Christianity 201

July 21, 2021

Book Excerpt: Don’t Waste Your Pain (2)

This is our second of two excerpts (see here for part one) from a new book by Paul Willoughby titled Don’t Waste Your Pain: The Journey from Brokenness to Wholeness. Have you known pain in your life? Paul’s book is equal parts of autobiography — including his (and wife Gloria’s) ministry nationally in Canada through Christian television, in local churches in Ontario, in Uganda, and in India — and exposition of key Bible narratives. There are 13 challenging chapters and each has questions at the end for personal or group reflection, as well as links to some supplemental online resources relating to each.

Our excerpt today is from one of the teaching sections. Learn more about the book and how to order at dontwasteyourpain.com.

Fruit from Darkness

God has given us many wonderful parallels in nature that help us understand spiritual realities. Often in the Scriptures we see Jesus using everyday objects to illustrate great truth. One of Jesus’ favourites was to talk about farm life – something very familiar to His hearers. He spoke of a farmer sowing seeds, or of a vineyard that needed tending. One time, in speaking of His death Jesus said those words about a kernel of wheat dying, being buried, so it can produce a harvest of many seeds.

For a plant to grow, a seed needs to be buried in the soil. It is a picture of death and pain, of darkness and loneliness. Unless it is planted it will not bear fruit.

Many times in our lives we also feel like that seed – buried, forgotten, alone. But, like the seed, if we allow God’s presence to fill our lives He can cause us to grow and to be fruitful. It’s not easy. And it may take some time. There may be further pruning involved. But as the great Gardener of our lives, we can trust Him to know what He is doing and to bring us to a place of fruitfulness!

Naomi’s Pain: From Bitter to Blessed

One of the many examples of this in Scripture is seen in the life of Naomi. I imagine that she must have spent many nights weeping, crying out to God, wondering why her dreams had been shattered and buried.

Naomi and her husband Elimelech, along with their two sons, Mahlon and Kilion, left Israel due to a severe famine. They headed as refugees for Moab, a country neighbouring Israel. Not long after, Elimelech tragically died. Naomi was devastated yet grateful that she still had her two sons with her. She soon found wives for them: Mahlon married Orpah and Kilion married Ruth. As hard as it was to imagine tragedy struck Naomi again within ten years of her husband’s death: her two sons died.

Naomi could not bear the pain. She viewed her losses the way many people do and concluded that God was against her. Perhaps Naomi wondered, “Aren’t I part of God’s people? Doesn’t God see me or care for me anymore?” Resentment began to seep into Naomi’s soul. We can sense it in her words: “It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!” (Ruth 1:13). In fact, Naomi told her friends to call her “Mara” instead of Naomi, because Mara meant “bitter.” She was beginning to form her identity around her circumstances, rather than on what God thought of her, or had planned for her. Because of her pain Naomi thought her story was finished; she was unable to see how God could bring anything good out of something that appeared to be so bad.

We all need to be careful about how we interpret the bad things that happen to us. In deep sorrow Naomi gave up and advised her two daughters-in-law to go back home and find new husbands. Orpah followed her suggestion, but Ruth refused. “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you,” Ruth replied. “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me” (Ruth 1:16). Could there be any stronger example of devotion in all of Scripture? Ruth’s willingness to selflessly bind herself to one in such tragedy and suffering is amazing. However, in the throes of depression, Naomi was unable to see her world correctly.

A small glimmer of hope for Naomi emerged in her daughter-in-law’s promises to never leave her, never forsake her. It is the same promise that God makes to us: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5–6). We begin to see how, in a sense, Ruth is like God and sometimes we are like Naomi; though many will leave us and forsake us, God will not.

Ruth’s promise did not take away Naomi’s pain, but it did help her begin to move in the right direction and kept her going until she reached a place where she could say, “God is good.”

If you read through the story, in the book of Ruth, you will see how after Naomi and Ruth returned to Israel, God moved the heart of Boaz to provide for Ruth and then to eventually marry her. They had a child, Obed, who would eventually become the grandfather of David, the great King of Israel. Hundreds of years later, of course, Jesus himself would come from David’s lineage.

But let’s think about Naomi once again. Imagine her in Moab, her husband and two sons suddenly gone. All her dreams suddenly shattered, her longings unfulfilled, her hopes dashed to pieces. She put a label on herself: “bitter.” But looking back we see that God actually had blessing in store for her. What if she had really given up? Turned her back on God? She could have said, ‘I never want to go back to Israel and its God! He doesn’t care about me!’ But, no, even though she could not understand it, she returned again. And as we turn to the Lord, even in the midst of pain, God can turn our bitterness to blessing, just as he did for Naomi!

When our circumstances look desperate and we are tempted to become despondent, we must remember that there is still hope.

So, don’t give up. God is near. Turn your eyes toward heaven and know that He sees your tears. Let Him draw you close to Himself. Rest there in His embrace and allow Him to “quiet you with his love” (Zephaniah 3:17). Yes, loss is a bitter pill to take, but we never know what good God will bring out of it, or the greater plan He can unfold if we only trust Him.

