Christianity 201

September 10, 2013

There is a River

I saw this on Brian McLaren’s blog… it’s actually from the devotional blog iDisciple, the author is N. Gordon Cosby and it appeared under the original title Trust The Stream. Water imagery flows (pardon the pun) through scripture, and so we don’t forget, over 70% of the earth’s surface is water. I’ve added a related worship song video (audio only) at the bottom; Psalms Alive is one of my favorite worship song collections.


“There is a river whose streams gladden God’s city…” (Psalm 46:4, CEB).

The stream flowing through our lives is from eternity to eternity. It is artesian. It is totally adequate. Everything we need is borne by that stream. Its origin is the realm beyond, and it carries infinite resources. In this space-time realm, conditioned as we are, the stream can seem to be a trickle. It seems puny against the drugs we’re battling, against the divisions among us or the power of greed that fuels our economy.

When we’re up against all the world’s needs and lacks–the way we perceive life–the stream seems inadequate. But in fact, it is a powerful, surging, cleansing tide that purifies all it touches. It is a grace torrent. It flows irrespective of merit. It carries everything that a human being has ever needed–and could ever want. Whatever we need will flow by at just the opportune moment. Our problem is that we’re not attuned to the stream. We don’t see it. We’re not even looking in the river’s direction.

But when we wait in expectancy, looking at the stream and then recognizing what we need as it floats by, we simply reach out and take the gift. It’s an effortless way of living. Usually we’re not attuned to effortlessness. We’re too busy striving. We’re holding forth and carrying on and trying to reach our goals. The wisdom of the stream is the opposite of this. What I’m talking about is moving from a conceptual awareness of God’s care–the idea of God’s providence–to trusting the flow of that stream that carries everything we need and will bring it at just the opportune moment.

Jesus found it difficult to understand his disciples’ anxiety. He was so in the river, he was so aware that the stream carried everything that was needed, that he couldn’t understand why others were having so much trouble with the idea. What he says is to set our minds on God’s realm, God’s justice, before everything else. Everything else will be given by the stream. This is different than achievement and different than making things happen. Do not be anxious about tomorrow, Jesus says. You’ll have plenty to think about when tomorrow comes. Now the stream is flowing.

Once we get accustomed to noticing the stream, and we spend more time near the stream, taking from it what is being given, there comes another step: actually getting into the water and resting in its flow. Even when the flow is a torrent, we know we are safe. We trust the flow. We become non-resistant. We become receptive. We trust the power of the divine presence, which longs to take our one little life to its divine destination. Even if we’re in deep water, we trust the flow and are not afraid. We simply wait in expectancy to round the next bend, looking in wonder at the view. Always a new view. Effortlessness, expectancy, and wonder are how we live, rather than striving.

Faith, in the biblical sense, is trusting the flow and reveling in the view and being carried beyond all existing boundaries. Faith is being excited about the final destination, even when the destination is a mystery. When Jesus says, “Believe in God, believe also in me,” he is saying, “Get into the stream with us. It’s a stream of pure grace and mercy. Go into its depths and find us there.”

Gordon Cosby, along with his wife, Mary, established Church of the Saviour in Washington D.C. in 1947; Gordon entered into the full presence of God earlier this year, well into his 90s. This meditation is reproduced with permission from inwardoutward.org.

April 1, 2013

When Panic Strikes

I have always been a very nervous person. I worry, and I worry that I worry. It seems inconsistent with the life of abiding in Christ we should be living. But sometimes the circumstances of life seem overwhelming. So when Pete Wilson spoke on this verse yesterday, I was all ears. (I watch Pete at 7:00 PM EST Sundays at this link.)

Sometimes in Bible translation, there is consistency from version to version as to a particular passage, and at other times there are a wider variety of terms at the translators disposal.  This is one of those.  This appeared earlier today at Thinking Out Loud.

Last night I was watching the online version of Cross Point Church’s Sunday service; the one where Pete Wilson takes live questions after he preaches.  He mentioned that he reads a chapter of scripture a day and is always amazed at how timely it is to whatever circumstance he is facing. Then he told a story of how God used a scripture reference in an unlikely place to meet a need in his own life.

But Pete’s sermon also had something I needed — and still need — to hear. One of those verses that arrests you in your tracks. It’s the rendering of Isaiah 28:16 in the updated NIV:

16 So this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who relies on it
will never be stricken with panic.

It’s that last phrase, which I underlined, that really got me.

The Message makes a rare use of capital letters here:

And this is the meaning of the stone:
A TRUSTING LIFE WON’T TOPPLE.

