Christianity 201

January 28, 2016

Why “I Couldn’t Help Myself” is Often Untrue

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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2 Samuel 3:26 Joab then left David and sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the cistern at Sirah. But David did not know it. 27 Now when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into an inner chamber, as if to speak with him privately. And there, to avenge the blood of his brother Asahel, Joab stabbed him in the stomach, and he died.

Earlier today we discovered a new devotional site that some of you might like to join for the current series on 2 Samuel. (You’ll have to backtrack a few days to start at the beginning; we’re going to be in chapter 3 today.)

Read it and Do It is written daily by Tennessee pastor Todd Stevens. Friendship Community Church’s statement of beliefs would make a great devotional here on its own.

As always, read this at source by clicking the title below. To start at the beginning of 2 Samuel, next click the header at the top of his blog’s page, and then scroll down to the start of the series.

Did your parents say these crazy things to you?

READ IT
Today’s chapter: 2 Samuel 3

When I was a kid, my parents said certain crazy phrases to me over and over. I swore I’d never use say of those clichés with my kids. “Don’t make me turn this car around!” “If you don’t stop making that face, it will freeze that way.” “Would you jump off a cliff just because all your friends did?” I think I’ve already said them all to my kids at one time or another.

There is a phrase I also remember my mom saying to me many times when I was angry. “You better just cool your jets, mister. Cool your jets.”

I hated it when she said that. First of all, I didn’t have any jets. Second, if I did have jets, why would they need to be cooled? But I knew what she meant. She was telling me to control my temper. I would get so mad when she said that because I was sure it wasn’t possible. How could I be expected to control my temper when I had every reason to be angry?

Joab felt the same way I did when I was a kid. His brother had been killed by Abner and he wanted revenge. He had every reason to be angry, so why should he be expected to control his temper? He let his anger consume him and got vengeance by murdering Abner.

Although his anger was justified, his actions weren’t. It wasn’t his place to exact justice. David was his king and he alone had the authority to decide whether Abner should be punished. Since David had sent Abner off in peace, Joab was out of bounds to kill him. He should have cooled his jets.

The idea that we can’t control our anger is a myth. Let me prove it to you. Think about the last time you got angry and lashed out at someone. Imagine that just before you lashed out, an angel appeared and offered you a million dollars if you could wait at least 10 minutes before responding in anger. Could you do it? (Please don’t get hung up thinking I’m suggesting this is something an angel would ever do. It’s just a hypothetical scenario…)

Here’s the point: if you could control your anger for 10 minutes for a million bucks, then clearly you could control your anger. Each time you’re in a situation that makes you angry, you can decide whether you’re going to allow your anger to consume you.

Nobody can make you furious without your permission. With God, you can choose to respond to anger in a way that demonstrates His love. Even if your anger is justified, you can still decide to cool your jets.

DO IT
At some point today, things aren’t going to be the way you expected them to be. You’re going to be angry and will have an opportunity to decide how to respond to it. Choose to demonstrate God’s love. Do something kind for someone who has done nothing to deserve it.

How will the situation change because of your choice?

 

July 26, 2015

Uriah’s Wife and Potiphar’s Wife

One of the Lectionary readings for today is the story of what the paragraph header in one translation calls “David’s Great Sin.”

2 Samuel 11:1Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem.

      2Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance. 3So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her

As it was read in the church we visited this morning, I couldn’t help but think of the contrast between this story and the story of Joseph with Potiphar’s wife.

Genesis 39:4Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his [Potiphar’s] attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. 5From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. 6So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate...

Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, 7and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” 8But he refused…

11One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 12She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.

You wouldn’t know it by the classical art paintings shown at Wikipedia, but I’m sure in that time and place Potiphar’s wife — whose name is never given — was in her day equally hot as Bathsheba, who by today’s standards doesn’t fare well in similar paintings either. Rather, there’s something else going on here; we ascribe Joseph’s refusal of the woman’s seduction to his character whereas we look at David’s actions as showing a lack of character.

Joseph was doing his job. While today leaders — Christian or otherwise — are advised not to put themselves in a place where they are alone with a woman, he was after all where he was supposed to be. Responsibilities for Potipar’s household was written into his job description.

