Christianity 201

May 30, 2023

Praying in Community: The Family

The family that prays together stays together, and if they stay together they will love one another as God has loved each one of them. And works of love are always works of peace. – Mother Teresa


We found today’s devotional at the website Makanji Space and not knowing more about the writer, discerned that it would be a good fit here. Click the title below to read it where it first appeared, and then navigate from there to read other posts as we did.

Divine Threads: Unraveling the Power of Shared Family Prayer

In the words of Venerable Patrick Peyton, the celebrated phrase, “The Family that Prays Together Stays Together,” was given birth, illuminating the profound connection between family unity and collective prayer. Father Peyton, also known as The Rosary Priest, was a fervent advocate of family prayer, particularly the recitation of the rosary. His unwavering conviction was that prayer, especially when done together as a family, had the power to strengthen familial bonds, instill virtues, and bring divine grace into the home.

This spiritual reflection seeks to delve into this aphorism’s depths, exploring why and how shared prayer holds the potential to sustain and nourish family unity. Drawing on biblical texts and interpreting them in the context of family and prayer, the reflection offers insights into the transformative power of shared prayer. It articulates how shared prayer fosters peace, enhances communication, invites divine interventions, instills virtues, provides a shared sense of purpose, and strengthens familial bonds.

“A Family that Prays Together Stays Together” reveals profound insights about prayer and family life. It encapsulates the transformative power of prayer, which is not just an act of uttering sacred words, but an experience that fosters shared peace, enhanced communication, divine intervention and virtuous development as a sense of purpose.

Yet, another perspective deserves our attention: the community aspect of prayer. Acts 2:42 says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer.” Here, prayer is not an isolated practice but integrated into the fabric of vibrant community life. It is in this community life that the family finds its highest expression. The family that prays together forms a small ecclesia, a small church, a spiritual community that lives in communion with God and each other.

The divine communion is beautifully demonstrated in 1 John 4:12: “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” The family that prays together invites God’s love into their hearts, enabling them to love each other more deeply. This divine love transcends human limitations and helps family members to accept and cherish each other in their uniqueness, promoting unity in diversity.

The family that prays together also embodies and perpetuates the faith tradition.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 advises, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home, walk along the road, lie down, and get up.” Prayer becomes an occasion to pass faith values and wisdom to the younger generation, promoting continuity and tradition that strengthens family bonds.

In retrospect, the concept of a family that prays together, staying together transcends the mundane aspect of human interactions. It places the family in the sacred realm of divine love, grace, and wisdom. It acknowledges that family is not just a human institution but a divine blessing, an opportunity to experience and manifest God’s love.

Prayer can therefore be seen as a spiritual thread that weaves the family together, and it is the golden cord that connects the family and God. The family that prays together stays together- not just because they pray, but because they live, love and grow together under the divine umbrella of prayer. They become a spiritual community that embodies the psalmist’s words in Psalm 133:1 “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”

And so, to answer the question as to why the family that prays together stays together, it is not simply the act of prayer that keeps the family together. It is what prayer signifies: a collective surrender to divine guidance, a shared journey into love and understanding, a mutual nurturing of virtues, and a united front facing life’s challenges. It is about communicating with each other and with God. It is about being together in the most intimate way possible, in the quiet moments of reverence, in the shared silence of the divine, and in the unity of purpose that prayer cultivates.

This reflection only scratches the surface of the depth of wisdom encapsulated in the phrase, “The Family that Prays Together Stays Together.” May each family discover the beauty and power of shared prayer, and through this practice, may they grow stronger, closer and more loving.

Mission Statement: Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of Christian blogs and websites representing diverse denominational viewpoints. Sometimes two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading. Your suggestions of articles and websites to consider are always welcome.

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

May 29, 2023

The Time Jesus Knocked Them off Their Feet

Today’s thoughts take place at the moment of the arrest of Jesus prior to the crucifixion.

NIV.John.18.1 When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it.

Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they said.

Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.

The particular focus today is these words:

“…they drew back and fell to the ground.” ~John 18:6

The quotation above is from John’s account of Jesus’ arrest. Judas leads a group of soldiers and Pharisees to a grove of olives and Jesus steps out from his group and asks who they are seeking. They said, “Jesus of Nazareth;” and he answered, “I am he.” And then John tells us that at the words, ‘I am he;’ they fell to the ground. I’ve quoted the NIV (or ESV) above; The Message version adds a different dimension, “He said, ‘That’s me.’ The soldiers recoiled, totally taken aback. Judas, his betrayer, stood out like a sore thumb.”

This detail about the soldiers is singular to John’s gospel. (He doesn’t mention the betrayal with a kiss at all.) I’ve often wondered what caused this particular reaction.

  • The Life Application Bible suggests that they were startled by the boldness of his response
  • The Wycliffe Bible Commentary suggests he unnerved his captors, some of whom may have been the ones previously unable to lay hands on him (John 7:43-46);
  • Though the Pharisees had seen Jesus teaching in the temple, it’s possible the soldiers had never seen him up close and personal. As they came into proximity with him he was either not what they expected, or they sensed something “wholly other” about him. (Matthew Henry adds that the term ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ was used derisively, and that Jesus could have simply answered “No” for technically he was ‘Jesus of Bethlehem.’)
  • The Life App. and various other commentaries tell us that his “I am he” answer used the “I AM” form of God’s name; it indicated his claim of divinity. There are many pivotal turning points in John’s text, but this is one where we often miss the full impact;
  • The above, combined with what they where about to do; they suddenly felt the impact of their own actions. Were they arresting an innocent man? Were they arresting God?
  • If the full force of his answer registered at all; Matthew Henry points out they would realize that he could simply strike them dead at that point. Was there any limit to his potential response?