 

July 17, 2021

God’s Peace for You

Today something radically different. Our devotional thoughts are taken from one of many 5-day reading plans at YouVersion. For those who don’t know it, just as desktop and laptop computer users tend to gravitate to Bible Gateway or Bible Hub, cell/mobile users tend to download the YouVersion app. It offers an endless list of Bible translations in hundreds of languages. It was conceived by Bobby Gruenewald (an associate of Craig Groeschel) who got the idea and immediately registered the domain name while standing in line at an airport.

Today’s excerpt from the notes has been edited for space; you’re encouraged to click the link which follows to read in full. There are also many suggested scripture readings for each of the five days you select, and you can click on them to read the passages.

Experiencing God’s Peace

What Is Peace?

If you ask people what peace means, they’ll give you a variety of answers…

While those answers aren’t bad or wrong, they are usually from a viewpoint that doesn’t include God in the equation. The world’s peace is different from God’s peace. Worldly peace is temporary and dependent upon circumstances, and doesn’t provide the kind of peace Jesus is offering. When things are calm, we’re at peace. When our circumstances grow dim, we’re not at peace.

In John 14:27, Jesus doesn’t want our hearts to be troubled. Because although we concern ourselves with temporal struggles, He’s offering a permanent solution, which is His peace. It doesn’t matter how intelligent we are, how decorated our resumes are, how many inventions are credited to our names, or how smart, creative, and wise we are—we don’t know how to create peace.

The Creator of peace is the One who created us. He is our Lord, our Creator, our Mighty God, and our Everlasting Father…

Peace With God

This peace that God gives may be beyond our comprehension, but it’s not beyond our grasp. It’s readily available to us. If we want to have peace with God, there are no “Three easy steps to peace with God.” There is only one way—Jesus.

When Jesus died on the cross, God put all of the sins of the world on Jesus—past, present, and future. When we accept this gift from God and put our faith in Him, we get the righteousness of Christ. This righteousness, according to Romans 4:23-24, is “credited” to us who believe in Him who raised Jesus from the dead.

We all want God’s peace. But until we come to a saving relationship with Jesus, receive His gift, and are saved, we’ll never have it. It’s best stated like this: If we want the peace of God, we must first have peace with God.

When we sin—and we will—this does not cancel out peace with God. When we are justified by God, it’s a one-time event. We’re not justified over and over. Praise God that our human condition doesn’t render our saved, spiritual condition as null and void.

So, what does peace with God do for us during uncertain times? It grants us hope. Hope that the life we live on earth is just the beginning of our forever life with God. As followers of Jesus, people who’ve accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, we’re given life abundant and life eternal. They go hand in hand.

Because we have the hope of Jesus and His Holy Spirit guiding us, an abundant life is possible here on earth. When we’ve taken our final breath in our temporary body on this earth, we are ushered into eternity. This life in our forever home is eternal and abundant. But, they are both just a continuation of what was begun on earth.

If you know Jesus, if you’ve made Him your Lord and Savior, then you can rest assured that whatever earthly scenarios or circumstances are weighing heavily on you don’t have eternal power over you. In light of what awaits us in our true home, this life is just a tiny segment in time. The peace we have with God is what guarantees our hope of what’s to come.

Peace of God

…To experience the peace of God, let’s dive into two Bible passages to see how we can make the peace of God our constant reality.

Romans 8:6-11

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of[b] his Spirit who lives in you.

A Spirit-controlled mind leads to life and peace, and letting our sinful nature reign brings death. Think about it. When we cave and entertain sinful thoughts that are far from God’s best, our minds don’t have the peace of God. Not because God isn’t near, but because our sin has put a barrier between us and God. The peace of God and our sinful nature are at war. They cannot co-exist. But when we simply submit to our good God, trust in His ways, and obey Him, we’re no longer succumbing to our sinful nature and instead experience His perfect peace.

Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The peace of God covers us like a blanket when we stop worrying but pray about everything instead. That’s right—everything. We turn every burden or hardship that we’re carrying over to God and when we do, His peace that “passes understanding”  floods our hearts and minds. It’s so beyond our understanding. It’s not something we can create but something we obtain when we choose to trust, obey, and walk in faith…

Peace With Others

Sometimes our lack of peace with others is because we’re stubborn and don’t want to meet in the middle when we don’t agree. We think arrogantly that our way is the best way. Another reason we don’t have peace with others is because we don’t want things to go well for them, either because they’ve hurt us or we’re jealous of them. We don’t want them to flourish, but instead want them to fail.

But we can learn how to live in peace with others from a variety of verses in God’s Word. Here are a few:

  • When someone persecutes us, we bless them in return (Romans 12:14)
  • Never pay back evil with more evil but instead be honorable (Romans 12:17)
  • Don’t retaliate with insults but pay back with a blessing (I Peter 3:9)

Even when we’ve blessed those who persecuted us, have chosen not to pay back evil, and been honorable in our actions, there still may not be peace. Why? Because people are people, and as good as we try to be and as much good as we try to do, we still fall short of perfection. Not every relationship can be salvaged, but let’s do everything we can to ensure that we’ve done our part.

  • Let’s love and be tenderhearted toward each other
  • Let’s believe and hope for the best for others
  • Let’s consider things from their point of view
  • Let’s apologize when we need to make wrongs right
  • Let’s pray for God to work in us and also in them

And let’s ultimately remember that people are not our enemies. We have a real spiritual enemy who loves it when we battle and accuse each other. If we blame people, circumstances, or struggles for our stress and lack of peace, then we are inevitably giving them control over whether or not we live in peace. Let’s not give anything or anyone in our lives this kind of power. There is only One peace-bringer, and His name is Jesus. He is the Prince of all Peace.

