Christianity 201

March 3, 2019

The Father of all Musicians

Today we’re combining two popular features into one: The devotional writing of Charles Price, and our weekly Sunday Worship article. After a fruitful season as the teaching pastor at The Peoples Church in Toronto, Charles is now Minister-at-Large which frees him to speak in locations around Canada and the world.

Jubal the Musician

“His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes.”  —Genesis 4:21

The second of Cain’s seventh-generation descendants was Jubal, the first to play stringed instruments and pipes. This makes him the father of the arts, and particularly music. Music is the language of the heart, and God loves when we praise Him in song. As Johann Sebastian Bach said, “All music should have no other end and aim than the glory of God and the soul’s refreshment.”

Unfortunately, the Christian church has had a mixed relationship with the arts. There was a time when almost every piece of art and music in the west was inspired by or alluded to Christian themes, but as secularism grew, the arts began to fall into a category that most Christians called “worldly.” Worldliness is doing as the world does, and it became common for Christians to think that outside specific parameters within the church, art and music were to be avoided at all costs. For a long time, many Christians did not go to the theatre, cinema or concerts. Some were criticized for reading novels, and much music and art went unappreciated.

It has taken brave souls being willing to break the mould for certain musical trends to become accepted in the church. Charles Wesley, brother of the great seventeenth-century evangelist John Wesley, wrote numerous hymns, but his songs were initially controversial because they put Christian words to secular tunes. Ira Sankey, song leader for evangelist D.L. Moody, was also thought to be making a worldly compromise when he first introduced the wind organ to Christian worship. The irony is these once highly criticized hymns and instruments are now the standard to which some Christians wish modern worship would return.

We all have our own tastes for music, but in Scripture, all kinds of music are used to worship God. Psalm 150 is about how we are to praise God at all times in all places in all ways. The psalmist lists a series of instruments used to praise God. There are trumpets, the brass instruments; harps and lyres, the string instruments; tambourines and cymbals, the percussion instruments; and even dancing! The psalmist then concludes, “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD” (Psalm 150:6).

It is usually the heart, not the head, that connects with God. Propositional belief is important for knowing truths about Him, but the Christian life becomes a dull routine if that is all we have. This is why we should be deeply thankful for what Jubal’s discovery of music and the arts have contributed to our relationship with God. As we worship God in music and song, we stoke the fire of our love for Him.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for music and especially the way it enables me to worship. May my songs of praise be pleasing to You.

 

February 22, 2019

Themes in James are Relatable Today

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  (5:16)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds. (1:2)

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (1:5)

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (1:17)

Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. (5:14)

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if people claim to have faith but have no deeds? Can such faith save them? (2:14)

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (1:27)

Today again we’re back with Wes McAdams’ blog Radically Christian. He’s nearing the end of a series posting overall impressions from reading entire books. Click the title below to read at its original source.

Stop Talking and Start Doing: What I Noticed Reading James

The book of James might be one of the easiest books for Christians to understand, regardless of time and culture. It deals with the sort of issues and behaviors that are common to religious people of every era, and there is really no misunderstanding what James is telling his audience to do and not to do. I always end up feeling incredibly convicted by this short little book.

The Audience

James simply addresses this book to, “the twelve tribes in the Dispersion.” This could mean he is writing to Jewish Christians, or he could be referring to all Christians as part of the new Israel. The book doesn’t seem to be a letter intended for a specific church. In fact, it doesn’t really seem to be a letter at all, because there is no formal greeting in the beginning or the end.

James seems to be writing to the kind of Christians who think very highly of themselves; the kind of people who consider themselves to be wise, religious, and capable teachers. They are critical and judgmental. They want to live comfortable lives. They envy wealth and scorn poverty. They believe themselves to have a lot of faith and a lot of wisdom, but what they really have is a lot of words.

Be Quiet and Listen

It’s interesting to me how often James’ words, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” are taken out of context. People typically quote these words as a strategy for interpersonal relationships. They say things like, “God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we should always do twice as much listening as we do talking.” Certainly, it’s good advice to listen more than you talk, but James has a specific kind of listening in mind.

In the same context, James writes, “put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” Too often, when someone is trying to share a word which is able to save our souls, we get angry and defensive. James tells his audience to “receive with meekness the implanted word.” It is almost always a good idea to be quiet and listen, but especially when someone is trying to correct our “filthiness” and “wickedness.”

How often do we get defensive when someone shares the word of truth with us? How often do we get angry at those who are trying to help us? How often do we say, “I disagree,” when we ought to say, “You might be right, let me think about that”?

Faith, Religion, and Wisdom Can Be Seen

James touches on various issues throughout this short book, but they all seem to revolve around the idea that it is not enough to say we are religious people, people of faith, or people with wisdom. We must prove our faith, religion, and wisdom by what we do. Words do not prove what is in our hearts, action proves what is in our hearts.

James tells his audience to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only.” He tells them that real religion is about helping widows and orphans. He tells them faith without works is as useless as wishing someone well who has no clothes or food.

To those who think they are wise, James says that their “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition” prove their wisdom is “earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” Real wisdom isn’t about the ability to conjure up the right words to put opponents in their place. Real wisdom is proven by good conduct and meekness. Real wisdom, wisdom from God, is:

  • pure
  • peaceable
  • gentle
  • open to reason
  • full of mercy
  • full of good fruits
  • impartial
  • sincere

In all of these areas, James invites his readers to prove they are wise, religious, and faithful by living lives of humble and loving service to others.

