Christianity 201

October 18, 2019

We are Not Consumed

Six months ago we introduced you to Maryann and her blog, Searching for Treasures. It’s been six months, and we thought we’d drop in again. Maryann is currently working her way through key verses in Lamentations, a book often neglected. The two I have chosen are recent, but not consecutive, so I strongly urge you to visit the site, and even subscribe during this series. You may also click the headers for the articles which follow.

Lamentations 3

“Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed…” (Lamentations 3:22a).

We are not consumed by grief. We are not consumed by sorrow. We are not consumed by loss. We are not consumed by anger. We are not consumed by brokenness. We are not consumed by addictions. We are not consumed by depression. We are not consumed by anxiety. We are not consumed by disappointments. We are not consumed by discouragement. We are not consumed by disillusionment. We are not consumed by hopelessness. We are not consumed by lies. We are not consumed by cynicism. We are not consumed by naysayers. We are not consumed by condemnation. We are not consumed by false accusations. We are not consumed by rejection. We are not consumed by loneliness. We are not consumed by abandonment.

“…for his compassions never fail.” (Lamentations 3:22b).

His unfailing love and mercy never fail. His steadfast love and loyalty never cease. His faithfulness continues and goes on and on, as sure as the sun will rise every morning.

Our hope is in him, so let us go to him (3:40).

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, that the darkness cannot consume the light. Thank you that the light will always overcome the darkness. Thank you that, no matter what, your mercy still continues on for me and for all your people. I cling to your never-failing, never-ending, everlasting love.

Lamentations 5

“Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old,” (Lamentations 5:21).

There was sin and brokenness all around Jerusalem, and the author enumerates them for us.  There was homelessness (5:2), broken families (5:3), thirst and drought ((5:4), persecution (5:5), exhaustion (5:5), famine (5:6), oppression (5:8), danger (5:9), hunger and starvation (5:10), abuse and violation (5:11), disrespect (5:12), hard labor (5:13), lack of true leadership (5:14), depression and mourning (5:15), disillusionment (5:17), emptiness (5:18), abandonment (5:20), and a loss of hope (5:22).

Such realities are familiar to us as well.  And because all this brokenness can feel so overwhelming, we are often tempted to bury it and deny its existence.  But that doesn’t get us anywhere.  The author of Lamentations teaches us to turn to God (5:1), acknowledge all the issues—all the grief and loss (5:2-22), and then confess also how we contribute to the systemic brokenness (5:7, 16).  And, while we do this, the author demonstrates to us that we can also admit our doubts about God’s love and faithfulness.  We can cry out to him that it definitely seems like he’s forgotten and abandoned his people (5:20).  We can say all these things, because God is big enough to hold all our emotions.  He knows about the pain and loss.  He understands the anger and heartache.  So, we can pray honestly.  And, in time, through this honest wrestling, we will be able to recognize his sovereign reign and his ability to lead us to restoration once again (5:19, 21).

Prayer:  Oh, God, the brokenness around me is too much.  I lament all that is damaged and all that is hurting all around me.  Come, Lord, forgive us and rescue us.  Restore us, redeem us, free us, and make us whole again.  We want to return to you with all our hearts, because we love you.  And we know that you love us.  Amen.

 

 

October 17, 2019

Are Non-Christians Thankful for Christians?

by Clarke Dixon

(This “Shrunk Sermon” is from a series on The Book of Daniel which begins here)

As we celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving this past weekend, we might wonder if anyone expressed thanks for Christians. Would such a notion have entered anyone’s head? If you keep up with the media, you might think no one could be thankful for Christians. We only hear about the bad apples among the clergy and the mistakes of high profile Christians. We don’t typically hear about all the good that is done. TV shows often portray Christians as being the bad guys, the weird or scary people. Perhaps it would be a miracle if someone said “I’m grateful for Christians.”

We have such a miracle in Daniel chapter 2. In the opening chapter of Daniel the ruling Babylonians attempted to turn wise young Jewish men into good Babylonian wisemen. However, Daniel and his friends were determined to retain their Jewish identity and dependence upon God. Surely this is not going to end well! There is indeed a clash of world-views in chapter 3, but something remarkable happens before that:

46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar threw himself down before Daniel and worshiped him, and he commanded his people to offer sacrifices and burn sweet incense before him. 47 The king said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is the greatest of gods, the Lord over kings, a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this secret.”

48 Then the king appointed Daniel to a high position and gave him many valuable gifts. He made Daniel ruler over the whole province of Babylon, as well as chief over all his wise men. 49 At Daniel’s request, the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be in charge of all the affairs of the province of Babylon, while Daniel remained in the king’s court. Daniel 2:46-49 (NLT)

The Babylonian king is obviously very thankful and very impressed not just with Daniel, but with the God Daniel serves. Daniel alone was able to help the king. Despite the fact Daniel was different, and from a minority group, Nebuchadnezzar is impressed, and thankful.

Back to our day where Christianity no longer has the influence it once did: Could anyone be impressed with, or thankful for, Christians? Let us look to another time in which Christianity had even less influence in society. Was anyone impressed with, or thankful for, Christians in New Testament times?

Some people in Jewish and Roman society were not impressed at all, and certainly not thankful. Consider Jewish religious leaders, like Saul before he became a Christian. He would have liked the Jesus followers to just go away and take their Christianity with them. Consider merchants dependent upon the sale of idols, such as we read of in Acts 19. As Christians didn’t spend their money on idols, the idol merchants were becoming idle merchants as people turned to Jesus. Consider people who liked the status quo, like those we read about in Acts 17.

Was anyone grateful for Christians in New Testament times?