Peace Doesn’t Equal Perfection

…While earth is our home, we will have hardship and difficulties. We’ll go through seasons where the pain is intense because pain accompanies struggling relationships, struggling economies, and struggling health crises. These outside pressures don’t have the power to take away God’s perfect peace through Jesus Christ...

He meets us in our deepest time of need with an unexplainable, unfathomable, and inexplicable peace. This peace of God is unrivaled, and it’s beyond compare. No one or no thing is even in the same class as this perfect, mysterious peace. Even though it’s beyond our comprehension, we know when we have God’s peace and we know when we don’t.

We experience it in the midst of unspeakable pain and yet somehow, we have this calmness over us. We experience it when we’re in financial struggles and are unsure of how to pay the next bill, yet we’re amazed we can rest in God’s provision. We experience it when our health is in jeopardy and we don’t know when healing will come, yet we can’t explain the serenity we are living in. That’s the peace of God in imperfect situations. Life is not perfect, but our God is.

God doesn’t always take us out of our valleys, but He will always bring us through them. It’s often in the unknown that God shows us the most powerful revelations about who He is and who we are. We can still trust and rest in our good God during life’s challenges and exhibit faith during our own torrential, situational downpours. It’s this kind of faith that pleases our God.


Read more about YouVersion here

 

June 22, 2021

When the World is a Mess: Depression

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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This is our third time with Jack Garrott, and this time he shares some details from his own story.  His website is Virtual Vitamins. Click the title in the next line to read this there. Opinions are those of the author.

Depression

Psalm 42:1-2 As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

I personally think these two verses express the biggest reason God allows trouble in our lives: to get us to recognize our need for Him so that we will seek Him. There is literally no substitute for that, even though we try to substitute various things for God all the time. This particular Psalm (along with Psalm 43, which is in all probability part of the same original Psalm) deals explicitly with depression.

Sometimes we tend to think depression is a modern problem, but it is as old as mankind. There are lots of reasons for it, but it fundamentally comes from truncated vision, the inability to see beyond current events and circumstances. Frankly, there’s plenty going on around us to cause us to feel down, but at the same time, we are surrounded by God’s gracious blessings. Depression comes when we focus on the one and not the other. There are chemical/biological things that influence depression, either positively or negatively, and I’m not discounting that, but I stand by my premise.

The Psalmist here recognizes that with the admonition to himself, first stated in verse five and repeated in verse 11 and 43:5, to focus on God. I’m sure I will be accused of being simplistic, but that is ultimately, and always, the answer. We can think of countless excuses, but it comes down to the choice to trust God. Depression isn’t something that can be switched on and off like a light, but if we manage to focus on seeking God, He will answer.

I don’t write this casually. I attempted suicide once when I was in college. I can say with assurance that suicide is the ultimate expression of being self-centered.

Lately “bipolar” is a popular diagnosis and excuse, but in my observation, people who are being chemically treated for such a condition are some of the most pathetic people around, because their emotions are compressed from both sides, to the point of being essentially unable to feel anything emotionally at all.

People who are emotionally sensitive do need a support structure of family and friends, but running from emotion isn’t the answer. Many creative people have this issue, and squashing their emotions can likewise squash their creativity. Handel had this issue, and wrote the entire Messiah in the space of about two weeks, hardly sleeping, and then crashed. Thankfully there were no psychiatrists to dope him up, and with the support of those around him he recovered and went on to create much more magnificent music.

In one of my own experiences, I was lying in bed, not consciously praying but just thinking, “There are so many things I wish were different.” Very clearly, so clearly it could have been an audible voice, except that my wife beside me didn’t hear anything, I heard the Lord say, “How do you think I feel?” Ever since then I have been comforted by the assurance that though things are a mess right now, God isn’t through with it all, and He is to be trusted.

Father, thank You for this reminder. It’s not something I’m likely to forget! I ask for wisdom and compassion as I deal with people around me all the time who are depressed, often with good reason. Help me point them to You without making them feel I am taking their suffering lightly. I’ve had some real problems in that area. May I be so focused on You that those with whom I interact may likewise lift their eyes to You, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

December 31, 2020

Bible Verse of the Year 2020; Four Ways to Handle 2021

by Clarke Dixon

For the past two years I have used the verse of the year, as determined by a very popular Bible app, YouVersion, for the sermon on the last Sunday of the year. This year I asked our church family to send in what would be their pick for verse or passage of the year. Below you will read their picks, which not only help us reflect on 2020, they point out four ways to handle 2021. So let us read them and reflect on four strategies for handling 2021:

Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:27-31 NRSV

There are wonderful truths about God and wonderful promises here, but we don’t want to gloss over the pain that is also represented in this passage. This passage was originally written to a people who would feel beaten down, that God was distant. Perhaps you feel that way too?

The first way of handling 2021 is to be honest about the pain.

Likewise, we have this passage from the Psalms:

But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand;
deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors

Psalm 31:14,15 NRSV

In context, the Psalm is about facing death because of enemies. Perhaps we live in the kind of society where we cannot name a single person we could think would want to take our lives. We are fortunate. But there are diseases and infections that we can think of. We can be honest with God about our anxiety over the things that threaten and impact our lives.

