Christianity 201

May 25, 2021

Choosing the Better Part

NIV.Luke.10.38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I spent a long time today trying to locate just the right devotional reading for us. This one is from Nehemiah Zion and the blog Raising Zion. This looks like a good resource, and you can start discovering more by clicking the header which follows.

How To Get Far Better In Life?

What does it mean to get far better? There are two kinds of Christians, one that seeks God more, another that seeks everything else more than God. Mary chose a far better thing by sitting at the feet of Jesus. Martha was loving too, but her concern was carnal rather than spiritual. (Luke 10:42)

We get far better in life at the feet of Jesus

What do we get at the feet of Jesus that makes us far better in life? I’d like to share five things we receive which makes us live a far better life in Christ.

Word of God (Deuteronomy 33:3) (Hebrews 4:12) (2 Timothy 3:15-17)

“Yea, he loved the people; All his saints are in thy hand: And they sat down at thy feet; Every one shall receive of thy words.” (‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭33:3‬)

Forgiveness of sins (Luke 7:47)

“Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.” (‭‭Luke‬ ‭7:47‬)

Deliverance from bondage (Luke 17:12-14) (Luke 8:35,36)

“And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: and they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.” (‭‭Luke‬ ‭17:12-14‬)

Exposed self (Revelation 1:17)

“And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:” Revelation‬ ‭1:17‬

John beheld the glory of Jesus and fell flat as dead. It reveals how frail and undeserving we are of even being in His presence. Isaiah reveals how he was exposed of his unholy natures in the presence of God.

Rejoicing = worshipping (Matthew 28:9)

“And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.”(Matthew‬ ‭28:9‬)

There is adoration, and freedom at the feet of Jesus. Mary and the other Mary’s immediate response was worship as they saw their loving Saviour. As I write this my heart leaps in joy trying to visualize the scene. The very presence of Jesus is one of great peace, rest, joy and love.

As believers we live in the utmost joy that can come only from heaven. Believers who are unable to enjoy God’s presence are often found focused on carnal thinking and outward displays. So many are busy bodies (spiritually) but have zero fruit. Constantly quarrelsome and bitter in their hearts. Such can never begin to understand the joy of God’s presence.

Get down, let your tears wash the feet of Jesus. Spirit baptized believers are betrothed to Christ, eagerly awaiting His coming. Maranatha, Praise God and Amen!



Bonus item: This from Wisconsin writer Glenn Hager at his self-titled blog. He is the author of two books about his own journey An Irreligious Faith and Free Range Faith.

Christianity in 100 Words

Saw this somewhere and decided to take the challenge.

Jesus. Christianity is based on Jesus, not a church or a prescribed set of beliefs.

Love. Christianity is based on love, loving God, loving others (especially those we do not understand), and loving ourselves (in a healthy, non-arrogant sort of way, since he loves us).

Life. Christianity is woven into our lifestyle, not something tacked on, not something to sign off on, not something that happens on a special day or in a special place.

Grace. Christianity is based on grace, grace that always gives us hope, even in our darkest hours and deepest failures, and is extended to others.

August 16, 2020

The Ministry of The Forerunner | Leading with Strength and Courage

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:03 pm
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NIV.Deut.32.48 On that same day the Lord told Moses, 49 “Go up into the Abarim Range to Mount Nebo in Moab, across from Jericho, and view Canaan, the land I am giving the Israelites as their own possession. 50 There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people. 51 This is because both of you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites. 52 Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel.”

Today we return to Jim Grant at Preach Between the Lines who is currently looking at Deuteronomy. Jim is Executive Director of the Galveston Baptist Association, a conference speaker and contributing writer for the National Revitalization organization called Renovate. This is our fourth time highlighting his writing here, but we encourage you to click the header below to read this at his site.

From Moses to Joshua: Be Strong and Courageous

From Moses to Joshua
Deut. 31, 34 select verses; Joshua 1-2.

In Deut. 31 we read a repeated statement to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous.” This statement is also repeated in Joshua 1 in various ways five times. Obviously taking the reign and reins from Moses would be an overwhelming assignment from God. Moses had served God forty years. He was the Friend of God; He had a closer relationship than any human. Moses was not perfect we know, for even his own disobedience at Merabah with the “smiting the Rock” twice carried a severe consequence in that he would not lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land. Moses was the one who fought with Pharaoh to release the people for Egyptian slavery, he received the LAW on Mount Sinai, it was his leadership over the last forty years in the wilderness that keep the people safe and secure until a generation died. We can think what it must have been like for Moses, this great hero to hear – “You will not lead the people to crossover into the Land.” One act of disobedience? Really? This reinforces the doctrine that NONE are righteous, no not one. God does not bless disobedience. Moses even argues with Good to let him lead the people – finally God tells Moses, No and that it!

I have learned that in pastoral ministry I may want to lead the church to achieve memorable and monumental heights; but I was not the person, but I was preparing the people for the person who was coming behind me This is remarkably similar to John the Baptist and Jesus. While this can and does have a disappointing effect, I have to remember that this is not about my GLORY but God’s and HIS Kingdom. I like Moses and many pastors have been allowed to share some of God’s Glory in the work of the ministry.

