Christianity 201

August 3, 2015

Christian Living and the Fear of Public Speaking

Exodus 4:10:

Then Moses said to the LORD, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” (NASB)

But Moses pleaded with the LORD, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” (NLT)

Exodus 6:12

But Moses said to the LORD, “If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?” (NIV)

But Moses said in the LORD’s presence: “If the Israelites will not listen to me, then how will Pharaoh listen to me, since I am such a poor speaker?” (HCSB)

Today’s thoughts flow out of the comments section to yesterday’s devotional.

fearfactor_240Public speaking is not everyone’s gift. Years ago an Ann Landers poll showed that the number one fear reported was fear of public speaking. Even pastors who speak before thousands each weekend often confess they are natural introverts who potentially can freeze up if asked to speak before fifty people.

So much of the Christian life is about words. Our revelation of God comes to us through a book. We’re told to share our faith.

Go deeper in the Christian life and you discover a vast library of Bible reference books to help you get the etymology or word origins right. There are pastors who study Biblical Greek and Hebrew. There are concordances which are concerned with the derivation of words in the English texts as they relate to the original languages.

What if my language is not precise? What if I say the wrong thing and cause confusion? What if my words drive people away from God’s Kingdom?

“But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say.” Matthew 10:1 NASB

“When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Luke 12:11-12 NIV

Clearly the Bible is telling us not to sweat these situations.

But let’s go back to yesterday’s devotional and the comment. George (who has been a contributing writer here, and who I know personally) noted that the essence of the command is to make disciples. He wanted to see a de-emphasis on telling and (by implication) a wider emphasis on other areas where the discipleship process can become organic.

The idea of a disciple “walking in the dust of his rabbi” is a teaching that probably best illustrates this. These talmudin learned by doing what the rabbi did. We had a good example of that in the second paragraph of this excerpt. We also looked at the Bible concept of being an imitator (of Christ, or of Paul as he imitates Christ.)

But it goes beyond this. We can help. We can love. We can serve. We can give…  In doing all these things we are being a living gospel. Surely at this point someone is expecting me to quote the phrase commonly attributed (though perhaps not accurately attributed) to St. Francis: “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.”

However, this is as equally out of balance as the person who thinks the gospel can only be proclaimed verbally.

As Mark Galli points out in this article:

“Preach the gospel; use words if necessary” goes hand in hand with a postmodern assumption that words are finally empty of meaning. It subtly denigrates the high value that the prophets, Jesus, and Paul put on preaching. Of course, we want our actions to match our words as much as possible. But the gospel is a message, news about an event and a person upon which the history of the planet turns.

Ed Stetzer wrote about this three years ago:

The gospel is not habit, but history. The gospel is the declaration of something that actually happened. And since the gospel is the saving work of Jesus, it isn’t something we can do, but it is something we must announce. We do live out its implications, but if we are to make the gospel known, we will do so through words.

It appears that the emphasis on proclamation is waning even in many churches that identify themselves as evangelical. Yet proclamation is the central task of the church. No, it is not the only task God has given us, but it is central. While the process of making disciples involves more than verbal communication, and obviously the life of a disciple is proved counterfeit when it amounts to words alone, the most critical work God has given the church is to “proclaim the excellencies” of our Savior.

A godly life should serve as a witness for the message we proclaim. But without words, what can our actions point to but ourselves? A godly life cannot communicate the incarnation, Jesus’ substitution for sinners, or the hope of redemption by grace alone through faith alone. We can’t be good news, but we can herald it, sing it, speak it, and preach it to all who listen.

In fact, verbal communication of the gospel is the only means by which people are brought into a right relationship with God. The Apostle Paul made this point to the church in Rome when he said:

For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? (Rom. 10:13-14, HCSB)

If we are to make disciples of all nations, we must use words.

I agree with Ed, but I also agree with where George was coming from yesterday. We have to find the balance between the two. And our lives must match our speech. Here’s what I wrote:

In the last 50-60 years, Evangelicals have made proclamation 100% of their evangelism stock portfolio. After accusing “the liberals” of preaching a “social gospel” we’re slowly coming around to the position that there is so much more we can do besides quoting chapters and verses.

On the other hand, further on in the Matthew passage, it does say “teach” or “teaching” in most translations, and although she doesn’t quote it here, Mark 16:15 renders the same quotation as either “preach” or “proclaim” (The Voice has “share.”)

While not everyone has the same gifts, I believe that every Christ-follower has the ability to share a verbal witness, but many are afraid to do so. I think her point here is to encourage people along those lines.

Of course, it would also do good if those who feel they are better equipped to preach would also find ways to share a non-verbal witness. Each of needs to balance the two.

And better to be asked sometimes what it is that drives our faith instead of just shouting it to people with whom we haven’t earned the right to be heard. Zachariah 8:23 is useful here:

This is what the LORD Almighty says: “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’”

Where is the balance in your life on this issue? Most of us would side with Moses, we really don’t want to be placed in those public speaking situations. But there are some who don’t fear that for a second, though often their walk doesn’t match their talk. We need to be working on both fronts.

 

 

August 2, 2015

A Post-Resurrection Teaching

great-commission-revisted

We often generalize that the days following the resurrection and before the ascension consisted of Jesus seeing people and being seen. But there are some great teaching moments that take place in that time period.

This devotional is by Ashley Bonnell at The Gideons Canada blog Send Me. Click the link in the title below to read it at source. Also, if you or someone you know speaks French, recently there was another shorter devotional by her that was translated en Francais. (If you want to know what you’re sending this is the English version.)

Me? Mission?

Did you know that after Jesus rose from the dead—before going back to glorious Heaven—He stuck around earth a little while longer to relay one important message to His disciples? One main message.  Of everything he could say in His last moment on earth, Jesus chooses one message in particular.