We do well to be honest, even vulnerable, in our relationship with God, but sometimes with trusted people as well. Lament has a place in the Bible. Does it have a place in our lives, in our prayers, in our relationships, and in our churches?

Let us move on:

“Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.”

1 Peter 5:7 NRSV

Come, behold the works of the LORD;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Psalm 46:8-11 NRSV

You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress;
my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence;
he will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
or the arrow that flies by day,
or the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
or the destruction that wastes at noonday.

Psalm 91:1-6 NRSV

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13 NRSV

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 NRSV

What do these all have in common? Trust in God.

The second way of handling 2021 is to nurture trust in God.

We can put our hope in God’s love and power. God is, God is for us, and God is able. A couple of the passages sent to me further define it as trust in God, rather than ourselves:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3:5,6 NRSV

The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way.

Proverbs 20:24 NLT

Are we okay with not having all the answers? Can we trust God, even when we are in a deep fog?

The next few passages may seem quite different from one another, but there is a common thread:

. . . for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7 NRSV

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:28-31 NRSV

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 NRSV

do not fear, for I am with you,
do not be afraid, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

Isaiah 41:10 NRSV

What is the common thread that holds these passages together? Rise to the challenge.

The third way of handling 2021 is to rise to the challenge of living out life as Christ followers, whatever the circumstances may be.

We continue thinking, meditating, praying, loving, doing, and facing fears. These are all activities that we do. Yes, there are things we cannot change. But yes, there are things we can. We don’t just let 2021 happen to us, we give shape to it as it unfolds. We are active, not passive.

Here is the last verse shared with me as someone’s pick for “verse of the year 2020.”

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—

Ephesians 2:8 NRSV

However our circumstances might affect our choice of verse for the year, there is a circumstance that affects us all; separation from God because of sin and the need for grace. We can get flustered by situations we may be in, but if we have not been reconciled to God, then whatever dire circumstance we face pales in comparison to this much bigger problem. It is not a problem we can fix. It is a problem, however, that God fixes for us, in Jesus. When we look at the big picture, we see God’s love for us.

The fourth way of handling 2021 is to look at the big picture.

2020 was a hard year. How might we capture 2020 in a painting? We might use a lot of dark colours for one thing. 2021 may be a challenging year. How might we capture 2021 in a painting as we look forward? Perhaps a lot of grey tones, painting a foggy scene ahead. Now how might we capture our relationship with God in a painting? Our relationship with God is something that will never fade into history. Let us remember that 2020 and 2021 will both someday fade into history. Our relationship with God is something we enjoy now, and every day in the future. We may want a much larger canvas to paint on to reflect the fact that this is a big picture. As we reflect on God’s love we may want to use bright colours, painting a much more joyful scene.

As we face 2021, let us be honest about our pain, nurture our trust in God, rise to the challenge of the Christian life, and look at the big picture.

Many thanks to those who read these “Shrunk Sermons” over the year. May you have a Happy New Year!

 


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Cobourg, a small town one hour from Toronto. The full reflection (sermon content) can be seen as part of this “online worship expression

July 4, 2020

Why Job Was Singled Out

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
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Over the years we have frequently featured devotionals from Charles Price, Minister at Large for The Peoples Church in Toronto. You’re encouraged to click this link if you wish to follow these teachings. Or click the header which directly follows to read today’s devotional at source.

As Gold

Job 28-29

Acts 13:1-25

“But who can endure the day of His coming? Who can stand when He appears? For He will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver…and refine them like gold and silver.” — Malachi 3:2-3

One of the things that God does—which some may argue is one of the best things God does—is bring us under pressure, because then, we begin to understand what our hearts are really like. For Job, when he was met with trial, although he worshipped, he also fell into a deep depression.

Job’s three friends tried to help him understand his calamity. Even though Job was a righteous man, his friends believed he must have done some secret sin that caused such tragedy to befall on him. Job’s friends kept urging him to confess his sins and ask God to restore him. Yet Job retorted,

“If I have sinned, what have I done to You, You who see everything we do? Why have You made me Your target? Have I become a burden to You? Why do You not pardon my offences and forgive my sins? For I shall soon lie down in the dust; You will search for me, but I shall be no more”  — Job 7:20-21

Job could not think of a secret sin that he committed.

Some of us may resonate with Job’s situation. We may feel that some hidden sin has caused the current predicaments in our life. We may have confessed our sins a million times and find that nothing has changed. The reality is not Job’s unrighteousness that was the reason why he was attacked by Satan; on the contrary, it was Job’s righteousness that was the very reason he was attacked. Like Job, our problem may not have been caused by us at all.

Yet, how did Job manage to survive all this?

Job 23:8-10 reveals Job’s attitude and understanding of God:

“But if I go to the east, He is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find Him. When He is at work in the north, I do not see Him; when He turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of Him. But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.”

Job points to all directions but does not find God. Job’s security, however, is the confidence that God knows where he is and the path he will take, no matter the circumstance. Job’s belief, when he was tested, was that he would “come forth as gold.” When we are placed in difficult situations that we do understand, may we remember that God is not breaking us, He is making us. Like Job, may we come forth from God’s testing as gold.