Moses and we have to remember this is the WORK OF GOD not man. So, Moses is told he is not going across the Jordan, but God does tell him I will let you see the LAND that I and giving to the people. In Deut. 32:48-52 is the recounting of the “Last Mountain” Moses would climb. Moses was the last of his generation to die before Israel went into the LAND. But he had one more mountain to climb. Moses is a leader and a servant of God; great is his testimony – but even though he was an icon in Israel; Israel had to move forward without him.

Now, think about all this and you Joshua have been anointed with the laying on of hands to succeed Moses. Okay, can you see the admonishment to Joshua to “Be Strong and Courageous?” Big shoes to fill right? No Joshua had his own shoes to fill. Just as God had trained Moses for his task, Joshua was also trained for his task. We know that Joshua was a great warrior and how he fought many battles in the Wilderness. This prepared him for what was ahead in the Promised Land. I am sure there have been many a preacher that took over from a long tenured pastor, and probably did so with fear and trepidation.

The wonderful word “As I was with Moses so will I be with you.” What a message! Joshua would go forth in a commanding leadership that was distinguished by a Conquering and Courageous Faith. Just as Joshua prepared the people to cross over; He had already put fear in the people in Jericho. Imagine that for 40 years, the Canaanite people lived in fear of the conquering people led by the Strong arm of God; and Israel never came to conquer for 40 years. This also speaks of the patience and mercy of God for the tribes – they had a choice to get out or be annihilated. Rahab’s story tells us of the fear that gripped the people. “We knew that your God was God.” Josh 2:8-10. Makes me wonder how many lands has God prepared for the Gospel to conquer, yet He cannot get His people to get out of the Wilderness and into the Promised Land?

I like Joshua, he had the mentality of a military general “Lead, follow or get out of the way!” Joshua did not have a business meeting to find out what the people wanted to do – He was commissioned to OBEY God not the people. This brings a great question to the surface – should we have business meetings? I know it is important to listen, but shouldn’t the command of God negate the wishes of the people. The Church was meant to go forth with the Gospel, not debate whether it is right or not. Joshua gave the people 3 days – get ready for we are going across the river into the Promised Land and leave this Wilderness behind! Oh, Joshua was 80 years old. Point You are not done until God says you are done.

In our day of 2020, I had so many grand expectations; I have not abandoned that vision. I do not know what lies ahead, but then neither did Joshua. Let us press forward to the high calling in Jesus. Most of all “LET US GET OUT OF THE WILDERNESS! Be strong and Courageous!

July 26, 2020

The God You Can Know; The God Who Wants to be Known

NLT.Phil.3.10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death

There has been quite an outpouring of tributes following the death of J. I. Packer. I would say more than I expected. I posted a very brief tribute to him at Thinking Out Loud, and just eight days ago I ran a series of quotations by him here at C201. But today I felt led to see if anyone had posted a larger book excerpt — transcribing things is half the battle — and found this excerpt from his most popular book.

Knowing God was first published in 1973, with a 20th Anniversary edition published in ’93. You can learn more about the book at the website of its publisher, InterVaristy Press (IVP), where you will also find this tribute. Knowing God may also be read as a 365-day devotional published by IVP under the title Knowing God Through the Year.

The excerpt below was not originally paragraphed so what appears may slightly vary from the paragraphing in my print copy (which I can’t locate right now!) Material below is © InterVarsity Press.

Knowing God

…[U]nlike horses, people keep secrets.

They do not show everybody all that is in their hearts. A few days are enough to get to know a horse as well as you will ever know it, but you may spend months and years doing things in company with another person and still have to say at the end of that time, “I don’t really know him at all.”

We recognize degrees in our knowledge of our fellow men. We know them, we say, well, not very well; just to shake hands with, intimately, or perhaps inside out, according to how much, or how little, they have opened up to us. Thus, the quality and extent of our knowledge of other people depends more on them than on us. Our knowing them is more directly the result of their allowing us to know them than of our attempting to get to know them.

When we meet, our part is to give them our attention and interest, to show them goodwill and to open up in a friendly way from our side. From that point, however, it is they, not we, who decide whether we are going to know them or not.

Imagine, now, that we are going to be introduced to someone whom we feel to be “above” us; whether in rank, or intellectual distinction, or professional skill, or personal sanctity, or in some other respect. The more conscious we are of our own inferiority, the more we shall feel that our part is simply to attend to this person respectfully and let him take the initiative in the conversation. (Think of meeting the queen of England or the president of the United States.) We would like to get to know this exalted person, but we fully realize that this is a matter for him to decide, not us. If he confines himself to courteous formalities with us, we may be disappointed, but we do not feel able to complain; after al, we had no claim on his friendship.

But if instead he starts at once to take us into his confidence, and tells us frankly what is in his mind on matters of common concern, and if he goes on to invite us to join him in particular undertakings he has planned, and asks us to make ourselves permanently available for this kind of collaboration whenever he needs us, then we shall feel enormously privileged, and it will make a world of difference to our general outlook. If life seemed unimportant and dreary hitherto, it will not seem so anymore, now that the great man has enrolled us among his personal assistants.