Like Joseph, there are many times in my life where I can look back and say that I held my convictions and remained strong in the face of sexual temptation. But as a I grew older, I realized that if I was really strong, I wouldn’t have put myself in those situations in the first place.

Many pastors and counselors who must meet with a person of the opposite sex often do so with their office door kept open, or meet in a public place. Temptation can happen at any time. Under the circumstances — and let’s face it, without warning in the book of Genesis to read — Joseph did well.

David, on the other hand, was not where he was supposed to be. You could say his observing the woman on the roof was a chance accident, but the first verse in the text simply doesn’t give us that option. He was at that time in the wrong place, and worse, he initiated the sexual encounter with Uriah’s wife.

Where Joseph ran away from the temptation, David ran toward the temptation. Where Joseph did everything he could do to avoid a sinful situation, David engineered the circumstances to both commit adultery and attempt to cover it up.

When Potiphar’s wife didn’t appreciate having her advances spurned, she fabricated a story that ended up with Joseph in prison. Despite this, God was orchestrating a plan that would see him returned to the same position of power, or one even greater, that would save the nation and even save his own family.

It’s a stretch, but because through the years in prison it came about that Potiphar learned that Joseph could interpret dreams, I can almost hear Joseph saying to Mrs. Potiphar what he would later say to his brothers,

Gen 50:20You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

David recognized his sin, and we believe his prayer of confession and his plea for God’s mercy. But there were long-term consequences. The wound healed, but the scars remained.

Ask Yourself: Because temptation is everywhere, when I encounter it, am I going to be Dave or Joe?


Bible verses today are from BibleHub.com; each verse number is also a link.

 

 

August 23, 2014

Everybody Needs a Prophet

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:37 pm
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Nathan confronts David

Nathan confronts David

On Saturday I was reading an article at Huffington Post about a popular U.S. minister who is presently experiencing a rather dramatic fall from grace. Because we don’t do news-specific or time-specific devotionals here, the details are not important; though in fairness, because we’re quoting from it extensively, here is the link. But what struck me was one section of a larger article suggesting the man needs to hire a prophet. I think this article has a timeless quality that transcends the current Christian news cycle.

What would that look like?

The author, Jack Levison blogs at Spiritchatter and is author of Fresh Air: The Holy Spirit for an Inspired Life (Paraclete Press, 2012). He begins with a look at what you don’t want: A false prophet.

What Not to Hire

Let’s start with what not to hire. One Old Testament writer (actually, a prophet himself) named Micah described false prophets in words worth reading right now:

Here is GOD’s Message to the prophets,
the preachers who lie to my people;
“For as long as they’re well paid and well fed,
the prophets preach, ‘Isn’t life wonderful! Peace to all!’
But if you don’t pay up and jump on their bandwagon,
their ‘God bless you’ turns into ‘God damn you.’
Therefore, you’re going blind. You’ll see nothing.
You’ll live in deep shadows and know nothing.
The sun has set on the prophets.
They’ve had their day; from now on it’s night.” (Micah 3:5-6, The Message)

Micah criticizes the leaders of his day for their neglect of justice, but here his real beef lies with other prophets — false prophets — whom he lambastes. Why?

First of all, these so-called prophets “give oracles for money” (Micah 3:11). They “cry ‘Peace’ when they have something to eat, but declare war against those who put nothing into their mouths” (3:5). These prophets cozy up to power, like members of a pastor-appointed board or pastor-appointed counselors. This is the last kind of prophet [he] needs right now; he’s got plenty of supporters.

Second, these so-called prophets refuse to recognize that criticism can be inspired by the Spirit of God. Wrong! claims Micah. It’s not true that “the Spirit of God has been cut off,” as they claim (Micah 2:7 in Hebrew), just because he criticizes his people. Criticism isn’t a sign of God’s absence but a sign that God is still all in — and a prophetic critique is what [he] needs right now.

Then he goes on to add what you do want:

What to Hire

… Someone like Nathan, who blasted King David for his dalliance with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11-12). Someone like Micah, whose concern lay with “justice, power, and might” rather than personal popularity or professional esteem.

