Christianity 201

October 29, 2018

The Value of Road Blocks

Today for something a little different, we’re going to return to Jon Swanson’s site, 300 Words a Day, but we’re going to add a little of the linked scripture passages, because, well, let’s just say we can tell who clicked what by looking at our stats page!  (I have been guilty of this myself over the years, only reading the commentary without clicking through to the passages; or just reading the key verse in a print devotional, but not the entire recommended section listed on the page.) Remember, you’ll still want to read the full texts which are linked in each paragraph.

Click the title below to read at source, and then you can navigate to Jon’s site where hopefully, you will click the links provided!

Road Blocks

A road block is an event or object that makes us stop moving. A tree that has fallen across the road can be a literal road block.  So can the sarcastic comment that interrupts our train of thought, the clogged drain in the tub, and the paperwork that we didn’t expect which has to be completed by tomorrow morning.

I want to think about the value of road blocks, but I encourage you to not read this if you are currently stopped by a road block. (You’ll get frustrated).

Road blocks let us test our reactions and responses.When I get frustrated that everything is spilling some mornings, I eventually have to step back and say, “why is this bothering me so much?” It’s one reason James tells us to value the trials we face because they can, when reflected on, help us discern what is going on in our hearts.

NIV.James.1.2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Road blocks allow us to be creative. Some obstacles invite us to find different solutions. Zaccheus wanted to see Jesus. There were crowds. There was a tree. He climbed the tree.

NASB.Luke.19.3 Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way.

Road blocks remind us to rest. I suppose this is related to the idea of reflection, but if we find ourselves frustrated or angry or overwhelmed, we may need a nap, a snack, a walk. It may not be our road black to remove. Or it may, but not now. Or it may, but tomorrow, when we’re rested.

NIV.Ps.4.1 Answer me when I call to you,
    my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
    have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

Road blocks invite us to focus  Some obstacles remind us that what we are doing is valuable. We are invited to devote more focus to the task at hand and ignore the distractions. As Nehemiah said, “I am doing a great work. I cannot come down.”

NASB.Neh.6.2 then Sanballat and Geshem sent a message to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together at Chephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they were planning to harm me. So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”


Here’s a CCM classic from Andrae Crouch. I thought of this song because of the verse:

I thank God for the mountains
and I thank him for the valleys
and I thank him for the storms he’s brought me through
for if I’d never had a problem
I’d never know that God could solve ’em.
I’d never know what faith in his word can do.

For those of you who’d prefer a more modern song, here’s Matt Redman. The lyrics begin,

Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us…

…Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

October 28, 2018

To Look into the Depths of God

NIV.John.3.1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again…5 Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit…   12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?16 For God so loved the world that he gave…”

Those 3-D Computer Generated Picture Things at the Mall

by Ruth Wilkinson

You know the ones? They look like an explosion at the pixel factory, unless you stand just so far away and refocus your eyes just right and for just long enough that a 3-D panorama leaps out, thrilling and amazing all.


Except me. I can’t do it. I’ve tried starting with my nose almost touching the glass and slowly backing away. I’ve tried gently relaxing the muscles in my eyes. I’ve tried defocusing, unfocusing, disfocusing — everything. My husband and kids go from one to the next, saying, “Hey, cool! This one’s a cow! This one’s a space ship! This one’s the ceiling of St. Peter’s Basilica, complete with Michelangelo, paintbrush in hand!”

I’m still standing there crossed-eyed and head-achy looking at an explosion at the pixel factory.

I think it would have been better if I didn’t know. At face value, they’re visually interesting; a collage of images and colours, almost a pattern, but not quite. I could enjoy them that way.

But I do know and I’m missing something. Something my family sees, but I don’t. They tell me it’s there and, for them, it is. But not for me. I want it to be. I’d like to get it. They patiently try to help and advise. They really want me to get it, too. So I keep looking.

Nicodemus was like that. John, who was one of Jesus’ closest friends while he was on earth, tells us that Nicodemus was a Pharisee; one of a group who were deeply passionate about their faith. They knew the good that God had for His people and how much He loved them. But they had some very real and legitimate concerns about how the Jews could be drawn away from God by philosophical and religious influences of other nations and cultures. Pharisees worked hard at guarding the hearts of God’s people. We like to dump on them for working too hard. Making too many rules, making the whole thing cumbersome. Getting uptight at little things. We call them “legalists” and thank God that we’re not like that.

But Nicodemus, and others, were not entirely stuck in the mud. They were wise enough, humble enough, to know that they didn’t have God all figured out and someday He’d have more to say than 10 commandments and a whole lot of rules, and they’d better not be asleep at the switch when it happened.

Nicodemus and friends found Jesus very interesting. There was definitely something going on there beyond cool stories and sleight of hand. He wasn’t just a nice guy who knew a lot. He was extremely 3D. N & Co. realized that and they went to work trying to refocus in order to figure out the picture. They listened and followed and asked questions.

Everything they saw fit with everything they heard. Jesus wasn’t a fake. He wasn’t loopy. But he might be dangerous.

These guys cared genuinely about keeping people in line with God and Jesus was saying things just different enough to make them nervous.

All we know about Nicodemus is that. 1. He went to the trouble of getting alone with Jesus and asking some questions. 2. He risked his reputation to give Jesus a fair hearing. 3. When it came down to it, he made the choice to step up and take ownership of his respect and love for, and relationship with Jesus. We don’t hear anything else about Nico.

Tradition says he became a Christ follower and given John 19, I think he probably did. If so, he would have sacrificed a lot: prestige, power, family maybe, reputation. Maybe, in those three turning point moments, he found himself wishing he didn’t know. Life was good before Jesus. Obeying the rules was easier. Simpler. Walking through this relationship is a whole other layer of paint.

But in exchange, he would have fulfilled his mission as a true Pharisee. To know God’s voice and obey.

To look into the depths of God and see what’s hidden there. Love. Truth. Life.

October 27, 2018

Many of our Problems are due to Selfishness

We’re back for a sixth time with Paul Steele at the blog Paul’s Ponderings. Click the title below to read at source.

