Christianity 201

January 13, 2018

Bold, Protocol-Defying Prayers

NIV Luke 18:1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

This is a short excerpt from Draw the Circle: A 40 Day Prayer Challenge by Mark Batterson, lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. It was today’s selection from a devotional service I subscribe to, Devotions Daily from Faith Gateway.

Crazy Prayers, Crazy Faith

This woman is driving me crazy. – Luke 18:5

I love the parable of the persistent widow. I don’t mean any disrespect, but I think persistent is a nice word for crazy. This woman is crazy, but when the cause is a righteous one, it’s a holy crazy!

We aren’t told what injustice took place, but she was on a mission. Maybe her son was falsely imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. Maybe the man who molested her daughter was still on the streets. We don’t know for sure. But whatever it was, she wouldn’t take no for an answer. And the judge knew it. The judge knew she would circle his house until the day she got justice or the day she died. The judge knew there was no quit in the crazy woman.

Does the Judge know that about you? How desperate are you for the blessing, the breakthrough, the miracle? Desperate enough to pray through the night? How many times are you willing to circle the promise? Until the day you die? How long will you knock on the door of opportunity? Until your knuckles are raw? Until you knock the door down?

The persistent widow’s methodology was unorthodox. She could have, and technically should have, waited for her day in court. Going to the personal residence of the judge crossed a professional line. I’m almost surprised the judge didn’t file a restraining order against her. But this reveals something about the nature of God. God couldn’t care less about protocol. If He did, Jesus would have chosen the Pharisees as His disciples. But that isn’t who Jesus honored.

Jesus honored the prostitute who crashed a party at a Pharisee’s home to anoint His feet. Jesus honored the tax collector who climbed a tree in his three-piece suit just to get a glimpse of Him. Jesus honored the four friends who cut in line and cut a hole in someone’s ceiling to help their friend. And in this parable, Jesus honored the crazy woman who drove a judge crazy because she wouldn’t stop knocking.

The common denominator in each of these stories is crazy faith. People took desperate measures to get to God, and God honored them for it. Nothing has changed.

God is still honoring spiritual desperadoes who crash parties and climb trees.

God is still honoring those who defy protocol with their bold prayers. God is still honoring those who pray with audacity and tenacity. And the crazy woman is selected as the gold standard when it comes to praying hard. Her unrelenting persistence was the only difference between justice and injustice.

The viability of our prayers is not contingent on scrabbling the twenty-six letters of the English alphabet into the right combinations like abracadabra. God already knows the last punctuation mark before we pronounce the first syllable. The viability of our prayers has more to do with intensity than vocabulary. It has more to do with what we do than what we say.

Don’t just pray about it; act on it.

There are defining moments in life when we need to prove to God that we mean business – and I don’t mean “business as usual.” In fact, it’s only when “business as usual” goes out of business that we’re in business – the Father’s business. That’s when we’re on the verge of a spiritual breakthrough…

January 7, 2018

Sunday Worship

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

Matthew 2:9b After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11a And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.

Today’s thoughts for Epiphany Sunday were published earlier today by a writer who is new to us, David M. Wilmot, a Vicar in the Church of England in Troutbeck. Click the title below to read the full article, of which this is the second half.

To Recover Confidence: Right worship, Right praise is the most missional thing you can do

…I so often wonder, where on earth did we get the notion that worship is about `meeting needs`? No, worship is about God. Worship is its own reward. Right Worship, right praise is our calling… without one eye on what other people might think. No, if worship is for our benefit at all the only `need` it addresses is our need to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. And this happens in two ways….

Firstly, worship remind us of both who we are and whose we are. What I mean is that the very act of gathering in obedience to the Sabbath command is that we put down a marker as to where our true and ultimate loyalties lie. You see, I don`t think we have begun to appreciate how radical and thoroughly subversive a thing it is to worship. It is… or at least should be… regarded as absolute dynamite. Ask some of our many persecuted brothers and sisters what happens when day by day week by week you persist in reminding the world; anyone within earshot of its true king.

Because that`s what we learn of Jesus in that Epiphany Reading today isn’t it? (Matthew 2.1-12) The coming of the Christ; the world`s true King threw everyone (especially those who considered themselves to be someone) into an absolute panic. Why? Because his very presence exposes our real problem: idolatry. The attempt to live as if God is not God. In the birth of Jesus the Christ, the Kingdom of self… and the Kingdoms of the world are `on notice`. Because, the question is never `whether` we worship but `what or whom`. And to a world that seems obsessed with matters of identity and persists in attempting find their sense of who they are in things less than God, worship gets things the right way around.

And this is the second thing: You see worship `forms` us in our true identity, as sons and daughters of this King. We must not domesticate or turn passages such as the one we heard a moment ago, into little children’s stories. Remember, those visitors from the East `paid him homage ` but that act of worship changed them. They didn’t go `back to Herod`, to the recognized authority; because we`re told “they left for their own country by another road”. (Matthew 2.12) My point is that this is what we must learn to expect from our gathering here: Formation in Discipleship.

Jesus tells us, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. (Matthew 6.21) In our worship, just like the wise men, we hand over our treasures… our loves… the things which most drive, motivate and enthuse us. And here`s the thing… We offer them for trans-formation. We expect to leave here by another road… with our loves trans-formed. So, I`m calling us to a renewed confidence today and I`m suggesting that confidence will come as we re-engage with what it means to worship; as we kneel before the king of kings. It really does begin and end with God; the one Revelation calls the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

And if I were to offer one practical step I would suggest that you immerse yourself in the Book of Psalms. Not just because it`s the book which taught our Lord to pray… but because it has nurtured the Church in a true Vision of God from the very beginning. I was taught a long time ago that if you’re going to learn to pray, you need to read at least one Psalm every day. And what`s true for us individually is especially true of us as a Church. Place the Psalms at the heart of your worship….