Yes, let us consider some examples. Consider people who were poor, who would have benefitted greatly from the kind of help we read about in Acts 2. Consider women whose husbands became Christians and put a new effort into loving them sacrificially (see Ephesians 5:25-33). Consider women whose husbands became Christians and now focused their sexuality in faithful and selfless ways (see Hebrews 13:4). Consider slave masters whose slaves became Christians and began serving them as if they were rendering service to God (see Acts 6:5-8). Consider slaves whose masters became Christians and began treating them like brothers and sisters (see Ephesians 6:9, and the Book of Philemon). Consider people of lower classes who found themselves on equal footing with people of higher classes in the church community (see Galatians 3:28). We can think of women who were affirmed in greater ways than ever before (see Mary’s commendation by Jesus for taking the place of a disciple Luke 10:38-42). We can think of anyone dependent upon someone, who, in becoming a Christian, had given up drunkenness (see Ephesians 5:18). We can think of infants of parents who formerly would have “exposed” their children, a practice of letting unwanted infants die. We can think of anyone in relationship with someone whose activity, and very character, was changing as they grew in their relationship with Christ:

19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:19-23 (NLT emphasis added)

Though certain people were unimpressed and not at all grateful for Christians in New Testament times, many would have been thrilled at the changes happening as a Christians lived Jesus-focused and Spirit-filled lives. There were also people who were thankful for everything changing in their own lives. Consider the gratitude of those who came to know about the love of God because a Christian shared the good news with them (See, for example, Acts 16:25-34).

As in New Testament times, some are neither impressed with, nor thankful for, Christians today. However, when we live Jesus-focused and Spirit-filled lives, good things happen in us, and around us. Jesus-focused ethics bring positive changes to our behaviour. The Holy Spirit creates positive changes in us. Many will be grateful.

We may have expected a clash between a Babylonian king and a young Jewish wiseman in the Book of Daniel. Instead, we have an expression of gratitude from Nebuchadnezzar for Daniel. Let us keep in mind that Daniel appeared before the king, not with an axe to grind, but with help. In our day we might expect a culture clash as traditional Christian values meet the brave new world that is developing around us. If all we have is an axe to grind, that clash will certainly happen. However, if we are living Jesus-focused, Spirit-filled lives, people will be thankful.

 

October 16, 2019

Fear Makes the World Darker

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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We’re back again featuring the writing of Sarah Jo at Blind Insanity. Again, support our writers by clicking the headers (below) to read items at source.


The Truth About Fear and Darkness

Fear makes things seem darker than they really are; like the open closet door as you’re trying to fall asleep or the tree line as you’re driving home. The power of fear is not in the depths of its shadows, but in the one who gives those shadows life: you and me. We are responsible for the power of fear, and, in and of ourselves, we are incapable of overcoming it.

So many people feel suffocated by fear; it steals their joy and takes away what good they have. But here is the truth about fear… Like darkness, fear cannot spread. All it can do is sit, and it will do so until you choose to turn on the light and take a step of faith toward safety… People can run in fear, but they can’t outrun fear, because it lies within them. But those who run to safety, to the light, run with the courage and faith that their darkness will be overcome… By intentionally running toward what they need (light, safety), fear is left behind; traded in for faith.

The incredible thing about light is that it’s always in motion. If you run toward it, it is also running toward you at 299,792,458 meters per second; light will hit you long before you can reach its source. Though we are incapable of defeating fear and darkness in and of ourselves, we have been given this incredible gift, light, which was created to defeat darkness and expunge fear.

The human body was never meant to live in the dark, but in the light. So, too, our souls were never meant to live in fear, but in faith in God’s Holy Son, Jesus Christ, Who is the Light of the world. Just like any light, His grace and salvation have the power to reach us when we are far from their source. All we have to do is take that step of faith and trust God. Like when the prodigal son returned to his Father, and his Father came running to him, so, too, does our Heavenly Father run to us.

For when we were yet without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly; for us. (Romans 5:6)

Too often, we let fear have its way in our lives and we surrender to darkness, as though the Son didn’t exist. But the Son is still shining. The darkness is not stronger than His Light. Fear and darkness have no power, except for what we give them. So, if we choose to give all glory, honor, praise, and faith to the Author of Light, to Jesus Christ, then we rob fear of its power and darkness of its hold.

Oh, may that be the story of all our lives.

“What is the way to the dwelling of light? As for darkness, where is its place, that you should take it to its bound, that you should discern the paths to its house?” (Job 38:19-20)

Jesus said to him, “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father, except through Me.” (John 14:6)

Again, therefore, Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I AM the light of the world. He who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him. Without Him was not anything made that has been made. In Him was life, and the Life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)

October 15, 2019

Glory Where Glory is Due

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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We’re back again at the site Don’t Ask The Fish, written by Florida pastor Dr. Tommy Kiedis.

How Will You Initial Your Work?

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.

— Romans 11:36 ESV

I cannot read music, but Bach’s compositions make perfect sense.

Johann Sebastian Bach has a staying power that is the envy of one-hit wonders and today’s pop idols. Here is what one said about Bach’s work, ‘Die Kunst der Fuge’ (‘The Art of the Fugue’),

His last great work is the complete summary of all his skill in counterpoint and fugue; methods which he perfected, and beyond which no composer has ever been able to pass.

Strong words!

There is no denying Bach’s genius. It is a gift of God. At the same time his compositions provide a clue as to his motivating drive. Bach would insert the letters SDG in the margin of his works. SDG is the abbreviation for the Latin Soli Deo Gloria (to the glory of God alone).

To the glory of God alone

David Platt writes, “While the goal of the American dream is to make much of us, the goal of the gospel is to make much of God.” Johann Sebastian Bach understood this, he embraced it, and he lived it. It is also what Paul teaches in his letter to the Romans:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:33-36 ESV

Bach signed his work, SDG — to the glory of God alone! How often I miss that. It is so easy to engage in working, parenting, studying, teaching, writing, playing, or even sharpening my gifts for God . . . and subtly (or not so subtly) write TK (Tommy Kiedis) in a John Hancock sized-script across the bottom.