When we think about it like this, we realize that whatever His message, it had to be pretty important for Jesus to stick around to deliver it.

So what was it?

It was the Great Commission. Let’s look to Matthew 28…

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

It’s interesting the context in which Jesus says this. It’s from a position of “It is finished”—meaning, Jesus already defeated death. Jesus already paid for your sins; He has already made you righteous through His sacrifice. And in light of this, Jesus invites us on this mission that we get to be a part of.

Maybe you feel like this is an enormous message and task, and you as the messenger, aren’t quite sure if you have what it takes to do this… But I assure you, Christ in you—you have all you need.

Take Moses for example,

God told Moses he was going to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, out of years of slavery. That was quite an impossible task. And Moses, like us, felt inadequate. Moses responds to God saying,

Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?
(Exodus 3:11)

And God says:

I will surely be with you; (Exodus 3:12)

God’s presence with us is all we need. It is God who does the transformative, freeing work—not us. God promises us, just as he promised Moses, that He will be with us; He will not leave us, or forsake us.

Despite God’s promise, we still sometimes feel incapable. Moses too doubted God’s presence to be enough because of his own inadequacy. But you see, God can use anything and anyone He wishes to reveal Himself. Look what he says to Moses’ doubt:

The Lord said to him, What is that in your hand? And he said, A rod. (Exodus 4:2)

And then God instructs Moses to throw it on the ground, and it turns into a slivering snake.

“This,” said the Lord, “is so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you. (Ex 4:5)

God uses Moses and his rod—both useless in and of themselves. A stick cannot free slaves, and Moses alone couldn’t either… Just as our talent, gifting, and interests and human strength can’t save people…

Jesus demonstrates, through Moses who feels inadequate, and the useless rod—His life-giving, transformative power. God demonstrates that He can bring a dead thing to life; a dead piece of wood into a live snake.

God does the same with believers like you and I—He takes us as we are, in our inadequacies and weaknesses, and He takes the things in hands that are in and of themselves useless, and demonstrates His life-giving power.

God is with you, and He will work through you … not because of anything you do, but because of who He is. God working through us, will set people free, set nations free, and bring people to faith in Christ.

Don’t hesitate, don’t doubt. Look to Jesus, and GO and Tell!

August 1, 2015

Poured Out for You

For a third time, we return to blogger Bryan Lowe and if you didn’t the first two times, I want you to take a few minutes to read his story…  Bryan’s journey is tough to read. However, by God’s grace he writes daily devotional material that is both real and informative. On some days, his writing reflects struggle and discouragement…just like David did in many Psalms! (And just like you and I deal with, except that we never share it with anyone or let it show.)

Click the title below to read this at source and look around his blog, Broken Believers

A Poured-Out Life

“Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.” Philippians 2:17

“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:6-7

Paul is the ultimate and conclusive example of self sacrifice for the Church. He is an example to us of loving until it hurts. The children of men are a needy lot and the burden of the apostle. He cares intensely (and it shows) as Paul describes his mission to the churches. He wants to help those who cannot help themselves. Paul understood that he was being poured like a “drink offering” to the Lord for the saints.

The Lord Jesus was the pattern Paul focused on. In Jesus we see a man dying on a terrible cross to bring a very real salvation to those without any hope at all. You and I stand “accepted in the beloved” because of that sacrifice.

“We want to avoid suffering, death, sin, ashes. But we live in a world crushed and broken and torn, a world God Himself visited to redeem. We receive his poured-out life, and being allowed the high privilege of suffering with Him, may then pour ourselves out for others.”Elisabeth Elliot

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24

I honestly believe that fruitfulness hinges on the decision to “die”, and perhaps that is precisely why we are barren. Jesus must give himself up in order to save us. Are things so different now? Over the many centuries, the chosen Church practiced a “dying to self” as the primary way of growth.

Being poured out for others usually isn’t too dramatic; it offers very little in the way of earthly reward or recognition. A few days ago I sat in the “Annex” of our local mental health clinic. I spent a whole aternoon with clients who were struggling hard to make it, I sat and listened, and had no agenda but theirs. I was being “poured out” and it was wonderful!

My heart swelled with the presence of Jesus for these dear ones. It had nothing to do with ambition, or a hunger for applause. I wasn’t out to prove that I was a Christian. Rather I was wholly there for others, I sort of think that is what Jesus meant when he taught his disciples about ministry, and servanthood. I believe that is what Paul was doing in the churches he served.

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4

This is how it all works. About 25,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes, according to the United Nations. There are over 163 million orphans in the world, and more than 27 million human slaves. Furthermore, 1.2 million lives are snuffed out by abortion each year in the U.S. alone. And over 150,000 people die each day without knowing Christ. I suspect there is enough “work” to go around.

May I become at all times, both now and forever
A protector for those without protection
A guide for those who have lost their way
A ship for those with oceans to cross
A bridge for those with rivers to cross
A sanctuary for those in danger
A lamp for those without light
A place of refuge for those who lack shelter
And a servant to all in need.  

Anonymous

“When you look at the inner workings of electrical things, you see wires. Until the current passes through them, there will be no light. That wire is you and me. The current is God. We have the power to let the current pass through us, use us, to produce the light of the world, Jesus, in us. Or we can refuse to be used and allow darkness to spread.” — Mother Teresa


Bonus item:
3-minute video

July 31, 2015

Wrestling With God in Prayer

Today we turn to author, pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie from his daily devotional blog.

The Ultimate Objective of Prayer

And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.”

When I was a new Christian, I always prayed for things for myself.

  • Lord, bless me.
  • Give this to me.
  • Provide this for me.

But as A. B. Simpson wrote,

Once it was the blessing, now it is the Lord;
once it was the feeling, now it is His Word;
once His gifts I wanted, now the Giver own;
once I sought for healing, now himself alone.1

As we start growing spiritually, we will start saying more often, “Lord, I just want You. I want more of You. I want to know You better. No matter where I go, everything is good as long as You go with me, and I go with You.” That is a mark of spiritual maturity.