Without taking away from any of these explanations, I want to introduce a new dimension to the narrative that had never struck me before in this context. I picked this up reading Michael Card writing in an older issue of the Our Journey devotional booklet.

“When Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane, He was already bloody before anyone laid a hand on him. He had been fighting a battle that would make certain the final outcome on Calvary. The blood and water that flowed from his wounds on the cross were preceded by bloody sweat that poured from His pores as He suffered the agony of a death more painful than the physical death of the cross, the death of the will... The painful crushing began appropriately enough, in the garden…” ~ Michael Card (Italics added)

What do you do if you are the soldiers, sent to arrest someone, who looks more like a victim than a criminal? What do you do if the plan calls for flogging or torture and the person seems to be already spent? What if you have a fragment of insight into the bigger picture and realize that the “I Am” is standing before you,  bloodied and bruised?

Could that be part of what caused them to draw back and fall to the ground?

May 27, 2023

Delay is not Denial

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Today we have a new author to introduce, Brianna Ngarambe. She writes at Joy-Full, only she likes lower case letters, so joy-full. Clicking the link in the title which comes next will take you to where this first appeared.

at the right time

Lazarus was dead for four days.

Jesus was in the tomb before He rose.

Sometimes a situation has to die for it to be raised again.

In the life of every believer, there was a time where you realized that God is and has been your only hope of restoration and abundant life. You died to yourself, and became alive in Christ.

No one who hopes in You will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause.

Psalm 25:3 NLT

We as believers had faith enough for God to cleanse us from unrighteousness and forgive us of our sins, past, present, and future. God doesn’t want to save you just to save you, He wants you to partake in His love, in His blessings, and also in His suffering as well, with an understanding that it is all doing a good work within us.

But remember– any faithlessness will not allow you to see His hand in the midst of your mourning.

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

Do you want to miss the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end? If your answer is no, which I pray it is, then understand this:

Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?”

John 11:40 NLT

Don’t just believe that God can do it. Believe that He would do it for you. He is Our Heavenly Father, and He wouldn’t withhold anything good from us (Psalm 84:11). It is time to move from believing to seeing. From believing in His Glory to seeing His glory. To believing in the scope of God’s work, to seeing prayer points fulfilled before your eyes.

When a situation looks dead, when it looks hopeless, my friend, this is the perfect time to look up to where your help comes from (Psalm 121). Our God has resurrecting power. He actually rose with all power (Matthew 28:18)! And it is by this power that He will come through for you at the perfect time.

To you, God may seem late. To Mary and Martha, they just couldn’t understand why Jesus took so long.

 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.

John 11:4 NLT

There are certain situations where the delay is not from God, which is where we fight in the Spirit against every enemy of progress with the full armor of God!! (Eph. 6). But let me tell you, when God delays, it is never a denial. It is not a setback, but an opportunity for your faith to grow and for everyone to see God’s glory and promises come to pass over your life.

Lord, I thank You that all power is in Your hands. You have the power to resurrect every dead situation back to life.
I pray that You give me an understanding of this season that I’m in. Thank You for directing my steps, and I pray for divine alignment for the purposes and plans that You have for me, that will give me a hope and a future. I pray for those even around me who may be going through difficult seasons, walk with them to their victory in Jesus Mighty Name I pray

By the same author: The story about a Lyft driver at the beginning of this devotional will bring you much encouragement. Read When God Interrupts You.

May 15, 2023

Moses’ Mid-life Calling

Today we introduce another new writer to you, Becca Harbert. Her ‘about’ page didn’t really tell us much about her, but it was fun to read! She blogs at weekly (until recently) on a variety of faith-focused topics. Click the title which follows to read this where we first did!

Lord. Please Send Someone Else!

I used to judge Moses for asking God to send someone else. He was being offered the opportunity, not only of a lifetime, or the century, but like, of all of time. Moses, you’re going to stand up to the most powerful man in the world, the Pharaoh. Then you’re going to lead God’s people through the Red Sea on dry ground! You’re going to lead the people in the desert, where God will feed you manna from Heaven and water from a rock. Oh, and did I mention the Promised Land? All you have to do is trust God and do what He says step by step. C’mon Moses. It’s what you were made for, saved from the Nile for, raised in the palace for. Moses! This is your chance!!!

But what did he say?

He said, “Lord. Please send someone else” (Exodus 4:13). Moses was not a young duck. He was forty when the Lord called him through that burning bush. He’d been herding sheep for, what, a decade? Possibly longer? He. Was. Done. He’d given up on that dream of doing anything meaningful or adventurous or that required much faith, a LONG time ago. He was content, living in the desert with his sons and his wife, living the simple life. He’d messed up in his past with a criminal record. He struggled with his stuttering tongue. Yet he’d found a way for himself and his family despite all that. Moses had overcome a lot in his life. But then, the Lord called him to do something else.

I’ve written on this before, but since I’m nearly forty, the age of Moses here, I so relate to the weariness and skepticalness we see from Moses in this meeting with the Lord in the burning bush! He’s just worn out. He doesn’t doubt God. He’s just tired. Maybe he gave up on dreaming. Maybe he gave up on his faith. Maybe he just didn’t want any more adventures in his life. Maybe he’d lost a lot of money in the stock market or the sheep market that year. Maybe he had a trying child that had worn him out. Maybe he’d tried to follow the Lord but just gave it up.