How often I yearn for the glory.

Today can be different. So today I am going to initial this 24-hour composition SDG. God, may my motive be your glory alone!

How will you initial your work today?

A PRAYER: Lord, refresh me this morning. May your glory be my heart’s cry. May my attitudes, efforts, and actions help others to speak well of You!

__________________

“And beyond which …” from Baroque Composes And Musicians: Johann Sebastian Bach, in http://www.baroquemusic.org. Accessed October 17, 2010.

“While the goal of the American dream …” from David Platt, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From The American Dream, chapter three.

October 14, 2019

Refreshment

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Today we return for our every-six-months visit to a longstanding source of material here at C201, Jon Swanson’s blog 300 Words a Day. As always, click the header below to read at source.

Joining in the struggle

At the end of a letter, Paul wrote this:

I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there, so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed.

It’s a simple and understandable request for prayer. We might find it in any prayer letter from any missionary, any youth group fundraising letter, any letter from followers of Jesus in many parts of the world this morning: Pray that I will be kept safe, pray that I will get to come and see you.

It didn’t work. Not exactly. He went to Jerusalem. He was arrested. He was taken as a prisoner to Rome.

It did work. He wasn’t killed at several points. He was taken to Rome where he was, with joy, in their company, refreshed.

I think the most important part of his request to the church in Rome wasn’t the specific request of God. It was Paul’s request that they join him in his struggle by talking to God about him. He wanted them to be part of his team, to be interested in his progress, his safety, his effectiveness, his faith. It would mean that though they hadn’t ever seen him, they had a part in his work.

And as part of his team, they could ask God about keeping him safe and having influence.

There are people this morning you don’t know who would love you to join in their struggle. To own an interest in their obedience to God’s call for them. If you don’t have a name, simply do this: “God, there’s someone with the same kind of family situation I have, the same life calling I have, and they are in danger at this moment because of You. I want to be part of their struggle. Could you help them today?”

Some of the people who talked with God about Paul never met Paul. But apparently, he counted them as part of his team. And apparently, so did God.


When I’m weary from the fight
And trying to do what’s right
You bring times of refreshing to my soul

 

October 13, 2019

Jehovah Names of God

Today I’m repeating something from nine years ago, before we made it a house rule that posts here would generally be rooted in a particular scripture passage. So while we’re not addressing this passage directly — we have elsewhere — but it does tie in.

ESV.Ex.34.5 The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.

I have to confess, I’m not deeply absorbed in the statistics for this particular blog. Today I decided to see what the all-time most clicked things were, and this one came in 2nd. The blog is still available, but has been inactive for a couple of years.

Here it is as it appeared in November, 2010:


I’m always amazed at the number of people who haven’t — somewhere — encountered teaching on the various names given to God beginning with Jehovah and followed by a word which describes an aspect of God’s character and nature.

Pastor Mike Stone of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Georgia posted these on his blog, and I thought it would be good to reproduce them here as well. For those who want to dig a little deeper; the second-last one is also the title of a very old hymn, which is how I came to learn of these names while still a teenager.

Genesis 22 – Jehovah Jireh – The Lord, my Provider

Exodus 15 – Jehovah Rapha – The Lord who heals

Exodus 17 – Jehovah Nissi – The Lord, my banner

Exodus 31 – Jehovah M’Kaddesh – The Lord who sanctifies

Deuteronomy 33 – Jehovah Chereb – The Lord, my Sword

Deuteronomy 33 – Jehovah Magen – The Lord, my Shield

Judges 6 – Jehovah Shalom – The Lord, my Peace

1 Samuel 1 – Jehovah Sabaoth – Lord of the hosts of heaven

Psalm 3 – Jehovah Kahbodi – The Lord, my Glory

Psalm 10 – Jehovah Malech-Olam – The Lord who is king forever

Psalm 18 – Jehovah Chezeq – The Lord, my strength

Psalm 18 – Jehovah Misqabbi – The Lord, my strong tower

Psalm 18 – Jehovah Naheh – The Lord who smites the enemy

Psalm 18 – Jehovah Seli – The Lord, my Rock

Psalm 20 – Jehovah Hoshea – The Lord, my Savior

Psalm 23 – Jehovah Rohi – The Lord, my Shepherd

Psalm 24 – Jehovah Milchamma – The Lord, mighty in battle

Psalm 27 – Jehovah Ori – The Lord, my Light

Psalm 89 – Jehovah Gannan – The Lord who is my defense

Psalm 91 – Jehovah Machsi – The Lord my Refuge

Psalm 98 – Jehovah Hamelech – The Lord, my King

Isaiah 40 – Jehovah Bara – The Lord, my Creator

Isaiah 49 – Jehovah Goel – The Lord, my Redeemer

Jeremiah 16 – Jehovah Ma’oz – The Lord, my Fortress

Jeremiah 23 – Jehovah Tsidkenu – The Lord, my righteousness

Ezekiel 48 – Jehovah Shammah – The Lord who is present


Did you read the list? You’re not done yet.

Take a moment to really consider these aspects of God’s nature: Provider, healer, battle flag, sanctifier, sword, shield, peace, Lord of heaven, glory, king forever, strength, strong tower, victor over enemies, rock, savior, shepherd, great in battle, light, defense, refuge, King, creator redeemer, fortress, righteousness, always present.

Lastly repeat this list — out loud if you’re in a place that’s possible — with the word my in front of each adjective: My provider, my healer, my battle flag… etc.

October 12, 2019

A Canadian Thanksgiving Meditation and Liturgy

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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This is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. This year, Ruth decided that just as we mark the 40 days before Christmas with Advent anticipation, she would do the same for the days leading up to Thanksgiving here, and has been posting something different each day on her Facebook page.

