Christianity 201

October 24, 2016

Freedom from What is Hurting You

Articles here are often a mixture of in-depth Bible study and personal devotions. Sometimes I think we don’t do enough of the latter. Today, we’re again returning to Proverbs 31 Ministries. This time it’s a different writer, Leah DiPascal. Click the title below to read this on their site.

When the Struggles of Life Knock You Over

“When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’ Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.” Luke 13:12-13 (NIV)

She heard His voice but couldn’t see Him clearly. The surrounding crowds had blocked her view.

Bent over at the waist and unable to stand up straight, she strained to get a good glimpse of Him. Then, unexpectedly, He’d called her forward.

I imagine her heart was racing as she slowly shuffled her way to the front of the synagogue.

Why would Jesus single her out of the crowd? Was He going to make a spectacle of her brokenness? Or expose her deepest pain and darkest secrets?

As the crowds around her murmured, each step toward Jesus felt as if she were lugging the weight of the world behind her.

For 18 years, her body had been crippled. Eighteen long, exhausting years.

She certainly had plenty of reasons not to go to the synagogue that Sabbath morning. Why subject herself to the possible harsh stares and hurtful comments? Yet she was there, listening intently to the teachings of Jesus.

She didn’t say a word. She didn’t try to get His attention. She simply stood in His presence, soaking in the life-giving statements that gave her hope in the midst of her hopeless situation.

But Jesus saw her. Jesus had compassion for her. Jesus loved and wanted to heal her. And in one swift statement, those 18 long, exhausting years came to a screeching halt.

“Woman, you are set free from your infirmity” (Luke 13:12b).

With the gentle touch of His hands, warmth flowed through her body, and she suddenly realized she was standing upright. She no longer strained to get a glimpse of Jesus … she now saw Him face to face.

With a burst of joy, bondage gave way to freedom and she exhaled in worshipful praise and adoration to her Lord. Her healer. Her bondage breaker.

Scripture doesn’t tell us her name, but I think we all can relate to this woman in one way or another. Maybe you see a small part of her story that rings true in your own life, connecting you though years separate. Could it be:

  • An ailment that physically restricts your body and makes you feel weak?
  • A spiritual battle keeping you in bondage to the enemy?
  • An unwanted flaw that draws painful attention and hurtful comments from others?
  • A heavy heart filled with shattered dreams and stinging emotions?
  • A burden you carry, causing you to shuffle through life feeling alone, unwanted or disposable?

Whatever has made your life seem long and exhausting, Jesus can repair it by His powerful presence, His comforting words and His healing touch.

He loves you. He longs to be gracious to you. He rises to show compassion so you can stand upright again.

Assured. Secure. Enveloped in His comforting embrace.

You are never lost in the crowd because you have captivated Jesus’ heart. His gaze is always fixed on you.

He sees your pain. He’s aware of your affliction. He knows your struggles.

Like the woman in the synagogue, come as you are — with all that makes you feel less than. Draw near to Jesus, soak in His life-giving Word and wait expectantly to hear Him speak freedom over your situation:

“Woman, you are set free from your infirmity” (Luke 13:12b). Jesus did it for her … and He can do it for you too!

Lord, I come to You today and lay all my burdens at Your feet. Take the emotional and mental weight I’ve been carrying so that I can stand upright again. Draw near to me. Heal me. Free me. I want to live assured, secure and continuously aware of Your loving embrace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Isaiah 30:18, “The LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (NIV)

Psalm 145:14, “The LORD supports all who fall, and lifts up all who are bent over.” (NET)

I would’ve loved to see Jesus miraculously heal that precious woman in the synagogue on that Sabbath day. It’s beautiful how her very first response was to praise God. How do you express gratitude for all God has done in your life? What are some things you can praise Him for today?

October 23, 2016

Blaspheming the Spirit

by Russell Young

The Word of God offers a stark warning to believers.  “I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them.  But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.” (Mk 3:28─29 NIV) Luke wrote: “And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” (12:10 NIV)

When the understanding of blasphemy is limited to voicing negative comments regarding the Holy Spirit it is easy for anyone to consider themselves free of guilt. God will not tolerate vilification of the Spirit whether through verbal assault or through failure to honor his right to rule in the confessor’s life.

Per Strong’s Greek Dictionary blasphemy means “vilification (especially against God): —blasphemy, evil speaking, railing.” In the above verses, the Lord taught that all who rail or speak evil against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. When the Lord uttered these words, he had been specifically addressing the speaking practices of people since he had just said, “What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” (Lk 12:3 NIV)

The New Testament’s use of blasphemy was most commonly applied to Christ on occasions where he either made the claim that he was the Son of God or that he could forgive sins.  The Lord’s use rested in a person’s failure to honor the Holy Spirit, his Spirit (2 Cor 3:17, 18) by despising him verbally.

Blasphemy has applications other than vilification by word, however.  The Lord told Moses and the Israelites, “But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or alien, blasphemes the Lord, and that person must be cut off from the people.  Because he has despised the Lord’s word and broken his commands, that person must surely be cut off; his guilt remains on him.” (Numbers 15:30─31 NIV) The charge of blasphemy rests not only on vilifying through word but also by sinning defiantly.

Ezekiel was commanded to tell the house of Israel, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: In this also you blasphemed me by forsaking me.” (Eze 20:27 NIV) “Sinning defiantly” and “forsaking God” are also forms of blasphemy. The writer of Hebrews addressed this matter.  “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” (Heb 10:26─27 NIV) Vilifying, defying, deliberately sinning, and despising the word of God are forms of blasphemy and that includes not attending to the call of the Spirit.

Unless the Spirit’s ministry is not recognized and honored, he cannot accomplish his purpose in the lives of people. It is the Holy Spirit who brings about a person’s sanctification and salvation (2 Thess 2:13; Titus 3: 5─6) leading to that one’s resurrection. Those who defy his rule in their lives will be held accountable for their rebellion.  Those who have gained knowledge of the truth in a certain situation are required to act in compliance with their understanding. Teaching that allows freedom from obedience to the Spirit is deceptive and even blasphemous.  Paul wrote: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal 6:7─8 NIV)

Although It is easy to find comfort in the understanding that blasphemy is limited to vilifying words, such comfort is not so easy to come by when blasphemy is recognized as sinning “defiantly” or knowingly. Have you knowingly sinned?  It is not without reason that Paul cautioned the Philippians to “continue to work out [their] own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in [us] to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Phil 2:12─13 NIV)

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is a very serious matter and it is often masked by beliefs that promote inaccurate teachings about God’s mercy and grace, about his unconditional love, about the believer’s adoption as a son, and about the reality of his or her eternal security having been assured. Where these teachings prevail, not much thought has to be given to the need for obedience or to honoring the Spirit. Blaspheming the Spirit is done knowingly and intentionally, and comes from a defiant and rebellious heart but is not limited to evil words, it also includes denial of the Spirit’s right to the direct confessor’s life.

eternal-salvation-russell-youngRussell Young’s book is in stores and available now in print and eBook.  The title is Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? It is available through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514 $17.99 US

October 22, 2016

The Challenging Concept of Certainty

Mark 9.23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”

24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

Job 13.5 Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.

both NKJV

Forgive me while I run a particular rabbit trail today; I hope this gets you thinking. Every once in awhile I trip over a term that is being used by a particular writer or group of writers, and today it’s the term “heuristic faith;” which I believe originated with Gordon Allport in a 1950 book, The Individual and His Religion.