The ESV has:

‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’

The CEB:

…the one who trusts won’t tremble

The Amplified:

..he who believes (trusts in, relies on, and adheres to that Stone) will not be ashamed or give way or hasten away [in sudden panic].

The NLT:

It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on.
Whoever believes need never be shaken.

Finally, the NASB:

A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed.
He who believes in it will not be disturbed.

Part of life in the modern world is the potential for fear and anxiety.  The translators use: disturbed, panic, shaken, trembling… This is a verse to claim for those who know what it means to panic.  Am I trusting in the cornerstone? Positionally, generally yes, but we live in two worlds and there are times I don’t allow my faith to permeate or penetrate my circumstances.

Blog Update:

While Thinking Out Loud continues to be my most visible blog project, Christianity 201 is fast becoming the more active franchise. Each day more people sign on for this potpourri of Bible study discussion and devotional thoughts culled from the widest variety of the Christian blogosphere.

At the same time, going on a daily “hunting and gathering” routine can be exhausting, so I’m looking for someone who is already familiar with the WordPress platform who might want to eventually have editing privileges here. To start, needed is someone who has been blogging regularly for at least a year themselves, so I can see where they are coming from, and then they need to be able to source out material suitable for C201 subject to the guidelines posted in the sidebar.You also need to be able to generate appropriate post tags; and need to work with HTML in terms of setting blockquotes within quotes and adding color to scripture passages and subheadings and adding to superscripts on Bible references. (Note: This particular theme is not H1, H2 responsive so you have to change font sizes.) Initially, submissions would be emailed in coded text.

A needle in a haystack person, basically; but if you feel that’s you, start by contacting me at the address on the “Submissions” page. Anyone who does not feel up to this task, but wants to send a particularly strong C201 guest post is welcomed to do that anytime by email.
 

Scripture portions from various translations quoted at Christianity 201 are always in green to remind us that the Scriptures have LIFE!

February 5, 2013

Meditating on God’s Divine Providence and Love: Psalm 31

A completely different format today that I hope you will fully engage with. It certainly fits our situation, and I suspect it does for many of you. This was found at the blog of Tim Chester where, as always, you’re encouraged to read it at source.


In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
2 Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,

a strong fortress to save me.
3 Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
4 Free me from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hands I commit my spirit;
redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth.

  • From what do you need ‘rescue’ and ‘refuge’?
  • What’s the ‘trap’ in which you could fall? In other words, what temptation comes with your circumstances?
  • Highlight each time the Psalmist says ‘refuge’, ‘rock’ and ‘fortress’. How is God a refuge for you in the midst of your current problems?

6 I hate those who cling to worthless idols;
I trust in the LORD.
7 I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
for you saw my affliction
and knew the anguish of my soul.
8 You have not handed me over to the enemy
but have set my feet in a spacious place.

  • What makes the Psalmist glad? How might these truths comfort you?
  • What does it mean for God to put you in a ‘spacious place’ in the midst of your current problems?

9. Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and my body with grief.
10 My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak …

  • How do your current problems make you feel?
  • Do you find it helpful to express those emotions before God?

14 But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies;
from those who pursue me.
16 Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your unfailing love.
17 Let me not be put to shame, O LORD,
for I have cried out to you …

  • ‘My times are in your hands.’ ‘Had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.’ (Charles Spurgeon) Do you believe this? How does it comfort you?
  • How does God’s face shine on you in the midst of your problems? In other words, how is God being good to you?

19. How great is your goodness,
that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all
on those who take refuge in you.
20 In the shelter of your presence you hide them
from all human intrigues;
you keep them safe in your dwelling
from accusing tongues.

  • God has great goodness stored up for you. Compare the hope you have in Christ with what you think you lack in life.
  • How do you think of God ‘sheltering you’ and ‘hiding you’?

21 Praise be to the LORD,
for he showed his wonderful love to me
when I was in a city under siege.
22 In my alarm I said,
“I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
when I called to you for help.
23 Love the LORD, all his saints!
The LORD preserves those who are true to him,
but the proud he pays back in full.
24 Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the LORD.

  • What comfort has the Psalmist given to those who feel abandoned by God?
  • Who could you tell how God has helped you? Who could you encourage to be strong, take heart and hope in the LORD?

Making Psalm 31 Your Own

O LORD, I take refuge in you from ____________.
Don’t let me be ashamed by my problems.
Be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.
Free me from the temptation to ___________.
I put myself in your hands for you are my refuge.

I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
for you see my  ___________.
and you know the anguish of my soul.
When I feel trapped by my circumstances
lead me into a spacious place.

Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am in distress.
Both my body and soul feel weak with sorrow.
But I trust in you for you are my Father.
My times are in your hands.
My problem ___________ is in your hands.
Let your face shine on me.

How great is the goodness you have stored up for me.
It’s much greater than  ___________.
In the shelter of your presence
you keep me safe me from  ___________.

Praise the LORD, for he shows his wonderful love to me
when I am besieged by  ___________.
In my alarm I said, “God has abandoned me.”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy.

Love the LORD for he protects his people.
Be strong, take heart, hope in the LORD.

September 30, 2011

Praying Through The Tough Times

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A few different things today…

First, I want to thank those of you who were praying for me.  Today I got my medical report and it was good, and we are very grateful to God for answered prayer.

Second, I don’t know why, but I felt a really strong leading to post an old song here that was a popular church solo, I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked.  After looking at what was available, I went with this one by Larnelle Harris which you’ll find after today’s devotional.  (It’s actually recorded from a Gaither Music DVD; I guess I’m not cool/hip anymore!)  Again, I’m not sure why this is here, but if it’s for you, let me know.

Finally, that brings us today’s thoughts.  This has been an exhausting week, but this appeared at T.O.L. on Tuesday and I wanted to share it with any who might have missed it. This of course was written before item one above, so I modified it somewhat…

When I’m going through a period of intense personal pressure, I find myself wondering about the condition and authenticity of my faith in light of the anxiety I am experiencing. There, I said it. Scratch my name off your list of Christian superstars. Whaddya mean it wasn’t there?

I’m a worrier. A sometimes chronic worrier.

My mother often quotes Jeremiah 12:5 to me at times like this:

If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?

In the NIV it reads,

 “If you have raced with men on foot
and they have worn you out,
how can you compete with horses?
If you stumble in safe country,
how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?

In other words, if you panic and are stressed by a little pressure, what are you going to do when something serious happens? Except this week things were more serious. “The swelling of the Jordan,” so to speak.

I say all this to say that it is so easy to espouse certain positional truths in scripture, but it is another matter entirely to live out those things practically when circumstances require a response.

In other words, we generally have all the answers — for someone else. It’s easy to straighten out someone else’s life; it’s hard to accept God’s instructions when we are the ones under pressure.

Mind you, I can’t imagine not having God to turn to.

I walked today where Jesus walked,
In days of long ago.
I wandered down each path He knew,
With reverent step and slow.

Those little lanes, they have not changed,
A sweet peace fills the air.
I walked today where Jesus walked,
And felt Him close to me.And felt His presence there.

My pathway led through Bethlehem,
A memory’s ever sweet.Ah! mem’ries ever sweet
The little hills of Galilee,
That knew His childish feet.That knew those childish feet

The Mount of Olives, hallowed scenes,
That Jesus knew before
I saw the mighty Jordan roll,
As in the days of yore.

I knelt today where Jesus knelt,
Where all alone he prayed.
The Garden of Gethsemane,
My heart felt unafraid.

I picked my heavy burden up,
And with Him at my side,And with Him by my side
I climbed the Hill of Calvary,
I climbed the Hill of Calvary,
I climbed the Hill of Calvary,
Where on the Cross He died!

I walked today where Jesus walked,
And felt Him close to me.

April 11, 2011

Laura Story: Blessings

The worship song, and the story behind it:

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long we’d have faith to believe

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not our home

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

The story behind the song:

There’s also an “official” video of this story available at this link.

Now that you know the story, click and listen to the song one more time.

October 30, 2010

We’ll Get Mikey To Try It, He Hates Everything

If the title of this post means anything to you, then it means that you remember a certain Life cereal commercial.   Besides, I didn’t think people would get my first choice:

We’ll Get Micaiah to Prophesy, He Hates Everything

King Ahab was convinced that Micaiah was a bad news prophet who never had anything good to say.  I was just listening to a sermon which referenced him when today, I discovered that Stephen & Brooksyne Weber devoted TWO devotional posts to him this week.

I decided to combine them as one long one here because this is all worth reading:


Only What God Says

But Micaiah said, “As surely as the LORD lives, I can tell him only what my God says” (2 Chronicles 18:13).

“What’s popular is not always right and what’s right is not always popular.”  This is a quote that hung on a banner in the youth room of our church in New England for many years.  More to the point, “What’s popular in the world is usually not right for those seeking to please God and what’s right for those who seek to please God is usually not popular in the world.”

This is an issue that others have faced in previous generations. In fact many of the Biblical giants were not popular in their time.

When we think of prophets in the Bible we likely first consider those who have books named after them. But there were other great prophets such as Elijah, Elisha and Nathan.