The thoughts below are something different she plans to share with the congregation for the Thanksgiving Sunday service.

by Ruth Wilkinson

We cannot just “be thankful.” Gratitude doesn’t stand alone.

Gratitude is an emotional response, an intellectual choice that doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Like the ‘fruit of the Spirit’, thankfulness exists in relationship. It’s a link in a chain, connecting something we’re thankful for, to someone we’re thankful to.

We can be grateful to a spouse for helping us find our keys. To a teacher for giving us extra time to complete an assignment. To the fire fighters for putting out the fire.

Like any attribute or characteristic that God commands us to cultivate, gratitude can only truly exist in relationship with other people.

On Thanksgiving, we remind ourselves of our first and our ultimate relationship.


Don’t be deceived, my dearly loved brothers. Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning. By His own choice, He gave us a new birth by the message of truth so that we would be the firstfruits of His creatures.
James 1:16‭-‬18 HCSB

“Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little.”
Luke 7:47 HCSB

Give thanks to Yahweh, shout out His name;
declare what He is doing among the peoples of every nation.
Sing to Him, make music to Him; sing about how He shows Himself wonderful!
Boast of His holy reputation; let the hearts of those who seek to find Yahweh rejoice.
Seek to find the Lord and seek His strength; seek His presence always.
Remember the wonderful things He has done,
His wonders, and the justice He has spoken
He is the Lord our God.
Psalms 105:1‭-‬5 HCSB


In giving thanks, we must have something to be thankful for. We must have someone to give thanks to.

So when we ‘give thanks,’ what does that mean? What does it look like? How do we ‘give thanks?’

It looks different in each culture, in each family, in each relationship. There are many ways to say, “Thank you!”


We say “Thank you” first by accepting the gift. With open hands and humble hearts.
We say “Thank you” by saying the simple words “Thank you.”
We say “Thank you” by testifying, by telling someone about the goodness we’ve received.
We say “Thank you” by imitating that kindness, by sharing with others in need, out of our abundance and even in our own times of want.
We say “Thank you” by sharing our resources, giving to the work that we do together as God’s voice and hands in the world.


We say ‘Thank you’ –
to the one and only God,
to the giver of life,
to the blesser of days,
to the bringer of hope

We say, ‘Thank you’ –
for every grace overflowing,
for every need provided,
for every good work done well,
for every gift shared,
for every obedience to the gospel of Christ,
for every proof of love through service,
for every affection received,
for every prayer on our behalf.

We say ‘Thank you’ –
by speaking,
by sharing,
by going,
by giving,
by singing, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift
that He gives and gives and gives again.”

October 11, 2019

Practical Ways to Hear God’s Direction

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Several months ago we introduced you to the website Soul Shepherding and the ministry of Bill & Kristi Gaultiere. Click the header below to read this at source, and check out Soul Shepherding for ministry training resources.

Six Uncommon Methods to Hear God’s Voice

We all want to discern what God may be saying to us. Here are some uncommon, but proven methods for hearing God.

To be sure, these methods for hearing God are not a mechanical sort of process in which we put our prayers into the vending machine and out comes the answer we want! But neither can we be passive.

These spiritual practices will help to foster your attunement to the Holy Spirit so you’re prepared to hear God wh

1. LECTIO DIVINA

Benedict of Nursia (6th Century) developed Lectio Divina as a disciplined method for quietly and prayerfully re-reading a Scripture passage in order to receive God’s care and guidance. With each reading, a different focus question guides you to listen for a word/phrase, your emotions, and a personal invitation from the Spirit of Jesus.

With Soul Shepherding’s inspiring and handy “Lectio Divina Guides” you can pray Scripture to hear God’s voice.

       2. FASTING

Fasting from food (or something else) makes a space of time and energy for listening to God. It’s especially powerful when combined with feasting on God’s Word (Acts 13:2-4, 14:23).

Acts 13.2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

       3. LISTEN TO YOUR HEART

Many people trust their thoughts, but not their emotions. Yet, both are centers of intelligence and essential for discernment. The Psalmist trusts the Lord to counsel him in his heart, which is the source of his deepest desires (Psalm 16:7).

Ps.16.7 I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.

       4. DREAM INTERPRETATION  

God can speak in our dreams. In some cases, it’s a direct word, but more commonly it comes in a kaleidoscope of seemingly random emotional scenes that rise up from our unconscious mind. The meaning is probably more in the inward spiritual-emotional themes than the outward forms (Genesis 40:8; Daniel 1:17).

Gen.40.8b Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.”

Dan.1.17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

      5. INDIFFERENCE

In The Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius teaches that to know God’s will on an “election” (a choice that is not a moral issue) it’s best to become indifferent to the options. We abandon the outcomes to the Lord because we can be happy in Christ in any situation. Then like a weather vane we wait for the wind of the Spirit to blow us where he pleases.

       6. TAKE A BREAK

Dallas Willard teaches a paradoxical method to hear God. If you’ve spent concentrated time listening for God and haven’t heard anything then stop trying—take a break and do a mindless activity like gardening, doing chores, or running errands. (I like to go for a jog.) Later a divine thought or feeling may pop into your mind! This is waiting on the word (Psalm 25:5; 130:5).

Ps.130.5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.

Help for Hearing God’s Voice

To help you sense God’s presence and guidance in your life and ministry we have created three Bible meditation resources filled with easy to use and engaging one-page guides: “Ignatian Meditation Guides,” “Lectio Divina Guides,” and “Breath Prayer Guides.”


BONUS ARTICLE: I invite you to also consider another article by the same authors, Surprising Lessons on Leadership from Jesus.

October 10, 2019

Behold Your King! Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel and Power

by Clarke Dixon

“Behold your king!” This is how a cat would probably want to be introduced into a home. When we introduced a cat recentlyIMG_0281.jpeg, the dogs were terrified at first! Thankfully, they are now friends. People throughout history have clamored for power and authority. Unfortunately, many have been terrified and terrorized as a result. Perhaps you know someone who likes to be introduced with “behold your king.” Perhaps it is you.