Be Disturbed

We live in a world full of good. It has exceptional beauty, delicious food, amazing fun, and wonderful relationships.

In spite of the good we experience in the world, we know it is not entirely good. Our experience of life tells us that the world is a combination of good and evil.

According to the Bible, the world was created good by God, but has been corrupted by the sin of angels and humans. We live in a fallen world.

One of the ways we see this corruption at work is the selfishness that exists in people. The worst selfishness that we are exposed to is the selfishness that exists in our own hearts.

Many of the problems that we face throughout life, both big and small, can be traced back to selfishness.

This reality is understandable when we remember that we spend our entire lives with ourselves. Our entire perspective on life centers around our experience of the world. It is logical to expect that our comfort, cares, and desires would be at the forefront of what we are most concerned about.

Christian spiritual formation is important because it calls us to lay aside our cares and concerns and adopt the cause of Jesus. For this to happen we have to intentionally lay aside our rights and desires. It is through those process we are able to understand the injustices and indignities inflicted and the rest of humanity.

Dallas Willard wrote:

“Apprentices of Jesus will be deeply disturbed about many things, but they will be largely indifferent to the fulfillment of their own desires as such. Merely getting their own way has no significance for them, does not disturb them.”

Renovation of the Heart, p. 72

Pause for a moment and ponder: What disturbs you?

When I think about what disturbs me on a regular basis I am saddened. I am saddened because I get the most disturbed by the inconveniences and interruptions to my agenda.

God has shown me this reality through my children. I dearly love my three kids, but they have the ability of frustrating me like no one else does. Why is that?

I get frustrated, I get disturbed, because they have minds of their own and they don’t always do what I ask them to do. They disrupt my plan and that bothers me.

What is the cure for that? The cure is to become like Jesus.

The apostle Paul wrote:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. (Philippians 2:3-5; NLT)

Here we discover the goal of Christian spiritual formation: to develop the attitude of Jesus.

Key to this attitude is humility. It is having that ability to look past our own agenda and see the needs of other people. We are to take an interest in the lives of those around us.

One of my favorite passages for the Gospels is Matthew 9:36:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (NLT)

Jesus was disturbed by the needs of the people around him. He didn’t blame them for their condition or lecture them about the inconvenience they were causing him, but he had compassion on them. They needed help and he took time to help them.

One of the prayers we need to pray in our pursuit of Christian formation is to see the world through the eyes of Jesus. We need to see the things that disturb Jesus so we can learn what should be disturbing us as well.


As I was reading Paul’s Ponderings, I really appreciated all of the articles written for October, 2018 and encourage you to visit to read more.

October 26, 2018

God Did Not Abandon His People

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This is our third visit with Peter Corak who writes devotionals at My Morning Meal. Click the title below to read this at source.

A Sanctuary

“Elvis has left the building.” That’s the phrase once used at the end of an Elvis Presley concert to indicate that the concert was done–like, really done . . . as in, “It’s over, folks. No more music, tonight.”  The people could disperse because the king of rock and roll wasn’t coming back for an encore.

And reading in Ezekiel this morning there’s a sense of similar finality. The glory had the left the building.

From the house to the threshold (10:4), then out from the threshold to the court (10:18), and finally up from the midst of the once holy city to a mountain to the east (11:22-23), the cloud that once filled the holy of holies, the brightness that once emitted the very presence of God, the glory of God, had, quite literally, left the building.

The glory had departed and the people were dispersed. They would be scattered among the nations. The land of their promised possession in ruin, they would be sent away for an extended “timeout” to consider their ways that they might repent of their rebellion. Heavy sigh!

But here’s the thing that I’m chewing on this morning, though the glory had departed, and though they would be the dispersed, yet God would not abandon His people. In fact, they would come to know His glory in a different way, a way not dependent upon a brick and mortar temple, but through a new type of relationship.

“Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: Though I removed them far off among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a while in the countries where they have gone.’”

(Ezekiel 11:16)

While in exile, while trying to make it in a foreign land, though far from the holy temple site which was no longer so holy because the glory was gone, the Lord GOD says, “I will be their sanctuary for a while.”

God, through Ezekiel, reaffirmed His promise: “I will gather you from the peoples . . . and give you the land of Israel” (11:17).

God then expanded the promise: I will put a new spirit in them. Give them a new heart, a heart of flesh ready, willing, and able to obey (11:19-20).

And until the full realization of the promise, God says I will be a sanctuary. I will be the temple and will tabernacle directly with them.

For a little while, though far from home, God’s people would come to know and be satisfied with God’s abiding presence as they waited until the day of their full and complete restoration and return to the land of promise.

The glory had left the building, but the God of glory had not turned His back to His people. He would draw near to His remnant in the place of their sojourning and would be their portion, their protection, and their power. All the while, drawing out their hearts toward Him in obedient worship.

We also are people in a foreign land waiting to go home and know afresh the glory of God in all its fullness. But until then, His abiding presence through His Holy Spirit is our sanctuary, the means by which we encounter the glory, though “in a mirror dimly” (1Cor. 13:12).

What’s more, He is making us part of that sanctuary. As, in Christ, we are “being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22).

Though often, as we look around us, it may seem the glory has left the building, yet within us, through redeemed and regenerated hearts, we can know God as a sanctuary. His glory abiding with us and in us.

By His grace. For His glory.

October 25, 2018

Nothing is Escaping God’s Notice

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Editor’s Note: Some of you know I like to cut to the chase here and don’t like devotional studies which begin with a long set-up or illustration. In this case however, the song which Clarke begins by quoting echoes the view of many people, especially in a world where some people know all they think they know from popular music. You probably know people who subscribe to the view expressed in the lyrics.

So with Clarke away this week, I chose this particular devotional from his personal archives, which appears here for the first time.