Poverty and Suffering

Like his brother Jesus, James warns about the dangers of comfort and wealth. He encourages his audience to be content with poverty and trials. The book begins by encouraging people to, “Count it all joy,” when they, “meet trials of various kinds.” He promises that patiently enduring trials will result in being, “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

He warns them not to give preference to rich people, above poor people, who visit their assemblies. He implies that riches do not make someone admirable, reminding that the rich are the ones who “oppress you,” the ones who “drag you into court,” and the ones who “blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called.”

James includes one of the strongest warnings and condemnations of those who live their lives in self-indulgence, taking advantage of others:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you

James closes the book by encouraging his readers to think of themselves as farmers. As farmers wait patiently for the harvest, Christians wait patiently, “for the coming of the Lord.” We live our lives not based on what we can see, but in confident expectation about what is to come.


Selected verses located at TopVerses.com

February 20, 2019

God’s Plan and Purpose

About a year ago I noticed that one of the most frequent post tags here was “trials and tribulation.” I went back through past posts and created a scripture medley of all the verses which appeared in the various articles.

Another one which occurs in various forms is “God’s Plans and Purposes” or “God’s Plan and Purpose.” This can include God’s overall plan; the master story arc that he is writing. This can also include the purpose for which Christ came. Or we can also think of it in terms of what God is doing in my life; his plan for my life; his purpose for my life. Remember though, that his will for each of us individually must conform to that broader, master plan.

Today we’re doing the same thing as we did with “trials and tribulations” but this one is tagged several different ways, plus I wanted to be able to limit the number of verses.

As yourself, (a) what is specifically being referenced and (b) how do I live my life in the light of God’s greater plan; God’s master plan.


God, for whom and through whom everything was made, chose to bring many children into glory. And it was only right that he should make Jesus, through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation. Hebrews 2:10


But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir  Galatians 4:4-7


For who has known or understood the mind (the counsels and purposes) of the Lord, so as to guide and instruct (Him) and give Him knowledge? But we have the mind of Christ, the Messiah, and do hold the thoughts (feelings and purposes) of His heart. 1 Corinthians 2:16 Amp.


But he said to them, “It is necessary for me to proclaim the good news about the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because I was sent for this purpose.”
 – Luke 4:43  Christian Standard Bible


In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. Heb. 1:1-2 NIV


For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:18-25 ESV


Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
Romans 8:26 27 KJV


But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter, and we all are the work of thy hand. Isaiah 64:8  KJV


When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed. Acts 13:36


I pray with great faith for you, because I’m fully convinced that the One who began this glorious work in you will faithfully continue the process of maturing you and will put his finishing touches to it until the unveiling of our Lord Jesus Christ! Phil. 1:6 The Passion Translation


…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2:13


For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9 NLT


But as it is written, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 ISV


And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. ESV Rev 21:3

 

 

February 13, 2019

Prayer Attention Deficit

A few months ago we introduced you to whose site is called Feeding on Jesus. The title of this one really caught my eye. Ever tried to start out on a serious prayer quest only to find yourself chasing squirrels?

As usual, click the header below to read this at source.

Overcoming Prayer ADHD

I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me… (Hab. 2:1, ESV).

The other day, I saw a Facebook post that made me smile. It went something along the lines of, “Does anyone else have prayer ADHD? I’m trying to talk to God, my mind wanders, and then I’m like, ‘I’m sorry God, where was I?’”

I am absolutely certain that every single one of us working on growing in spiritual disciplines has experienced this. It can be quite frustrating when our spirit is hungry for God, but our mind seems to have a mind of its own! Daddy God is exceedingly patient with our frailty as beings made from dust. However, if we yearn to hear from Him more regularly, training our mind to focus will be an essential component of our growth towards this goal.

Our verse today from Habakkuk reveals a vital key as we move forward in our listening journey. Here the prophet shares with us his approach to leaning in for God’s voice. We can gather from his description how important our spiritual posture is for maximizing our listening focus. Stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower depicts the attitude of a watchman. The person in this position is alert and on the lookout. He or she is scanning the horizon, watchful. All senses are sharpened in anticipation of some expected sign.

This is how we are to wait on the Lord. With anticipation. Alert. Focused. Leaning in. Eager and expectant. Our spirit says, “I will look out… to see what he will say to me.” Not, “Maybe He’ll feel like communicating with me today. Maybe not. We’ll see.” This kind of biblical posture is not wistful wishing. Rather, it’s full-on expectancy.

Every day of our lives, Daddy wants to impart something to our spirit. What delights His soul the most is to be with us, to commune with us. When we deeply internalize this truth, we will draw near to Him accordingly. The eager willingness of a beloved child who knows she is wanted and welcomed will mark our approach and our listening posture.

This, in turn, will enhance our focus and aid us in our efforts to grow in prayer and concentration. For this reason, Hebrews 11:6 expresses, Anyone who comes to God must believe that he is real and that he rewards those who truly want to find him” (NCV). Daddy wants to gift us with profound conviction of His longing to reward our seeking with more and more of Him.

As you press into His presence, I want to share with you two exercises that have aided me in the process of sharpening and training my listening focus:

  • Ten minutes of silence. You set a timer for the allotted time. Close your eyes. Work on focusing in on the truth that He is real, He is intimately close, and He loves to reward those who yearn to find Him. Ask Him for heightened awareness of His presence. Don’t spend the minutes going through requests or even saying much. Just focus on Him being there with you. On Him as a beautifully attentive Person, as an intimately present Friend. Enjoy Him. Drink Him in. (Sometimes when I do this, I curl up against a back support pillow on my bed, visualizing myself cuddling into His embrace.)
  • Worship song on repeat. Pick a worship song that Holy Spirit is currently using to speak to your heart. Maybe something from the service on Sunday that you really connected with. Or one that you “randomly” woke up hearing in your head (hint: it’s not actually random. It’s Holy Spirit). Put it on and settle into your listening posture. Intentionally push all the noise in your head aside. Aggressively focus into every single word being sung. Oftentimes, joining in with the music and singing along will help you focus. So sing with your entire being to Him. Imagine His eyes gazing on you with deep love as you sing your adoration right to Him.