Jacob, after years of conniving and scheming, met his match when the Lord Himself showed up and they had a wrestling match (which of course Jacob lost). It started out with Jacob trying to overpower what may have been an angel or perhaps the Lord Himself. In the end, Jacob was hanging on to Him. It started off with cunning, and it ended up with clinging. It began with resisting, and it turned into resting.

Wrestling with God in prayer doesn’t mean getting God to do what we want Him to do. It means that we are going to completely surrender to what He wants to do. That is the ultimate goal.

When Moses said to the Lord, “Please, show me Your glory,” he was saying, “God, I want to see You now. I want You to actually show Your face to me.”

That really is what prayer is all about. It is not about getting stuff from God. Prayer, when it reaches its ultimate objective, is getting God. It is God that you want—it’s closeness with Him.

 


1 We printed the complete text of this poem (and later it became a hymn) in a blog post here several months ago. Click to read Not the Benefits but Christ Himself. At the end of that post we added:

Amplifed Bible – Philippians 3:10,11 [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] That if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body].

Today’s blog post was shorter, so if you’d like to read one more, here is another devotional from Greg.

July 30, 2015

The Key to the Treasure

Our devotional today is from our friends Stephen & Brooksyne at DailyEncouragement.net. I really respect this couple; they not only write great Bible study material, but they live out the scriptural truth in their daily lives.

This post has a longer introduction so click the title below to read it in its entirety.

The Key

“He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure” (Isaiah 33:6).

…Today let us consider a lesson we all need to learn. Some learned it as a child, others have as they have aged. Sadly though, many have still not learned it. It’s in our daily text and is described as “the key to this treasure”. This treasure is the blessed assurance of a “sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge.”

The world offers plenty of keys that people use seeking to meet their deepest needs for love, joy and peace, but all in futility, for they go through life using the wrong key.

The verse is a real gem. It’s one of those great treasures found deep in the Old Testament. The “He” in the verse is speaking of the Lord, who is exalted and dwells on high (33:5). Today, some 2,700 years after Isaiah wrote this, our God is still exalted and dwelling on high!  He ever remains, “the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge.”

O, how we long to be settled on a firm foundation in these tumultuous times where we can draw from a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge. This is an expression of our deepest need.

The Fear Of The Lord The last clause is vital, but so lost by the majority in this world, and I earnestly feel many in the church as well. “The fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.” The notion of “fearing the Lord” seems archaic to many in our generation.
Jerry Bridges wrote, “There was a time when committed Christians were known as God-fearing people. This was a badge of honor. But somewhere along the way we lost it. Now the idea of fearing God, if thought of at all, seems like a relic from the past.”

It is my observation that the fear of the Lord is under-emphasized and in some settings never mentioned.  It seems there is always a struggle for balance in Christian theology. As I study sermons of the past it seems as if the “fear of the Lord” was sometimes preached to the extreme. Hellfire and brimstone sermons seemed to be the recurring theme and at times presented an unhealthy fear of a loving God which brought little peace or needed security to the believer.

However in recent decades the love and grace of God has been the chief theme to the point of completely de-emphasizing the proper understanding of the fear of the Lord. But both themes are essential and part of Biblical revelation.

A Study Bible gives this helpful insight to the meaning of the fear of the Lord. “A reverent awe of God’s power, majesty and holiness produces in us a holy fear of transgressing His revealed will; such reverence is essential to gaining a heart of wisdom.  The New Testament indicates that the sincere fear of the Lord in our hearts will be accompanied by the comfort of the Holy Spirit.”

Many years ago I developed a sermon on the need to have a healthy, holy fear of God and I earnestly believe this healthy, holy fear is vitally needed for our generation.  Today let us walk in His love with fear and reverence toward Him for the Bible says, “Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in His ways” (Psalm 128:1). The fear of the Lord is indeed a vital key to understanding life.

Daily prayer: Father, our generation seeks more and more knowledge all the while exercising less and less restraint toward that which grieves Your heart. In our information age knowledge is promoted as the key to success, fulfillment, happiness and financial security and yet we see so many educated people lacking in these areas. While higher education is important, godly wisdom and biblical understanding are the foundational tools by which we accept or reject current philosophies, basic principles, human traditions, and the practices of our day. Your Word helps us to interpret knowledge that is ever changing so that we are careful to build our foundation upon You, the unchanging Solid Rock. Any other foundation will sink when the rain falls, the streams rise, and the assaulting winds blow and beat against that which we have worked so hard to build. We choose to love You and have a healthy, holy fear of going against Your prescribed will for our lives. Amen.

July 29, 2015

Figures of Speech in the Bible

Oh, how I love your instructions! I think about them all day long.
 -Psalm 119:97 NLT

Consider how I love your precepts! Give me life according to your steadfast love.
-Psalm 199:159 ESV

Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!
 -Matthew 11:15 NLT

 

This is taken from the website ThinkTheology.org which I strongly recommend bookmarking in your computer. You can begin by clicking the title link for this article below. If you do, you’ll also find links in the introduction to other parts of a series, of which this is just a small part.

