Christianity 201

October 18, 2014

Give Me This Mountain

I was enjoying the lyrical depths of a playlist of songs by Graham Kendrick and was particularly drawn to the song Give Me This Mountain (Caleb’s Song). I decided to post it on Thinking Out Loud by itself, but wanted to at least include the scripture reference. The video annotation reads:

A song about a Biblical encounter between Caleb and God. Caleb was called ‘wholehearted’ by God and was allowed to enter the promised land.

I decided to investigate that further, first in scripture,

Numbers 14:24 But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.

and then when I landed on the blog of Harvest Pointe Fellowship in Evans, Georgia. Once there, I knew I had to include it here at C201.  Click the title below — a reference to Caleb’s character before God — to read it at source.

Wholehearted -Joshua 14

Besides God, there are two main characters throughout this stage of our study of Joshua: obviously Joshua is one of them, and the other is Caleb. Caleb is one of the spies who entered the Promised Land the first time– all the other spies gave reports of giants and fortified cities and how it would be impossible to take this land but Caleb (and Joshua) stuns everyone by boldly proclaiming that they should enter the land because God had already given them the victory. No one listened to him and the children of Israel are forced to wander the wilderness once more. We should not be surprised to learn that the name “Caleb” comes from Hebrew and means “wholehearted”. Caleb is a man who lived his entire life with wholehearted devotion to God’s purpose.

…Caleb is one of the unsung heroes of the Bible. He stands as a shining example of one who never lost his edge spiritually. He himself said at age 85, “I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and coming in” (Joshua 14:11 NKJV). This demonstration of courage must have unnerved the other men. They may even have thought him senile.

At this point of our study of Joshua, God’s people have taken much of the long awaited Promised Land and Joshua was dispensing portions of it to the tribes. However, Caleb steps forward to claim that which had been promised him by Moses. In fact, Caleb asks for the land that he had surveyed as much younger man.

In response, Joshua granted his faithful friend Caleb what he asked. He gives Caleb Hebron. The old man proved he had not yet exhausted his courage, when he said:

Now therefore, give me this mountain [the land of Hebron] of which the Lord spoke in that day. . (Joshua 14:10–12 NKJV)

The other men of Israel must have breathed a sigh of relief that Caleb had chosen this portion of land. This was not some beautiful, green pasture; it was one of the most treacherous mountainous areas of the Promised Land. Even more problematic was the fact that formidable adversaries inhabited this land. This was the home of the sons of Anak, the very same giants that terrified the 10 spies sent by Moses. No one wanted to take on the giants except 85-year-old Caleb. Can’t you just envision him holding up that muscular old arm, saying, “Give me this mountain”?

I love the boldness of this man of God. I can just see Caleb running up that mountain. I can see him as he slays his adversaries. He was victorious. He had been strong all those years and he finished well.

Let me share several principles with we learn from Caleb’s life that can give us this same spiritual stamina we need to run and indeed finish in the race of life well.

1. Follow the Lord 100 percent. Scripture says again and again that Caleb “wholly followed the Lord.” It’s in Joshua 14:8–9 and verse 14: Joshua blessed Caleb and gave the old man what he asked because “he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel.”

This is clearly a key to Caleb’s spiritual success. But what does it mean to “wholly follow the Lord”? It means that you must fully follow our Lord not halfheartedly, but completely. One hundred percent.

Are you wholly following the Lord your God? If you are not, you will eventually be picked off. It is only a matter of time until you become a casualty in the race of life.

2. Don’t compromise—stand your ground. At the risk of being ostracized, Caleb took a stand for what he knew was true. He knew he needed to be more concerned with God’s approval than man’s approval. And for this, he was rewarded.

As you walk with the Lord, you will face many temptations to cave in to peer pressure, to do what everybody else does. But if you are going to fully follow the Lord, then, like Caleb, you must make this principle operative in your life. Stand firm and seek God’s pleasure, no one else’s.

3. Take God at His Word. Caleb didn’t win immediate entrance to the Promised Land. First, he had to wander around with those ungrateful, complaining Israelites for 40 years. They said things like “We remember the good old days back in Egypt, where we had garlic, leeks, and onions.”

Despite the Israelites’ childish clinging to conjured memories, Caleb hung on to the promises of God. He knew God would be faithful, regardless of the time frame. Caleb trusted God’s word to him. We can do the same.

4. Long for fellowship with your God. Caleb asked for a place in the Promised Land called Hebron. There is something very interesting about the name Hebron, which—in the original language—means “fellowship, love, and communion.” Hebron is where Abraham met with God face-to-face and received the promise of the new land in the first place.

Caleb yearned for fellowship with God. While the other Israelites longed for Egypt, Caleb longed for Hebron. While the others looked back in dread, Caleb looked forward with fearless anticipation. While others wanted to please themselves, Caleb wanted only to please God.

This is an essential key to spiritual longevity. You must always move forward. You must always seek to grow spiritually and never look back. That’s what will keep you going.

If you are living this Christian life for others’ applause, you won’t make it. You have to run empowered by your love for God.

Questions for thought:

1. Have you ever felt resentful or burdened by something God was calling you to do?
2. One justification for not helping or serving is that feel we need time for ourselves, for our studies, for our work, for our own rest. While easy to understand, what do you think is wrong with this mindset?
3. When was the last time you felt excited and even proud to have the chance to serve? What made that situation so different?
4. What are some practical ways you can begin to see serving God as your privilege rather than your burden?

 

October 16, 2014

God Has Done the Big Thing

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:43 pm
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It wasn’t intentional, but today we have a post from Stephen Altrogge at Thinking Out Loud, and below, a post by Mark Altrogge here at C201.  This topic appears very simple, but I had to read it twice to get all the nuances. To read this at The Blazing Center blog, click the title below:

God Has Done The Big Thing. Surely He’ll Take Care Of The Lesser Things.

Israel had a short memory.

They had been miserable slaves to the king of Egypt who seemed to have all power over their lives. They had no means of escape, yet God heard their groaning, and struck Pharaoh and Egypt with plague after plague, then brought Israel out of Egypt loaded with their gold and silver. Then God miraculously split the Red Sea and brought his people through on dry ground, then Israel watched the sea come back together and engulf the Egyptian chariots who pursued them.