I find many times that when I am starting out my quiet time, my mind resists coming into focus. This last exercise helps me force it to get into gear. If the whole song went by and I wasn’t able to focus much, I don’t get down on myself. I simply put it on again, and repeat the effort.

Sometimes I will play the same song five or six times, for two possible reasons: One, because I just needed that much help getting focused. Or two, because once I do get focused, Holy Spirit comes in powerfully on that song. It begins to go so deeply inside of me, that I don’t want to stop. His intimacy shows up in a breathtaking way that gets more and more intense with each repetition.

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What about you? What have been some strategies that have helped bring your mind back to center from its wandering ways?


Tomorrow’s blog post doesn’t acknowledge February 14th, so for those of you who are new and may have missed these, here’s a recap of previous Valentine’s Day Devotionals:

January 30, 2019

“Their Waves Cast Up Mud”

It’s rare that I get to use the writing of people who I know personally, but this is an exception. Eric Wright is the author of both fiction and non-fiction Christian books, and is also a former missionary to Pakistan and local church pastor. This post appeared on his blog Country Inspiration. Learn more about his books at this link. Click the title below to read at source.

Our Restless, Unhappy Culture

by Eric E. Wright

The ocean is never still. Its tides rise and fall, its breakers crest and dissipate, and its waves roll on and on until they crash against a rocky shore or roll up on a sandy beach. Its waters collect and propel unto the world’s beaches all the flotsam and jetsam of the ocean world: broken shells, shattered boats, bottles, broken plastic spoons, splintered trees and cast-off Styrofoam. The more agitated the ocean becomes, the more it stirs up the whole mix of broken shells and mud that in calmer times settles to the ocean floor. After storms shorelines are littered with mud and debris.

How appropriate that the prophet used this image to describe the condition of men and women who jettison God and His moral standards in their struggle to find their personal nirvana. “‘The wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. There is no peace,’ says my God. ‘for the wicked’”(Isaiah 57:20,21).

We cannot expect a tranquil mind if our lives are a graveyard of broken promises, shattered morals, and shady practices. Instead, nefarious schemes will occupy our minds. Thoughts of past dealings with others will provoke bitterness, anger and thoughts of revenge. Unless we have denied the voice of our consciences long enough to dull their injured cries, we will be fretful, restless, and unhappy.

God has given everyone a conscience imprinted with a set of moral principles. But the more we listen to the siren song of our culture’s ‘new morality,’ the more our innate sense of right and wrong will be blunted and distorted. Sadly, our culture has jettisoned belief in absolute truth. Truth has become what is true to me. But this does not jibe with reality. Whatever we think, two plus two equal four, not five. Nor can we suspend the law of gravity and jump from a building. Nor can we deny spiritual the spiritual reality enshrined in the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. If deny real truth, the result will be: restlessness. Inability to find peace of heart. Broken relationships. Emptiness. And tragically, the epidemic of suicide we read about in our papers.

Paul writes, “My conscience is clear” (1 Cor. 4:4). Can you and I say that? If not, the only remedy is to bow to Jesus Christ, confessing our moral failures, and asking him to forgive us our sins and bring peace of heart. Jesus promised, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

When we confess our moral failures to Jesus Christ, He will forgive us and soothe our troubled hearts. Then the Storm-Calmer will reside in our hearts to calm the storms that sweep through our lives.


Used by permission.  Twitter: @EricEWright1

January 24, 2019

A Compelling Cosmos

by Clarke Dixon

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19:1 (NIV)

You can imagine the Psalmist looking up to the stars in awe, praising God for all creation. But do the heaven’s still declare the glory of God in our day? Do the skies still proclaim the work of his hands to a people as sophisticated and learned as we are? The heavens would compel the ancients to glorify God as Creator. But are we compelled by them today?

It turns out that the heavens still speak. Philosophers and scientists do the talking, but through the study of “the heavens,” the cosmos, we can learn something about the existence and nature of God.

Let us look to three questions inspired by the heavens. Please note that this is all very introductory.

What is behind the beginning of the universe?

Beginning in the last century a majority of scientists have been won over to the view that our universe had a beginning. While some Christians balked at the “Big Bang” theory, others saw the implications for theology. After all, we people of the Jurdeo-Christian tradition have long been saying that the universe had a beginning. William Lane Craig lays out what he calls the Kalam Cosmological argument in this way:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Further, the cause “must be spaceless, timeless, immaterial, uncaused, and powerful.” Sound like anyone you know? God, as revealed in the Bible, fits this cause of the universe perfectly. But then you might object with “who created God?” Consider the first premise, and then note that God does not begin to exist, therefore we do not need to consider what caused his existence. Again, this is all very introductory, but here is a short video from William Lane Craig which explains it in a much better way.

Why are the conditions just right at the beginning of the universe for it to be life permitting?

Scientists tell us that certain physical constants, like the force of gravity, are so very specific, that if they were just slightly different at the beginning, the universe would not exist as we know it. It would not be life permitting. This is commonly called the Fine Tuning Argument.