You could do worse than begin with Psalm 115. Not least because the writer takes a well-aimed and comedic shot at the shallowness and stupidity of the world’s idolatry. He pokes fun at the nations by saying:

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see.
They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell.
They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk;
   they make no sound in their throats.

But then he ends by saying:

Those who make them are like them; so are all who trust in them. (Psalm 115 4-8)

Again, the writer`s point is that it is never a matter of `whether` we worship… but WHAT we worship. And in the end, we will always come to resemble the desire of our hearts…We become like the thing…the god we worship.

Dear friends, in times of change and uncertainty you will find the confidence to be faithful as you centre your lives in worship; the worship of the true and living God revealed in Jesus the Christ. Right worship, Right praise is the most Christ-like and therefore the most missional thing you can do. Our prayer is that in worship you should be transformed into the likeness of Christ… that you will bear his image to those with whom you live and work. It all begins here. You become what you worship…

December 16, 2017

Provision, Presence, Power

It’s a long story how we got there, but today’s post is from a writer I believe is new to us here, Anne Elliott which she posted back in February, 2010. Her blog reminds me of another Anne, Ann (with no e) Voskamp. Anne has been blogging since 1999, before blogs existed and she also writes homeschool curriculum for two different publishers. Despite the age of this article, she is still writing; click the title below and then click on “Blog” to see what she’s been writing more recently.

The God Who Never Leaves Me

Today we read,

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’

So we say with confidence,
‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’
(Hebrews 13:5-6).

Faith doesn’t look at material possessions; rather, faith looks at our Spiritual Provider.

God’s Provision

We are told to keep our lives free from the love of money. In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us that we can love money (the Hebrew word is “mammon”), or we can love God — but we can’t love both. We can either depend on earthly treasures to supply our needs, or we can depend on God to supply — but we can’t trust both.

We often forget that when we store up our treasures here on earth, our treasures can very quickly be lost. Moth and rust can destroy. Thieves can break in and steal.

Our pursuit of money, and the security that we think it will bring, becomes idol worship.

“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25).

Faith sees what can’t be seen, which is God’s faithful provision for all our needs. He feeds us. He clothes us.

“I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread”
(Psalm 37:25).

So let’s get practical for a moment. When we worry, are we worshiping and serving created things rather than the Creator? We may say that we recognize God is our provider, but to prove that, we have to stop worrying.

“Unless the LORD builds the house,
its builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchmen stand guard in vain.

In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves
(Psalm 127:1-2).

God’s Presence

God provides for our needs, but He goes even further and provides us with His very presence. The author of Hebrews quotes from the Old Testament here with God’s statement that “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

This is truly an amazing promise! When God gave this promise to Joshua and the children of Israel as they were about to enter the Promised Land, they believed Him — long enough to conquer the city of Jericho. Oh, except for Achan, who forgot that God would never leave or forsake him… and so he stole some gold from the city… even though God had told them not to… but he forgot God was with Him… so he didn’t obey… then he was surprised when he was caught….

Hmmm. Do I ever forget that God will never leave or forsake me?

I’m quite happy He’s with me… when I’m having a problem, or I want a quick answer to prayer, or I want to get all emotionally wrapped up in my religious experiences.

It’s not as convenient to have an ever-present God when I don’t feel like obeying Him.

“Praise be to the LORD, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses. May the LORD our God be with us as he was with our fathers; may he never leave us nor forsake us. May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep the commands, decrees and regulations he gave our fathers. And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the LORD, be near to the LORD our God day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel according to each day’s need, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other. But your hearts must be fully committed to the LORD our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time (1 Kings 8:56-61).

So which shows more faith? Prayer and religious experiences… or obedience to my Heavenly Father’s commands?

God’s Power

The hardest part for me is remembering God’s power. I start looking around at the power of man, and then I start to get afraid. I start to think of all the things that people could do to me, might say about me, might think of me. I’m sorry to say that it’s rare indeed that I “say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?‘” (Hebrews 13:6).

(Well, I might say it — but probably not with too much confidence!)

These verses are a quotation from Psalm 118, where the Psalmist wisely tells us,

“It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in man”
(Ps. 118:8).

Faith sees what can’t be seen. It sees YHWH’s power, His presence, and His provision, and it takes refuge in Him.

I mean really, what can man do to me? I suppose my husband could lose his job… but Who has promised to always feed and clothe me? I suppose I could get sick, but Who gives me breath so that I can praise Him? I suppose someone could persecute me because of my faith, but Who has promised to give me life at the last day? I mean really, what can man do to me?

If you’re ever tempted to skip reading the Bible verses on blogs, don’t skip these. They’re good enough to believe!

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

‘For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:28-39).

Those are shouting words! Hallelujah!

If we’ll just have faith to see what we can’t see.


Christianity 201 includes articles from people having a variety of expressions of their Christian faith. Anne and her husband Kraig keep the Sabbath (i.e. Friday night thru Saturday) and you can read more about this in some articles she has written about the Biblical feasts.

December 1, 2017

Mind Your Own Business

1 Thess. 4:11

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.   (NLT)

and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, (ESV)

and to strive earnestly to live quietly and to attend to your own matters, and to work with your own hands, just as we commanded you,  (Berean Literal Bible*)

We’re back with yet another return visit to Done With Religion by Jim Gordon. If you click the title below and then click the banner at the top of their page, you’ll see that this is a blog written from the perspective of ones who left the institutional church. It’s in some ways a refreshing perspective.

Words Are Important but What About Actions

Do you feel guilty when you do not talk to someone about Christ? Do you feel obligated to speak your mind about a particular sin? Do you feel it is your duty as a Christian to force every conversation into an opportunity to point out sinful behavior or to tell someone about salvation?

If we answer yes to any of these questions, I disagree with all of the above. I agree that some people have the gift of evangelism and should be using that gift to the fullest. I also feel that not all of us need to be forcing the issue with those we come in contact each day and we should not feel guilty for not doing so.

As Christians we are to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind and love others as ourselves. When we live our lives each day under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the love of God, the way we act will be a witness to the love of God.

