Christianity 201

September 27, 2021

Deeper Meaning in Being “Created from Dust”

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
Tags: , , ,

Today we have a new author to introduce to you, with the added bonus of a link to an audio podcast reading of today’s study. Beth Madison describers herself as “Christ-follower, wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, friend, learner, soil scientist, author, teacher, professor, and one who holds hard to Jesus and the promises of His Word given to us.” The reference to “soil scientist” is relevant to today’s article, as is the name of her blog, Soul Scientist.

Clicking the header which follows will take you directly to today’s article on her site.

Dusty

Genesis 2:7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature

podcast link: https://anchor.fm/beth-madison/episodes/Dusty-e17aqcr

I learned today that the term, living creature, has much more to it in the original Hebrew than we see today in English. Such thoughts as that the Hebrews didn’t separate the physical, spiritual, mental, or emotional parts of a person into separate categories. All were one working as one in making up that man of dust formed from the ground.

As a Christian and as a soil scientist, that opens up whole new worlds of thought that I’m just beginning to explore…please stay tuned for more to come on this in the future…please like or comment on this post if you’re interested in knowing more. With these thoughts rolling around in my head and heart, I’m now seeing even more beauty, richness, and wonder in the soil under my feet. Sharing even a taste of that beauty with you is the main purpose of this blog…thank you so much for joining me in this journey. Trips are always better taken with friends! So if you know anyone else who might want to travel with us, please invite them along…

And while we’re talking and walking, let’s go down the road a bit with these thoughts…

Since much of our culture in the Western world is disconnected from agronomy, many don’t have a direct link to soil like Adam did. Less than three percent of the U.S. population is actively involved in agriculture while an alarmingly large of amount of our school-aged children (and daresay, adults) have no idea of where their food comes from before it is on their plates. Keeping this in mind, even if we might not consciously realize it, we could be yearning to connect with that from which we came.

Therefore, I propose that we yearn for intimacy with that from which we were created, like Adam could’ve known after Eden. Could that yearning be a call to greater intimacy with creation as a means of worshipping our Creator? Could that yearning be a call to making daily deliberate choices to make space for knowing more of our Creator and His creation? Could that yearning be a call to more intentional creation care in our daily lives as an offering to our Creator?

If so, when we begin to reconnect with the natural world in pursuit of following God in the daily choices of spiritual disciplines emphasizing intimacy with Him and His creation, we can find joy. This joy can then spur us onwards to greater affection for our God, His creation, and the beauty of both. And as we unearth this beauty, we move closer in communion with Christ and embracing our role as caretakers of all of God’s creation, including the world underneath our feet.

Psalm 103:14 For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.

Dear Father,

Thank You that You remember that I am dust. Thank You that You want me to remember this too, especially on days like today when my dust is bone-dry and in need of Your refreshing. Please keep reminding me that You do restore and rebuild from dust that which I thought was lost.

In the strong Name of Jesus,

Amen.

©2021 Beth Madison, Ph.D. – used by permission

 

August 25, 2021

After God’s Image, After God’s Likeness

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

In today’s search for new authors to present to readers here, I found an article which drove me to read Genesis 1:26 in every translation that BibleGateway.com had to offer. With only a very few exceptions, all the translations preserved the phrase “in our image, in our likeness” or something very close. I knew I could count on Eugene Peterson for something different, “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature…” but it was about the only one to deviate from the pattern.

The blog we’re introducing today is called In Plain Sight. There isn’t an ‘about’ page, but I believe I’m safe in saying it originates outside the countries from which many of our devotions here are derived. It has been posting material since September, 2013.

The author today is Abayomi Ayo, but there are other contributors, and I encourage you, as I do every day, to click the header which follows and then navigate out to read other articles.

Anthropos

I was thinking earlier today, and the thought of man started to capture my mind. It was kick started by the question; ‘What is Man?’ It’s a question that man has grappled with for centuries. Several well-intentioned men have attempted to answer this question. Some have settled for Scientific answers, others for Philosophical ones, and a few others for Religious answers. The unbothered ones also make up the ranks. Even as I write this, I’m starting to suspect that this a matter I am better off not engaging, but it is well.

No, I do not intend to prosecute the matter of ‘What is Man?’, but in other to deal with some disclosures that the scriptures make about man, I would have to, in broad strokes, deal with with what man is, as that would serve as the constant I’d be feeding off of.

In the Bible, we find in the book of Genesis – the book of the beginnings – a disclosure from the Triune Council with respect to man. And it is this:

[26]And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
[27]So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

Genesis 1:26-27

I’m resisting the urge to delve into this verse, but at the very least a few things stand out:

Firstly; that man started out as an initiative of God. He didn’t just happen. He was not a product of an evolving process. On the contrary, he is product of Divine Intention.

Secondly; that the template for the creation of man was going to be according to two dimensions: the Image of God, and the Likeness of God.

Thirdly; that the reason for this particular template was tied to the reason for his creation. Because only that which is created (according to this template) can exercise and fulfill the assignment that man was now going to be saddled with the responsibility of prosecuting.

It was based on the conclusions of verse 26, that verse 27 then opened with: so, God created man…

Thus man was created in the image of God. Then a curve ball was thrown in, for it was then added..male and female, created He them.

Just when we were coming to terms with the creation of one entity – man, we are now seeing a plurality. So did he create one or two? Or two-in-one or something? I do not intend to pursue that strand of thought in this series of discussion.

So in keeping with the driver question, we can start by saying stating that Man is a direct creation of God, who was created after the image and likeness of God.

March 16, 2021

Don’t Curse Your Job

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Today we return to the writing of Joel Nevius from Bethany Bible Church, and an archived article which may hit some of you where you live, or more accurately where you work. Click the header below to read this at source.

Three Reasons Why Your Work Probably Isn’t a Curse

Recently, in our young adults ministry at Bethany Bible Church, we’ve been studying the intersection of faith and work, based on Every Good Endeavor by renowned pastor, author, and theologian Timothy Keller.

In his book, Keller explains Jesus Christ came into the world when the Hellenistic culture permeated the ancient near east, and Greek thought influenced and shaped how millions of people viewed work, which was to view work as a “necessary evil.”

I bet many of us can relate to this mentality for a variety of reasons: our boss is a jerk, our work is boring, our co-workers are mean, or we’re constantly stressed out from all of the demands. The weekends can’t come soon enough, because that’s when we really come alive. Keller argues this mentality has us view work as a barrier to a good or fulfilling life, not part of the good life.

Christianity is counter-cultural to this thinking, and instead elevates work to a place of importance and dignity. Let’s explore three reasons why God doesn’t want us to approach work as a necessary evil.

Reason 1: God himself works

In Genesis chapters 1 and 2, we see God, as Creator, works! In six days, God creates galaxies, ecosystems, animals, and humans. On the seventh day, he rests.

From the New Testament gospels, we know Jesus worked. Apart from logging many travel miles, teaching people, and constant ministering, he lived most of his life as a carpenter.

In the Old and New Testaments, we see a God who doesn’t approach work as a necessary evil, but as an opportunity to infuse the world with goodness, truth, and beauty.

In Genesis 1:27, when humankind is described as being created in the image of God, it is in the context of the “creation narrative,” where God is working. So what that means is that if God is a God-Who-Works, and we’re created in his image, then part of what it means to be human is to work.

