Christianity 201

January 26, 2022

Only by God’s Spirit is Truth Revealed; Error Countered

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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This devotional blog operates on the premise that, while some of the original material is occasionally re-purposed, the book excerpts and work of other writers only appears once. But as I looked back at old posts, I realized I wanted to bring more visibility to this book which the publisher, Harvest House, has continued to keep in print.

The gift that I felt Bob George brought to the table was illustrations, in fact, closer to the time of printing, a companion volume was released containing illustrations and analogies which could be used with Classic Christianity.

This is excerpted from an early chapter about separating truth from error. The full title is Classic Christianity: Life’s Too Short to Miss the Real Thing.


There’s a big difference between knowing what something says and knowing what it means. Millions of Christians know what the Bible says, but many do not know what it means, because that can only be revealed by the Spirit. Man’s pride rebels against the idea that he cannot understand spiritual truth on his own but this is what the Bible clearly says:

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (I Cor 2:14)

The reason why is very simple, there is no human alive who can read another man’s mind and if we cannot know what another human being is thinking how much less can we ever know what God is thinking? I Cor 2:11 reminds us of this:

For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

How then can God teach us his thoughts? “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God that we may understand what God has freely given us.” (v. 12) Man does not need the enlightening ministry of the Holy Spirit to understand the law; the law was given specifically for the natural man. We need the Holy Spirit to open our minds to the things having to do with the unfathomable riches of His love and grace, those things that “God has freely given us.” Those truths are described in I Cor. 2:9 this way:

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.

In order to understand the things that God wants to teach us regarding His grace we must have a humble, teachable attitude for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) Just as the same sun that melts wax hardens clay, the same message of God’s grace that softens the heart of the humble hardens the proud. The proud cannot receive grace because the proud will not receive grace…

That is why an uneducated but humble person will receive far more genuine and intimate knowledge of God Himself than a highly educated but arrogant theologian…

Bob George, Classic Christianity


Publishers usually impose word limits for book excerpts, and so far we’re well within that, but as I thought more about this book, I remembered a section which greatly impacted me many years ago. If we have to take this down from the website for over-excerpting that’s fine, but at least subscribers will get to see it.

Making it practical

I sometimes wonder how often a story like the one which follows is the case in the lives of people we know.


Late one night as I was drifting off to sleep, I was jolted by the harsh ring of the telephone. It was a neighbor, apologizing for the late hour, but asking for help. “What’s the matter, Sue” I asked

“It’s Stan,” she answered in a low and tired voice, “he’s drunk again please come over and talk to him.”

Wearily I climbed out of the bed and dressed. Stan again! I wondered what I could say to him tonight when, quite frankly I had already told him everything I know.

In my first two years as a Christian I became quickly involved in all kinds of ministries, from evangelism to teaching to counseling. I saw God do wonderful things in people’s lives, but Stan was a mystery to me. Sixty-five years old, Stan had been an alcoholic since his college days. He was always open to hearing about Jesus Christ and about his offer of forgiveness of sins and a new way of life. Stan had even walked the aisle of a local church to profess his personal faith in Christ. But nothing seemed to happen to him. It was as if something was keeping the message was from getting through. The drinking continued just as before, with all its degrading results.

In those days I had the tremendous experience of sharing the gospel with hundreds of people, and it seemed that most of them experienced an immediate turnaround. In the case of someone like Stan, someone who accepted the message without being changed afterwards, I didn’t really know what to do next except share the same message again and hope that it would take this time…

“Lord,” I prayed… “If I’m going to help him tonight you’ve got to put some words in my mouth… give me direction… something.”

On that night though, I knocked on the door without a clue is what to what I was going to say… There was Stan, a heartbreaking sight in his drunken condition, with the familiar empty expression, lurching movements, and slurred speech. With an attitude of total dependency upon the Lord to guide me, I sat down to talk to him.

For a long time we covered the same territory that we had discussed many times before, making no apparent progress.

Suddenly without any premeditation whatsoever, I asked Stan a question I’d never asked before. It went like this: “Stan when you accepted Christ which Jesus did you believe in?”

He looked at me with a puzzled expression. “What do you mean?”

“Did you have in mind an honorable man named Jesus of Nazareth who lived 2000 years ago in a place called Palestine? The historical man who performed miracles, made the blind to see, and the deaf to hear? The man who taught people to love one another, and eventually died on a cross? In other words, Stan, did you accept Jesus the man? Or did you accept Jesus the God who became a man who was raised again from the dead? He who is Lord and is alive today? The Lord Jesus Christ who offers to come and live inside you and gave his very life to you?”

Stan’s eyes seem to clear a little as he looked up at me intently.  He said, “I received the Jesus who was a man 2000 years ago.”

“Then the question is, Stan, are you willing tonight to put your full trust in Jesus the God? Not just accept the fact that there was once a good man who walked on the face of the earth, we are trying to imitate, but to accept the fact that this is the Lord God Himself who is alive today and wants to live in you? Are you willing to get on your knees with me right now, Stan, and accept the living Christ the One who has the power to change your life from within?”

Stan immediately responded, “Yes.” We knelt together and in his half drunken state, he trusted in the Living Christ. I looked into his face and saw a new man! After being an alcoholic for more than 40 years, Stan was totally free of his dependency that night.

January 22, 2022

Simeon Scanning the Horizon

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Today we’re back again with Rev. Kevin Rogers, a pastor in Western Ontario, Canada whose writing appears at The Orphan Age. This week Pastor Kevin was still in one concluding scene from the Christmas story in the two blog posts which follow,. Click the headers below to read each one.

The Advantage of Old Age

We may have our personal thrill bucket list, but what about the fulfillment of a dream that will reshape the world as we know it? Part of the Christmas story involves an aged man who was given something that would be accomplished before his departure.

Luke 2:25-26

In Jerusalem There Was A Man Named Simeon. He Was A Good And Godly Man. He Was Waiting For God’s Promise To Israel To Come True. The Holy Spirit Was With Him. The Spirit Had Told Simeon That He Would Not Die Before He Had Seen The Lord’s Messiah.

Simeon is a reminder to us that God speaks to individuals, not just nations, churches, or tribes. The promise to Israel is personalized for Simeon. You will see the Messiah in your lifetime. It’s noteworthy here that Simeon was a devout man that longed for God to break into the world and restore hope.

There is something to be said for older men and women that live in devotion to God. When you are younger you may be pulled in many directions, but the godly saint has resigned to prioritizing intimacy with God. Joel prophesied that old people would dream dreams. What dream has God put into your heart as you get older?

Whereas the shepherds symbolized the average person on the street, Simeon represents the testimony of a wise elder who has walked with God. Part of his wisdom is seen in that he is looking for the hope of the nation, the consummation of God’s promise — “the consolation of Israel”. Saints in touch with God’s heart often await expectantly the completion of God’s promises. This revered saint is led to see what the arrival of this child means.[1]

What dream or vision has God put into your heart? Perhaps the voice of the Spirit is most heard when we pay attention to what God has promised to do.

Simeon’s raison d’être

What do people mean when they say they are being led by the Spirit or following the Spirit’s leading?

