat of a disadvantage,  but Ms. Drapper’s style begins — always — with the Ten Commandments as an example of how peoples’ beliefs that they are “good” can never possibly line up with God’s “Big Ten.”

That’s a fair approach.    I’ve heard Bill Hybels and Andy Stanley do the same, and I was on the same track a few weeks ago when I preached in a Toronto church on the story of the rich young official (or rich young aristocrat, or rich young bureaucrat, or rich young ruler.)   He felt he had kept all ten commandments, but then Jesus helps him to see the impossibility of human righteousness — “there is none good but God.”

But watching Deborah, I got a slightly different vibe.    I’m not sure if it was just a reaction to her formulaic approach — she is only 13, after all — but I think it was her total reliance on the “big ten” as the basis for her verbal witness.   The British Teens she spoke with would wake up the next morning  remembering the message of the Ten Commandments, and not the grace of God in sending Jesus, or the ability of Jesus to meet us at our point of need.

(As an aside, this is why we don’t hire high school students where I work.   There are too many complex “life issues” that people are facing that younger people haven’t necessarily dealt with.)

Unsure what vibe I was sensing, I was finally able to articulate it when I saw the phrase “The Law and the Gospel,”  or “The Ten Commandments, The Law and the Gospel” so clearly printed on her blog.   The nuances of adding “The Law” so distinctly to the presentation are not part of my previous experience.  (Google the phrase for examples of other places where it’s used online.)

Again, don’t get me wrong.  I don’t want to quench everything that God is doing through Deborah.    And I’m not here to debate the effectiveness of The Way of the Master, or even The Four Spiritual Laws, or even apologetics in general.

The only point I want to make today — and ask your response to it — is that there seemed to be something awkward about going out for an evening of evangelism with the premise that you’re going to share “The Law” with people; and I say that recognizing that “The Gospel” is only good news in light of the condemnation that the law puts everyone under.   There seemed to be something definitely not postmodern about it.     Read the first page currently up on her blog, and tell me if I’m over-reacting.

Visitors:  You may not be here by accident! If you got here from a WordPress or search tag and you’re not a Christ-follower, please understand that in critiquing the approach I’m not minimizing the message or its urgency.   All of us are constantly looking for ways to help the broader population confront the eternal questions that need to be faced.    At the end of the day, Deborah, Ray Comfort and I would have you reach the same conclusion, namely that Jesus’ claim to be God was true, and therefore his message needs to be clearly heard and individually applied.     God is a righteous judge, but also rich in grace,  mercy and compassion.   To hear a presentation like Deborah’s, continue to this site.

February 3, 2009

In Christ Alone, My Hope Is Found

Filed under: Christianity, Jesus — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:38 pm
Carlos Whittaker:

After standing in a room tonight with a hundred or so AMAZING people who all are “somebody”, I realized again…
It’s not who you know…It’s Who you serve.

At the end of the day it is not about getting “the deal”
At the end of the day it’s not about writing “the song”
At the end of the day it’s not about meeting “the man”
At the end of the day it’s not about your church hitting “that number”
At the end of the day it’s not about speaking at “the conference”
At the end of the day it’s not about writing “the book”
At the end of the day it’s not about losing “those pounds”
At the end of the day it’s not about being invited to “that party”
At the end of the day it’s not about being on “the list”
At the end of the day it’s not about opening for “that band”
At the end of the day it’s not about dating “that girl/guy”
At the end of the day it’s not about hitting “those stats”
At the end of the day it’s not about getting “that award”
At the end of the day it’s not about selling “that number of copies”
At the end of the day it’s not about creating “the perfect sermon series”
At the end of the day it’s not about solving “that problem”
At the end of the day it’s not about preaching “that message”
At the end of the day it’s not about shmoozing “those reps”
At the end of the day it’s not about everyone lifting “those hands”
At the end of the day it’s not about praying “that prayer”

All that crap is just crap.
It does not matter.
It is not your identity.
It will ALL go away.
But what will not go away is that moment that you stopped believing all your self righteous lies and found your identity in Christ alone.
Not the deal, the song, the man, that number, the conference, the book, those pounds, that party, the list, that band, that girl/guy, those stats, that award, that number of copies, the perfect sermon series, that problem, that message, those reps, those hands, or that prayer.

It is about Christ in you the hope of Glory.
So let’s make a deal.
For today, myself included, let’s not drop one name, not unless it’s His.

Carlos Whittaker blogs at Ragamuffin Soul.   See this post here, or check out the rest of the blog with this link.

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