We begin at the Catholic blog Filca Holic

Henri Nouwen said, “I used to resent all the interruptions in my work until I realized that interruptions were my real work.” [Ronald] Rolheiser wrote, “There is something in a planned life that needs to be, for one’s own good, perennially sabotaged by interruptions. I am less glib in quoting them now, given that my own life has just been derailed by a major interruption.” …

…Karl Rahner once wrote that “in the torment of the insufficiency of everything attainable we begin to realize that here, in this life, all symphonies remain unfinished.” No matter how hard we try to live the best way we can, at all times the music gets interrupted. To deny this is to make life miserable. We wallow in anger with self and others; we lose faith, and blame God for everything. To accept this reality is to mature in spite of the wintry pain, suffering, scandals and disruptions.

Heuristic faith as defined by Henri Nouwen is clinging to what a person believes, even when everything is against it. In his The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey, he wrote, “So I am praying while not knowing how to pray. I am resting while feeling restless; at peace while I am tempted, safe while still anxious; surrounded by a cloud of light while still in darkness, in love while still doubting.”

Next we turn to The Psychology of Jesus by David McKenna:

A practical philosophy of life contains an element of faith — it is heuristic. No world view answers or anticipates all the questions of the universe. Therefore, a mature person holds his or her philosophy of life confidently but tentatively. By his own testimony, Paul made room for the unknown: “At present we are men looking at puzzling reflections in a mirror. The time will come when we shall see reality whole and face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12)! Jesus demonstrated heuristic faith when he admitted that the time of the coming of the Son of man was known only to the Father (see Acts 1:7). As Allport would say, “It is a characteristic of the mature mind that it can act wholeheartedly even without absolute certainty.”

Ambiguity came as a shock to me when I was a junior in college. As the product of a home, church, and junior college where spiritual certainty reigned, I was unprepared for the intellectual bombardment of a professor in cultural anthropology. He deftly stripped away all the cultural layers of my faith and exposed an indefensible core. Confused and shaken, I could only pray, “God if you exist and if there is anything to Christianity, show me now.” Taking pity on my desperate state, God brought the person of Jesus Christ before my mind and rested his case. One might say that this was my intellectual conversion because I chose to do what Elton Trueblood described for me many years later: “A Christian is a person who is willing to bet his life that Christ is right.”

At the site Reflections on Biblical and Christian Philosophy, a look at this type of faith as it applies in many of our current science-related debates in an essay on the ideas of Michael Polanyi.

His [Polanyi’s] revelation concerning doubt is spectacular “The doubting of any explicit statement merely implies an attempt to deny the belief expressed by the statement, in favor of other beliefs which are not doubted for the time being.”   Faith and doubt, then, are just opposing beliefs according to personal commitment! The Christian, then, when faced with doubts of various kinds, should attempt to sort out what are these various “other” beliefs, and what are their claims to truth that would challenge Christian beliefs? What could be more practical to the doubts that believers have?

 A misunderstanding of faith is clearly illustrated in the waxing and waning of faith-healing.   Is the lack of healing due to a lack of faith, or are there other elements to be considered.     Medical science can provide mechanisms of healing; Scripture can provide its perspective; and personal experiences provides other perspectives. A better understanding of faith by all these perspectives can give more accurate expectations to those who might seek faith-healing.

Polanyi was not overtly Christian. There are occasional and sometimes surprising references to Christian themes, but certainly no case can be made that he is advancing any religious agenda. Far from it. His Christian theology, in contrast to his scientific and philosophical expertise, is superficial, inconsistent, and minimally related to his epistemology. But Christians can make great use of his ideas. First, his thinking can illuminate Scriptural and personal beliefs and how they function in practical applications. Second, he virtually destroys science as a monolithic, objective, and certain source of truth or knowledge, making it instead into a “personal calling” of “discovery.” Christians need not fear any scientific pronouncements that would affect their theology, as science is only another authority whose evidence is to be weighed along with other important authorities.

That last sentence is a great place to stop today, but we’ll return to look at the issue of certainty again.

October 21, 2016

A Personal Statement of Faith

Instead, regard Christ as holy in your hearts. Whenever anyone asks you to speak of your hope, be ready to defend it.  (I Peter 3:15 CEB)

Yesterday on the other blog I posted a link to a book review at The Little Friar, the blog of Julius McCarter. Further down the page I noted this statement of faith which I found so very refreshing. The link is in the title below — think about that title for a minute — which I hope you’ll click and read this at source. (If you know Latin, you’ll like the blog tabs.)

for now

Every now and then, I’m asked to produce a personal statement of faith.  I always find statements like that difficult to write, though I’ve written on that before.

But, in an effort to say what I believe, here’s what I’ve put down this morning.  I’m sure it’s incomplete, as all statements of faith must necessarily be.  And I’m sure that, given the varieties of life that will be tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, I’ll say it much differently.  Any way …

I believe in one God who created the universe for good, who sustains it in wondrous order, and who calls it to fulfill its purpose in God.

I believe that God created human beings, male and female, in God’s own image, for communion with God and with one another. I believe, therefore, that God, whom we experience as personal, intends authentic personhood and relationship as the highest purpose for human beings.

I believe that the manifestations of God’s active benevolence toward creation are manifold, including:

  • God’s character revealed in the beauty, order, and majesty of the universe;
  • God’s revelation of a moral order, mysteriously the common heritage of all humanity;
  • God’s special relationship with Israel, later to include the Church;
  • God’s unique revelation in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ;
  • God’s steadfast and continual involvement in human affairs to this day.

I believe that, since human beings fail to respond fully to God’s call to live out the purpose for which we were created, and since God is ever faithful to God’s purpose, God has always eagerly forgiven and restored all of his creation. I believe, further, that as the clearest statement of God’s love for creation, God in Christ reconciles the world to God’s self.

I believe that sacred scriptures, the Old and New Testaments, bear trustworthy witness to God’s character, God’s intention for creation, and God’s unshakable determination to effect God’s good purpose, especially as scripture bears testimony to God’s relationship with Israel, with the church, and quintessentially with all creation in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.