Genesis 6-8 Up Close and Personal

by Clarke Dixon

It is not a song that lasts very long around me, I change the station if I hear it on the radio, and move the song on if it comes onto my wife’s iPod. It has not even made it onto mine of course. The verses I quite like as they inspire us to a greater sense of harmony and the ideal of peace:

From a distance you look like my friend
Even though we are at war
From a distance I just cannot comprehend
What all this fighting is for

From a distance there is harmony
And it echoes through the land
And it’s the hope of hopes, it’s the love of loves
It’s the heart of every man

All very nice and all but what ruins the song for me (beyond a lack of power chords) is the chorus:

And God is watching us, God is watching us
God is watching us from a distance

Now there is wishful thinking and I suspect there are many who wishfully are thinking this. It seems God our Heavenly Father has been replaced by God our heavenly great-grandfather, whose eyesight is failing, and who cannot tell what the great-grandchildren are up to because their lives are so far removed from his. But they can always depend on him for unconditional love and a hug. Methinks this is how some people want to see God, or better, how they want God to see them;from a distance.

This is not the case in Genesis 6:

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. (Genesis 6:5 NIV)

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. (Genesis 6:11, 12 NIV)

No heavenly cataracts here, nor a need for God to squint like I did for three years in school before I finally admitted to needing glasses. God saw what was going on, and his remarkable vision had disastrous consequences for most earthlings:

The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:6, 7 NIV)

So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. (Genesis 6:13 NIV)

The story of the flood in Genesis teaches us some valuable lessons, most of which many would rather not learn.

  1. Sin and violence does not escape the notice of God. I was and am blessed by a mother who knows her Bible. The Biblical truth most quoted my Mum as I was growing up? “Be sure your sin will find you out.” Good to know and too bad more don’t know it.
  2. God has the right to be judge. All too often people will try to be the judge of God and his decision to send the flood, making it out to be a cosmic genocide. If you or I had done it, it would be a condemnable genocide, and a violence that would grieve God deeply (note Genesis 9:6 from the flood story). But in the hands of God it is justice brought swiftly, which brings us to our next point –
  3. God owes us nothing. All human living is lived in a time and as a result of God’s grace and mercy. We live because God withholds His just judgement. God does not owe us another day, nor an hour, nor even a second. Each breath, each heartbeat is a sign of God’s grace. It is not owed to you. Eternal life in Jesus is grace and mercy taken to the extreme. That is not owed to you either.

Some may object that here we find the God of the Old Testament and that now we should focus on the God of the New Testament, as if God’s eyes are now failing and He is watching us from a distance today. Sorry, God does not change. Here we might consider the rainbow which is very interesting in what we learn from it. Most of us think of it as a reminder to us that God will keep his covenant promise to never again send a flood like he did. This is correct, but in fact we find that twice it is emphasized as a reminder to God!

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” (Genesis 9:12-16 NIV)

Do we grasp the implication of this? No, it does not point to God’s memory as if it could fail any more than his sight. It points to the fact that from the flood on God still sees the sin and violence of the world, it still grieves him, and he would still be right to just put a sudden stop to it. What is stopping God from doing so is not that he is watching us from a distance as some sort of cosmic great-grandfather who isn’t really seeing what is going on, but because he is watching us with the heart of a father, full of love and grace, bound by a father’s promise. Of course he is not a human father that he might fail, he is God that he shall follow through. God is watching us closely, but his eyes are full of love.


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada.

Check out Clarke’s blog, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon.

 

October 24, 2018

Taste Testing the Reality of God

This is our second feature sourced from Don’t Ask The Fish, written by Florida pastor Dr. Tommy Kiedis.

The Proof Is In The Pudding

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.
How happy is the person who takes refuge in him!

— Psalm 34:8 CSB

“Tasting” the reality of God does not mean you will always “see” the reality of God. We must all live in the tension of proof and faith.

Last week I read the stories of Ezekiel and John, two men who tasted the reality of God, albeit in different ways. Ezekiel was the bold prophet sent to pronounce God’s judgment on his rebellious people, while John the Baptist trumpeted the arrival of Messiah and saw him walk, talk, teach, and heal.

Their experiences got me thinking about the proverb, “The proof is in the pudding.”

Actually, “the proof is in the pudding is a new twist on a very old proverb.” So says Ben Zimmer, language columnist at the Boston Globe. Zimmer notes, “The original version is the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And what it meant was that you had to try out food in order to know whether it was good.”

In one sense, Ezekiel and John got to “try out” the food. Their experiences were first-hand, the kind most of us wish for from time-to-time: “Oh, if I could have just heard the voice of God like Ezekiel!” “If I could have just witnessed the work of Jesus like John.”

Not so fast.

Despite having seen Jesus, John the baptizer had his own crisis of faith. His doubts about Jesus spilled out as he sat in Herod’s prison. So unsure was John that sent his followers to ask:

“Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?

— Matthew 11:3 ESV

How does Jesus respond to this temporary lapse of faith? “You go and report to John what you hear and see:”

  • The blind see
  • The lame walk
  • Lepers are cleansed
  • The deaf hear
  • The dead are raised
  • The wretched of the earth learned that God is on their side.

John, the proof is in the pudding. If this is what you were expecting, count yourself most blessed! Because you’re seeing it. The reality that I am the Messiah.

John’s problem — his nagging doubt — reminded me that we all live in the tension of proof and faith. In other words, we may get to see the pudding, but not taste it this side of heaven.

I turn the pages of my Bible to Hebrews 11, to those notables whose pictures grace the faith Hall of Fame: Abel, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses and the rest of that confident cohort. They possessed a faith so strong we’re on a first-name basis. Yet, in one sense each of these only saw the pudding, never sampled it.

“And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised.

— Hebrews 11:

The members of the Faith Hall of Fame tasted the reality of God, but walked in the unseen reality of the day-to-day. What are we to make of all this?

For starters, God does not owe you or me a tidy wrapped package that is the life of faith. “Tasting” the reality of God does not mean you will always “see” the reality of God.