We have always heard that actions speak louder than words. Our actions show what is within us. Words do not always show the real us. Words without the actions are usually pretty meaningless or as the bible calls it, faith without works is dead. This does not mean that faith without our effort or good works are required for salvation. It means that our words and our actions should match up showing the love of God to all people. Because of our faith and love for God, our actions or works will be a natural result of that love.

Anyone can speak words…words of condemnation, words of how we should live for God, words against particular sins, words about Christian living but words themselves have no strength. It is the daily life we live allowing the love of God to show through that makes a difference. How many times have we heard of a pastor saying words against something only to find out the pastor is doing the same thing that is being spoken against?

We need to remember that it is the Holy Spirit that convicts and draws people to the Father. It is not our job to condemn people nor point out what we think is sinful. We do not have to force every conversation into a gospel presentation.

God’s word says that we should live a quiet life, working with our hands and to be ready to give an account of the hope that is within us. Notice we are told to be ready to speak up when asked. Go about your daily routine minding your business, living a peaceful life and be ready at all times to give an answer about salvation and God’s love when someone asks. Only when the Holy Spirit is leading the opportunity will it make an impact on the person anyway.

By living this way and not forcing our views on others, the words we say will have more meaning to those who are wondering about the hope that we have within us. When our actions are consistently showing the love of God, our words will fall in line and have more impact on those we meet throughout the day.


*Sourced at BibleHub.com

November 22, 2017

Changing Values in our World

Today I want to introduce you to Jay Mankus who writes at Express Yourself 4 Him. This is a goldmine of devotional resources and new content has been faithfully posted daily since February 2012. Deciding which article to showcase here was so tough that I’m presenting two. Click the individual titles to read at source.

Don’t Go There or Else

There is a new movement emerging from members of the media, seeking to destroy naysayers, opponents and those possessing opposing worldviews.  This rush to judgment ignores the concept of innocent until proven guilty.  Instead of waiting until the facts to come out during a trial, the severity of recent accusations are more than enough to presume guilt.  Where did this mentality come from and what does the Bible say to address this issue?

He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities, Psalm 103:10.

According to David, God does not treat human beings as they deserve.  According to Psalm 103:12, God’s love is infinite, “as far as the east is from the west.”  If God is willing to show forgiveness, grace and mercy to undeserving sinners, why is the mainstream media so quick to condemn.  Have the elite been offended by conservatives in the past?  Is this recent response some sort of pay back for previous hypocritical actions?  Whatever the reason, sometimes you have to use common sense by replying, “don’t go there.”

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times, Matthew 18:21-22.

There was an unspoken belief that forgiveness should be limited in the first century.  Sensing a good opportunity to address this topic, Jesus shares the parable of the Unmerciful Servant.  Attempting to shatter any stereotypes on forgiveness, Jesus illustrates God’s mercy on those who are unable to pay back earthly debts accrued over time.  God the Father bestows grace on those who beg for mercy.  Yet, lip service is disregarded unless individuals reciprocate mercy by doing to others as you want others to do unto you.  In other words, don’t go there or else.

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins, Matthew 6:14-15.

The or else part of this equation was addressed by Jesus earlier in the book of Matthew.  At the conclusion of the portion of Scripture known as the Lord’s Prayer or Our Father, Jesus emphasizes the conditional aspect of forgiveness.  Yes, I did say conditional, based upon how you treat other people.  In next chapter, Matthew 7 builds upon this concept proclaiming, ” the measure to which you judge others will be used against you.”  Therefore, despite whatever differences you may have against others, make sure your remember to live out the Golden Rule.  Don’t seek revenge or the grace of God will turn it’s back on you.

Character Education

As societies evolve, the meaning of words change to reflect this evolution.  In the early stages of American history, character referred to personality, nature and qualities.  One of the synonyms for character is ethos, where we derive the Greek term ethics.  Ethics is the system of philosophy where individuals develop their basis for defining right and wrong.  Today, character education focuses on an initiative to foster global citizenship.

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out, Proverbs 10:9.

Based upon the United Nations global education initiative, character education is based upon three core philosophies: humanism, socialism and utilitarianism.  Utilitarianism teaches actions are right if they are useful or for the benefit of a majority.  Socialism advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.  Finally, humanism denies the presence of a Creator, seeking solely rational ways of solving human problems.  Signed by former president Obama, this curriculum is now being implemented into public education within K-12 schools across the country.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect, Romans 12:2.

When I first heard of Character Education on the Rush Limbaugh Show, I thought this sounds good, a step in the right direction.  Yet, as I began to hear and read more about this as a former teacher, I was horrified.  This attempt to erase the biblical influences within the foundation of America is unsettling.  Nonetheless, unless parents begin to challenge what their children are being taught, the true history of America will be forgotten.  May this blog awaken believers to stand up to this indoctrination by studying and teaching God’s divine intervention upon the founding fathers of this country.

November 8, 2017

Don’t Stop Praying

Just hours ago we had another article scheduled to run here, but something about it simply did not sit right with me. As the author was developing a theme, I returned one more time to view the subsequent articles and I felt beyond the shadow of a doubt that including it here would only bring confusion. I don’t scrap articles often, especially when they’re all formatted and ready to go, but…

Today we’re grateful for the writing of J. Lee Grady who blogs at Fire in My Bones. Click the title below to read this at source.

You Can’t Stop Praying Now!

So you pray for something for years and then you wake up one day, breathe a big sigh and say to yourself: This is crazy. Nothing is happening. God must not be listening.

Congratulations! If this has been your prayer experience, you are not alone. You’ve been enrolled in the School of Persevering Prayer, and it’s not a one-semester class. It’s a lifelong journey designed to stretch your faith, develop your character, purify your motives, test your patience and increase your capacity to experience God’s amazing love.

I’ve been in this school for a long time. I think I may have failed a few classes and been required to repeat them. I don’t always make the grade.