I believe that God calls those who trust God and seek to fulfill God’s will to relate to individuals and to society in ways which reflect God-likeness as taught in the Torah, exhorted in the Prophets, and modeled in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ: namely, to demonstrate authentic personhood, to act toward others with steadfast benevolence, and to work for rightness in all spheres of life.

I believe that God, who created for good purpose, who patiently and unwaveringly loves even the most errant with love surpassing that of human mothers and fathers.

I believe that God – who has not left any age or any individual without evidence of that good purpose and faithfulness nor without the testimony of the Word who comes to all as light, life, and truth – will not cease working out that purpose for which God created and to which God calls all.

I believe that my hope for the world, for our lives in it, and for eternity rests on God’s faithfulness shown to all humanity throughout all ages, in particular to Israel and the church, and most especially as evidence in the faithfulness of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.



October 20, 2016

Non-Stop Prayer

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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Today I messed with Clarke Dixon’s original title! It appears along with the link below…

Pray Always, and . . .

by Clarke Dixon

1 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and . . . Luke 18:1

We might get thus far into this parable of Jesus and already be off to a false start. We could read “their need to pray always” and jump to the conclusion that this parable is about being persistent in prayer. We might then find ourselves persistent in what I call prayers. What are those? Well with Amazon, you pay for something and it shows up. We may expect something similar with God. We pray for something and it shows up. Therefore we may think from this parable that if it does not arrive, be persistent and keep praying and it will eventually show up. However, there is something far deeper going on here. Let us turn to the parable, and as you read, watch for a certain theme that shows up a lot. I have used underlining to help you spot it:

1 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ 4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’ ” 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Luke 18:1-8

Spotting the word “justice” is crucial in understanding this parable. Knowing that Jesus has promised opposition for his followers also helps. This is not, “Why hasn’t God given me what I want yet,” but “Why are God’s loved ones, if God loves them, facing opposition and injustice?” Christians have faced opposition and injustice from the get-go. We still do, in fact we are said to be the most oppressed people group around the world today. This sounds hard to believe in the West where we are conditioned to believe that Christians are the worst oppressors ever known. This conditioning is also part of the opposition that we face. We sometimes face opposition in the form of ridicule and contempt which is far milder, of course, than the threats and death faced elsewhere. This opposition is why Jesus calls us to “pray always and not to lose heart.”

When I tell my boys about all the hard work and homework that is required to be successful at school, they may be tempted to drop out. A temptation to drop out in the face of opposition is reflected by Jesus when he asks at the end of the parable if “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”  So why not drop out? With school, my boys ought not drop out because all that hard work and homework turns out to be worth it in the end. Here is another key to understanding this parable of Jesus. Look to the end. Jesus gives us a better option to dropping out, namely keep praying and do not lose heart! We will find justice in the end.

The gist of the parable is this: if at the end of the day an unjust judge will grant justice for someone he does not care about, then how much more can we expect to see God deliver justice for people he loves deeply?! So keep praying and do not lose heart, hang on and look forward to the day God brings justice.

We find these same themes reflected throughout scripture. Consider, for example, this example from 2nd Thessalonians:

4 Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring. 5 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, and is intended to make you worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering. 6 For it is indeed just of God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to give relief to the afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes to be glorified by his saints and to be marveled at on that day among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10

The Christians at Thessalonica were facing persecution. Facing injustice as they were, they might begin to question if they should drop out. But the Lord will put things right and the persecutors, if they do not repent, will be facing separation from God. Justice is coming, so keep praying and do not lose heart!

Likewise consider this from the book of Revelation, a book written originally for people facing persecution for their faith in, and loyalty to, Jesus:

9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered for the word of God and for the testimony they had given; 10 they cried out with a loud voice, “Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?” 11 They were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number would be complete both of their fellow servants and of their brothers and sisters, who were soon to be killed as they themselves had been killed. Revelation 6:9-11

Later on in Revelation we learn about the Millennium:

4 Then I saw thrones, and those seated on them were given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. Revelation 20:4

There is great discussion as to whether these particular scenes should be taken literally or symbolically. Either way, this scene points to a great reversal. Justice will come to the oppressor and for the the oppressed. So keep praying and do not lose heart.

Another thought; we may assume this parable is thinking of prayer as a shopping list of wants. However, it is perhaps better to see prayer here as a means of remaining solid in our relationship with Christ in the face of troubles. Prayer is part of what we do to “abide” in Christ which we are instructed by Jesus to do in John 15. It is interesting to note that immediately following the instruction to abide, or “remain” in Him, Jesus goes on to talk about the world hating His disciples. Prayer is an important part of a relationship with Christ and a relationship with Christ is an important part of facing opposition.

This parable of Jesus is not for those who may be tempted to quit praying when their ‘letters to Santa Claus’ are not answered by God. Rather this parable is for God’s children who may be tempted to drop out or sell out under opposition. Hang on, keep praying and do not lose heart. How will your life be an answer to Jesus’ question?

And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? Luke 18:8

 All scripture references are taken from the NRSV

October 19, 2016


Today we’re at Pure Devotion, the blog of Lori Thomason which came recommended. Click here to read her story, and then click the title below to read today’s thoughts at their source.


Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NLT) Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

Companionship is important. Relationship is key in life. With the popularity of social media, there is the perception of these two vital accomplishments when in reality there is really no connection between people anymore. Facebook is one of the many social sites that allow us to “friend” one another, “unfriend” those who are no longer wanted in our life and to conveniently “unfollow” those who post things that are not interesting or inappropriate. Relationship in a box if you will how wonderful. So clean and safe, people can manage “friendships” without the messiness of companionship. It satisfies our need to connect with the imposition or discomfort of true involvement. However, is it enough? Is it the kind of relationship that Jesus Christ called us to when He said to “love one another”? Probably not.

Love is a commitment. It is the call of every Christian, believer, and true follower of Jesus Christ. In a world that has made “relationships” computerized, how does the church reconnect according to the Word of God and develop the friendships that the Lord ordained for us to have with one another. The Body of Christ cannot become the Bride of Christ without companionship and relationships that extend from lip service to life commitment. Ecclesiastes touches on this in Chapter 4 when companionship is addressed in detail with its benefits. Two people are much better than one. You may think you do not need or want other people but we all do. We were created to be relational but hurt and betrayal builds tall walls that must be overcome by love and grace to produce trust once again. We need one another to succeed in life. People will always need someone to offer hands to help up and shoulders to cry on. We need to remain close. A person standing alone is more likely to be overcome in an attack physically and spiritually. There is a reason why God created more than one person. God is all about relationships. To be like the Lord, we must build relationships, become companions and learn to be friends all over again.