Figures of Speech In The Bible

Time to take a “Cat nap”. I had to “bite my tongue”. He was “putting all his eggs in one basket”. I was “falling in love”. Time for me to “hit the books”. These are all examples of idiom or figures of speech. What is an idiom? One dictionary defines an idiom like this. “an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but that has a separate meaning of its own” I like this definition. It really captures the importance of understanding cultural context when seeking to understand an idiom. Did you know that the Bible is full of idioms? In other words the Bible is full of sayings or expressions that cannot be understood in and of themselves because they have a separate meaning of their own. In the book of Job chapter 19, verse 20 we can find a wonderful ancient Hebrew idiom preserved for us from the oldest book in the Bible. “I have been reduced to skin and bones and have escaped death by the skin of my teeth.” Job 19:20

The phrase from Job “By the skin of my teeth” does not mean that teeth have skin. The phrase can only be understood as a figure of speech. A person cannot find its meaning via literal interpretation. It wouldn’t make sense. In order to find the literal meaning of a figure of speech you need to unpack the figurative non-literal meaning of the language being used. Screenshot 2015-07-27 13.16.54

First: There are figures of speech that leave out the meaning or important words. These figures of speech affect grammar or sentence structure.
Here is an example: Matthew 11:18, “For John came neither eating nor drinking.” What does this mean literally? We know John had to eat and drink but this is pointing out that John turned down invitations to have meals with others. Because it didn’t contribute to his purpose.

Second: There are figures of speech that add (rather than leave out). Words or meaning is inserted.

Here is an example: Note the duplication in John 1:51? “Verily, verily I say unto you…” What does it mean literally?: This repetition places emphases on a word for effect by duplicating it. The New International Version of the Bible translates John 1:51 in this way “I tell you the truth”. It would be like saying the popular phrase “I guarantee it”.

Here are some other examples of figures of speech that add words for effect. This list is by no means exhaustive.

  • Repeating words at the beginning of sequential sentences. Matthew 5:3-11, “Blessed are the poor…Blessed are those who mourn…Blessed are the meek…”.
  • Repatative use of the word and for effect. Example: Acts 1:8, “and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”.
  • Repetitive use of the words neither or nor for effect. Example: Romans 8:38 and 39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God”.
  • Repetitive use of the same word or phrase at the end of a sentence. Example: “O Israel, trust the Lord! He is your helper and your shield. O priests, descendants of Aaron, trust the Lord! He is your helper and your shield. All you who fear the Lord, trust the Lord! He is your helper and your shield.” Psalm 115:9–11.
  • Bookending a sentence with the same word. Example: Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; I will say it again, rejoice.”.
  • Repetition of the same word in various forms in the same passage. Examples:““There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’” John 16:12–15, Ephesians 6:18, “Praying always with all prayer…” Revelation 17:6, “I wondered with great wonder”.
  • The use of exaggeration. Example: 2 Samuel 1:23, “Saul and Jonathan…they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions.”

Third there are figures of speech that change meaning or words.

  • Sometimes the noun is changed. Example: Proverbs 10:20, “The tongue (what they say) of the righteous is choice silver.” Matthew 6:21, “for where your treasure is, there will your heart (what you think and feel) be also.”;
  • Sometimes the idea (not meaning of a word) of a word can be exchanged for another related idea. Example: Mark 16:15 “Preach the gospel to every creature (humans).” Philippians 3:19, “Their god is their stomach (they are their own god)…”;
  • Sometimes something unpleasant or crude can be changed to something pleasant. Genesis 15:15, “You, however, will go to your fathers (you will die) in peace…” John 11:11, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep (he is dead)…” One very famous, provocative and controversial euphemism is found in Ruth 3:7-9, “And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet (some scholars believe this is another way of saying she uncovered his sexual organs) and lay down. At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings (consummate our marriage Ezekiel 16:8) over your servant, for you are a redeemer.””

There are so many figures of speech in Scripture! Here are some more for you to explore.

 

July 28, 2015

The Prayer Jesus Prayers Before He Rests

Today we pay a return visit to Gordon Rumford Ministries. I pored over several excellent devotions before choosing this one. Click the title below to read at source and then take a few minutes to look around at some of the other items available there.

Into Your HandsA Good Night’s Rest

“Into your hands I commit my spirit” Psalm 31:5 (NIV)

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You can view a PDF version here

We are told very little about the upbringing of Jesus. The Gospels are very silent except for one incident in Jesus’ life when He was twelve years old (Luke 2:41-50). However, there was a custom among the mothers of Jesus’ day that we do know about. When a Jewish mother put her young children to bed it was the custom for them to teach their children certain prayers.

In particular one prayer the mothers taught was to have the child recite Psalm 31:5. There is little doubt that Mary taught her remarkable son Jesus to say this prayer. So this is one thing about our Lord’s childhood of which we may be reasonably certain. Jesus likely prayed this prayer each night at least during His formative years. Perhaps He prayed it every night as an adult as well, we simply do not know.

However, we most certainly know that in His darkest time, when He hung on the cross to pay for His people’s sins, He uttered this prayer. It is the last of the seven things He said while on the cross.

During the first three hours on the cross, Jesus endured the wrath of the people gathered around the cross. Now that the physical alternatives were exhausted, the people turned to verbal abuse from about 9 am to noon. Then for the next three hours from noon to 3 pm, a darkness hung over the land and Jesus was forsaken by the Father in order to save sinners from eternal destruction.

The first three words of Jesus from the cross addressed the needs of others. The last four spoken in quick succession gave expression to His own needs. Jesus always saw to the needs of others before attending to His own concerns.

Having now gone through the trauma of being forsaken by God, He can once again address God as Father just as He taught us to do. And, when He is about to dismiss His spirit and die, He says the last of the seven words from the cross. The last thing Jesus said was, (Luke 23:46 NIV)

“Father into your hands I commit my spirit”

This prayer of Jesus is a remarkable one for us to pray as we endure suffering in our lives.

Jesus, as we have said, had just endured to worst the people could inflict. Now, as He is about sleep the sleep of death He prays this prayer perhaps for the last time.

The lesson for us is that we need to become children of God in order that we may pray this inspired prayer in our times of trouble. In fact, becoming a child of God is, in one sense, committing ourselves to the Lord for Him to save us.

We pray to God and dare to address Him as “Father”. Then we place ourselves into His hands. Putting ourselves into God’s hands means that we come under His control. We submit to Him in everything. What we commit to the Lord is our spirit, our eternal being, our essential selves.