Here is something to write home about-and something to live up to!

Now this, so far as it goes, is an illustration of what it means to know God. Well might God say through Jeremiah, “Let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me”—for knowing God is a relationship calculated to thrill a person’s heart. What happens is that the almighty Creator, the Lord of hosts, the great God before whom the nations are as a drop in a bucket, comes to you and begins to talk to you through the words and truths of Holy Scripture.

Perhaps you have been acquainted with the Bible and Christian truth for many years, and it has meant little to you; but one day you wake up to the fact that God is actually speaking to you—you!—through the biblical message. As you listen to what God is saying, you find yourself brought very low; for God talks to you about your sin, and guilt, and weakness, and blindness, and folly, and compels you to judge yourself hopeless and helpless, and to cry out for forgiveness.

But this is not all.

You come to realize as you listen that God is actually opening his heart to you, making friends with you and enlisting you as a colleague; in Barth’s phrase, a covenant partner. It is a staggering thing, but it is true — the relationship in which sinful human beings know God is one in which God, so to speak, takes them onto his staff, to be henceforth his fellow workers (see 1 Cor 3:9) and personal friends.

The action of God in taking Joseph from prison to become Pharaoh’s Prime Minister is a picture of what he does to every Christian: from being Satan’s prisoner, you find yourself transferred to a position of trust in the service of God. At once life is transformed. Whether being a servant is a matter for shame or for pride depends on whose servant one is.

Many have said what pride they felt in rendering personal service to Sir Winston Churchill during World War II. How much more should it be a matter of pride and glorying to know and serve the Lord of heaven and earth! What, then, does the activity of knowing God involve?

Holding together the various elements involved in this relationship, as we have sketched it out, we must say that knowing God involves, first, listening to God’s Word and receiving it as the Holy Spirit interprets it, in application to oneself; second, noting God’s nature and character, as his Word and works reveal it; third, accepting his invitations and doing what he commands; fourth, recognizing and rejoicing in the love that he has shown in thus approaching you and drawing you into this divine fellowship.


NIV.I Cor.9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

July 21, 2020

Grace for People We Disagree With

Today we’re letting Eugene Peterson have the last word. And the first word. If you’re not a fan of The Message you can review the passage in a Bible translation with which you are more comfortable.

Earlier today someone wrote,

How would you respond to Christians who truly believe that the vaccine, masks, etc., are from the devil, and are end time prophecies? Would like your insight on this?

I very quickly wrote back,

It’s part of the larger question as to why Christians (especially conservative Christians; Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Charismatics; etc.) are driven to accept conspiracy theories [rather than accepting the science]. But arguing for science is seen as a slippery slope, if (as an example) the science points to evolutionary theory and the person is a young-earth creationist.

There’s some good teaching in scripture on the idea of “the brother who is weak in faith.” That one person’s faith compels them to believe/act one way while another believes/acts differently. And then Romans 14v4 says “To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.”

Believe me, I get to hear all the conspiracies. The NIV removed the deity of Christ. Rick Warren is trying to merge Christianity and Islam. Hilary Clinton is a reincarnation of Jezebel. Etc. Etc. You have to ignore a certain percentage of these. But with grace.

As I considered my own advice, I decided that the Romans 14 passage is very applicable for our times. Since some of you know sections of it from memory, I thought I’d let a very different translation arrest us in our tracks!

MSG.Rom.14.1 Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.

2-4 For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ’s table, wouldn’t it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn’t eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God’s welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.

Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.

6-9 What’s important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God’s sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you’re a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It’s God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other. That’s why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.

10-12 So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I’d say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture:

“As I live and breathe,” God says,
    “every knee will bow before me;
Every tongue will tell the honest truth
    that I and only I am God.”

So tend to your knitting. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.

13-14 Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I’m convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it.

15-16 If you confuse others by making a big issue over what they eat or don’t eat, you’re no longer a companion with them in love, are you? These, remember, are persons for whom Christ died. Would you risk sending them to hell over an item in their diet? Don’t you dare let a piece of God-blessed food become an occasion of soul-poisoning!

17-18 God’s kingdom isn’t a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness’ sake. It’s what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you’ll kill two birds with one stone: pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you.

19-21 So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault. You’re certainly not going to permit an argument over what is served or not served at supper to wreck God’s work among you, are you? I said it before and I’ll say it again: All food is good, but it can turn bad if you use it badly, if you use it to trip others up and send them sprawling. When you sit down to a meal, your primary concern should not be to feed your own face but to share the life of Jesus. So be sensitive and courteous to the others who are eating. Don’t eat or say or do things that might interfere with the free exchange of love.

22-23 Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others. You’re fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you’re not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you’re out of line. If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong.



Friday’s devotional here has been amended. It contained a link to a fundraising platform for one of our related ministries, but as the campaign reached its goal of $4,000 — for which are thankful — the information is no longer relevant.

