Christianity 201

August 21, 2020

For Those Who Feel They’re Spiritually Walking with a Limp

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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We’re paying our eighth visit today to Bryan Lowe and his blog, Broken Believers. In this devotional, Bryan shares something deeply personal with his readers he had never shared before. I read three different pieces by him today, and encourage you to click through (on the title which follows) and look around.

Don’t Waste Your Sorrows

“You have given me many troubles and bad times, but you will give me life again. 
When I am almost dead, 
You will keep me alive.”

Psalm 71:20, NCV

“He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

Isaiah 53:3, NASB

Everyone hurts sometimes. We all will face our sorrows. But there are times, when our pain pounds us intensely, and it turns into a deep problem. The darkness rolls in on our souls like a caustic fog. It can get awful.

Sorrow is the effects of a hammering emotional or spiritual pain. I have never spoken out like this, but my wife and I had a daughter who died— stillborn. She was doing great, up to a week before her due date. We knew that in seven days, we would be able to see her– face-to-face.

But that was not to be. Elizabeth Grace Lowe died from strangulation (from her own umbilical cord.) Nothing could have been done. My wife had noticed a moment of very frantic activity, as Elizabeth fought for her life. We plummeted from ecstatic joy to a devastating sorrow in minutes. It came “out-of-the-blue,” totally unexpected. We both were completely undone.

“For the Lord will not reject forever,
For if He causes grief,
Then He will have compassion
According to His abundant lovingkindness.
For He does not afflict willingly
Or grieve the sons of men.”

Lamentations 3:32-33, NASB

There is pain, but there are promises. There is sadness, but there are psalms. There is a blessing on all those who grieve. This topic deserves far more attention than this simple post. (But they say, every fool wants to play “Hamlet,” so I guess I’m not immune.)

There is such sorrow in this life, much more than the human heart can possibly contain. But our Savior has a title (one of many.) He is the “Man of Sorrows.” He is the one “on point.” He leads us through such intense hostility. He guides us when things get very dark.

There are a few things that I want to communicate to you. These have come out of great darkness.

  1. God takes the full blame for our pain and sorrow. He doesn’t shift the blame, or deny His presence in our sufferings. Sometimes you need to adjust your theology.
  2. Jesus has fully shared our sorrow. All that you are feeling right now, He feels. If you feel you are at a minus 10, then He does as well. As you suffer, He is your shadow.
  3. Nothing is ever wasted. We really shouldn’t treat these moments of sorrow as a waste. Have you ever wondered at Jesus’ ‘economy’ after the 5000 were fed?  He assigns value to the leftovers. The disciples pick up their baskets and collect everything up again. Nothing will go to waste.
  4. This pain, this sorrow is the “intensive crash course” in becoming a person of mercy. You now will always walk with a limp. At times the scars will be quite visible to those who can really see. This will become forever a healed wound (but a wound nevertheless.) It helps to seek out others who have walked this same path. I don’t think I will ever fully trust a person who doesn’t walk with a limp.
  5. You will need (but maybe not accept) the transformation of your suffering into glory. This will take some time, and it almost feels like your not progressing at all. I encourage you to re-think each of these simple points. The Holy Spirit maybe working, perhaps behind the scenes.
  6. Finally remember this: God is not a monster, stomping on us like a boy crushes ants. He carries our pain and illness. He clearly comes along side every suffering believer. It is Satan who would suggest to you that God is a Celestial Menace, not worthy of our love.

*“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”

Psalm 147:3, NLT

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.”

Isaiah 61:1, NLT

He heals the wounds of every shattered heart.
Psalm 147:3, TPT

April 14, 2020

The Day of Judgment as a Cure for Fear?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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First, we have a few things to catch up on.

The popular UK Spring Harvest festival is an online event this year. It started Monday and runs through Friday. Already there are dozens of videos online and I wanted to share with you two that I watched.

There is one called “Any Questions Expert Panel” which deals with the response of the church both during and after the present world crisis. You’ll find that at this link. I also want to highlight — considering we spoke about Communion and the Last Supper yesterday — the section from 30:00 – 35:00 (approx) which looks at the subject of taking Communion at home. Many of you have been doing this.

I recently wrote to someone about this and he told me that in a Canadian Anglican context,

…We just have to “do without” until further notice, as there is no Church-sanctioned rubric in either the Book of Common Prayer or the Book of Alternative Services for families to consecrate Communion elements in their own homes.

Which brings us to the other seminar I watched yesterday, titled “Whatever Happened to Communion” in which the presenters make a very strong case for observing Communion in an individual or family context. (Their interpretation of the four cups of Passover is slightly different than what we had here yesterday, so note that as well.) You can view that seminar at this link.


For several years, Bridgetown Church in Portland has been following a number of disciplines or practices which are summed up as a “Rule of Life.” Yesterday I listened for the second time to a 50-minute audio podcast recorded April 3rd in which John Mark Comer, Bethany Allen & Gavin Bennett apply it the present world situation. You can find that discussion at this link.


Lastly, in today’s announcements, a few days ago we had a piece here about the two disciples who experience a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus on the Emmaus Road. Two guys, right? Maybe. Maybe not. In this article, we get to consider the possibility that, since only one is named, the other might be a woman.


Today’s devotional is taken from a June, 2008 newsletter published by David Wilkerson (author of The Cross and the Switchblade) at a time when the world was facing another crisis, the fear of a global economic collapse.

Without Fault Before the Throne of God

“…I have to fight off these fears daily. I feel bad about even having such feelings, because I know I should be trusting the Lord. But, frankly, things are becoming so frightening, it’s hard to keep all of my fears at bay.”

I believe our friend was voicing what multitudes of other sincere Christians are going through: a struggle to keep fear out of their hearts. Like her, most believers who write to our ministry sense that our nation is disintegrating and that some kind of ominous disaster is looming on the horizon. Now as they hear all these terrible reports of what’s happening in America and around the globe, they struggle just to rest in the promise of God’s keeping power.

Many Christians write to us that they can’t help being gripped by a very human fear. They think they’re not prepared for whatever perilous circumstances an economic collapse would bring. Others say they’re making preparations for their physical survival, because they’re convinced a financial holocaust will usher in social chaos as well.