John 16:31-33 (NLT) Jesus asked, “Do you finally believe? But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Jesus is awesome! He tried diligently to send of clues and messages into the future of what to expect as His Return grew eminent. One of those things is the assault on friendship and relationships that is happening today. First, the family began to fall apart as one generation gave way to another with a staggering divorce rate. Suddenly, relationships became soluble and what God has joined together can be legally torn apart. The time is coming. Well, I believe it is here now. You will be scattered. Each one going his own way. Jesus told us all of this so that we could have peace in us. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. There is no question that there will be hurts and heartaches on this earth trials and sorrows just as the Jesus said. Take heart. I have overcome the world. Jesus overcame the world. I believe that while the latter of these verses are heeded with caution that there is missed significance in the beginning…you will be scattered. A kingdom is a gathering not a scattering. We must come together as the Body of Christ and Kingdom of God again. The Kingdom is built on relationship. Our relationship with the Father through the Son as adopted Children of God. This should not and cannot stop here or the Kingdom is only a partnership. The Spirit of God is the connection that ordinary people have as Christ lives in us. This connection must be distributed among other people to form the allegiance that we are to have with the family of God as His Children.

Hebrews 13:14-16 (NLT) For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.

This world is not our permanent home. Everything should be building for the future. The future given to us through Jesus Christ. Why? It lasts forever. We are to look forever to this home yet to come. Preparations for family reunions and even high school reunions often include self-preparation as it is important to us to show others the significance and success of our past years spent apart. Many opt not to attend based on situations and circumstances they were unable to overcome. Reunions are about relationships and reconnecting but in our minds it can be made it to something else completely. We must prepare for our reunion with Jesus Christ. Repentance is the first step. Relationship is the next. It is fun to attend a reunion when the relationships have remained active. It becomes uncomfortable if it is the first contact in a long time. Each day celebrating Jesus Christ and actively engaged in a relationship with Jesus creates confidence in His Acceptance when we are finally reunited. However, the Kingdom is not just one person and a triune God. It is a Body of Believers. It is time to reconnect.

Allegiance to Christ is a commitment to His Kingdom that is demonstrated in our willingness to do “good” and share our lives with those in need. Recently, our ladies ministry had a meeting at church. Newly reorganized, it was the first time in a long time. Forming a large circle, everyone began to express their needs as women. Every response and comment went back to relationship. Women feel isolated and alone in rooms full of people and homes full of family. Why? There is no connection or companionship so therefore there is no confidence in others. We must sacrifice to please God. Sacrifice our pride. Sacrifice our self. Sacrifice our insecurity and yes, even our pride sometimes. Allegiance to God’s Kingdom is demonstrated by loving and living relationships among all of God’s People.

Matthew 5:43-48 (NLT) “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

We are to love our enemies. How is the possible if I am unable to love my friends? Loving my friends is not commenting on their posts, putting little heart “likes” on their pictures, or following them on social media. Love is a relationship. Love is a connection. It is to reach out and pull together. It is conversation. Communication is important. Listening is loving. Being present is not enough, it is presence that creates strong unity and bonds. Our allegiance to Jesus Christ is exemplified by our commitment and willingness to bond with others in relationship. This empowers the Kingdom and our relationships draw those who were scattered back together again. I challenge each of you today as I am myself to look at my “friends” list on social media and choose some people to call and talk to. Have lunch with or make an effort to connect with. Rather than texting learn to call and talk more. When the Holy Spirit moves on my heart to contact someone, to be sensitive enough to do it right then. Relationships are not maintained passively and must to be promoted passionately. They are one of the things that the enemy wants to “steal, kill and destroy” every single relationship and bond in the Body of Christ as it is an attack against His Kingdom. When we connect with others, it creates unity and harmony in the Body and that is the desire of our Father’s Heart!

Romans 12:16 (NLT) Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

Psalm 133:1-3 (NLT) How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting.

October 18, 2016

When the Worry Package is at the Door, Don’t Sign for It

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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When the courier company driver is standing at the door and says, “We have a package for Paul Wilkinson;” I have a choice. I can accept the parcel or I can refuse it. That was the spirit of today’s header; advice I also need for myself. Today we’re returning to Devotions by Chris, the blog of Chris Hendrix. Click the title below to read at source.

Refuse To Worry

Many of us struggle with understanding the difference between fear and anxiety. Fear is an emotion triggered by real danger. Anxiety is an emotion triggered by things that may or may not happen. Fear can save your life and anxiety can cause it to end prematurely. They elicit a similar feeling inside, but fear goes away after you’re out of danger. Anxiety continues to eat away at your energy, your mind, and your life if you don’t put a stop to it.

At work, I do an exercise with people to get them to stop assuming. I get them to admit that they don’t know the outcome. From then on, when they assume something, I ask. “But do you know?” Assumptions of the future are what cause anxiety. The truth is, we don’t know the future, but as Corrie Ten Boon says, “We can trust an unknown future to a known God.” When we allow assumption and anxiety to take over, we in essence are not trusting our future to God. The key to losing anxiety is to admit you don’t know and to trust God to take care of you.

The Bible says a lot about anxiety and worry. Here are some verses about it.

1. Therefore I tell you, stop being worried or anxious (perpetually uneasy, distracted) about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, as to what you will wear. Is life not more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Matthew6:25 AMP

2. Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.
Proverbs 12:25 NLT

3. Casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully].
1 Peter 5:7 AMP

4. Don’t give in to worry or anger; it only leads to trouble.
Psalm 37:8 GNT

5. Whenever I am anxious and worried, you comfort me and make me glad.
Psalm 94:19 GNT

6. Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
Philippians 4:6-7 MSG

7. So refuse to worry, and keep your body healthy. 
Ecclesiastes 11:10a NLT

8. I am filled with trouble and anxiety, but your commandments bring me joy.
Psalm 119:143 GNT

9. To worry yourself to death with resentment would be a foolish, senseless thing to do.
Job 5:2 GNT

10. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].
Philippians 4:7 AMP


October 17, 2016

Warning Whispers

Job 23:10  But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.

I Kings 19:12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.

Today’s thoughts are from Click the title below to read at source, and then click the tabs on the right margin to source other resources.

Every Yearning Satisfied

Simple Reflection

I was reflecting on the many earthquakes that have recently been rocking the world..quakes and distresses have been striking the globe with increased intensity and frequency, and earthquakes are just one pointer to the soon return of the Lord in power and great glory.

Still Small Voice

But my thoughts transferred to a different earthquake – one the prophet Elijah saw. My mind sped to his shattering experience with his violent earthquake. He stood in the presence of the Lord and experienced a devastating wind – a fierce and mighty wind. And after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice… 1Kings 19:12. And through the gentle whisper of God’s voice, Elijah knew his God in a new and powerful way.

Mind the Checks

I want to share a special reflection from, ‘Way of Faith,‘. – about that quiet, gentle stillness:- A soul who made rapid progress in her understanding of the Lord was asked once the secret of her easy advancement. She briefly replied, “Mind the checks ! Mind the checks !”

Warning Whispers

Perhaps the reason that many of us do not know and better understand Him.. is that we do not give heed to His gentle checks.. His warning whispers – His balanced counsel. His quiet restraints and gentle constraints are often passed unheeded, in the clamour of life.