Are you a giver? Many ministries are sustained by the generous and loving financial gifts of those whose ears are attuned to God when He prompts them to give. But the last several months have disrupted so many of our routines. Let me suggest that, if you are able during these unusual times, to consider how and who you might be able to help and encourage.

Do your giving
While you’re living
So you’re knowing
Where it’s going

January 28, 2020

Character Surgery

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Today we return to the writing of Gary Henry at WordPoints. Click the individual titles below to forward these devotions to a friend.

The Great Physician

“When Jesus heard it, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance’” (Mark 2:17).

OUR MOST SERIOUS AILMENTS ARE NOT PHYSICAL BUT SPIRITUAL.

We are hurt far more by the malignancies in our character than by the illnesses in our body. And it is the removal of these sins in the heart that God is concerned with. The Great Physician desires to restore our spiritual health and wholeness.

If we want to improve, we must be honest and open to the truth about our character right now. Not even the Great Physician can help us if we’re not willing to be examined. Trying to hide our symptoms and pretending that nothing very serious is wrong will only result in our getting worse. An accurate diagnosis will be humbling, to be sure, but we should still want to know the whole truth. David’s prayer is that of an honest man: “Search me, O God, and know my heart . . . see if there is any wicked way in me” (Psalm 139:23,24). We must desire to see ourselves as God sees us.

But more than that, we must cultivate confidence that God knows what He’s doing. Whether we understand the wisdom of His plan or not, we must trust both the accuracy of His diagnosis and the effectiveness of His treatment. We must also have the courage to submit to the healing process that He prescribes. The cancer cannot be cut away from our character without radical surgery. Because sin is so entangled in our thinking, the purging operation is always painful and often lengthy. But as with physical disease, if we’re not willing to endure momentary pain in order to become healthy later on, our only option is to get sicker and sicker. We can stay in our sickly “comfort” zone or we can move toward greater health, but not both at the same time. “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

How much commitment do we have to the truth about ourselves? For all our talk about loving the truth, do we really desire to see all that God sees when He examines our hearts? There will be no redemption for those unwilling to face reality.

“When we go to our meeting with God, we should go like a patient to his doctor, first to be thoroughly examined and afterwards to be treated for our ailment. Then something will happen when you pray” (O. Hallesby).


Gary often posts more than one article per day. So as we did last time, here’s a bonus item for you.


Child-Like Wonder

“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

IT IS EASY FOR A CHILD TO LOVE THE THINGS THAT GOD HAS MADE AND TO BE DRAWN BY THESE THINGS TO LOVE GOD HIMSELF.

Innocent and free, a child responds very naturally to goodness and beauty; he or she takes genuine delight in the multifaceted mysteries of creation. A cloud . . . a tree . . . a squirrel. There is nothing that is not of interest, nothing that does not make the heart throb with wonder and longing for something (or Someone) beyond.

A time comes, however, if the child lives long enough, when these things begin to lose their interest. And the reason? Sin has entered the heart, throwing everything into disarray. There is now delusion and falsehood. Values have been turned upside down. Cynicism has set in. The child, now no longer a child, is busy, not enjoying the creation, but trying to own it and manipulate it to selfish advantage. Now, if he ever notices a cloud, a tree, or a squirrel, he goes to one of two extremes: either he

(1) disregards them completely, or
(2) worships them rather than their Creator.

All of this is profoundly sad. Yet it would be far sadder if it were not for the gospel of Jesus Christ, through which it is possible to be forgiven and to recover the child-like wonder and honest humility with which we used to respond to God’s goodness. The child that we used to be is not gone forever but simply buried under layers of adult pride and busyness. We should be encouraged to know that there are choices we’re capable of making that will open our hearts back up to the powerful pull of truth and joy.

We need to make these choices and go back to our younger hearts. “Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus said. In the kingdom, there are many new things to be learned. But before we can learn them, there is a good deal of grown-up “stuff” that needs to be unlearned, especially our desire for counterfeit pleasures rather than the real ones that God has provided.

“I was a little stranger who was surrounded by innumerable joys when I arrived here . . . I knew nothing of sickness or death. In the absence of these I was entertained like an angel with the works of God. Heaven and earth sang my Creator’s praise” (Thomas Traherne).


Learn more about Gary’s approach to devotional writing at this link.

December 11, 2018

The Holy Spirit: In Us, Helping Us, Glorifying Christ

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Today we’re returning to a website we visited in 2014, All About Reflections.

Who Is The Holy Spirit

Who is the Holy Spirit – God in Us
Who is the Holy Spirit? Consider these two verses:

“‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ — which means, ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:23).

“Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:6-7).

The disciples of Jesus Christ, undoubtedly, never fully comprehended that it was actually God in human form who walked among them, taught them, communed with them, and loved them. Yes, they saw Him perform miracles, saw Him heal the sick, saw Him raise the dead. They even heard Him forgive the sins of many who came to Him, to the outrage of the Jewish leaders of His day. They saw the wind and the waves obeyed Him and that He spoke with eloquence, authority, and wisdom beyond that of the scribes. But God? How could they have understood the God who created the universe had actually come to fellowship with them and had called them into His service? As soon as they began to grasp this truth, however, He began to speak of leaving them, of suffering, and dying. They were filled with grief and sorrow at the thought of His departure.