Just how specific must these constants be? The web resource godandscience.org quotes Dr. Hugh Ross from his book, The Creator and the Cosmos, on one such constant, the ratio of electrons to protons:

One part in 1037 is such an incredibly sensitive balance that it is hard to visualize. The following analogy might help: Cover the entire North American continent in dimes all the way up to the moon, a height of about 239,000 miles . . . Next, pile dimes from here to the moon on a billion other continents the same size as North America. Paint one dime red and mix it into the billions of piles of dimes. Blindfold a friend and ask him to pick out one dime. The odds that he will pick the red dime are one in 1037. (p. 115)

Did this degree of fine tuning happen by necessity, chance, or by design? Design can be shown to be the most reasonable alternative. I am only scratching the surface, but here is another short video from William Lane Craig to give you a better handle on the fine tuning argument.

Why does anything exist at all?

Looking up to the heavens above on a starry night, we might ask not just how this all began, or how it ended up being so delicately balanced for life, but why is there anything at all? Gottfried Leibniz asked “why is there something rather than nothing?”. He then went on to show how God is the answer. William Lane Craig has formulated Leibniz’s thinking using the following premises:

  1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence (either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause).
  2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
  3. The universe exists.
  4. The explanation of the universe’s existence is God.

This can be a tricky one to wrap our minds around, but basically the idea is that the universe is contingent, that is, something else was required for its existence. We experience this in daily life as we see that all things have some cause behind them. There is a computer here in front of me because someone built it, and I bought it. This computer did not need to exist, nor did I have to buy it. Its existence and placement is contingent on many things. However, God exists necessarily. Nothing caused God to exist. The only way a contingent universe could exist is if something which existed necessarily caused it to exist. This is consistent with what the Bible teaches.

Here is one more short video from William Lane Craig to help you better understand the Leibniz contingency argument.

Some observations.

  • Some might wonder why not just read the Bible and not concern ourselves with such philosophical pursuits. However, the Bible itself says “The heavens declare the glory of God,” therefore it is worth hearing what the heavens declare. We do this through science and philosophy.
  • The fact that science and philosophy can be found to be in sync with theology reminds us that we need neither leave our brains at the door of the church, nor leave our faith in the parking lot of the university. This in itself is something compelling about Christianity. Many of us would find an “everything you know from anywhere else is wrong” kind of attitude to be off-putting.
  • Each of these arguments from philosophy and science are not a knock down argument for Christianity on their own. However, they are part of a larger cumulative case for the truth of Christianity which goes well beyond thinking about the cosmos.
  • You may feel like you can’t wrap your head around these arguments. As J. Warner Wallace points out, jurors in murder cases make decisions that affect the future of an individual in drastic ways, yet they don’t need to be experts. The jurors listen to the testimony of expert witnesses and consider all the evidence without becoming experts in any one part.

It is compelling that what was written so long ago in the Bible should provide answers consistent with what is being learned in our day. Christianity provides compelling answers to philosophical questions inspired by the cosmos, but far more than that, it speaks about God who loves! May you have confidence that Christianity is true. May you have confidence that God loves you in Christ!


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Ontario, Canada.

All Scripture references are taken from the NLT. This is part of a series called “Compelling” which begins here. The full 36-minute sermon can be heard on the podcast here.

January 18, 2019

Our Need to ‘Fix’ People

The second and third sections today are only quoted in part. You’re strongly encouraged to use the links.

Earlier this week, author Jentezen Franklin wrote:

“Pick me up and throw me into the sea…and it will become calm.” John 1:12 NIV

When Jonah boarded a ship going in the opposite direction to God’s will, the crew discovered there’s a high price to pay for allowing the wrong person into your life. So what’s the point? It’s this: God hasn’t authorized you to be somebody else’s life support system. Especially if they’re running from Him, and using you to do it! With Jesus on board you’ll make it through any storm. But when you allow Jonah on board he’ll turn your life upside down, and before it’s over you’ll risk losing everything. Do you seriously think you can fix your Jonah? No. “The Lord…prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah” (v. 17).

Sometimes the best thing you can do for someone is to wake them up and throw them overboard. As long as you keep rescuing them, you get in God’s way. It’s pride that makes us think we can do what only God can do! Look at Jonah—while the crew was desperately throwing stuff overboard, he was sleeping! He didn’t want to be corrected, he wanted to be comfortable! Do you know someone like that? The reason they haven’t changed is because they’re not ready to! Jonah was so stubborn that he stayed in the belly of the huge fish for three days before he prayed. If that had been you, the moment you spotted “Jaws” you’d have been on your knees calling on God, right?

This may be hard to hear, but sometimes the best thing you can do for your Jonah—and yourself—is to throw them overboard and let God rescue them.

In 2014, Jenny Rae Armstrong wrote at Red Letter Christians:

…[N]one of us really know what another person is going through. We’re all in process, and none of us are perfect yet. I remember hearing Brennan Manning speak years ago. He pointed out that that runaway teen turning tricks on the street, who falls asleep with the name of Jesus on his lips, may in fact have made a lot more spiritual progress than a milktoast Christian who came from a happy home.

It’s like Paul Hiebert’s evangelism paradigm, bounded sets vs. centered sets. Maybe one person seems closer to Christ than another, but what is their trajectory? Are they moving toward Christ or away from him? Are they stagnant and complacent?

We should be helping people move toward Christ, not shoving them into the position we think they should inhabit.

Second, it’s not our job to change, convict, or transform people. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job.

I think parents can be especially guilty of this mindset, because we want to raise our kids well, instill healthy habits and beliefs. But that wears thin after twenty years or so, and attempting to police someone’s speech, behavior, and lifestyle can push them further away,  because who wants to be manipulated and controlled?