Gentle Pressure

The Lord still whispers in His small and gentle voice… a still voice can hardly be heard; a still voice must be almost felt; a still voice is like a steady, gentle pressure upon the heart and mind – a still voice is like the touch of a morning zephyr on your face. A still voice is a small voice, quietly, almost timidly spoken in your heart. A voice that if heeded, will grow noiselessly clearer to your inner ear.

Ear of Love

His voice is spoken into the ear of love, for love is intent on hearing even the faintest whispers from the Beloved. But there does comes a time also, when love ceases to be heard.. if love is not responded to – if love is not believed in.

Take Heed

He is Love, and if you would know Him and His hear His voice.. take heed and give constant ear to His gentle touches and His hushed breath. Take heed in conversation, when about to utter some word. Give heed to that gentle voice, “mind the checks,”  – and refrain from speech.

Wait on God

Take heed when you are about to pursue some course in life, that seems clear and right.. until there comes a Heart to heart suggestion that almost has in it the force of conviction – give heed and “mind the checks!”. Learn to be still and wait on God, to be hushed in His presence and listen. Learn to wait upon Him for the unfolding of His will, for He knows the way you should take. Job 23:10

Perfect Direction

Let God form your plans about everything in your mind and your heart, and then let Him execute those plans through you – but in His way. Do not possess any wisdom of your own, but rely on His perfect direction. Many times His execution will seem contradictory to the plans He seemed to give. If it appears that He to work against Him or counter to your thoughts.. listen and “mind the checks.” Simply listen, obey and trust the Lord, even when it seems high folly to do so.

Losing Game

He will in the end cause “all things work together,” Romans 8:28, though many times initially the outworking of His plan appears contradictory. In His wider knowledge He is content to play a ‘losing’ game!!

Quiet Obedience

So if you want to know His voice, never consider results or possible effects. Obey the quiet voice, even when He asks you to move in the dark or the opposite way. He Himself will be glorious light in you, as He leads you down the path you are to take.

Secure in Him

You will discover an acquaintance and a fellowship with God holding you.. holding you and Him together, even in the severest testings – holding Him and you together.. even under the most terrible pressure.

Anchored to Christ

In this time of earthquakes and many other terrors that are coming on the world, men’s hearts will fail unless their heart is anchored to His voice of love. Listen for that still small voice of the Lord that whispers deep within the heart – and mind the checks !

October 16, 2016

The God-Man, Jesus Christ

by Russell Young

The mutuality of Christ, being very God and very man, with the implications attached can be very confusing.  The Word reveals that he is God. (Jn 1:1─5, 14, 3:13, 31; Col 1:15─20; Hebrews 1) He was also man.  He was born of Mary and the witness of his living presence among humankind reveals his humanity.

Jesus was made in the flesh just like everyone who walks this earth. The writer of Hebrews has recorded: “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” (Heb 2:17 NIV) Jesus cannot be seen as having any characteristics or abilities beyond those of created humankind.  He did not have the power to escape his enemies, or to create objects that would better his life.  He could not heal or avoid injury or sickness.  He could not supernaturally avoid sinning.  He was made like humans in every way.  This is the Jesus who was raised by Mary and Joseph.

The thought should not be entertained that the Lord possessed any special power that would grant him victory over sin.  The Word tells us that he suffered with temptations.  “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Heb 2:18 NIV) The Lord understands the trials we face and the issues of the flesh.  He knows! To be knowledgeable of the issues of humanity is part of the reason that he was incarnated in the flesh.  Because he understands, the excuses that will be offered at his judgment seat will be dealt with according to his understanding and all that has been provided.

How is it that he was without sin while the rest of humankind submit to its call?  First, he is the Son of his heavenly Father. The soul of Christ was of his Father, as were his interests and his disposition. Unlike those who have been born of their father, Adam, his interests and heart were in tune with those of his Father. The descendants of Adam have the heart of Adam.  The heart of humans has become afflicted with self-interest and all that such interest entails. It was the heart and soul of Jesus as his Father’s Son that made him unique and encouraged his fight for victory.

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (Heb 5:7 NIV) He was not sinless because he possessed a supernatural ability to defeat sin; he was sinless because he sought to honor his Father and because he earnestly and reverently prayed for victory. Had his heart not been fully committed to loving his Father, he might also have sinned and his death would have resulted. The Lord’s commitment for victory over sin needs to be acknowledged. It was the application of his will toward obedience to the Father he loved, rather than to self, that provided victory. His heart and soul gained him victory over the flesh that the Father had prepared for him in the womb of Mary.

Although Jesus was God, his godly power was not made available until his baptism.  “As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Mk 1:11 NIV) His Father had been “well pleased” because his obedience was complete and his heart fully set on his Father and upon loving and honouring him.  According to Luke, following his baptism he was filled with the Spirit and went into the wilderness for testing.  When he returned to Galilee it was by the power of the Spirit. (Lk 4:14)

Prior to the gifting of the Holy Spirit Jesus was godlike in soul only; following that gifting, he became godlike in Spirit as well.  He had all of the power of God available to him, in addition to the soul and heart of the Father.  At his resurrection the flesh that made him the Son of Man was left behind.

The redeemed should never excuse themselves for sinning.  They have all of the power for victory that Jesus had as he walked this earth and more than he had in the years before his baptism.  It is the darkness of a person’s soul and lack of love for the Father and for his Son, their lord and savior, that prevents a righteous walk. Peter said that “His divine power [his Spirit] has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” (2 Pet 1:3 NIV) The same Spirit that Christ had is the Spirit that indwells all who would call Christ lord and who desire to be transformed into his likeness.

Jesus came to do the will of the Father. (Jn 4:34, 8:28─29) He loved his Father and it was for this reason that he was fully obedient, even unto death on the cross.  As he entered Jerusalem before his crucifixion, he knew what lay before him, but he also knew what lay on the other side.  He would be gloriously united with his Father.  It was because of his great love that he would say while on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46 NIV) He was anguished in soul because of the pain, the load of sin that he bore, and the horrible separation from his Father that it had caused.

Adoration and wonder should overwhelm humankind knowing that the Lord has walked the walk that the rest of humankind has been unable to achieve.  As man his accomplishments in the flesh should cause all people to look to him in awe and with gratitude. Our sin that he bore and which separated him from the Father whom he loved so dearly should cause us grief.  His resurrected life which bears the power of God for victory over sin for those who obey him should cause rejoicing.

He is the God-Man Jesus Christ!

October 15, 2016

A Shadow of Things to Come

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming–not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.
 – Hebrews 10:1 NIV

NLT Hebrews 10:11 Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. 12 But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand.

Today we are paying a return visit to Josh Ketchum, a pastor in Kentucky who also has a passion for marriage and family counseling.  Click the title below to look around his blog, Life in the Kingdom.