Prayer: Sovereign God, I pray, as I face difficult circumstances in my life and I do not understand why things are happening the way they are, may I remember that You are not breaking me but You are making me. Thank You, Lord.


Where most of our readers live, today is Independence Day, the annual 4th of July holiday in the United States. Here are some related articles just for you:

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.

January 3, 2017

Add God to Your Equation

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Today we pay a return visit to Weeping Into Dancing. Click the title below to read at source.

God’s Point of View and Proportions

When life is chaotic, painful, or full of uncertainty, it is easy to become overwhelmed. Exhaustion wears a person down, both physically and spiritually. And without time in the Word, depression is certain to knock on our door. It takes both physical and spiritual strength to weather a storm, and we require nourishment to persevere a lengthy or intense battle.

Without spiritual manna, the devil can easily establish footholds in our walk with Christ. Footholds are often secured when we doubt the goodness and faithfulness of God. Is God not constant? Is He good only when times are joyful and fruitful? Or, is God good, in spite of the trials that try to knock us sideways?

God does test our faith. But when adversity comes, He hopes the struggle succeeds in chiseling away personal impurities. Remember, we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we become more like our Savior, Jesus Christ. When we look into a mirror, we should see Christ in our reflection.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.James 1:2-4 (NKJV)

But the devil, always the prowling opportunist, uses adversity to spread lies. His lies attack the very nature of God.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10 (NKJV)

In good times and bad times, we have to keep our focus on things above. By doing so, we obtain a proper perspective of our situation and correctly see things in their right proportion. Our circumstances may look grim, but Jesus walks with us through every storm!

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)

When we remember God’s love for us, we can look at our situation and identify positives, if we search them out. God is all about turning bad things into good. Learning to develop God’s perspective on life is greatly beneficial, but it takes self-discipline and there is no room for self-pity.

Consider the story of David and Goliath. If David had simply looked at the proportions of size and strength when facing Goliath, he would never have approached the giant. But David put God into the equation. He knew that all things were possible with God. He also knew that God would not be mocked.

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.Galatians 6:7 (NKJV)

David had God’s perspective when he accepted Goliath’s battlefield challenge. He was able to perceive things from God’s point of view. He knew God was all-powerful. He was certainly far greater than the prideful Philistine who had yelled insults at God’s chosen people. Without armor, and holding a mere slingshot, David slew the enemy who had insulted his God, tormented King Saul, and terrorized the entire army of Israel.

King Saul, David’s brothers, and the Israelite army were paralyzed with fear because they viewed the giant and his challenge with earthly eyes. When God is not added into the equation of life, the proportions of the battle before us will cause feelings of intimidation and even terror.

If you find yourself in a time of testing, where a trial of some sort presses in, add God to your equation. When you do, the obstacles Satan has planted for intimidation purposes will appear out of proportion. Circumstances that initially seemed vast and capacious will melt away and become a fraction of what they had once appeared to be. The Light of the World will disperse all darkness and expose the devil’s handiwork. Step-by-step, through every twist, bump, and turn in your road, God will walk beside you in love, grace, and mercy. Like David, you too will sleigh your Goliath because God is with you.

The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” Isaiah 58:11 (NKJV)

 Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you.Proverbs 4:25 (NKJV)

 “So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” Hebrews 13:6 (NKJV)

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

August 11, 2016

Yet

Today we’re paying a return visit to A Simple Christian. The author is unnamed, but is a pastor at Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos. Ca. You may click the title below to read this at source.

17 For though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit appears on the vine, Though the yield of the olive fails and the terraces produce no nourishment, Though the flocks disappear from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls,  18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD and exult in my saving God. 19 GOD, my Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet swift as those of deer and enables me to tread upon the heights.  NABRE – Hab 3:17-19

Yet – 3 Powerful Words of Powerful Faith.

Anything done out of love is important, however small it might appear. God has come to us, even though we are miserable creatures, and he has told us that he loves us: “My delight is to be among the sons of men.” Our Lord tells us that everything is valuable—those actions which from a human point of view we regard as extraordinary and those which seem unimportant. Nothing is wasted. No man is worthless to God. All of us are called to share the kingdom of Heaven—each with his own vocation: in his home, his work, his civic duties, and the exercise of his rights.

Nothing is wasted!   What marvelous words are uttered by St Josemaria!

Words that resonate with the Habbakuk’s conclusion of his book. Let me paraphrase!

“Life Sucks!  YET I will rejoice in the Lord! YET I will exult in my saving God!”

For as our souls, our very lives are entrusted to Him (something the Holy Spirit does, because Jesus paid the price to make it happen on the cross!) everything has meaning, and we begin to see how all things can indeed work for good, for those who love God.

That’s a hard thing to trust God for, especially when we think of him as the deists did in the centuries following the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment.  Because they couldn’t trust the God they couldn’t see, they reasoned he left town,  Because they couldn’t understand that God was there in darkest points of history, they assumed he wasn’t there, and that He didn’t care and abandoned those He promised to walk with, those He promised to support, and heal, and strengthen.

Nothing is wasted.

Man is that hard to hear! For there has been much that I can’t count as beneficial without coming to the same conclusions.  Where are you, my God?  Why did You abandon me?  Why did I have to go through this?  Why do I see it repeated?

Nothing is wasted.

Not even the times of emptiness.

