Christianity 201

October 18, 2016

When the Worry Package is at the Door, Don’t Sign for It

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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When the courier company driver is standing at the door and says, “We have a package for Paul Wilkinson;” I have a choice. I can accept the parcel or I can refuse it. That was the spirit of today’s header; advice I also need for myself. Today we’re returning to Devotions by Chris, the blog of Chris Hendrix. Click the title below to read at source.

Refuse To Worry

Many of us struggle with understanding the difference between fear and anxiety. Fear is an emotion triggered by real danger. Anxiety is an emotion triggered by things that may or may not happen. Fear can save your life and anxiety can cause it to end prematurely. They elicit a similar feeling inside, but fear goes away after you’re out of danger. Anxiety continues to eat away at your energy, your mind, and your life if you don’t put a stop to it.

At work, I do an exercise with people to get them to stop assuming. I get them to admit that they don’t know the outcome. From then on, when they assume something, I ask. “But do you know?” Assumptions of the future are what cause anxiety. The truth is, we don’t know the future, but as Corrie Ten Boon says, “We can trust an unknown future to a known God.” When we allow assumption and anxiety to take over, we in essence are not trusting our future to God. The key to losing anxiety is to admit you don’t know and to trust God to take care of you.

The Bible says a lot about anxiety and worry. Here are some verses about it.

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?
Matthew6:25 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

 

July 26, 2016

Deliverance Will Rise from Another Place

Although we’ve quoted and linked to articles by author and pastor Aaron Armstrong at Thinking Out Loud before, we’ve never featured his writing at Christianity 201. His blog is called Blogging Theologically and as always, you can click the link below to read this at source.

One thing we can always have confidence in

Esther is a strange book. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a great book, but it’s one where you can really easily miss the point. I mean, after all, God doesn’t actually appear as a character in the book even once. He isn’t directly mentioned. But he’s all over its pages.

Esther, after all, is a book about the providential work of God. He is at work at all times for the good of those who love him, according to his purposes. So when you come to the key moment of its story—Mordecai’s challenge to Esther—it makes sense that we focus on the famous words of 4:14—“And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

Relief from another place

We hear this text appropriated (and sometimes misappropriated) all the time, don’t we? “We’re here for a time such as this,” the message goes. This event or that cause is why God has given us life and breath. And that is certainly true. In Esther’s case, God indeed had placed her in the position she was in to do this exact thing—to help rescue the Jewish people. But there’s more going on here. Take a look at Esther 4:14 along with verse 13 for a little extra context:

Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14)

Every time I read this book, I find myself drawn to the first half—to Mordecai’s statement: “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place

Tunnel vision and misplaced confidence

This is what I need to remind myself of constantly, because it’s a fact I keep forgetting. When difficulties arise in my life—and it can really almost anything from family tension to problems at work or even disagreements at church—I easily and quickly start fixating. I get tunnel vision and can’t always see past the problem.

So, being the sort of person I am, I try to fix the problem myself. I figure if we just do X, Y or Z, we’ll get this thing licked and life will go on. But often, the result is more problems and a lot of wasted time. While I should put my mind and abilities to work, my confidence is in the wrong person: me.

I’ve never been in a position like Mordecai, facing certain doom. But the fact that he doesn’t shut down is amazing. He does what he needs to do, but he doesn’t tell Esther, “If you don’t speak to the king, we’re all going to die!”

He has too much confidence in God for that. Instead, he says, “Deliverance will come, whether you speak or not.”

God is not hindered

And that’s still true today, isn’t it? Regardless of how bad we think things are in the west right now, God isn’t going to be thwarted. The gospel won’t to be stopped by the rise of the nones, or morally bankrupt politicians. Not even schismatic calls to abandon orthodoxy can do that!

None of these can thwart God. They can’t stop him and what he is doing. His plans are not hindered by anything.

In Mordecai’s time, God had a definite plan that he was working out through the Jewish people. He promised the Messiah would come, the one of whom all the Law and the Prophets bore witness. God was going to redeem for himself a people from among all the nations and no one would stop him.

Not a proud government official. Nor a king. Not even the devil himself.

No one.

So if there’s one thing we should be able to have confidence in, it’s that. Nothing can stop God’s plans. If nothing could stop the coming of the Messiah, he won’t be stopped from bringing his plans to completion. We will face challenges and what appear to be setbacks, but take heart. Put your confidence in the providence of God. You will never go wrong when you do.

 

January 30, 2016

Psalms Provide Keys to Longed-For Happiness in Life

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Devotionals at C201 are usually either (a) original or (b) drawn from more recent writings of authors we’ve used before or (c) drawn from leads or running down various ‘rabbit trails’ of good devotional articles. Sometimes in running the trails there are some interesting discoveries. Today we introduce you to Alfred D. Byrd of Lexington, KY who has about a dozen-and-a-half blogs devoted to his various interests which include writing, microbiology, Christian theology, ancient history, American history, science fiction and horror!