Does any of that sound familiar? Are you a young person in your teens or twenties, eager to change the world? Or are you busy doing just that in your thirties? Or are you in your forties, completely over it? Hardened by the world and the circumstances that have come your way. I hear by the time you’re sixty you’re refreshed and ready to jump into ministry again. But those forty-somethings, are worn out. There’s a reason they call it over the hill! Moses was there! Maybe he literally was in his mid-life crisis, or wondered if running off to Egypt with his family in a new corvette would look like that. I mean, he did have that new magical staff snake thing, right? It’s kind of the same as a corvette. And no, he didn’t have a car, but used a donkey. But hey, the Bible doesn’t say anything about him not painting it red, just saying. JK.

On a more serious note, do you think God makes mistakes? Of course not. But why didn’t God call someone younger, more energetic, more passionate? Or why didn’t God call Moses at a younger age? I wonder such things, but I also greatly appreciate that He called Moses at age 40, in the middle of his life, to pursue something BIG. It give us hope that God has not forgotten us, or those middle aged folk. Most of the disciples were young. Mary and Joseph were young. Noah was old. John’s parents, Elizabeth and Zachariah were old. Abraham and Sarah were old when they had their baby Isaac. God can use anyone at any age. Praise God, right?! Praise Him! He’s used children too. Miriam, Moses’ sister was used as a child to help save his life as a baby! Moses wasn’t young and energetic or old and free. He was middle aged.

Moses’ story shows us just how hard it can be at that age to pick up and start an adventure for the Lord. Many times, Moses returned to the Lord saying, “What were you thinking? How can this be? These people! This mission!” Ultimately, his concerns were always either “I can’t do this,” or “this is impossible,” or “these people don’t want my help!” And every time the Lord delivered. Granted, they did face some discipline along the way, like not actually making it to the promised land until the next generation. But step by step, God led Moses with what to do next. He led Moses day by day.

Do you feel the Lord calling you or someone you know in the middle of their life to something? Can you encourage them or pray for them to have the faith to simply take steps of obedience trusting God to do His work? If you’re in that position, pray for faith to believe God to do what He can do. Remember, God never answered Moses’ question about who Moses was. He only pointed Moses to who God is (Exodus 3:11-14). It doesn’t matter who we are or if we’re tired or not. It matters that we continue persevering and trusting God by taking the steps of faith He’s leading us toward. I pray you are encouraged by this, my Friend. I have been.

NLT.Ex.3.11 But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?”

12 God answered, “I will be with you. And this is your sign that I am the one who has sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain.”

13 But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?”

14 God replied to Moses, “I am who i am. Say this to the people of Israel: I am has sent me to you.”

Thinking about Moses’ mid-life job assignment reminded me of this picture frame that my wife Ruth was given on the weekend. “Adventure Awaits!” Text: “May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed.” Psalm 20:4

May 9, 2023

Non-Stop Talk about Sharing in God’s Glory

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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I was once in a young adults meeting where the leader asked, “What do you talk about when it’s your chance to control the conversation?” Opportunities to give credit (honor) to God don’t happen all the time, but we should be taking advantages of them when they do.

This is our third time highlighting the writing of Rev. Taylor Mertins  who blogs at Think and Let Think, has co-authored three books, and hosts the Strangely Warmed Podcast and the Crackers and Grape Juice Podcast.

What Is Jesus Doing In Your Life?

Romans 5.1-2

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

“How is it with your soul?”

That’s a Wesleyan question that we Methodists still throw around occasionally. It comes from John Wesley himself and was the central question for historic Methodist class meetings, these small and intimate gatherings of Christians who were concerned with what it actually meant to be Christian. The question confronts us in our faith such that we must reckon with what God’s grace is doing to us.

And yet, we don’t ask that question, or questions like it, anymore. Sure, in the context of a Bible study or a small group ostensibly gathering in the name of Christ, you might hear a question like it but in our day to day discipleship, it’s nowhere to be found.

The relativization of the faith to the private sphere has resulted in a form of discipleship that is largely divorced from Christ’s call to take up our cross and follow. Put another way, if our faith is merely something we do on Sundays then it doesn’t really have anything to do with the One who makes our faith intelligible.

In Paul’s letter to the church in Rome he confronts the embodied nature of the faith with physical language about “standing in grace” and “boasting in our hope.” Something has been done to us and, as such, we have an assurance that we can live differently because of it. And that something has a name: Jesus.

Frederick Buechner, author/pastor/theologian once said:

“Nice people don’t talk about religion. Or so the thinking goes. That’s why, when I taught at Wheaton College, it was so refreshing. There were people there who talked about it ALL THE TIME. It was almost too much and hard to take. It was as if they had Jesus in their hip pocket, and all they had to do was take him out and he would tell them where to find a parking space. But, on the other hand, they were able to ask, “What is Jesus doing in your life this week?” Marvelous! I believe God is doing something in everyone’s life every moment!

But the idea of asking that question in certain places with certain people, it’s like the sky would fall in, the house would catch fire, and I would never be asked out again. In other words, people don’t ask about our experiences of grace, but perhaps they should.”

I wonder, therefore, how differently the church would look were we willing to ask that all too important question, “What is Jesus doing in your life this week?” If the faith we proclaim on Sundays is indeed the faith revealed to us in the person of Christ, then there are manifold implications for how Christ is guiding, shaping, and moving in our midst. Particularly since worship isn’t as much about what we do, but more about what we do in response to all that God has done, is doing, and will do.

Basically, it comes down to a matter of agency: Do we believe that God is active in our lives, or do we consider ourselves the primary movers and shakers?

Perhaps asking the question is the way in which we can open our eyes and ears to Christ’s actions in our lives. And maybe, being able to ask the question at all is what makes faith, faith.

And so, what is Jesus doing in your life this week?