Not even the times where I cry out in anger, in pain, in fear.

Those words talk of dependence, of the greatest level of what we call faith.  The point where rock bottom we realize He is hear, and just go, “Lord, I can’t anymore, all I have to cling to are Your promises, the promises I can’t believe are true for me.

“Yet, I abandon myself to you, I will depend on what I can’t see, what may be beyond my logic, but what you promise is real.

“You are here… I can see that today…when I couldn’t last week, and may struggle next month to see it.

“You are here!”

So I will praise You, So I will rejoice in a God who wrote those promises through prophets, and etched them in the hands of His Son.

Yet… a powerful word.

One I need to pull out and use… often.


August 3, 2016

Christians and Mid-life Crisis

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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midlife-crisis-ahead

This topic arose yesterday and I decided to investigate what the interwebs had to say on this subject. This is a subject on which I think women are more expressive than men, but it would be foolish to think that men don’t experience this. (See the checklist linked at the bottom of this article to see if this applies to you.)

The first link I found was a scripture medley at OpenBible.info and this is just the first among many ESV scriptures posted:

James 1:1-27

… Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. …

James 1:4

And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

…Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast… it is not irritable or resentful; …

As helpful as those verses are,  one which struck me that should be on the list is:

Philippians 4:11

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. (NIV)

So what are the circumstances of a mid-life crisis? It’s interesting to look at the other translations of this verse (use the same link above):

  • The NLT focuses on possessions: “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.” How many people measure their success in life by what they own?
  • The Berean Literal Bible focuses on status: “I have learned to be content in that which I am.” How many people gauge their life in terms of what they have achieved? (Or is this a reference to character?)

Additional translations emphasize each of these ideas.

I continued looking at other websites. At Crosswalk.com, author Wendy Alsup writes:

…In my teens and twenties, I had naive, idealized notions of how life was going to play out for me if I put my trust in God. Now, my life is not going quite like I thought it would. That disconnect between youthful expectation and mid-life reality has brought about a crisis of sorts—a mid-life crisis of belief…

…From afar, I may seem to have a fulfilling life. But I still have a deep unsatisfied longing.

I note that the longing only becomes more profound the older I get. As I age, the more people I know, the more individual needs I see, the more ministries I see grow, the more ministries I see crumble. Most of all, I see deep needs in my own life that are not going away. Through it all, I recognize that the God of my youthful imagination is not the God of my reality now…

…In the midst of this prolonged mid-life crisis, my dependence upon and appreciation for God’s written word has grown exponentially. God knew of this coming crisis in my life long before I was born, and I am not the first believer to experience it. Thousands of years ago, He recorded words that acknowledge this struggle and point us to the theological truths, the true character of our God, that meet us in it.

We are afflicted, perplexed, and struck down. But we’re not crushed, forsaken, or destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:7-10. We are sojourners who shouldn’t expect to fully feel at home on this earth (1 Peter 2:11). And our hope all along was never supposed to be about resolution of pain on earth. God has always called us to a hope and confidence in an eternal inheritance that gives perspective to our earthly struggles.

1 Peter 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.

God acknowledges through Peter that we for a while in this life are “grieved by various trials” (1 Peter 1:6). But those various trials are linked to a genuine faith that is more precious than gold 1 Peter 1:7, anchored in a glorious joy in Jesus, whom we do not now see but so very much love (1 Peter 1:8).

I am not the first believer to struggle through a variety of trials, nor will I be the last. God has not left us as orphans to navigate such mid-life crises of faith. He instructs us in His Word, and He is WITH us as we navigate it (2 Corinthians 41 Peter 1. The more I study, the more I realize that the death of my naïve notions of how my life would play out have opened me up to truths central to the whole of Scripture that I needed all along.

2 Corinthians 4:7-10: But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

If this applies to you, feel free to share your story in the comments.


For further reading:

 

 

July 9, 2014

Where Coveting is Permitted

Steve DeWitt, Senior Pastor of Bethel Church in Crown Point, Indiana recently completed a detailed series of studies on The Ten Commandments. Often when we sample a series here we start at the beginning, but this time we wanted to share this particular devotional study, but we encourage you to go back and start at the beginning. Click the link for the blog All About Him and go all the way back to January 12, 2014.

To read today’s devotion and find an audio link to this message, click the title below.

The Tenth Command: Covet Christ!

Covetousness or Contentment?

Each command tells us about the character of God and has a positive command with it. How about the tenth? What does no coveting tell us about God? It tells us that God alone satisfies the human heart. God alone provides what we need. God is sovereign over our lives and our circumstances. God is good in what he provides for us and what he provides for others. If I have something, it is because of the goodness of God. If I don’t have something, God also deems that good. The tenth command is about the sufficiency of God as soul-satisfier and the final judge of what is good for me. All of that is another way of saying that the tenth command is a command to covet God and God alone.

You might say, Wait, what? Are you saying it’s wrong to strive to improve my lot, wrong to improve my car, wrong to improve my savings account, wrong to improve my health? No. God is for human flourishing. 1 Timothy 4:4 says, “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.”