In January he kicked off Happiness in the Psalms, a new blog devoted to the places in the Psalms where the writer provides us with an understanding of what it takes to be happy. (In your older Bibles, the word blessed might be used instead.) Happiness is something everyone longs for.

In selecting today’s reading, I read almost half of the devotions archived and I would encourage you to click the title below, and the select other readings from the margin on the left of his blog.

#6 The Right Confidence

Happy is the one who puts one’s confidence in the LORD and does not look for guidance to proud persons or those who turn aside to lies.

— Psalm 40:4

The road to happiness runs through trusting others. Seeking happiness, you must know whom you may trust, and whom you may not.

The Psalmist points out two categories of persons who will make you unhappy if you trust them. The first category consists of the proud, who, the Psalmist implies, will lead you astray from happiness.

Properly to interpret the Psalmist’s teaching, you should know that Scripture sees two kinds of pride, a right kind and a wrong. The right kind is rooted in a realistic appraisal of who you are in relation to others and to God. This kind of pride expresses itself through proper care for your body, your belongings, and your relationships, and through proper development of your abilities. This kind of pride in itself helps lead you to happiness.

The proud persons against whom the Psalmist warns us express the wrong kind of pride. This is a selfish, self-centered pride that falsely inflates the self-image of the person possessed by it. It leads that person to regard him- or herself more highly than he or she ought to in respect of others and of God. It leads the falsely proud person to value possessions over sharing, domination over friendship, and instant gratification over long-term well-being. Such a person, seeing you only as a means to an end, will ignore your need for happiness in favor of his or her distorted view of his or her own happiness.

False pride is based on a false assessment of who one is. It is no wonder, then, that the Psalmist follows mention of the proud with mention of the second category of those who will make you unhappy if you trust them, those who turn aside to lies. The person possessed by false pride is out of touch with reality. He or she is living a lie and must rely on lies to get from you what he or she wants. If you follow a person who has turned aside to lies, you yourself will turn aside from the way that leads to true happiness.

That way lies in putting your confidence in the LORD. He is the Source of truth, which alone can lead you to true happiness. He, the Creator of all things, is not consumed with the need to possess them, but shares them freely with His creatures. He, Who is both unimaginably far above and inexpressibly close to us, does not remain on His throne in the heavens, but comes down to us and lives among us to be closer to us than our own earthly relatives and friends are. He, Who is eternal, gives us rewards that are everlasting.

Only turning from false pride and lies to confidence in the LORD can give us true happiness.

September 3, 2013

Trusting God in a World of Fears

In the hunt for great devotional and Bible study content, today we introduce a new writer, David Rupert who blogs at Red Letter Believers.  This appeared recently under the title, How Real is your Fear of Failure?


There are at least two thousand known phobias. From Novercaphobia (fear of your step-mother) to Pogonophobia (fear of beards) to Syngenesophobia ( fear of relatives,) there’s a named fear for nearly everything in our lives.

fearfactor_240But for babies there are really only two measured fears – fear of falling and a fear of loud noises. Everything after that point is learned.

After a stint in my crawl space and another in the attic, I found my fear. Stenophobia, a fear of narrow places. Or perhaps it’s Claustrophobia – a fear of confined spaces. I don’t know where I got those fears, but they are real. I remember being locked in the trunk of my mom’s 69 Oldsmobile once, courtesy of a little brother who dared me to jump in. That might have had something to do with it.

I have a few other fears that pop up every once in a while, but the fear of failure is a biggie. And this is a terrible thing for a writer to have. “Will anyone read this. Will they like it? Will it make sense? Am I using the right voice? Am I using too many question marks?” Failure dogs every step of the writer’s life.

Our learned fears come from letting someone down at some point, of not living up to lofty expectations of a coach, a parent, or a teacher. It comes at the hand of imperfect man or woman living in a narrowly defined world of rules and regulations. It comes from letting myself down.

I could name off a half-dozen events in my life that seem to be markers in my mind – failures. The fence fell, the train came off the track, the cork blew, or whatever expression you want to use – I let others down. I disappointed God. I failed myself.

But Eric Parks, preaching on failure, said this. “You are not defined by your mistake – or series of mistakes. That’s not who you are in God’s eyes.” According to Eric — and God – the battle for failure is less about reality, and more about perception.

This is isn’t some feel good philosophy. It’s the truth. Satan loves to dig in and whisper in my ear, repeating the same tape in my brain of failures, disappointments, and bombs that I’ve lobbed into my life.

That’s why, every day, I have chance to start again. I have a chance to “be transformed by the renewing of my mind.”

Now, I won’t be a success at everything. I can’t slam dunk a basketball. I can’t start a fire quicker than Bear Gryliss. I can’t grow a Duck Dynasty Beard. But just because I can’t do something well – – or at all – doesn’t make me a failure.

What are you afraid of?

———

What He Said

Consider these verses:

Philippians 4:8 

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

2 Corinthians 4:16 

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

Ephesians 4:23 

And to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

Philippians 4:6-7 

Do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 3:2 

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

July 26, 2011

Fears, Hopes, Insecurities: A Male Perspective

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:36 pm
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I could have written this myself, though not as well.  Murray Wittke blogs at All The Days of My Life, where this post appeared originally as A Man’s Dreams and Fears.