This past week, in fact, I was whining about God’s delays. For many months I’ve been bringing the same requests to the Lord, yet the answers seem impossibly distant. My faith wavers from calm assurance to frustrated doubt. In my weakest moments I panic and say stupid things that I regret later, such as: “I’m quitting!”

Yet when I bring my complaint to the Lord, He always reassures me. He recently took me to Isaiah 62:6-7, NASB: “On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; all day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the Lord, take no rest for yourselves; and give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.”

There’s just no way around the fact that prayer requires persistence. One friend of mine even coined a phrase to summarize this painful fact: “God is in the waiting.”

Jesus told a parable about an unrighteous judge who granted a poor widow’s petition because she badgered him night and day (see Luke 18:1-8). Jesus asked: “Will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night?” (v. 7). Whatever request you have brought to the Lord, and regardless of how many times you have reminded Him of it, keep these points in mind as you trust Him for an answer:

  1. The work of God takes time. Most people in the Bible who asked God for big things waited a long time to receive their answers. Abraham turned gray waiting for his promised heir—and he is called the father of our faith. Joshua and his remnant company wandered in the wilderness 40 years before they possessed Canaan. Hannah endured taunts from Peninnah and insults from Eli while she prayed many years for a son.

Prayer is not a magic formula. Your job is to ask, not to dictate or control. You must let God be God. You must let patience have its perfect work. You will eventually reap if you don’t grow weary.

  1. Authentic prayer involves a holy process. Prayer is often compared to birth. When God gives you a promise, you essentially become pregnant with it. If you plan to carry this promise to term, you must wait—and then you must travail.

Surely this is what the apostle Paul experienced when he told the Galatians he would be “in labor” until Christ was formed in them (Gal. 4:19). We often think of the prayer of faith as triggering instant answers, but this was not the case with Paul. While God can certainly answer immediately, even with fire from heaven, frequently He asks us to carry a promise until we are mature enough to handle the answer.

  1. You have a Helper who is praying for you. You are not in this process alone. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us, Paul wrote, “with groanings too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26). He is praying the perfect will of God, and we are invited to agree with Him. This kind of gut-wrenching prayer is messy and full of anguish; it is not formal or sophisticated.

When we truly pray in the Holy Ghost, we surrender our agendas and allow Him to pray through us. And this takes us deeper with God.

Have you ever been around a woman in her ninth month of pregnancy? She is often in a state of agitation—ready to give birth but weary of the strain. I know many Christians today who are in this same uncomfortable stage of spiritual travail. They’ve held onto promises for a long time. Some are in despair because the gestation period has been so long.

Jesus said: “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matt. 7:8). The verbs used are Greek present imperatives, meaning constant asking, seeking and knocking. Prevailing prayer requires persistence, but when we feel too weak to press forward in faith, the Spirit provides the extra push.

You may be asking for the salvation of a wayward child, the funding of a ministry, the reconciliation of a relationship, the recovery of a business, the reviving of a stagnant church or the healing of a sick loved one. Or if you are really adventurous, you may be praying for the evangelization of a city or a nation that is currently in spiritual darkness.

Keep on knocking. Don’t give up. The God who moves mountains has heard your cry. You’re closer than you’ve ever been to a spiritual breakthrough.


J. Lee Grady was editor of Charisma for 11 years before he launched into full-time ministry in 2010. Today he directs The Mordecai Project, a Christian charitable organization that is taking the healing of Jesus to women and girls who suffer abuse and cultural oppression.

November 5, 2017

Sunday Worship

This week I struggled with something I felt strongly I was to include here, but I was hoping to find an article that someone had already written covering this topic. You’ll see the irony of that in a minute.

As I combed through various sources for an hour, it struck me (especially considering one of our mandates here is to not restrict the word worship to a music-related definition) that there are may ways we can express worship to God.

For awhile, I looked at the idea of kneeling. In my own paraphrase of the Philippian Hymn in chapter 2 of the epistle by the same name, I have rendered it as,

Everyone will kneel in physical submission
Everyone will confess in verbal declaration
That Jesus Christ is Lord.

But as I looked at this more closely, I felt the issue was not body posture but rather the idea of a creative expression. Let me explain…

…For the most part, much of what we do as Christians is about words. (That’s problematic at some levels, but let’s press on.) So we write songs and we write poetry and we write expositions of scripture and we write sermons.

But who is we? Do you write songs? Do you write blog posts or devotionals or even letters of encouragement to those in need of such?

It occurred to me that in the modern church a whole lot of what we do in worship involves utilizing forms that someone else has created.

Isaiah 42:10 says,

Sing to the Lord a new song, and His praise from the end of the earth!

This wording is consistent in every translation showing at Bible Gateway. Where are these new songs going to come from? (How shall they be new unless someone writes them?) One translation — name long forgotten — rendered this as “Create new songs of praise…”

…Well, maybe I missed something. The Voice version of the Bible has the verse as,

So make up a song like none other

Because it’s an outlier with this wording, I don’t want to give too much weight to this one translation, but I like how it suggests more than just repeating someone else’s words. It’s suggestion that we be part of the creation of the words sung.

That’s what I feel God is telling me today. We can’t be content to have our worship be reading someone else’s words out of the prayer book, the church order of service, the hymnbook or off the screen.

It’s great that we have everything from cantors to worship leaders to give us the vehicles through which we can express worship to him, but God wants to know what you’re thinking;  what you have to say to him.

November 2, 2017

When Gratitude Shines in the Darkness

Clarke Dixon’s full-length articles return next week. In the meantime, this is a shorter one we had in the files which you hadn’t seen before.

by Clarke Dixon

Harvey, Irma, Maria, Abdulahi Hasan Sharif, “Ahmed H”, Stephen Paddock. These are names that have been associated with fear, sadness, and anger in recent days. Whether nature unleashing “natural” disasters, or humans being inhumane, these names can be added to a long history of names that have stirred up negative emotions. We can add to the list the names of various diseases that cause us to think of loved ones. Cancer, Parkinson’s, Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, it seems the list could go on forever. Yet, when the dust settles, something else bubbles up. Gratitude for the first responders. Gratitude for family and friends being at one’s side. Gratitude for complete strangers who have responded with help and aid. Gratitude to God for hope that holds firm in the midst of fear.