The concept of walking in the Spirit is all about God helping you to be in the right place at the right time. This was certainly a factor in Simeon’s encounter with the infant child Jesus. For a long arc of time, Simeon had been awaiting the consolation of Israel. Isaiah chapter 40 prophesied that God would comfort his people and now it had been personalized for Simeon. Sometimes the voice of the Spirit speaks and the message hangs in the air for centuries before a promise is fulfilled.

We must learn to be patient in waiting on the things that God plans and promises. But then,  there are times when something happens spontaneously, and you recognize that this is what God had promised.

For Simeon, God’s promise was linked to his own raison d’être – reason for being.

Luke 2:27-29

The Spirit Led Him Into The Temple Courtyard. Then Jesus’ Parents Brought The Child In. They Came To Do For Him What The Law Required. Simeon Took Jesus In His Arms And Praised God. He Said,
“Lord, You Are The King Over All.
Now Let Me, Your Servant, Go In Peace.
That Is What You Promised…”

The old man likens himself to a slave whose duty it has been to scan the horizon for a long-awaited visitor. Now he reports to the slave-master that his trust has been fulfilled, and he claims the privilege, his long watch being over, of going off duty.[1]

God’s salvation was not an impersonal idea, but a person. How intimate that Simeon would hold Jesus literally in his arms. That’s the thing about God’s promises—they are tangible, personal and physical.

What needs to be fulfilled in your lifetime before you can tell God that you are ready to go home?

In the Latin liturgies, verse twenty-nine is the beginning of Simeon’s song, the Nunc Dimittis. The Latin words mean, ‘Now let your servant depart’.


[1] Zondervan Bible Commentary


Read more: 4+ years ago we shared another devotional about Simeon by Gordon Rumford.

January 21, 2022

The Wisdom God Gives is a Beautiful Thing

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. – James 1:5 NLT

Today I was blessed to discover Faith+Blog (Faith Plus Blog) which is written by Teni, a student in Lagos, Nigeria. I strongly encourage you, instead of reading this here, to click the header which follows to read this at the place we discovered it!

Wisdom

One of my favorite things to pray for these days, is wisdom. According to Google, wisdom is the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgement, it is the quality of being wise.

The wisdom of God is such a beautiful thing. In the Book of James 1:5, we were advised to ask from God if we lack wisdom. It is one of the few things the Scripture explicitly admonishes us to ask from God. If wisdom weren’t so important, God would not have dedicated a whole book of the Bible to emphasize it. Little wonder why God was so impressed with King Solomon’s choice request.

Wisdom brings about ease.

Have you ever heard of the phrase “work hard but work smarter”? This is what that saying refers to. While the place for hard work is not eliminated, smart work can bring ease into the equation. We live in an age where everyone wants what is not just effective but what is also efficient. That is why we changed from bicycles to cars, from landlines to smartphones, from buses to trains.

Wisdom teaches you how to work smart, it is not enough to work hard.

A perfect example is Moses and the Israelites. For some time, Moses was the one settling disputes; whether small or big between the Israelites, I’m referring to 2 million people or more. He was working hard alright but in all honesty, it must have been overwhelming. But, when wisdom entered the equation, things made more sense. It took Jethro (Moses’s father-in-law) to suggest that Moses appoint judges to take care of these matters so he can get on with other duties (Exodus 18). Wisdom took him from working unnecessarily hard, to working smart. The same is applicable to our lives. Some steps we take that seem like great steps because of how much labor and effect we’re getting may not really be imperative.

The Wisdom of God opens our eyes to see better options and avenues to attain even more effective results.

The Wisdom of God influences our decisions.

We make better decisions when we are under the influence of God’s wisdom- it’s only logical that that happens. When you are sharing the mind of God, thinking like He would, your judgement would be better because you understand the implication of decisions you would have taken, better. What made King Solomon so great a King was not his prowess or riches but his wisdom which he got from God. He was able to make the right decisions, his strategy of thinking would have been exceedingly meticulous because he had God’s wisdom upon him. Even his finances were flourishing because he had the wisdom of God influencing his decisions. Therefore, you would not invest in the wrong business when you walk in wisdom, you would not be in a haste to close a deal that could harm you financially, you would not insist on following through a path that would lead you to perdition. Scripture even tells us in Ecclesiastes 10:10 that wisdom is profitable to direct.

Wisdom from God helps us to understand His plans.

At times God tells us to do the “craziest” things. He could tell you to do a thing and it literally seems like a bad or simply unconventional idea but with wisdom, you would easily catch on what His actual plans are. When Jesus was at a wedding in Cana and His mom came to report to Him that wine had finished and He would need to do something about it, He did something too unconventional. I mean, why would you tell me to fill up jars with water when I’m panicking about there being no more wine at my party? Mary, His mother had however lived with Him too long to not have an impartation of His wisdom in her. Before Jesus gave instructions, she already told the servants to do whatever He asks. She knew too well that the Man before them tends to do things in an uncommon fashion. Lo and behold, all the jars that were filled with water, Jesus turned into wine (John 2:1-11). The implication of this is that God’s instructions may not always make sense at first instance to us but wisdom helps us to see the end result from the beginning.

It is absolutely impossible to exhaust the vastness of what the wisdom of God does for and to a man however, it is crystal clear that life is sweeter when you are led by the wisdom of God.  Wisdom would help you make better decisions. Wisdom well applied would keep you from straying away from God. Wisdom would give you insights to mysteries of the Spirit that could not have been understood by surface knowledge.

Moreover, it is important that we note that the Scripture says “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10, Psalms 111:10; Job 28:28). Anyone who lacks regard for God, who does not reverence God is yet to gain wisdom. Wisdom starts with honouring God, with our hearts, body, mind and souls.

“Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” Proverbs 4:6-7 NIV

 

January 18, 2022

Promises When Terror Comes

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Today another new writer to feature. Hope writes at Patiently Hopeful. In discovering this article earlier today, I really love the high value she places on scripture and the way she weaves the texts together. She states the goal of her writing: “I hope you are blessed by what you read and encouraged, for that is what I want my life to stand for: hope in the One that made us, for He is mine.”

Clicking the header below allows you to read it where it first appeared.

Sudden Terror

Proverbs 3:25-26 NKJV — Do not be afraid of sudden terror, Nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes; For the LORD will be your confidence, And will keep your foot from being caught.

The truth for the follower of Christ is, trouble will come, but we don’t need to fear it.

Matthew 10:28 NKJV — “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

When we place our lives in the salvation of Jesus Christ our souls are safe.

Matthew 10:32 NKJV — “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.”

Through this truth we can find security in the eternal life through Christ with the Father.

Psalm 56:10-11 NKJV — In God (I will praise His word), In the LORD (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?

Psalm 118:4-6 NKJV — Let those who fear the LORD now say, “His mercy endures forever.” I called on the LORD in distress; The LORD answered me and set me in a broad place. The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?

Any troubles, trials, or difficulty we experience on earth is merely temporary and we have God’s Word as well as His Holy Spirit to guide us, comfort us, and hone us through these things.