Though God delivered them and provided for them again and again, they couldn’t seem to remember his faithfulness. In their unbelief, every new challenge they faced made them doubt the goodness of their God. They failed to make this important connection: If God did the big thing for them, he’d surely do lesser things. If God delivered them out of Egypt, he’d surely provide for their needs.

A short memory wasn’t just the problem of the generation who left Egypt. It was Israel’s constant failure over the years. We see God reminding his people again in Psalm 81:

I relieved your shoulder of the burden;
your hands were freed from the basket.
In distress you called, and I delivered you;
I answered you in the secret place of thunder; (6-7)

I am the LORD your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. PS 81.10

God says to his people: Don’t forget who I am: I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. I did the big thing. I saved you when you couldn’t save yourselves. So ask me to provide for you – open your mouth wide – expect me to meet your needs – and I will fill it – I’ll do the lesser thing and answer your prayers and provide for you.

We too need to remember this truth: God did the big thing for us – he saved us from our sins and his wrath by sending his only Son to live and die and rise for us – surely he will do the lesser things – provide, protect and help us.

God has done the big thing – he saved us. Surely he’ll take care of all the lesser things we need.

God could say to us:

I am the Lord your God,
who brought you up out of your land of Egypt – your slavery to sin, your misery, your condemnation and hopelessness.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it – ask me and I’ll give you all you need.

Romans 8:32 puts it this way:

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

God gave up his most valuable thing – his Son Jesus on the cross – he sent Jesus to be broken and to pour out his blood for sin, then he poured out his horrific wrath upon his Son’s soul, withdrawing every shred of mercy and love from Jesus’ awareness. He did this for us all. After doing this, how will he not graciously give us all lesser things? Surely God will give us all we need to glorify him. Surely he will give us mercy and grace and strength and help. Surely he’ll provide for our needs.

So open your mouth wide and God will fill it. Open your mouth today in praise and thanksgiving. Open your mouth wide in prayer. Ask for whatever you wish. Nothing will be greater than Jesus. Open your mouth wide in expectation that your heavenly Father will answer your prayers.

October 12, 2014

The Shepherd’s King

Today we look at the basics of Psalm 23. The author is Allan Connor, author and retired missionary. This is actually the first three of a number of shorter devotions; we’ll run the balance as Allan makes them available.

sheep in green pastureDavid, great King of Israel, had known the rugged life of a common sheep farmer – the hectic, 24 hour-a-day lambing season at the end of winter; the search for good summer pasture on far away fields, bedding down in a make-shift tent; the care of sick and wounded sheep; the never-ending battle with wild animals. He had cared for his sheep. Now, in the 23rd Psalm, he sees his experiences as a metaphor for God’s care.

The Bible Society’s Contemporary English Version of the Psalm provides a fresh translation so I thought it good to include it in full. Read it slowly and refresh your spirit. Take a few minutes to reflect on how these verses apply to your own life over the years.

“You, Lord, are my shepherd. I will never be in need.
You let me rest in fields of green grass.
You lead me to streams of peaceful water,
And you refresh my life.
You are true to your name, and you lead me along the right paths.
I may walk through valleys as dark as death, but I won’t be afraid.
You are with me, and your shepherd’s rod makes me feel safe.
You treat me to a feast, while my enemies watch.
You honor me as your guest, and you fill my cup until it overflows.
Your kindness and love will always be with me each day of my life,
And I will live forever in your house, Lord.”

Note the words “shepherd’s rod” in verse 4. The Hebrew text actually mentions two items carried by the shepherd: a club to defend against wild animals and a long pole to guide and control the sheep.


David writes in Psalm 23 that the Lord leads him “along the right paths.” But look how it’s done – from the front! When the shepherd has brought his sheep out of the sheepfold, “he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:4). No cajoling or beating here; just solid leadership. The sheep follow automatically because they have learned to trust their master.

Think of the meaning for us! The great God, the God who built the universe and everything in it, will go on ahead of us, if we are his sheep. He’ll search out the places and the circumstances so nothing happens by accident. What a tremendous comfort – being in his will! But there is an important caution: The shepherd must have control. Here is a story:

John D. Rockefeller, America’s richest industrialist, owned a large oil refinery in Cleveland, Ohio. Not far away stood a shabby wooden shop where an older man sold peanuts and penny candy. As Rockefeller passed the store day after day, he felt sorry for the vendor. One late afternoon he stopped for a chat.

“My good fellow,” he began, “why don’t you come and work for me. I’ll give you a decent wage, holidays with pay, health benefits and a pension.” “I don’t know,” the man replied. I’ll have to think about it.” Rockefeller’s brow registered his surprise .

“Alright, take your time, then.“ Rockefeller answered.

A couple of week later, the industrialist stopped in again. “So,” he said, expecting a positive answer this time, “what’s the verdict?”

“Well, sir, it’s like this. Your offer is a fine one but I have to turn it down. I’ve decided that I want to run my own business.” Rockefeller knew by the tone that persuasion would fall on deaf ears. He pulled at the brim of his hat and strode briskly to the door. Now compare this:

Jim Elliot, while studying at Wheaton College in 1949, wrote in his journal, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jim was killed in 1956 by Huaorani Indians of Ecuador , the very people he had come to share the Gospel with.


King David tells us, “I may walk through valleys as dark as death, but I won’t be afraid. You are with me and your shepherd’s rod makes me feel safe” (Psalm 23:4). David may well have been thinking of the numerous times his enemies had tried to kill him; yet he wasn’t afraid. He knew how to deal with fear. How does this apply to us?

We don’t have to face such life-threatening situations. But there is a universal fear that can harass us. It crosses all human barriers; no social group, class or country is immune. It is the fear of death.

The CEV translation above uses the words, “valleys as dark as death.” This phrase may also be rendered, “valley of the shadow of death,” as in the King James Version. The fear of death really is more like a shadow – it hangs around. It clings.

So how do we shake this fear? What is the shepherd’s rod that makes us feel safe? We get rid of the fear of death by receiving life – the life that Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, will give us under his own terms.

John 3:16 is one of the best known verses of Scripture. Here it is: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” For years I read this verse thinking only of its application to death and eternal life in heaven. It means that, of course; it is the Shepherd’s rod. But it also means much more.