Jesus comforted them by disclosing an even greater miracle. If it was an enormous thing that God should come in a body and walk among men, how much greater stretch of faith for the disciples to believe that God would actually and literally dwell in man?

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17).

The promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit — the Spirit of truth — was a two-fold blessing. First, unlike Jesus, who would go back into heaven to return to the Father, the Holy Spirit would be with the disciples, forever. Secondly, He would be in them.

Who is the Holy Spirit – The Spirit glorifies Christ
The Holy Spirit was sent to earth when Jesus took his place at the right hand of the Father. He was manifested on the day of Pentecost.

“Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear” (Acts 2:33).

Jesus, God in the flesh, dwelt on the earth for thirty-three years, being intimately involved with the disciples for three years. Jesus Christ had come to manifest and glorify the Father, to make Him known to the disciples. Jesus Christ never spoke His own words or performed deeds of His own choosing. No. He only did what He was instructed to do by the Father.

“For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say” (John 12:49-50).

Jesus assured the disciples that the Holy Spirit would also interact with them in the same way, only the Spirit would bring glory to the Son. “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you” (John 16:13-15).

What a wonderful depiction of the three-fold yet inseparable manifestation of the Godhead; who can really comprehend it? But this was God’s plan, to bring many sons into fellowship with Himself. And so, as Christ came to earth to show mankind the personality and glory of God, the Holy Spirit was sent to dwell within man, making the things of Christ real and alive to him. When a person accepts Christ into their life, Christ enters into them in the person of the Holy Spirit. The body becomes the temple of the living God, now sanctified for the master’s use.

Who is the Holy Spirit – God as our Helper
The Holy Spirit is God, our Helper. This is the ultimate goal of His indwelling. In the ancient language the word for Holy Spirit which is alternately translated, ‘counselor’ or ‘comforter’ actually signifies “called to one’s side.” Therefore the Holy Spirit is He who was called along side of us, to help us. But the Holy Spirit is God, the Creator, the Sovereign; it is He, Himself, who is our helper. He does not simply give us help, He is our Help.

How does He help us? The Holy Spirit teaches us; the Holy Spirit guides and leads us; the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf according to the will of God. The Holy Spirit appropriates the righteousness, peace, and joy of the Lord to us. The Holy Spirit reveals to us the deep things of God, things previously hidden to man. We have power now that the Holy Spirit has come to us. He is the Spirit of God and Christ; He is made everything to us and His indwelling is the guarantee of our future inheritance which surpasses even the wonder of our relationship to God, today. Perhaps the greatest thing of all is that by the Spirit, we cry, “Our Father.” The Spirit makes us know instinctively that we are the children of God. Even in our weakest moments that cry cannot be stilled as we call to Him, “Oh, my Father, help me.”

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:15-17).


Bonus article: We had another article from a new source we had hoped to bring you this week which we could not publish because another organization has first rights. It’s about finding the Advent story in the Book of Jonah. If that interests you, click here to read.

September 4, 2018

Spiritual Alignment

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:06 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Andy and Gina Elmes had a different analogy (or metaphor, if you prefer) which I found rather interesting.

Correct alignment is important

2 Corinthians 6:14, NKJV
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?

Any Chiropractor or Physiotherapist will tell you that correct alignment in your body’s frame is very important for good health and optimum physical performance. I believe that God thinks the same about our whole lives – physical and spiritual – and is ever at work to bring correct alignment to the various areas of our lives that may have fallen out of alignment or become misaligned.

Naturally speaking, your body only has to be slightly out of alignment for it to cause great discomfort to your life. So it is with the unseen parts of who we are also. We can be out of alignment in our beliefs – you only have to be slightly wrong in what you believe to fall into a state of deception that can harm you and others. The Holy Spirit is constantly teaching us truth to bring good alignment to what we believe, so don’t resist His correcting hands. Relationally, bad alignment can be a very real issue too, especially when it comes to relationships being out of spiritual alignment.

Because God loves us and wants us to walk in correct alignment He can come sometimes like a Chiropractor to bring a healthy alignment to our relational structure. This can involve strengthening certain relationships, other times adding new ones, or even removing some. I have seen the Lord uncouple me from different relationships at different times, and though at the time it seemed confusing and uncomfortable it always brought about health and wellbeing a little later.

We often refer to God’s hands as the hands of the Gardener, or the Potter, but will you allow His hands to be like those of a Chiropractor in your life today, shifting and resetting things for your good? Don’t be surprised if you hear the sound of cracking and popping around your life at this time – that is merely the sound of things coming into better alignment. As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual. You may well be sore for a couple of days during the process but after you will feel stronger and fitter. Commit yourself to His hands and trust Him to align your life correctly – He knows what He is doing.

Bring correct alignment to our lives, Lord. Amen.


Because their devotionals are shorter, we’re bringing you a bonus installment today!