That is not to say the pain here is trivial, but rather we have peace knowing we don’t suffer alone.

1 Peter 2:21 NIV — To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

Rather than fearing what may come, let us be strengthen by the examples set before us.

Jesus first and always.

His disciples and those courageous first believers we read about in the book of Acts, as well.

For Jesus, Himself gave us truth to cling to no matter the circumstances:

Matthew 28:18-20 NKJV — And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Jesus not only gave His instruction on how we are to live, He promised to be with us, always.

Romans 8:31 KJV — What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus,

Thank You for Your Word. Thank You for Your promise. Lord Jesus, please help each one of us to live for You this day, shining the light of Your salvation through our lives. Lord, please let no unwholesome word come out of us, but only that which would benefit those who listen, that we might not grieve Your Holy Spirit. Lord, please help us to love You and love others as You do.

Lord, please teach us what is right, true, honorable, and holy. Please show us any iniquity, that we might put away anything which would cause us to stumble. Let there be no unclean thing residing in us, our lives, or our homes.

Thank You, that we do not need to fear the future. Thank You that we do not need to fear wickedness or sudden terror. Thank You that we have the security of Your salvation and the comfort of Your truth. Please use us to spread the truth of salvation and the only true hope to a lost and broken world. Lord, thank You for all Your blessings. May our lives bring You glory and honor and praise! May many more come to faith and assurance in Your salvation! I love You, Jesus. Amen.


While reading Hope’s devotional today, I was reminded of a song we’ve posted before, based on Psalm 91. This link takes you to both the music video and a version of the Psalm from a different translation.

 

January 14, 2022

What if No Faith was Required?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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Can you imagine an alternative reality where there is zero doubt as the to core components of Christianity, and yet, inexplicably, people might still choose to walk away? That’s the subject of today’s devotional.

Today we’re highlighting another creative person who is new to us, Liam Sass, who is a writer, podcaster, musician, and online evangelist. You can connect with his various projects at his website. You’ll also find him on a number of social media platforms.

As always, you’re encouraged to click the header which follows to read today’s devotional there instead of here. Thanks to those of you who recommend writers for us to feature.

A Issue of the Heart

Unbelief in Jesus, for most, isn’t rooted in intellectual reasoning. “That’s a bold statement Liam.” Alright, ask an unbeliever this:

“If Christianity were true, would you be a Christian?”

Assuming you all have atheist friends to ask.

Notice, most will be unsure or even be as bold to say no! Why is this? Because mankind doesn’t WANT a God. They want to BE God. Denying the existence and resurrection of Jesus Christ is impossible. Yet we watch people come up with even more ridiculous theories then the miracle itself! Some big magic trick or everyone who witnessed Jesus after His resurrection was “on something”.

They can’t accept these truths because then they would need to submit to the truth! If they admit to Jesus, they also need to admit the teachings of Jesus. They would admit that physical relations outside of the marriage between a man and a woman is unholy, that worshiping any other God is idolization, that the murder of an unborn child is an abomination, and the list goes on! (I use those examples because those are prevalent things our culture holds onto)

Now we have come to the root of most peoples unbelief in Christ. It is not a intellectual issue but rather a heart issue. Their morals don’t align with Gods morals and so they deny His existence to ease their conscious. The crazy thing is, we were told people would react this way! Even at one point in your walk, before your heart was opened, you would react in the same likeness!

“-being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools-“
Romans 1:20-22

I know this is a hard topic. We need to realize as Christians that some cannot be reasoned with. Ultimately, a heart change happens between them and God alone. If you have tried reasoning with someone and the conversation is not fruitful, DO NOT PRESS THEM! Instead be in prayer and ask that God might open their heart to Him. God is sovereign and all that He wills will come to fruition.

Take rest in that.

January 6, 2022

Worried? 2021’s “Bible Verse of the Year” Will Help

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Thinking Through Matthew 6:33

by Clarke Dixon

  • Click here to watch the sermon on which this is based.

Are you worried? Stressed? Anxious? Who isn’t these days?!

For the past few years we have looked at the “verse of the year,” “the verse shared, bookmarked, and highlighted most often throughout the year” by those who use the YouVersion Bible app, which is a lot of people.

This year’s verse of the year is a great one for anyone who is worried. What is it?

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 6:33 (ESV)

When we first read this verse on its own, we may become even more worried. We might jump to the conclusion that Jesus is making a promise, namely, that if we are righteous according to God’s standards, then life will be perfect. We may think Jesus is speaking of a transaction, namely his blessings for our obedience. And so in addition to everything else we worry about, we may worry that we are not keeping our end of the transaction, living up to God’s standards. More stress.

We may also worry that we might not have found the correct standards. Are we to be striving for God’s standards according to Baptists, Roman Catholics, or those in United churches? These, and many more, present some different standards of what “the kingdom of God and his righteousness” look like. More stress.

Yet when we read this verse along with what Jesus said before and after, we will be worrying less, not more:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV, emphasis added)

Jesus’ main point is, do not worry. Look at the birds, Consider the flowers. Life happens. Life keeps happening. There is a lot of beauty as life happens and keeps happening. God’s got this, for this is God’s world. God’s got you. Therefore, we can stop trying so hard to get and secure all the things we think we need. God’s got that covered, so rather than allow all that stuff to overwhelm and consume our minds, we are to “seek first” the Kingdom of God. To seek first the kingdom of God is to give our minds first to the reality of God’s kingdom and our part in it, rather than the things we are worried about.

We seek first, God’s kingdom. This world is God’s kingdom. This is God’s world. There are bullies and tyrants here and there, not just people, but diseases and viruses, but what are they compared to God? This is God’s world, and while there is ugliness in the evil around us and in us, there is much that is beautiful. Yes, we pray “thy kingdom come,” but yes, this already is God’s world, God’s kingdom. To seek first the kingdom of God is to consider what God’s kingdom is like, to turn our minds first to the fact that God takes care of it.

We seek first, God’s righteousness. We might assume that this means we are to strive to be righteous as God is righteous. That is a good thing to do, yes, but part of the point Jesus is making here is that we are to fill our minds with the fact that God does the right thing, God does the good thing. This is God’s world and God takes care of it. Consider the birds of the air, and the lilies. God takes care of them. To seek first God’s righteousness is to consider what God is like, to turn our minds first to the fact that God cares.

When Jesus says to us “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you,” he is not making a promise that life will be perfect if we are, nor is he saying that we should not show appropriate concern for the troubles we face, or make proper preparations for situations ahead. This verse is not a promise to be claimed in every specific situation, but is more like a proverb, a general truth that with God caring for us, it will all be alright. If it is a promise, it is a promise that God loves us. Consider the birds of the air. Consider the lilies. Consider Jesus, his teaching, life, death, and resurrection. Consider the reconciliation we have because of the cross. God takes care of us.

When I hop on a motorcycle, I still wear a helmet. Something bad could still happen while I ride a motorcycle. If it did, it would not be proof that I had not sought first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Nor would it be proof that God does not care about me. God cares, is involved, and because God is involved, it will ultimately be alright.

