Christianity 201

July 4, 2022

The Case for a Literal Reading of Genesis 1

This is a topic which arises constantly, in fact I referred to it in conversation yesterday. This is our fourth time at Awakened to Grace, and the author of today’s piece is again Joy Bollinger. Clicking the title which follows will take you to where this first appeared.

Were Adam & Eve Real People?

Adam and Eve’s existence has been argued since the beginning of time. A Gallup poll determined that only 24 percent of Americans believe the Bible to be the literal Word of God. The other 76 percent believe the Bible is a book of myths, legends, teachings, and that Adam and Eve were nothing more than an allegorical representation of humanity. However, there is enough proof throughout the Bible to legitimize the reality of Adam and Eve being the first parents of mankind.

We learn in Genesis 1:1-28 that after God spoke all things into existence, God said,

“Let Us (Son and Father) make mankind in Our image, in Our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So, God created mankind in His own image; He created them male and female and blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” “And God saw everything that He had made and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).

Adam’s name means “man from the red earth” and Eve’s name means “living one and source of life.”

The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and he became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). The Lord God then caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam and took one of Adam’s ribs, and made a woman, and brought her to the man. Then He gave them all authority over creation (Genesis 2:21-23).

God had lavishly provided for their every need, yet Satan, the great deceiver, would come to tempt and cause doubt to form within their hearts and minds. So it happened that Satan appeared to Eve with his trickery and convinced her that God was a withholder of good things. When Eve saw that the fruit of the forbidden tree was good for food, pleasing to the eye, and desirable for gaining wisdom, she took the fruit and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it (Genesis 3:6).

Adam disobeyed God’s command to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, so he followed his wife’s lead, and together they yielded to temptation. Sin filled their hearts, bringing death and destruction to all mankind.

Satan continues to perpetuate that same deceptive lie, causing many people to believe that God withholds good things and that in serving Him, they are prevented from enjoying life. The truth is that those who fully surrender and commit their hearts and minds to the lordship of Jesus Christ, will experience peace, joy, and God’s provision that surpasses all understanding.

Job, a righteous man, referred to Adam when he made his case of innocence to his friends and said, “If I have covered my transgressions as Adam…” (Job 31:33). Adam tried and failed to cover his sin of disobedience when he said, “The woman You put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it” (Genesis 3:12-13).

Adam blamed God for giving him Eve; therefore, he reasoned that she was the cause for his rebellion and disobedience. He took no responsibility for his sin and failure in preventing them both from making that fatal choice.

We find a reference to Adam in Deuteronomy 32:8: “When the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations, when He separated the sons of Adam, He [God] set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel.”

The entire genealogy of Adam to Abraham and eventually to David can be found in Chronicles 1 and 2, beginning with Adam and his sons. Again, we see a reference to the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham, whose lineage came from Adam (Matthew 1:1).

A significant account regarding Adam and Eve is found in Paul’s letters to the Roman and Corinthian churches. Paul, who walked with Jesus and sat under His teaching, was educated in the eternal truths regarding Jesus and Adam. He fully understood Adam to have been just as real as Jesus. Had Adam never existed, then Paul’s entire case for the Gospel would have been pointless.

Paul details how sin and death entered the world through Adam and spread by inheritance to the entire human race. He presents Adam and Jesus as the two representative heads of humanity. “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin, and in this way, death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). “Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act (Jesus’ death and resurrection) resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man (Adam) the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one Man (Jesus Christ) the many will be made righteous” (Romans 18:21).

Jesus Christ came in the form of a man, yet fully God, to redeem and bring salvation to those who confess with their mouth that “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in their heart that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9).

The Apostle Paul strongly affirms, “Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man (Adam) came death, by Man (Jesus) also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the first fruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming (I Corinthians 15:20-23).

It is written that “The first man, Adam, became a living being—the last Adam, (Christ), a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second Man (Christ) is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly Man” (I Corinthians 15:45-49).

Those who discount the authenticity of Adam and Eve, dismiss the whole counsel of God and might as well toss out the entire Bible. For everything rests on the foundation of God’s creation of man and woman, because it was their sin and fall that required Jesus Christ coming to earth to bring restoration and redemption to a fallen world.