Reason 2: Work came before Adam and Eve sinned—it’s not a punishment.

If we think of work as a necessary evil, then we might think work is a curse or an effect of Adam and Eve’s sin of disobeying God. Actually, work was part of God’s good design for humans. In Genesis 2:15, God’s Word tells us, “The LORD God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it.” Sin and evil came into the world later, as recorded in Genesis 3. So we can be assured work isn’t something we just have to do as eternal payback for Adam and Eve’s sin, but it’s something we are made to do. Therefore, Keller writes:

“Work is as much a basic human need as food, beauty, rest, friendship, prayer, and sexuality; it is not simply medicine but food for our soul. Without significant work we sense significant inner loss and emptiness.”

Far from a necessary evil, Christianity sees work as something we were made to do. It resonates with our soul as something good.

Reason 3: If we see it as a necessary evil, we will pursue work in unhealthy ways.

When we view work as a necessary evil, it negatively affects the way we approach and even carry out our work. Keller notes negative ways we will approach work.

We will pursue high paying or prestigious careers we aren’t suited for.

If we see work as a necessary evil, then we typically approach it only as a means to a material end. That is, we will see the most valuable and meaningful work as that which gives us the money to support our family and pursue our desires. We’ll be motivated to chase after jobs and careers that pay the most money and stay away from jobs that don’t pay.

The problem, Keller notes, “…is that many people take jobs that they are not suited for at all, choosing to aim for careers that do not fit their gifts but promise higher wages and prestige.”

Unfortunately, this often leads to disillusion, depression, or burn-out.

We will avoid work we think is beneath us.

The inverse of the previous approach is that we will avoid at all costs work that doesn’t give us lots of money or prestige. Furthermore, Keller notes that we will “…believe that lower-status or lower-paying work is an assault on our dignity.”

As a young adults pastor, I’ve noticed this affect some students who graduated with impressive degrees. After they graduate, they anticipate that they’re going to make big money and have their dream job immediately. When that doesn’t happen, they have a hard time getting a job that doesn’t seem up to their monetary expectations or match the value of their degree. This can also happen when someone loses or quits a high-paying, high-status job and doesn’t want to start over.

The awesome truth is that God sees all work (that is not inherently sinful), as valuable and upholding our dignity as his image-bearers. It levels the playing field, so to speak.

Keller writes, “…in Genesis we see God as a gardener, and in the New Testament we see him as a carpenter.”

If we think certain work is beneath us, then we are unconsciously elevating ourselves over God, who in Christ, humbled himself so much that he not only had calloused hands and saw dust in his hair, but he also embraced the foot odor of his disciples as he knelt and washed their feet. Status and money are not important to God, but working hard to serve others and reflect his character is.

How can we become counter-cultural, and look at “work” through God’s eyes?

First, pray and ask God to see our work as an opportunity to display God’s glory in different ways. Colossians 3 tells us “…whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Second, if you live for your days off, take a few moments and ask God to search your heart and reveal why you approach work as a necessary evil. Ask him to show you how to see it the way he does.

Third, thank God for your work. Even if it isn’t an ideal situation, praise him for giving you an opportunity to work. You were made to work, and with a thankful attitude, you just may see that work as a “necessary good.”

March 9, 2021

The Masculine Soul

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I realize that today’s title automatically alienates half of the population! But hear me out: Well over 75% of the Christian literature published these days targets a female readerships, and while I don’t know if that’s the exact number, working close to Christian publishing as I do, I suspect it’s fairly accurate.

Recently at Devotions Daily, there was an excerpt from the newly revised and expanded edition of Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. This is one of the few Christian authors who targets a male readership. To read it in full — we’re only officially allowed 800 words, so we made some cuts — click the header which follows.

No More Mr. Nice Guy

Adventure, with all its requisite danger and wildness, is a deeply spiritual longing written into the soul of man. The masculine heart needs a place where nothing is prefabricated, modular, nonfat, zip lock, franchised, on-line, microwavable. Where there are no deadlines, cell phones, or committee meetings. Where there is room for the soul. Where, finally, the geography around us corresponds to the geography of our heart.

Look at the heroes of the biblical text: Moses does not encounter the living God at the mall. He finds him (or is found by him) somewhere out in the deserts of Sinai, a long way from the comforts of Egypt. The same is true of Jacob, who has his wrestling match with God not on the living room sofa but in a wadi somewhere east of the Jabbok, in Mesopotamia. Where did the great prophet Elijah go to recover his strength? To the wild. As did John the Baptist, and his cousin, Jesus, who is led by the Spirit into the wilderness.

Whatever else those explorers were after, they were also searching for themselves. Deep in a man’s heart are some fundamental questions that simply cannot be answered at the kitchen table.

Who am I? What am I made of? What am I destined for?

It is fear that keeps a man at home where things are neat and orderly and under his control. But the answers to his deepest questions are not to be found on television or in the refrigerator. Out there on the burning desert sands, lost in a trackless waste, Moses received his life’s mission and purpose. He is called out, called up into something much bigger than he ever imagined, much more serious than CEO or “prince of Egypt.” Under foreign stars, in the dead of night, Jacob received a new name, his real name. No longer is he a shrewd business negotiator, but now he is one who wrestles with God. The wilderness trial of Christ is, at its core, a test of His identity. “If you are who you think you are…” If a man is ever to find out who he is and what he’s here for, he has got to take that journey for himself.

He has got to get his heart back…

…Society at large can’t make up its mind about men. Having spent the last thirty years redefining masculinity into something more sensitive, safe, manageable and, well, feminine, it now berates men for not being men. Boys will be boys, they sigh. As though if a man were to truly grow up he would forsake wilderness and wanderlust and settle down, be at home forever in Aunt Polly’s parlor. “Where are all the real men?” is regular fare for talk shows and new books. You asked them to be women, I want to say. The result is a gender confusion never experienced at such a wide level in the history of the world.

How can a man know he is one when his highest aim is minding his manners?

And then, alas, there is the church. Christianity, as it currently exists, has done damage to masculinity. When all is said and done, I think most men in the church believe that God put them on the earth to be a good boy. The problem with men, we are told, is that they don’t know how to keep their promises, be spiritual leaders, talk to their wives, or raise their children. But, if they will try real hard they can reach the lofty summit of becoming… a nice guy. That’s what we hold up as models of Christian maturity: Really Nice Guys. We don’t smoke, drink, or swear; that’s what makes us men.

..Walk into most churches in America, have a look around, and ask yourself this question: What is a Christian man? Don’t listen to what is said, look at what you find there. There is no doubt about it. You’d have to admit a Christian man is… bored. At a recent church retreat I was talking with a guy in his fifties, listening really, about his own journey as a man. “I’ve pretty much tried for the last twenty years to be a good man as the church defines it.” Intrigued, I asked him to say what he thought that was. He paused for a long moment. “Dutiful,” he said. “And separated from his heart.” A perfect description, I thought. Sadly right on the mark.