So here’s what I suggest… hire a full-time prophet. Not a friend but an opponent. Not a pushover but a person of incisive intellect. Maybe not even a man but a woman. Someone like Deborah, who exercised enormous power among Israel’s early judges (Judges 4). Like Huldah, whose prophecies led to intense reform (2 Kings 22).

Most important, whomever [he] picks — or better yet, whoever is picked for [him] — has to be free of self-interest, impervious to intimidation, and sure that honest criticism is the work of God’s Spirit. Someone willing to stand and say, with Micah, “But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare … transgression and … sin” (Micah 3:8).

…After I formatted this for today’s reading, I thought about how this applies to each and everyone of us in a way that is perhaps more familiar: Mentoring and accountability. But when someone rises to a position of power and influence, sometimes their mind tricks them into believing they do not have to come under the authority of another.

That’s where the whole prophet thing kicks in. The prophet comes alongside and speaks what needs to be spoken. Someone who is “willing to call it for what it is.”

Do you have someone who speaks into your life?

 

 

 

December 2, 2013

Ten Occasions When You Should Say Nothing

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:45 pm
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This is a recurring theme here. Maybe God is trying to tell us (me) something! This list was compiled by Lina Abrujama at the blog True Woman under the title, Ten Times It’s Wise to Hold Your Tongue

I talk too much. Way, way too much.

But God is committed to teaching me when to hold my tongue.

With that in mind, let me share ten situations with you where I’m learning it’s better to refrain from talking:

1. When you have no idea what to say

Proverbs 17:28: “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”

2. When you’re wrongly accused

1 Peter 2:23: “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return.”

Isaiah 53:7: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth.”

3. When you’re mad

Proverbs 25:28: “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.”

4. When you’re confused about life

Lamentations 3:25–28: “The Lord is good for those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord . . . Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; let him put his mouth to the dust—there may yet be hope.”

5. When you wouldn’t want someone else to find out you said it

Luke 12:3: “Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.”

6. When you don’t really mean it

Proverbs 3:28: “Do not say to your neighbor ‘Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it,’ when you have it with you.”

7. When you can’t stop yearning for the good old days

Ecclesiastes 7:10: “Say not, why were the former days better than these? For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.”

8. When you have a lot to do and you don’t like it

Philippians 2:14: “Do all things without grumbling or complaining.”

9. When the timing is wrong

Proverbs 25:11: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in setting of silver.”

10. When you don’t have anything to say that gives grace

Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupt talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear it.”

February 3, 2013

It’s All In Your Perspective

Last week Pete Wilson reported on an insight he had while up in my part of the world, so even though this is shorter, I kinda had to include it here!! Click here to read at Pete’s blog where this was titled, A Breath of Fresh Air.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

A couple months ago I was in Toronto, Canada to speak at a conference. The driver who picked me up from the airport was a middle aged man named Lucas. He was from the Philippines. It’s funny how you can learn so much about a guy by just spending a few minutes in a car with him.

Pete Wilson on Cross Point LiveIn route to the arena we began talking about life and family. He had four children, but was the youngest of 11 brothers and sisters himself. He spoke a little bit about how he made it to Toronto and how much he loved living in Canada.

During the commute we hit a stretch of road where traffic almost came to a complete stop. As we got closer to the bottleneck I realized it was a construction project. While in the middle of small talk with Lucas I couldn’t help but think…. “Stupid traffic. Stupid construction. Will they ever finish all these projects.” However, as we drove through the construction Lucas chimed in with…“Sure is wonderful that the government here has the resources to fix up the roads like this. In the Philippines we didn’t have these kind of resources and the roads are virtually impassable throughout most of the country.”

This is just one of the many scenarios God has used in my life recently to remind me that gratitude really is a choice.

Gratitude is not based on how good your situation is but on how good you see your situation to be.

That’s why someone with half of what you have can be so much more thankful than you.

It is simply true that the person who has chosen to make gratitude his or her mind-set and lifestyle can view anything–anything–anything through the eyes of thankfulness. The whole world looks different when we do. And a grateful man or woman will be a breath of fresh air in a world contaminated by bitterness, cynicism, and discontentment.