I appreciate Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Jesus’ words to the crowd after this encounter with John:

“How can I account for this generation? The people have been like spoiled children whining to their parents, ‘We wanted to skip rope, and you were always too tired; we wanted to talk, but you were always too busy.’ John came fasting and they called him crazy. I came feasting and they called me a lush, a friend of the riffraff. Opinion polls don’t count for much, do they? The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” — Matthew 11:16-19 The Message

Jesus is telling me that while the meal may not look the way I want it, I still need to come and eat. And as I continue to read Matthew 11, he urges me to come to his table.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

“Tasting” the reality of God does not mean you will always “see” the reality of God. We must all live in the tension of proof and faith. But Jesus, like the Psalmist, knows the happy person is the one who sits to dine, who comes to him.

Ezekiel, John, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Rahab . . . they all dined with God. They trusted him — even when it didn’t seem to make sense — and found he is good.

How about you? Taste and see. The proof is in the pudding.


Note: “The proof is in the pudding is a new twist on a very old proverb . . .” from “The Origin Of ‘Proof Is In The Pudding’“, transcript of Morning Edition, August 24, 2012. National Public Radio. www.npr.org. Accessed October 15, 2018.

October 23, 2018

Have You Really Repented?

by Russell Young

Have you repented? Do you repent when convicted of sin? Christ taught, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Lk 13: 3, 5) Repentance results from feeling sorrow, regret, or contrition for the injury done to God and should be accompanied by the believer’s intent not to repeat the wrong.

Voicing sorrow without feeling its presence is not repentance. Unfortunately, many are invited to “accept” Christ without ever appreciating the holiness of God or the fact that they have done anything to offend him. Their response to the evangelist is often based on the promise given that upon compliance to his or her call those responding will be assured of an eternal hope. Consequently, the hope is accepted without any contrition or recognition of personal unrighteousness.

God always requires repentance for the forgiveness of sins and the provision of an eternal hope. Acknowledgement is needed since without it the confessor remains in his or her own pride and wilfulness and lacks awareness to change ungodly practices. It is a mistake to think that God will overlook unrighteousness and those who teach such will one day be accountable to their holy Creator and God.

Paul wrote, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.” (2 Cor 7:10─11) Has your sorrow brought alarm or concern? Are you eager to clear yourself? Are you earnest about righteous living? Godly sorrow and repentance produce the heart attitude that engenders the repentance that leads to salvation. Have you ever repented for the pain that you have brought to the heart of God (Gen 6: 6)? Do you repent when evil has once more grabbed your attention or has invaded your heart?

The holiness and sovereignty of God must never be forgotten. Failure to repent of acts that are hurtful to him displays blatant disregard for his being and majesty. The haughty and prideful attitude that rejects repentance will not be passed over. Many times the Israelites were commanded to repent of their evil ways and often times they were enslaved because of their failure to walk humbly before their God. The LORD’s chastisement through withholding blessings was frequently experienced because his chosen people had failed to acknowledge his authority through disobedience to his laws, decrees and regulations. When truth dawned, it was often followed by repentance as revealed through the wearing of sackcloth and covering with ashes, followed by prostration before their sovereign God.

Repentance was never intended to be a one-time event. The Lord admonished his Jewish listeners to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Mt 3:8; Lk 3:8 Italics added) and Paul described his ministry in the same manner. “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” (Acts 26:20 Italics added) His portrayal of what he was about seems quite different from that which is often attributed to him.

Failure to repent of on-going sin is arrogance and disregard for God’s holiness. The Lord condemned the church in Sardis as having “a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” He told them to “Remember what they have received and heard; obey it, and repent.” (Rev 3:1, 3) He condemned the church of Laodicea for its lukewarmness and commanded them to be earnest and repent. (Rev 3:19) He also commanded his disciples to wash one another’s feet—to cleanse them of the day’s sins—so that they may have a part with him. (Jn 13:8) John wrote, “If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life.” (1 Jn 5:16) And, John wrote “If we confess our sins, he is just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn 1:9)

Repentance leads to restoration and when the need to repent is realized by many it may even lead to spiritual revival. God is sovereign and will punish those who disregard his holiness. Speaking through Isaiah the LORD said, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (Isa 66:2) Unfortunately, current presentations of God’s grace and mercy have brought God to the familial human level and have engendered the absence of sorrow, regret, or contrition for acts that are offensive to our holy and sovereign God.

Teaching about the need for repentance seems to be disappearing with the result that the hope of many will prove false. Repentance encourages the discontinuation of offensive practices and the conformation of believers to the likeness of Christ, which would make them an offering acceptable to God. (Rom 15:16) The Lord’s teaching should be taken to heart: “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” (Mt 13:41) In the end, all people will be subject to the judgment of the sovereign and holy God for the things done in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Cor 5:10)

Repentance should be the response of a convicted heart, a heart that appreciates the nature of God and his place as sovereign of his creation, including humankind. It acknowledges hurt done to the One who is establishing his eternal kingdom and it recognizes the need for personal righteousness as accomplished through obedience (Heb 5:9) to their loving Savior and Lord. It comes from a humble and contrite spirit.


Russell Young’s column appears here on alternate Tuesdays. His book, Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? is available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo. To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.  There is also a feature-length article at this link.

October 22, 2018

The Dream Will Not Come Without Sacrifice

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Is. 43.19 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

Today we’re back with Chris Hendrix at the website Devotions by Chris. You get not one, but two items today. Click the individual titles to read at source.

Greater Dreams

I recently heard a preacher say, “Our dreams must be greater than our memories.” Immediately that struck a chord with me. As I continued to think on that phrase and ponder it’s implications, I began to think of examples in the Bible where that was true. I thought of several examples, but the one that stood out to me the most came from the book of Exodus. The Israelites had moved to Israel about 400 years earlier to escape the famine, but they never returned to the land God promised Abraham. Now they had become slaves in a land that was not theirs.

In Exodus 6, God spoke to Moses to tell the people that He would deliver them from slavery and would take them to the land He promised Abraham. When Moses told them what God said, they didn’t even listen. Verse 9 says, “They didn’t even hear him – they were that beaten down in spirit (MSG).” The dream of being free had been forgotten, but God wasn’t done. He wanted to revive that dream. He kept at them until they began to dream again. It culminated with them walking out of Egypt and heading for their Promised Land.