As Robert Bly laments in Iron John, “Some women want a passive man if they want a man at all; the church wants a tamed man — they are called priests; the university wants a domesticated man—they are called tenure-track people; the corporation wants a… sanitized, hairless, shallow man.” It all comes together as a sort of westward expansion against the masculine soul. And thus the heart of a man is driven into the high country, into remote places, like a wounded animal looking for cover. Women know this, and lament that they have no access to their man’s heart. Men know it, too, but are often unable to explain why their heart is missing. They know their heart is on the run, but they often do not know where to pick up the trail. The church wags its head and wonders why it can’t get more men to sign up for its programs. The answer is simply this: we have not invited a man to know and live from his deep heart.

An Invitation

But God made the masculine heart, set it within every man, and thereby offers him an invitation:

Come, and live out what I meant you to be.

Permit me to bypass the entire nature vs. nurture “is gender really built-in?” debate with one simple observation: men and women are made in the image of God as men or as women.

So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created Him; male and female He created them.Genesis 1:27

Male and female. Now, we know God doesn’t have a body, so the uniqueness can’t be physical. Gender simply must be at the level of the soul, in the deep and everlasting places within us. God doesn’t make generic people; He makes something very distinct — a man or a woman. In other words, there is a masculine heart and a feminine heart, which in their own ways reflect or portray to the world God’s heart.

God meant something when He meant man, and if we are to ever find ourselves we must find that. What has He set in the masculine heart? Instead of asking what you think you ought to do to become a better man (or woman, for my female readers), I want to ask, What makes you come alive? What stirs your heart? The journey we face now is into a land foreign to most of us. We must head into country that has no clear trail. This charter for exploration takes us into our own hearts, into our deepest desires.

There are three desires I find written so deeply into my heart I know now I can no longer disregard them without losing my soul. They are core to who and what I am and yearn to be. I gaze into boyhood, I search the pages of Scripture, of literature, I listen carefully to many, many men, and I am convinced these desires are universal, a clue into masculinity itself. They may be misplaced, forgotten, or misdirected, but in the heart of every man is a desperate desire for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.


► More information about the book is available at this link.

Taken from Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul by John Eldredge Copyright © 2021 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. http://www.thomasnelson.com.

January 13, 2021

It is a Time to be Stirred

Again today we have a new writer for you! Alex Steward is the pastor of a rural ELCA congregation in the greater Detroit area. He blogs at A Mysterious Way: A Journey Through the Desert of Life. Click the header which follows to read this in full on his page and then he encourages you to browse the rest of the site for other articles.

He begins with a paragraph describing his family’s downsized Thanksgiving which happened to coincide with the Perseid Meteor shower. In the scripture passage, Jesus talks about the stars falling. That’s where we pick up the devotional…

God Wakes Us

24 “But in those days, following that distress,

“‘the sun will be darkened,
    and the moon will not give its light;
25 the stars will fall from the sky,
    and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’[a]

26 “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.

28 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it[b] is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert[c]! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

…Jesus sets out in the gospel lesson to provide an apocalyptic image of his return. He is preparing the disciples for what lays ahead of them. He begins with darkness and the stars falling from the sky. It is quite the image and one that often will generate fear in some people. However, this is not the purpose of apocalyptic literature. The purpose of apocalyptic literature is to inspire hope and not sow fear.

From Daniel in the Hebrew Scriptures to Revelation in the New Testament, we read of a promise and hope in the promise which points us to an unflappable God that reigns down with mercy and love.

It may be difficult to find the mercy and love that God promises to all of creation in the past eight months. From a pandemic that seems like a plague, to an election that divided many Americans,  to wars around the world, and civil unrest in our own country, it may seem as though we are living out the last days that much of the apocalyptic literature writes about. Yet, Jesus reminds us to keep awake because we do not know when the master of the house will return.

If we look at the history of Mark’s Gospel, we will find out it was the first gospel written and provided a basis for both Matthew’s and Luke’s gospel, thus the similarities. It was written thirty to forty years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Up to this time everything was shared through stories and word of mouth. It was written around the time of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and was most likely shaped around those events. Mark encouraged his community not to get involved in the revolt of the Jewish people against the Roman Empire.  This is a time of high tension for the followers of Jesus as they witness the destruction of a community in which they grew up. As Mark reflected on Jesus’ words, there is the thought which the day of the Lord must be near and surely not a generation will pass away before seeing that day.

And yet, here we are. Still waiting with an impregnated hope and living in the promise of Jesus Christ. As we enter this Advent season, we come bearing deep wounds of events that have been cancelled and lives turned upside down as we face struggles and challenges which the majority have never had to even think about. God’s creation continues to groan and limp forward as we await something greater to come.

As Christians, we are set apart by our faith, placing our hope in the promise that has echoed throughout the millennia. As we hear these words from Jesus, it is not a time to panic or to be set on edge. It is not a time to fear and bury our heads in the sand or snow depending upon where we live. It is not a time to fret.

It is a time to be stirred. A time to be fully present to the season and contemplate on what Jesus’ birth means not just for us personally, but for all of creation. A time to be alert to those wondrous sightings of God in our world, like viewing a sky full of stars and witnessing meteors streak through the vastness of that sky. This past week in one of my morning devotions was the refrain:

Wake us to your presence, Lord: that we might not waste our times of trial.

The trials we have faced for much of this past year have been debilitating. There are mornings that it is just enough to get out of bed and take a shower. We are in unfamiliar territory and it is easy to get tired when confronted with the unknown. Our bodies are so incredible in telling us what we need, and at times we also need to push ourselves to move forward. Our relationships are more important now than ever before, even if that means we cannot reach out and give someone a personal greeting face to face.

It is times such as this that God invites us into the mystery. A mystery that has shaped our faith for the last two millennia. A mystery of God incarnate. God has come down to us in the form of a newborn baby to lead the way and give us a sign of hope. A sign that shows up in those very same stars that Jesus says will come falling down. A star that shines so brightly announcing the birth of a new reign of God. A time that God in Jesus walks among creation and is one with us in humanity. A time that we are invited to participate in the mystery of Christ’s reign in creation.

As we are awakened and become alert, we learn about ourselves and the place of our community in the greater aspect of creation. The trials that we face today are only a step along the way to that glorious new creation that will come down to earth. We participate by meeting our friends and neighbors where they are. We stare up at the stars together and are reminded of how connected we truly are and how God’s creation is limitless. A creation that invites us to be an active part of the welcoming of a soon to be newborn baby.

I leave you with a prayer from that same devotional I mentioned earlier:

What would you teach us today in our trials, Lord? Make us receptive. Help us to see your victory and compassion rather than look for every answer to our troubles. So make us expectant, Lord, and patient. AMEN


  1. Mark 13:25 Isaiah 13:10; 34:4
  2. Mark 13:29 Or he
  3. Mark 13:33 Some manuscripts alert and pray

August 24, 2020

Instead of Wiping us Out; He Sends His Only Begotten Son

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.
 – Nehemiah 9:6

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
– Colossians 1:16-17

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature, upholding all things by His powerful word…
– Hebrews 1:3a

Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made...He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him.
 – John 1:3, 10

 

Today we have a quoted passage from A. W. Tozer, which we located at Driven (DrivenToChrist.com) the blog of Minnesota pastor Bart Whitman. Click the header below to read this at his site, and then take some time to look around at his other writing.

A guy smarter than me: Tozer on the universe

The following is an excerpt from “Experiencing The Presence of God”, written by A.W. Tozer and edited by James L. Snyder.