  • The tenth command is about freeing us from the materialistic mindset
  • Freeing us from identity in things
  • Freeing us from thinking he who dies with the most toys wins
  • Freeing us from the lustful accumulation of this world
  • Freeing us from the kind of misdirected, obsessive, and pathological life pictured tragically in Gollum and the ring of power in The Lord of the Rings…his precious

If there is one command that is needed in American materialism, it is the command to covet God. We must never think that having anything but him will satisfy the longings of our hearts. What can satisfy? What can provide my soul with peace and contentment? God alone through his Son Jesus. When I realize that God gave me his own Son as a sacrifice for my sin and redemption for my guilt, now there is no circumstance that I cannot be content in because in every circumstance I have Jesus. This is Paul’s argument in Philippians:

“Not that I am speaking of being in need,  for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”(Philippians 4:11-13)

People quote verse 13 and apply it to anything and everything. No. This has to do with contentment. Paul was familiar with seasons of abundance and seasons of want; times of plenty and times of hunger. Yet there is a secret he had learned. Are you in a time of want? A time of hurt? A time of trial? Or have you lost something or someone very dear to you? You long for peace and contentment. As Christians, there is a secret. Do you know it?

If we are looking to our circumstances for contentment, we will never find it. Our circumstances are always changing, and in a broken world, ultimately disappointing. There are some circumstances that can never be changed. I’ll never have contentment in those IF I derive peace from circumstances. But Paul’s contentment wasn’t in his circumstances.

Contentment does not come from changing my circumstances to meet my desires, but rather changing my desires to meet my circumstances.

How can the Christian do this?

My circumstances are controlled by a sovereign God who loves me.

Do I believe God is in control or not? If he is, then the things I deem unchangeable and undesirable are here for reasons I may not understand but can trust God in. How do I know he loves me? He gave me Jesus.

In every circumstance, whether desirable or not, Christ is the source of my strength and satisfaction.

That is Philippians 4:13. But what does it mean? It goes back to Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Paul treasured having Christ so much that even death was gain to him because in death he gained Christ. This is so hard for us because this world and this life have such a hold on us. But Christ assures us of eternal life and that we should live to be rich there.

I can battle coveting what I don’t have or what others do have by treasuring above all else what I have in Christ.

Do you think about your final days on earth or even your deathbed? There will be no more houses to buy. Hobbies to live for. Money to make. Degrees to earn. Possessions to accumulate. All there is ahead is eternity. What do we step into eternity with? Not a house. Not a spouse. Not an ox. Not a donkey. That’s true for Warren Buffet and the homeless man on the street. Death reveals the true value of all these things we covet so dearly. What is their value? Nothing really. So how can the Christian die happy? If in my life I coveted Christ, then I can step into eternity with anticipation because in death I finally get what I have longed for—personal presence with Jesus and eternal life in paradise with God.

Dear friends, the things in this world are not evil in themselves but we make them evil when we covet them and mistakenly place our hope for happiness in them. It is better to covet God. Better to covet Christ. Better to covet the godliness of godly saints. Better to covet commendation from Christ as a good and faithful servant. This is how we fulfill the tenth command: enjoy the freedom it provides to live in this world without loving it and to be rich in eternity as our spiritual longings are fulfilled in Christ.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version

©2014 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

June 29, 2013

Focusing on Found

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John 20:1-18 (NLT)

The Resurrection

20 Early on Sunday morning,[a] while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed— for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. 10 Then they went home.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

11 Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. 12 She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.

“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

14 She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”

She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”

16 “Mary!” Jesus said.

She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).

17 “Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.

Jenni Catron is Excecutive Director of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN. This appeared recently on her blog.

Loss is a debilitating feeling. Something as simple as losing your keys creates anxiety and unsettledness until they are found. The loss of a job triggers fears, insecurities, and doubts. The loss of someone dear creates a sense of desperation, a longing that is never fulfilled.

We’ve been in a series at Cross Point called Cover to Cover where we are looking at the entire story of the Bible and unpacking the themes that God has woven throughout it.  We’ve also had a daily scripture reading plan and daily devotional where we can share our thoughts and learnings with one another.

Today we read John 20:1-18

In this passage, Mary and the disciples are reeling from their loss. Not only did they lose Jesus to death but they soon discover his body is now missing too. One more loss to compound their sadness.

But look closely at how they respond…

Simon Peter and the other disciple looked into the tomb, saw the strips of linen and Jesus’ burial cloth and accepted it as evidence that Jesus’ body was gone. Scripture tells us they went home.

But Mary, seeing the same evidence, stayed awhile longer. She stood outside the tomb crying. It seems that she couldn’t quite bring herself to leave. She grieved.

And then the story turned.

Mary didn’t recognize Jesus immediately. I wonder if He looked different. He wasn’t the crucified version that she lost. Mary was looking for a beaten and battered body. Jesus showed up differently than she expected and she didn’t recognize him at first.

When you experience loss do you leave or do you grieve? Do you look for Jesus or assume He’s gone?

Too many times in my life I’ve allowed loss to lead me to believe God has abandoned me. When a circumstance didn’t turn out the way I hoped or I lost someone or something valuable I assumed God was gone too. But time and time again I discover that He is there. He might look different or behave differently than I thought He would, but He is there.

So often in our lives we fixate on what we’ve lost rather than seeing what we’ve found.

God is there. He’s in your circumstance. He might look a little different than you expected. He might show up in a different way than you hoped, but He is there.

Is there a situation in your life where you feel God has abandoned you? Look closely. Made he is there just waiting for you to rediscover him.