The apostle Paul says, ”if anyone is in Christ, he (or she) is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17). I receive this brand-new life the very moment I place my faith in Christ as savior! So it’s like a two-for-one deal! I become a child of God, receive a new nature and at the same time don’t have to wait to become comfortable with death. As I learn to trust Jesus on earth I become comfortable with trusting him about my eternal life in heaven.

~Allan Connor

September 4, 2014

The Timing of the One who Exists Outside of Time

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This is part two from Steven C. Mills of Steve’s Bible Meditations, and again you’re encouraged to read this at source and visit the rest of the blog. If you’re a grandparent, you might also enjoy Steve’s other blog, Poppy’s New Adventure. Click the title below to read today’s devotional at source. If you missed part one, you’ll find it there on July 4th, as well as here yesterday.

 

Wait Training, Part 2: The Inscrutability of God – Isaiah 40:28-29

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power” (Isaiah 40:28-29, NASB).

When we wait upon the Lord, our faith is actually strengthened because the act of waiting develops God’s perspective in us. In other words, it’s Wait Training!

“Waiting upon the Lord” causes you to rise above your present circumstances to get a higher view, a more objective view, a God-view of them. From that vantage point, you can gain perspective about what it is that you are hoping and trusting God to do and thereby develop a better understanding of God’s plans and purposes for you.

When you follow the advice to “wait upon the Lord” (vs. 31), it’s easy to see why you must wait on God to act and to perform His will when you consider it within the context of the previous verses. God is the Everlasting Creator of the universe. Time and space exist only within His Infinite realm (vs. 28). So, He proceeds about the business of performing His will at the perfect pace!

While we can ascertain God’s intentions–His goodness and our redemption–we can’t always perceive His timing. We can only know that because He is the Everlasting Creator of the universe that His timing is perfect. He doesn’t need to hurry up because He’s fallen behind or slow down because He’s gotten ahead. He’s at the right place at the right time doing just the right thing!

But because God is not limited by time and space and we are, He is inscrutable to us. We can’t always know what His timing is nor do we have the capacity or authority to question or mistrust His timing. That’s why we wait on it. That’s why we wait on the Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the universe who is always at the right place at the right time doing just the right thing.

Rather than scrutinize God’s timing, we must wait upon and trust in and hope for the One Who Is Inscrutable. Then, our faith is strengthened and we are empowered to do His will!

Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.  (Psalm 27:14, NASB)


If you missed it, click back to Saturday (August 30th) for the song More Power To Ya by Petra, which really fits this theme.


Some days I really struggle with the idea that it seems so few Christian writers are willing to try their hand at writing devotional literature.  But six months ago I discovered this page at CBN. It’s good to know that there are others out there who prioritize the gift of encouragement and the gift of teaching and are willing to take the time to write out thoughts that will strengthen and encourage others. If you find yourself looking for something at other times of day, bookmark the page and then ask God to lead you to a particular author and click their name.

September 3, 2014

Building Spiritual Muscles: Wait Training

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:25 pm
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Today is the first of two “borrowings” we’re going to do from Steven C. Mills at the blog Steve’s Bible Meditations. We have a rule here of not going to the same source more than once every six months, but because we’re going to run both parts of this, today and tomorrow I am going to ask you really strongly today to click the title to read this at Steve’s blog and send him some ‘stats love.’ Then take a few minutes to look around the rest of the blog.

Wait Training – Isaiah 40:31

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31, KJV).

When I was younger, we often sang this verse at prayer meetings or Bible studies as a song. Then, at the end of the verse we added this refrain to the song: “Teach me Lord, teach me Lord, to wait.”

The Hebrew word that is translated “they that wait upon” in the KJV finds its root in another Hebrew word that means to wait or look for, to hope for or expect. The sense of the waiting in this verse is eager expectation or anticipation. So, the NIV translates it as “those who hope” and the HCSB translates it as “those who trust.”

Unfortunately, when we talk about “waiting upon the Lord,” it’s not necessarily waiting with hopeful anticipation, but more like waiting with dreaded apprehension! For us, waiting upon the Lord is exceedingly distressful and practically unbearable. Instead of eagerly waiting upon the Lord, we impatiently wait upon the Lord.

But “waiting upon the Lord” is a discipline that is actually related to “trusting in the Lord” or “hoping in the Lord.” In fact, I would argue that “waiting upon the Lord” is the same thing as “having faith in God” or trusting or hoping in God.

Here’s what I mean. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as: the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (KJV). Faith is substantively comprised of hoping for outcomes that haven’t yet occurred. So, to me, “having faith” is a lot like “hoping for,” which is technically the same as “waiting upon.”

To hope for some outcome and hope that God is going to do it, we have to wait for God for it; we have to wait for God to work according to His will! Paul explained in Romans 8:25: “But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (KJV).

But this verse has a lot more to teach us about waiting on the Lord than just informing us that we should do it. This powerful verse tells us why we should wait upon the Lord. It explains the spiritual value and benefits of waiting upon the Lord. When we wait upon the Lord, our faith is strengthened because it develops God’s perspective in us so that our faith can sustain us spiritually both in the short-term and the long-term! It’s Wait Training!

To see what I mean, let’s unpack Isaiah’s metaphors in this verse.

“Waiting upon the Lord” causes us to rise above our present circumstances to get a higher view, a more objective view, a God-view of them (“soar with wings like eagles”). From that vantage point, you can gain perspective about what it is that you hoping and trusting God to do and then develop a better understanding of God’s plans and purposes for you. And when you better perceive what His will is, then you will have the resolve and the willpower to accomplish His will in your present circumstances unhesitantly and without wavering (“run and not grow weary”). And, this willingness to do God’s will that you develop in your present circumstances will lead you into a lifestyle of continually and confidently hoping and trusting in God for all that you do and ask Him for in your life (“walk and not faint”).

And the end result of this waiting is that your faith is strengthened, it’s renewed. It becomes faith with precision and fidelity, faith aligned with God’s will. It becomes front-end faith instead of should-have-been faith. It becomes proactive rather than reactive faith. After all, wouldn’t you rather be having faith for what you know God wants to do instead of hoping what you want to do is what God wants?

When you’re waiting upon the Lord for what you know He wants to do, then you wait with eagerness, expectancy, anticipation.

So, teach me, Lord, teach me, Lord, to wait!