The Bible…teaches that this universe, this “uni” (meaning “one”), this one great interlocking system has a central control. And that control is called the throne of God. The universe is controlled from that center…

If any organism has to have a head, if a machine has to have a head, an organization has to have a head, is it not logical to believe that somewhere in this vast universe, there is a throne where somebody runs it?…

And I believe that the one on the throne is God, the Majesty in the heavens. The Bible refers to this center of control as the throne of God. And from that throne, God governs His universe according to an eternal purpose. That eternal purpose embraces all things. “All things” are two little words used often in Scriptures, yet they are bigger than the sky above. They are bigger than the entire world. They are big because they take in all things.

So, we have the Majesty in the heavens, sitting upon His throne. Then someone is sitting on the right hand of that throne. Why? And who is He? He is Jesus, the minister of the sanctuary, which God made, not man. The reason for His being there, in brief, is this: A province revolted in what we call the universe. In all this interrelated, interdependence, interlocking universe, one province revolted and said, “We don’t want to be ruled by the head. We will not be ruled from the throne. We will rule ourselves. We will build this great Babylon up to heaven. We will not have God rule over us.” That province we call “mankind.” And mankind inhabits the little rolling sphere we called “the earth.”…

I think the earth belongs to man. They have not done much with it, and they have not done a very good job, but it belongs to the sons of men.

That province is now in revolt against the Majesty of the heavens. What is God going to do? God could, with a wave of His hand, sweep that province out of existence. But what did He do? God sent His only begotten Son that He might redeem that province and bring it back into the sphere of the throne again, back into the sphere of the Kingdom. And that Kingdom is called “the kingdom of God.” When a man is converted, he is born again into the kingdom of God. What does that mean? It means that he is born out of the old rebellious province into a new Kingdom, and admits that there is a throne, which he did not admit before…

You cannot get there by being baptized, though we all ought to be baptized, according to the teaching of Jesus. We do not get there by joining a church, although we all ought to join a church. We do not get there by praying; you can pray to the end of your life, 24 hours a day, and not get there. It is coming into the Kingdom by an act of the will, through Jesus Christ the Lord, that gets me out of the old, revolted province and into the kingdom of God and under the rule of the throne of God again.

 

June 16, 2020

The Power of Words

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

We return today to David Kitz at I Love the Psalms. David has served as an ordained minister with the Foursquare Gospel Church of Canada. For several years now, he toured across Canada and into the US with a variety of one man plays for both children and adults. For further information visit: http://www.davidkitz.ca/

Today’s article is part one of a three part series based on Psalm 33. I’ve linked parts two and three at the end of this piece. If you click the title below, you’ll also see some of David’s photography. These articles are publishing in book form later in the year. Follow his blog for details.

Made by the Word of the LORD

Reading: Psalm 33
(Verses 6-9)
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
He gathers the waters of the sea into jars;
he puts the deep into storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the L
ORD;
let all the people of the world revere him.
For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm
(NIV).*

Reflection
Have you ever considered the creative power of words? Words change the world. They bring order out of chaos. Words shine the light of day into the darkness of this world. From the very beginning words have been imbued with divine power. The psalmist reminds us, By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.”

But it’s not only God’s words that have this vast power. Our words—human words, whether spoken written or thought have enormous power too. Adam’s first job assignment was to speak words—to name the animals. Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals (Genesis 2: 19-20).

Strangely, God didn’t do what every parent does. He didn’t tell Adam what the animals were called. Adam told God their names. By so doing, God vested mankind with the power of language. Life is what we call it. Our words describe the world and give meaning to it.

Through our words we bring order and make sense of the world around us. As a writer I am continually processing and attempting to make sense of this chaotic thing called life. I do it with words. From the beginning of time, by divine command that’s what we are called to do. We are to speak order into chaos— speak accuracy and clarity into this world’s muddled reality.

With our words we shine the light of truth onto a situation. With words we write laws, administer justice and design government. With words we woo and romance and vow our love to one another. Our words create imaginary realms into which we can travel—words that transport. With our words we have the power to elevate the human spirit, or crush someone to the point of suicide.

Finally, there is something innately prophetic about our words. What we think, speak and write is potent. It has within in it the latent ability to become reality. Therefore, we need to guard our lips. See James 3:1-12. The psalmist reminds us not only of the power of the word of the LORD, but also our own words. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.

Response: LORD God, help me give careful consideration to my words. Today, may my words, whether written or spoken, be a creative force for good in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Your Turn: How has God used your words for good lately? Are your words bringing life and order out of chaos?

* New International Version, Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica

This post by award-winning author David Kitz will be published in book format later in 2020 by Elk Lake Publishing under the title 365 Days through the Psalms.


May 9, 2020

Did Jesus’ First Miracle Echo God’s First Miracle?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Gen 1:3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

John 2:10 “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.”

Today’s thoughts are adapted from a 2008 newsletter I sent out; a newsletter which became the inspiration for Thinking Out Loud, which begat Christianity 201…

One of the most difficult aspects of the various debates in creationism has to do with the young/earth old earth issue. Some believe that God took his time to make the earth, that the “days” of Genesis 1 are really “ages” and that’s why we can have compatibility between the idea of a creator God and the scientists who say the earth is millions of years old.

Using this reasoning, “theistic evolution” is possible; the more recent blending of an evolutionary creation view with the concept of a God who was overseeing it all; the idea that God used evolution. But today we’ll stick to a simple young/old dichotomy.

If we arrive at the garden of Eden after that first creation week — let’s pretend we arrive on day ten — we see a tree and the tree is mature. It looks like it might be at least 20 years old. (Though counting the rings would be interesting!) Underneath the tree is a rock. The rock appears to be 20,000 years old. Adam himself becomes more problematic. He’s clearly a man, not an infant. Today, Jewish boys become a man at 13; in North America we use 18, though it once was 21; Jesus began his ministry at 30. Any one of those ages denotes the idea of “man” and not “boy.” From the earliest times, our earth seems to have either aged considerably or has some age built into it.

And really, what we see on day ten works with either a young earth or old earth perspective. One person sees the tree and the rock and says, “These items are 20 years and 20,000 years old respectively.” Another says, “This tree and that rock are only a week old.” But the tree is not a sapling, it’s taller than the man, so there would need to be some allowance for apparent age

…I started thinking about Jesus’ first miracle, turning water into wine. Wine needs fermentation and fermentation takes time. About a year ago, out of curiosity, we drove to one of those places that lets you make up a batch of wine to enjoy or give away to your friends. A batch of homemade brew would need at least six months as I remember it; and further aging only improves the quality, and they did say at the time that the host of the wedding had “saved the best wine until last.” Did Jesus press a “pause” button, and everyone froze in place for a year while the batch brewed, or did he simply do a creative miracle in an instant?

The former suggestion is something I just made up; I’ve never heard it suggested. If you believe in this miracle at all; it’s the latter you believe in; that the ceremonial washing water was water one moment and wine the next. If that’s the case, it’s interesting that Jesus’ first recorded creative act in the New Testament; and God’s first recorded creative act in the Old Testament should involve things that have apparent age; things that seem to have been created outside the constraints of time as we know it.

And if the earth is as young as some believe, then we are still witnessing the miracle of something created with apparent age, for each time the light of a star is seen at night, we know that scientifically, the light of stars that Adam, and Abraham, and Moses saw left those distant suns thousands of years before the earth was created. Which I know doesn’t make sense to many people.