New Thoughts on Old Sacrifices

I am teaching a Wednesday night Bible class on the Old Law.  This week we are studying the sacrificial system.  We are all familiar with the foreshadowing of Christ in the sacrificial system.  But here are a few fresh thoughts I have from looking at this in an in-depth manner.  (I am not going to reference the statements, but most all of these thoughts come from Leviticus 1-7).

  • Sacrifices were required so the people could come into the presence of God.  (Read that slowly)  Put in other words– you couldn’t come to God without a sacrifice!!
  • The entire system was based upon God, through his grace, allowing a substitute life to atone for the offerer’s sin.
  • There was an emotional and convicting element involved when the offerer had to place their hands on the animal and slaughter them (often the priest would kill while they were touching.)  It was impossible to miss that this animal is giving his life as a substitute for my sin so I can remain in a relationship with God.
  • The sacrifices were gifts offered to God.  All of the sacrifices, except for the peace offering, the worshipper did not get to partake.  He offered his best to the Lord and received not a bite!  The individual offerings were voluntary and involved conviction.
  • Forgiveness was not just because of the ritual, but was based on the grace of God and faith of the offerer.  With the trespass offering the sinner was responsible for demonstrating sincere repentance by offering restitution and monetary payment to the one they had defrauded.
  • The peace offering involved a meal together between God, the priests, the offerers, and others gathered at the tabernacle.  It was a communal meal.  It foreshadowed the communal meal of the Lord’s Supper were Christians celebrate and remember the death of Jesus.
  • Offerers were forgiven at the sacrifice, but they were to live dedicated, holy lives from that point forward.
  • Finally, though I don’t want to suggest that the Old Law was better or we should in any way practice sacrifices today, I do wonder if we often neglect to emotional grasp what a physical sacrifice would teach us. Since owning animals, I can’t help but think of what it would be like to sacrifice them.
    • First, it would be hard to take your best.
    • Second, it would be a real sacrifice to give up your food for a spiritual cause.  It would take much faith and conviction of sin.
    • Third, it would bring home powerfully for you, when you slaughtered your own animal and saw its blood sprinkled on the altar and body parts consumed, the seriousness of sin and the holiness of God.

October 14, 2016

Searching for the Better Life

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant. When she gave birth to Cain, she said, “With the Lord’s help, I have produced a man!” Later she gave birth to his brother and named him Abel.

When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected

…continue reading the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4

Today we pay a return visit to Neal Pollard who is in pastoral ministry in Colorado. Click the title below to read at Preacher Pollard’s Blog.

Better Living 

We find ourselves often bobbing in a sea of religious confusion. Many groups claim to be the best religion and point to their ingredients as reasons for such claims. Several years ago, our boys played basketball in a league hosted by a huge community church in the Denver area.  Their church’s campus includes a K-12 school, two restaurants, a gymnasium half the size of our church building, a coffee shop, and a hundred social program. Other groups would make their claim as “better” or “best” based on their numeric size, the number of programs they have, or how socially active they are.

Our religious attitude ought to be one of humility, which does not boast of our achievements or compare ourselves with others (cf. 2 Cor. 10:12).  Genesis 4 is not just about two kinds of worship, but also about two ways of living life. Cain is mentioned by three Bible writers after Moses introduces him in Genesis. The writer of Hebrews calls Abel’s offering more excellent than his (Heb. 11:4). John calls Cain’s works evil and his allegiance “of the wicked one” (1 Jo. 3:12). Jude implies that the way of Cain is the wrong way to go (11). Let’s make a few brief observations from Genesis four and see if we can find the elements which make for a better way of living today.

  • BETTER LIVING IS NOT DETERMINED BY AGE (1-2).  By birth order, Cain came first. He was the first person to be born in the natural order of childbirth. He was the very first newborn to be held in his mama’s arms. She didn’t realize that her cooing, sweet infant was a future murderer, and she was proud of him. She called him “a man child with the help of the Lord.” This depicts such a bright, optimistic future, and by contrast Scripture says, “Again, she gave birth to his brother, Abel” (2). Abel began in his brother’s shadow, first known to us as “his (Cain’s) brother.”
  • BETTER LIVING IS NOT DETERMINED BY OCCUPATION (2). When we look at these brothers, what they did for a living was not the determiner of the quality of their lives. While what they did had an indirect bearing on the events of this account, the fact of their occupation was spiritually neutral—Cain farmed and Abel tended sheep. One can reap blessings from tilling the ground (Heb. 6:7), but they may have to fight thorns, thistles, and weeds doing it (Gen. 3:18-19). Tending sheep may be done by slaves (Luke 17:17), kings (1 Sam. 17:34), or apostles (John 21:17). God’s pleasure or displeasure was not connected to either’s occupation.
  • BETTER LIVING IS DETERMINED BY WORSHIP (3-4). Moses says both brought an offering to the Lord. He also says God responded to bother offerings, accepting one and rejecting the other. That very notion is foreign to many people in our society today, even those in religion. Many make worship nothing more than taste, preference, and personal inclination. But, Moses shows us (1) Not all worship is equal: God had regard for Abel’s, but not Cain’s. The words “had respect to” signify in Hebrew to look at something with a very serious glance. God tells us how He wants worship done, in attitude and action; (2) The worshipper and the worship rise and fall together: God had regard for Abel AND his offering and did not for Cain AND his offering. That’s a sober reminder for me that my personal relationship with God is hindered or helped based on the way I worship God. Can I offer God vain and ignorant worship, and have God reject it but accept me? We are not earning God’s favor by getting worship right. At the same time, are we tempting God and hoping we stay in His favor while disobeying His commands for worship? People have tried to make this an “either-or” proposition, that Cain and Abel’s offering was either about getting the worship right or was about the nature of the person offering the worship. In other words, is it sincerity or obedience, our both sincerity and obedience? To thoughtfully ask the question is to answer it!
  • BETTER LIVING IS DETERMINED BY ATTITUDE (5-7). Cain reacts to having himself and his worship rejected by God by burning with anger and his face taking on an ugly look. He sounds like a small child in the throes of a tantrum or a teenager huffing and sulking in anger. God warns Cain of the recipe for disaster he was making through his attitude. He told Cain that his tempestuous attitude was an invitation for sin to pounce on him, but He told him he could master it! You can have a positive attitude without prosperity, education, or earthly success, but you cannot have a positive attitude without mastering self.
  • BETTER LIVING IS DETERMINED BY ACTION (8-16). Improper worship and attitude preceded and precipitated improper action. The first time “sin” is used (Gen. 4:7), God was looking ahead with perfect foresight to what Cain would do to his brother. He does the unthinkable, killing his own brother (cf. 1 Jo. 3:11-15). His deeds and ways were a recipe for disaster: He is rebuked by God, punished by God, and separated from God. Sin promises a good time and fulfillment, but it’s not true.