But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13, NASB)

September 2, 2014

The 8.3% Who Dare

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22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on to the other side of the sea while He dismissed the crowd. 23 Then, after the crowd had gone, Jesus went up to a mountaintop alone (as He had intended from the start). As evening descended, He stood alone on the mountain, praying.

In the midst of the burdens of life and ministry, like when news of John’s death reaches Him, Jesus seeks refreshment in solitary prayer.

24 The boat was in the water, some distance from land, buffeted and pushed around by waves and wind. 25 Deep in the night, when He had concluded His prayers, Jesus walked out on the water to His disciples in their boat. 26 The disciples saw a figure moving toward them and were terrified.

Disciple: It’s a ghost!

Another Disciple: A ghost? What will we do?

Jesus: 27 Be still. It is I. You have nothing to fear.

Peter: 28 Lord, if it is really You, then command me to meet You on the water.

Jesus: 29 Indeed, come.

Peter stepped out of the boat onto the water and began walking toward Jesus. 30 But when he remembered how strong the wind was, his courage caught in his throat and he began to sink.

Peter: Master, save me!

31 Immediately Jesus reached for Peter and caught him.

Jesus: O you of little faith. Why did you doubt and dance back and forth between following Me and heeding fear?

32 Then Jesus and Peter climbed in the boat together, and the wind became still. 33 And the disciples worshiped Him.

Disciples: Truly You are the Son of God.

(Matthew 14:22-33, The Voice)

The title we used for today’s post will become clearer when you read the title of the original article below, which you should click to read this at source. The writer is Matt Appling at the blog The Church of No People. (Yes, we’re breaking our six month rule, but I like Matt’s writing.)

For Every Person Who Jumps Out of the Boat, There Are Eleven Who Stay

I’ve been thinking a lot about the story of Peter getting out of the boat this weekend.

You know, the one where the disciples see Jesus walking on the water and they think he’s a ghost. And so Peter dares the “ghost” to tell him to come out on the water.

And before Peter can even think twice, he acts recklessly and steps out of the boat.

There are very few times in our lives when we actually get a chance to step out of the boat, to take a big step of faith, not knowing if we are going to sink. Peter took his chances.

I’ve also been thinking about something else.

The eleven guys who did not get out of the boat.

I wonder what they said to one another.

“What is Peter doing?”

“That’s a bad idea.”

“He is going to sink!”

“I’ve read a blog about these guys who try to walk on water. I don’t agree with it.”

See, every precious time we get the chance to step out of our boat, there is going to be eleven (or a lot more) people who stay in the boat, and tell us why we should stay put. They are the concerned friends who urge “discernment.” They are the experts who prophesy disaster at every turn. They are the barely-informed Christians who think they have well-reasoned moral objection.

I have been seriously struggling with this recently, knowing that I have made choices, I have gotten out of my boat. And there are plenty of people who have an opinion about that. Mob mentality is alive and well and it keeps us in fear of ever leaving the little boundaries of the boats we are in.

“We are all in the same boat,” they say. Maybe it’s because no one is allowed to leave the boat.

All of the people in the boat mean well. But the result is the same. The voices of fear, anxiety, safety, guilt or shame always try to crowd in and hold us back. They try to tell us that our faith is too reckless. They try to tell us that God wants us to stay safely in the boat. They try to convince us that we are doing something wrong by getting out of the boat.

For every man who has the faith to leave the boat, there are eleven others telling him to stay.

You know, the hardest part of getting out of the boat might not be seeing the wind and the waves that are about to crash into us, but shutting out the voices who try to hold us back, wondering what could have been.

 

August 28, 2014

Trust in the Lord with all your Heart

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:29 pm
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The summer camp where my wife and I met and where our boys attended and later worked on staff is named Camp IAWAH, an acronym for “In All Ways Acknowledge Him.” So it’s no surprise that Proverbs 3:5-6 is a verse we all know by heart. My son Aaron wrote this on his blog last week; it’s short, but I wanted to share it here…


Proverbs 3:5,6

In the Bible, this passage reads “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and rely not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your path straight.”

1 IAWAHI used to work at a summer camp that had a beautiful forest on its property. It has kilometers of trails with stunning vistas overlooking lakes and groves of tall trees that stretch into a cathedral-like canopy. I wandered around in this forest during my time off to unwind. Eventually, I had the beaten paths memorized. I got bored. I started to deviate from the paths and I learned how the trails ran relative to each other.

I found cool ancient dead trees with branches that stretched up like flames. I found skulls, rivers, new vistas, and other things that had always been a couple meters or a half-kilometer off the path. So long as I remembered where the sun was, I always made it back to camp in one piece and on time.

If we rely on our own understanding of the world, we only re-walk a path that we’ve been on a thousand times before and we miss out on the whole. We understand only a fraction of what there is to understand in the world. We need to reach out and challenge ourselves from time to time. I like doing abstract thought exercises because they help me to explore. Sometimes I find something worth coming back to and other times not. I try to understand things that it seems a lot of people reject on principle. I play devil’s advocate and wonder ‘what if’?

Some would call it dangerous. To them I say, life is. There are no guarantees in life except for that those that walk the beaten path will remain eternally blissfully ignorant. Sometimes we get lost. Sometimes we ask ‘who am I, what am I doing, and where am I going?’ As long as we stay focused on the source of our direction, we won’t stay lost. When I feel depressed or worried, sometimes I simply pray ‘God, you’re here.’ Christians often say that God doesn’t promise life will be easy, but he promises that he’ll stay with us through the hard times.

This is my first rule. Don’t trust your limited perspective. Get the larger picture. Follow the light that guides you and you’ll always find your way home.

~Aaron Wilkinson

August 12, 2014

God’s Will for Your Life

decision making in God's willIf you’re at a crossroads in life, but hesitate to make a move because you’re afraid of doing something that not “God’s perfect will” for your life, consider this quotation:

A whole boatload of anxieties is tied up with this notion of “finding God’s will.”

The good news is that the will of God is not really like that. It’s not the kind of thing you have to look for and find, and therefore it’s not the kind of thing you can miss. What you can do is disobey God’s will. That’s easy to do – it’s called sin. But in another sense (quite a different sense) you can never miss God’s will, no matter how badly you sin or disobey God. For in addition to God’s will revealed in his word, there’s also his hidden will, as it’s called, which means his providence governing the universe and all of history. His word we can disobey, but his providence is sovereign over heaven and earth and we cannot overcome it or even escape it. It’s not something we are capable of disobeying, much less missing.