The thing is, you can have a theistic view of creation and say that God did it, but it in terms of our chronological sense, it took decades and millennia to do so. That would make you an old earth creationist.

But you can’t say that Jesus took six months waiting for the wine to ferment.

Next time you’re wrestling with this issue, either personally or in discussion or with someone else, step outside Genesis for a minute and consider the water-into-wine miracle of the New Testament. Fermentation takes time. The wine definitely had an apparent age. Could this principle extend back into Genesis?

There’s definitely some similarities between what Jesus did at the start of his ministry and God did at the start of human history.


Much of the creation aspect of this depends on linear time being the same that first week as it is now. But there are other ways of seeing this. For example, check out this post from April, 2018: When Did Time Begin? (Which in turn is based on a 2012 post, Why Didn’t He Call the Light, “Light?”)

For more on the miracle at Canada, check out this post from September, 2019, Water to Wine: Miracle and Symbol.

February 18, 2020

Biblical Writers Knew Economic Inequity

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

When I first started interacting with various Christian blogs, one of the first I was aware of was Andrew Jones aka Tall Skinny Kiwi. I still receive his newsletter and this week he quoted this Proverb:

There is abundant food in the field of the poor, but it is swept away by injustice.” Prov. 13:23

Contextually, the Proverb falls between two others I would consider unrelated, and BibleHub, which usually offers various cross-references to similar passages is somewhat sparse with this one.

Still, economic inequity is well known to all of us and it can appear in various forms. In its plain form, the verse is talking about a situation where the land produces food in abundance, but people are going hungry.

More recently, we’ve heard stories where developed nations have sent containers of food following a natural disaster, only to learn later that the supplies were being hoarded in warehouses to which the common people did not have access.

But is this proverb saying something more, or something entirely different? The website LetGodBeTrue.com offers what follows. To better understand the commentary, here’s the verse in the KJV as they are using it:

Much food is in the tillage of the poor: but there is that is destroyed for want of judgment.

Hard work brings profit, but it can be lost by foolish decisions. The poor may labor hard at farming, with much increase from their Creator. Their focused labor on a small plot of land bears good reward for their table. But other poor men, even with some advantages, may squander greater gain by following harebrained schemes that take it away.

Tillage is the tilling and cultivating of ground for raising crops. Farming was the first profession in the world, and it is a good work. It is the most basic business or investment, providing a clear view of capital, labor, and profit. Depending directly on God’s blessing, seeds are placed in the ground to wait for His increase. And He does give increase!

The average return for wheat is 200. One wheat seed planted results in 200 new ones. One bushel planted results in 200 new bushels. That is a return of 20,000%! The average return for field corn is 800 times, or 80,000%! The average return for rice is 2000 times, or 200,000%! There is much food in the tillage of the poor. You have never seen this kind of return in any investment portfolio of the rich and famous, for the world’s best hedge fund managers or investors can only sustain about 30% per year over time.

Want of judgment is the lack of good sense. It is foolish vulnerability to ideas that will not work. It is listening to vain persons and their schemes. It is a lack of discretion and prudent management. It is the rejection of critical thinking and cautious pessimism. It is wishful thinking instead, trusting more in hopes and dreams than careful analysis.

Want of judgment is hasty decisions, poor choices, lack of foresight, and risky presumption. It believes everything it hears. It is frustration with the old way of doing things and impatience to experiment with something new. It is the desire for a free lunch, no matter how many times it has heard there is no such thing. It is the dream that there are shortcuts that can lead to wealth, though the wealthiest, Solomon, denies the idea.

The proverb deals with poor farmers. They have plenty of food, for they labor at a godly trade day after day, year after year. But there are other men who may not even have enough to eat. What happened? They gave away their increase by foolish decisions. The lesson here is the value of hard work and the importance of wise financial management.

continue reading here

Dake’s commentary also places the onus on the poor farmers themselves:

The poor may sow enough to have plenty of food, but lack of management often keeps them in poverty. They have very little foresight. When they get something they quickly spend it or have a big feast and then go without for a long time.

Again, I go back to the commentary at LetGodBeTrue:

When the government approves a lottery, who lines up first for tickets? The man tired of farming! He dreams of how he will spend his millions. He can list how he will use his riches. He eagerly takes the “much food” from his tillage and gives it to the state in a no-win deal designed for the foolish and naïve. The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.

So again…what about the example I used at the beginning and the way in which I interpreted the verse for today’s headline? Does the translation Andrew Jones is using put the wrong spin on this?

I think that either way, we see that the ecosystem — to be clear, with this word I mean climate and agriculture — is able to sustain life on Planet Earth, but human intervention, whether individual or collective, is what spoils the harmony of that system. As God designed it, there is food for all.

September 15, 2019

Worship Moments in Creation

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
Tags: , , ,

Today I went back for a third visit with a writer we’ve used here before only to find the blog no longer active. I decided to pursue it further however, and came up with one of the original posts from 2012 that I felt would fit well here. Jonathan Parrish wrote for six years at Walking With Christ Daily; click the header below to visit the site. The same creation which inspires our worship is part of the general revelation of God that leaves the unrepentant without excuse.

Creation Proclaims: Psalms 19:1-6

Before you read this, I want you to take a moment to think of a place you’ve been where you were just awe-inspired by Creation. That place for me is the Grand Canyon. All I used to say about it was that it was just a giant hole in the ground, but when I stood there on the edge looking over the expanse of this creation, I saw God. God had created this giant, amazing, beautiful hole in the middle of the desert. I was humbled in my heart by the idea of God’s majesty and power and how He had spoken it into existence as stated in the first chapter of Genesis.

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
(Psalm 19:1-6 ESV)

Of all the books of the Old Testament, the book of Psalms represents the faith of the Lord’s followers. The psalms are Holy Spirit-inspired responses of the human heart to God’s will and revelation. David becomes inspired and proclaims that the heavens declare the glory of God. David goes on to say that Creation is always proclaiming the existence of God and that He rules over it. Though it isn’t audibly heard, its message extends to all the ends of the earth, to every nation and people, proclaiming the Glory of God.

As Christians, we see the night sky full of stars, the sunrise over the horizon, and the sunset in the west, but do we really think of God when witnessing such beauty? Do we praise God for His creation and glorify His name? Are we humbled in our hearts by such an awesome God or do we just snap a photo and walk away?

Believers know the truth in these vast arrays of God’s creation. However, for non-believers, “they are without excuse” as Romans 1:18 explains:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
(Romans 1:18-20 ESV)

Paul exclaims here that God is revealed in Creation and that humanity suppresses the truth because of our unrighteousness. Because of this, we have no excuse not to recognize the truth in Creation. So when a non-believer stands before God and says he never heard the truth, he will have no excuse because everything had been already revealed to him.

In Psalms 19, David talks about the sun and how it rises and sets each day. It’s seen by all creation and is yet another instrument aiding in the glorification of God. Did you know if the earth was closer to the sun, we would not be able to survive because the planet would burn. If we were back farther from the sun the planet would be too cold to support life? God placed us perfectly in space so we could survive and live to glorify Him..

When you as a Christian think of Creation, do you think of God, or is it just some cool thing? Do you feel humbled by the awesomeness of God who created the universe in six days? Do you realize that God created all this knowing He would have to send His Son into the world to die on a cross for our sins?