May 7, 2023

The Strength Faith Brings

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Today we’re back with Melody at In Pleasant Places and each day combines original thoughts with a significant helping of scripture references. Click the title which follows are read this where it first appeared.

Our Faith – 1 John 5:4

“For this is what love for God is: to keep his commands. And his commands are not a burden, because everyone who has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith. Who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
1 John 5:3-5

A song was playing as I was getting ready yesterday morning, and it referenced our shield of faith. And I believe that’s what brought the verse above to mind, in which the apostle John writes that it is our faith that conquers, or overcomes, the world.

What became so interesting to me is that my mind was then drawn to two other verses that perhaps can further develop our understanding here. Or mine, at least. Because the sense I have generally gotten from 1 John 5:4 has been that with a strong enough faith, the world and its temptations are overcome. If I can just bolster my beliefs and remember to raise that shield of faith and belt of truth, I can perceive that the Lord’s commands are not burdensome but are for my good, and I can overcome.

Let’s look at the 3 passages that seemed to suddenly connect to each other yesterday:

“And his commands are not a burden, because everyone who has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith.” (1 John 5:3b-4)

“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race set before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

“Indeed, an hour is coming, and has come, when each of you will be scattered to his own home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” John 16:32-33

► It is our faith that conquers the world (1 John 5).
► Jesus is the source and perfecter of our faith – beginning it and completing it within us, bringing it faithfully to fullness (Hebrews 12).
► Jesus said to take heart, to be courageous; He has conquered the world (John 16).

The reason we stand in hope that our faith conquers the world isn’t because we’re strong in ourselves, but because the One who begins, holds, and completes our faith is the One who Himself has conquered the world, enduring all temptations, all darkness, and all agony and shame, and sat down in victory on His throne. He is upholding us now.

The phrase “our faith” can be misleading to my perspective. But what is being impressed on me lately is that it is our faith because the Lord has given it to us in love and power, not because we created it or mustered it or sustain it within ourselves. And oh, how that frees us from the weight of trying to carry it on our own, and from the pride that can so easily take hold.

He gives us the faith we need. He gives us the strength – His strength – that we need, as we look to and lean heavily on Him, knowing the strength is not our own. We conquer because Jesus has conquered. We can obey because He has fulfilled the law and has given us (is giving us) all we need for a life of godliness, a life of joy and freedom and abundance as we walk by His strength in the light of His righteousness and truth.

So we can look to Him and walk forward in confidence, knowing He establishes our steps on His path of righteousness and His power and strength are made perfect in our weakness as He faithfully perfects our faith and conquers the world.

“His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. By these he has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.”
2 Peter 1:3-4

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
Hebrews 1:3

May 3, 2023

Don’t Stop Praying

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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Today we’re back again at the daily devotional page at Magnficent Life Ministries, a ministry based near Riverside, California.

This was a two-part devotional, and as we post this, there may be more, so you’re encouraged to click the headers which follow and then click on the home page to see new material. Also at the bottom of each of the linked pages you can connect to related devotionals on the subject of prayer.

(These devotions use the King James text. If you’re new at all this and struggle with understanding, use the references to look up verses in your personal Bible.)

Continue in Prayer! Part One

“Continue in prayer, and watch in it with thanksgiving.” Colossians 4.2

Yes, the Bible, especially the epistles, is a book that teaches believers about all that Christ has done. It tells of His redemptive work. It explains in detail all that happened from the cross to the throne. Yet in it are instructions for the New Testament believer. As it speaks of who we are, it also speaks of what we can do because of who we are. We derive our identity and our conduct from the same. A mere purview of Paul’s letter, for instance, shows you the manner in which the apostles wrote.

They wrote the first part of the letter to tell of all Christ has done for you, who you are in Him, and what you have because of Him, and now ends with instructions on how to live the Christian life. One of those many instructions in the scriptures is the instruction to pray. Prayer is so evidently taught in the scriptures; it will take sheer disobedience not to do the same. Some places where they instructed prayers include Matthew 9.38 “Pray you, therefore, the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.”

Matthew 26.41 says, “Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Romans 15:30-31 also said, “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints.” It is evident that prayer is emphatically taught in the scriptures. We had not even cited an example from Jesus’ prayer life or how they prayed in the book of Acts. You will also clearly note the object of prayers in the epistle. Prayer for things was almost not mentioned.

They basically prayed for a revelation of the Spirit of knowledge, strength, utterances, and boldness for the preacher of the gospel; and their deliverance. But much, note that prayer was continuous. It was what was done night and day. It was instructed to be done at all times. There are treasures in the place of prayer that a believer is yet to unlock, a depth of fellowship with the Father, wisdom to be gleaned from Him, revelation, and insight to be received as we pray. Let us cultivate the habit of praying continuously; it is not because we need to pray but a commandment from above. Romans 12:12 says, “Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.”

Father Lord, please give me the grace to be persistent in prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Continue with Prayer! Part Two

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” James 1:5

If we are to take 1 Thessalonians 5:17 seriously, then prayer is not just an occasional indulgence but a way of life. It is how we communicate with God and should be as practical and consistent as our daily routine. However, it’s not always easy to keep up with this commandment, especially when faced with the challenges and distractions of everyday life.

In evaluating our prayer lives, we must ask ourselves how practical and consistent they are. For example, are we only praying when things go wrong, or do we make time for prayer even in times of peace? Do we pray just for ourselves, or do we also intercede for others? How much effort do we put into our prayers – is it just a casual mention, or do we really pour out our hearts to God? Whatever you do, I want you to choose a person in your local church or Pastor to pray for today, using the examples of prayer focus in part one of the daily devotion.

Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.”

As Christians, our faith in God is the cornerstone of our lives. We turn to Him in times of joy and in times of sorrow. However, it’s important to remember that we don’t need to wait for a special season or occasion to pray. Our prayers should be constant and unwavering, just as God’s love for us is. Prayer should not be seen as a religious obligation but rather as an intimate conversation between us and our Creator. Maintaining consistency in our prayer life makes it easier to hear from God and understand His will for our lives.

In James 1:5-8, we’re reminded that if we lack wisdom, all we need to do is ask God, and He will give it to us generously without finding fault. But this request must be made with faith and without a doubt because those who doubt are like waves on the sea tossed by the wind. Therefore, when we make our requests known to God through prayer, let’s do so confidently, knowing He hears us and will answer according to His will. John 14:13-14 says, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” Amen.

1. Oh Lord Jesus, thank you for your mercy and grace.
2. Holy Spirit, help me to be consistent in the spiritual realm of prayer with God through Christ Jesus. Amen.

April 21, 2023

The Realm of Mystery in the Kingdom of God

Some things — perhaps not as many as should be — make me smile, and one of those things is returning to a writer who we featured here a decade ago and find them still faithfully online. Such is the case with Charlie LeHardy, who writes at AnotherThink. Click the title which follows to read this where it first appeared.

Great mysteries and hidden things revealed

At that same time Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and he said, “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way.

“My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

Then when they were alone, he turned to the disciples and said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you have seen. I tell you, many prophets and kings longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it.” —Luke 10:21-24 (NLT)

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is an amazing achievement in science, engineering, and the human quest to unwrap the mysteries of the world we live in. On the engineering side, this gigantic telescope was lifted far into space on a rocket—not such an uncommon thing these days—and once it reached its position in space, it unwrapped and unfolded itself over a period of many weeks, precisely and flawlessly, all without the assistance of human hands.

Now that it is operational, its design allows it to return clear images from deeper into space than we’ve ever seen before, which means, because the universe is so inconceivably vast, that JWST is literally looking back in time to events that happened in the earliest days of the creation of our universe.

Already it has found something unexpected. If the interpretation of recent images is correct, JWST has spotted galaxies that are many times larger and more mature than the current understanding of the Big Bang Theory would allow. These particular galaxies, and perhaps many others not yet spotted, seem to have jumped into being ahead of schedule. It’s a surprise, a mystery, a puzzle to be solved.

There are many, many mysteries in life, aren’t there? From the biggest questions, like, how did the stars in the sky come into existence, to the smallest questions, like, why does my wife love me, we simply don’t know as much as we think we do. We certainly don’t know as much as there is to know.

It’s good that there are still mysteries. Mystery keeps us humble. We think of ourselves as “wise and clever,” as Jesus said, but just when we think we have a good handle on things, a wrench gets thrown into the works and our certainties crumble.

The world just went through one of the most terrible mysterious events of my lifetime, COVID-19. Was it a natural viral mutation or a bioweapon? How was it transmitted and what would slow its rampant spread? Did hand sanitizing work? Social distancing? Vaccines? Masks? Quarantines? Many millions of deaths later, these things are still being debated. What we know for certain about COVID is that it showed us how little we really know about infectious diseases and their treatments, among other things. And, it showed us how quickly modern society can be crippled, even in this age when we have such (apparently unfounded) confidence that we’re firmly in control of our lives.

Jesus says something interesting in this short and mysterious passage. First, he says that we cannot know God unless God chooses to reveal himself to us, and that God has chosen to reveal himself through his son, Jesus. That means that spiritual enlightenment is a dead end unless we begin seeking understanding by looking hard at the life and words and person of Jesus Christ.

Accept that or don’t, but it’s the unambiguous and rather bold claim of Jesus, the man who is so often credited uncritically as a somewhat interesting great moral teacher.

After saying that, he directly addresses his disciples and tells them that they are witnesses to a mystery that many prophets and holy people through history have longed to see for themselves. They did not see these things because God hid them, until that moment.

And what did God hide that he has now revealed? The mysterious plan of God, what Jesus calls the kingdom of God. He had hidden his plan to make a way for all of humanity to live with him, to know him, just as the first two people did in the garden at creation.

The mystery that has been revealed is that Jesus Christ is the way to be reconciled with God, to know God, and to enter into a life-saving relationship with God.

Here’s how the Apostle Paul put it in his letter to the church at Colossae:

God wanted everyone, not just Jews, to know this rich and glorious secret inside and out, regardless of their background, regardless of their religious standing. The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message. —Colossians 1:27 (The Message)

Previously, on his “about” page, Charlie shared this same theme:

The apostle Paul once wrote that we view life as if looking in a very tarnished and worn mirror, or “squinting in a fog, peering through a mist” (1 Corinthians 13:12, The Message). But one day, life’s mysteries will be explained. In the meantime, we puzzle and ponder. I hope you enjoy my puzzling, and that it leads you to ask important questions about the purpose of life and the identity of the man who claimed to be God, Jesus Christ.

April 19, 2023

Where is God on Your List of Priorities?

This is our third time with Linda Knight who writes at Fearless Living. She has been going through the Book of Isaiah. The articles are shorter, so we have two of them for you today, a recent one, and then a longer one from before Easter. The headers below will also take there. You’ll also find links where you can listen to each one on Spotify.

What Role Does God Play in Your Life?