The fact is, no matter how righteous we may be, no matter how strong our faith is, all of these frightful uncertainties coming to pass cannot help but affect our human emotions. It’s all very scary. And the worst part is, things are going to grow even more ominous in the days ahead.

But for the overcoming Christian, whose sins are covered by the blood of Jesus, there is very good news. And I believe if we keep our eyes focused on this good news, meditating on it night and day, no evil report will ever faze us. Here is the good news God wants us to know: We are all going to stand before the throne of judgement.

Now, if it seems bizarre to you that I’m calling this statement “good news,” I understand. But the truth is, if you’re a Christian, this kind of news shouldn’t sound bizarre at all. Let me explain.

God’s people have good reason to look beyond troubling times.

“It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

As Scripture testifies, our lives here on earth are like grass. One day we’re here, growing and thriving, and the next day we’re fading away with the season. We’re like the vapor of breath we see on a frosty day: here one moment and gone the next. And I’m convinced that just one moment into eternity, we’ll all realize how unimportant and fleeting our present fears and trials have been. We’ll also see just how present the Lord has been with us the whole time, watching over us with his saving and keeping power.

April 4, 2020

A Psalm We Need Right Now

Today we’re back with Kristen Larson who writes at Abide.Trust.Believe. This is very transparent, and very timely. Click the header below and read this at source.

My Shelter

Only God could have prepared me for the coronavirus pandemic like he has. Had I known ten years ago, five years ago, even this time last year that this world crisis would come, I would have lived in total fear and tried in my own wisdom and power to prepare.

But in the midst of planning and worrying and preparing, I would not have learned all I have about God. I would not have learned how good he is. I would not have learned how deeply he loves me. I would not have learned of his faithfulness and power. I would’ve ended up living in a panic, ultimately doing it all without him. And when the crisis came, I would not have known him.

Instead, I am living through this with anticipation for all he’s about to do, and in wonder of all the ways he’s already provided. Looking back even over the last three months, I see how he’s made me ready for this.

Over the last week and a half, since this pandemic came to the US, I keep hearing over and over again from different people the reference to Psalm 91. It seems to be the hallmark passage for this crisis. Today more than ever, it means so much to me.

My take away today is that I don’t have to live in fear of what the future holds. I just need to always, in all things, trust the Lord my God. He will direct my steps and set me on the right path.

Psalm 91 NLT

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Though a thousand fall at your side,
though ten thousand are dying around you,
these evils will not touch you.
Just open your eyes,
and see how the wicked are punished.
If you make the Lord your refuge,
if you make the Most High your shelter,
no evil will conquer you;
no plague will come near your home.
For he will order his angels
to protect you wherever you go.
They will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
You will trample upon lions and cobras;
you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!
The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name.
When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue and honor them.
I will reward them with a long life
and give them my salvation.”


Back in January, 2011 we featured this SonicFlood song which is based on Psalm 91.


Speaking of songs which have been featured here at C201, I’ve put together a playlist of some of the ones I’ve featured here related to Good Friday (or Communion Services). It runs 90+ minutes (at the moment) and contains 21 songs. To get started with the first song, click this link.


To read Psalm 91 as a metrical psalm (poem) go to the second half of this 2014 Christianity 201 article.


For six promises from Psalm 91, go to this 2012 C201 article.

March 26, 2020

God’s Got This: When There is a Pandemic and Jesus Says “Do Not Worry”

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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by Clarke Dixon

Is anyone worried yet? If you are not, are you living under a rock? The COVID-19 virus is a big deal, and while cases were once reported in someone else’s backyard, they are now being reported in ours.

So along comes Jesus and says “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear” (Matthew 6:25). We might want to ask;
“Jesus, are you living under a rock?”

Those who first heard Jesus may have asked that also. Many of them would have been living day to day in a society where you were paid daily. Some may have been living meal to meal. Just plain survival was a big deal for many people. Along comes Jesus who says “do not worry . . . ”

We have been looking at the Sermon on the Mount, realizing that Jesus was not giving news rules for us to follow slavishly, but rather was teaching us what kind of people we should become. This line of thinking continues here:

Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:31-33 (NRSV)

We are to be the kind of people who know that God is a good Father. We are to be the kind of people who seek His goodness in our lives. We are to be the kind of people who know, without doubt, that God loves us. Our Heavenly Father knows what we need. Don’t worry, God’s got it.

Since Jesus told us to not worry, does that mean we should never have a concern in the world? The very first Christ followers who were aware they should not worry about food and clothing did not quit working! The apostle Paul did not live as someone who expected money to miraculously fall from the sky. He continued his work as a tentmaker. He encouraged people to work in 2 Thessalonians 3:6–12. There was never the idea that since God loves us, and since we need not worry, that we need not have concern for the things of life and take initiative. Yes, God loves us, so therefore we should not worry, but we still need to take initiative, to show proper concern.

Since Jesus told us to not worry, does that mean we will never face trouble? Jesus went on to say,

So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. Matthew 6:34 (NRSV)

Do not worry, but know there will still be trouble! Being a Christian does not make us immune from trouble. God loves us. That is the way things are. But we will face trouble. That is the way things work.

There is a difference between the way things are and the way things work. The way things are: we live in relationship with a Heavenly Father who will take care of us. The way things work: we live in a broken world where we need to take initiative and where bad things happen. We need, therefore, to make wise decisions, to take proper initiative for the sake of our health and the health of society.

Theologians study the way things are. Scientists study how things work. Theologians and scientists can sometimes say too much about matters in each other’s area of expertise. A theologian can study history, especially with regard to Jesus and point to the reality of God’s love. God has spoken into our world, as we learn in the Old Testament, but ultimately has revealed Himself in Jesus, revealing His love at the cross. Theologians can help us understand that. However, if a religious leader says don’t worry about COVID-19, that God will give you immunity if you just trust Him enough, change the channel. That’s not how things work. Listen to the scientist, who learns through observation how things work. However, if a scientist says there is no God, change the channel. That is not the way things are, and the scientist, with all his or her observation, cannot know that. They cannot observe everything.