We also need to look at our motives for pushing people. While we may worry about destructive choices, oftentimes, a good part of our concern is about how WE want people to live their lives, how their choices make us feel. We’re worried about how their behavior reflects on us, and our attempts to change them are motivated by shame. C O – D E P E N D E N T. We can’t love freely when our self-worth is tangled up in someone else’s free will.

We need to get better at loving people where they are at, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Love should never include disclaimers.

So should we just let people do whatever they want to do, live however they want to live? …

It’s not our job to fix people’s behavior. It is our job to love them, pray for them, and point them toward Christ, in whatever way we can.

In order to do that, we’re going to need to offer a lot of grace. And in order to offer grace, we need to let go of the shame, perfectionism, and fear that drives us and accept that grace for ourselves.

Finally, to those of you in leadership or currently walking alongside a “Jonah,” in an undated article at Rick Thomas’s blog, Fernando Serna writes to biblical counselors, pastors, parents, missionaries, and teachers:

[T]he sting of not seeing results can be even sharper as we are ministers of God’s Word offered into the lives of people, and we expect change and a demonstration of the effective Word of God.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)

So, what is the deeper learning and formation made available to us through the pointed experience of limitation and even apparent failure in ministry?

One of the elements that attracted me to chaplaincy ministry is what is called a ministry of presence.

Presence has to do with availability at the level of the heart and mind, deep listening, empathy, connection, coming along side, walking with, and accompanying.

My theology of ministry is informed by Trinitarian theology that accentuates mutual relationship and respectful, non-coercive presence…

My point is that the primary element in biblical counseling and other forms of ministry is to be an agent of God’s presence to the other person, rather than an agent of our own anxious agenda to fix the other person…

…This fix-it mentality has a dimension of coercion and subtle violence that is not of God. It is success oriented rather than Spirit oriented. This requires humility and sobriety on the part of the counselor or minister.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.Mark 10:45 (ESV)

As counselors we are mere servants of the Word, and our measure of success is not the world’s. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has a different logic and grammar…

The Divine Physician is the one who completes, who fixes, who brings to completion the shattered and broken human heart. We have been given the dignity to be called into ministry by the Spirit and to be ambassadors of Christ.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.2 Corinthians 5:20 (ESV)

There is good news here: we do not need to be God! The dignified service God has given us, His sons and daughters, is to plant and water the seed of His Word in the lives of others, and He will give the growth (1 Corinthians 3:7).

This is a liberating message that frees us to be present to others in ministry, not for our sense of accomplishment, but for the love of the Father, whose Spirit will blow when and as it wills, over the lives of the those who He has placed in our path.

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.John 3:8 (ESV)

 

January 16, 2019

Five Practices Needed to Ward Off Lack of Faith

The major takeaway I took from today’s devotional is that spiritual warfare is not always an external battle; it may begin with an inner fight.

Today we’re paying a return visit to the devotional page at Daily Paradigm Shift. We visit these blogs either annually or every six months in the hope that at some of them you’ll see writing which resonates and want to bookmark or subscribe to their sites.

Today’s writer is Brian Maisch.

5 Tactics for Fighting Unbelief

It could be argued that the greatest enemy in our spiritual walk is unbelief. Someone might say, “No, it’s Satan.” However, as one of my favorite Christian teachers likes to say, “The bible doesn’t say, ‘pick up your cross, deny the devil, and follow Jesus.’ It says, ‘Deny yourself, and follow Jesus‘ (Matthew 16:24 NIV emphasis added.)

In Mark Chapter 9, Jesus’ disciples are unable to cast a demon out of a boy. Then Jesus shows up on the scene and is able to cast it out. When they get alone with Jesus, the disciples ask Him why they couldn’t cast out the demon, and Jesus tells them that it is because of their unbelief. Jesus’ exact answer to the disciples is, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20 NIV).

Related Post: 4 Ways to Remain Grounded and Steadfast in Your Faith

Brothers and sisters, we live under an open heaven! Satan has already been defeated. Jesus has given us the authority in the heavenly realms to unlock any door that needs to be unlocked in order to carry out His will on this earth. Matthew 18:18 NIV says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” The only battle left to fight is the one we fight with ourselves to dispel unbelief and to trust God!

If the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in us, then there is absolutely nothing the enemy can put in front of us that is more powerful than that Spirit. It’s not even a competition! Therefore, the enemy’s main tactic is to get us to doubt. He is constantly trying to instill unbelief, while the Holy Spirit is constantly working to instill faith. The enemy’s main tactic is to twist the truth in such a way that we begin believing things that are incorrect about God and incorrect about ourselves. Sometimes it seems like the enemy’s main weapon is the Bible itself! He twists and distorts scripture to confuse people and keep their lives from bearing fruit for the Kingdom.

So how do we practically fight? I wanted to provide a quick list of things that have helped me experience victories in fighting unbelief:

#1. Spending intimate and meaningful time in the presence of God.

Spending intimate and meaningful time in the presence of God is the most important activity in our lives. It helps us to establish a relationship with our creator. It is where we learn His nature, His voice, His touch and His will. This is how we practically allow Jesus to teach us and guide us in every step of our lives.

#2. Reading God’s word.

Maybe it would be better to say falling in love with God’s word. This goes right along with the first point. God’s word brings clarity and insight into the things that God is saying to us. It shows us God’s nature, and helps us to understand His will.

#3. Guarding our hearts and minds.