When we put God’s Kingdom and His righteousness uppermost in our minds we are overwhelmed with the goodness and love of God. Given that life happens, beauty happens, this world is God’s kingdom, God does the right thing, the good thing, and that God loves us, we can know it will all be okay.

There will be things to worry about in 2022. But let’s be overwhelmed by the love of God, and not those worries. The best way to not let anxiety and concern overwhelm our hearts and minds is to allow God to overwhelm our hearts and minds first.


More sermon recaps from Clarke Dixon are available at his blog, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon.

January 2, 2022

Doctrinal Humility

I have to confess I’ve not read John Stackhouse’s book Humble Apologetics, but I do resonate with the title. The publisher blurb in 2006 seemed to indicate that he was writing more about evangelistic, or conversion-focused discussions.

Stackhouse argues that the crucial experience of conversion cannot be compelled; all the apologist can do is lead another to the point where an actual encounter with Jesus can take place. Finally, he shows how displaying an attitude of humility, instead of merely trying to win religious arguments, will help believers offer their neighbors the gift of Christ’s love.

Sometimes the discussions we have are with fellow-Christians, a first-time confession of faith is not the focus, and the topics can become rather thorny.

Last week I stood in a light rain in a grocery store parking lot speaking with two people who had left their church when both the number and degree of differences became too much for them to bear. Much of it focused on a single issue, a second one contributed to it, and a third was mentioned in passing, though I know it’s high on their list of concerns.

The thing is, when it was all said and done, all I really took away from it was their cockiness; their arrogance. They were not at all impressed that the weight of church history is not on their side. Neither is the support of present-day churches in our community. You can only get to their position through misunderstanding the context of certain scriptural passages; through proof-texting; and through a belief that some poor translation work done in the past on key words outranks Biblical scholarship.

The Apostle Paul would be the first to admit that the waters are sometimes muddy. In the oft-quoted “Love Chapter” of his first letter to the church at Corinth he writes,

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.  (13:12 NLT)

Two chapters later, as he speaks of the resurrection of the church, he says something with great clarity, but it’s still, to him at least, part of the realm of what he calls mystery:

Listen, I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, (15:51 CSB)

At other times there is no doubt at all in his mind or the readers’ minds:

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. (Phil. 3:13 NLT)

In other words, he hadn’t mastered this in his own life, but there was absolute conviction about the spiritual destination in front of him.

If the phrase “one thing I do” sounds familiar, it’s a lot like, “one thing I know,” the phrase uttered by the man born blind after receiving sight. Referring first to their charges against Jesus,

He then answered, “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”  (John 9:25 NASB)

It was, quite literally, black and white; and today we use the blind man’s confession as a model for the conversion experience

I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see.

This type of certainty stands in contrast to “seeing through a glass darkly” (KJV) or “seeing things imperfectly” (NLT, as above). But here’s a truth

We don’t have to know and understand everything to know and understand the things that count.

Paul writing to the Philippians said,

I am convinced and confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus [the time of His return]. (1:6 Amplified Bible)

Other translations use the word confident. Obviously, some things were not seen imperfectly to Paul. He could say some things with confidence.

There is a book by Peter Enns called The Sin of Certainty. Having followed Enns online for years and read several of his books, I have no doubt (ironic use of phrase here, don’t you think?) that he is certain when it comes to the deity of Christ and the fact of the resurrection.

Rather, the book was a response to what was a growing body of people who expressed their intransigence online; the type of people who will defend to the death some sacred pet doctrine on social media. Unintentionally — and I am being gracious here, perhaps it was intentional — they are modeling for new believers a stance where one must be absolutely certain of everything. That’s just not possible when you haven’t had time to work out your salvation and it forces people to simply parrot rote responses or take ownership of parts of a catechism not through life experiences, or Holy Spirit leading, but because of their ability to call up key words and phrases.

Eventually, this can lead to a spiritual arrogance. When reviewing Enns’ 2016 book, I wrote;

Peter Enns basically catalogs some of the various less-certain elements one might find in the sphere of Christianity, and rather than resolve all of these necessarily, creates a climate where the reader can say, ‘Oh yeah! That’s me! At last someone who gets it.’ Some of the book draws from his personal experiences of dealing with the doubt/certainty continuum, either internally or in his family or academic life.

There is however value in creeds. When we remind ourselves that Christ was

…conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried.

and that

He descended into hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven,
and sits on the right hand of God the Father almighty…

Those times, we are discussing the things that are non-negotiable and these are things which the body of Christ around the world should agree.

But what if your faith is in that creed and not in the one to whom the creed points?

A book similar to The Sin of Certainty released three years earlier. About that one I wrote,

With… Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty (Baker Books), Gregory Boyd presents the thesis that far too many Christians — at least in North America and western Europe — are committed to a set of spiritual propositions more than they are committed to Christ; and that in fact the thing they worship and place their faith in are these ‘certainties,’ far more than they worship and have their faith secured in “Christ, and Him crucified.”

…While the book clearly intends to shatter the idol of theological over-confidence, its equal purpose is to give some peace and comfort to people who, although they are long on the journey with Jesus, still don’t feel they have all the details of the contract worked out. He is writing to those of us who perhaps know people for whom all doctrinal and theological matters are settled once and for all…

What is the ultimate expression of God’s position and power? What words does he say? What doctrine does he clear up for all time?

Nothing. Just as the orchestra builds to a crescendo we get this:

John 13:3-5Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him… … 12-14 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.

Utter, absolute humility.

Six months before reading the Boyd book I wrote,

…each one of us needs to be developing a personal, systematic theology so that we can respond when asked what we believe. We should know the ways of God; truly know what Jesus would do. But we should write our theology in pencil, not pen; remaining open to the possibility that what we see as through frosted glass will become clearer over time and therefore subject to change…

This devotional is messy because our attempts to do theology are often messy. There is a balance between the things on which we can place our trust — think of the hymn “Standing on the Promises” if that helps — and the things which we will never see with perfect clarity.

To the person in the parking lot last week, I would say, “You lack a humble apologetic, and that may be your spiritual downfall.”


“…it is a mark of imbecility of mind, rather than of strength; of folly, rather than of wisdom; for any one to dogmatize with an air of infallibility, or to assume the attitude of perfect intelligence on any one subject of human thought, without an intimate knowledge of the whole universe...”

– Alexander Campbell in The Christian System

 

 

 

December 30, 2021

All That God Has in Store for You

The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me. LORD, your faithful love endures forever; do not abandon the work of your hands. – Psalm 138:8 CSB

Once again today we have a new writer to introduce to you. Joey Rudder is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and has several novels and novellas awaiting publication. She started an eponymous site, JoeyRudder.com this year, from which today’s devotional was selected, and also writes at Training for Eternity.

If 2021, didn’t bring you everything you had hoped for, and there are still dreams in your heart that lay unfulfilled, this encouragement is for you. Click the header which follows and read it at her site.

When It All Comes Together

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”

Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT.

What if all you’ve been working on, all the tiny threads of your life, and the dream God tucked into your heart so long ago are about to intersect and explode into a miraculous move of God?