I am a man.  And as a man I live with deep longings and unspoken fears buried within in my heart.

On the one hand I desperately long for significance.  I long to be a man of the highest quality of character, the kind of man that moves into and significantly and positively influences the people I love and the world I live in.  I long to be the kind of man that has what it takes to handle difficult tasks, to be the husband and father my wife and children need me to be, and to be the best friend anyone could have.  At the end of my days I want to be able to look back with satisfaction upon a legacy of love carrying on in the lives of others.  Secretly I also long to be recognized, appreciated, and respected for being that kind of a man, by my family, friends, and peers.  Down deep I want to be recognized and valued as someone unique and special, to not simply be a nameless, faceless, and insignificant drone among the billions and billions of identical ants in the anthill of life living and dieing without anyone ever noticing they exist.

But!  On the other hand, and at the same time, I am plagued with unspoken anxiety and insecurity.  I live with a constant and terrible fear that eventually I will be exposed to all the world as a man that is inadequate; weak and powerless, a man of little worth or significance.  I live with the fear that despite my best efforts I will be exposed as nothing more than a man of no substance, a man of no particular value or importance.  I fear ending up as a man who lived and died without leaving any trace of impact or influence, a man no one noticed.  I fear that when it’s all over my life will have had the weightiness or impact of the slight brush of a butterfly wing.  I deeply fear that all I really am is an insignificant drone among the billions and billions of other nameless and faceless people no one ever notices, cares for, or misses when they are gone.  I admit, as a man I contain a strange brew of both deep longings and terrible fears.

What calms my fears and gives me hope is the knowledge that I am God’s child, dearly loved, highly valued, and delighted in by my Heavenly Father.  For reasons I cannot fathom He loves me!  He knows everything about me and doesn’t reject me!  Despite my strike outs, stumbling, errors, and fumbles; despite my shoes being on the wrong feet and my shirt buttoned up wrong; despite my embarrassing displays of temper tantrums, pouting, sulking; and despite sometimes even running away, He still gathers me up into His arms, holds me tight and cherishes me.  Wrapped in the arms of His love all the longings of my heart are satisfied and all my fears are washed away.

I am a man, but I am also His child.

~Murray Wittke

Here’s another example of Murray’s writing; this one is called Soul Surgery.

October 11, 2010

Believing The Impossible!

Today’s piece is from Lori Ettel, author of the devotional blog, A Display of His Splendor, and appeared under the title, “Superhero.”


“David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine, your servant will go and fight him.” (1Samual 17:32)

Yesterday at soccer practice I had to laugh when I saw this little boy. He is three and is the cutest thing ever. He has blonde curly hair and is such a dude. When I saw him, I told him he’s going to be surfer…that’s what he looks like. And he replied boldly, “No I’m not. I’m going to be Spiderman!!” I love it. He was so doggone cute! That is such a boy statement.

It reminded me of David and Goliath. Here the Philistines thought their guy was bigger and tougher. They thought they had it in the bag. The Israeli army was buying it too. They were so intimidated by Goliath’s size. They were frightened and no one would step forward to fight. They just stood there. Along comes David. He’s not afraid. He’ll fight Goliath.

Now, David was the youngest among his brothers. He was sent simply to bring them food. He wasn’t planning to fight that day. But when he got there and saw what was going on, he couldn’t believe it. He knew his God was bigger than Goliath. He knew that he could do anything with God backing him up. Everyone thought David was just young and stupid. But in reality, he knew the one with the Super powers. He knew that only God could defeat Goliath. He had child-like faith. Everyone around him was older and wiser…hmmm. But David had faith.

I think it’s interesting that as we get older, we become less likely to believe the unbelievable. We become so full of wisdom and knowledge; we don’t think God can do the impossible. We start off as children thinking we can do anything. But as we age, we become more afraid. Aren’t we supposed to be more grounded in the Lord as we grow older? Aren’t we supposed to be less afraid as we grow older? Instead, we fear more. Is it because we are wiser and have seen the truth of life? I think we have started depending on what we see and not depending so much on what is unseen. We have limited the power of God and taken over. We have become so self-sufficient. We think if we cannot do a task, it simply cannot be done. We have stopped relying on God. We have stopped believing in His power. We are too willing to accept defeat.

I love that a little three year old boy reminded me that he is not afraid of anything. He truly believes he can do anything. He can’t wait to grow up and be Spiderman. Something happens to us as we grow older. We lose that ability to believe that God can do anything. The bible is full of magnificent stories of God and His power. But we don’t really believe them, do we? Oh they are nice stories but God doesn’t work like that anymore does He? We don’t believe He can. God is not any less powerful or willing to show His power. I believe we simply don’t expect it. God is so big. He is able. He is a Superhero!

He is able more than able
To accomplish what concerns me today
He is able more than able
To handle anything that comes my way

He is able more than able
To do much more than I could ever dream
He is able more than able
To make me what He wants me to be

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