~Pete Wilson


And now here’s an exclusive bonus item that appeared exactly a year ago at Thinking Out Loud. You may have noticed that the link to Pete Wilson’s article today begins with “Without Wax.” Here’s the 411 on the blog’s original name which doesn’t appear there anymore:

The word sincere comes from the Latin phrase sine cera,which means without wax. The phrase comes from a practice where people would hide the cracks in cheap pottery with wax in order to pass the pottery off as being worth more than it actually was. Quality products were often stamped with the words sine cera to show that it had not been doctored, that it was in fact authentic.

I can’t think of a better name for a blog that is, above all, authentic and transparent. If Pete Wilson is not in your blog reading routine, check out the pastor of Nashville’s Cross Point Church’s blog.

October 10, 2012

Being a Person of Integrity

Here are five powerful messages in one from Jeff Jones Blog, originally posted as The Road of Integrity. Click through to read more great posts like this one.

“People with integrity have firm footing, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall.” Proverbs 10:9, NLT  

We all know that the fastest and most efficient way to get between two points is a straight line. The original Hebrew word translated for “integrity” is defined as “straightness”. People who walk with integrity typically walk a straight line. Their lives are defined as ordered and in control. But folks who live on the edge, always try to cut corners, and tend to be a little less than truthful are defined by following crooked paths. The result is always the same, they slip and fall.

I want to share with you five things that will help you to walk down the road of integrity.

#1  Develop Your Character

We live in a world that is extremely superficial. If you’ve got the looks: you’re in. People are enamored by appearance and are more interested on the outside than what’s on the inside. But here’s the deal– you can alter your appearance a ton of different ways, but you can never hide what’s on the inside. Because whatever is on the inside, will come out when you’re squeezed. When you squeeze an orange, you never get apple juice.

So we all need to develop our character. Character is something that we can develop and work on everyday. It’s not glamorous or sexy, but it does define who we are. Ask God to help you develop a character that honors Him and allows you to walk in integrity.

#2  Be Honest

I remember the advice my mother gave me over 50 years ago, “Honesty is the best policy.” Well it’s just as true today as it was back in the 60’s. Here’s how it works:

A.  Be Honest with Yourself– it always starts with us doing a little self analysis.

B.  Be Honest with God– He knows everything about us already, so just be honest with Him.

C.  Be Honest with Others– learn to shoot straight with the people in your life.#3  Do The Right ThingEvery day we’re faced with a ton of decisions. We come to a fork in the road where we need to draw on our integrity to make a decision on what direction to take. The choices we make determine our present as well as our future. Often times we’re forced to choose between doing the right thing which could mean more work or a delay in moving forward. Sometimes doing what’s right isn’t the easiest thing, but it’s always the right thing, for us and those that will follow our footsteps.

“The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him.” Proverbs 20:7, NKJV

#4  Pay Attention To the Small Stuff

The Bible reminds us that it’s always the little foxes that spoil the vine. That’s a great reminder that we need to pay attention to the little things of life. Every day when an aircraft carrier gets ready to launch its aircraft the entire flight deck crew walks the deck, shoulder to shoulder, making sure that there is nothing that could get sucked up into the jet engine. Our Navy men and women know the importance of paying attention to the small stuff.

I remember finding a stack of quarters at the spray car wash one day. I could have used those quarters to wash my car, but they weren’t my quarters. They’d been left there by someone, and of course it wasn’t a big deal, but the bottom line is they weren’t mine. I left them there for the next guy.

#5  Keep Your Word

This is an easy one. Just say what you mean and mean what you say. Don’t say one thing and mean another. It’s the old adage, “Walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk.”

Don’t promise to meet someone for coffee if you really don’t plan to ever do it. Listen to what the Bible says about this.

“…let your yes be yes and your no, no, lest you fall into judgment.” James 5:12, NKJV

Make a point to only say things that you believe and that you will back up with your actions. Every time you keep your word you are building your integrity.

 “Father, help me to walk in my integrity. I seek to bring You honor and You glory by my words and by my actions. I desire to walk the straight and narrow with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”
This is the second visit to Jeff Jones blog here. Click to see a previous article.  And here’s a more recent piece from his blog on strength and courage.
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