I am excited to continue in Isaiah as there is so much yet to be learned and discovered! I pray you will continue with me on this journey. After the 4th and final Song contained in Isaiah containing a vivid description of our Savior, Jesus, Isiah continues in his words of encouragement from God to the people of Isael. God knows that they will need these words as they languish in exile in Babylon. In Isaiah 54 we find words to build up Isarel as God knows they will be feeling discouraged, ashamed and downtrodden when they reflect on their sin and disobedience towards God and the time they spent in Egypt and in Babylon.


Isaiah 54:4-5 “Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.
Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.
You will forget the shame of your youth
and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.
For your Maker is your husband—
the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth.

These verses are filled with truths that are timeless and can be applied to our lives today. The Lord Jesus, our Redeemer, can cover my shame and alleviate the pain that it causes. He can cause me to forget things from my mind so that I will no longer dwell on them. Both of these are priceless promises that can and do help me to live for Him for today and not be stuck in the past. God did not want the Israelites to mourn and be consumed with their past failures but to look forward and let Him carry the past pain. He desires the same for you and me today.

In verse 5 God lists for me the roles He desires to exercise in my life if I will turn to Him and trust Him. He promises to be my Maker or Creator, Husband or loving caretaker, companion, Almighty God who is the all-powerful one in my life and world, Holy One who is pure and spotless, Redeemer, Savior or the one who went to the cross to save me so I can be in a relationship with Father God, and Sovereign God who is above all, in all, completely in charge so that nothing escapes His power and might.

I would echo the words of David from Psalm 89:8 “Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.” God is the one and only God and only He can take care of you perfectly. I love Nahum 1:7 and claim it often, The Lord is good,  a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him,” As you ponder these verses today, may the Lord show you how He is your Creator, Husband, Almighty God, Redeemer and Sovereign Lord.

Jesus is Upholding You, Be Encouraged!

In Chapter 41 of Isaiah we find encouraging passages that would have strengthened and given hope to the Israelites while in captivity in Babylon and that speak to us today with that same strength and hope.

Isaiah 41:9-10 “I took you from the ends of the earth,
from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

The Israelites could identify with these words as they knew God had called them while in Egypt and would call them to return to Jerusalem when their captivity in Babylon was finished. They knew that God would keep the promises He made to their fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God was giving them hope that He would strengthen, help and uphold them.

As we look at these verses thousands of years later, what do they mean to us today? We know God kept His promise to return them to the land of Israel after their captivity in Babylon. He also returned them to their land as a nation in 1948 when the Jews returned to establish and the independent country of Israel. We can also take comfort in God’s promise to be with us, strengthen and help us. When God says he will uphold us with His righteous right hand, God is referring to Jesus. Jesus is known as the one who sits at God’s right hand. We can count on Him to uphold us 24/7. Here are some lessons and truths we can glean from these verses that will give us courage, strength and resolve for living:

** God is sovereign and we are chosen by God to serve Him. God is in control of all things in heaven and on the earth. All believers are chosen by God to serve Him. He delights in having a relationship with us. Acts 4:24 “When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.” Psalm 147:11 “the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”

**God’s presence dispels fear. (God is greater than any fear we might have!) Psalm 34:4 “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”

**Knowing He is my God frees me from discouragement. Nothing or no one can withstand the power of God. Romans 8:31b says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” or Isaiah 49:23b “Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”

**God promises to provide strength and help. This promise is found elsewhere too. Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Isaiah 40:29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Psalm 33:20 “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.” Isaiah 50:9 “It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me. Who will condemn me? They will all wear out like a garment; the moths will eat them up.”

**God promises to uphold me through Jesus, who is His righteous right hand. Mark 16:19After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Acts 5:30-31 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins.” Ephesians 1:19-20  and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father. He told us he would be with us and uphold us until He returns. John 14:3, 16-17 “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

May you be encouraged today by our promise keeping God!



April 18, 2023

Charles Stanley Quotations

Dr. Charles Stanley, the long-time Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta, author of many books, broadcaster, and founder of InTouch Ministries passed away peacefully at his home this morning (April 18) at age 90. Tributes have been pouring in from Christian leaders around the world, and while there were a lot of very formal pictures to choose from, I liked this one, and I think he would, too.

I realized we had never included him in our quotations series, so this seems an appropriate time. Items 2 through 7 have appeared here in longer articles, the others are from various quotation sites. As always with our quote series, take time to consider each before moving on to the next.

Think about the comfortable feeling you have as you open your front door. That’s but a hint of what we’ll feel some day on arriving at the place our Father has lovingly and personally prepared for us in heaven. We will finally – and permanently – be ‘at home’ in a way that defies description.

Conviction begins even before salvation. The Holy Spirit reveals our wrongs to help us recognize that we need forgiveness. When we accept Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf and choose to follow Him, we are born again. Only then are we free from the penalty of sin. At the same time, we are still human and will make some poor choices. So, even after we are His children, God continues to redirect us.

No matter where we are in our Christian walk, most of us will admit that our prayer life isn’t what we’d like it to be. Our attempts to make room for prayer in our busy schedules are often short-lived. And when we do manage to spend time with the Lord, we find ourselves easily distracted by random thoughts, our own desires, and the demands of the day. Instead of giving up in frustration and settling for a sporadic devotional experience, we need to realize that prayer was essential to Christ and should be to us also. The road to a deepening prayer life begins with a commitment to make it a top priority in our day.

When James spoke of joy, he wasn’t referring to a cheery, frivolous feeling. Rather, he was talking about an inner sense of calmness, peace, and confidence in the Lord. He wasn’t telling us to feel happy about our trials but to know, as we go through them, that God is up to something good in our life. Our attitude during the struggle will determine what shape we’re in when we come out on the other side.