My great desire is that everyone who reads this devotional would pray this simple prayer. Fancy words or prayers written by others are not needed. We can simply take this verse of the Bible and use it as the one to bring salvation to ourselves.

If we are suffering and asking God for help in our situation, then this prayer would be a wonderful way to end the time of prayer. Will you submit to what God has for you as long as He will receive your spirit? Will you call out to Him and use the tender word “Father”?

Do so today. He is waiting to hear from you.


Image: Cathedral of the Rockies, Boise ID

July 27, 2015

Forgive Us Our Debts

A year ago at this time, we introduced you to a website with the catchy title, The King’s English. The author is Glen Scrivener. The article we’ve chosen today will get you thinking, and you just might find yourself forwarding the link to it (copy and paste from the title below) to someone who might find it equally insightful.

Forgive Us Our DebtsForgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors

Matthew 18:21-35; Matthew 6:5-15

Spot the common theme in all these sayings:

–  I owe you an apology.

–  How can I ever repay you?

–  Give credit where it’s due.

–  I’m forever in your debt.

–  You robbed me of my dignity.

–  You cost me my reputation.

–  It’s pay-back time.

All of these statements use money language to talk about our relationships.   When we speak of the ups and downs of our relationships we talk about “owing” and “repayment” and “credit” and “debt” and “robbing” and “costing” and “pay-back”.

And it rings true doesn’t it?  When we are wronged, we feel robbed.  It feels like we are owed, and if we don’t go after pay-back, it’s costly.

Think of a hurt that someone has caused you.  One way you can think of it is that this person has stolen from you.  Maybe they stole money, but maybe they stole your good name, or your trust, or your dignity, or the best years of your life.  But when we’re wronged we feel robbed.  And we feel like we want pay-back.  If we don’t go after pay-back it’s costly.

And right at the heart of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus confirms all of this.  He teaches us to pray: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”

According to Jesus, we owe God.  And at some point in our praying, that needs acknowledging.

Interestingly Jesus doesn’t put it first on the agenda.  No, first of all we approach our Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus.  And in Jesus we know His love and acceptance.  We are His children.  But we are His sinful children.  And at some point in our prayers we acknowledge that.  We acknowledge our debts.  Just as we pray for daily provision, so we pray for daily pardon.

Through our sins we owe God and we could never pay it off.  We are in over our heads.  But Christ Himself has paid off our debts.  That’s the meaning of redemption – the paying of a debt.  And through the cross, Christ has paid what we owe.  It was costly for Him, but He offers forgiveness for free.  Therefore we should write off the debts of others.

Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.

Jesus’ words here remind us of the parable He tells in Matthew 18.  A servant owes a king billions of pounds.  The king takes pity on the servant, forgives the debt and lets him go.  It’s wonderful news.  But this servant goes out and sees a colleague who owes him £5000.

Now £5000 is not nothing.  If someone owed me £5000 I would feel the cost of it very deeply.  But when compared to the billions, £5000 is nothing.

Yet this isn’t how the servant feels.  He throttles his colleague and says “Pay back the £5000.”  We read of his reaction and think to ourselves, How ridiculous! Well yes, How ridiculous!  But that’s every one of us if we don’t forgive our brothers and sisters.

We have been forgiven billions.  Christ has taken pity on us, absorbed the debt, paid it off in full and let us go.  Therefore we can forgive others the £5000, can’t we?  Shouldn’t we?  We must.

If we don’t forgive others their debts, have we really received the billion pound forgiveness?  But if we have received God’s forgiveness we can do no other than pass it on.

It’s always costly to forgive.  It was costly for Christ, it will be costly for us.  But perhaps more than anything, these verses inspire us to pray for a sense of proportion.  Do we realize the magnitude of the debt which Christ has paid off?  Have we appreciated how spiritually bankrupt we are without Jesus?  And can we put the hurts of others into their proper perspective?

Perhaps today, someone will cause me thousands of pounds worth of heart-ache.  Perhaps this month, someone will cost me tens of thousands worth of emotional trauma.  Perhaps this year, someone will cost me a million pounds worth of hurt.  If I just look at that debt it will overwhelm me, I will throttle them and demand pay-back.  But Jesus teaches me to return daily to the cross and see there my debts paid off in full.  And, as He’ll say later in Matthew, “freely ye have received, freely give.”  (Matthew 10:8)

This life of overflowing grace does not come easy to us grudge-keepers.  But that’s why Jesus tells us to pray it in to our hearts every single day: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”


Image: Church of the Cross, Bluffton SC

July 26, 2015

Uriah’s Wife and Potiphar’s Wife

One of the Lectionary readings for today is the story of what the paragraph header in one translation calls “David’s Great Sin.”

2 Samuel 11:1Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem.

      2Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance. 3So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her

As it was read in the church we visited this morning, I couldn’t help but think of the contrast between this story and the story of Joseph with Potiphar’s wife.

Genesis 39:4Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his [Potiphar’s] attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. 5From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. 6So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate...

Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, 7and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” 8But he refused…

11One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 12She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.

You wouldn’t know it by the classical art paintings shown at Wikipedia, but I’m sure in that time and place Potiphar’s wife — whose name is never given — was in her day equally hot as Bathsheba, who by today’s standards doesn’t fare well in similar paintings either. Rather, there’s something else going on here; we ascribe Joseph’s refusal of the woman’s seduction to his character whereas we look at David’s actions as showing a lack of character.

Joseph was doing his job. While today leaders — Christian or otherwise — are advised not to put themselves in a place where they are alone with a woman, he was after all where he was supposed to be. Responsibilities for Potipar’s household was written into his job description.

Like Joseph, there are many times in my life where I can look back and say that I held my convictions and remained strong in the face of sexual temptation. But as a I grew older, I realized that if I was really strong, I wouldn’t have put myself in those situations in the first place.