PRAYER: LORD, all scripture is given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God and is valuable for doctrine, admonishment, correction, and instruction in righteousness, so that I may be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17) Help me, by the power of Your Holy Spirit, to believe and accept in faith that Your God-breathed Word is true and accurate. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

May 24, 2022

Your life is Precious; of Great Value

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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It is always encouraging to return to sources we’ve used before and find people are faithfully continuing to write online. Today we return to Melody at In Pleasant Places and this is a really beautifully composed reminder of our worth before God. Do you need to read this today? Is there someone you can send this to? Click the header which follows which is a link to the original article.

The Value of All of Us – Psalm 139:11-16

“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me,
and the light around me will be night’—
even the darkness is not dark to you.
The night shines like the day;
darkness and light are alike to you.
For it was you who created my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I will praise you
because I have been remarkably and wondrously made.
Your works are wondrous,
and I know this very well.
My bones were not hidden from you
when I was made in secret,
when I was formed in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw me when I was formless;
all my days were written in your book and planned
before a single one of them began.”

Psalm 139:11-16 (CSB)

I want to better comprehend the value of a human life – the value of all of us.

Those God created and declared “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

Those God breathed His life into and put eternity in our hearts (Genesis 2:7; Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Those He pursues for relationship even though we loved the darkness more than His light.

Those He died to rescue from that darkness and sin so He could bring us into true, abundant life and freedom.

I’m struggling to put what’s in my heart into words, but gaining a sense of the value of each one of us feels so important in so many ways. Stretching beyond the current upheaval considering abortion, although that has brought it to the forefront of my thoughts.

Because the baby who is still in the womb, being actively and intricately knit together as God brings it through stages of development – the baby has this great value.

And so does the mother, so let us honor her and protect her and help her on this journey in practical, relational ways.

The father has great value as well, and the power to use his voice to protect his family and influence it for good.

Those with developmental and physical challenges have this same value, same intentionality, same love of the Creator who wants to bring them into His family.

Each one with emotional and mental struggles is equally precious, put together with the same care, and God desires wholeness for them as well – wholeness personally offered through His Son, Jesus, who came to make a way for us.

I have this great value. Remarkably and wondrously made. Knit together by the hands that fashioned the stars. Regardless of my poor choices made or the effects of others’ harmful choices on me, that value still holds fast and I am loved by my Creator, who has also become my Father, loving and wise and mine, through Christ.

And you, reading this. You have this great value.

Your life is precious and valuable. It has been from the moment you came into being and started being formed, and it will be through the moment you take your last breath in this life and shift into eternity. You have been put together with love and purpose, and you are loved and seen right where you are. God knit you together with intentionality, to fill the role only you can fill.

Remarkably and wondrously made. And greatly, greatly loved by the God who wants light and hope and freedom from darkness for you. The God who will walk with you and provide for you every step of the way, whatever your journey holds, when you choose to walk with Him. He came to offer all of that. He came to offer Himself, to take your place in the just payment for rebellion against Him, and to draw you into relationship with Him forever.

You are immensely valuable. He sees you. He knows your pain and your joys. He cares. He understands. And He is drawing you to Himself through Jesus, who died to make that possible, and rose again to show that it was all true.

Let us sense the hope and wholeness in this truth.

And let us stand firm on the value each one of us holds. From our beginning as babies in the womb to our becoming more elderly and our bodies more frail. Beautiful, precious value, not to be taken or treated lightly.

Let this honoring and valuing of all people be a defining marker for our lives. Lived out in every conversation, every action, as we conform our speech and behavior to mindful intentionality in building each other up, actively coming alongside to help and encourage, loving without boundaries, and going above and beyond to show honor even as we recognize the importance of accountability and responsibility (Ephesians 4:29; Romans 12:9-10).

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light—for the fruit of the light consists of all goodness, righteousness, and truth—testing what is pleasing to the Lord.”
Ephesians 5:8-10, CSB

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
all the remnant of the house of Israel,
who have been borne by me from before your birth,
carried from the womb;
even to your old age I am he,
and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save.”
Isaiah 46:3-4, ESV

March 29, 2022

Why Should God Give Humans the Time of Day?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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The book of Job is one of the most difficult items in this collection that we call “The Bible” for us to understand. It sits in a sub-genre of scripture we call “The Wisdom Literature” along with an equally challenging entry, Ecclesiastes. And let us not even begin to discuss the various interpretations of Song of Solomon.