The enemy has set up the world system to fight for our affection. It will constantly try to turn us away from Jesus, and towards our own selfish desires. Therefore, we have to draw lines in the sand. We have to protect ourselves from destructive mindsets and behaviors. Part of that process is controlling what we allow into our minds. Over the years, I have had to stop watching certain television shows that I knew were destructive, distance myself from certain friends who were pulling me in the wrong direction, and surround myself with people who would hold me accountable in my areas of struggle.

#4. Hanging around people with outrageous faith.

Bill Johnson, senior pastor of Bethel Church, always says, “If you want to slay giants, then hang around a giant slayer.” We all need people in our lives who stretch our faith and compel us to deeper levels of reality in the Kingdom!

#5. Fasting.

There have been so many times where I could feel the snares of the world getting a hold of me and smothering the faith in my life. Declaring a fast is a way to draw a strict line in the sand, and to separate ourselves from the worldly things that have become louder than heavenly things. Whether it is food, social media, television, or all the above, fasting is great way to unplug from the world and get plugged back into God.

These are just a few tools that have helped me in my journey. The bible provides many weapons for fighting unbelief. No matter what weapon you choose, the most important thing is engaging in the fight! Instead of rolling over and giving in to yourself, make the choice to proactively fight to dispel unbelief!

January 15, 2019

Observations from the Parable of the Wedding Banquet

by Russell Young

The parable of the wedding banquet as spoken by the Lord was to reveal some aspects of the kingdom of God to his Jewish listeners. It is recorded in Matthew 22:2─14 and in Luke 14:16─24. Those in attendance would have understood the nature of a Jewish wedding. Guests enjoyed a lavish feast and merriment that went on for seven days and would have been given in honor of the son. This banquet would have been particularly important because it was being hosted by the king. Both the importance of the invitation and the insult of its rejection could not have been missed.

Invitations delivered by the king’s servants to his chosen guests had all been rejected. Their excuses were offensive and humiliating to the ruler who had endeavored to honor both his son and those he wanted to attend. The called had considered the daily issues of life to be of greater importance than honoring their king or his son. The invitees did not have interest in the wedding nor time to show respect. Some even seized his servants, mistreating and killing them.

In anger the king destroyed their city then invited those of no significance: anyone they could find, the poor, the lame, the blind, and the weak. To his Jewish listeners such an opportunity could never have been realized by such a collection. The king had invited the lost and unlovely into his royal presence. The attitudes of the privileged and their rejection of the king’s invitation would not have been missed.

However, the parable offers insight into some other interesting observations. Many of those who had been called had rejected the invitation and not all of those who attended could remain since at least one had been thrown out.

The king’s calling can be refused! Consider the implications. The king, who represents the Lord, did not exercise absolute power over those whom he had called but had allowed them freedom of choice and had honored their decisions. In this case the Jews, those of the house of Israel, had rejected the King and his Son. According to this parable, the exercise of free-will has not been removed and all have the option to reject the king’s pleasure at their own loss. Some suppose that God’s will is absolute and beyond being refuted by mere humankind; however, people have been gifted with the ability to make choices and they will be honored.

The rejected guest was found startled or “speechless” when the king had him bound hand and foot and thrown outside. He did not expect to be denied right to the feast; after all, he had been invited. He had anticipated the occasion. Surely such a reaction would have startled Christ’s listeners as well. Why would the king have done such a thing? The guest lacked wealth, and the king had known this but had still encouraged the calling. The invitee ended up bound and in the darkness. What does this tell us?

According to the parable, his ejection was due to his lack of wedding clothes. Clearly, the guest’s attire had not been acceptable for the presence of the king or of his son and did not bring honor to the occasion. However, there were many like this guest who when called were poor, blind, lame and weak and they had managed proper clothing even in their poverty.

The parable should be carefully considered, there will be many called to the Son’s wedding banquet but not all will be chosen to attend. Only those who are appropriately dressed and who through their presentation, the testimony of their covering, will enjoy the celebration.

In speaking of faith and of the “feast”, in another place the Lord said, “I say to you many will come from the east and the west and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside into the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mt 8:1112) The ISV translates “subjects” as “the unfaithful heirs of that kingdom,” while the Contemporary English Version presents as “the ones who should have been in the kingdom.” The Greek uses the word huios for “subjects” which means sons and refers to both Gentiles and Jews. Although the huios have been called, they must attend the wedding feast with the proper garments. (For a more detailed examination of “subjects of the kingdom” see a previous writing: “The Subjects of the Kingdom Will be Thrown Outside”.)

Many will respond to the calling with expectation and enthusiasm only to find that upon entrance, they will be bound and thrown outside because their testimony; their attire, their lack of preparation or righteousness, will not be found acceptable for the occasion.

Those not clothed in righteousness will be found “naked”. The angel to the church in Laodicea admonished, But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see, (Rev 3:17─18) Concerning the bride of Christ we are told, “his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)” (Rev 19: 7─ 8) According to the book of Hebrews, “Without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14) Although many have been called, few will be chosen (Mt 22:14) for lacking a testimony of righteousness. Many will be startled and speechless and thrown outside.

The called need to recognize their poverty and to use the resources available to “purchase” white clothing. Those who carry the stains of sin will be cast out.

The Lord also addressed the matter when he stated that “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Mt 7:22─23 Italics added) They were thrown outside because of their “doing” and were not allowed in through a confession once made or an invitation accepted. Their garments were stained and dirty. They needed proper wedding clothes.

The parable revealed the Lord’s perception of Israel and that nation’s rejection of him as the Son of the King. It also made known that there are expectations for those who will celebrate his Son with him and that they can either reject their calling or prepare for his kingdom. “Evil-doers” will not be welcome.