We walk by faith and with wisdom. It is not an either/or thing. To show wisdom is not to show a lack of faith. To show faith is not to show a lack of wisdom. It would be foolish to say that God will take care of us, so therefore we do not need to concern ourselves with the evidence with regard to COVID-19. It would also be foolish to say we have evidence on how to deal with the virus, so we don’t need to think of God.

I didn’t plan on this being the week we would land on “don’t worry” in our sermon series. I also didn’t realize how appropriate my one-minute Easter message would be on the radio. It begins,

This is a special time of year for many of us. It is time to get our motors running and head out on the highway. Being a Baptist pastor, I have often been asked if I feel close to God while riding my motorcycle. That sometimes depends on who is pulling out in front of me. Sometimes I have felt a little too close to God.

In life there are many reminders of our mortality. Whether it’s an accident, or the threat of a pandemic, there are many reminders that “dust we are, and to dust we will return.”

That is how things work in this broken world. That is the focus of Lent, a time we remember our mortality. Bad things happen; cars cut in front of motorcycles, people get addicted, a plane falls out of the sky, cancer strikes, infections spread, an innocent man is arrested, beaten and crucified. That is Lent, that is the recognition that death is part of the way things work. But after Lent comes Easter Sunday!

Death is a result of our separation from God. God has dealt with that separation through His grace, His love, His mercy. He is a good and heavenly Father who has gone to extreme lengths to be reconciled to His children. That is the way things are.

For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:19 (NLT)

So a pandemic looms ominously. Don’t worry, God’s got this? Actually, our Heavenly Father has us. But we’ve got this. We can see how this virus works, we can take appropriate steps. We do not worry, knowing that come what may, God loves us and someday we will stand before Him in glory. He’s got us. We do not worry. We do take care, however, and we will want to take care of each other through this difficult time.


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Ontario, Canada. Read more of his ‘shrunk sermons’ at his blog. For a limited time, the full sermon can be heard at https://podpoint.com/calvary-baptist-church-cobourg-podcast)

March 23, 2020

Missing Each Other

Yesterday at The Meeting House family of churches in Ontario, Canada, pastor Bruxy Cavey began with this passage in I Thess. 2:

17 Dear brothers and sisters, after we were separated from you for a little while (though our hearts never left you), we tried very hard to come back because of our intense longing to see you again. 18 We wanted very much to come to you, and I, Paul, tried again and again…

In the opening scriptures, they couldn’t resist adding the first part of John 16:32

“A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home…”

I guess it helps to keep a sense of humor.

The verse that follows that one (verse 33) is instructive for us however,

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

In the sermon, Bruxy turned next to Judges 6. Gideon is speaking is verse 13:

“…if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about”

Gideon then references the dramatic deliverance from Egypt. But in the next verse, God replies.

Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!”

God entrusts Gideon and his people to enact a similar deliverance but not with the dramatic intervention Israel experienced from Egypt, but rather, “with the strength you have.”

There was then a reference to Esther 4:14. You know this story. You know this verse. This is Esther’s uncle Mordecai speaking:

If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”

Bruxy said, “When God wants to do something, people are always his ‘Plan A.”

…On a recent podcast, Brant Hansen quoted the full text of The Serenity Prayer which includes these words:

…Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it.
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His will…

Again, “trusting that He will make all things right.”

Brant and co-host Sherri-Lynn also asked the question that needs to be asked of anyone out there who feels they have a belief system or a philosophy of life that is different from ours; that question is, “How does your faith stand up to a pandemic?”

Let’s take that question and make it more personal. Most people reading here at C201 are believers, right? So, how does your faith stand up to a pandemic?

When I met my wife she was a traveling soloist who did music ministry in a variety of churches in various parts of our province. One of the songs she did is by Twila Paris, titled The Warrior is a Child. This song epitomizes the feelings we have as Christ-followers where one minute we are on the mountain, but the next minute we are in the valley; one moment we feel great spiritual triumph and victory, and the next moment we feel great defeat.

Lately I’ve been winning battles left and right
But even winners can get wounded in the fight
People say that I’m amazing
Strong beyond my years
But they don’t see inside of me
I’m hiding all the tears

They don’t know that I go running home when I fall down
They don’t know who picks me up when no one is around
I drop my sword and cry for just a while
‘Cause deep inside this armor
The warrior is a child

Unafraid because His armor is the best
But even soldiers need a quiet place to rest
People say that I’m amazing
Never face retreat
But they don’t see the enemies
That lay me at His feet

They don’t know that I go running home when I fall down…

Sometimes I think we have more fight in us when we together than we are alone. This alone time really shakes us and also causes us to look inside and see our weaknesses; uncover our spiritual vulnerabilities.

Perhaps in times past you’ve been living on Victory Street, but are finding the events of the past few weeks crushing you mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. That happens. Be honest. Confess that to our Father.

We’re separated from one another as local churches. We may not see the Egypt-style dramatic deliverance from this we’d like.

Take the message Gideon received, “Go in the strength you have.”


March 22, 2020

Look Up at the Eagle in Flight; Look Up and Count the Stars

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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NIV.Is.40.26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
    Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
    and calls forth each of them by name…

28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.

by Ruth Wilkinson

A few years ago, there was a summer when our son was struggling with depression. This was the first time we’d encountered it and we thought it was something he’d go through and come out the other side. As parents do, we encouraged him to push back against it, to get out there and do stuff, including a summer job.

The only work available was picking strawberries for a local farmer and we thought that would be perfect–fresh air, sunshine, the smell of berry fields, no time pressure–not to mention it being the perfect, introvert-friendly summer job.

He absolutely hated it. He tried; he showed up to his shifts and worked away. But he absolutely hated it. He kept going for most of the season, but after several weeks, he quit.

We didn’t understand why it went so badly, but eventually we wondered whether it had to do with the posture of berry picking.

Head down, looking at the ground, shoulders hunched forward. We wonder now whether that downward posture combined with his depression to make everything worse.

+=+=+=+=+=+

I’ve been thinking lately about looking down. And looking up.