The question in today’s devotional titles comes from The Message rendering of Job 7:17.

“What are mortals anyway, that you bother with them, that you even give them the time of day? That you check up on them every morning, looking in on them to see how they’re doing?”

You’re probably more familiar with the more traditional wording,

“What is mankind that you make so much of them, that you give them so much attention..? (NIV)

Or perhaps a parallel passage in Psalm 8,

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? (vv3-4 NIV)

Or again, Psalm 144,

O LORD, what are human beings that you should notice them, mere mortals that you should think about them? For they are like a breath of air; their days are like a passing shadow. (vv3-4 NLT)

The Pulpit Commentary states,

It seems, at first sight, an exalted idea of God to regard him as too lofty, too great, to be really concerned about so mean a creature, so poor a being, as man. Hence, among the Greeks, the Epicureans [a Greek philosophy movement] maintained that God paid no attention at all to this world, or to anything that happened in it, but dwelt secure and tranquil in the empyrean [the heavens/skies], with nothing to disturb, displease, or vex him. And the holy men of old sometimes fell into this same phase of thought, and expressed surprise and wonder that God, who dwelt on high, should “humble himself to consider the things in heaven and earth.”

Pause to think about that for a moment. Would God create mankind and declare that his creation is good (or very good; see Genesis 1) and then just walk away and leave us fend for ourselves?

The commentary continues,

…all, except Epicureans, agree that God does, in fact, so concern himself, and a little reflection is enough to show us that the opposite view, instead of exalting, really degrades God. To bring conscious, sentient beings into the world – beings capable of the intensest happiness or misery, and then to leave them wholly to themselves, to have no further care or thought of them, would be the part, not of a grand, glorious, and adorable Being, but of one destitute of any claim to our admiration.

In a recent devotional post, The Incredible Shrinking Planet, author Philip Yancey notes that in asking the question of God, he is met by God asking questions of him. Although Yancey did not get into this digression, I can’t help but point out that stylistically, answering questions with questions was part of the way Jesus taught. Yancey states,

Job gets a direct answer from God, who speaks to him out of a whirlwind. Job had saved up a long list of questions, but it is God who interrogates, not Job. “Brace yourself like a man,” God begins. “I will question you, and you shall answer me.”

Reading this, the longest speech by God in the Bible, I hear God saying, “Let’s compare résumés, you and me, and I’ll go first.” Frederick Buechner sums up what follows: “God doesn’t explain. He explodes. He asks Job who he thinks he is anyway. He says that to try to explain the kind of things Job wants explained would be like trying to explain Einstein to a little-neck clam.” God does not need Job’s or anyone else’s advice on how to run the universe.

Brushing aside thirty-five chapters’ worth of debates on the problem of pain, God plunges instead into a dazzling poem on the many wonders of the natural world. God points out, one by one, the works of creation that give the greatest satisfaction. In effect, God asks Job, “Would you like to run the universe for a while? Go ahead, try designing an ostrich, or a mountain goat, or even a snowflake.” God even references astronomy: “Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? Can you bring forth the constellations in their season…?”

…Before beginning this, I checked to see if there were any previous references to Job 7:17 here at C201, and found the one where Charles Price turns a statement by Jesus upside down to how we usually interpret it. He begins with Matthew 13:

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. (v44 NIV)

and then — hang on to your seats, because this is quite different — writes,

A very common interpretation of this parable sees the hidden treasure as being Christ or salvation, and the person who sells everything to obtain the treasure is the penitent sinner who comes to Christ. In light of the entire picture given by Jesus in the eight parables, this would be a wrong  assumption. If we interpret it according to the symbols already used, the man who sells everything to purchase the field is the Son of Man who finds treasure in the world and gives up everything He has in order to purchase it.  Rather than being a picture of how the sinner obtains Christ, it is a picture of how Christ obtains the sinner.  It is Christ finding treasure in the world, and giving up everything in order to purchase it for His own.