No matter the tragedy, eventually the emotions of fear, sadness, and anger make space for gratitude. To respond to the events of life with a range of emotions is not bad. But to be moving to new emotions is good. One is reminded of the words of the Psalmist:

Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5 (NRSV)

In this Psalm, the Psalmist has an experience that many can relate to, namely, the experience both of God’s goodness, and seeming absence:

6 As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
7 By your favor, O Lord,
you had established me as a strong mountain;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.. Psalms 30:6-7 (NRSV)

The Psalmist next makes an appeal to God in prayer and you can probably guess how the Psalm ends:

11 You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever. Psalms 30:11-12 (NRSV)

Joy and gratitude. With God in our lives these are always the emotions we can look forward to even if we don’t feel that way in the moment. With Christ’s grace and love keeping a firm grip on us through the hardest of trials, salvation will come. The Psalmist does not say he will give thanks to the Lord for the rest of his life. He says “I will give thanks to you forever.” That is a very long thanksgiving celebration!

Read more at clarkdixon.wordpress.com



Regular readers: Consider writing for C201. More info at our submissions page.


Choosing articles for C201; what we ask ourselves:

  1. Is this a blog to which I would want to refer readers to see what else the author has written about?
  2. Is the article rooted in scripture? Is God’s word the focus?
  3. Does the item present thoughts or ideas which dig deeper, beyond the obvious or superficial?
  4. How does the article contrast or complement what else is available here?

In addition to submissions we’re always looking for readers who can recommend suitable material.


 

October 13, 2017

Achieving Results on Human Strength Alone

Numbers 20:11 Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out. So the entire community and their livestock drank their fill.

Today we have an excerpt from a brand new book by Skye Jethani, Immeasurable: Reflections on the Soul of Ministry in the Age of Church, Inc.; published by Moody Press.  Although the book is written for pastors and church leaders, there are principles here that I believe have a much broader application for the mature Christ-follower.

Effectiveness

…In Numbers 20, Moses has just led the people of God out of Egypt and into the wilderness.  There they begin to complain about not having any water. They’re ready to riot against Moses.  So he falls on his face before the Lord in the tabernacle and prays for a solution.  God says to him, “Speak to the rock and it will bring forth water for the people and their animals.” (see Num. 20:8).

Something happened to Moses after leaving the presence of God, however, and rather than speaking to the rock as he had been commanded, Moses struck it twice with his staff.  Incredibly, a miracle happened anyway. Water flowed abundantly.  The people were saved. Moses was a hero.

Now consider the scene from a human point of view, or from the perspective of the Idol of Effectiveness.  Was Moses’ ministry effective? Absolutely! By any human standard, Moses was an effective leader. Was his ministry powerful? Yes, a miracle occurred! Was Moses’ ministry relevant? Clearly. It’s difficult to be more relevant than giving water to thirsty people in a desert. Was his ministry strategic? Without a doubt. He equipped the people with what they needed to reach their goal, the Promised Land. If Moses were here today, he’d be selling books on 3 Steps to Drawing Water from Rocks.  He’d be speaking on the ministry conference circuit and hosting webinars for dehydrated churches. From a human perspective, Moses was outrageously effective.

But what about from the Lord’s perspective? Not so much. God was far less impressed.  In fact, Moses was punished severely for his disobedience. He was forbidden from entering the Promised Land. Instead, the Lord determined he would die within sight of it. Why? Because God does not judge our effectiveness. He judges our faithfulness. It’s clear in Numbers 20 that God decided to perform a miracle in spite of Moses, not because of him.

So, when we focus on effectiveness, we are focusing on the wrong fruit. We assume that if people are coming to faith, if the church is growing, if the world is changing, then we must be right with God. But in fact God may be working in spite of us, not because of us. And here’s the real truth we don’t like to admit — every time God works, it is in spite of us. He does not need us to accomplish His work. If He did, He wouldn’t be a God worthy of our worship. There is an important truth that ministers need to hear as much as, if not more than, everyone else: God does not need you.  He wants you.  He did not sent His Son to recruit you to change the world. He sent His Son to reconcile you to Himself. Your value to God is not in your effectiveness, but in your presence…

pp25-26

 

September 15, 2017

Changed from Glory to Glory

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

But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded… – Exodus 34:34

Many times a phrase from scripture becomes, for lack of a better term somewhat enlarged through propagation in hymns or modern worship choruses and then finds its way into preaching. This is especially true when phrases rendered in the unique styling of the KJV become common in church life. Sometimes they can become part of the Christianese verbal landscape. Such it is with the phrase we’re looking at today.

The King James Version of 2 Corinthians 3:18 reads:

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

First of all, the key in the context of this passage is not changed or glory, but rather the idea of the veil. This begins in verse 7 of that chapter, but because the imagery is unfamiliar to many of us, I want to look at verses 12-18 in four translations; two of which add additional words to bring clarity.

First, here’s The Voice Bible (added words in italics, as is that translation’s custom)

12 In light of this hope that we have, we act with great confidence and speak with great courage. 13 We do not act like Moses who covered his face with a veil so the children of Israel would not stare as the glory of God faded from his face. 14 Their minds became as hard as stones; for up to this day when they read the old covenant, the same veil continues to hide that glory; this veil is lifted only through the Anointed One. 15 Even today a veil covers their hearts when the words of Moses are read; 16 but in the moment when one turns toward the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 By “the Lord” what I mean is the Spirit, and in any heart where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is liberty. 18 Now all of us, with our faces unveiled, reflect the glory of the Lord as if we are mirrors; and so we are being transformed, metamorphosed, into His same image from one radiance of glory to another, just as the Spirit of the Lord accomplishes it.