 

July 14, 2019

Seven Days to Connect With Your Creator

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
Tags: , , ,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. – John 1:1 NASB

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I Am !”  – John 8:58 NLT

Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. – John 17:24 NRSV

We kicked off today with some verses from John’s gospel, but our focus for the day is on Genesis 1 and 2. I post many different types of articles for our Sunday Worship feature, but today’s is a guided 7-day study on creation. Your schedule may not permit you to do everything listed here, but consider the possibilities of engaging in this type of study.

This appeared at the blog of Air1, a multi-location Christian radio station in the United States. The author is Scott Savage. Use the link in the title below to click through to the site and then enjoy some additional articles.

God creates…

As we step away from the busy pace of our lives and step into a vacation this summer, many of us will spend time outdoors. Being present in creation can often lead us deeper into the presence of our Creator.

When you step into the beautiful world around us, do you ever think about reading the account of God’s creation activity in Genesis 1-2? Often, these chapters are reduced to the creation vs. evolution argument, which keeps us from experiencing the full value of these verses to teach us about God and ourselves.

Over the next seven days, we encourage you to take a few moments each day to do three things:

First, read a short passage of Scripture which describes one day in the creation account. Second, reflect on a single question or thought related to the passage at meal time with your family or a friend. Third, engage in a practice which broadens your understanding and appreciation of God’s handiwork in one particular way.

Day 1: God Creates Day and Night
Passage: Genesis 1:1-5

Reflection Prompt: “What was the best sunset or sunrise you’ve ever seen? Why was that particular one so meaningful for you?”

Practice: Instead of waking by your smart phone alarm clock and staying up late to the glow of your TV, take one day this week where you wake up and go to bed according to the sun.

Day 2: God Creates the Sky
Passage: Genesis 1:6-8

Reflection Prompt: “What are your favorite days – sunny without clouds, sunny with clouds, stormy, rainy or snowy? Why is that your favorite and why do you think God gave us that kind of day?”

Practice: On a day when there are great clouds in the sky, grab a blanket and head to a park where you can lay down and watch the clouds go by for 15-20 minutes. In the silence, reflect on the imagination of God to create each unique cloud.

Day 3: God Creates The Land and the Seas, Fruits and Vegetables
Passage: Genesis 1:9-13

Reflection Prompt: “God created plants and trees with the ability to reproduce via seeds. In your circle of influence, what have you seen the seeds of your life reproducing?”

Practice: If your health and dietary restriction allow for it, take one day this week and only eat fruits and vegetables. At each meal or snack, pause and thank God for creating food to sustain your body.

Day 4: God Creates the Sun, Moon, and Stars
Passage: Genesis 1:14-19

Reflection Prompt: “God created the sun, moon, and stars to govern days and seasons. What does it say about God’s nature and character that He created a world where it isn’t always day (or night)? Where it isn’t always summer (or winter)?”

Practice: Drive to a quiet place one night this week and spend at least 30 minutes in quiet reflection on the majesty and magnitude of God’s creation in the universe.

Day 5: God Creates Birds and Sea Creatures
Passage: Genesis 1:20-23

Reflection Prompt: “What’s your favorite animal and why?”

Practice: Pick a nature documentary to watch and reflect on the wonder of God’s creativity and imagination.

Day 6: God Creates Land Creatures and Humans
Passage: Genesis 1:24-31

Reflection Prompt: Genesis 1:28 says that we were created in the image of God. What does that term ‘image of God’ mean to you? Why is it significant.

Practice: Many of us battle insecurity and unhealthy thoughts about our bodies. Each morning this week, begin the day by standing in front of the mirror and read Genesis 1:27. Say out loud, “I was made in the image of God.”

Day 7: God Rests
Passage: Genesis 2:1-4

Reflection Prompt: “A pastor once said Scripture calls those who will not work lazy, but those who will not rest disobedient. Which is harder for you – getting motivated to work or being disciplined to rest?”

Practice: Experience Sabbath. Pick a day when you won’t go to work (or check email or talk about work) and instead fill your schedule with experiences which renew and refresh you. (For more on how 21st-century Christians can practice Sabbath, check out Mark Buchanan’s book, The Rest of God.)

 

June 6, 2019

A Compelling Perspective on Humanity

How the Christian Perspective on Humanity Points to the Reality of God.

by Clarke Dixon

Does Christianity lead to a beautiful perspective on humanity? Or is it ugly? If the God of the Bible is real and is love, then we should expect beauty and not ugliness. Some would say it is ugly, setting up some people as better than the rest, creating a people who look down on others. It sets up a hierarchy of worth and value. There is no doubt, that we who are Christians, have sometimes acted or spoken like this is so. But is that accurate? What does the Bible teach that our perspective on humanity should be?

Let us turn first, to the beginning;

26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. . . . .
27 So God created human beings in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26-27 (NLT)

All people are created in the image of God, without exception. This fact unites us in our humanity.

It might be suggested that while this was true of Adam and Eve, it has not been true of anyone since the Fall, that we no longer bear the image of God because of sin. However, consider this early appeal to justice;

5 “And I will require the blood of anyone who takes another person’s life. If a wild animal kills a person, it must die. And anyone who murders a fellow human must die. 6 If anyone takes a human life, that person’s life will also be taken by human hands. For God made human beings in his own image. Genesis 9:5-6 (NLT)

To paraphrase, “how dare you lift a finger against another person in violence, for people were created in the image of God and that still matters.” Every person has worth and value, even with sin in the equation.

Now let us turn to the ending;

9 After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. 10 And they were shouting with a great roar,
“Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne
and from the Lamb!” . . . .
14 Then he said to me, “These are the ones who died in the great tribulation. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white.
15 “That is why they stand in front of God’s throne
and serve him day and night in his Temple.
And he who sits on the throne
will give them shelter.
16 They will never again be hungry or thirsty;
they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun.
17 For the Lamb on the throne
will be their Shepherd.
He will lead them to springs of life-giving water.
And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:9,10,14-17 (NLT emphasis added)

The Book of Revelation speaks of an incredible diversity of peoples gathered together, redeemed by God through Christ. From this we learn that all people are redeemable, all people have the opportunity to wash their clothes in the blood of the Lamb.

To sum up what we learn at the beginning and at the end, we will never meet a person who was not created in the image of God, we will never meet a person for whom Jesus did not choose to bear the cross. All people bear the image of God without exception. Without exception, Jesus bore the cross for all people. That is the starting point point of relationship with God, though there is much we could say about where it goes from there and what allegiance to, and trust in, Christ looks like. It is also the perspective on humanity for the Christian and the starting point for our relationship with others.