What can be described as God’s treasure in the world? On what has He set His heart to the extent He gives up everything to purchase it?  The answer is that God’s treasure is people.  The Psalmist asks, “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you visit him? (Psalm 8:4-5 NKJV)  Job asks, What is mankind that you make so much of them, that you give them so much attention?  (Job 7:17)

If the treasure is human beings, the parable states, “When a man found it…” which implies he was looking.  Jesus said of Himself, “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.  (Luke 19:10)   It is a wonderful thing to be described as lost, because it means we are wanted and every human being is of value and precious to Christ. To obtain the treasure, he gave all He had to make our salvation possible.  Jesus did not only die for us, but with His blood, He purchased us outright. To be a Christian is to acknowledge we are not our own. Our salvation may be free, but it is not cheap.  It came at great cost and suffering to Jesus Christ.

The man in the parable did not begrudge the purchase. On the contrary, “…in his joy went and sold all that he had and bought the field.”  This fits what is said of Christ — …who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame  (Hebrews 12:2).  It was in joy Christ made the transaction and purchased us for Himself with His blood shed on the cross.

That was different.

In fact, you can’t really build a lot on Job’s rhetorical (but desperate) question, but I wanted to give the last word to the writer of Hebrews, who quotes the question in a different sense yet again.

CEB.Heb.2.2 If the message that was spoken by angels was reliable, and every offense and act of disobedience received an appropriate consequence, how will we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? It was first announced through the Lord, and then it was confirmed by those who heard him. God also vouched for their message with signs, amazing things, various miracles, and gifts from the Holy Spirit, which were handed out the way he wanted.

God didn’t put the world that is coming (the world we are talking about) under the angels’ control. Instead, someone declared somewhere,

What is humanity that you think about them?
        Or what are the human beings that you care about them?
For a while you made them lower than angels.
        You crowned the human beings with glory and honor.
        You put everything under their control.

When he puts everything under their control, he doesn’t leave anything out of control. But right now, we don’t see everything under their control yet. However, we do see the one who was made lower in order than the angels for a little while—it’s Jesus! He’s the one who is now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of his death. He suffered death so that he could taste death for everyone through God’s grace.

 

 

March 14, 2022

God Saw That It Was Good; Very Good

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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We’re back again at Practical Theology Today with writer Curt Hinkle, who reminds us that “A theology that doesn’t play out in one’s everyday life is impractical, or of no real use.” You’re especially encouraged to click through today (on the header which immediately follows) to see some pictures which enhance the devotional.

Tov Meod

Growing up on a farm, we had a dairy herd with a mix of registered and non-registered Holstein cows. My dad was on the cutting edge of dairy husbandry, locally and nationally. He served on the local Holstein Association and on local and national levels of the Dairy Herd Improvement Association. I might have mentioned elsewhere that we received monthly computer printouts showing production, cost analysis, and mature potential for each cow, dating back to the mid-1960s.

The Holstein Association provides a classification system similar to academic grading. The herd owner pays a significant fee to have a “classifier” come to the farm to grade each registered cow. Even though a well-developed rubric is used, the process is a bit subjective. The classification categories are Excellent, Very Good, Good, and Fair. Excellent and Very Good classifications garner national attention, leading to a greater value of the cow, beyond just her production history. I noticed on the Holstein Ass’n website that there is a national “honor roll” of cows receiving one of these two classifications, as can be seen here. It’s a big deal! And we are only talking about cows.

Ever wonder how human value is classified/determined? Historically, we have created classification systems that separate out royalty, aristocracy, common people, serfdom, etc. (think Downton Abby). What about God? How does he classify humanity in the grand scheme of things?

Looking at the creation narrative (Genesis 1) we can see that at the completion of each of his creative activities, God saw that it was good (cf 1:10, 1:12, 1:18, 1:21). The Hebrew word for “good” is tov. God looked at his creation, calling it tov. We love God’s tov creation, which is one reason we so enjoy nature and national parks so much.