Many pastors and counselors who must meet with a person of the opposite sex often do so with their office door kept open, or meet in a public place. Temptation can happen at any time. Under the circumstances — and let’s face it, without warning in the book of Genesis to read — Joseph did well.

David, on the other hand, was not where he was supposed to be. You could say his observing the woman on the roof was a chance accident, but the first verse in the text simply doesn’t give us that option. He was at that time in the wrong place, and worse, he initiated the sexual encounter with Uriah’s wife.

Where Joseph ran away from the temptation, David ran toward the temptation. Where Joseph did everything he could do to avoid a sinful situation, David engineered the circumstances to both commit adultery and attempt to cover it up.

When Potiphar’s wife didn’t appreciate having her advances spurned, she fabricated a story that ended up with Joseph in prison. Despite this, God was orchestrating a plan that would see him returned to the same position of power, or one even greater, that would save the nation and even save his own family.

It’s a stretch, but because through the years in prison it came about that Potiphar learned that Joseph could interpret dreams, I can almost hear Joseph saying to Mrs. Potiphar what he would later say to his brothers,

Gen 50:20You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

David recognized his sin, and we believe his prayer of confession and his plea for God’s mercy. But there were long-term consequences. The wound healed, but the scars remained.

Ask Yourself: Because temptation is everywhere, when I encounter it, am I going to be Dave or Joe?


Bible verses today are from BibleHub.com; each verse number is also a link.

 

 

July 25, 2015

Scattering

Parable of the SowerMark 4:1 Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

Last night I attended a Friday night Camp Meeting-style service in which the speaker talked about the idea of scattering. He made it clear that this was a message about quantity, and not about quality.

Often we speak of the latter, requiring people to take evangelism training courses and to have a sufficient knowledge of scriptures and apologetics before they can take their witness to the streets, and to their friends and neighbors. But the speaker emphasized that we’ve thereby overly complicated the evangelism process. Although he didn’t refer to it, the verse that came to mind was,

Matthew 10:8b … Freely you have received; freely give.

Texts he used included

Luke 14:23 “The master said, ‘Then go to the country roads. Whoever you find, drag them in. I want my house full! (The Message)

and three repeated key verses in trilogy of “lost” parables in Luke 15

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

What I would call an imperative to share the gospel is found in not only an urgency based on a concern for each and every individual who is not yet part of God’s family, but an urgency based on the idea that time is limited.

John 4:35Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.

which reminded me of another verse

Eph 5:16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (KJV)
Eph 5:16 Make the best use of your time, despite all the difficulties of these days. (Phillips)
Eph 5:16 Make the most of your opportunities because these are evil days. (GW)
Eph 5:16 I mean that you should use every chance you have for doing good, because these are evil times. (ICB)

He also spoke about working cooperatively with other ministries, churches, organizations and individuals, quoting
1 Corinthians 3:8 The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. (NLT)

That reminds me of a statement I have posted many times

“There is no limit on what can be done for God, as long as it doesn’t matter who is getting the earthly credit.”

In the notes I took, I want to end here with a scripture that he actually used to at the beginning of his message, taking some familiar words from Jesus in Luke 4:18 and then placing the responsibility on us.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on us,
    because he has anointed us
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent us to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

I couldn’t also help but think of Bill Hybels’ guiding principle in the founding of his church:

“Lost people matter to God.”


Unless otherwise marked, texts used were NIV
I didn’t identify the speaker, the “he” in the story was Rev. Brent Cantelon who I can heartily recommend.
The image, inspired from Mark 4, is the logo for the Canadian Bible Society

July 24, 2015

Let Your Gentleness, Reasonableness Be Known to All

When Paul tells the Philippians in a verse we know by heart to “Rejoice in the Lord always…” the message is quite clear. But in the words that follows there is a lot more going on.

First the full context:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

–Philippians 4:4-7 ESV

At the website Verse by Verse Commentary, Dr. Grant Richison writes:

Philippians 4:5

“Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.”

Gentleness in our society means weakness or prissiness. This is not what Paul is asking here. This command relates to the running feud between Euodia and Syntyche. We must see “gentleness” here in the context of division in the local church. It deals with how we treat other people.

“Let your gentleness”

The Greek word is broader than our English word “gentleness.” There is no single English word which can translate this word adequately. The word conveys ideas such as graciousness and clemency. Probably the closest English word is “forbearance.” It is sweet reasonableness toward others. After all is said, the word involves the willingness to yield our personal rights. This word connotes the willingness to show consideration to others. This person is reasonable when they look at the facts of a case. It is the opposite of self-seeking and contention.

Euodia and Syntyche tried to remold each other. They were two different people. Each person wanted the other to be like them. They tried to put the round peg in a square hole. The issue was personal preference or personal taste, not principle. These two women were trying to remold each other into their own image. Each lady had a mold into which they were trying to pour other person. If the mold does not fit they try to force her into it. Euodia may have had a square mold. She was particular and punctilious. Syntyche had a round mold. She tried to make Euodia fit the round mold.

The word “gentleness” submits the need for flexibility, pliability. We are not married long before flexibility becomes an important mode of operation. We cannot always have our own way. When that little baby comes along, we develop yet more flexibility. It does not take long till we become very relaxed. That baby interrupts our program; we have to change our schedule frequently. Our time is not our own. We have to yield to the desires of someone else.

Are you sensitive? Touchy? Do you take things the wrong way? Are you always spoiling for a fight? People at your work are like that. They are quick to take offense. Soon you do not dare open your mouth to them because they take everything personally. They misinterpret everything. They cannot take a joke. You avoid them and they wonder why. We have to carry their feelings around on a pillow.

Principle: A forbearing person does not treat people on the basis of what they deserve.