So the “will of God” that my students are trying to find is some third thing: not God’s revealed will (because it’s something they have to “find”) and not his providential will (because it’s something they might “miss”). It’s an extra kind of “will of God” that is not found in the Bible. That is to say, it doesn’t really exist. And that’s good news. It means – if they only knew it – that they are allowed to make their own decisions like responsible moral agents – like adults seeking to grow in wisdom and understanding or stewards learning how to invest their talents. They don’t have to find what God has hidden.

~ Cary, Phillip (2010-10-01). Good News for Anxious Christians: Ten Practical Things You Don’t Have to Do (Kindle Locations 1188-1200). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition; as sourced at Strengthened By Grace blog.  (I’ve added emphasis.)

So when the Psalmist writes,

 I delight to do your will, O my God;
    your law is within my heart.”  (40:8 ESV)

he is saying that he wants to do the thing that pleases God, the thing God wants; but not some specific direction that one must spend days, weeks, or months seeking. He is simply saying that he wants what God wants.

An earlier Psalm (37:4) talks about the thing you want, as opposed to the thing you think God might want. You probably know it by heart in the KJV, here’s the NKJV:

Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

I remember being taught that the desires of the righteous are righteous desires. If you’re following closely after Jesus, if you’re moving toward the cross, then the thing you want won’t be in conflict with the thing that is his best for you.

Perhaps the key if you’re at a crossroads is to simply take great joy in (Voice Bible) or keep company with (Message) and enjoy serving (NCV) your savior and Lord.


We have a bonus item today at Thinking out Loud; if you have 32-minutes, enjoy an excellent video teaching by David Platt.

August 8, 2014

Knowing the Answers versus Believing the Answers

II Timothy 1:12b

For I know the one in whom I have placed my confidence, and I am perfectly certain that the work he has committed to me is safe in his hands until that day.  (Phillips)

I know Him and I have put my trust in Him. And I am fully certain that He has the ability to protect what I have placed in His care until that day.  (The Voice)

I know the One I have believed in. I am sure he is able to take care of what I have given him. I can trust him with it until the day he returns as judge. (NIrV)

For I know him in whom I have trusted and I am fully convinced that he is able to guard my deposit until that day. (Mounce)

I couldn’t be more sure of my ground—the One I’ve trusted in can take care of what he’s trusted me to do right to the end.  (Message)

I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. (KJV)


I Corinthians 2:2

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (ESV)

For I resolved to know nothing (to be acquainted with nothing, to make a display of the knowledge of nothing, and to be conscious of nothing) among you except Jesus Christ (the Messiah) and Him crucified.  (AMP)


I’m currently reading The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity by Barnabas Piper. Although I’m not a PK myself, many of his words resonate; especially in terms of the expectations often placed on a kid to be something spiritually that he or she is not. It can be easy to pretend. It can be easy to act the part — the background meaning to the word hypocrite, and fool the people in your spiritual community, or even though the broader community, though the latter may in fact be more likely to see through the facade.

I think a portion of scripture that should horrify all of us, even those who “know that they know that they know”  is Matthew 7: 21-23:

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

I mean, doesn’t that just make you go “Yikes!” And yet, The Twelve, after spending three years in Jesus had no assurance of themselves spiritually and so in Matthew 26: 21-22 we read the account:

And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?” (NIV)

Barnabas Piper writes about hiding his true self under layers; he compares it to the layers of an onion:

The Pastor's Kid - Barnabas PiperI spent all those years knowing all the right answers about everything, convincing everyone I was all good.  But at no point did I know what I believed.  I knew answers, but not reality.  I knew cognitive truth, but not experiential truth.  I was an internal mess.  I knew right and wrong.  I knew Jesus and His saving work.  I knew my need for a savior and grace.  But I didn’t believe these things.  I didn’t know them like I know my wife or my children – real, experiential, proven.  And so, after twenty years as a Christian, sin took over my heart and then my life.  It nearly cost me my marriage.  It did cost me that job.  I was broken.  All because I knew answers about everything but didn’t truly know what I believed.  All because what I showed the world was ‘right’ but inside me was a whole lot of wrong.

It is only grace that has restored me.  It was the awful power of God’s grace that peeled back layer after layer of hypocrisy, my onion self, to expose my heart to what I knew answers about but truly needed to believe.  It wasn’t the first time I had fallen, and it wasn’t the first time God had exposed my sin and His grace, but the other times I had moved on, lesson unlearned.  So He peeled me to save me.

More than anything I want my breaking to be the freeing of others.

Lord Jesus; help me not just to be someone who knows all the answers about you, but help me to truly be someone who is placing my trust in you, truly believing you, for everything. Amen


 

Today’s bonus item (from Twitter)

F – forwarding
A – all
I – issues
T – to
H – Heaven

 

 

 

August 7, 2014

Even in the Wilderness, God Provides

Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread.
 Psalm 37:25 NLT

Today we look at a few pages from Futureville: Discovering Your Purpose for Today by Reimagining Tomorrow by author Syke Jethani (Thomas Nelson, paperback). The book uses the 1939 New York World’s Fair as an object lesson giving us a glimpse of God’s world for tomorrow.

Futureville - Skye JethaniIn contrast to the gated kingdoms of the world driven by the fear of scarcity, the kingdom of God is marked by the faith of abundance. Its gates are never shut.  When the Lord led his people out of Egypt into the wilderness the people feared not having enough food and water, but each day God provided what they needed.  Quail fell over the camp every evening for meat, and bread from heaven covered the ground every morning.  God’s people always had enough.  Those who tried to hoard the manna discovered that whatever they kept from the previous day rotted overnight.  Unlike the kings of the world who are driven by fear to hoard and acquire, the Lord was teaching his people the truth that control is an illusion, and rather than seeking control they were to surrender in faith and trust in his abundant provision each day.  Faith rather than fear marks his kingdom.

We see this quality of Futureville in Jesus’ ministry.  On numerous occasions those gathered to hear him did not have enough to eat. Giving thanks to God, Jesus took a few fish and loaves of bread and fed thousands.  Not only was there always enough, but the disciples managed to gather an abundance of leftovers.  These miraculous feedings were signs that the kingdom of God had arrived, that scarcity would be no more, and that Futureville had broken into the world with Jesus.  The gate to the garden of abundance has been opened again.