It didn’t take long after they were freed for their memories to become greater than their dreams. In Exodus 16, they began to cry out, “Why didn’t God let us die in Egypt where we had lamb stew and all the bread we could eat?” They forgot that dreams require sacrifice. It’s hard work to make a dream become reality. Instead of putting in that hard work to realize the dream, they did something much easier, they remembered how easy it was before. Given the choice of working hard to achieve their dream or to go back into slavery, they wanted the later.

It’s easy to sit in judgement thousands of years later, but are we really that different? We have each been given unrealized dreams that we are no where near accomplishing. Why? Because it’s easier to sit and talk about the vision for our life than it is to accomplish it. It’s not hard to dream. It’s hard to make it a reality. As soon as it gets difficult, we start remembering how “good” we had it before. The dream, even though given by God, gets overpowered by our selective memories of the past. We turn back to go the Land of Ease instead of to the Promised Land.

The dream God has given you will not come without sacrifice. It will not bloom unless it is tended to. It requires you to get up from where you are, to take that step of faith you’ve been afraid of and to move in the direction God tells you to go. It won’t be easy, but nothing good ever is. There will be roadblocks along the way, but don’t let them stop you. Keep the dream God has given you at the forefront of your mind. Don’t entertain old memories. Keep pushing them back until you’ve arrived at your destination. When you get there you’ll be glad you believed in your dreams rather than your memories.

Seasons Change

One of the things I’ve learned about life is that it’s full of seasons. There are seasons of plenty, dry seasons, seasons of doubt, seasons of pain, seasons of just enough, seasons of recovery, etc. There’s no rhyme or reason as to when they show up or how long they’ll last, but one thing is certain, they do pass. The worst seasons seem like they’ll never end and the good seasons seem to go by too fast. I believe that God will give us what we need for each season, and that each season is a time of preparation.

If God uses seasons to prepare us, then I believe that you can be fruitful no matter what the season is in your life. You can glean from each season of your life things that will grow you and produce fruit for the future. You may be looking at your life right now and see a desert wasteland, but Isaiah 43:19 says that God is about to do something new. He’ll make rivers in the desert so that you can produce fruit and grow. No matter how dark life gets or how abundant your blessings are, God has a design and a purpose to grow you through this season.

Here are some Bible verses on different seasons of life.

1. He will be standing firm like a flourishing tree planted by God’s design, deeply rooted by the brooks of bliss, bearing fruit in every season of his life. He is never dry, never fainting, ever blessed, ever prosperous.

~Psalms 1:3 TPT

2. Be cheerful with joyous celebration in every season of life. Let joy overflow, for you are united with the Anointed One!

~Philippians 4:4 TPT

3. And don’t allow yourselves to be weary or disheartened in planting good seeds, for the season of reaping the wonderful harvest you’ve planted is coming!

~Galatians 6:9 TPT

4. But I keep calling out to you, Yahweh! I know you will bend down to listen to me, for now is the season of favor. Because of your faithful love for me, your answer to my prayer will be my sure salvation.

~Psalms 69:13 TPT

5. You’ve so graciously provided for my essential needs during this season of difficulty.

~Philippians 4:14 TPT

 

October 21, 2018

The Ten Commandments in the New Testament

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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by Ruth Wilkinson

A group of us decided recently to read Andy Stanley’s book Irresistible, which is the focus of some controversy right now. And, yeah, I found it somewhat challenging.

Challenge accepted. If my life is not to be governed by, for example, the Ten Commandments, but I know that they were there for a reason at the time, I needed to find out for myself how those principles and taboos turned up in the teachings of Jesus and in the letters to the early church.

Whether, and if so how, they were taught and exemplified by my brothers and sisters in The Way.

Here’s what I found:

***

You have heard it said:

Do not have other gods besides Me.

And?

  • Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

John 14:6

  •  From that moment many of His disciples turned back and no longer accompanied Him. Therefore Jesus said to the Twelve, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?” Simon Peter answered, “Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life.”

 John 6:66-68

So?

I look only to Jesus, and through Him to the Father.

***

You have heard it said:

Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth.

And?

  •  “If you want to be perfect,” Jesus said to him, “go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” When the young man heard that command, he went away grieving, because he had many possessions.

Matthew 19:21, 22

  • The God who made the world and everything in it—He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things.

Acts 17:24, 25

So?

I’m called to avoid worshipping things I can touch and shape, things that are created by the One who created me. Even when those things are in my bank account.

***

You have heard it said:

Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God, because the Lord will not leave anyone unpunished who misuses His name.

And?

  • Whoever welcomes one little child such as this in My name welcomes Me. And whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me, but Him who sent Me.”

Mark 9:37

  • “I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you.”

John 15:16

So?

If I am called by His name, I act in His name. And in His name I welcome, embrace, grow and bear fruit.

***

You have heard it said:

 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: You are to labour six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. You must not do any work.

And?

  • Then He told them, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

Mark 2:27

  • Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

So?

I’m not obliged to sit idle on a particular day, but a day has been carved out for me to be free to rest. And the greatest rest of all is to be found in following the one who calls me.

***

You have heard it said:

Honour your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

And?

  • Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honour.

Romans 10:12

  • Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

James 1:27

So?

The family I find myself in, the family of the Church, is one in which I have the joy and the challenge of stepping back from my own self importance, and learning to serve, to honour, to elevate those around me. Especially the vulnerable.

***

You have heard it said:

Do not murder.

And?

  • “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, ‘Do not murder,and whoever murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.”

Matthew 5:21-22

  • None of you, however, should suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler. But if anyone suffers as a “Christian,” he should not be ashamed but should glorify God in having that name.

1 Peter 4:15

So?

To indulge in the luxury of hatred not only wounds those around us, it wounds us. We carry the name of Christ. And His love is our standard.

***

You have heard it said:

Do not commit adultery.

And?

  •  “But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, man must not separate.”

Mark 10:6-9

  •  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Matthew 5:27-28

So?

Adultery is a broken covenant. A tearing of flesh. A death of the heart. I have no right to kill a living promise.

***

You have heard it said:

Do not steal.

And?

  • The thief must no longer steal. Instead, he must do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need.