It’s been said that the lineage of Cain gave us murder, cities, polygamy, musicians, metal workers and poetry, but not one who walked with God! Thanks to his legacy, a descendant repeats his violent ways (Gen. 4:23). Abel seems to leave no physical lineage, but he still speaks after death. His was a life of faith, generosity, good works, righteousness, and obedience. We get to choose the kind of life we want to pursue. If we choose well, we will be satisfied, others will be blessed, and God will be pleased.




October 13, 2016

Psalm 100: A Call to All to Give Thanks

As we mentioned on Saturday, this was Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. Since Clarke Dixon’s regular contributions here are based on his sermons of the previous week, we have Thanksgiving as today’s theme, which for most of readers, comes a few weeks early.

by Clarke Dixon

Around the table at Thanksgiving many people have a tradition of saying what they are thankful for. I am always thankful that my son, who arrived on a Thanksgiving weekend twelve years ago, arrived safely. Especially so since he arrived at the hospital before the doctor who was on call and methinks sitting down to a Turkey dinner at the time. But while it may be easy coming up with things to be thankful for, how many have really thought about whom they are giving thanks to? The what of Thanksgiving happens naturally. The to whom and why gets a bit muddy for some. It is not muddy for the Psalmist in Psalm 100 who has a clear sense of gratitude; what for, to whom, and why. This will become clear to us as we take a look:

1 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.
3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.
5 For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100)

Some things to note about the Psalmist’s call to Thanksgiving:

The call to thanksgiving is a call to know the LORD. 

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth. (Psalm 100:1 emphasis mine)

The Psalm begins with a call to make a joyful noise, not to just any lord, but the LORD. Many of our translations use LORD all in capitals in place of the actual name of God. There is a long story about this but suffice it to say here that we have a call to give thanks to The One Creator God Who has revealed Himself as recorded in the Bible. Here we have not some nebulous concept of a god that can never be known, but a very specific and personal God who can be known and has made Himself known. The Psalmist is very clear on to whom thanksgiving is due, the One God Who has made Himself known.

Further, the Psalmist is clear on some specifics that we can know about the LORD:

Know that the LORD is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. (Psalms 100:3)

For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalms 100:5)

The call to thanksgiving is a call to experience joy in the LORD.

1 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come into his presence with singing. (Psalms 100:1-2 emphasis mine)

These should not be taken as commands so much as an affirmation of what comes naturally. People naturally respond to really good news with joy, noise, and singing. Even those who cannot carry a tune cannot contain their enthusiasm. When we know the LORD properly, we will understand that the opportunity of being in relationship with Him is a fantastic opportunity. We will understand how amazing a thing it is to enjoy God’s presence. A church I once pastored could joyfully claim that a former Prime Minister of our nation was once a regular attender. Yet that fact pales in comparison to having the King of Glory in attendance. If there is joy lacking in the church services across our nation, perhaps it has less to do with getting a handle on worship style and more to do with getting a handle on how utterly fantastic a thing it is to be in the presence of the LORD.

Since I brought up worship style let us recognize too, that the call to thanksgiving is a call to experience joy in the Lord rather than a call to enjoy ourselves. When we put the emphasis of church worship on making sure people enjoy themselves, we begin to emphasize perfection in performance. If the church I pastor suddenly put an emphasis on excellence in performance I would soon find myself out of work. When worship is more about joy in the Lord than enjoyment of oneself, our experience of worship will be decided long before the church service begins.

The call to thanksgiving is a call to praise the LORD.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name. (Psalms 100:4 emphasis mine)

Sometimes a skeptic will ask if the Lord is so insecure that he needs our praise. This is to completely misunderstand praise. Praise is not something God needs, nor is it something that must be commanded, but is something we do quite naturally. Does the mother or father of a child need to be instructed to praise him or her when they take their first steps? Momentous occasions call for momentous praise. To give thanks to the Lord for all His goodness is a momentous occasion.

The call to thanksgiving is a call that goes out to everyone, everywhere.

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth. (Psalms 100:1 emphasis mine)

We don’t normally think of God’s people in the Old Testament as being a missionary people. But the Psalmist is, calling everyone, everywhere to give thanks to the LORD. People sometimes mistakingly think that God changes direction between the Old and New Testaments. He does not change directions, but goes further along the same direction, revealing Himself and His goodness more fully and driving the point home that He is love. We know from the Old Testament that all people, everywhere owe a debt of thanks to the LORD for life itself. We know from the New Testament that all people, everywhere have the opportunity to experience eternal life in Christ.

Do we have the confidence as Christians to know that calling everyone, everywhere  to thanksgiving is the right thing to do? Or do we hide behind a philosophy of faith as a private and personal thing? God did not keep the fact that He is Creator private. He has not hidden His goodness. He did not hide behind a tree, but bore the cross publicly. He did not roll the stone back across the tomb to hide the fact of a missing body. Either God is to be thanked or not. Either by everyone, if it is true, or by no one, if it is not. The Psalmist knew what was what and was not shy about issuing a call to thanksgiving. Are we?

All scripture references are taken from the NRSV

Originally posted at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon

October 12, 2016

Standing on Certainty

II Timothy 1:12

…because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.

…I’m not ashamed. I know the one in whom I’ve placed my trust. I’m convinced that God is powerful enough to protect what he has placed in my trust until that day.

…I have no regrets. 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.

People often say they need “a little more faith,” but perhaps what they are looking for is “a little less faith and a little more certainty.” Is that what they really want?

The argument is compelling: Faith wouldn’t be faith if we had 100% certainty. Probably nobody seemed to have more faith than the Apostle Paul, but it could be argued that he had less faith in God’s existence because he had the certainty of having met Jesus face to face on the Damascus Road.

Doubt has become very fashionable of late, even among Evangelicals. We have a spectrum of people who wear their misgivings on their sleeves at one end, and others who spectacularly crash and burn on the other. Some are actually clergy, and they use every opportunity to flaunt their doubts, begging the question of why they stay in vocational ministry if so little of Christianity’s core beliefs are true.

Paul’s situation isn’t really all that unique. We can have less faith and more certainty if we allow God to meet us on the Damascus Road of our lives. The road to Damascus is a sudden, crisis-like, intervention in our life’s script, but there is, in contrast, also the slow process of getting to know God over time and yet knowing him in the same certainty as the Apostle Paul did, but without the dramatic involvement of physical blindness.

The sometimes controversial musical, Godspell, introduced a generation to the following prayer:

O Dear Lord
Three things I pray.
To see thee more clearly.
Love thee more dearly.
Follow thee more nearly.
Day by Day.