Next, we have The Amplified Bible (added meanings in brackets, as is that translation’s custom.)

12 Since we have such a [glorious] hope and confident expectation, we speak with great courage, 13 and we are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the Israelites would not gaze at the end of the glory which was fading away. 14 But [in fact] their minds were hardened [for they had lost the ability to understand]; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed [only] in Christ. 15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil [of blindness] lies over their heart; 16 but whenever a person turns [in repentance and faith] to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty [emancipation from bondage, true freedom]. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, continually seeing as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are progressively being transformed into His image from [one degree of] glory to [even more] glory, which comes from the Lord, [who is] the Spirit.

Third, we have the Common English Bible.

12 So, since we have such a hope, we act with great confidence. 13 We aren’t like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the Israelites couldn’t watch the end of what was fading away. 14 But their minds were closed. Right up to the present day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. The veil is not removed because it is taken away by Christ. 15 Even today, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But whenever someone turns back to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Lord’s Spirit is, there is freedom. 18 All of us are looking with unveiled faces at the glory of the Lord as if we were looking in a mirror. We are being transformed into that same image from one degree of glory to the next degree of glory. This comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Finally, Here’s the full passage in The Message:

7-8 The Government of Death, its constitution chiseled on stone tablets, had a dazzling inaugural. Moses’ face as he delivered the tablets was so bright that day (even though it would fade soon enough) that the people of Israel could no more look right at him than stare into the sun. How much more dazzling, then, the Government of Living Spirit?

9-11 If the Government of Condemnation was impressive, how about this Government of Affirmation? Bright as that old government was, it would look downright dull alongside this new one. If that makeshift arrangement impressed us, how much more this brightly shining government installed for eternity?

12-15 With that kind of hope to excite us, nothing holds us back. Unlike Moses, we have nothing to hide. Everything is out in the open with us. He wore a veil so the children of Israel wouldn’t notice that the glory was fading away—and they didn’t notice. They didn’t notice it then and they don’t notice it now, don’t notice that there’s nothing left behind that veil. Even today when the proclamations of that old, bankrupt government are read out, they can’t see through it. Only Christ can get rid of the veil so they can see for themselves that there’s nothing there.

16-18 Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.

I was going to look at the one verse only and present about a dozen different renderings of it, but decided to go more in depth with these four translations. By now you have a clear picture of the imagery here — in reference to Moses — but you see that the opposite situation is hoped for. The classic Albert Barnes commentary points us to this:

This is said in contradistinction probably to Moses. The splendor on his face gradually died away. But not so with the light reflected from the gospel. It becomes deeper and brighter constantly. This sentiment is parallel to that expressed by the psalmist; “They go from strength to strength” Psalm 84:7; that is, they go from one degree of strength to another, or one degree of holiness to another, until they come to the full vision of God himself in heaven. The idea in the phrase before us is; that there is a continual increase of moral purity and holiness under the gospel until it results in the perfect glory of heaven. The “doctrine” is, that Christians advance in piety; and that this is done by the contemplation of the glory of God as it is revealed in the gospel.

We won’t spend more time here, but to say that in understanding various types of imagery like this one, we are really learning more about the ways of God and the desire of God for our lives. Here’s a modern worship song which uses this phrase:

 

 

 

September 8, 2017

God is Not a Force

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

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. John 16: 13-14 ESV

God replied: “I am who am. Thus shall you say to the children of Israel: He Who is has sent me to you.” Exodus 3: 13-15

This may seem like more of a 101 type of topic to many of you, rather than a 201 type of discussion you expect here. But I think it’s important not only to have this matter settled for ourselves, but to have our ears tuned to hear it when spoken by people inside or on the periphery of our Christian community in order that we can offer correction and clarification.

Today we’re returning to the writing of Jeff Loach, who we often referenced in the early days of Thinking Out Loud, and have included here at C201 before. He blogs at Passionately His. Recently we caught up with about a dozen of his most recent topics. Click the title below to read this at source.

Force or Person?

God is not a force.

Many people talk about various forces in the universe, or even about certain forces that may hold divine power.  But let’s not be mistaken:  the God of the Bible – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ – is not a force.  God is one, yet three persons.

That gets confusing for some folks, because when we think of a person we think of someone with flesh and bones who walks the earth like we do.  In that sense, we can wrap our heads around the idea that Jesus is, or was, a person, but God the Father?  Not so much.

To make it more confusing, because the Holy Spirit is invisible, many people – even well-meaning followers of Christ – will refer to the Holy Spirit as a force.  But the Holy Spirit is not a force.  The Holy Spirit is a person.

The dictionary generally defines a person in human terms, but the best dictionaries will acknowledge that in Christian theology, a person is defined as one of the three members of the Godhead, i.e., the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Each is a person.  Not a force, a person.

While this can get into deep philosophy and theology, for the purposes of a brief devotional, let’s understand this:  the fact that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are persons means that God is personal, and we can be in personal relationship with God.

Lots of folks think of God as very far off, unreachable, even unknowable.  But the fact that God is not a force, but is personal, means that God is near, reachable, and knowable.  God showed his great love for us in sending Jesus as the incarnation – God with skin on, literally.  As an old song says, “He’s as close as the mention of his name.”

Forces are impersonal.  God is personal.  Let’s get personal with the God who made us, who loves us with an everlasting love, and who longs to live his life in and through us.

“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him” (1 John 4.9, NLT).

August 31, 2017

The Story of Us

by Clarke Dixon

Now suppose you were to ask me to tell you about my marriage. I might say something like “well, it is my task to put out the garbage on a Sunday night ready for Monday morning, and Sandra’s tasks are to keep the pantry and fridge stocked, buy the clothes for the boys (yes, that includes me), take the lead on the medical concerns of our children, . . . well, pretty much everything but get the garbage out. Now of course I am exaggerating but I hope that you find it odd that a question about my marriage would end up with a list of duties and expectations. Yet we do this all the time with matters of faith. A question about our faith may well lead us to speak about our duties and expectations as a Christian. Or as I fear, many in trying to pass on the faith to the next generation will focus almost solely on passing on that list of duties and expectations. This can be described as the “it is good for you” kind of faith.

