Christianity 201

December 15, 2018

The Garment of Praise

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Almost exactly a year ago we introduced you to homeschool curriculum writer Anne Elliott . At that time we had discovered a much older article by her, and decided this time around to feature something more recent. Click the title below to read on her site, and then navigate from there to check out other articles.

The Garment of Praise for the Spirit of Heaviness

Sometimes we start to feel very sad. Circumstances seem overwhelming, and promises from God take too long to come to pass. Tears flow when we don’t want them to. We lose our desire to work, to eat, to be with our loved ones. We just want to crawl into bed. The Bible calls this a spirit of heaviness.

“To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified” (Isaiah 61:3, NKJV).

Other times we start to feel very hurt. People accuse us of things we didn’t do. Our hearts feel bruised, and we react in anger when our thoughts merely turn to the words said. We struggle to be with them, and to restrain unkind words, and our faces turn red with passion when they aren’t even in the room. The Bible calls this a spirit of bitterness.

“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul” (Job 7:11, NKJV).

Other times we feel paralyzed with worry. We know God loves us and has done good for us in the past, but this time feels different. The giants look bigger, and we feel deserted. Our hearts pound, our stomachs hurt, our eyes widen. We can’t think of anything else. The Bible calls this a spirit of fear.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7, NKJV).

As the Scripture clearly says, these spirits do not come from God! I’ve been pondering this. How do thoughts like these ever enter our minds, causing emotions and reactions in my body, when they do not come from God? They originate from the deceiver, who plants them in our hearts and minds.

“And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him…” (John 13:2, NKJV).

So let me give you a picture of something I’ve been pondering. My husband has been teaching about how the Spirit of God has been given to us as a down payment and a guarantee of the promises to come, especially of the resurrection.

“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).

“Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 5:5, NKJV).

The Spirit of God sets up His residence within our hearts, so that His presence can go before us, giving us strength, guarding us, empowering us, and leading us each day.

This reminds me of the Israelites when they came out of Egypt. They received the covenant at Sinai, but shortly after, they sinned terribly by building the golden calf. Shortly after, YHVH told them that He would send a messenger before them to lead them to the Promised Land, but that His own presence could not go with them because they were stiff-necked and He would destroy them (Exodus 33). Moses interceded on their behalf, and YHVH relented.

“Then Moses said to [YHVH], ‘If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?’

“And YHVH said to Moses, ‘I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name’” (Exodus 33:15-17).

Right after this, YHVH gave the plans for a Tabernacle to Moses, along with all the regulations for the worship of YHVH in the Tabernacle. The basic premise was that YHVH would dwell in the midst of His people, but they would need to be very clean in order for Him to remain there. Any uncleanness would separate them from His presence.

In the same way, the Spirit of God wants to dwell in our hearts and minds, but if His presence is to guide us, we have to get rid of any uncleanness.

We have to cast out the spirits of heaviness, bitterness, and fear.

It makes so much sense, then, why the Enemy wishes to attack us in our minds. If he can plant anxiety and anger and panic — and if we allow him to do this — then we will not be guided by the presence of God!

If we wish to hear His voice, then we have to cast out the voice of the Enemy.

If we wish to be distinguished from all the other people on the face of the earth, we must stop listening to their advice and counsel, heeding only the voice of the Presence of God.

If we wish to please Him, we must keep the outer courts of our hearts clean.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Faith is an action. Here are some actions we can take when we identify that the thoughts in our minds are not from God:

  • To cast out the spirit of heaviness, we must gird ourselves with a garment of praise.
  • To cast out the spirit of bitterness, we must bless others and not curse.
  • To cast out the spirit of fear, we must remember what God has done for us in the past, and how He has shown Himself strong on our behalf.

For myself, these things are easier when I set up some simple disciplines for my life. Just as the Tabernacle was to be maintained daily, always staying clean, we must maintain our hearts daily. It’s not enough to just passively wait for the Enemy to arrive.

  • Start the Day with Scripture. Write down some key verses, then speak those verses all day long. The Word is truth, and when we speak it, the angels of God do His bidding and both guard our “tabernacles” and go before us to destroy the enemy.

“So is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).

“Praise YHVH, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word” (Psalm 103:20).

  • Pray in the Spirit. As we come into His presence with our requests and petitions, reminding Him of His promises by praying the very Scriptures themselves, then our own faith is built up and renewed.