The 40th chapter of Isaiah contains a message to the people of Israel: a message sent to encourage them, to let them know that their season of exile was nearly over. They’d been invaded, defeated, and taken captive, and carried away.

Their situation was different from ours in a few ways:

  • They’d been told by God in no uncertain terms that their situation was a direct result of choices they’d made. It was effectively time out for bad behaviour. We have no credible reason to believe that is the case for us.
  • What they were afraid of was men with swords, violent invaders who, if kept happy, might not assault or kill. We are afraid of each other–of friends, family, neighbours, or any close contact.
  • They were scooped up and taken from their home, their beautiful city, en masse to somewhere far away, where they didn’t want to be. We have been separated from each other, distanced for our own protection.

But even with those differences…

  • we are wondering why this is happening.
  • we are afraid, anxious.
  • we are not where we want to be.

Isaiah 40 is one part of the Bible that we take to heart–words of comfort and encouragement, even though they were spoken long ago in a time that is not now, to people who are not us.

But they endure, they’ve been preserved, they’ve been painted on wall hangings and t-shirts, because, an age and a world away, they still apply to us. They contain truth beyond their particular circumstances, and show us something about who God is and what he intends for us. Something he wants us to know.

+=+=+=+=+=+

“Look up,” He says.*
“Look up and see how the eagle flies.
Look up and count the stars.”

Yes, there’ve been days when I’ve run and run and run, thinking I’d never run out of breath.
Days when I walked for mile after mile after mile, strength after strength after strength.
Days when I looked up and I soared.

But these are days when I can only look down at the road.
As far as the next step.
Days when the weariness catches up to me and I stumble.
And I fall.

And I cry aloud, “God doesn’t see me!  The Lord isn’t  listening to me!”
And I wallow in my own echo.
He doesn’t. He isn’t. He doesn’t. He isn’t. He doesn’t. He isn’t.

But when the echoes fade, I hear him.

“Look up,” He says.

“Don’t you know?  Haven’t you heard?
I am the everlasting God.
The Creator of the whole of earth and heaven.
I never get weary.
I never stumble.
I never fall.
I have strength to give to the weary,  the powerless.
“You may stumble.
You may fall.
But trust in me.
Wait on me and I will renew your strength.
To walk again.
To run again.
To soar.”

He says, “Look up.”
So I will look up.
I will look up and see.
I will look up and walk.
I will look up and run.
I will look up and soar.


*Ruth’s paraphrase of Isaiah 40, selected verses

March 21, 2020

You Can Choose What You Think

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
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In a most timely matter, given all that is happening in our world right now, one of the devotionals this week at Devotions Daily at FaithGateway.com was an excerpt from Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado. Although it was too long to run here, I want to include a couple of excerpts from the excerpt!

You can choose what you think about

…For that reason the wise man urges,

Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.
— Proverbs 4:23 NCV

Do you want to be happy tomorrow? Then sow seeds of happiness today. (Count blessings. Memorize Bible verses. Pray. Sing hymns. Spend time with encouraging people.) Do you want to guarantee tomorrow’s misery? Then wallow in a mental mud pit of self-pity or guilt or anxiety today. (Assume the worst. Beat yourself up. Rehearse your regrets. Complain to complainers.) Thoughts have consequences.

Healing from anxiety requires healthy thinking. Your challenge is not your challenge. Your challenge is the way you think about your challenge. Your problem is not your problem; it is the way you look at it.

Satan knows this. The devil is always messing with our minds.

He comes as a thief

with the sole intention of stealing and killing and destroying.
— John 10:10 Phillips

He brings only gloom and doom. By the time he was finished with Job, the man was sick and alone. By the time he had done his work in Judas, the disciple had given up on life. The devil is to hope what termites are to an oak; he’ll chew you up from the inside.

He will lead you to a sunless place and leave you there. He seeks to convince you this world has no window, no possibility of light. Exaggerated, overstated, inflated, irrational thoughts are the devil’s specialty.

No one will ever love me. It’s all over for me. Everyone is against me. I’ll never lose weight, get out of debt, or have friends.

What lugubrious, monstrous lies!

No problem is unsolvable. No life is irredeemable. No one’s fate is sealed. No one is unloved or unlovable.

Your challenge is the way you think about your challenge. 

But Satan wants us to think we are. He wants to leave us in a swarm of anxious, negative thoughts.

Satan is the master of deceit. But he is not the master of your mind. You have a power he cannot defeat. You have God on your side.

So

fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
— Philippians 4:8 NLT

The transliteration of the Greek word, here rendered as fix, is logizomai. Do you see the root of an English word in the Greek one? Yes, logic. Paul’s point is simple: anxiety is best faced with clearheaded, logical thinking.

Turns out that our most valuable weapon against anxiety weighs less than three pounds and sits between our ears. Think about what you think about!

Here is how it works. You receive a call from the doctor’s office. The message is simple and unwelcome. “The doctor has reviewed your tests and would like you to come into the office for a consultation.”

As quickly as you can say “uh-oh,” you have a choice: anxiety or trust.

Anxiety says…

“I’m in trouble. Why does God let bad things happen to me? Am I being punished? I must have done something wrong.”

“These things never turn out right. My family has a history of tragedy. It’s my turn. I probably have cancer, arthritis, jaundice. Am I going blind? My eyes have been blurry lately. Is this a brain tumor?”

“Who will raise the kids? Who will pay the medical bills? I’m going to die broke and lonely. I’m too young for this tragedy! No one can understand me or help me.”

If you aren’t already sick, you will be by the time you go to the doctor’s office.

Anxiety weighs down the human heart.
— Proverbs 12:25 NRSV

But there is a better way.

Before you call your mom, spouse, neighbor, or friend, call on God. Invite him to speak to the problem.

Capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ.
— 2 Corinthians 10:5 NCV

Slap handcuffs on the culprit, and march it before the One who has all authority: Jesus Christ.

Jesus, this anxious, negative thought just wormed its way into my mind. Is it from You?

Jesus, who speaks nothing but the truth, says, “No, get away from here, Satan.” And as the discerning, sober-minded air traffic controller of your mind, you refuse to let the thought have the time of day.