One of the lesser known is a prophet by the name of Micaiah (we pronounce his name like Isaiah since its spelling is very similar). His story is told in parallel accounts in 1 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 18. He was a prophet to the apostate Northern Kingdom and was known for telling it like it is. People like that may not be popular in their time but their boldness is sorely needed for their generation!  Their words and actions may not just be for their time but may affect many other generations as well.

Jehoshaphat, king of the southern Kingdom (Judah) and Ahab, king of the northern kingdom had entered into an ungodly alliance and were preparing for an attack. Jehoshaphat had agreed to proceed but then remembered that he should seek the will of the Lord. His “Charge Ahead” attitude got ahead of Moses’ command, “Listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him” (Deuteronomy 30:20b)!

King Ahab got together four hundred prophets that assured them of victory in battle. News of victory surely was a “sign” that God was in this but Jehoshaphat, on the face of such news, detected that these were false prophets.  Exercising discernment he asked, “Is there not a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?” 2 Chronicles 18:6).  For Jehoshaphat the untampered truth was more important than false assurance.

Indeed there was a prophet of the Lord but Ahab did not want to consult him! It seems even Ahab had some discernment but tried to ignore it, hoping to get his way.

His response is like many who don’t want to hear what God says.  He had gathered around him those who said what he wanted to hear. The apostle Paul in the New Testament warned: “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3).  I think we live in such a time as well!

Ahab probably spoke just above a whisper through clenched teeth when he finally revealed, “There is still one man through whom we can inquire of the LORD”. Surely his eyes were full of deadly venom as he went on to confess, “I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.”

So Micaiah was called and pressured by the messenger to give a prophetic word agreeable to the other 400.  He told Micaiah, “Look, all the prophets are promising victory for the king.  Be sure that you agree with them and promise success.”

But Micaiah didn’t succumb to the messenger’s ungodly counsel. He reasoned that kings on earth do not have the same authority as the King of heaven. His response, although obscure, is one of the greatest statements of faith and acts of obedience in the Bible, “As surely as the LORD lives, I can tell him only what my God says.”

Today we need to take some lessons from Micaiah. He didn’t go along with the crowd just to accommodate others’ ideology, even though they represented great authority on earth.  Our counsel and lifestyle must reflect the principles set forth in Holy Scripture, not the ever changing values and evolving definitions presented in our present society.

Mark My Words

Micaiah declared, “If you ever return safely, the LORD has not spoken through me.” Then he added, “Mark my words, all you people!” (2 Chronicles 18:27).

Our last message was about a little-known prophet who took a stand for the Lord.  Today we want to share another insight from the account. The kings had consulted the prophets regarding their battle plans.  “Go,” they answered, “for God will give it into the king’s hand.” In fact one of them by the name of Zedekiah added some flamboyant visual effects, similar to the style of some very showy evangelists of our time!

But Micaiah stated, “As surely as the LORD lives, I can tell him only what my God says” (2 Chronicles 18:13). What God had directed Micaiah to say was certainly not well received. His prophetical word is summed up in this simple pronouncement: “The LORD has decreed disaster for you.” That’s certainly not what Ahab wanted to hear,  yet his riches, his alliance with Jehoshaphat, and his kingly position did not change such a deadly pronouncement!

After receiving Micaiah’s news of disaster Ahab attempted to silence the prophet with these orders: “Put this fellow in prison and give him nothing but bread and water until I return safely.”

The king’s order for imprisonment and food deprivation would surely force Micaiah to modify his original prophecy.  And yet in his parting prophetic statement he boldly added: “If you ever return safely, the LORD has not spoken through me.” Then he added, “Mark my words, all you people!” (2 Chronicles 18:27).

Notice the responsibility Micaiah took. He forthrightly stated that if Ahab did not return safely, “the LORD has not spoken through me.” Over my lifetime I have heard some who claim to speak for the Lord and miss the mark in situations that parallel our story today. Yet they make excuses or go on to try again and again. Guess enough on the issues and at some point they’re going to get it right!  This is true of astrologists as well.

Ahab ignored the counsel and died on the battlefield, validating Micaiah’s prophecy.  An amazing detail about Scripture that intrigues me is that the very last we read about Micaiah is that he’s in prison. There’s no record of what happened to him after Ahab’s body was recovered from the battlefield.  Micaiah is one of the lesser known prophets that I want to talk to when I get to heaven. I’m anxious to hear “the rest of the story”!

The main encouragement to end this message with is this:  Let us be faithful in declaring God’s Word regardless of the cost.

~Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

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