Centuries earlier Isaiah had prophesied that abundance would accompany the Messiah’s coming:

Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
(Isaiah 55:1)

John echoes Isaiah’s words when concluding his description of the garden city: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’  And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’  And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.”

The message of Scripture is unwavering – with God there is always enough.  Where he reigns we never have to fear scarcity.  We do not have to retreat in fear behind a locked gate or scramble to get as much as we can before the market tumbles.  In his kingdom of abundance the gates are never shut; bubbles never form or burst…    (pp 159-161)

 

For only $1.99 per month, you can wake up to a morning devotion with Skye Jethani on your smart phone.  Click here for details.

To read my review of the book at Thinking Out Loud, click here.

July 3, 2014

When Less is More

Today’s blog post was discovered at the site, Christian Devotions where it appeared in May.  The author is Nate Stevens, and to read this at source, click on the title below.

Less Can Be More

The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’” (Judges 7:2 / NIV)

It sounds crazy, but less can be more.

While preparing for a speaking conference, I created a seventy-page PowerPoint presentation. Comprised of wondrous wisdom and awesome animations, I felt certain it would blow the audience away. Then God whispered, “Cut some of it out.”

“But, God, there’s a wealth of wisdom in it!” My response was met with a firm confirmation of His initial request. So I painstakingly began removing sections based on a process of de-prioritized importance.

Reduced to thirty pages, I had a momentary feeling of satisfaction – until I sensed God’s call for further reduction. So I whittled it down to twenty pages, down to fifteen, fourteen … finally condensing my initial treatise to twelve pages. Knowing full well I had cut too much “great stuff,” I was subsequently blown away with what God did at the conference for those surviving twelve pages. In hindsight, I would never have gotten through all seventy pages. God allowed the right content that fit within the scheduled timeframe, to touch people’s hearts and serve His purpose. He received the glory; I received a lesson in less.

When God appointed Gideon as the leader who would free the Israelites from Midianite tyranny, Gideon summoned all who would help him fight against this heathen rule and its vast army. When thirty-two thousand men showed up, God told Gideon, “That’s too many men – send some of them home.” After the “fearful and afraid” left, Gideon’s army numbered ten thousand men. Still, God told him to reduce it further. With a surviving army of three hundred men, human reasoning would lean toward a resounding defeat. But God did much with less. He not only delivered His people from the Midianites, He received all the glory for the victory.

Today’s commercialized culture encourages many of us to maintain a mindset of wanting more. Bigger houses, vacation homes, boats, newer cars, state-of-the-art techno-gadgets – whatever is the latest and greatest, we want it. So we work harder, work longer hours, and make more money to buy more status symbols reflective of what the world deems successful. However, have we considered God may want us to have less – so He can have more of us?

If something crowds out your time with God or lessens your dependence on Him, He may ask that you remove it from your life. Rest assured – with less, you’ll end up with so much more.


 

As a missionary kid who grew up in a Christian home and church, Nate Stevens has enjoyed a thirty-year banking career in a variety of leadership roles. Recently, God made it clear Nate should use his writing talents for God’s kingdom. He has written online devotionals for his home church (Calvary Church in Charlotte, NC) for the past two years. His first book, Matched 4 Marriage – Meant 4 Life, was recently published and released (www.natestevens.net).

July 1, 2014

Lay Your Burdens Down

With a few exceptions, we try not to “borrow” devotions from the same source more than every six months, but Stephen and Brooksyne Weber at DailyEncouragement.net are an exception. This is my personal “go to” devotional blog, and I try to make it the first click when my computer boots up in the morning, but sometimes email interrupts!  When I read this, I thought of the video I wanted to include with it, Chuck Girard’s Lay Your Burdens Down, and then realized a few days later that they had the same idea. There’s also a great illustration in the middle of this that I hope to remember. To read today’s devotion at source, including pictures and other suggested videos, click this link.

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens” (Psalm 68:19). “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). “Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

In our final session at the chaplaincy training conference this week we heard Doug Clay share a message on coming to Jesus for our needs. He based his message on the story of the blind man in Mark 8 who came to Jesus to be healed and then came back a second time because he saw men as “trees walking”. Doug shared that this illustrated a persistence in coming to Jesus concerning our needs. One of the lines I really liked from his message was, “Starve your doubts and feed your hope”.

Following his message he asked the various leaders on our chaplain team to come to the front and then extended an altar call for any who may have come to the conference with a special need for which they wanted prayer. I think he was only expecting a few but long lines formed. As I observed the lines I thought of the burdens these people were bearing. For some it was a physical need, for others perhaps a matter in their marriage and family. For others it might have been a financial burden. Perhaps it was a special challenge or hard time for some in their ministry. Brooksyne and I sure recall going to meetings with a heavy heart due to ministry matters in past years.

As I observed the line I considered the burdens those we minister to are enduring. Encounters we have in the course of our chaplaincy, notes and prayer requests we receive from Daily Encouragement readers and those in our church and churches we have served. It was a long line in my mind as I considered specific situations people have and are experiencing.

One of our favorite writers is Robert J. Morgan, a pastor in Tennessee who shared an interesting illustration: he had been on a long trip and was travel weary as he walked through the airport. He was physically relieved when he spotted a long moving sidewalk and headed in that direction. It was here that the Lord spoke to his heart.

He had a bag in each hand but in his fatigue he didn’t even think to set them down. “I was still carrying my load while the moving sidewalk was carrying me. Not until halfway down the hall did I have the presence of mind to release my bags and let the moving sidewalk carry them for me.”

Can you can identify with Morgan’s illustration? In regard to my burdens I tend to set them down (trust) and then pick them back up again (doubt).

As we write this message today I consider several I know who face heavy burdens, part of the long line of people who need God’s tender touch.

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” In Scripture God often emphasizes the unit of time we call the day.  In fact it’s the very first unit of time that is referred to in the Bible and the most frequently mentioned starting with Genesis 1:14.