Responding from a different spirit

Matthew 5:38-45, NKJV
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven;”

So we have established that, as Christians, we are people of a ‘different spirit’ and that when we realise this we can make the decision to respond to people and situations we face differently to those around us who don’t know Jesus. It’s this I believe that causes us to stick out in life, not the big Bibles we carry or the stickers on our car bumpers! It’s when people see us responding differently, or from a different spirit, that we catch their attention and cause them to want to know what it is that makes us different. This is a good thing that can point them towards the Jesus we love and serve.

Our text … is a sobering one, and is embedded in a section called The Beatitudes, which are the teachings of Jesus concerning the attitudes we should have as followers of Him. Notice that they specifically call us to be different in our responses, that when we face things that seem to strike us, take from us or put unreasonable demands on us, that we are to respond in a way that is completely different to how the world we live in trained us to respond. This, I believe, is where the rubber hits the road with our Christianity. If we just respond to situations mentioned in today’s verses in the same way as everyone else then we really are no different to anyone else. Yet the truth remains: we really are different, His Spirit now lives in us to enable us and empower us to do and respond like we could not do before. When, by faith, we tap into His Spirit within us we will be amazed at what we are capable of, in the way we handle things and respond.

Our standard must be Jesus

Let’s face it, none of us will ever face what Jesus did: the beating, rejection and humiliation He faced over the period He was judged and crucified was horrific and beyond anything we could fully comprehend. Yet, moments before He gave up His Spirit, listen to what He said concerning a humanity that did not deserve Him or what He was doing for them:

Luke 23:34, NKJV
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

Even when it’s tough, even when it seems unfair, let us keep Jesus as our standard and example of how we are to respond. Let us dig deep and draw on His Spirit now within us to do what we never thought we could. As we do we will most certainly stick out and catch people’s attention in a world where people are desperately seeking something that is authentically different.


To get these sent to you by email, go to Great Big Life and click on Breakfast of Champions.


 

September 21, 2015

The Four Signposts

Daniel 7:

In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.

Daniel said: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.

Revelation 6:1:

I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!”

One of the things we don’t spend a lot of time on here at C201 is prophecy. Personally, I find it very difficult, and I know some of your eyes glaze over when you see texts like those above. Furthermore, it seems like there are many voices out there who hold different interpretations on the same passage, not to mention the occasions where world events render past interpretations no longer applicable; but this should not stop us from pressing in to this scripture genre.

Still — how can I say this? — we need to be reminded that this content is in the Bible. It’s there for us to explore and understand and then, after events have come to pass, see that God, existing outside of time, knew these things all along.

This weekend I was reading about Mark Davidson, author of the book Daniel Revisited. The book was released by WestBow, but has been acquired by and will be reissued by Thomas Nelson in December. I went to his website, The Four Signposts, and found the article below.

Again, I know that some of you just are not drawn to understanding the nuances of the prophetic passages — books like Daniel, Ezekiel, Revelation and even sections of Matthew — but the Bible is really clear that a day of judgement is coming. Too often we have favorite themes and Bible literature that we study at the expense of others. I believe that Christianity 201 readers need to have at least a passing familiarity with these sections of scripture. Including me.

(Note: In Mark’s first paragraph I’ve added links to the full scriptures excerpted above, and also emphasis in other paragraphs.)

daniel-revisited-cover-smallThe Four Signposts: A Summary

The Four Signposts are four sets of events which will occur, one after the other, prior to the Tribulation or Rapture. These events are derived from the Biblical prophecies of the four beasts in Daniel 7:1-27, the ram and goat in Daniel 8:1-26, and the four horsemen in Revelation 6:1-8. The fulfillment of these events identified in prophecy, have been, and will continue to be, reported as news stories in the Middle East.

In my book, Daniel Revisited, I go into detail of why these three prophecies qualify as identifying the Four Signposts. These three prophecies all share three things in common:

1) They are all applicable to, and will be fulfilled in, modern-day end times just prior to the Tribulation (passages in Daniel 7 and 8 indicate this is so);
2) They all describe the nations involved in, the actions of these nations, and the societal conditions of the geographical areas involved, during the times just immediately prior to the appearance of Antichrist;
3) They all describe the same set of events, just from different perspectives.

The First Signpost includes the lion with wings that is forced to stand upright and its heart replaced, and the first horseman that rides a white horse. The democratizing of the nation of Iraq and the career of its former leader Saddam Hussein, are the news events that fulfilled these prophecies.

The Second Signpost includes the bear that is higher on one side, the ram with two long horns, and the second horseman that rides the red horse. The supreme leader is the first long horn on the ram; the leadership of Iran’s IRGC is the second horn coming up last and longer.  Iran will invade many countries and cause chaos across much of the Middle East.  They will most likely interrupt the Gulf oil supply and end America’s petrodollar causing economic chaos.

The Third Signpost includes the four-headed leopard, the goat with the one great horn, and the third horseman who rides the black horse. The news events to fulfill this signpost are still completely in our future. It will include a four-nation Sunni confederacy taking back the conquests of Iran, and ending Iran in the form that it currently exists. Due to the probable cut off of oil, food will be available but will be very expensive. We do see today some events setting up the Third Signpost. In addition to food price hikes we have seen in the last few years, the governments of Turkey, Egypt and Syria are becoming Islamist. This situation is required for fulfillment of the Third Signpost.