From the very beginning, God has shown Himself to be a loving parent, but it is only through Christ that we’ve inherited the privilege to call the Him “our Father” (Gal. 4:4-7*). The New Testament gives witness to Christ’s revelation of the wonderful relationship we can have with our heavenly Father: The name appears 245 times—over 100 times in John’s gospel alone. Paul opens each of his letters acknowledging God as our Father. The fact that man could know God as the perfect parent was a radical new idea in Jesus’ time, and it continues to be a life-impacting truth today

Our intimacy with God is His highest priority for our lives because it determines the impact of our lives. The more profound our fellowship with the Father, the more powerful our lives will be—regardless of whether we’re educated, attractive, wealthy, or of prominent social standing. We don’t have to be perfect, not by any means. No, it is our relationship with God that makes all the difference in our lives— our love for Him, our willingness to serve Him, and our dependence upon His Holy Spirit.

Very seldom does the Lord God reveal a future event to us. The motivational gift of prophecy is primarily concerned with speaking forth the truth. The Word of God helps us to understand characteristics and avoid misunderstandings associated with the gift of prophecy, and it shows us how we use that gift when we walk in the Spirit.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses three verbs to describe prayer: ask, seek, and knock. Notice the progression in intensity from a request to a search and then to further action. Prayer is more than giving God requests. It involves seeking His will to guide our entreaties. It means “knocking on doors” by exploring different solutions and obtaining godly counsel to help determine the Lord’s mind. Jesus pledged that we will receive, we will find, and God will open the door for us. We have His assurance that God will respond and what He does is good.

The main thing to avoid being a casualty is simply this: to have a kind of intimate personal relationship with Jesus Christ whereby you’re able to hear God speak to your heart, you’re sensitive to what He’s saying to you to do, and that you’re willing to be obedient to Him.”

An unschooled man who knows how to meditate upon the Lord has learned far more than the man with the highest education who does not know how…

Too many Christians have a commitment of convenience. They’ll stay faithful as long as it’s safe and doesn’t involve risk, rejection, or criticism. Instead of standing alone in the face of challenge or temptation, they check to see which way their friends are going.

I think a lot of people, even Christians, are willing to be satisfied with gaining lots and lots of biblical knowledge – and many people go to Bible studies and don’t realize it isn’t enough to know what’s right, it’s applying the information and the knowledge that you have.

Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins.

In our friendships we have to be wise that we choose godly people to be our friends. Somebody might say, well does that mean that you should never have a lost person as your friend? No, I wouldn’t say that. But you can’t have the same intimacy with a lost person that you can with a godly person in whom the Holy Spirit is living.

There is no need to go through life handicapped by past experiences. What others say about you doesn’t matter. How they treated you is inconsequential. The only accurate, eternal, unassailable measure of your worth comes from almighty God, who will one day judge the living and the dead without exception (1 Pet. 4:4–5)

None of us has become perfect (Phil. 3:12). None of us does everything right. None of us is so wise that we always speak the right word or so strong that we always do the right thing. Remembering this keeps us humble.

God’s plan for enlarging His kingdom is so simple- one person telling another about the Savior. Yet we’re busy and full of excuses. Just remember, someone’s eternal destiny is at stake. The joy you have when you meet that person in heaven will far exceed any discomfort you felt in sharing the gospel

If we walk in the Spirit daily, surrendered to His power, we have the right to expect anything we need to hear from God. The Holy Spirit living within us and speaking to us ought to be the natural, normal lifestyle of believers.

See the introduction for the InTouch USA page. Here are some other links:

April 17, 2023

Desperate for Jesus

NIV.Luke.8.42b As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”

46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”

47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

* see also parallel account in Mark 5 25-34

The popular modern worship song “Breathe” ends with these words,

And I I’m desperate for you
And I I’m lost without you.

But how many times do we acknowledge our desperate need for God?

This is the fifth occasion we’ve shared the writing of Matt Tullos. Clicking the link which follows will connect you to his site where this first appeared.

Call Me Desperate

As I read the Gospel, there’s something that stands out in so many narratives and backstories. Jesus loves desperate people. Whether it’s the pleading father, the paralyzed man whose friends tore the roof off a house, or the sufferings of the entire nation of Israel, desperate people always get His attention.

I can remember times when I was so preoccupied with my work, the game, or a task, that my five-year-old son would grab my face with both his hands to assure I was listening. That’s just how absurdly one-track minded I can get. But that was never the case with Jesus. Nobody had to grab Him by the face. The moment the tassels of his prayer garment were touched, He felt her faith connect with His sufficiency. There is absolute power in the faith of a desperate person.

I’ve spent lots of time trying not to appear desperate, while knowing the deep chasm of my own insufficiency. And there is power in desperation. It’s clumsy at times. When I’m desperate, there’s no telling what might come out of my mouth. My prayers are fragmented. Sometimes all I can pray is the oldest one: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God have mercy on me.” In fact, that’s how I start every morning. It centers me on the truth that I have to cry out for mercy. Every morning. Every evening. And a baker’s dozen times a day. “Lord Jesus, Son of God have mercy.” I’m sure there are those who don’t need his mercy as much as I do, but it’s my broken bread and butter.

It brings me back to the woman reaching for the tassels of Jesus. (Luke 8, Mark 5)

A desperate, sick, bankrupt woman fights her way through the crowd to touch Jesus’ cloak. In Mark, we read that she spent everything she had on doctors but things only got worse. I have been there. It’s when you throw money at a problem and the problem’s appetite for money only grows. No one wants “money pit” problems. They’ll bring you to the end of yourself. Who wants that? There comes a time when you aren’t worried about how humiliating you look. You just lay yourself out there in front of God and everybody because you don’t care what anybody thinks. “In front of” is none of your concern.