Perhaps the time is approaching when all the sweat, all the tears, and all of your faithfulness as you kept your eyes fixed on your Heavenly Father as you persevered in your calling is about to come together before your very eyes.

You may not realize all that God has been working on behind the scenes in your life. Maybe you got the tiniest glimpse of it, like spotting a tiny droplet of water dazzling in the sunlight.

But a time is coming when God will lift your eyes from that droplet, revealing this ocean of a plan He’s been working on all along. It’s going to take your breath away and leave you standing in awe.

God’s love for you is like that too. More than you can possibly take in.

Oh, dear soul. This dream God planted in your heart so long ago is far more elaborate, intricate, and magnificent than you can possibly understand.

It’s been a struggle, a battle to get to this point, hasn’t it? The enemy has been pressing in against you, doing all he can to distract and discourage you. Satan has even twisted things, distorting your path, so you thought you were going the wrong way.

But you kept your eyes on Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of your faith. You spent time with the Father, seeking His face and His will. And you stilled yourself, pushing the world and all its demands away so you could hear the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart, encouraging you to keep going.

And you kept going.

Others may have ridiculed you, telling you it’s a silly dream or completely unrealistic. Maybe they even got angry with you because you disappointed them by not living up to their expectations.

But you weren’t worried about disappointing them. You’d rather disappoint the entire world than disappoint God. So you pressed on even when doubt crept in too close and you felt unworthy, drab, and withered like a dandelion in a field of colorful wildflowers. You felt out of place, out of sorts, and lost.

But you’ve never really been lost. God has been with you for the entire duration of your journey, hemming you in and drawing you closer. You clung to His hand and kept walking as He led.

And now it’s as if you’re on the threshold of something spectacular. The thrill of something new like a fresh wind is all around you. Something new and yet something so wonderfully familiar.

It’s as if you were born for this very moment in time.

All the hard work, all the tears and sleepless nights. All the dreaming and hoping and praying. None of it has been wasted because you surrendered it all to God.

Your time is coming, precious soul. The beauty of God working in your life and the amazing plan He has for you is so much more than a shimmer of light on a tiny droplet of water – it’s waves and waves illuminated by His love for you, saturating you and reaching those around you.

And what a glorious sight, a beautiful, soul-saturating moment with your God as you dance in the water and then drop to your knees in complete adoration for your Heavenly Father who loves you so much to create such a plan for your life.

The plan you were born to live that brings you and others closer to Almighty God, bringing Him honor and glory.

Take it all in. Breathe. And don’t forget that even this is only a glimpse of all He has for you – He has eternity in His presence waiting for you.

God loves you that much.♥️

December 27, 2021

Who’s Running the Show?

Toronto area Bible teacher Gordon Rumford has been featured here eleven times previously and today we’re pleased to highlight his devotional website and make it an even dozen. Click the header below to read this where we sourced it, and then take some time to look around at other articles.

Who Is In Charge Anyway?

The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the LORD; he guides it wherever he pleases.
Proverbs 21:1 (NLT)

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree
that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him 
and was expecting a child…”
Luke 2:1-5 (NIV)

“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.”
Romans 8:28 (NIV)

There is a special attraction to people who argue over the idea of the sovereignty of God. Just how much of life is under God’s control and how much is under our control is a fertile source of debate among Christians. Of course we are happy to leave the big things like the control of the universe, stars, galaxies, etc. all up to the Lord. But, when it comes to our personal lives, we want into the driver’s seat.

Does Scripture address the issues of our choices in life? One remarkable example on the personal level is the Pharaoh in the book of Exodus. Scripture tells us that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 9:12). Other Scripture says Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Exodus 8:15). Are you confused? Well so are many people.

Our Scripture today talks about Caesar calling for a census to be held just when Mary was pregnant with Jesus. Joseph had to register in Bethlehem because he was in the lineage of David. So, the couple travelled from their hometown of Nazareth south to Bethlehem because that was David’s hometown. Also, it was prophesied that Messiah would come from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). So, for two important reasons, Mary and Joseph needed to be in Bethlehem before our Lord was born.

What inspired Caesar to call for the census precisely when he did? Was he acting on his own will? Or was God moving him to call for the census when he did? Proverbs 21:1 gives an answer. The Lord inspired Caesar to do what he did. Yet Caesar acted freely. He felt no compulsion.

When you find your life is out of control and you see no way to recover, it is then that the sovereignty of God is a precious refuge. Whether it is a financial reversal, the untimely death of a loved one, loss of health, or other disaster, we flee into the presence of our loving, sovereign Father and sense His powerful arms around us. We may not see how our Father will sort out our issue. But that is His problem not ours.

Christian, take comfort in the promise that our Father in heaven works everything for good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sov’reign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding ev’ry hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain

– William Cowper

December 24, 2021

The Time of Waiting Has Ended

Christmas Eve marks the end of the period of waiting known as Advent. For four weeks we join with those in times past who waited four hundred years for the coming of the Messiah.

I choose that number carefully — Israel obviously anticipated a deliverer for a longer period of time — to represent the period when it seemed the prophets fell silent and the word of God wasn’t heard; a period we as Christians call the “Inter-Testamental” period, falling as it does between the first and second Testaments of our scriptures.

The silence is broken by John the Baptist (who is a type of the prophet Elijah) as promised at the very end of the book of Malachi.

“Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.”  (4:6 NLT)

The words that immediately follow in our Bibles are:

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham (Matt. 1:1 NIV)

For those of us who know this story, the final words of the prophet lead to a pause — there’s usually an extra two blank pages between Malachi and Matthew — and then we take a deep breath and something new is stirring. Matthew doesn’t build the drama slowly, he simply blurts it out, “Jesus the Messiah.”

But there was still some waiting, as the people of the day asked the question asked in our day by a popular Christian song, “Could He Be the Messiah?” (see video below)

Increasingly he leaves no doubt, culminating in his resurrection…

…As some read these words today, they are also in a season of waiting. Just as the birth of Jesus marked the breaking in to the world’s stage, they are looking to see God break in to the affairs and circumstances of their life; to intervene in some aspect of their life that is a cause of major concern.

For some, it seems like the heavens are silent; if you will allow me the use of the phrase, a feeling that they are in their own personal Inter-Testamental period.

15 months ago, I wrote a devotional based on a line from an old hymn, “Teach me the mystery of unanswered prayer.”

I remember not to long ago explaining to someone that the subjects under discussion before a person has crossed the line of faith are not the same issues talked about after. The apologetics questions about the creation account in Genesis, or whether the Red Sea could actually be divided a strong wind, or if the “texts of terror” in the book of Judges don’t depict a God given to extreme violence; these topics fade into obscurity once someone is on the inside.

Instead, in our churches we wrestle with the question, “Can God be trusted?” Part of that has to do with the times the heavens seem silent. Can we count on the promises of God?

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Keep trusting in God. Keep trusting in me.” – John 14:1

At the same time as God seems absent or silent, we believe that he is working in that silence. I also posted an article here titled, “God is Always Up to Something.”