Russell Young’s column appears here on alternate Tuesdays. His book, Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? is available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link. There is also a feature-length article at this link.

Advertising posted at C201 does not originate with us.

January 13, 2019

Examples of True Worship

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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This is taken from the first three paragraphs — we’ve formatted it differently — of a much longer article at a blog which was new to us, The Millennial Christian. You can link to it at the title below, or we’ve included the link toward the end for those of you who start out reading it here.

True Worship

We have been called back to our original purpose, which is to worship God, and out of our worship the love of God flows through our mind like a cool summer breeze. Removing the character flaws of our earthen past, it instills in us the true character traits of who we were prior to our physical birth. Our spiritual age is undetermined along with the many things that will be revealed to us upon our death or resurrection. To receive our revelation we must understand that the Holy Spirit only descends upon us while we are in worship, and out of our worship our service to others is revealed. Our ministry was set before God prior to the foundations of the earth and is given to us while our mind is full of the glory of God.

Examples of true worship can be found in Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Revelation. In Isaiah 6:1-3 we read,

“I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!”

They are worshiping our awesome God in joyous celebration.

In Ezekiel 1:1-28 we are treated to some of the events of the throne room, and a personal description of God. All of God’s creations are in continuous worship of their Majesty, and in Revelation we read,

Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created. And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13)

It really makes us humans look totally pathetic in the way we treat our God, our Father.

When we get down on our knees, alone in private, we use these Biblical examples to guide us through the process of true worship. We imagine the atmosphere of heaven, the colors and sights we see in our mind’s eye. We focus our attention on the One who sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb of God. Joyous noisy worship explodes from the disciples, for they cannot hold back their love for Him anymore.

Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen.

The crowd detonates in glorious praise saying,

“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:37-38)

Some of the Pharisees complained to Jesus about the crowd, demanding that He quiet His followers, and Jesus said, “

I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”

Worship is as important to us as food and water yet we starve our soul to death without our spiritual blessing…

continue reading here


By the same authors: How to Worship God

January 9, 2019

The One Who Has Faith is Never Insignificant

Each year we revisit the devotional page at the Presbyterian Church in Canada’s website. There are many great insights here from a variety of writers. The author of this piece is Don Lipsett. Click the title below to read at source.

(In)significant

Luke 8:42b-45aAs Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. (NIV)

Imagine the scene that day: Jesus, the Man who did miracles and spoke powerfully — unlike any other — was making His way down the street, surrounded by His disciples and a noisy, jostling crowd. Everyone was trying to get close to Him, to be seen with Him, to hear His words, or ask a question. In the dust and commotion, the woman just hoped to touch the outer hem of His robe. She was seemingly so insignificant in that whole chaotic scene, unnoticed — except by Jesus.

Do you remember about the day when the blind beggar, Bartimaeus, met Jesus?

Mark 10:46-52Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. (NIV)

Here also we find weakness, faith, and hope, face to face with the Saviour.

These incidents touch us, I believe, in their revealing how Jesus responds to faith, and to those who humbly seek. No one is insignificant to Him.

Perhaps for many of us, our contributions to and work for God’s kingdom may seem to be insignificant in the big scheme of things, or in the monotony of daily life. However, Jesus’ call to us is to be faithful. Even if our circumstances may be limiting, we can pray, and maybe, there are yet little ways that we can share God’s love and the gospel with family, friends, neighbours, strangers, or even enemies. In little things and details, people can see, and wonder, and be moved by the Holy Spirit.

As the Lord said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.(Matthew 25:40 NIV)

Prayer: God of grace and mercy, fill our weakness with Your strength, and give us faithful hearts that we may “not grow weary while doing good” (Galatians 6:9a NKJV). We ask this in Jesus’ precious name. Amen.

January 2, 2019

God’s Loving Empathy

We have four women in our lives who lost their mothers in the weeks leading up to, and during the Christmas holidays. In a couple of those cases, I mentioned to them a book which released a few years ago, A Decembered Grief. The premise is that it’s hard to mourn at a time of year when everyone is programmed for celebration. There are bright lights and gifts and you start to wonder how people can offer sympathy when they’re caught up in all the “joy-to-the-world” of the holidays. Or to put it another way, it’s hard to mourn when everybody around wants to party.

That’s why we chose this devotional. It’s been six months since our last visit, and we’re back at Before the Cross. The writer this time is .

God Sees You And Hears You

Sometimes when we are going through a difficult trial in life we are tempted to believe God isn’t with us. Maybe He just really isn’t good? Maybe He is blind to what is really going on in our lives? Maybe He really doesn’t care? Maybe He doesn’t understand just how hard things are for us?

This is incredibly challenging for those of us who follow Christ and this is exactly where faith comes in.

Everything in us wants to be delivered out of the trials we find ourselves in.

  • We don’t want to lose a family member.
  • We don’t want to have to stay in our jobs that we don’t like.
  • We don’t want to have to deal with relational conflicts around us.
  • We don’t want to have to handle money problems.
  • We don’t want to have physical or mental health issues.

I was recently reading through Exodus and noticed something for the first time when reading over Exodus 4. I’ve read through this countless times and I love when God always shows me something new in Scripture.

The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt for over 400 years…..400 years! Imagine going through a trial that lasted 400 years. You, your children, their children, and so on…all suffered under the same trial. To the point that if you were living in this time period, you would believe that is all that existed. You would believe you were intended to be a slave. Imagine how hard to it would be to have hope that God would deliver you when you know it hasn’t happened in over 400 years?!