We like power. We don’t like being at the losing end of power. We may feel that certain people have power over us in some way. We may feel like we have lost power due to situations, whether financial or health related. Cancer may seem to have all the control, for example. Power itself is neither good, nor bad. Power and influence can be a wonderful life-giving gift. Good things happen when influencers influence well. Power can also be a terribly destructive problem. How shall we deal with power, whether our influence over others, or their influence over us?

The concept of power is central to the Book of Daniel. The Babylonian empire has it all. God’s exiled people seem to have none. The Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, has it all. Daniel and his friends seem to have none. God speaks into this power arrangement through a dream to Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel, chapter 2. Daniel is given the interpretation to share with the king.

Now imagine you are the king. Imagine how great you would feel when Daniel begins the interpretation of your dream like this:

37 Your Majesty, you are the greatest of kings. The God of heaven has given you sovereignty, power, strength, and honor. 38 He has made you the ruler over all the inhabited world and has put even the wild animals and birds under your control. You are the head of gold. Daniel 2:36-38 (NLT)

Wow! You are something else indeed! The top dog, the ruler, the “greatest of kings,” the “head of gold.” Yes, the king has great power. But do you notice something subtle within the interpretation? However powerful the king is, God is more powerful. The king only rules because God allows it. There are two things to note.

First, since God has given Nebuchadnezzar power, the king is accountable to God. Even the king is accountable to Someone in how he uses his power. King David of Israel knew this when he said “The LORD is my shepherd” in Psalm 23. David was not just referring to God’s care for him when he called God his shepherd. He was looking to God as his king, as the One he was accountable to, as the more powerful One.

Every person of influence is accountable to God. We all have influence of some sort. We do well to call upon God as our shepherd. Is our influence in line with God’s leading? Are we using power in ways, and towards ends, that are in line with God’s Kingdom? Is the Lord our shepherd as we influence? Look around at the current leaders of our world. Are they being led by the Shepherd?

Second, since there is Someone more powerful than the king, the king’s power is limited. This would have been a comforting thought to God’s people in exile as they lived under Nebuchadnezzar’s power. It will all turn out how God says, not Nebuchadnezzar. This is still a comforting thought in our day. Someone is in charge Who has greater power than anyone or anything exercising power over us. It will all turn out how God says it will, not how cancer says it will, or addiction, or any kind of disease or troubling situation in our lives. All powers are limited. God’s power is not.

There is something else worth noting in the interpretation:

39 “But after your kingdom comes to an end, another kingdom, inferior to yours, will rise to take your place. After that kingdom has fallen, yet a third kingdom, represented by bronze, will rise to rule the world. 40 Following that kingdom, there will be a fourth one, as strong as iron. That kingdom will smash and crush all previous empires, just as iron smashes and crushes everything it strikes. Daniel 2:39-40 (NLT)

The king’s power is only temporary. There will be other kingdoms. Nebuchadnezzar’s  rule will end up being really only a “blip” in the history of the world. All rulers, kingdoms, empires, and governments are only temporary.  All shall all give way someday. But there is a Kingdom that is everlasting:

44 “During the reigns of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever. 45 That is the meaning of the rock cut from the mountain, though not by human hands, that crushed to pieces the statue of iron, bronze, clay, silver, and gold. The great God was showing the king what will happen in the future. The dream is true, and its meaning is certain.” Daniel 2:44-45 (NLT)

There is a Kingdom that is everlasting, because its King is eternal. The rock which smashes the statue is uncut by human hands, in contrast to the statue which is fashioned by human hands. It is God’s Kingdom. God sets up His Kingdom in contrast to the empires and kingdoms which people create.

There are differing interpretations around the identity of the empires represented in the statue of Nebuchandezzar’s dream. We can be quite certain, though, that the kingdom of God is to be identified with Jesus:

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:14-15 (NIV)

36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” John 18:36 (NIV)

All empires and kingdoms are only temporary. Any destructive power that is over us, is only temporary. This would have been a hope filled message for God’s people in exile. This too, shall pass. This is still a hope filled message for us when our troubles seem unending. This too shall pass. All troubling powers overs us shall be replaced with God’s future for us.

We should also recognize that any influence we have is only temporary. Therefore, who’s kingdom is it better for us to invest in? Our own? Or God’s? There is a contrast in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream between what humans can accomplish, and what God can accomplish. When we build up an empire, it is something easily destroyed and replaced. When God builds a kingdom, it is eternal, and therefore worthy of our investment.

Like God’s people in exile, when someone else’s power and influence threatens our destruction, we look to the coming Kingdom. All earthly powers are limited and temporary. This, of course, also means that our own power is also limited and temporary. Therefore we do well to harness our influence for God’s Kingdom purposes.

(This “Shrunk Sermon” is from a series on The Book of Daniel which begins here)

October 9, 2019

As Often as Fear Knocks, The Lord is Near

Today we’re back again at The Serener Bright, and writer Ian Graham. Click the title below to read this at source where Ian posts periodically through the Psalms.

Psalm 34: Weathered Hope

Psalm 34 is the testimony of a weathered, God-facing life. Its fine-wine wisdom, aged and oaken, each note bearing witness to years, disappointments, but ultimately the triumph of a long and loving obedience in the same direction. David begins with his resolution:

I will bless the Lord at all times (v. 3).

This seems like the naive proclamations of over-eager youth. But as we will see, this promise has gray hair and experience. This is not a decision that has been made in a fleeting moment but the accumulated awareness of what it means to live life looking to God with radiant, expectant, unashamed eyes (v. 5). This proclamation is not a conversation that David began, it’s an answering word, a response to steadfast and unfailing love, of a man who knows that God not only can save him but also actually enjoys being in his company.