Ephesians 4:28

  • But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, I’ll give half of my possessions to the poor, Lord! And if I have extorted anything from anyone, I’ll pay back four times as much!”

Luke 19:8

So?

Honest work is an opportunity to share my time, my ability and my earnings. A chance to err on the side of relationship and generosity.

***

You have heard it said:

Do not give false testimony against your neighbour.

And?

  • You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Matthew 5:43

  • Since you put away lying, speak the truth, each one to his neighbour, because we are members of one another.

Ephesians 4:25

So?

I put away dishonesty and speak truth, because my job is, as far as I am able, to love and to live in peace with my ‘neighbour’, which means everybody.

***

You have heard it said:

Do not covet your neighbour’s house…. or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

And?

  • Therefore I tell you, all the things you pray and ask for—believe that you have received them, and you will have them.

Mark 11:24

  • I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.

Philippians 4:12

So?

I stop looking around to see what I might be missing out on, and start looking up to the Father for what I actually need.

***

October 20, 2018

Seared Conscience | Revealed Truth

Having many years of archives to draw on, we get to know certain authors and offer their latest writing here on a regular basis; but I also like to keep adding new devotional writers as I discover them. Paula Maillet has been blogging at Along Emaus Road since 2005. Her pieces are shorter than some we include here, so I’ve posted two below which couldn’t be more different.

Or are they?

Don’t most of us wrestle with a sinful nature on one hand but also a sincere to see God reveal himself? The dichotomy of being in the world but not of the world? Realizing the weakness of being easily enticed into sinful thought patterns or actions, but at the same time longing for a greater revelation of God? (Maybe it’s just me!)

I placed these in the order I did so we could see our problem, and then its cure.

It Starts With Just Flirting With Sin

“This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord,
that you should no longer walk
as the rest off the Gentiles walk,
in the futility of their mind,
having their understanding darkened,
being alienated from the life of God
because of the ignorance that is in them,
because of the blindness of their heart;
who, being past feeling,
have given themselves over to lewdness,
to work all uncleanness with greediness.”
Ephesians 4:17-19

“who being past feeling…”

I once had a married friend who was beginning an affair with another man, and I spoke to her about it, asking how she could do such a thing. Her response was that she felt a lot of guilt the first time, but that afterwards she felt less and less guilt as time went on and now just didn’t feel guilty at all.

She was “past feeling.” Her conscience became seared. I saw it with my own eyes.

“…having their own conscience seared with a hot iron…”
1 Timothy 4:2

This was an example to me as I watched as she was given over to a debased mind.

“…and even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge,
God gave them over to a debased mind…”
Romans 1:28

Don’t think it can’t happen to you if you’re flirting with sin, any sin. Eventually it won’t hurt your conscience any more – when the Holy Spirit has left you. Don’t try it. Don’t flirt with it.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.”
Psalm 51:10-11

Take heed that you be not deceived and lured into something you would not have wanted to be attached to.

“Repent therefore and be converted,
that your sins may be blotted out,
so that times of REFRESHING
may come from the presence of the Lord…”
Acts 3:19


It’s All About Revelation

“…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of glory,
may give to you the spirit of wisdom
and REVELATION in the knowledge of Him,
the eyes of your understanding being ENLIGHTENED,
that you may know what is the hope of His calling,
what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints…”
Ephesians 1:17-18

It all comes by revelation, and NOT by human reasoning. If you’ve tried to understand God or to understand his Word and find you cannot, there is a reason for that. You are trying to do with your human resources what only the Spirit of God can do.

It’s all about REVELATION.

“Jesus answered and said to him,
‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah,
FOR FLESH AND BLOOD HAS NOT REVEALED THIS TO YOU
but my Father who is in heaven.’”
Matthew 16:17

ASK the Lord to REVEAL his Word to you. What you do not understand, set aside for now. Let him reveal himself and his Word to you as you read it (the Bible) prayerfully. He WILL reveal it, gradually more and more, as you sit before him. Put the time in. It’s worth it. It’s beyond worth it.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ASK of God,
who gives to all liberally and without reproach,
and it WILL be given to him.”
James 1:5

These are great promises in the Word of God. Receive them, meditate on them, believe them, and he will do the rest.

 

October 19, 2018

A Beauty Not Found in Open Fields or Peaceful Days

Six months ago I remember being struck by the quality of writing of Sarah Jo who writes at Blind Insanity. Yesterday I returned there and read several articles. I kept coming back to this one. Click the title to read at source, and then take a few minutes to pick another item or two read and enjoy.

There is Light on this Side of the Clouds

October 18, 2018

A Step Backwards at the End of Esther? Does the Bible Promote Violence and Sexism?

by Clarke Dixon

Are we not supposed to be peacemakers? Yet in the closing chapters of the Book of Esther we find a near gloating over how many people the Jews kill:

So the Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword, slaughtering, and destroying them, and did as they pleased to those who hated them. . . . Now the other Jews who were in the king’s provinces . . . killed seventy-five thousand of those who hated them . . . and on the fourteenth day they rested and made that a day of feasting and gladness. Esther 9:5,16-17

Is the book of Esther not about Esther? Yet we find Mordecai, not Esther, being exalted in the final verses:

All the acts of his power and might, and the full account of the high honor of Mordecai, to which the king advanced him, are they not written in the annals of the kings of Media and Persia? For Mordecai the Jew was next in rank to King Ahasuerus, and he was powerful among the Jews and popular with his many kindred, for he sought the good of his people and interceded for the welfare of all his descendants. Esther 10:2-3

Esther is a true heroine in the story and yet she is not even mentioned in the final chapter. Instead Mordecai takes the spotlight. Must a man always have more glory than a woman in the end?

Critics say that the Bible takes us backwards into a more violent and sexist kind of world. Seeing how the Book of Esther ends we may wonder if they are correct. Let us take a look:

On the violence in Esther:

First, the violence is self defence. Only those who attacked would be killed. This is clear in the edict written in the name of the king:

By these letters the king allowed the Jews who were in every city to assemble and defend their lives, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, with their children and women, and to plunder their goods . . . Esther 8:11 (emphasis added)

In the days of Esther, it was kill or be killed. There were no Canadian peace-keepers to call upon to be buffers between enemies. We might think there ought to have been some sort of diplomatic solution sought, but we cannot impose our ideals of diplomacy on the past.