Application: Some husbands try to remake their wives. Some wives try to remake their husbands. They have tried it for thirty years and they still have not succeeded yet. We cannot make everyone comply with our pattern of life. We set up the pattern. If everyone does not fit into that pattern we conflict with them. Everyone has preferences. We have rights about which car to buy, style of dress. That is a matter of personal taste. Some women wear ghastly hats. That is their choice. We have to learn to keep a poker face in these things! Keep neutral. Make allowances.

July 23, 2015

Struck Down, But Not Destroyed

Today we pay a return visit to Charlie Garret at The Superior Word blog. He is working his way through 2 Corinthians; there are a large number of articles which precede this one, and no doubt several to follow in this particular passage. This is actually two posts from two different days. If you click the links and then click the banner, you can bookmark the site to return as he continues through these verses. (That’s okay, we’ll be here in a week when you get back!)

The first time someone handed me a Bible that was open to this passage was at a very pivotal time in my life. I have never forgotten what it was like to read these words in those circumstances.

2 Corinthians 4:8

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 2 Corinthians 4:8

There is a lot going on in these few words as Paul’s ideas were printed onto the parchment. The previous verse began with “But we have…” The verb was present-indicative. Now this verse has all of the clauses in a present-participle form. Thus, they are in apposition – “we have/we are.” Each of the articles in this verse respects inward conflicts, whereas each in the next verse will deal with external conflicts.

Also, in each of these clauses the idea is building upon the previous verse which noted first the “treasure in earthen vessels” and then “the excellence of the power…of God.” The first deals with the fragility of the created, the second with the power of the Creator. He is showing the superiority of the contents in the vessel despite the weakness of the vessel itself.

His first words “hard-pressed on every side” show their seeming inability to break away from that which is troubling them. And yet because of God’s power, they were “not crushed.” Despite the pressures, they were able to bear up.

Further, he says they were “perplexed.” The word indicates an inability to find a way out of something. And yet, at the same time, they were “not in despair.” In these last two words a paronomasia results. They are aporoumenoi and exaporoumenoi. It is as if Paul was temporarily tempted by a tasty treat of targeted tones in order to tantalize the ears of his readers. In an attempt to reproduce the original, one translator says “pressed, but not oppressed.”

Paul is showing that by living through the power of God, they were (and thus we are) able to bear up under the turmoil and trouble that constantly came their way. If we rely on our own physical make-up, we will surely see only defeat. But when we rely on the strength that is given by God, we will be able to bear up as the attacks come our way. As Paul says it elsewhere, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

Life application: It is easy to read words such as Philippians 4:13 and say, “I will hold to this and trust in it.” However, it is much harder to continue to trust those words when the difficulties come. This is why we must memorize them and repeat them to ourselves again and again. We do this so that when the difficulties arrive, we will be prepared mentally to allow the strength of the Lord to take the lead.

Heavenly Father, help me to not just memorize catchy verses from the Bible, but to sincerely take them to heart in order to prepare me for the day of battle. When the trials arrive, grant me that sure confidence that what Your word says really does apply, even in the most difficult or darkest moments. Help me in this Lord. Grant me the surest confidence in Your wonderful word at all times. Amen.

2 Corinthians 4:9

…persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—  2 Corinthians 4:9

Paul continues with his contrasts which began in the previous verse. Those previous contrasts were from internal struggles; these are from external ones. His imagery is as if a soldier in combat who is first “persecuted, but not forsaken.” The words have the intent of “pursued, but not abandoned” (Ellicott). As if they were soldiers being pursued by an enemy, Paul says that even in such a state the Lord is with them. This follows along with the wording of Hebrews –

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say:
‘The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear.
What can man do to me?’” Hebrews 13:5, 6

And surely this imagery is appropriate because the state which Christians find themselves in is a true battle. Paul discusses this in detail in Ephesians 6. His description includes this thought –

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12

The second contrast is that they are “struck down, but not destroyed.” This again is the imagery of a soldier whose life is spared despite being wounded. It could even be of wrestlers in a bout of mortal combat. When Jacob wrestled with the Lord in Genesis 32, the match continued without either letting up, and so in order to end the match, we read these words –

“Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him.” Genesis 32:25

Jacob was struck down, but he was not destroyed in the process. The Lord could have done so, but instead He humbled him and yet spared him. Paul shows that this is the state of the apostles as they strived to share the message of Christ. With their many struggles, both internal and external, they were able to press on because the Lord was there with them to ensure they would never falter or fail.

Life application: The Bible sys that the Lord will never leave His people and He will never forsake them. Paul was eventually martyred for his faith, as were almost every one of the apostles. Did the Lord break His promise? No! They have something that those who persecuted and killed them don’t have. They have the assurance of eternal life because of their trust in Christ. Truly, what can man do to one who is saved by the blood of Christ!

Heavenly Father, You have promised to never leave nor forsake Your people, and yet millions of faithful Christians have been martyred over the ages. Should we lose hope? Should we despair? No! We should rejoice that they were saved by You and they are saved by You. As followers of Christ, we have the absolute assurance that the blood has saved us. No fear here! Whatever happens to this earthly body is temporary, but an eternal glory awaits. Hallelujah and Amen!

 

July 22, 2015

Ushered into The New

Today’s thoughts mark a second time appearance from Harvest House author Bob Christopher at the blog Basic Gospel. Click the title below to read at source.

Where Freedom Rings

Spiritual birth ushers us into the new. Paul made this point clearly:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Ready or not, the new is here.

• A new life – Romans 6:4.
• A new identity – John 1:12.
• A new self – Ephesians 4:24.
• A new heart – Ezekiel 36:26.
• A new covenant – Hebrews 9:15.
• A new command – John 13:34.
• A new way – Romans 7:6.