Certainly each of us knows about burdens and we can readily identify with the Lord’s statement that “each day has enough trouble [burdens] of its own” (Matthew 6:34b). A commentary considers the meaning of the daily text in this way: “God daily carries us as a manifestation of His protective and sustaining care.” Such an interpretation brings to mind “Footprints in the Sand” written by Mary Stevenson during her teen years in 1936 as she endured major obstacles in her young life.*

What assurance His Word brings. Believing friend, God is bearing your burdens today, and wants to lighten your load. He loves you, and the trial you are presently enduring does matter to Him. He is faithful and He will see you through to the other side! Don’t try to shoulder your burdens for the heavy load will surely break you.  Instead lay your burdens down at the foot of the cross. Jesus will meet you there.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

*I didn’t want to edit the devotional, but I’ve always heard “Footprints” credited to Margaret Fishback Powers. Either way, the illustration applies. (At least a half-dozen people have claimed the poem was ‘theirs,’ Powers is widely considered to be the author of record.)

June 16, 2014

Trusting God While Running For Your Life

Be merciful to me, my God,
    for my enemies are in hot pursuit;
    all day long they press their attack. (Ps. 56:1)

Trusting God 3

We’re always looking for ways we can promote the work of new authors, and today we’re introducing you to Scott James whose first book is coming out in October from Broadman and Holman. Scott is a doctor and attends the church where David Platt teaches; we discovered this at David’s blog where you’re encouraged to read it at source; just click the title below. You may also want to have your Bible open in a separate browser to Psalm 56.

Trusting God in the Mire: Reflections on Psalm 56

By Scott James

“In God we trust” may be a familiar idiom, but what does it look like when the rubber meets the road? Let’s take a look at a biblical example of what it means to trust in God in a practical sense. In Psalm 56, David gives some substance to the nature of trust.

Running for Your Life

Look first at the extraordinary situation from which David pens these words. The introduction of this Psalm says that it was written when the Philistines had seized David in Gath. Here’s the backstory: David is a young man whom God has anointed to become the next king of Israel (1 Samuel 16:1, 12 13); the current king, Saul, is obviously not in favor of this, so Saul turns against David (1 Samuel 18:10ff) and sets out to kill him (1 Samuel 19:1). David is therefore running for his life and unfortunately ends up in the hands of his greatest enemy, the Philistines—carrying their slain hero’s sword, no less (1 Samuel 21:9–10). This is clearly not a good situation for David. The people of Gath immediately recognize David and, with a mixture of cowardice and cunning, David feigns madness to escape the deadly situation (vv. 12–15).

David wrote Psalm 56 in the midst of this terrifying situation. In it, David admits that when faced with a dire circumstance his initial reaction was marked by fear and panic. However, more important than his gut reaction, David asserts that steadfast trust in the Lord is the only solution to a troubling scenario like this. Easy to say, but what does that kind of trust actually look like?

In order for us to understand the testing that David’s faith is undergoing, a large portion of Psalm 56 is spent cataloging how his enemies are bent on destroying him: vv. 1, 2, 5, and 6 all detail the unceasing assaults from which David is running. He is trampled, oppressed, attacked, and his cause is injured. He is the subject of evil thoughts and is the target of a strife-inducing manhunt that is ultimately aimed at ending his very life.

Trembling and Believing

In the middle of this catalogue of doom, verse 3 shows us that David is no Stoic—he openly admits fear. But the great thing about this honest confession is that he immediately follows it up with an affirmation of his trust in God. It’s important to see from this that, in some sense, it is possible for fear and faith to occupy the same mind at the same moment.

So that’s what David was up against, but what does his assertion of trust amount to? David tells us three times in vv. 4 and 10 that he puts his trust in God, “whose word I praise.” To trust in God is to rightly value His word. David trusted God by believing that God would actually do what He had promised to do. Specifically for David, the word he was trusting was likely God’s promise to give him the kingdom and make him the head of a royal dynasty (1 Samuel 16). At this point in the story—hiding out from the murderous Saul in desert caves, acting insane to escape the Philistines—this promise seems laughable. Despite present appearances, however, David still believes God’s word, so much so that it causes him to praise God (vv. 4 and 10) even while he is still neck deep in dire circumstances.

With this trust, David confidently speaks out: “I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” (v. 4). In v. 9 he states that his “enemies will turn back” because he calls on the Lord as his deliverer. In vv. 12 and 13, David offers up a thank offering, saying to God, “you have delivered my soul from death.” David is so confident of his deliverance that he speaks of it in the past tense. That confidence is not based on guesswork, sketchy prophecy, or bravado; it is appropriate only because God has already told David what He has in store for him. David actually takes God at His word and acts upon it, even when the circumstances don’t seem to match. For David, this meant that he stepped out of the cave while the odds still seemed stacked against him. He continued the fight that eventually culminated in his ascension to the throne of Israel (2 Samuel 5:1-3). That is trust in God.

Not Just for David

We too are called to trust God in a way that is every bit as real as David’s trust. Just as David heard God’s word through the prophet Samuel, so too we have a sure word, for the Bible is God’s very word to us. It is the vehicle through which He reveals His will and in it He makes countless promises to us. Our trust is firmly founded in this God who speaks.

We trust in God by believing in what He has said and, no less importantly, by believing that He actually intends to fulfill His word. Hebrews 10:23 tells us that our hope is well founded because “He who promised is faithful.” Just like David, our hope is based on God’s faithfulness, not our present circumstances. So let’s step out in faith like David, praising God for who He is and living lives that show we believe He will accomplish all his good purposes, just as He said He would.

 

 

June 3, 2014

Devotional Potpourri

From the blog, Deeper Christian:

I have found over these last two months, that even despite incredible busyness, intimacy with Jesus and time in the Word does NOT have to wane. It doesn’t need to be diminished. Granted, it may look different than it normally does, but intimacy with Jesus does not need to be an up-and-down roller coaster experience – it truly can be consistent, steady, and ever-increasing!

I came across a tremendous quote by T. Austin-Sparks the other day, which I want to leave you with. May Jesus ever be the centrality of your life!

The mark of a life governed by the Holy Spirit is that such a life is continually and ever more and more occupied with Christ, that Christ is becoming greater and greater as time goes on. The effect of the Holy Spirit’s work in us is to bring us to the shore of a mighty ocean which reaches far, far beyond our range, and concerning which we feel—Oh, the depths, the fulness, of Christ! If we live as long as ever man lived, we shall still be only on the fringe of this vast fulness that Christ is.