David then recounts his past:

I sought the Lord and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears (v. 4).

David’s not recalling one isolated incident. Think of how fear works. It labors endlessly, it’s never far and its work is never done. But David is here to tell us, as often as the fear comes knocking, as often as the pain of this world shows up with its very real terror and its false gospel of doom and despair, the Lord is always near to the brokenhearted (v. 17). When your spirit is crushed under the agony of anxiety, even if all you can muster is a faint groan, a longing too deep for words and too broken for articulation, the Lord will answer your cry (v. 17).

David doesn’t discount the reality of the fears that faces us. Many of them are venomous, injecting the most bitter poisons of loss, bitterness, and disillusionment. But what he suggests is that those fears are real in the same way a black hole is real. In black holes, gravity accelerates at such a pace that no particles or light can escape. Fear does this too. It traps us in its vortex of nothingness.

But what David proclaims is Gospel. Salvation. God is present even in the places where nothing escapes, he can hear our cry because he is not beyond the black hole of despair, he is right there with us.

David then teaches us a “holy fear” a fear with actual weight to it: the fear of the Lord. The first invitation David offers is simply a practice of the presence of God. “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (v. 8). Like any good thing we taste, it perpetuates a longing for more. Fear of the Lord is not a fear that alienates us from God, it aligns us with the rhythms of grace. David then shows us more by offering his second invitation, “Depart from evil, do good, seek peace and pursue it” (v. 14). Fear of the Lord is being remade again in his image, excavating the goodness of the architecture of our world, turning from the ways of figs and leaves, of shame and fear, to the abundance of shalom. David says, here, in this way is life. And I know because I’ve seen it all.

Finally, David offers one stern warning and one resounding promise. As David writes, “Evil brings death to the wicked, and those who hate righteousness will be condemned.” It’s not that God is up in some far-off heaven with his eternal ledger—as we’ve already seen he’s near to the brokenhearted. God is life. His ways are the only way to sustain life. Any way opposed to his is to choose death. Any other way than God’s way folds in on itself. But for those who serve the Lord, who seek his face, and take refuge in his grace, the Lord will redeem your life, there is no condemnation (v.22)

The apostle Paul will later pick up on this echo in his letter to the Romans. In Romans 8, he will write, “Now there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1) and “nothing that can ever separate us from his love.” (Rom. 8vv38-39).

Yes hardship, pain, fear, loss, and ultimately death will come to us all in this life. But David stands as a docent in the museum of grace: in every circumstance, even at our darkest hour, the Lord hears and he rescues (v. 17). Selah.

October 8, 2019

The Baptism of Repentance

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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by Russell Young

What is the difference between the baptism of John and that of Christ? The difference is quite important.

Israel used baptism for expiating a special transgression in relation to the so-called Levitical laws of purity but also to form a part of holy living and to prepare for the attainment of closer communion with God. They also used baptism in ritual cleansing ceremonies of Gentile proselytes. (Jewish Encyclopedia: Baptism, K. Kohler, S Krauss) The ritual would not have been foreign to the Jews of John’s day and depicted a thorough washing from sin.

John preached the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins to prepare the way for the Lord. (Mk 1:4) In preparing for Christ, he made clear the need for repentance and offered baptism as a means of attaining closer communion with God through washing and holy living.

To baptize means “to whelm, i.e. cover wholly with a fluid”, and John’s baptism would have offered purification of the whole body through its whelming or immersion in water. It would have presented the repentant with an opportunity for cleansing and a closer walk with God through holy living. These, of course, are the teachings of the Lord. When Jesus sent out his disciples two by two, they were sent to preach repentance. (Mk 6:12)

John addressed some Pharisees and Sadducees who sought him out, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” (Mt 3:7) And told them to ”produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Mt 3:8) The quest of these Jewish leaders, according to Paul, was to escape “the coming wrath” so there must have been some recognition of their need and of his efficacy. The value of their baptism would have covered the sins of their repentance and would have directed them to Christ as their redeemer. Although John’s baptism was useful, it did not accomplish their full need because it addressed transgression of covenant law. Even so, his teaching aroused awareness of Christ and the justification that he offered through faith. “So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.” (Gal 3:24) The purpose of the law was to convict the Jews of their sin and to lead them to repentance and to Christ. Justification following baptism would have been through the fruit of righteousness produced through their deeds. (Jas 2:24) John’s baptism offered a bridge in understanding between that of the rabbis and that of Christ. John prepared the way.

Jesus felt it necessary to be baptized by John “to fulfill all righteousness.” (Mt 3:15) What did he mean? He had lived a life free of sin, so repentance was not in order. The answer comes in what followed his baptism. Heaven was opened, and the Spirit of God descended like a dove and lighted on him. And God said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Mt 3:17) Jesus, the Son of Man, came into possession of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is needed to sanctify—to enlighten, to lead and to empower for righteousness. Even Christ, the Son of Man, needed the Spirit’s power to carry out his public ministry and to sustain victory over the evil one and the flesh. “[God’s] Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead.” (Rom 1:3−4) Had he sinned he would not have been resurrected.

Repentance addresses past sin; a person cannot repent for things that have not happened. However, sin needs to be avoided throughout a person’s earthly life. More than forgiveness is needed. Paul summed up his ministry by testifying, “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.(Acts 26:20) And to the Romans, he stated, “if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:13−14) Victory must be gained through the Spirit’s life-giving ministry (Jn 6:63) accompanied by repentance for sin when it is known and has not been deliberately continued by defying the Spirit.