One would have hoped the peoples within the Persian empire would have realized the danger of attacking the Jews now that they were allowed to defend themselves. But, as has always been the case, the Jews had their enemies who were not about to let go of an opportunity to attack. Had they not attacked, they would not have been killed.

Second, God’s people in Persia were ethical in their warfare. The original edict called for the genocide of the Jews plus the plundering of all their resources. The second edict allowed the Jews to defend themselves plus plunder the attacking enemies. The Jews did not take advantage of the opportunity to plunder. This fact is repeated three times for emphasis (9:10,15,16). Their warfare was motivated by self defence rather than greed. Just as the plunder was left alone, it is likely the women and children of the enemy were left alone also despite the edict allowing for violence against them.

The Old Testament takes humanity a step forward from the ancient world with regards to violence. For example, the borders of the ancient world were in constant flux as empires rose and fell with the aspirations of people bent on gaining the resources of other lands and people. Israel was given the land of Canaan, the Promised land, but no more. The aspiration was of a safe home marked by righteousness, not a vast empire marked by constant expansion and plundering.

If the Old Testament takes humanity a step forward from the ancient world with regards to violence, Jesus takes us a leap forward. For example:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48

On the sexism in Esther:

First, the Book of Esther portrays the reality or the Persian empire, not the ideal of the Kingdom of God. The Persian Empire was sexist and patriarchal as most empires are. Therefore we should not be surprised that Mordecai seems to be more highly honoured than Esther. The queen in such an empire was basically a concubine with perks. Mordecai received greater honour than Esther, not because this is a Biblical ideal, but because that is what happens in an empire like the Persian empire.

Second, the Book of Esther is not called the Book of Mordecai. Mordecai may have been more highly honoured by the Persian empire, but Esther is honoured by Scripture and by the many people of God who have kept the Scriptures safe.

The Old Testament takes humanity a step forward from the ancient world with regards to sexism. Women were to be more highly esteemed. For example, in the Creation story a woman was created from Adam’s rib. In other words, a woman is not different and ‘less than’ like an animal, but the same, on equal footing.

If the Old Testament takes humanity a step forward from the ancient world with regards to sexism, Jesus takes us a leap forward. For example:

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

We have become so used to better societal norms today that we easily miss just how astonishing and liberating the response of Jesus is here. “Mary has chosen the better part”, that is, a part not allowed in that day! Women were not allowed to learn from rabbis. The times they are a changin’!

When it comes to violence and sexism, we want to step forward into the Kingdom of Jesus rather than backwards into old empires. We want to take steps toward peacemaking and reconciliation, rather than toward violence. Jesus himself shows us the way in how he loves us and gives us the opportunity for reconciliation. We want to honour women and recognize equality rather than institute some kind of male superiority. Jesus again shows the way in how he honours women.

The Book of Esther was written in a time of violence and sexism, but it points forward to what we are praying for when we pray “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.  Let us step forward into Christ’s Kingdom, not backwards into old empires.


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada.

Read Clarke Dixon’s blog, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon.

 All Scripture references are taken from the NRSV

October 17, 2018

No Turning Back

Today we’re highlighting the writing of Jeffrey Youngblood from Tyler, Texas who appears here for the first time. His blog is titled Thoughts of a Blessed Man. We narrowed it down to four articles and they were all so good I wish we could run them all. Click the title to read this one at source.

Burn the Ships

I love to read. Specifically, I love to read history. One of the stories that piqued my interest the most as I was growing up was the story of a Spanish Conquistador named Hernando Cortez(writing about him does not mean I endorse him). This man was a ruthless leader who conquered most of present day Mexico for Spain. He never had to worry much about his men deserting him, because when they landed in this “new world,” his first order of business was to set ablaze to their only way back home… He burned the ships. Cortez had a goal in mind, and nothing was going to stop him from reaching the fame and fortune he was looking for in this new world.

This man had no idea where he was going. There were no maps he could purchase in Spain prior to leaving. He knew one thing for sure. If he left an avenue back to where he came from, the men in their times of uncertainty would gladly run home.

Pursuing something new can be exciting, but also terrifying at the same time. Trying to develop new habits or lifestyles is difficult to do, but there is an end goal in sight. As a follower of Christ, we start out on our journey much like Cortez, by faith. We are serving a God that we cannot see.

The easy thing to do is return where we came from, but the difficult thing to do in any situation is to destroy the way back. We all have a past. Some of us have a past that we hope we can forget (or at least part of it), others are indifferent, and others have a great past. The only thing about pasts, though, is that it is a place we cannot return or remain. We cannot camp out in the past and not move forward. The apostle Paul discussed this in Philippians.

Not that I  have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

Paul was probably more mature in his walk with God than me… and by probably I mean certainly. He had it figured out. His past in people’s eyes differed based on who you asked. He thought for the longest time he was doing the right thing until Jesus Christ knocked him to the ground. He realized quickly that he needed to be leading a very different life, if he was going to obtain the prize. Paul went through so much, but he knew that he could not look back.

Paul burned the ships.

The author of Hebrews decided to chime in with Paul and offer some advice to us as well.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

The advice given is to get rid of some stuff in our life, and run the race that is in front of us. In our walk with God, we need to keep our momentum going forward. Moving backwards is not an option for a Christian.

If we are not careful our past seems better. Our past seems easier. Our past is something we know. Familiarity can be dangerous. We all know people who are living in the past (I even see some mullets floating around Tyler every once in a while). The past will handicap our ability to move forward into the plans that Jesus Christ has laid out specifically for you and me.

It is time to burn some ships. Remove the possibility of going back, and decide today that the only option is to go forward and possess the things that God has planned for you. Looking over your shoulder will be useless, because you will have destroyed the only vehicle to your past.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Get to burning and move forward.