Yes, even in the silences, and even when, at the end of 2021, the world seems to be getting worse…

…Back to the macro story. After 400 years of seemingly divine inactivity God breaks onto the stage once more.

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

But even in this, it does not have a spectacular beginning. Rather, the drama plays out in obscurity, in what one person has called a backwater village on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The introduction of Jesus to the greater world has its ecclesiastic moment in the dedication presided over by an older man and a widowed woman; and its political moment is never quite realized as Herod is made aware of the potential importance of the birth but misses out on a personal connection.

But we know the end of the story.

We know the ramification of Christ’s birth, and it is that which we celebrate for all the right reasons, but also for the reason that it marks the end of the time of waiting; the end of Advent.


December 15, 2021

Sin: The Great Separator

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. – Isaiah 59:2 NIV

Every so often I discover a writer online and wonder why we didn’t encounter them earlier. Doug Eaton lives in greater Los Angeles, and writes at Flight of Faith, and is also Director of Admissions at Trinity Law School, which upholds Judeo-Christian principles in legal training. (He’s also periodically writes about early CCM, Contemporary Christian Music.) The article below was a perfect fit for what we do here at C201, so we’re thankful to be able to highlight his writing. Click the header which follows to read this where we sourced it, and then take a few minutes to look around his site using the menu.

The Four Separations of Sin

Right now, you and I are experiencing the effects of sin, even if we are not conscious of it. When Adam fell and sin entered this world, it wreaked all kinds of havoc. One of sin’s most detrimental effects is that it causes separation, specifically, four types of separation. Francis Schaeffer once laid these out in his book, Genesis in Space and Time. Though all four separations are devastating, I will work from the least to most significant.

1. Separation from Nature

At this moment, nature is not at rest. As beautiful as it is and declaring the glory of God (Psalm 19:1), scripture says it is currently in the pangs of childbirth, waiting for all things to be set right (Romans 8:22). Sometimes referred to as natural evil, this world is filled with hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and many other natural disasters. Even animal life is red in tooth and claw. Humanity was created to live in harmony and dominion over nature. The creation mandate was to be fruitful and multiply and work the land as good stewards, Adam’s sin, along with our own, has perverted this work, and even nature is crying out for redemption. We must now work the land with the sweat of our brow, fighting against thorns and thistles which remind us that things are not the way they should be (Genesis 3:18). God is using nature to reveal his judgment against sin.

2. Separation of Mankind from Himself

We are also experiencing separation within ourselves. This is sometimes called psychological separation, but there is more to it than psychology. We are no longer at peace with ourselves. We have psychological issues. We deal with fear, anxiety, depression, loneliness, and many other issues. In our attempts to cover our internal conflict, we deceive ourselves and others. The truth we know about God we attempt to suppress to clear our consciences (Romans 1:18), but it will never work. In relation to the separation of sin in nature, even our bodies rebel against us; we must fight aging and decay. If that is not enough, we must also contend with disease and disorder. In the end, something will cause our bodies to die, which separates our souls from our bodies. The only reason this separation occurs is because of sin.

3. Separation from Each Other

Not only has sin caused separation within ourselves, but it also leads to separation from each other. We were created to live in unity, but sin made us skeptical of ourselves and therefore skeptical of each other. It did not take long after Adam and Eve fell for them to begin blaming each other (Genesis 3:12). And it was not much later the first murder took place, and that was between brothers (Genesis 4:8). All wars, racism, political hatred, to name a few social pathologies, grow from this root.

4. Separation from God

The fourth separation is the one most frequently cited. Sin has separated us from God; this is sometimes called theological separation. It is the most significant because the other three flow from this one. Instead of being in a right relationship with him, we come into this world at enmity with our creator (James 4:4). Not only do our sinful desires drive us to rebel against him, seek autonomy, and suppress the knowledge we do have of him, since God is just, it causes us to be under his wrath. A just God cannot simply ignore sin. A god who does not take sin seriously is not just; he is evil. For God to end our separation from him, he must be both just and the justifier of sinners (Romans 3:26). Though this may seem like an unsolvable logical problem, God speaks to us through scripture and says, “Come let us reason together, though your sins are as scarlet they will be white as snow (Isaiah 1:18).”

The Answer

One day, in the city of Bethlehem, a child was born: Christ the Lord. God himself, the second person of the Trinity, took on flesh and walked amongst us. His name was Jesus, and he came to save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). He lived the perfect life we could not, then died on the cross, taking the wrath our sins deserved, making a way for us to be in a right relationship with him again. Those who place their faith in him will find forgiveness and become sons and daughters of God, no longer at enmity with him.

All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 1:13). We can live with him the rest of our days, finding peace with God, until he returns to set all things right. Eventually, all four separations caused by sin will be reconciled. Even death itself will be no more, for he defeated it on the cross and resurrected, never to die again. He is the firstborn of the dead, and all who believe in him will rise as well and live eternally with him (Colossian 1:18). Eventually, there will be a new heaven and a new earth, where the lion will lay down with the lamb, wars will cease (Revelation 21). Every effect of sin will be no more because Jesus conquered it on the cross.


Second Helping: We often leave you with another suggested article by the same writer, but this time we want to alert you to a sub-section of Doug’s website containing articles on the theme of apologetics. Or just go directly to this one.

December 6, 2021

Peace Which Transcends Human Understanding

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Today we have a new writer to share with you who calls herself and her site, The 5th Sparrow. For 30 minutes today I sat down and looked inside the window of her life as reflected through her blog, and once we were committed to share this today, I found the closed thing to an “about” page through an article called This Is Us, Again. To summarize, it details a number of physical and cognitive challenges faced by both her two sons, and herself.

All of which for me made her writing that much more impactful.

In the end, I chose her most recent article to be representative of her writing. I trusting you’ll click the header which follows and then take a few minutes to also look into the window of a family that is probably different from yours.

Peace

NLT.Phil.4.6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

The second week of Advent focuses on peace. What first comes to mind when you read or hear this word? Maybe the iconic dove with an olive branch? A beautiful winter scene complete with quiet streets and falling snow? Ocean waves lapping at the shore or a mountain brook bubbling through a small clearing? Maybe a symbol made popular in the 60’s? Or maybe something more personal perhaps? A treasured memory, safe family and home, good news at work, even better news from the doctor…

What if I told you there was a peace available that is stronger, purer, and more abundant than all those things put together? What if I told you it is possible to have peace even when everything around us is no where close to being peaceful? Are you sick, broken, worn down? Did you lose your job? Are you struggling to keep up in school? Do you have more things in need of repair than your bank account has the finances to cover? Is your home more of a war zone than a safe shelter? Do you struggle with uncontrollable emotions and thoughts? You can still have peace!

It’s true, if we are talking about the peace of Christ. Peace that surpasses all understanding. It makes no sense! It doesn’t fit the narrative of everything else going on in our life at the moment. It seems impossible! That though is the beauty of it. It is impossible, but Christ makes the impossible possible for those that put their hope and their trust in Him, for those willing to rest in His arms and lay their burdens and worries at His feet.