Bonus Item: The Place of Children at Church

The YouTube channel that I oversee is named after our retail covering, Searchlight Books, but consists almost entirely of classic Christian music songs that you can’t buy at Searchlight or anywhere else. More recently however, we’ve included some sermon excerpts and this weekend we posted an eleven-minute excerpt from the Phil Vischer podcast where Wheaton College professor Scottie May spoke about visiting inter-generational churches during her sabbatical. This is a must listen-to segment for anyone who cares about church and especially for people in children’s ministry or youth ministry.

This is an audio-only clip with no moving images, so even if you are not on a high-speed connection and don’t normally click on video links, you should be find with this one. Click here to listen to Inter-generational Churches.

November 15, 2012

Show Your Power, Lord

Today we flash back to a C201 post from exactly two years ago…

What do you do if the Passover has already passed over, the Red Sea has already parted, and the son has already stood still? Habakkuk no doubt felt like he’d missed Israel’s “glory days.”

Habakkuk 3:2(NIV) LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.

We do the same thing. It’s easy to wish that we could see the miracles. Maybe you missed the “third wave” of the charismatic movement in the 1970s; or missed the ocean baptisms of the Jesus movement, also in the ’70s. Maybe you missed the moment at a Creation Festival; or couldn’t attend a particular year of Promise Keepers. Perhaps you weren’t there when that church doubled its attendance in six months; or when that individual was dramatically healed, or another delivered from a particular addiction.

Or maybe you didn’t miss a thing, but feel like nothing compares to Old Testament signs and wonders or first century miracles. Like Habakkuk you say:

Habakkuk 3:2(NIV) LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.

But always remember how he ends this particular chapter. Even if life appears to be the opposite of all that you’d like to see, even if, as the Brits say, it’s all gone pear shaped; our faith is not shaken. It doesn’t negate the prayer of verse 2, but in 17-19 the prophet puts things in a larger perspective:

Habakkuk 3:17-19a (NLT) Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign Lord is my strength!

 

– = – = – = –

My reading of chapter 3 of Habakkuk was inspired by listening to a great sermon by Darren Whitehead, a teaching pastor at Willow Creek.

November 18, 2010

Lord, Show Your Power

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What do you do if the Passover has already passed over, the Red Sea has already parted, and the son has already stood still?  Habakkuk no doubt felt like he’d missed Israel’s “glory days.”

Habakkuk 3:2(NIV) LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.

We do the same thing.   It’s easy to wish that we could see the miracles.   Maybe you missed the “third wave” of the charismatic movement in the 1970s; or missed the ocean baptisms of the Jesus movement, also in the ’70s.   Maybe you missed the moment at a Creation Festival; or couldn’t attend a particular year of Promise Keepers.   Perhaps you weren’t there when that church doubled its attendance in six months; or when that individual was dramatically healed, or another delivered from a particular addiction.

Or maybe you didn’t miss a thing, but feel like nothing compares to Old Testament signs and wonders or first century miracles.   Like Habakkuk you say:

Habakkuk 3:2(NIV) LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.

But always remember how he ends this particular chapter.   Even if life appears to be the opposite of all that you’d like to see, even if, as the Brits say, it’s all gone pear shaped; our faith is not shaken.   It doesn’t negate the prayer of verse 2, but in 17-19 the prophet puts things in a larger perspective:

Habakkuk 3:17-19a (NLT) Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign Lord is my strength!

– = – = – = –

My reading of chapter 3 of Habakkuk was inspired today by listening to a great sermon by Darren Whitehead, teaching pastor at Willow Creek. Click this link, select the recent Troublemakers series, and then select his message on Esther from October 16/17.

June 24, 2010

Re-reading Noah

I spent a number of years attending an Assemblies of God type of church in Canada, where the AG is known as the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.   It was also the denomination my wife grew up in.

As a result — and don’t ask me why this is — she has a much better handle on parts of the Old Testament than I do.   In the short time I attended a PAOC church in Toronto, most Sunday mornings we opened our Bibles to O. T. texts.

And oh… what great messages they were able to derive from those texts!  (My non-Pentecostal friends might say, “Where did they get that from?”)  If you haven’t been exposed to Pentecostal preaching, there ain’t nothing like it.

I was reminded of that today as I read this post on the blog, Thoughts for Daily Devotions.

“The flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth” (Gen 7:17).

alignleftWhen Noah obeyed God’s Word and entered into the ark, it gradually lifted him up from the earth. This is amazingly true in our spiritual life also. Our ark is Christ. As we respond to the gospel-call and enter into Christ or as Christ enters into our life, He lifts us up from the earthly sphere to heavenly heights. The higher we rise the smaller the things of the world seem. The things of the earth no longer seem glamorous and attractive. Things which once held us in allure now hold little appeal for us. “The more of heaven we cherish, the less of earth we covet.”

The more the ark was lifted up, the higher Noah went. Similarly, the more we lift up Christ, the more we are lifted up for the glory of God. We become the light of the world, a ‘city set on a hill’; seeing our light, men glorify the father in heaven (Matt 5:14,16).

“The mountains were covered.” As we go higher in our spiritual life, the mountain-like problems that once loomed large before us, disappear from our view. Our life is now a joyful song – a song of worship, praise and adoration.