October 16, 2018

The Evils and Mistakes of the Past

Once again, we’re featuring Joe Waller who writes at As I Learn to Walk and is a PhD candidate at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Click the title below to read this at the original page.

Ghosts and Gospel

People love ghost stories. People hate ghost stories. But no matter the response, ghost stories have crept into our lives and our cultures, and they don’t appear to be leaving.

I live in New Orleans, a city full of history and culture and, according to some, ghosts. You can take tours of buildings with haunted pasts, visit multiple haunting cemeteries, and hear stories of the haunted people (or their ghosts) who live on in legend. And the more I learn about the world, the more I find that most places have similar tales of hauntings. The world, it seems, is filled with ghosts.

To some extent, an abundance of ghost stories makes sense. Ghost stories speak to our fears of the past. We hear stories of tortured souls that still walk the grounds where they were lost years before, stories of homes where tragic deaths still stain the walls, stories of abandoned hospitals or asylums where unspeakable acts still echo in the hallways, and we feel a chill, a tinge of dread that the past might still affect the present. More specifically, our fear of haunted places may stem from our fear of the evils and mistakes of the past, from fear that we can’t truly escape what’s gone before us. And I know few who are immune to such fear. As we learn about history and discover the depths of human depravity, we rightfully fear what humans can become – nay, what humans are. Paul, stringing together a number of Old Testament texts to describe the state of sinful humanity, pointedly writes,

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Romans 3:10-18

Elsewhere, after describing the unrighteousness that keeps people from God, Paul reminds the Corinthian church that such words describe their own state before they came to Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). No matter the greatness of our present faith, we each share the same past record: unrighteous, unworthy, and unable to right our wrongs.

Yet Paul does not stop with a description of sin in either passage referenced above. In 1 Corinthians, he reminds the believers that “such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

Similarly, in Romans, Paul transitions from the hopeless state of sinful humanity to the hope found in Jesus Christ, writing that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins” (Romans 3:23-25). Note that last part especially. God, in his patience and mercy, graciously gave time for us to turn back to him through the redemption found in his Son. Though we had earned his wrath, through Christ he shows us his love.

As Paul so eloquently explains elsewhere, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). And now, by grace, “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). To quote Paul again, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Ghost stories remind us of the past. They employ the evils of history to threaten the present. And those who walk in the way of this world may rightfully fear, for, as the past has been, so the present and future may be. Thankfully, God has provided a rescue from the evils of sin. In Christ, the past turns from a haunting record of wrongs to a testimony of what God can do. Paul knew this well, his life in Christ serving as a shining example of the power of God found in the gospel of Jesus Christ (see Romans 1:16-17 and 1 Timothy 1:15-17). Christian, do not fear the ghosts of the past. Walk in the newness of life, freed for the glory of God and for the good of the world. And let hope fill your every step.

 

October 15, 2018

No More Fence Sitting

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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This is our third time featuring the writing of Ronnie Dauber, a Christian author who lives in Canada. She has written several young adult novels and seven Inspirational books. Click the title below to read at source.

The Days of Fence Sitting R Over!

There was a time when Christians kept to themselves, followed Jesus and were still able to live in a society with respect. Many would sit on the fence, not sure what to believe because their minds were still partial to the things and ways of this world. However, as the days roll faster towards the return of Christ our King, there is now an obvious difference between those who truly love and follow Jesus, and those who call themselves Christians but are still part of this world. The days of fence sitting are over!  

Many laws have been changed to make legal things that God calls sin, and it’s mandatory for everyone to accept them, whether they are for them or against them. The new age “Christians” are congenial to the changes, but the real Christians can’t accept them and take a stand against them for Christ’ sake and are ridiculed, persecuted and punished.

  • We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.—2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NKJV

The issue with the gays and transgenders, and with the right to abortion are no longer ones that we can speak against without being heavily penalized. We are forced to accept this…regardless of our beliefs. These political issues are really spiritual war zones that are dividing the people and using their emotions to do it. God is no longer part of most government equations for most people.

We are living in the days before the return of our King, and it’s a time when we either stand up for the truth or deny it. The days of fence sitting are over!

  • Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
    And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” — Isaiah 6:8

Sin is spreading faster now than ever before and it’s almost mind-boggling to see how far into it people are daring to go. The world is filled with anger and deluded with a hate for the things of God. Yet, for the Christians—that is the born-again, Spirit-filled believers in Jesus—it’s a time of redemption and revival because we know that Jesus is about to return.

  • Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.—Luke 21:28

How do we deal with sin? The Bible says that we are to hate sin just as God hates sin. We don’t accept it, ignore it, or pretend that we don’t care. If Jesus is alive in us, we won’t be able to hide it! And we’ll have many chances to speak the truth to those caught up in its deception.

  • But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.—1 Peter 3:15

We don’t hate the people; they are victims caught in the devil’s clutches and their future is bleak unless we show them the path to Jesus. God wants us to love them and be willing to speak about the joy that’s in our heart.

  • But I say unto you, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”—Matthew 5:44

Many people will come against us and speak badly about us and even break life-long friendships with us because we won’t accept the sinful things of this world. This persecution is growing and it hurts when loved ones turn on us. But it’s not us that they hate; it’s Jesus.

  • [Jesus said,] “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.”—John 15:18

This is when we must leave our emotions out of it and not take offense.  Jesus told us to preach the gospel to the world. He didn’t tell us to judge, condemn or hate the people. He told us to live peaceably with all men.

  • If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.—Romans 12:18 NKJV

When we stand for truth, we will be noticed! So, we need to build up our relationship with Jesus by spending time with Him and by studying the Scriptures to know His truth. His Holy Spirit in us will lead us and give us the words to speak out at the right time so that we can speak against sin and tell others about the salvation of Jesus.

  • Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding.—Proverbs 3:5

If we love Jesus and are living for Him, it will be impossible to hide who we are in this sinful world. We won’t be able to sit on the fence because the truth in our heart will blatantly reveal the sin in this world. And this is good because the people around us will see our light shine a whole lot better when we get off the fence and let it shine for Jesus!

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