I love looking at images from the Hubble telescope. The Hubble was designed to peer deep into space, into this massive universe that God created. Here are a few fun images…

Scientists estimate the Milky Way — our galaxy — to be 100,000 light-years in diameter and 20,000 light-years thick (keep in mind that a light-year is approximately 6 trillion miles), consisting of a couple billion stars. And there are several billion such galaxies in this universe that God saw as good, tov.

Looking further into the Genesis 1 creation story, we find the description of the creation of humanity…

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

Right now I don’t want to focus on the “in our image” portion – that’s a whole other conversation. What’s of importance here is the fact that the narrative repeated three times that God created humans. Something to know about Hebrew poetry: Anything stated is worthy of our attention. If stated twice, then more so. However, anything repeated three times is exponentially more important. We should lean in and take heed. Repeated three times is an indicator that the creation of humans far outweighs the creation of the rest of the universe, as beautiful and grand as it is. We are of great value!

After the completion of humanity, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good (Genesis 1:31). Very good in Hebrew is tov meod. Only after the creation of humanity did God describe his creation project as very good, tov meod. Apparently, as the pinnacle of his creation, we are exponentially more valuable to God than the rest of creation. Or as someone reminded me 40 years ago…

As a creation of God’s, my worth is a given. There’s nothing I can do to gain more worth or to lose my worth – tov meod news!

February 6, 2022

You Were God’s Idea

We’re continually grateful to HarperCollins Christian Publishing for special permission to share book excerpts here at Christianity 201.

Today’s devotional is one you might want to read aloud to any kids or early teens you have nearby right now. Devotions Daily kicked off this one earlier this week with a note saying that some of their most popular readings are actually kids devotionals. (I’ve found that to be true in my work connecting people with resources; there’s a Max Lucado devotional that I’ve recommended for men more than I’ve recommended it for children.)

This one is an excerpt from You Can Count on God: 100 Devotions for Kids.

[Adults: Check out the bonus item at the bottom of the page today.]

If it’s possible that anyone here doesn’t know Max Lucado, he as been a pastor in churches in Miami, Florida; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and San Antonio, Texas. He is America’s bestselling inspirational author with more than 130 million books in print.

Click the header which follows to read this at Devotions Daily.

A Great Idea

God’s fingerprints are all over you.

I praise You because You made me in an amazing and wonderful way. What You have done is wonderful. I know this very well.Psalm 139:14

You are a great idea! I don’t mean you have great ideas — though I’m sure you do! I mean that you yourself are a great idea. How do I know that? Because you are God’s idea — and He only has great ideas.

When God sat down to create the very first man and woman, He said,

Let Us make human beings in Our image and likeness.Genesis 1:26

God didn’t say, “Let us make oceans in our image” or “flowers in our likeness” or “giraffes in our likeness.” Nothing else in all of God’s creation is made in His likeness. Not plants, or weeds, or trees. Not elephants, anteaters, or even the cutest little puppy. Not stars, or mountains, or seas. Only people — including you and me.

What does it mean to be made in God’s likeness? It means you are made to look like Him. Maybe not on the outside. But on the inside, in your heart and mind and soul. Does that mean you’re perfect? Nope, nobody is. Except Jesus, of course. But it does mean that you take after Him. You get your kindness and your courage from Him. And when you love and help and forgive others, that’s when you look the most like Him.

In this world, people will sometimes see your mistakes as a reason to laugh at you. Some people might call you names. Others might decide not to be your friend because of where you live or the way you look. Don’t listen to them. Instead, remember this:

You are made in the image of God.

You’re a diamond, a precious jewel. You are so important to God, so loved by Him, that He sent His only Son to save you.

You can’t see them, but God’s fingerprints are all over you. So be sure to thank God today for His great idea of making you!

Remember

You are God’s great idea!


Excerpted with permission from You Can Count on God by Max Lucado, copyright 2022 Max Lucado.


Bonus item:

Two weeks ago I was listening to some older interview excerpts at Canadian Church Leader’s Podcast, and I came across several things recorded with Kim Moran when she was a pastor at a Pentecostal Church in Abbotsford BC. Kim is a friend of a friend, so I listened with interest.

One of the questions was about her church’s seven core values, and I transcribed them to present here without additional commentary. You can listen to the full 4-minutes at this link.