We see this humanity valuing perspective in the Bible, not only at the beginning and the end, but also from beginning to end. For example,

  • When Abraham is called, that calling is ultimately for the sake of all nations, not just Abraham’s descendants.
  • In the Old Testament there are laws that provide for the well-being of the foreigner.
  • Foreigners were welcomed into the community, as exemplified with The Book of Ruth. We should note, however, that the community was to keep its worship pure from foreign religious influence. While foreign religion was unacceptable, foreign people were accepted.
  • God’s concern for the foreigner is explicitly made clear in The Book of Jonah. Jonah shrank back from God’s call to preach to the enemy, the people of Ninevah, knowing that God would be kind to them. God did indeed show His kindness to them.
  • Jesus loved all kinds of people, even touching “unclean” people, whom no one would touch, before healing them.
  • Jesus taught the importance of love for thy neighbour, then emphasized that the neighbour is anyone and everyone. Your neighbour could even be those dreaded Samaritans, who can act better than the religious elites by the way, as told in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
  • God called Phillip for a special mission to the Ethiopian eunuch, who was from a different land, likely had a different skin colour, and, being a eunuch, could be described as having a different sexuality.
  • God gave the Holy Spirit to all kinds of people beyond the Jewish people.

From beginning to end, the Bible promotes the value and worth of all people. This covers more than just race, it covers any kind of difference. Consider that in a very patriarchal time and place, there is an emphasis on the equality of the sexes;

27 So God created human beings in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26-27 (NLT)

Speaking of gender, there is a lot going on with gender in society these days.  Many of us may struggle to understand why a man identifies as a woman, or a woman as a man, or some don’t identify as either. The starting point for relationship, even when people are beyond our understanding, is this: they are created in the image of God and Jesus chose the cross for them. What will we choose to do for them?

All people bear the image of God without exception. Without exception, Jesus bore the cross for all people. This is true for people who are unique for any reason. With each of our pregnancies, my wife and I were offered the opportunity to test for Down syndrome. This would lead to an opportunity to have an abortion. In our minds people with Down syndrome have as much worth and value as any other person. They are created in the image of God. Jesus chose the cross for them. Therefore should a Christian carry on with such a test? Speaking of abortion, in my mind, people in the womb has as much value and worth as people outside. This is why Christians often tend to be pro-life. We should understand that nothing is as simple as it seems, that there is a great need for sensitivity on this topic, and people need reminding of the grace of God. Also we should understand that some people are pro-choice based on their Christian ethic, based on love and concern for Moms and women in difficult circumstances. Nevertheless, every person has value and the question is valid; is a fetus just “tissue,” or a person created in the image of God and for whom Jesus bore the cross?

Given that all humanity bears the image of God, the Christian cannot not look down on people as being worth less for any reason. Rather, we are called to love others with the love of Christ who bore the cross for them. The starting point is not “you are so different from me,” but “we are so much alike, in our creation in the image of God, in our need for grace, and in being given the invitation to a relationship with God.” All people bear the image of God without exception. Without exception, Jesus bore the cross for all people. This is Christian view of humanity, and it is beautiful.

Now consider what can happen when we take God out of the picture. Without the Biblical perspective on humanity, we can easily fall into racism, sexism, or looking down on people because they are different.  If we are indeed evolved, if there is no God, then what is to stop us from thinking that one race has greater value than another? The rat has had just as much time to evolve as the human. We naturally give the human more value and will call exterminators to deal with rat infestations so as to protect humans from disease. What is to stop us from giving greater value to one type of human, even going as far as exterminating other types of humans to protect the more valuable? Indeed this kind of thing happened with Nazi Germany. It was not Bible study and a hunger for God that led the Nazi machine to commit atrocities against the Jews. It was philosophical thinking that applied evolution to society. “We are more highly evolved than you” is ugly. In contrast, “You bear the image of God, Christ bore the cross for you,” is beautiful.

Every single person bears the image of God, regardless of colour, culture, medical conditions, gender, sexuality, or anything else. Jesus bore the cross for every person regardless of colour, culture, medical conditions, gender, sexuality, or anything else. We share this same starting point with every other person without exception. This is a beautiful perspective on humanity which is also helpful to humanity. This is what we should expect if the God the Bible points to, the God the Bible portrays as love, is real. This is yet another reason that Christianity it compelling.


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Ontario, Canada and is featured here each Thursday. This post is part of a series called “Compelling” which begins here. The full sermon can be heard on the podcast which is found here.

April 4, 2019

Compelling Evil

Compelling Evil: How Suffering Points to a Loving God

by Clarke Dixon

If the Bible is correct about God, that God is, and God is love, then why is the world in a mess? Why is there suffering? Yes, the Bible teaches that God is love, but the Bible also teaches that the world is, indeed, in a mess. First of, notice that humanity’s relationship with God is destroyed by sin. Adam and Eve were free to enjoy the Garden of Eden, except that there was one thing they ought not do:

“You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” Genesis 2:15-17 (NLT)

Of course they did that one thing and death became an eventuality. Sin separates us from God. However, the Bible tells us that human sin affects more than just humanity:

And to the man he said,
“Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree
whose fruit I commanded you not to eat,
the ground is cursed because of you.
Genesis 3:17 (NLT)

Adam is affected by his own sin, he will die, but so too is the ground affected. Sin messes up everything. We see this theme carried on in the very next story:

“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”
One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him. Genesis 4:6-8 (NLT emphasis added)

Sin was “eager to control” Cain, but Abel, and Adam, and Eve, were the ones to suffer. Before there was ever a death by the natural consequence of one’s own sin, there was violent death from another’s. Sin makes a mess of everything! It still does. Consider a particularly cruel and selfish man whose attitudes and actions make life miserable for his family. He spreads the misery into his workplace like a bad virus. He then either gets fired, or his business runs down. Soon the money runs out, and the house falls into ruin also. Sin messes everything up for everyone and everything, not just the person who sins.

The Bible teaches that sin even makes a mess of creation:

For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.  Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse [as a result of the sin of humanity]. But with eager hope,  the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. Romans 8:19-21 (NLT)

Creation is not waiting for God to wipe out humanity, so it can flourish on its own, but to rescue humanity. Brokenness in all creation is tied to human sinfulness. Restoration of creation is tied to the healing of humanity’s sin problem.

So if the Bible is accurate, then we should expect to live in a world where relationship with God is destroyed, where death is the expected and normal end, and where everything is messed up. This is the world we live in! There is suffering because there is evil & sin, there is sin because there is freedom, there is freedom because God is love. It turns out that the world is exactly as we would expect if God is love. Therefore the presence of evil and suffering lends support to the Bible being accurate about the way things are.

But if God is love, would we not expect God to rescue us from evil and suffering? Indeed. The Bible teaches, from Genesis through to Revelation, that God is not content to leave humanity in a mess. God continued to work with humans. He did not just walk away.

God rescued a particular people from a messy situation, then gave them the law so that they would learn to not make a big mess of everything. For example, the Israelites were forbidden from practicing child-sacrifice. If they kept that law, there would be less evil and suffering in the world, for that practice was too common in that day. The law was given to lead God’s particular people out of evil so they could be an example to the other nations. However, they kept tripping on the way out.

All of this was part of a bigger plan for a bigger rescue. God sent his Son and Spirit to rescue us from sin. The two problems of sin are solved. First, we are personally, and individually, reconciled to God. Death, and separation from God is no longer our final end. Second, when it comes to sin making a mess of everything, we are enabled to be part of Spirit-led solutions rather than part of sin-wrecked problems.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)

Just think of how much less suffering and evil there would be in the world if all lives were marked by these “fruit” of the Holy Spirit! As people participate in God’s great rescue, our dark world gets brighter.