Lay claim to every biblical promise you can remember, and set out to learn a few more. Grip them for the life preservers they are. Give Satan no quarter. Give his lies no welcome.

Fasten the belt of truth around your waist.
— Ephesians 6:14 NRSV

Resist the urge to exaggerate, overstate, or amplify. Focus on the facts, nothing more…

-Max Lucado

March 16, 2020

Plagues Happened at the Beginning of the Story and Will at the End

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 3:32 pm
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We tend to consign the word plague to certain Old Testament stories. Of course we also tend to think that with our modern health care, such things could never happen in current times. At least we think that until we find ourselves in the middle of one.

From Bible Study Tools:

The term “plague” is found roughly 100 times in the Bible, primarily in the Old Testament. The most commonly known biblical plagues occurred in Egypt during the time of Moses. Plagues are also mentioned in Revelation of the New Testament when describing the end of days on Earth. Scripture reveals that God sent plagues as a consequence of disobedience and idolatry. Exodus 32:35 gives an example of this, saying “So the Lord plagued the people because of what they did with the calf which Aaron made.”

The passage clearly indicates that God sent the plague. I think this goes beyond saying God permitted the plague to happen. We say that most times today — and, I believe, correctly — that things happen because we live in a fallen world, but clearly God Himself, speaking through the prophets, takes a proactive role and reveals Himself as the author of the plagues, as is declared in Amos 4:10.

“I sent plagues among you as I did to Egypt. I killed your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I filled your nostrils with the stench of your camps, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the LORD.

At the website Knowing Jesus, we’re given a number of verses on this subject, and this one, from Jeremiah 14:12 shows God’s deliberate action and provides us with a number of Biblical synonyms to plague:

“When they fast, I am not going to listen to their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I am not going to accept them Rather I am going to make an end of them by the sword, famine and pestilence.”

This is of course where so many get the idea of the violent, angry, Old Testament God; the very picture which seems so much at odds to the loving, compassionate, New Testament version of God which the modern church is trying so hard to promote!

But God is the same: yesterday, today and forever, right? We have to be careful of going too far down the road where God has two different masks that he wears. Yes, we live in what some call The Age of Grace, and that grace has been poured out to us through Jesus. But God judges sin as part of his essential character.

So…in the few New Testament references we have to plague, are they part of the fallen world model, or are they going to be sent directly by God as a form of judgement? Mark 13:8 and its parallel passage in Luke 5:11 state respectively,

“For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

“…and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.”

How did you answer that? How do we answer if the present virus outbreak is judgement or natural consequence of the fallen world we live in?

I am sure that, as diverse as the Body of Christ is, there are people with answers on both sides for that question…

One other thought

Before we leave today, it occurred to me about 30 minutes before posting this that people in the broader demographic are looking to see how we, as Christians, are responding to this crisis. Our neighbors. Our co-workers. Our extended family. Our children. Our unsaved spouses. Our fellow-students.

Is our faith strong enough to hold in these times? I ask myself that question, too; because we don’t truly know until we’re in the time of testing how we will fare.


If you’re joining us today for the first time

We’ve been looking at this theme for the past several devotions:

March 15, 2020

When Anxiety Overwhelms

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
-Psalm 139:23

Today, selections from search engine results; you’re encouraged to click the links to each piece; these are just fragments from larger articles.


From Bethany Bible Church, Joel Nevius writes:

Memorize and Pray Scripture

One of the worst things about anxiety attacks is that it turns all of your attention inward. Because you are constantly monitoring and checking on how you’re feeling, it becomes harder to focus on other things and other people. We get consumed with thoughts like: How am I feeling? Is there another attack coming on? Will I ever become sane again? I feel so scared. I feel alone in this. Nothing will ever be the same again. I guess I’ll be in a mental hospital the rest of my life.

During the initial weeks of battling anxiety attacks, I met with one of my pastors who knew what was going on. He did one of the best things for me…he gave me a list of passages that he wanted me to meditate on. Far from it feeling like a cheap fix, the passages he shared with me all took on a more significant meaning to me, since I was desperate for relief. All of a sudden, passages that communicated God’s presence in the midst of scary situations became very real.

I began to commit the beginning of Isaiah 43 to memory:

1 But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

One of the worst times I found for my anxiety was at night as I was trying to sleep, so I would simply recite and pray through this passage over and over and over again until I fell asleep. The Holy Spirit calmed me down through this passage as I reflected on the amazing truth that God is faithfully present with his people during really scary and dangerous times. This was incredibly powerful since when we’re dealing with severe anxiety the biggest temptation is to think that we are all alone.

Memorize a passage and dwell on the truth of it. I promise the Holy Spirit will use it.

this is part 4 of a 5-part article


At Olive Tree, Cierra Loux writes,

Worry Causes Fear to Crowd out Faith

Thus, in the final reckoning, “the cowardly” are listed alongside the “unbelieving” (Rev 21:8). Linking worry with unbelief, Scripture gives direction for a return to full faith. The road from worry to faith begins with recognition that worry is sin and confession of lack of faith (Ps 139:23), continues with deliverance (Ps 34:4), and finally ends with the assurance that absolutely nothing can separate you from the love of God who is the great I am (Ro 8:35Ex 3:14–15).

In place of anxious thoughts, you then freely offer thanksgiving from a heart established with trust in God as all sufficient (Ps 112:7–8Php 4:6–7).

What worry or fear are you surrendering to the Lord today?

this is part 4 of a short 4-part article


From Relevant Magazine, Rachel Moreland writes,

Healing comes in many forms

…God didn’t heal me instantly right on the spot. On the contrary, my experience wasn’t one of immediate relief. It wasn’t a miraculous healing that some encounter in church pews.

Managing my anxiety was a long and drawn-out process. It was the result of many months of intense counseling sessions and emotional energy. But in that process, I found relief. And I experienced healing.

It all started by going to speak a complete stranger about my fears where I learned about tools to help stop the onset of a panic attack. I slowly began to learn how to manage overpowering feelings of anxiety. As I accepted the fact that I struggled with a disorder, I began the frightening process of opening up to my family and friends. I took a step back and observed the bad habits I needed to break, and I even had to say goodbye to some unhealthy relationships. The process was anything but easy or formulaic, but it allowed me to slowly regain that peace of mind that Philippians talks about.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

So did God heal me?