Now, that at once becomes a challenge to us … These are not just words. This is not just rhetoric; this is truth. Let us ask our hearts at once, Is this true in our case? Is this the kind of life that we know? … Is that true in your experience? That is the mark of a life governed by the Holy Spirit. Christ becomes greater and greater as we go on. If that is true, well, that is the way of life.


From  a review of C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity at the blog Stray Thoughts:

From the chapter “The Practical Conclusion”:

[The Christian] does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because he loves us.

From the chapter “The Great Sin”:

Pleasure in being praised is not Pride. The child who is patted on the back for doing a lesson well, the woman whose beauty is praised by her lover, the saved soul to whom Christ says, “Well done,” are all pleased and ought to be. For here the pleasure lies not in what you are but in the fact that you have pleased someone you wanted (and rightly wanted) to please. The trouble begins when you pass from thinking, “I have pleased him; all is well,” to thinking, “What a fine person I must be to have done it.”

That was immensely helpful to me. I don’t know if anyone else experiences this, but sometimes when you receive a compliment, then you feel a rush of pleasure, that feel guilty for that pleasure and feel you need to redirect the attention to the Lord, and in trying to do so sound awkward and overly pious. For that reason, when someone, say, sings a solo in church that I enjoyed, I try to tell them it blessed my heart rather than just “I enjoyed your song this morning.” Though I mean the same thing by both sentences, the second one makes people feel awkward and self-conscious. This thought did help me to understand it’s not wrong to feel pleasure in pleasing someone else or accepting a compliment.

From the same chapter:

Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is a nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who tool a real interest in what you said to him….He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.


From the blog, Cindy By The Sea:

The weather is finally warming up here in Northern New Mexico and I had the opportunity to go out walking along the river yesterday afternoon…

I have a favorite spot where the water spills over some rocks creating a mini rapids of sorts. I sat for a while yesterday watching a trio of ducks and a piece of wood that was caught up in the fast-moving water. It made an interesting contrast and brought several thoughts to mind as I watched.  The wood  circling round and round in a never-ending cycle — bobbing into the current and back out again — unable to release itself permanently from the currents strong grasp – this in contrast to the ducks, who smart enough to stay out of the faster moving water paddled freely and placidly about.

It occurred to me as I watched from my position along the bank how like that piece of  wood I often am. They don’t call it drift wood for nothing. Without arms to swim or feet to paddle, the wood is completely at the mercy of the current. And without a change in water speed or depth, the wood would continue in that same cycle perhaps forever – or until the summer runoff subsides and the water level drops leaving the wood exactly where it was but this time stuck – stuck in the mud and going nowhere.

As I was doing my Bible reading this morning, I thought of these words from the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:17  -

 “…. where the spirit of the Lord is there is freedom”. 

Yes, freedom!  And, as trite as that may sound it is exactly true.  For in and of ourselves, we are powerless to change much about our lives and the situations we find ourselves in. We can try this and try that but, it is only by God that we will find permanent release and change that will last. A thought I hope that will stay with me the next time I find my self “caught in the current” of life.  Less reliance on me and more on the one who has the power to effect a permanent change – after all, it is he who controls the water does he not?

I love how God speaks to us through the simple things, don’t you? It has made a difference in my day today – I hope it has in yours.


 

From 2003, the final newsletter of Elizabeth Elliot:

I bid you farewell with words from a hymn written by Anna L. Waring in 1850:

Father, I know that all my life
Is portioned out for me,
And the changes that are sure to come
I do not fear to see;
I ask Thee for a present mind,
Intent on pleasing Thee.

I would not have the restless will
That hurries to and fro,
Seeking for some great thing to do
Or secret thing to know;
I would be treated as a child
And guided where I go.

Wherever in the world I am,
In whatsoever estate,
I have a fellowship with hearts
To keep and cultivate .

May 9, 2014

Your Own Understanding

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Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;

Today’s key verse may seem a little tame for a blog that specializes in digging deep, but the nature of scripture is such that the simple things are often the most profound. Earlier this week, I got thinking about what it means to “lean on your own understanding.”

First, here are how several translations interpret this phrase:

  • your own insight (AMP)
  • your own intelligence (CEB)
  • your own judgment (CEV)
  • your own knowledge (ERV)
  • what you think you know (GNT)
  • yourself (LB)
  • your own ideas and inventions (The Voice)

As I consider my own life, and the worries and anxieties that often beset me, I can think of other phrases that belong here:

  • the part of the story you can see
  • the advice of well meaning friends
  • past history with regard to this situation
  • what a negative attitude is saying to you
  • thinking that God isn’t pleased with you
  • someone else’s experience
  • an assessment that is not fully informed
  • a view that doesn’t see all the possibilities

It’s that last one that I think is most significant. If scripture teaches us anything, it teaches us that “eye has not seen,” “his ways are higher than ours,” and he is able to answer us “in ways that we do not know.”  The incarnation itself is something beyond any human to invent. If you read the scriptures, you find yourself saying, “You can’t make this stuff up!”

The verse I alluded to last in the preceding paragraph is in many ways so similar and is worthy of a similar translation test:

NIV Jeremiah 33:3 ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’

The last phrase(s) can be:

  • you do not know (do not distinguish and recognize, have knowledge of and understand) (AMP)
  • you haven’t known (CEB)
  • of which you are unaware (CJB*)
  • you don’t know and can’t find out (CEV)
  • You have never heard these things before (ERV)
  • you know nothing about (GNT)
  • which thou knowest not (KJV)
  • great things and inaccessible things that you have not known (LEB*)
  • some remarkable secrets (LB)
  • marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own (Message)
  • hidden things that you have not known (NRSV)
  • great and mysterious things which you still do not know about (NET)

I know this will seem repetitive to some of you, but are you seeing the pattern here? Should this not increase our faith? Doesn’t this become a game-changer for our prayer life? How about, “Call to me and I will tell you…”

  • things that you won’t be able to process
  • things that will stretch your faith
  • things that go beyond your imagination
  • things that no one has ever considered possible
  • things that will leave you totally awed

That’s the God we serve. If only we could see that and believe that and put that before us in every minute of the day.


*CJB and LEB are being used here for the first time today, and refer to Complete Jewish Bible and Lexham English Bible. More info available at Bible Gateway.


 

Here’s a song that reminds us of the wealth of resources The Father has at his disposal. For a devotional based on this song, I’m a Child of the King, visit this link at Daily Encouragement.

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