John taught his listeners, “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Mt 3:11) To be baptized in the Holy Spirit means to be immersed or whelmed by the Spirit. He is to be in control and the very life of the confessor. He or she will also be baptized with fire. Christ said, “Everyone will be salted with fire.” (Mk 9:49) Salt is a purifier and so is fire. Peter wrote of the griefs through all kinds of trials that may come so that faith may be proved genuine and of more worth than gold refined by fire. (1 Pet 1:6−7). And, Paul wrote that the quality of each man’s work will be tested by fire. (1 Cor 3:13) Fire is meant to burn up and destroy impurities, that which is not suitable for God’s kingdom. Each person will be baptized with fire at points in their earthly experience and at their judgment.

The forgiveness offered by John following repentance was enough to wash those baptized of their confessed sin; however, that offered by Christ provided the means of victory over sin’s practice as well, following a pardon. “And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:4) And it speaks of the refining that he provides to purify the body of its unrighteous interests. Those baptized are “raised” with Christ. (Col 2:12) “Raised” means ‘revived in resemblance’ to Christ and as long as they remain “in Christ” they will be refined and will keep that resemblance.

Baptism is still to be practiced. The Great Commission states, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Mt 28:18) Baptism is symbolic and visualizes death to the body and to its misdeeds of the one being baptized with the hope of resurrection that will follow. It is also a pledge to maintain a good conscience. (1 Pet 3:21).


Eternal Salvation - Russell Young - 2Russell Young is the author of Eternal Salvation — “I’m Okay, You’re Okay”– Really? (Lettra Press) and his writing appears here on alternate Tuesdays. Text citations above include italics added. 

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link. There is also an extended article at this link.

October 7, 2019

Choosing Not to See

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Today we’re returning to the devotional writing of Charles Price, Minister-at-Large for The Peoples Church in Toronto, Canada. To read more devotions by him, click this link. To read this one at source, click the header which follows. (This devotional also ties in with tomorrow’s topic.)

Hardened Heart

“…the others were hardened, as it is written: ‘God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear, to this very day.’”  —Romans 11:7-8

Like a king, Jesus rode triumphantly on a donkey into Jerusalem. Like a priest, Jesus went into the temple and drove out the merchants. And like a prophet, Jesus stood and taught in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes did not like what Jesus was doing but did not want to merely put a knife in Him, rather they wanted to legally bring Jesus to a point where they could get rid of Him. Therefore, one day, they challenged Jesus by asking, “Tell us by what authority You are doing these things…Who gave You this authority?” Instead of answering their question directly, Jesus gives them a question in return, “I will also ask you a question. Tell Me: John’s baptism––was it from heaven, or of human origin?” (Luke 20:2-4).

This question stumped the chief priests and the scribes. Not only was Jesus’s question a clever debating ploy, He posed that question to expose their lack of honesty and integrity, because these men were not dealing objectively with the facts. If these men were honest, they would have said, “We don’t want to answer this question,” since either answer would have got them into trouble. But they answered, “We don’t know where it was from” (Luke 20:7), which revealed their problem of failing to see the truth and failing to see who Jesus was because their hearts were hardened against it. The issue was not that they could not see but that they did not want to see.

The biggest barrier to Christ in many people is not the mind but the attitude. If their hearts are hardened against Him in the first place, their attitudes become hardened. We find this hardening process throughout the gospels, such as in Jesus’s miraculous feeding of the five thousand. Mark tells us, “for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened” (Mark 6:52). They had not been able to deduce any logical conclusions about who Jesus was when He miraculously fed them, not because they did not have eyes to see what was happening or did not participate in eating the bread and the fish, but because their hearts were hardened. It is much easier to teach an uninformed mind than to break a hardened heart. Yet, these hardened hearts are found throughout the New Testament.

As we honestly reflect on ourselves, what is our true heart condition before God? Is our heart open or hardened towards Jesus? May we ask God to open our eyes to understanding, break our hardened hearts and cause us to come into a living relationship with Him.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, open my eyes to see You, break my hardened heart and bring me into a living relationship with You. Thank You, Lord!


 

October 6, 2019

God: What He Did was Who He Is

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. – Hebrews 1:1-2 (NIV)

In my formative spiritual years, I remember hearing this:

We worship God for who he is.
We praise God for what he has done.

For some, the distinction may not be entirely clear as when we substitute the word thank as in:

We worship God for who he is.
We thank God for what he has done.

I was taught this in what we might call, for lack of a better term, an ecclesiastical setting; in other words, the intent of the speaker(s) was to communicate the difference between simply saying “thanks” versus bowing our hearts in total adoration for who God is; his power, might, majesty and… wait for it… his merciful love.

I get that.

But I think it also needs to be said that, long before the foundations of the earth were laid, it was part of God’s plan all along to make a way of atonement.

God didn’t simply wake up one morning (!) and say, “This sacrificial system isn’t working, we need to try something else.”

The broad story arc of the Bible points to the coming of a Savior. He didn’t simply know that this is where the story was going to lead, rather he had planned out that the opportunity for humankind to experience forgiveness that was both full and free was the direction of the story — the plot line — from the beginning. Dispensationalists call this “the age of grace.” I would call it the “age of atonement.” We went from having to cover our sins to having our sins be covered.

And here is my point:

This whole plan is a reflection not only of what God did — though it is certainly that — but also indicative of who God is.

His actions and his act of mercy toward we who are sinners are indistinguishable from his nature.

He is a God of love.

He is a God of mercy.

He always has been.

The LORD passed in front of Moses, calling out, “Yahweh! The LORD! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.  Exodus 34:6-7a (NLT)

When we consider God’s nature, we often end up at the big O-words — omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent — and can forget he is loving and merciful and in his ways that are far above our ways has devised a plan none of us could ever imagine.

For that we offer thanks; we offer worship; we offer ourselves.


Here are some thoughts on thanks from Ruth’s worship set this morning:

 

October 5, 2019

If People are Hungry for God, Is Higher Education Necessary?