Not in the way you would think. Not in one instant heavenly instant.
I have no shame in admitting to you that my prayers didn’t result in the end of my disorder. Healing takes place in many different ways. Sometimes it’s the immediate relief from anxiety during a worship service, and sometimes it’s ongoing treatment from a doctor.

What I can attest to is that God gave me the peace and determination to manage those days where anxiety was too close for comfort. And through that, I found grace. And ultimately, freedom.

this is part 3 of a 4-part article


I encourage you to do a similar search online; but exercise discernment as a variety of different faith groups optimize their pages in search results.


“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” – Psalm 55:22

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:6-8

March 14, 2020

Faith in God in Chaotic Times

Today we’re returning to Devotions by Chris, the blog of Chris Hendrix.  We’ll probably stay on this same theme for a few days, given what’s taking place in our world. Chris shares a short word and then lists five scripture passages from various translations. After the line break in the article are ten more that Chris listed in an article we shared here four years ago.

Trusting God’s Protection

Yesterday I went to a meeting where a person gave a speech on how to protect yourself from cyber criminals. He talked about the importance of longer passwords, paid for antivirus and firewalls. I began to think about all the ways we try to protect ourselves from bad things or people. We have home security systems, gates to our communities, cameras on our property and crash detection in our vehicles. Right now the world is trying to protect itself from the Coronavirus. Everyone is washing their hands, wearing masks and avoiding public gatherings. Are we being driven by fear or being cautious? Fear leads to panic and it is not from God (2 Timothy 1:7).

I’m all for being cautious and for being wise in protecting my belongings and family, but as the guy mentioned at the meeting, nothing can protect you 100%. That’s why we need to put our full trust in the One who can. Jerusalem had walls built around it for protection, yet David trusted God for protection more than the walls. You and I should do the same. God is our refuge and a very present help in time of need (Psalm 46:1). If we’re trusting God, we have nothing to fear. He is more than able to protect us from anything that would come against us. Take your precautions on things, but also pray to ask God for His divine protection and be at peace.

Here are some Bible verses on God’s protection.

1. He alone is my safe place; his wrap-around presence always protects me. For he is my champion defender; there’s no risk of failure with God. So why would I let worry paralyze me, even when troubles multiply around me?

Psalms 62:2 TPT

2. Trust in the Lord forever; he will always protect us.

Isaiah 26:4 GNT

3. If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go.

Psalms 91:9-11 NLT

4. Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me. Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.

Psalm 23:4 GNT

5. Lord, you are my secret hiding place, protecting me from these troubles, surrounding me with songs of gladness! Your joyous shouts of rescue release my breakthrough. Pause in his presence.

Psalms 32:7 TPT


Scriptures from the 2016 article,

Refuse To Worry

1. Therefore I tell you, stop being worried or anxious (perpetually uneasy, distracted) about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, as to what you will wear. Is life not more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Matthew 6:25 AMP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Postscript: If you have time today, take a moment to read Chris’ personal story.

March 13, 2020

Hold Your Head Up

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:28 pm
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But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. – Psalm 3:3 KJV

But you, God, shield me on all sides; You ground my feet, you lift my head high – Psalm 3:3 The Message

But, Lord, you are my shield, my wonderful God who gives me courage. – Psalm 3:3 NCV

Earlier this morning I was reading something posted in a Facebook group on Classic Praise and Worship songs about the early worship song which was based on the KJV rendering of the above verse.

It seemed timely given the climate of fear which has come over so many in the wake of the current Coronavirus pandemic. On a personal level, I’ve been rather ‘rattled’ by that. Perhaps for others of you, all it takes is a haunting nagging from your pre-conversion past over the fact today was a Friday the 13th.

So many Christian books right now deal with the topics of fear, worry, anxiety and its related consequence, depression.

  • The Power of Praying Through Fear
  • Anxious for Nothing
  • Too Blessed to be Stressed
  • Overcoming Fear, Worry and Anxiety
  • Breaking the Worry Habit Forever
  • Worry Less, Live More
  • Worry-Free Living
  • Winning the Worry Battle
  • Letting Go of Fear
  • Prayers for Freedom Over Worry
  • Finding Peace
  • Breaking Anxiety’s Grip
  • Fearless
  • Still: 7 Ways to Find Calm in the Chaos

…and that’s just a few; not to mention the hundreds of self-help books that aren’t in the Christian marketplace; dealing with the effects of fear on the wider society.

There were also many, many more books listed which had the word overcoming in the title.  Note to self: We need to a devotional on the subject of what it means to be an overcomer, as this theme runs throughout scripture, even if the word isn’t used.

Of course, the opposite of looking up is looking down. Three times in Psalm 42 and once again in Psalm 43, we find the word translated in the NIV as downcast.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.  43:5

and it appears several other times in that translations.

We all, myself included, need to ask ourselves if in view of the present circumstances our world finds itself in, we are looking up or looking down.

Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Psalm 24:7 NIV

“When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” – Jesus in Luke 21:18

We need to be people who are looking up.  No matter what:

“…Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me … my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”(Ps 23).

When David wrote Psalm 3 when he was fleeing from Absalom. The lyrics of the short worship song which started our thoughts today include text taken from the subsequent verse, verse 4:

 I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill.

For one more linked song today however, I want to leave us with something slightly more recent, Why So Downcast by Marty Nystrom.

 

 

March 11, 2020

Prayer for Peaceful Sleep

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Twice, in 2015 and 2016, we connected with the blog Prayerful Pondering by Pat Luffman Rowland. Although the blog is currently inactive, I was back for a visit yesterday and found this article. With all the turmoil in the world right now I can bet that some of you are not sleeping as soundly as you’d like. I hope this helps.

Peaceful Sleep

For most of us, that time of turning in for the night is when our minds accelerate. We think of the decisions we made that day and whether they were wise, many times wishing we could do them over. We think about things that may happen in the near future, things that may be life changing, problems we face — both big and small. We think about our children and our concerns for them. One thing I think about every night is whether I did anything kind for anyone. It bothers me to think I’ve closed out a day without a single act of kindness.