Problem is, the next generation normally has no problem coming up with a set of values and ethics on their own, especially with culture and society so eager to help. If that is all the Christian faith is about, then why bother, especially as Christian duties and expectations will seem quite a bit more bothersome than what might come up with ourselves. I needn’t tell you that many in the next generations (including my own) haven’t bothered.

The Psalmist in Psalm 78 has a heart for the coming generations and is eager to pass on the faith:

My people, hear my teaching;
listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth with a parable;
I will utter hidden things, things from of old— things we have heard and known,
things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants;
we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
his power, and the wonders he has done. (Psalm 78:1-4 NIV)

We will want to notice right from the start that the Psalmist has a much bigger sense of faith than the duties and expectations. Yes, the Psalmist will go on to speak of God’s law as part of the “praiseworthy deeds” of the Lord, but there is something greater here than being grateful for a mere list of ethics. The Psalmist wants to pass on the knowledge of the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. He wants to pass on, not just the rules of a religion, but better the knowledge of the living, interacting, and intervening God.

This of course assumes that the Psalmist knows the praiseworthy deeds, the might, and wonders of the Lord. If we are to be effective in passing the faith on to a new generation (and this is a key desire of mine within my own family!), step one is to be sure we know it and enjoy it well ourselves first!! Do you know the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord? Have you seen his power at work? Are you able to articulate the wonders he has done? Can you point to where these can be found in the Bible? Can you point to where these can be found in your own life story?

Furthermore, in the rest of the Psalm (and it is a long one, rather like some of my sermons!), the Psalmist tells us a story, or better, stories. These focus on God’s people, their rebellion, God’s covering them with grace and forgiveness, God’s drawing them forward with discipline and instruction, and finally God’s preparation for the future. The story ends with Israel’s final rebellion against God, his purposes being carried forward with Judah and King David. In fact the ending has kind of an ‘unfinished’ feel to it as one suspects the story will go on. And we know it does. But the thing for us to notice is this: the Psalmist in having a heart for the next generation, spends much of his time telling the stories of God’s relationship with God’s people, or the story of us. This is more like what you might expect to hear if you asked about my marriage. How we met. How we fell in love with each other. How we fell in love with our children. You don’t expect a list of duties and expectations, but the story of us. Can you articulate the story of God’s love for his creation and humanity?

Can you tell the story of how you fell in love with God? Will you? The story goes on . . .

Read more from Clarke Dixon at clarkedixon.wordpress.com

August 5, 2017

Ministry Give-and-Take

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

The Message, Philemon 8-9 In line with all this I have a favor to ask of you. As Christ’s ambassador and now a prisoner for him, I wouldn’t hesitate to command this if I thought it necessary, but I’d rather make it a personal request.

Today we’re paying a return visit to the rather unusually named Chocolate Book with writer Jackson Ferrell. Each day the author has a chocolate flavor of the day and a reading for the day (seriously!) working his way through the Bible chapter by chapter. (This is another excellent blog to bookmark if you want a commentary source in the future.) To read this at source, click the title below.

You’re encouraged to begin by clicking through to read the entire book of Philemon before beginning.

Philemon – Gospel Negotiations

Today’s PassagePhilemon

Welcome to the third-shortest book in the Bible by word count. It’s Paul’s letter to Philemon, a man who had come to faith through Paul’s missionary work. Philemon owned a slave named Onesimus, who had run away, encountered Paul, and been converted to Christianity. In the ancient world, fleeing as a slave was a capital offense, but Onesimus had tended to Paul’s needs while in prison and proven himself an enthusiastic and helpful follower of Christ. Paul found himself in a tight and complicated spot, and the letter gives us a look into his response to the problem at hand.

Full disclosure: I’m drawing heavily from N.T. Wright’s commentary on Philemon in Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters. It provides an excellent perspective on a situation that it could be easy to misunderstand, particularly when one is inferring based on nothing but a quick read of a 335-word letter. Wright’s done his homework, and his insights into Philemon come highly recommended.

But if you aren’t familiar with the letter or its background, Paul’s actions may surprise you: he’s sending back Onesimus to Philemon. He writes, “I have sent him back to you in person, that is, sending my very heart” (12). He’s sending a runaway slave back to his master, who in the Roman world would have every right to punish a slave as severely as he sees fit.

Paul, however, has another plan. He tells Philemon, “For perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever, no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother…If then you regard me a partner, accept him as you would me” (15-17). Paul makes an appeal, strongly suggesting that Philemon should not only accept Onesimus without penalty, but go further and free him. Paul negotiates shrewdly throughout the letter, but here we see the ace up his sleeve. If Philemon has in fact accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ, if he’s a partner with Paul in furthering God’s kingdom and embracing the love of Christ as a way of life, then he should no more return Onesimus to a life of slavery than enslave Paul himself. The implication is subtle but serious: if he doesn’t free Onesimus, then what kind of partner in the gospel is he?

Slavery in Paul’s writings, as we’ve seen before, is a thorny issue. But in his actions we see what is perhaps his strongest stance against slavery, a push to free slaves without resorting to a violent overthrow of the Roman social order, and an appeal to brotherhood between believers. And he puts his money where his mouth is, telling Philemon, “But if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account…I will repay it (not to mention to you that you owe to me even your own self as well)” (18-19). One gets the impression that even as he pushes against anticipated arguments, Paul is ready to pay the cost of Onesimus’ release, if Philemon would dare to charge him for it.

That’s the third-shortest book in the Bible by word count. It’s Paul’s letter to Philemon, a man who used to own a slave named Onesimus.

August 1, 2017

Back to the Bible

When I was much younger, my mother would listen each day to a radio broadcast, Back to the Bible, taught by Theodore Epp (1939-1985). I have some vague memories of my parents driving to Lincoln, Nebraska in order to see the headquarters of the ministry firsthand. So today we’re featuring two shorter devotionals by Dr. Epp. There are several different teachers on their devotional page; I hope you’ll click through to see more.