Because of Christ, when I think about peace these days I think about a water heater. A very specific one, that’s barely a year and a half old. One that has been broken now for the past two and a half weeks with still no solution in site. I remember when I first heard the words “we think it’s cancer” shortly before I found myself in a whirlwind of preparations for emergency surgery, including putting together legal papers with instructions on what to do with my sons if I were not to make it. Memories flood in of being locked away in a place I didn’t belong while in a foreign country, fighting for safety and a way home while growing a small child inside. Filling my pillow with tears, yet my day with song just to try and hold on to my sanity.

Why in the world would I associate these things with peace?? It’s not that I enjoyed the fear of foreign oppressors I couldn’t even understand half the time due to language barriers. Being rushed to a hospital for a blood transfusion just to make me stable enough for the life saving surgery I just found out I needed wasn’t any fun either. Don’t get me started on trying to stay clean with nothing but cold water for weeks. Brrr! Definitely nothing peaceful about any of that!

No, I associate those things with peace because I look to Christ for it instead of at my life (2 Corinthians 4:18, Colossians 3:2). These things remind me of how Christ continuously steps in to calm the storm inside my heart and mind even as the waves crash around me. He has provided for me in ways I will never be able to fully explain and has taken care of my needs in more ways than I can count even when all looked bleak. When we look to Christ, He offers us a peace that isn’t like anything the world can offer (John 14:27, Isaiah 26:3). He promises to give us rest and to share our burdens (Isaiah 40:28-31, 43:2, Isaiah 41:10, 1 Peter 5:7) and that He will never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 1:9, Isaiah 46:4).

He invites us to bring all we’ve got to Him. All of our hurts, hang-ups, fears, joys, celebrations, tears, frustration, excitedness, anger, doubt… He can handle it and He wants us to bring it to Him! He longs to come alongside us and share His yoke with us so He can help shoulder the load, not just in the good times, but also in the bad ones. Along with that invitation, He also delivers a promise to provide the peace that surpasses all understanding. The peace that makes no sense, but is ever so badly needed in our hearts and lives. If we remember to come to Him with what’s in our hearts or what is filling our heads, being grateful for Who He is and all He has done and has promised to do, He will fill us with His peace to help guard our hearts and minds in Christ (Philippians 4:6,7). That doesn’t mean all our problems and worries will disappear, but it does mean we have a safe shelter from the storm when we need Him.

That is what comes to my mind when I think of peace.

December 4, 2021

Free of Slavery

Last year at this time we introduced you to Carolyn Kincaid who writes at Carolyn Kincaid’s Potpourri for the Soul and today we’re back with both parts of a short two-part devotional. You might asked why, if it’s short, she spread it out over two days. The purpose was to create a pause where readers could ask themselves “Is it possible that I am enslaved?” To read this at source, click both parts of the header which follows.

Freedom vs Slavery / Breaking Free

You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. – I Cor. 6:12 NLT

I live in the freedom of Christ. I’m not bound by rules of don’t do this and don’t do that. That’s a legalistic mindset and I won’t allow myself to be enslaved by a bunch of rules. As we can see this way of thinking is nothing new. I think a seed of this is intrinsic in our human DNA—the way God made us. He made us for freedom, but we as a human race have allowed ourselves to become enslaved in our desire to have a blank check on the way we live.

As Paul says, we have privilege—the right to do anything we desire, but not everything we might desire is beneficial for us. All things might be lawful, but all things are not helpful. I like the way the Message puts it, “Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it’s spiritually appropriate.”

Even though I live in the freedom of Christ, I have to stop and do a self evaluation on myself as I consider in what ways I might be enslaved. Enslaved to what? Yes, we know the obvious—the things that cause addictions, but what about other less perceptible activities, thoughts, ideologies? Might I be enslaved to my emotions? Might I be enslaved to what others think about me? Is it possible that I am enslaved? If I went around doing whatever I thought I could get by with, I’d be a slave to my whims.

I’m going to stop here—give you some space to think deeply and allow the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of your heart.

-o-o-o-o-

…So if I’m enslaved by my emotions—if I think I have to act on everything I feel, what then? If I find that I can’t just have one of something or one better of something—a drink, a food, a car, a phone, anything that causes me to want more, I am enslaved. Now what?

Fortunately, Paul doesn’t just bring this up without giving us a way out. Run! Yes, he actually said this. He tells us to run from whatever is holding us in bondage. He’s speaking to those who have already accepted the salvation that Christ offers and he reminds us that before Christ we used to walk that walk of indulgence. But we realized that living that life led us away from the freedom that God always had in mind for us. It led us away from Him.

His reminder that living a life of using and abusing others disqualifies us from any share we might have in the Kingdom of God. His reminder is the impetus to get us to break free from the chains of whatever has held us in its grip. We were cleansed; we were made holy; we were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and living in the power of His Holy Spirit. This is the how. This is the wherewithal upon which we can draw to break free.

November 22, 2021

Prayer: Don’t Do All the Talking

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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We are continually grateful to HarperCollins Christian Publishing for blanket permission to occasionally include short excerpts from their books here. Transcription for this one was found at today at Devotions Daily. If you’re looking for a daily book excerpt in your inbox each morning, consider subscribing there.


O.S. Hawkins is a very prolific author of more than 40 books, which have sold more than 1 million copies, including The Joshua Code, The Bible Code, The Nehemiah Code, The Believer’s Code — are you detecting a pattern? — and The Jesus Code, and preaches regularly at Bible conferences, evangelism conferences, and churches across the nation. This excerpt is from his newest, The Prayer Code. See below for a link to the publisher page for this title.

Listen to Him

While He was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” — Matthew 17:5

Many of us share a common fault in our conversations with others. So often, we fail to listen. We are so immersed in preparing to articulate our next brilliant thought that we are prone to not hear what the other person is saying. How many times have we been introduced to someone and as soon as we walk away cannot even remember the person’s name? On the mountain of transfiguration, the Father gives us some good advice. He introduces His Son, affirms His pleasure in Him, and then admonishes us to “listen to Him” (Matthew 17:5 ESV).

One of the things we often forget about prayer is that it is communication with the Lord. And communication is a two-way street. We talk… and, if we are smart, we listen even more than we speak.

Perhaps one of the most overlooked and forgotten elements of prayer is taking the time to listen to Him. He still speaks to us through His Word and by His Spirit. God is essentially saying to us here, “This is My Son; I love Him; I am pleased with Him. Stop talking so much and listen to Him.”

After the resurrection, Jesus showed up on the road to Emmaus to perfectly illustrate this need in all of us to take time in prayer to stop talking and simply “listen to Him.” For three years the disciples had walked with Christ, talked with Him, virtually lived with Him, when suddenly it all came to an abrupt and crashing conclusion: Jesus had been viciously executed and His body tossed in a cold, damp tomb. Then, all the disciples “forsook Him and fled” back to their own abodes (Matthew 26:56).

Two of these followers headed home to Emmaus, a village seven miles west of Jerusalem. As they walked in discouragement toward the sunset that afternoon, they exclaimed to one another,

We were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. — Luke 24:21

But they had buried that hope when the body of Jesus was placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Dejected and dismayed, they were walking proof that there is never power in the present when there is no hope in the future.