This prayer has its origins in Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises. Here it is in Ignatius’ words:

104. Third Prelude. This is to ask for what I desire. Here it will be to ask for an intimate knowledge of our Lord, who has become man for me, that I may love Him more and follow Him more closely. (Ignatius)


The verse from II Timothy is about both a believing faith and a trusting faith. At a blog called Canadian Writers who are Christian, we read these words from Alan Reynolds:

…[W]e don’t trust someone unless we know her (or him), have been together and worked together and talked together. Faith is relational, a personal thing. It doesn’t come wrapped in fancy paper and fine ribbons like a present on one’s birthday — and all we have to do is break the ribbon and tear off the paper! It’s not like buying a new car — shopping around until you decide what model you want, then going in and making a deal, paying the money down, and driving away.

This faith of which I speak is a quiet thing. For most of us, it has a quiet beginning. It grows through the years, often imperceptibly from day to day and week to week. We can’t create faith, or command it. It is the gift of God. But we can receive it, and nurture it. And if we don’t, it withers and dies.

Some of us enjoy gardening — digging in the earth and cultivating, planting and watering and fertilizing and weeding. We give our gardens every care.

Faith is rather like that. Nothing we can do will make a seed come to life and grow. Only God can do that. But if we don’t tend that seed which God’s Word has planted in our hearts, if we don’t care for it and nurture it, it’s not going to amount to much. If we let the weeds get ahead of us, or if we neglect to nourish and water regularly, then the plant which is our faith will wither and perhaps will die. And when we need it and turn to it, as we all do sooner or later, we find that there is nothing there…

Read more:

October 11, 2016

The Five Warnings of Hebrews

I noticed these in the NIV Study Bible on the weekend. I figured I was not the first, and found this article at the website  The passages are given a general introduction and then there are links to five additional articles.

The Five Warning Passages of Hebrews

Some of the more difficult and troubling aspects of Hebrews are the sometimes sharply worded warnings to the readers in five separate passages.

On a plain reading they seem to imply the possibility that Christian believers can commit apostasy, that is, fall away from Christ and faith. This, however, hits squarely at one of the noisiest and sometimes bitter debates between Christian factions:

  • Calvinists deny that true Christians can commit apostasy and lose their salvation, stressing the final perseverance of the saints.
  • Arminians agree that true Christians can indeed commit apostasy and lose their salvation, stressing the free will of man.

As I. Howard Marshall suggests, advocates of one position or the other tend to base their doctrine “on philosophical and dogmatic grounds.”* The way forward for us is not to carry on the debate, but to sincerely and humbly consider the warnings in Hebrews — in the context they are given — and then try to form tentative conclusions.

We won’t all agree in our conclusions. Fair-minded, Christ-loving, Spirit-filled believers differ on these matters. Instead of trying to bash the other side, we will pursue humility towards one another, humility as we approach the Letter of Hebrews, and humility before God. In that humility and love, we will grow in our faith and exemplify the love we profess in Christ.

For your benefit, I’ll include each of the shorter passages in the NIV translation here so you can compare them. For discussion, see the appropriate lessons in which they are discussed.

1. Hebrews 2:1-4

1We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”

2. Hebrews 4:12-13*

12For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

3. Hebrews 6:4-8

4It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

7Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.”

4. Hebrews 10:26-31

26If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

5. Hebrews 12:25-29

25See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken–that is, created things–so that what cannot be shaken may remain.”

* I. Howard Marshall, Kept by the Power of God: A Study of Perseverance and Falling Away (Second Edition; Bethany Fellowship, 1969, 1974), p. 26.

Passage Discussed in
1. Hebrews 2:1-4 Lesson 1
2. Hebrews 4:12-13 Lesson 3
3. Hebrews 6:4-8 Lesson 5
4. Hebrews 10:26-31 Lesson 9
5. Hebrews 12:25-29 Lesson 12

The best book I’ve seen that fairly lays out the main views of these warnings and points out the strengths and weaknesses of each position is Herbert W. Bateman IV (ed.), Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews (Kregel, 2007)

In the NIV Study Bible, the second warning is a broader passage encompassing 3:7 – 4:13 of which I’ve included a few verses below:

Hebrews 3:7-8

So, as the Holy Spirit says:

“Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
    during the time of testing in the wilderness, …”

October 10, 2016

Why Do You Feel You Must Respond?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
Tags: , , ,

Today we pay a return visit to the blog of Neal Pollard who is in pastoral ministry in Colorado. Click the title to read at source; there’s a lot of great material waiting for you at his site.

Answering Our Accusers

There was a time when it was possible to engage in respectful, loving dialogue with brothers and sisters we disagreed with or had a problem with. Even if we felt passionately, we could discuss it civilly and retain or even strengthen our relationship with our “disputant.” We should be thankful that there are still many who are open to such a biblical methodology.  However, there are some who seem intent only on winning the day, seizing some perceived moral or doctrinal high ground, or championing what appears to be a self-serving cause. Some of these same individuals are rife with rancorous rhetoric, baiting or calling out those they seem to see as enemies or the guilty. When we are called out, are we scripturally obligated to answer them or defend ourselves? Or, as the late Wendell Winkler put it, are we simply giving them a platform to spread their extreme views?

For the minority of brethren whose minds are made up, no matter what, or who seem eager to tangle, the question is whether or not it is necessary or helpful to answer their accusations.  I realize there were circumstances like 2 Corinthians where Paul, who was innocent, wrote by inspiration to defend himself. But I also remember when the Lord stood before Herod, Pilate and the Jews and “answered…nothing” (Mat. 27:12; Mark 15:3,5; Luke 23:9; Isa. 53:7). While none of us are nearly so good as our Lord, He is the example we are to strive to follow (1 Pet. 2:21). Before answering an accuser, it is wise to determine the following:

  • What is my motivation for answering? Is it to save face for myself? Is it to somehow punish or put my accusers in their place? Is it to prove I’m right and they are wrong? Pride, anger, and hurt feelings are not proper motivations for answering an accuser.
  • What do I hope to accomplish by answering? Will I change their minds or those to whom they pander? Are they actually desirous of an answer? Will I rescue my reputation or harm it by going to their level?
  • What are the ethics of my accusers? Is this a hobby or obsession of theirs (i.e., do they have a pattern and history of doing this with others)? Do they have the facts straight? Do they assert things as facts that are quantifiably wrong? If so, will they deal honestly with the answers I give them or twist them to suit their own agenda?

Here is the judgment call we have to make. Solomon gives divergent advice in Proverbs 26 when he says, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes” (4-5). Sometimes you do, and sometimes you don’t.  Perhaps the Lord has placed that ball in our court, trusting us to use our judgment. If my Lord’s name and cause is threatened, I will be ready to jump to His defense. If someone tries to do that with my name, I should be more careful and if this is a means to allow the common sense observer to look at both of our works and discern each of our characters, may I have the patience and maturity to see it as an opportunity to fulfill Matthew 5:38-48. We don’t have to attend every fight people goad us to join.

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