Finally, the Fourth Signpost includes the terrible ten-horned beast, the little horn on one of the four horns of the goat, and the fourth horseman who rides the green horse. The news events to fulfill this signpost are even further in our future. It starts at the end of the Third Signpost where the great new nation that covers much of the Middle East fragments into four pieces. The man who is to be Antichrist will arise out of one of these four new nations, take it over, conquer two others, and have the fourth submit to him. The remainder of the Islamic realm then will also submit to him. At this point, a pre-Trib Rapture and the seven-year Tribulation are imminent.

These Four Signposts are warnings to God’s Church. By watching these Signposts, we may know – as our world goes through each week, month, and year – what season of God’s plan we are in during these end times prior to the Tribulation. These news events will be truly terrible due to their causing economic and mental anguish among the populations of the world due to the cutoff of oil. Islam may be seen as gaining the upper hand and western civilization as being on the decline. But these events, instead of being continual bad news, can be seen instead as fulfillment of detailed and absolute prophecy that must be fulfilled in order for God’s promises to come to fruition.

Those of us who are His must prepare.  Those on the fence in the churches will have their last chance to repent and follow Christ wholeheartedly.  The unbelievers can be witnessed to and shown that the Bible is the living and breathing word of God and is telling all of us what is playing out right before our eyes.

June 28, 2014

Devotion – Part 2

Yesterday we looked at the use of the word devotion itself in the NIV, and today we continue looking at the way the word is used.

Isaiah 38:2-3

Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

In Jeremiah God is saying that it’s easy to lose devotion over time:

Jeremiah 2:2-3

“Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem:

“This is what the Lord says:

“‘I remember the devotion of your youth,
    how as a bride you loved me
and followed me through the wilderness,
    through a land not sown.
Israel was holy to the Lord,
    the firstfruits of his harvest;
all who devoured her were held guilty,
    and disaster overtook them,’”
declares the Lord.

This passage indicates that Israel has lots its devotion to God, and I can’t help but be reminded of the verse in Revelation 2 which speaks of losing your first love:

You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

The Apostle Paul is concerned about the Corinthians losing their devotion through distraction to the things of the world.

1 Corinthians 7:29-36

29 What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

32 I would like you to be free from concern…. 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

He repeats a warning concerning this in his other letter to them.

2 Corinthians 11:2-4

I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.

So as you consider these passages, it should now be very clear that devotion is something we have, not something we do.

Go Deeper: The Dictionary of Bible Themes provides more verses on this subject along with a definition:

Wholehearted commitment to God, to another person or to a task. God’s people are encouraged to show such commitment.

God’s people are to be wholehearted in their devotion to him

Dt 6:5; Ro 12:1 See also Dt 30:1-3; Jdg 5:2; Ps 119:2; Jer 29:13

Examples of devotion to God

Ps 42:1; Php 3:7-8 Caleb and Joshua: Nu 14:6-9; Nu 32:11-12; Jos 14:7-12
2Ki 23:1-3 pp 2Ch 34:29-32 Josiah and his subjects; 2Ch 15:12-15 the people of Judah The psalmists: Ps 27:1-4; Ps 40:7-8; Ps 84:2; Ps 119:57,135-136 Paul: 1Co 2:2; 1Co 9:26-27; 2Co 1:8-10; Php 3:13-14; Col 1:24,28-29

June 27, 2014

Devotion to God

In addition to a number of keywords that will help search engines reach articles here, each day I also include the tag “daily Bible study” or “daily devotions” (or some variants of each). I want to always make sure that people who are looking for this type of content are able to locate it here.

But the word “devotions” (in the plural) appears nowhere in the NIV. We speak of “doing devotions” or “reading a devotional book” but rather than demonstrating our desire to spend time with God, or using the act of reading to signify our love for God, rather, our time spent in the Bible and related readings is in indicator of the devotion to God we already possess.

To put it another way, I am not spending this time studying and reading because it will, in itself, get me closer to God.  Rather, out of gratitude for the grace already experienced, and in a desire to crowd out all other distractions, I take this time as an expression of a devotion that already exists, and as a pledge that it always will exist.

I commit myself to God afresh in this time, and although other thoughts and ideas will crowd in at times, and despite the fact that not every day will mark progress in the Christian life, I give myself to this because to not do so is a denial of the importance and relevance of wanting to continue further on the journey.

So while we don’t see “devotions” in the Bible — at least the word — we do see “devotion” used eleven times in the NIV, many of which are a number of occurences in I Chronicles. Take a few minutes to look at four of the first six of these passages (there are two additional ones in Chronicles) then we’ll look at the other five tomorrow.

2 Kings 20:2-5

Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord.

1 Chronicles 28:8-9

“So now I charge you in the sight of all Israel and of the assembly of the Lord, and in the hearing of our God: Be careful to follow all the commands of the Lord your God, that you may possess this good land and pass it on as an inheritance to your descendants forever.