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

  • Sing and Praise. This is one of the hardest points for me, even though I love to sing. My flesh tends toward grumbling and complaining, and I often tend to focus on my problems rather than all the ways in which He has delivered me. It seems that I have to trick my body by singing aloud with a smile, with my foot tapping and even with dancing. If I am with other believers (even my kids or husband), then it can be easier.

“I will greatly praise YHVH with my mouth;
Yes, I will praise Him among the multitude.
For He shall stand at the right hand of the poor,
To save him from those who condemn him” (Psalm 109:30-31).

  • Bless and Not Curse. Our Master Yeshua told us to bless others, especially when they try to harm us. This breeds a spirit of forgiveness, of understanding, of empathy. My desire to see harm come upon others is replaced with genuine concern for their well-being. The key is to remember that our true enemy is Satan himself, never another person created by God.

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

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

  • Give Thanks. This discipline is something that needs to be done all day long, so that we can stay in a place of rejoicing. Boy, this one really takes discipline, doesn’t it? However, like all exercise, the more we do it, the easier it becomes.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Messiah Yeshua for you. Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-19).

Our adversary will certainly try to plant thoughts of evil in our hearts, but with these strategies, we can cast him out and instead see the fruit of living in communion with God Himself, His Spirit guiding us and empowering us.

“You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

 

June 24, 2016

A Life Without Stress

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. Romans 5:4 NLT

We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair. 2 Cor 4:8 HCSB

That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor. 12:10 NIV

We usually dig into Bible exposition and related texts and somewhat avoid illustrations, but sometimes it occurs to me that God has built into nature many teachable lessons that we ignore at our peril.

Biosphere 2Recently a mailing from Brent Hackett at Our Daily Bread Canada* contained a story I simply could not forget:

A number of years ago I read about an experiment performed in Arizona
with an environmentally controlled climate that was maintained inside
a specially constructed dome. Called Biosphere 2, the ambition of the
project was to copy our planet’s life systems as a prototype for a future
colony on Mars.

However, one of the most profound discoveries had nothing to do with
a new way of farming land. Rather, the discovery brought to light how
important the role of wind is in a tree’s life. The trees in Biosphere 2
grew more rapidly than they did outside of the dome, but they toppled
before they reached maturation. After the scientists reviewed the root
systems and outer layers of bark, they realized that a lack of wind in
Biosphere 2 caused a deficiency of stress wood. Stress wood helps a tree
position itself for optimal sun absorption and helps trees grow more
solidly. Without stress wood, a tree can grow quickly, but it cannot
support itself fully. It can’t stand up to normal wear and tear and
survive. The trees needed some stress in order to thrive.

Similarly in our life, God allows us to experience stress for a reason. We
need to grow strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. If we
were to live our lives in a perfect environment, we might grow, but we
would have a spiritual deficiency. Thankfully, we are different than trees.
We do have the ability to grow, but we also have the ability to enjoy a
relationship with our eternal God.

One of the hardest things for me is to be able to accept stressful situations as a gift from God. I simply do not bear stress well.

In Phillipians 4, Paul writes,

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

The illustration of the stress wood in the trees really impact me this week. Paul learned the secret of contentment in the middle of those times the winds are blowing because he understood the principle he states so clearly in Romans 8:28, which J.B. Phillips translates as

Moreover we know that to those who love God, who are called according to his plan, everything that happens fits into a pattern for good.

This the promise we are given, that God, who sees the events in our lives beyond the constraints of linear time by which we measure things is orchestrating a beautiful symphony of goodness.

Not seeing that in your own life? I know. It’s difficult. We can give intellectual assent to God’s goodness, but not want the winds to blow.

But today’s illustration powerfully reminds us that given a life without stress, we would eventually just topple over.


Christianity 201 is mobile friendly; if you’re traveling bookmark the site and check us out on your phone or tablet.


Brent Hackett provided us with links to two articles from which he derived his information about stress wood, Discover Magazine and Wikipedia, from which we got the pic of Biosphere 2.


* For American readers, here’s the link to Our Daily Bread USA.

October 26, 2013

A Bend in the Road is not the End of the Road

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:11 pm
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A few weeks ago I picked up a Twitter follower and decided to see what his blog was all about. Zech Newman blogs (and posts original photography) at Restoring Significance where this appeared as Growing Pains. (Click through to read at source.)