For some who live alone, there are thoughts about safety. Was everything that needed to be turned off, turned off? Did I lock all the doors? Did I arm the security system? If I fall during the night, will someone know to check on me relatively soon the next day?

In the last year of my mother’s living alone, I prayed a lot about her safety.  I prayed against fire, against a predator realizing that she lived alone, that she wouldn’t fall or get sick or become frightened during the night.

Psalm 4:8 says “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety” (NIV).  I have a friend who prays this every night over family and friends who live alone, calling out each name and asking that they will know God’s protection. What a beautiful gift!

Proverbs 3:24 says “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet” (NIV). Psalm 127:3 reminds us that the one who watches over us never slumbers or sleeps.

I especially love this word from Psalm 3:3-6 (NLT):  “But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high. I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy mountain. I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me. I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies who surround me on every side.”

I love it because it begins with recognizing and praising God, saying to Him that we know He hears us when we call out to Him. Those words of David say that we know God in Heaven sees every threat that might come our way. It encourages us when it says we slept in trust and woke up without any trouble coming upon us through the night. The last sentence rightly gives God praise again, following the Lord’s instruction to begin and end our prayers with praising God. In that final praise, we affirm our confidence that we are protected on every side and from every danger.

Do you have trouble falling to sleep? Do you replay all the day’s woes? Do you angst over children or parents or other loved ones? Maybe one of these verses can help you to let go and sleep peacefully. Or, you can check your Bible’s concordance or “google” for other verses on peaceful sleep. I encourage you to choose a scripture and commit it to memory, then let it be your last thought of the day. And as Proverb 3:4 says, may your sleep be sweet.


Postscript: Continuing the same theme, part of what directed me to this article was the discovery that an article we ran about the phrase a Isaiah — The Chastisement of Our Peace — was being frequently clicked. Again, these are tumultuous times, so I’m not surprised. The article was repeated just 22 months ago, but if you missed it, click here.

March 6, 2020

Practice Handing Your Circumstances Over to God

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Today’s devotional is short and simple, but there’s a reason I want to share it here on C201.

I don’t usually drive at night. No particular reason, but my schedule tends to crowd more things into daylight hours. But last week, with my car radio preset to Life 100.3 in Central Ontario (Canada) I was able to listen to what some would describe as “the youth show” called Slammin’ Christian Hits with host Terry Molinaro.

I was quite impressed with the way he handles the conversations with various people who call into the show, which are aired between songs. When I found out he has a blog (since 2014) I made up my mind I was going to share something from it; not only for readers here, but as an encouragement to Terry in his ministry.

As always, click the header below to read this at source. (Especially today…send Terry some online traffic.)

Practice Peace, Forget Worry

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you were unprepared? When I was younger, I used to go to piano competitions. It’s a pretty strange thing to do, especially when you get into your teen years. No matter how good you become, what level you get to, there is always a five-year-old that can outplay you. I remember this one time when I was around 18 years old, sitting in a row of performers looking like I was the babysitter instead of a contestant.

Usually, I did well; however, there were times where I felt like I could have done better. I believe it came down to preparation or a lack thereof. If we have to bring things to the modern-day, I’m not worried about winning a piano competition against a bunch of five-year-olds anymore, but there are real things that pop up every once and awhile.

Recently, I had a non-medical emergency happen in my life that ended up costing a decent amount of money. Not to brag, but I got the invoice, and I paid for it. I didn’t stress or think twice about it. Why? Because I had prepared for an emergency in advance. (Thank you, Dave Ramsey)

The Bible says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He’s done.” The question on my mind is, how well are we practicing not worrying? How often are we practicing praying about everything?

When I went on stage as a kid to perform a piece of music, if I suddenly decided to take a few moments to memorize the piece and practice it right then and there, it would have done me no good. It was the practice ahead of time that prepared me for the moments I was on stage.

Let me encourage you; you don’t have a different access level to peace than other people who seem peaceful do. You simply may not have practiced handing your circumstances and stresses over to God.

In the coming weeks and months, even today, stop and breathe, take a moment and bring the things that are on your mind before God. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He’s done. If you do, the Bible goes on to say, “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ, Jesus.”

Practice peace, practice putting it into your life today, and it will guard your tomorrows.

25 Days of Christianity 201

On March 31st, 2020, Christianity 201 will have published a fresh devotional/study reading every day for ten years. On April 1st, Lord willing, we’ll still be here, but as I did with Thinking Out Loud, at the ten year mark I’m releasing myself from the obligation to post something every day. We will probably adopt a Monday-to-Friday format. There will continue to be new content posting, as well as fresh articles by Clarke Dixon every Thursday. If this is a subscription that you depend upon for daily input, I encourage you to start now following some of the other blogs which are featured here. Or consider writing for us to keep material coming! In the meantime, continue to enjoy “Digging a Little Deeper” daily at C201.

 

January 2, 2020

2019 Bible Verse of the Year

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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by Clarke Dixon

With 35 billion chapters of the Bible read using their Bible apps in 2019, the people who bring us YouVersion have some impressive statistics to back up their announcement of the “verse of the year.” It is the most looked up, most highlighted, and most shared verse in the YouVersion community. So what is it?

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 (NRSV)

This speaks to the fear and anxiety in today’s society, and since the app is used across the globe, the anxieties felt around the world. This verse was written by someone who had great reason for anxiety and worry, for people who had great reason for anxiety and worry. It is in a letter written by the apostle Paul from prison, always a place of uncertainty in that time and place, to the Christians in Philippi who were facing persecution. So what does Paul say? Let’s consider what the Bible says about worry here, beginning with verse 4:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Philippians 4:4 (NRSV)

We rejoice, even though we may feel scared, mad, or sad. That might seem like an impossible thing to do, since we cannot normally choose our emotions. However, “rejoice” here is an imperative verb, it is an action rather than a feeling. According to Greek experts it is the activity of being glad or taking delight. It is possible to feel sad, and be glad at the same time. Paul is not contradicting himself when he says “we are saddened, but we rejoice” in 2nd Corinthians 6:10.