Make an effort to present yourself to God as a tried-and-true worker, who doesn’t need to be ashamed but is one who interprets the message of truth correctly. – 2 Timothy 2:15 CEB

So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. – 2 Peter 1:10 NLT

Today’s post was originally scheduled to run in the early summer. It spent three months in a pending file. It was a heartfelt case for higher Christian education; over 1,200 words penned by an employee of a theological seminary. If you know the first of the two scriptures quoted above, you know that the Bible fully endorses training for ministry. One will often hear this verse quoted:

And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.  Acts 17:11 (NLT)

Possibly the first “discernment ministry” in scripture!

So I fully agree with training in ministry.

But today I trashed the entire post.

I felt that the writer simply had too narrow a view as to the people that God uses. Perhaps even people like you; the reader.

The first generation church narrative is known to us as The Book of Acts, or The Acts of the Apostles. It begins with God using a rag-tag bunch who Acts 4:13 describes in these terms:

The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.  (NLT)

Of course they had said the same thing about Jesus himself. In John 7:15 we’re told

The people were surprised when they heard him. “How does he know so much when he hasn’t been trained?” they asked. (NLT)

The problem that we encounter in the modern church is that we have so many people who have received so much training that it’s easy for the “lay people” to be easily intimidated. Those who don’t have the letters after their name. Those who can’t necessarily define all the big words. Those who don’t know the secret handshake.

It’s all about academia. This hit home in our family with full force this week — someone excluded from future ministry opportunities on academic grounds due to educational requirements — and I’ll tell that story at some point in the future on the other blog…

…Nine years ago we posted a song here titled Ordinary People by Danniebelle Hall. It was the only version we could find at the time, but I’m glad to see there’s now a studio version online. I like the bridge of the song especially:

Just like that little lad
who gave Jesus all he had
How the multitude was fed
with a fish and loaves of bread
What you have may not seem much
but when you yield it to the touch
of the Master’s loving hand
then you will understand
how your life could never be the same

The purpose of this is not to undermine the role of formal theological study. I am a book guy. I believe in training. I believe in the mentoring that takes place through formal programs of study.

But I also believe our modern church should make way for those people whose life journey and natural gifting have combined to give them what the early Calvary Chapel movement would — when setting people apart for ministry — refer to as a ‘proven ministry.’

Recently a well known megachurch posted the job of senior pastor. I inwardly rejoiced that they set no specific educational standard. But one respected writer noted that the church in question “wants a leader who is both theologically grounded and (or but) that person does not need a theological degree. That’s a very very rare combination. So rare that this… job description is stomping recklessly on thin ice.” Seeing this as symptomatic of larger problem — and one which I would not necessarily disagree — he added that, “those who devalue theology don’t think theology is needed.”

So training needs to be seen as normative, but our title question concerned whether it is necessary, and I would want to argue that it is not in all cases.

He chooses people,
just like me and you
who are willing
to do what he commands


 

 

October 4, 2019

John’s Post-Ascension Encounter with His Rabbi

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:29 pm
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Today we’re back again at First 15 which is designed for the first 15 minutes of your day, and can be delivered direct to your phone or tablet. The devotional’s main partners are: All Shores Wesleyan Church, First Baptist Church Universal City and Mississippi College. Each day’s devotional is divided into a number of parts including a worship music video which I haven’t included here to encourage you to click the header below and read this at their site.

God’s Heart to Meet with Man: John on Patmos

Scripture

“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.” Revelation 1:17-19

Devotional

The story of John receiving the book of Revelation from Jesus brings tears to my eyes. I imagine an isolated, weary, and lonely John on Patmos spending his days waiting until he gets to be with his beloved Jesus again. I imagine his heart yearning just to see his friend and Savior. And suddenly, after years of serving Jesus, he appears to John once again, his Lord and King standing before him, speaking to him that which will be the final words of Scripture. In Revelation 1:12-20, John records Jesus coming to meet with him, saying:

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”

Imagine the joy and awe in John’s heart as his Rabbi Jesus reveals himself in glory to once again share with him history-altering revelation. Imagine the passion John would feel as his last days, which he thought he would spend alone in exile, are interrupted by a final chapter of kingdom work delivered straight from the mouth of his Savior.

God loves to interrupt the seasons of our lives in which we feel most lost with glorious encounters with him. He loves to re-purpose us for incredible kingdom work just where we thought we were most useless. He longs to meet with us and envision us for his plans to bring his kingdom to earth. No matter where you are or how old you are, God has tremendous plans in store for all those who will serve him. There is no work he gives us too small. There is no time in our lives that we are unusable. There is no age in which we are to stop being used by our Savior. Jesus longs to meet with you today and tell you of his plans for salvation. He longs to empower you to do a mighty work for his kingdom. He longs for you to see his kingdom come to earth all the days of your life until you take your final breath here and wake up with him. May you receive and share the revelation Jesus gives you today with a world that desperately needs to know him.

Prayer

1. Meditate on God’s heart to meet with you in every season of your life. Allow Scripture to fill you with faith and desire to meet with your King today.

“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Jeremiah 33:3

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” John 16:13

“Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!” 1 Chronicles 16:11

2. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you afresh today. Open your heart and receive him that you might live empowered to see the kingdom of God come to earth.

3. Ask God what it is he would have you do today. How does he want to use you to advance his kingdom on the earth?

“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10

Go

What an incredible gift that God would choose to use us for his kingdom purposes. You and I can have a real, eternal impact on the earth. No matter what our age or past failures, God longs to use us. And through the coming of the Holy Spirit, we have God dwelling within us. The same God who raised Christ Jesus from the grave, empowered the disciples for miraculous works, and has been at the root of every great spiritual awakening dwells within us. May you allow God to use you in mighty and powerful ways today to spread the gospel of love everywhere you go.


Extended Reading: Matthew 6
or watch The Bible Project’s video on Matthew 1-13.

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