But, then — suddenly — the resurrected “Jesus Himself drew near and went with them,” but they “did not know Him” (Luke 24:15-16). After this incredible encounter “their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight” (Luke 24:31). And their response?

Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road? — Luke 24:32

Isn’t this one of our most pressing needs today? That is, burning hearts that come from listening to Him along our own Emmaus road.

LISTEN TO HIM AS HE SPEAKS TO US THROUGH HIS SPIRIT

Their hearts were set on fire when “He talked with [them] on the road.” Jesus was doing the talking, and they were doing the listening. Their hearts did not burn when they talked to Him, or when they talked to each other about Him. Their hearts began to burn with a new passion when they stopped talking to Him and to others and started listening to Him, spirit to Spirit.

There comes a time when we need to stop trying to perform, stop offering our petitions, even cease our praise for a moment, and simply be still and listen to His still small voice speaking to our spirits, and heed the admonition of our heavenly Father to “listen to Him.”

LISTEN TO HIM AS HE SPEAKS TO US THROUGH HIS SCRIPTURE

The Bible remains a sealed book until God’s Spirit opens its truth to us. We may gain a head knowledge of Him through the Bible, but we will never be able to understand a heart knowledge, a spiritual discernment, until, like the disciples, He talks to us along the road and opens the Scriptures to us (Luke 24:32). And we do the listening.

Jesus “expounded” to them in all the Scriptures the things that concerned Himself (Luke 24:27). The word expound connotes the thought of translating something out of a foreign language. The Bible is really a foreign language to those who do not believe.

Beginning at Moses… He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

From the Pentateuch to the Prophets Jesus preached Jesus.

From Moses to Malachi He revealed how the entire Jewish Bible speaks of Him. As He spoke to them, a shadow of the cross fell over the Jewish Bible. He was that ram at Abraham’s altar in Genesis. He was the Passover lamb in Exodus, whose spilled blood meant freedom from slavery and deliverance from death… and still does. He was that scarlet thread out Rahab’s window in Joshua. And the good shepherd of whom David spoke in the Psalms? Jesus was that shepherd. As the disciples listened, they understood that Jesus was the suffering servant spoken so eloquently about by Isaiah. And He was the fourth man in the midst of the fiery furnace in Daniel. No wonder their hearts began to burn within them. He was doing the talking… and they were doing the listening.

The disciples’ immediate response was noteworthy. They “rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem” to exclaim to all the others,

The Lord is risen indeed! — Luke 24:33-34

Their glowing hearts turned into going hearts. With beating, burning hearts they scurried back to Jerusalem, around the corners, down the narrow alleys, up Mount Zion, to find the others and share the good news. And they shared it not with an emaciated question mark, but with a bold exclamation mark: “He is alive!”

One of these Emmaus followers was named Cleopas. His companion is left unnamed. I like to think this is so in order for you and me to find ourselves in his or her place as we walk on our own road today. Perhaps you are reading these words with your own hopes dashed and your own dreams smashed.

Stop.

Look.

Listen to Jesus’ Spirit through His Scriptures.

He is still speaking. And if you listen, you just might walk away with your own heart burning within you.

“Listen to Him.”

CODE WORD: CELL PHONE

Today, when your phone rings and you answer and begin listening, let it remind you that prayer is a two-way conversation also. Stop doing all the talking; listen to Him!


Excerpted with permission from The Prayer Code by  O. S. Hawkins, ©2021 Dr. O. S. Hawkins.

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November 9, 2021

God Keeps His Promises

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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A year ago we introduced you to who writes at Our Living Hope. Today we had a tough time choosing among four recent devotionals. Click the header which follows to read this one at its point of origin.

The Promises of God

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ”. 2 Corinthians 1:20.

Our God is a promise keeping God and everything he says he will do, he does. He will fulfill all his promises in our lives. We cannot see God and his promises separately, his promises proceeds out of him.He is who he is and he does what he wills. All of God’s promises involves a process, and in his presence we receive the patience to see it fulfilled in God’s time. As much as we cannot separate God and his promises, we also cannot separate God’s will and God’s time, his will can happen only in his time.

He makes all things beautiful in its time. It says in Galatians 4:4, ‘ But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law”. It shows that God was willing to put himself through a process to reveal to the world his greatest gift, he was patient enough to wait for the set time to fulfill his promise. We who are called to reflect him must also wait patiently for the promises of God to be revealed in our lives, his plans to be fulfilled in our lives. The scripture says in Hebrews 6:15 that, And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised’. It is in God’s presence Abraham received the strength to wait patiently for the unseen, because we cannot receive his promises apart from his presence, it is the reason Moses asks God’s presence to lead the Israelites to the promise. We can experience his presence only when we travel along with him, he surely does take us in to the path of patience where we are enriched in him.

God said to Abraham,

“Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” Genesis 15:1.

I’m your reward — In our patient endurance God strengthens the relationship we have with him, he teaches us to seek him and put our trust on him. He tells to Abraham that the relationship with the promise giver is key to the promise itself, and to desire his presence above everything. He strengthens our relationship with him as we wait in his presence, which becomes the most important process, and our communion with him will transform our nature to agree with God in everything when we receive his plans and promises. The peace that surpasses all understanding is found in our patience for God’s move.

It is only when we value God, the promise giver, we will be able to value and honour the promises we receive from him. As we are strengthened in his relationship with him, we will have the strength to obey and hold the promises he gives faithfully. Only when we understand God through our relationship with him, we will be able to have the wisdom to find the meaning and purposes in the promises we receive. Only when we receive his promise we can bring blessing in to the lives of others.

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him”. Luke 2:25.

Simeon and Anna was waiting patiently to see the messiah, and the consolation of Israel in the temple, they were waiting in God’s presence with the strength of the Holyspirit to see Jesus in flesh as a child . They were filled with hope even when they witnessed all the political turmoil and instability in Jerusalem, because they waited patiently in God’s presence. In the end Simeon was able to see and prophetically declare the mission of Christ.

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about’ Acts 1:4.

So even with dangers all around and the challenges they had in Jerusalem, the disciples patiently waited as Jesus told them to receive the promise of the Father, they were waiting in God’s presence and strengthened their communion with him in prayer, and at the time of Pentecost when the Holyspirit was poured out on them abundantly, they were able fulfill God’s plans and use the promise of the Holyspirit received to bear fruit.

All the promises of God are yes and amen in Christ Jesus….. it is through Jesus we are reconciled to God, through him our communion and our relationship with God is strengthened, and in him we receive the promises from the father. Through the fullness of Christ we receive grace upon grace.

Our patient hope to fulfill his plans will find its greatest meaning in God’s presence where we are renewed to find his likeness in us and our communion with him as our reward.

“And Patience was willing to wait”. – Pilgrim’s Progress

Prayer : Heavenly Father, thank you for your communion with us, which enables us to fulfill all the plans you have set before us. Help us to be faithful. Amen.


Second Helping: By the same author, check out this recent article, A Letter of Encouragement.

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