To give an example, I might be sorrowful that we are now in a Canadian winter and I cannot ride a motorcycle. But at the same time I can be glad that I have enjoyed motorcycling every year since 1991, and look forward to another season of riding in the spring. For another example, I am unhappy about my Mum having Alzheimer’s disease, and feeling distraught that she is now living in a nursing home. However, I am glad she is safe, and with our shared hope in Christ, I take delight in the fact that her best days are still ahead. My emotions have not changed, I am still feeling the emotions brought by grief, but I can focus my mind on things to take delight in. I don’t try to change my emotions from feeling sad to happy, but rather refocus my mind, engaging in the activity of rejoicing even while unhappy.

This is part of what happens in worship and praise at church gatherings. Whatever our emotions resulting from a difficult week, or a difficult season of life, in worship we focus on the big picture, the reality that is ours in God. There can be awful stuff happening in our lives which will result in negative emotions, but in worship all the awful stuff takes the background. The reality of God takes the forefront of our hearts and minds. We cannot change our emotions, but we can change our focus. We are told to “Rejoice in the Lord!” We focus on God. We focus on the big picture God paints for us which takes the focus off the limited perspective of our own field of vision.

Next:

Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Philippians 4:5 (NRSV)

We keep our cool, even though we may be mad enough to blow our tops. If our emotions take the forefront, then our relationships will be affected. When we allow the worries of life to take the foreground of our hearts and minds, we can easily hurt others. We can “kick the dog” so to speak. The Greek word for ‘gentleness’ has the idea of fitting, appropriate, or fair. Our response to the troubles of life can make our family and friends suffer unfairly, not to mention the poor dog. It is much better when we relate to people with the reality of God in the foreground. We relate to people, not as wounded people flailing away with swords, but as healed and healing people, experiencing grace and love from God, seeking grace and love in the lives of others.

And now for the verse of the year:

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 (NRSV)

We can pray, even though worry seems like the best, or only, thing to do. When we rejoice, we put the big picture in the forefront. In prayer, we have the opportunity to get our concerns and frustrations back to the forefront. Our frustrations and concerns are important, so should not merely be hidden away as if they do no matter. However, we do not put them forward so they can consume us. We focus on them in order to name them and hand them over to God. What is the result?

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 (NRSV)

We may be uncertain about many things, but in Christ we can be certain God is our Heavenly Father who works out all things together for good (see Romans 8:28). One very literal translation puts it this way: “The peace of God, the one surpassing in value all reasoning, will watch over your inner selves and your thoughts” (from Scripture Direct Interlinear Greek Bible). While many understand this verse to mean something like “the peace of God is beyond understanding,” another possibility is; “having the peace of God is better than having understanding.” In other words, it is better to experience the peace of God, than have everything figured out. That is often our trouble, we want to have everything figured out, we worry and fret when we don’t. We don’t need it all figured out! Give it to God, Who already has it all figured out, Who has the power to do something about it, Who has the love to do something good about it, even if we can’t see it or understand it. Once we have given our concerns over to God, we can then refocus the mind again:

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8 (NRSV)

We have something far greater than knowing every detail of the future, and the ability to control that future. We have a relationship with the One who holds the future. Instead of worrying, let us go to God, rejoicing in our reality in Christ, relating to others with that reality in mind, giving our concerns over to God, then refocusing on all that is good. Whatever emotions you may experience in 2020, may you know peace, especially the peace of God.


Clarke Dixon appears here most Thursdays and is the pastor of a church in Cobourg, Ontario about an hour east of Toronto. Click here for his WordPress blog.

 

September 26, 2019

Scripture Medley: Perfect Peace

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Each day I receive in my inbox a reading from Devotions Daily. While I often benefit personally from this, there is no escaping that its primary purpose is to sell books; coincidentally, the book from which an excerpt was taken for that day’s devotional.

This week however, there was one which was simply a medley of scripture verses, albeit excerpted from the book God’s Promises for Your Every Needs. Since it’s all scripture, I decided to throw copyright caution to the wind and reproduce it here.

As I looked for something to add to the verses, because this is a WordPress blog, I decided to use their tag index to see what was available on the subject of peace. The search results update live, so I’m seeing everything that is being added in real time using that tag, and those results were in some respects quite surprising and in other respects not so much.

Usually my tag search is for “worship” or “devotion” and while these will sometimes produce some results from outside the realm of Christianity, at 2:15 PM today I had a hard time finding anything under “peace” even remotely related to Christianity.*

I think you know the reason.

While “Be still and know…” is a scriptural sentiment, we don’t own the market when it comes to peace. Everyone is searching for it; everyone is longing for it; especially as the pace of living in this world gets increasingly more frantic. The world is filled with fear, stress and anxiety. (And let’s be honest, the device on which you’re reading this is contributing to that pace of living; these labor-saving devices are adding to our stress; we are serving the technology rather than the technology serving us.)

The world is searching for peace.

And we know the source of perfect peace.

Take time to consider each verse below before moving on to the next one.

In each, ask, “What is the specific promise of peace in this passage?”

You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. — Isaiah 26:3

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. — John 14:27

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. — Philippians 4:6-7

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. — Romans 5:1

Lord, You will establish peace for us, For You have also done all our works in us. — Isaiah 26:12

“For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills Shall break forth into singing before you, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” — Isaiah 55:12

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” — John 16:33

Mark the blameless man, and observe the upright; For the future of that man is peace. — Psalm 37:37

He shall enter into peace; They shall rest in their beds, Each one walking in his uprightness. — Isaiah 57:2

For the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.  — Romans 14:17-19

Great peace have those who love Your law, And nothing causes them to stumble. — Psalm 119:165

But the meek shall inherit the earth, And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. — Psalm 37:11

I will hear what God the Lord will speak, For He will speak peace to His people and to His saints; But let them not turn back to folly. — Psalm 85:8

Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. — 2 Corinthians 13:11

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. — Colossians 3:15


*There was one exception and I’m hoping to share her writing in a space by itself over the next few days.

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