Life is a difficult thing sometimes. Nothing stays the same. We will be moved backward or forward. Are you advancing? Are you taking back ground restoring what was lost? One of my mentors has told me, “Embrace the pain.” This was very hard for me to hear but so true. You and I need to let our pain and discomfort be a catalyst for our personal development. Our greatest pain can be our biggest testimony and our greatest mission in this world. I have written my story of hope which was so painful. Fear of rejection, the loss of family, and the pain of expectations were other painful points. When we face pain we will never be the same. Facing difficulties and challenges is unavoidable. Learning from them is the part that is optional. John Maxwell has said, “A bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn.” We want to be shaped by pain, but not defined by it. These 4 things help me embrace the pain and grow.

1. Mindset. How we look at our pains will determine how we end up on the other side. We can choose to look at the glass as being half full or half empty. We cannot control everything, however, we can control our attitude. Everything in life begins and ends in the mind. Focus on adopting a positive life stance. If we have a positive outlook, the good and bad things in life will be better. If we have a negative stance, unfortunately everything will be worse. Focus on the good and it will make the pain a little less painful.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”   ~ Philippians 4:8

2. Time. Allow yourself to have some time to grieve. We are not thoughtless robots; we all have feelings. The bigger the pain the more time we need. We expect others to flip a switch sometimes. Give yourself some grace. I know it can be hard. You will get through this. Some pains like losing someone close to you can last a lifetime.

  ”For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be    revealed to us.” ~ Romans 8:18

3. Help. We should not walk through life alone. We need people to walk along side us in good times and in bad. We as humans are relational beings. We need to reach out to those that are close to us in time of pain. Don’t bottle it in and close yourself off from others. In great pain this is my first reaction. It is wrong and can be dangerous. Sometimes you just need someone to cry with. Someone that will listen to you and have empathy.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” ~1 Thessalonians 5:11

4. Make good changes. Pain can make us face changes in our own lives that we need to make. When pain comes we either face the feelings and try to change or we try to escape. Trying to escape can lead to hiding in addiction and many other self-destructive things. We need to slowly but surely train ourselves to fight for positive change and not run toward destruction. Think through what you can learn from the pain. Here are a few examples of things I have learned. I will be rejected; embrace it. Life is short; love as big as I can. Kids are a blessing; be patient with them. I can choose the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. These were not fun lessons, but I would not change them for anything in the world.

If you are walking through major pain at the moment I hope this helps. It can be so painful and I hope that I did not appear to gloss over the pain. I pray that this helps you to grow through your painful time. Allow this time to draw you close to the feet of Jesus, the only one who can truly change us. Be blessed on your journey.

o-o-o-o

Today’s two-for-one special: While at Zech’s blog, I was reminded of this worship song, which I’ve also come to appreciate over the past few weeks. Enjoy No One Higher by Seth Condrey.

July 9, 2010

God’s Cake: E-mail Forward

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:44 am
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I’m actually rather wary of the “theology” in most e-mail forwards, but I appreciated this one:

God’s Cake

Sometimes we wonder, ‘What did I do to deserve this?’ or ‘Why did God have to do this to me?’ Here is a wonderful explanation!

A daughter is telling her Mother how everything is going wrong, she’s failing algebra, her boyfriend broke up with her and her best friend is moving away.

Meanwhile, her Mother is baking a cake and asks her daughter if she would like a snack, and the daughter says, ‘Absolutely Mom, I love your cake.’

‘Here, have some cooking oil,’ her Mother offers.

‘Yuck’ says her daughter.

‘How about a couple raw eggs?’ ‘Gross, Mom!’

‘Would you like some flour then? Or maybe baking soda?’

‘Mom, those are all yucky!’

To which the mother replies: ‘Yes , all those things seem bad all by themselves. But when they are put together in the right way, they make a wonderfully delicious cake! ‘

God works the same way. Many times we wonder why He would let us go through such bad and difficult times. But God knows that when He puts these things all in His order, they always work for good! We just have to trust Him and, eventually, they will all make something wonderful!

May 3, 2010

Pete Wilson: Plan “B”

This week I want to post some quotes from the book Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up In The Way You Thought He Would? by Pete Wilson.

You can read my full review of the book at Thinking Out Loud.

Someone once said, “Adversity introduces a man to himself.”  Unfortunately, more often than I like to admit, I have found this to be true.  And I cringe when I look back on how I’ve acted during times when it felt as if God was not there and the bottom was dropping out.