So long story short, as Moses and Aaron are going along and telling the people what God wanted them to say as He was preparing to deliver them out of captivity, I stumbled upon this:

“And the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the people of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped.”Exodus 4:31

Noticed the people’s reaction. They bowed their heads and worshiped. Why? Because God had seen them. Because God had heard them. The reality hit them that this same God, creator of the heavens and the earth, had heard their cries and seen their tears.


By His Stripes We Are Healed

 

I found this image in our files and decided to use it again. Originally, it was used in the context of a discussion as to whether or not healing is provided for in the atonement. You can read that devotional at this link. We know that the cross made our salvation possible and demonstrated victory over death. The debate is over whether physical healing is healing is included, because of the phrase, “by his stripes we are healed.”

Unfortunately, I think that in this context we lose sight of the first few words, “He has carried our griefs and carried our sorrows.” We covered that a few days ago in this devotional, and also at this article. While translators have sometimes used ‘griefs’ to be sicknesses and infirmities, there is the whole category of ‘pain’ included in this prophetic description of God’s atoning work.

December 22, 2018

Christmas: The Birth Story is a Death Story

Today’s thoughts are from a writer who is new to us. (Thanks for those of you who send recommendations.) Michael James Schwab has lived in Oaxaca, Mexico since March, 2005; “cooperating with God” at a home for needy children called Cristo Por Su Mundo (Christ for the World) operated by Foundation For His Ministry.  He blogs at ToEnjoyGod.com.

December 17, 2018

Looking Outside Your Own Self-Interest

It’s been six months already, so today we’re back at the blog of BibleStudyMagazine.com and an article rooted in one of my own favorite Bible passages. But this isn’t all about me, as you’ll see in today’s reading. You’re encouraged to read this at source, and then take some time to look at other articles on the site. The author this time around is Jessi Strong.

Our (In)Significance

For most of my childhood, I didn’t know I was weird. I grew up homeschooled, and most of my friends came from conservative Christian households similar to my own. When I finally figured it out, I embarked on a series of attempts to fit in. Often that meant repeating jokes I didn’t understand, quoting movies other people liked, or pretending to be familiar with music I didn’t listen to.

I became an expert on a topic overnight in an effort to create a niche for myself. My contributions to conversation always began with things like, “That’s nothing. One time, I …” And while there was nothing inherently wrong with my desire to have friends and fit in, my attempts at belonging became unhealthy when my goal changed from finding human connection to establishing my own importance.

My mother was the first to suggest that seeking to be the center of attention was not the best way to make new friends. Instead, she suggested, “Find someone at the party who doesn’t have anyone to talk to. If you can make their night better, you’ll end up having fun too.”

Mom’s advice to look outside my own self-interest was a practical application of Paul’s instructions for the Philippian church:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others (Phil 2:3–4).

Earlier in his letter, Paul warns the Philippians that some men were preaching the gospel to inflate their own self-worth (1:15–17). When discussing those who were not preaching the true gospel, Paul appeals to Christ’s example of humility.

In my search for approval, I was trying to fulfill my own needs, but I had little motivation to look out for others’ interests. Feeling well-liked inflated my conceit—it didn’t teach me to elevate others above myself or to sacrifice for them.

Little by little, I changed my approach. I began to look for the new person in the room. Instead of dominating the conversation, I learned to ask questions. On the surface, I was practicing useful friend-making strategies, but underneath I was undergoing a change of heart. In his letter, Paul goes on to admonish the Philippians to take their example from Jesus Christ:

Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (2:6–8).

This call to imitate Christ’s humility can be hard for us to hear. It turns our working model of social class on its head. We like knowing our place—especially if it’s a good one. But the gospel levels the playing field. We are all sinners. And if we are all equally in need of God’s grace, how can we evaluate our worth by comparing ourselves with others?


Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 6 No. 4

December 10, 2018

God Knows Us

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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Paul reminds Timothy that the scriptures are living, and because they contain life, we have a trademark of putting everything from the Bible in bold face and green. That continues today, even though the verses have been somewhat fused together from different sources. I hope I haven’t overstepped the bounds by doing this, but the words are so strongly rooted in the texts indicated.

Author Rory Norland is best known for his thoughts on worship. At his blog, Heart of the Artist, he presents a very short scripture medley each day called Daily Praise Offering. I wanted to share several posts in which verses from Psalm 139 were seamlessly joined with New Testament references.

O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. I worship you, Jesus, for you are the good shepherd. You know your own and your own know you. (Psalm 139:1-6; John 10:14).

Where can I go from you Spirit, O Lord? Where can I flee from your presence? And wherever two or three are gathered in your name, O Christ, you are there. There is no place I could go and be out from under your loving gaze. (Psalm 139:7-12; Matthew 18:20).

You skillfully formed my inward parts, O Lord. You intricately knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they exist and were created. (Psalm 139:13-14; Revelation 4:11).

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I could count them, they are more than the sand. For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him? But praise God we have the mind of Christ. (Psalm 139:17-18; 1 Corinthians 2:16).


Michael W. Smith recites Psalm 139:


And the same text from The Message:

1-6 God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand.
I’m an open book to you;
even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back;
I’m never out of your sight.
You know everything I’m going to say
before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me and you’re there,
then up ahead and you’re there, too—
your reassuring presence, coming and going.
This is too much, too wonderful—
I can’t take it all in!

7-12 Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?
to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—
you’re already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
At night I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.

13-16 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.

17-18 Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful!
God, I’ll never comprehend them!
I couldn’t even begin to count them—
any more than I could count the sand of the sea.
Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you! …

23-24 Investigate my life, O God,
find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me,
get a clear picture of what I’m about;
See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—
then guide me on the road to eternal life.

 

 

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