Diversity over Division

Great over Good

Servants over Stars

Cooperation over Competition

Extraordinary over Expected

Restoration over Rejection

Victors over Victims

What a great set of core values; agree?


Also available, new from Max Lucado, the adult edition:

January 3, 2022

Delta and Omicron: An Opportunity to Consider Alpha and Omega

A year ago at this time we introduced you to Alec Zacaroli, a former lawyer and former journalist, who was writing at the website Burke Missions, which is now at Burke Community. Often, I tend to dismiss articles which I think will become dated over time, but this one was so good on so many levels I decided to share it. Click through using the heading which follows to read this where we sourced it.

Delta? Omicron? How about Alpha and Omega?

Once again, our world has been thrown into turmoil by a tiny virus.  The emergence of Omicron, the latest variant of the COVID-19 virus, has resulted in renewed fears of illness and death, closed borders, financial turmoil, and new rounds of restrictions intended to curb its spread.

This is the second “variant of concern” on the Center for Disease Control’s list, the first being the Delta variant.  But CDC also is tracking “variants being monitored” by the names of Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Epsilon, Eta, Iota, Kappa, Mu and Zeta.

Are you thinking what I am thinking?

Right about now, what we really need is the Alpha and Omega!

I am not joking.  The timing of Omicron and Advent is more than a coincidence, at least in my view. It’s an opportunity (likely intended).

The latest iteration of the COVID-19 pandemic, once again, serves as a reminder that the world in which we live is out of our control and can inflict destruction at will, regardless of our human attempts to prevent it. And yet, the latest wave comes at a time when we also are reminded we have nothing to fear if we accept a few truths. Let’s revisit some of those:

“The earth is the LORD’s, and all it contains…”– Psalm 24:1

“For by Him all things were created, both in heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him. For He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” – Col. 1:16-17.

“I am the LORD, and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.”Isaiah 45:6-7

We could proof text God’s power over creation all day long, but I’ll spare you. Except for just this one more:

“‘I am the Alpha and Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’” – Rev. 1:8

Depending on where you stand in relation to God, this truth of this verse is either the absolute greatest comfort you currently have or the greatest terror you may one day experience.  Either way, it renders Omicron yet another temporary minor disturbance. The only question is when you will come to terms with that reality.

Five verses before this one, the apostle John shares this: “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it, for the time is near.” – Rev. 1:3.  In other words, blessed is he who believes!

The prophecy, of course, is spelled out in overwhelming detail in the remainder of the book. (It’s a critical prophecy for every Christian to understand – I invite you to view Dr. Marty Baker’s series on Revelation, which you can find HERE.)  Ultimately, however, the prophecy is about one truth – the return of Jesus Christ.

He is coming… again!

He is coming to judge and destroy wickedness in the world (Rev. 17-18). He is coming to bind Satan and his followers, before casting them into an eternity of torment (Rev. 20:1-10). He is coming to judge the living and the dead (Rev. 20:11-15).

But He is also coming to redeem the faithful (Rev. 7), and to usher in a new heaven and earth – where He will dwell with His believers in peace, love and joy (Rev. 21).  Take a moment and reflect on the words from heaven that John so faithfully recorded:

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.’” – Rev. 21:3-4

As I write this, the day is Dec. 1, 2021.  We are just 24 days from the day in which we remember, reflect upon and celebrate the moment Jesus first came into the world to save us.  But if you believe in Him, do you also believe in the totality of His salvific work? Do you believe not only in your personal salvation, but also in the fact that Jesus is “making all things new”, as He Himself told us? (Rev. 21:5)

I truly pray that the sheer joy of that truth will reside deeply in your heart this season, and every day beyond – because that is the true gift we’ve been given.

If you happened upon this post and have not accepted – or even thought about – the fact that Jesus is God, I hope you might.  The gift He offers is to redeem you to Himself and free you from the bondage of sin and the brokenness of this world.  When the Alpha and Omega reigns in your heart, the Delta and Omicron have no lasting consequence. I pray you will accept this gift even this very day…

September 27, 2021

Deeper Meaning in Being “Created from Dust”

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

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