God Knows the Heart

Read: Exodus 9:22-35Against the backdrop of this awful judgment is a verse that reveals God’s protection of His own: “Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail” (Ex. 9:26).

Goshen was part of Egypt, but God controlled the circumstances so that the Israelites were untouched by the judgment that Egypt experienced.

Notice what Pharaoh’s response was to this awful judgment: Although Pharaoh seemed to be conscious of his wickedness before God, it was only a feigned confession made in order to escape judgment.

Moses was not fooled by Pharaoh’s false confession. God had given Moses insight so he knew what was in Pharaoh’s heart and was not fooled in any way.

This reveals how hardened Pharaoh really was; it did not bother him even to fake a confession of sin to God. But God knows what is in each person’s heart, and He was not deceived for one minute.

God had showered His mercies on Pharaoh, but Pharaoh had refused to respond positively in any way. So in the remaining plagues God further hardened Pharaoh’s heart so as to fulfill His plan of total revelation of Himself as absolutely sovereign.

Shall not God search this out? for he knows the secrets of the heart” (Ps. 44:21).

When Is It a Sacrifice?

Read: 2 Samuel 24:18-25The Lord not only stayed the plague, but through Gad He also instructed David to build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Ornan, the Jebusite (1 Chron. 21:18).

The Lord was very specific about this and left no alternative in the matter.

Why this particular spot was chosen does not appear in the narrative, but later on in 2 Chronicles 3:1 we have this statement: “Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.”

If David had been a grasping, selfish man, he might have looked on this as an opportunity to fulfill the will of God without any cost to himself.

He had been passed over when the plague struck men in Israel, and now a rich man had offered him a threshing floor for an altar and animals and grain for the offerings.

But David refused to bring before the Lord that which cost him nothing. “And the king said unto Araunah [Ornan], Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt-offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing” (2 Sam. 24:24).

What a tremendous lesson for us. It is one thing to serve on boards and committees that handle the affairs of others; it is quite another to make decisions that affect us personally.

It is not a sacrifice to the Lord if we give of that which costs us nothing.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 51:17).

 

 

 

July 31, 2017

A Gentle Spirit; An Honest Spirit

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

Today we’re paying a return visit to Partners in Hope Today, a website we last connected with over four years ago. The devotionals posted there — in print and in audio — are especially focused for readers who are in a recovery program.  We offer you two shorter readings today, but click the titles for each in order to see the graphic images or link to the audio versions.

The Beauty of a Quiet and Gentle Spirit

While it is important to show gentleness towards those we are in contact with, it’s also essential that we learn how to treat ourselves with gentleness.  That doesn’t mean that we look for a “softer gentler way” that avoids issues and allows us to continue in whatever is convenient and comfortable, but is ultimately harmful.  It does mean that we seek gentleness everywhere we find ourselves.

God invites us to a lifestyle of gentleness where we respect truth, respect the dignity of everyone including ourselves, and delight in the joy and wonder of each new day.  Surround me with your tender mercies so I may live, for your instructions are my delight.  (Psalm 119:77 NLT)

Gentleness helps us admit that we are struggling and it’s okay to seek help.  He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies.  (Psalm 103:4 NLT)

Gentleness is protected by the setting of safe boundaries in relationships.  Lord, don’t hold back your tender mercies from me. Let your unfailing love and faithfulness always protect me.  (Psalm 40:11 NLT)

Gentleness is often experienced in our spirit when we take the time to slow down and notice life around us – a flower on a summer day; a baby in a stroller; the aroma of food; the beautiful colours in the sky as the sun goes down.  God has made everything beautiful for its own time. The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. (Ecclesiastes 3:11, Psalm 19:1 NLT)

Gentleness in us flows and grows as we sit quietly and have a conversation with God.  Just reading the Bible often brings peace and gentleness to our souls and when we speak to God in response to what He is conveying to us in His Word, a gentleness of spirit seems to wrap itself around our hearts.  Let my teaching fall on you like rain; let my speech settle like dew. Let my words fall like rain on tender grass, like gentle showers on young plants.  (Deuteronomy 32:2 NLT)

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, help me to live in the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit that comes from within and which is precious in Your sight.  AMEN  

Freedom Through Telling the Truth

“We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

How hard would it be to trust such a power if we thought he was a liar?  How could we even think about turning our will and our life over to his care?  Fortunately, one of our Heavenly Father’s basic characteristics is truth.  In fact, it is impossible for God to lie.  We can completely depend on every word God says and every promise He gives us.

It is impossible for God to lie.  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. God tells the truth, even if everyone else is a liar. (Hebrews 6:18, John 14:6 NLT, Romans 3:4 CEV)

God always speaks truth, even difficult truths, but does it with such kindness and love that it draws our heart closer to Him rather than driving us away from Him.  There’s a story in the Bible in John 4 that tells about Jesus’ encounter with a woman who was hiding the truth.  Jesus engaged her in conversation and revealed the complete truth about her life’s circumstances, which weren’t all that great.  Amazingly, in just a few minutes that woman, who had lived in shame in her community for years because of her circumstances, ran back to town and invited everyone to come and hear Jesus because He had revealed everything that had happened to her:  Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?  (John 4:29 NLT)

When God, who loves us unconditionally, speaks truth to us, life and hope and a desire for healing fills our hearts.  God’s wants to reveal the deception and lies we’ve been told by society and those we’ve lived under, because lies always harm and drag us down.  God wants to set us free from the bondage of lying, lift us up, and draw us closer to Himself.

What sorrow for those who drag their sins behind them with ropes made of lies, who drag wickedness behind them like a cart! (Isaiah 5:18 NLT)

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank you for always speaking the truth in love to me.  Help me to live in the freedom of always speaking truth to you, to myself, and to others.  AMEN

Next Page »