God’s rescue is not limited to the possibility of individuals being reconciled to God and making less mess along the way. God will rescue all of creation:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
  I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.”  And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life.   All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. Revelation 21:1-7 (NLT)

Christianity provides a reasonable accounting of why evil and suffering exist in a world created by a loving God. There is suffering because there is sin, there is sin because there is freedom, there is freedom because God is love. Our sin messes up everything. God knows, and since God is love, He has a rescue underway. Christianity speaks of God’s revealed love solution to evil and suffering in Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and a future with God. The presence of evil and suffering in the world does not prove God does not exist or does not care. It confirms what the Bible teaches. People sin, God is, and God is love.


This post is part of a series called “Compelling” which begins here. The full sermon can be heard on the podcast which is found here. All Scripture references are taken from the NRSV.

March 20, 2019

The Gospel of New Creation

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

NLT.2 Cor.5.18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.

NLT.Rom.8.19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children,[a] including the new bodies he has promised us.

Today we’re back again at the online resource, Start2Finish.org which includes various blogs, podcasts and Bible study materials materials available on everything from a phone app to print. This time however, we’re visiting the collection of writing called Classically Christian by Steven Hunter.  Click the header below to read this article at source.

John’s Gospel as Re-Creation

Decades before John determined the produce a gospel, Paul had already written about “new creation.” To the Corinthians, he wrote, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17; NKJV), and to the Galatians, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation” (Gal. 6:15). There are two manners in which new creation appears in the New Testament: as a present reality and a future expectation. The present reality was what Paul and John respectively wrote about in the passages above and the latter’s gospel, but they also each wrote about the future expectation of new creation (Rom. 8:18–23; Rev. 21:1–5). My concern here is more the present reality as it pertains to the Christian than the future eschatological expectation, and I believe John’s gospel shows that God was in Christ recreating that which was in need of refurbishment.

Most of us have owned used things but have referred to them as new. The home I live in is new to me because we just moved into it within the past few months, but the house itself was built in 1984. The same goes for my wife’s car, a Kia Sorento. When we bought it, it was used, but we considered it new to us. I used to frequent a consignment store with my wife in Bowling Green that had name-brand clothing at a very low price. Others had paid the retail price, I presumed and taken the loss whereas I got to sweep in and collect the goods at a much lower price. They were new to me, but not entirely new in theory. New creation in the present tense, I suggest, is similar. Oh sure, we still have thorns and thistles, but we’re anticipating the end result and through the Spirit are new in Christ.

As Christians, we are “created” (note the past tense) in Christ Jesus for good works, for we are His “finished product” (Eph. 2:10; my translation). As such, we are present in the reality of new creation, but we still await its culmination in the fully realized experience at the resurrection of our bodies. As it is, we are participating in a greater eschatological reality. We express such by practicing the newness of life proper to the new creation (Rom. 6:4). We tend to call it living Christianly, but we are demonstrating to the world and God’s glory, we pray, that how we live while Christians on earth now is how things shall be in the heavenly kingdom of God.

Until this point in history (c. 96), John’s gospel had only ever been preached. The former fisherman, now an old man with gray hair, was the last apostle of Jesus remaining. He had seen the church grow by leaps and bounds. He’d testified of Jesus as Israel’s Messiah with signs and wonders. With him was Polycarp, a young Christian in his twenties who’d go on to be a great leader in the church, but who would be martyred when in his eighties (c. 156). Polycarp was learning from John and was an ever promising young pupil.

Jerusalem had been destroyed just over twenty-five years earlier, and in the last few years, the Jews assembled in Jamnia (c. 90) to establish a school of the religious study of the Jewish Law. One of the first appointed deacons, Prochorus had been with Peter who’d appointed him to be a minister of Nicomedia. However, Peter had been crucified just before Jerusalem fell (c. 64), so Prochorus joined John and aided him. Now, John was about to send Prochorus to oversee the work at Antioch, but before he was to depart, Prohorus was to help John with one important work.

John had read Matthew, Mark, and Luke. He thought them each well written and accurate accounts of the ministry of Jesus though only Matthew was by a fellow apostle. However, the Synoptic accounts overlooked the earlier years of Christ’s ministry, and John believed that the church ought to know about this period of Jesus’ ministry since John himself was witness to it. John wasn’t taking this task lightly, because the Spirit had been speaking to him about writing another gospel account. Nevertheless, as an aged man whose eyesight wasn’t the best, and whose hand wasn’t steady, Prochorus would serve as his amanuensis—John would speak, and Prochorus would write. The Spirit had told John, “Write a new genesis,” so John knew what he’d do. As Prochorus sat poised at the writing table, John first spoke, “In the beginning.”

What follows in John’s gospel is a retelling of the Genesis story, but this time instead of being separated from God, humanity is reconciled to Him. Rather than falling prey to sin and futility, freedom is given through the sacrifice of God on a cross. Yes, Jesus is God and identifies himself as such in the prologue of John’s gospel and throughout. Instead of being ruled by sin, the new Adam, Christ, conquers it so that His new creation can exist and operate in the newness of life. The entire framework of this is accomplished in the guise of the temple, as will be explained momentarily.

When in elementary school, I remember during science class the teacher showing us children how magnets stuck together and explained that they were from separate poles. However, when we’d take magnets from the same pole and try to put them together, they naturally repelled. When God created the heavens and earth, His creation of such was made so that we were with Him and Him with us. We had perfect fellowship, but when sin became the reality of human existence, we began to push God away. At every turn we have sought to push God away, likely due to our own shame. However, God has graciously pursued us to bring us to Himself. This is reconciliation. In His works on earth and the cross, God was, in Jesus, reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor. 5:18–19).


Steven Hunter (PhD, Faulkner University) is the preaching minister for the Glendale Road Church of Christ in Murray, KY. He’s also authored several books for Start2Finish, and Classically Christian explores Christianity from a church-historical perspective.

August 19, 2018

Creator: A Worship Liturgy

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

a worship liturgy by Ruth Wilkinson

An hour is coming, and is already here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and Truth…
~ Jesus

Brothers and sisters, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.
This is your spiritual worship.
~ Paul

…Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit? He is in you and He is from God.
You are not your own.
~ Paul


Who is this God we worship?

He‘s the great God, creator of Heaven and Earth.

He’s the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and all that surrounds them, and of time itself.

He’s the one who calls us to Himself, and calls us to each other, and calls us to worship.


Give thanks to the Lord of Lords.
His love endures forever.
He alone does great wonders.
His love endures forever.
He made the heavens with unsurpassed skill.
His love endures forever.
He spread the land on the waters.
His love endures forever.
He made the great lights:
His love endures forever.
the sun to rule by day,
His love endures forever.
the moon and stars to rule by night.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven!
His love endures forever.


Not only is He the creator of all, but He is especially the creator of the human heart.

Of our hearts, our bodies, our imaginations.

Patterned after Himself.  Lived in by Himself.  Perfected by Himself.

Shaped of earth dust, breathed to life with His own Breath.


For it was You who created my inward parts;
Your love endures forever.
You knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
Your love endures forever.
I will praise You because I am wonderfully made.
Your love endures forever.
My bones were not hidden from You when I was made in secret,
Your love endures forever.
All my days were written in Your book before a single one of them began.
Your love endures forever.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
Your love endures forever.
See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.
Your love is the everlasting way.
Your love endures forever.



To see all of Ruth’s readings here at C201, click this link.

Next Page »