“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.

1 Chronicles 29:2-4

With all my resources I have provided for the temple of my God—gold for the gold work, silver for the silver, bronze for the bronze, iron for the iron and wood for the wood, as well as onyx for the settings, turquoise,  stones of various colors, and all kinds of fine stone and marble—all of these in large quantities. Besides, in my devotion to the temple of my God I now give my personal treasures of gold and silver for the temple of my God, over and above everything I have provided for this holy temple: three thousand talents of gold (gold of Ophir) and seven thousand talents of refined silver, for the overlaying of the walls of the buildings…

1 Chronicles 29:18-19

18 Lord, the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you. 19 And give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, statutes and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided.”

April 27, 2013

When God Doesn’t Say Yes

Six months ago we introduced you to WhyTheology,  the blog of Troy Medley. This look at the book of James appeared as part of a series of Lent readings.  Click here to read this one, and the click around to see more of the series.

Text
KJV Below (Link to NIV)

13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.

14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Comment
The main thrust here is that no matter what our circumstances, happy or sad, troubled or free, we should be in communication with God because it “availeth much.” However, this passage does raise some issues. What about the times I prayed in faith and the sick weren’t healed? Do I simply have to wait until they are “raised up” on the last day?

On the one hand it is tempting to say that our prayers merely change us, but not God (I think C.S. Lewis said something similar), but that doesn’t seem to be the case with this passage. Here, it seems that our prayers do accomplish something. That it is important to bring others into the prayer and fervently pray. So how do we reconcile the disconnect?

I don’t know for certain, but I have an idea. I think of it like I think of my relationship with my (still very young) children, after all, Jesus taught us to think of God as our Father. Now, when my kids ask me for something, I will do everything in my power to get it for them (or do it for them), at least most of the time. This doesn’t mean I didn’t have other plans, I very well may have and they were good plans, but there are certain aspects of those plans that can be done other times, or the particular aspects of which may be open to change (you want Strawberry Jelly instead of Grape? no problem).

Yet, other times it is not in my children’s best interest for me to fulfill their requests. If they want another cookie at dinner, sometimes I need to say no because the sugar makes it hard for them to sleep, and they’ve really had a large meal. Sometimes it’s even trickier. For example, my daughter likes to get herself stuck in places and ask for help. Sometimes, I leave her there for a bit because a) she really can get it out and its good for her problem solving skills, or b) she needs to face (at least briefly) the consequences of her actions, or c) sometimes I’m doing something else.

Now, I’m not suggesting God is ever busy doing something else, but I am suggesting that, in some way, perhaps a way we can’t see or even begin to comprehend (my kids don’t understand the complexity of sugar and how it affects sleep and future health issues), but that doesn’t mean it’s not for their betterment. Remember, we have a full eternity with God coming up, that’s the ultimate benefit of prayer. Sometimes, it may be in our best interest, in a way we can’t begin to fathom yet, for God to say “no,” even for our fervent prayer. Yet in that prayer, the “no” is still for our betterment.
Question
Have you ever had God say “no”? What might that situation look like if you put it in terms of a young child to a parent who says “no”? Do you think that our relationship with God can still be improved through the “no” answers that God gives to our prayers? In what ways?

December 5, 2012

Wasting our Weakness

adrian plass

Adrian Plass:

Here’s a question for you.  What is it that impedes Christians?  Stock answers to this question include sin, disobedience, poor prayer life, failure to read the Bible and lack of fellowship.  It will not have escaped your notice (I hope) that these are all areas of negative behaviour.  We too easily forget that, in Matthew 23, Jesus reframed the Ten Commandments into a list of two wholly positive ones, both of which contain and displace negative behaviour rather than majoring and dwelling on it.

Bearing all this in mind, I would like to offer my own list of impeding factors.  It includes principles, faked spiritual excitement, excessive religious behaviour, and, the one I invite you to consider for a few moments, waste of weakness.  How is it possible to waste weakness?  Remember this passage from 2 Corinthians 12?

II Corinthians (NLT) 12:6 If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

There you are, then.  The stunning fact is that God’s power is made perfect in our weaknesses.  Perhaps because the words are fairly familiar, we sort of think we know what this means, don’t we?  But the concept is worth dwelling on.  Weakness is not a barrier to service. On the contrary, if we are brave enough to wholeheartedly offer God those areas of our lives where we fail, he is likely to recycle them and use them for his own purposes, Paul’s conversion and subsequent career being a perfect example of this phenomenon.  Even more importantly, his strength will actually be more clearly demonstrated to the rest of the world, precisely because he works through us despite our failings.

Our weaknesses.  Great opportunities.  Let’s not waste them.  Here’s a thorny question.  Does all this actually mean anything?  After all, it is so much not the way of the world.  Want another one?  Here you are then.  Are you held back by a sense of inadequacy and weakness? What would it cost to surrender yourself to God as a public example of the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit?  Maybe God is expecting too much?  Why shouldn’t we focus mainly on our strengths?  What do you think?

 

~Adrian Plass, War of the Worlds (Authentic Media, 2011) pp. 69-70