You might not know what this new life in Christ will look or feel like. And at first, it may feel a little awkward or strange. Like the Israelites, you may look back to your old life, especially when you feel down or blue, or when you are going through a tough circumstance. At those times, Satan will do his best to make you think your old life was pretty good. “Remember all the fun you had when you…?”

But as Peter wrote, “you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do, living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry” (1 Peter 4:3). It is time to let go of the old, to stop looking back, and to embrace the new.

There is nothing to fear. Jesus Christ is with you. He will never leave you. This means freedom for you, for “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17). The “new” that Christ has for you is better than anything you could ever dream or imagine. And besides, you can’t go back. Once you are in the light, you can’t go back to darkness. Once you have been set free, you will never be a slave to sin and death again. Once you cross over from death to life, the only way is forward in the newness of life.

This is where freedom rings.

Excerpted from Simple Gospel, Simply Grace; Harvest House Publishers

July 21, 2015

His Love is Steadfast

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Lamentations 3:22 (emphasis added)

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end  (ESV)

The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail. (NASB). 

Because of the Lord’s gracious love we are not consumed,
since his compassions never end.  (ISV)
 
The Lord’s kindness never fails!
If he had not been merciful, we would have been destroyed.  (CEB)

 

Today we continue introducing you to new sources for devotional reading. This one is from the blog Prayerful Pondering and the author is Pat Luffman Rowland. Click the title to read at source.

Happiness Versus Joy

In the English Standard Version of the Bible, “steadfast love” is mentioned 196 times in the Old Testament, 127 times in the Psalms alone. One of my favorite verses using steadfast love is Psalms 6:4:

“Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love.”

These words of the psalmist David can be turned into a prayer of petition for healing by personalizing it with the individual’s name. It is also an appropriate prayer for our nation: “Turn, O Lord, deliver (our nation); save (us) for the sake of your steadfast love.”

“Steadfast love” is a translation from the Hebrew word chesed, found approximately 250 times in the Hebrew Bible according to many research sites, Ken Emilio of RemnantReport.com being one. Norman H. Snaith in A Theological Word Book of the Bible says that in English versions of the Bible, chesed has also been translated as loving-kindness, mercy, and loyalty. I think it is very safe to say God wants us to know we can rely on His love. That His is a faithful and committed love. Why else would He tell us so many times?

Just as His love for us is steadfast, He asks that our love be the same. In the New Testament, scripture turns it around from how God loves us and uses chesed as how we are to love God and others. Christ came to demonstrate the Father’s steadfast love by showing us how to take what we have been given and give it to others. Chesed is found six times in the New Testament: 1 Thessalonians 1:3, 2 Thessalonians 3:5, 1 Timothy 6:11, 2 Timothy 3:10, Titus 2:2, and James 1:12. One of those references, 2 Thessalonians 3:5, says it like this: “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.”

Beautiful songs of praise continue to be written about God’s steadfast love. Don Moen sings praise to God with his song “Your Steadfast Love” and Hillsong sings “The Steadfast Love of the Lord Never Ceases”.

As we sing our own praises to God, may we thank Him for a love that is steadfast and faithful. Man’s love may fail us, but God’s love never will. He has told us that emphatically.

 

July 20, 2015

Happy is not always Joyful, and Joyful isn’t necessarily Happy

Today, as yesterday, we’re highlighting a multiple-writer devotional blog featuring women authors for the first time here at C201. This one is called Putting on the New, and the particular devotion we’ve chosen today is by Tina Dorward. Click the title below to read this at source, and then look around the rest of the blog.

Happiness Versus Joy

For quite a while, that song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams was extremely popular to the point that people were making their own videos lip syncing to the song. It is a catchy song and I think everyone wants to be happy right? We do stuff we enjoy, spend time with people we like, and get a job where we hope to make a difference all with the intention of helping us feel happy. All of these activities are things we do; they are external things we to some extent feel we can control. Yet in life, there are so many things that happen to us that are sometimes of our doing and sometimes completely out of our control that aren’t good. How are we supposed to be happy then?

In Scripture, the word most often used isn’t happiness but “joy”.  I began to consider why this is and I’ve come to learn that there is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is often dependent upon our circumstances. When life is going well, we feel happy. But when life isn’t going well, when circumstances around us are not good, we aren’t happy and yet as Christians, we are encouraged throughout Scripture to be joyful in spite of our circumstances. James reminds us in chapter 1, verse 2:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…”

How do we do this?

While happiness is often more externally dependent, joy on the other hand is internal, it comes from within our spirits and can be present in spite of the circumstances we might find ourselves in. I’m not speaking of a polly-anna fake happiness but a joy that allows us to continue to shine Christ’s light to others, to exude a warmth and a contentment regardless of what curve balls might be coming our way. It’s easy to get caught up in our circumstances; let’s face it, life can be really tough at times.

A year and a half ago, I was going through some rather difficult circumstances. I went to help my Dad take care of my mom who had advanced emphysema and was just starting home hospice. What the hospice workers thought would be a few short weeks turned into 8 weeks, all but 11 days of which I was there, four and a half hours away from my husband and kids helping take care of my dying mother and trying to be a comfort to my father. They were some really special times with both my mom and dad that I will treasure forever and yet they were some of the most horrible days of my life as I watched my mom cling to life here and her body waste away. Many days, although I was incredibly sad, I continued to feel joyful as I thought about how my mom would no longer be suffering, how her breathing would return to normal and how she would soon be praising God in person! I played Christian songs for her that spoke of the hope we have in Christ. I knew she was a believer and where she was going after she died and that some day I would see her again.

The promise of Christ, His saving grace, the encouragement and truth of Scripture, all of these things enabled me and enable all of us to feel joy in spite of what we face here on Earth. The key is we need to remember to allow those truths to be forefront in our minds and to keep our focus on Christ and Christ alone so we don’t succumb to the temptations that try to draw us away.

 

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