As soon as she made contact with Him, He knew it and focused all his attention on her. In one moment, we can agree on a number of things about Jesus. He’s never too late, He’s never too busy, and He’s never too burdened to step into the pain of our desperation. Sometimes, He has to bring us into desperation in order for us to diligently seek Him. That’s the whole point of this life and yet we are often too consumed with the crowd to really stop and focus on our ultimate and preeminent King. That’s too bad, because when it comes down to it, every solution for brokenness, our pain and neediness is no more than a touch away.

Lord Jesus, Son of God have mercy. I have so often wanted a self-instigated salvation without the mess and grit of desperation. There is only one hero in my story. Have mercy in my desperation, so that I can more fully revel in your rescue.

April 16, 2023

Learning to Avoid Shortcuts

One year ago, we reconnected with to Kuya Kevin, who we first knew as an American living in the Philippines. His real name is Kevin Sanders. Today he’s better known as Pastor Kevin Sanders, and he’s now a Texas pastor. On his “about” page, he writes, “The older I get, the more I realize that life is all about the undeserved grace of God.” Click the title which follows to read this where it first appeared.

The Danger of Spiritual Shortcuts

“I know a shortcut!”

We’ve probably all heard this at least once in our lives and regretted following the ill-advised path. The “shortcut” ended up wasting valuable time or even got you completely lost. You would have been much better off just going the way that was certain to get you to your destination.

Shortcuts can present themselves in ways that are less literal but with very real consequences.

We see this in 1st Samuel 24.

Saul had shown himself unworthy to be Israel’s king. The Lord rejected him and chose David to be his successor. Saul decided he was going to prevent this succession by killing David. David escaped Saul’s presence when it became clear that Saul’s mind was set on murder.

David fled from place to place, doing whatever he could to survive. He even pretended to be insane on one occasion (drooling on his beard) in order to get away from another rival king. He collected a ragtag militia along the way—a group of malcontents that thought their life would be better under a new king.

That leads to the scene at hand:

When Saul returned from following the Philistines, he was told, “Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi.” Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel and went to seek David and his men in front of the Wildgoats’ Rocks. And he came to the sheepfolds by the way, where there was a cave, and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave.  And the men of David said to him, “Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you.’”

Then David arose and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.  And afterward David’s heart struck him, because he had cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed.” So David persuaded his men with these words and did not permit them to attack Saul. And Saul rose up and left the cave and went on his way.

1st Samuel 24:1-7

Saul thought he finally had the resources and information available to find and execute his rival. But nature called while he was leading the hunt. Not only did nature call; it called collect. This was the kind of call that required privacy. He went into a cave to “relieve himself.”

The King James Version translates this literally with an ancient euphemism: “Saul went in to cover his feet.” I still remember this from my childhood.

Little did Saul know that he had walked into a trap. David and his men were in this same cave Saul had chosen to use as his port-o-potty. There was Saul, exposed (literally) and in the most vulnerable state imaginable. He was probably too busy trying not to make a mess of things to notice anything else.

This scenario presented David with the perfect opportunity to eliminate Saul (apologies for the pun—you didn’t deserve that).

David had the sword of his most famous rival, Goliath. It must have been an impressive weapon, and one quick strike would have forever ended the conflict with the man who unworthily ruled Israel. Saul would not have known what hit him, and David could have walked out into the daylight as Israel’s new king (just as God had already promised).

Killing Saul was the logical thing to do. Killing him was the most expedient thing to do.

David’s men even argued that it was God’s will.

Speaking of David’s men, David could have been rid of Saul by simply standing back and doing nothing.

Saul, after all, was the reason that these men were hiding in a cave instead of enjoying the perks of being royal soldiers. Any one of them would have been more than happy to exterminate him and end their suffering.

But this wasn’t God’s way, and David knew it.

David symbolically attacked Saul by mutilating his robe (the robe was a status symbol in the ancient world). Even that caused him to feel guilty, and he did not allow anyone else to get near Saul.

David knew it wasn’t his place to take matters into his own hands.

He wanted to become king God’s way and in God’s time. He refused to take any shortcuts.

Therein lies the lesson for us.

You will inevitably encounter a shortcut on our spiritual journey—a way that looks easier than the way you know God has told you to go.

An example or two comes to mind:

A single believer gets tired of looking for a godly match. She chooses to get romantically involved with an unbeliever, figuring she can convince him to follow Jesus.

A man accepts a lucrative new job opportunity even though he knows God has told him to wait for something else.

These are just a couple of examples.

Sometimes the shortcut is blatantly unscriptural or foolish. Other times it is just less than God’s best.

Either way, just one act of disobedience can negatively change the trajectory of our lives.

Lord, forgive me for those times when impatience has turned into disobedience. Grant me the wisdom to stay on the path of Your choosing, even when alternatives routes present themselves.  

April 10, 2023

Where to Find Faith

For the first time in three years, we’re back with Paula Maillet who has been blogging at Along Emaus Road since 2005. For those reading this on April 10th, Paula has just finished an Easter series of articles which I recommend. Click through to read this on her site, and then click its header to get to recent posts.

How Does One Get Faith?

“Jesus said to him,
‘Thomas, because you have seen me,
you have believed.
Blessed are those who have not seen
and yet have believed.’”
John 20:29

When I first came to the Lord, I asked something similar to Thomas’s request to visually see the nail-prints in Christ’s hands. I was aware that I had no faith at that point, so I asked the Lord to do some feat that would make me more able to believe. He answered me, “Believe first, and then you will see.” I was a bit indignant at that answer, because I thought it was a legitimate request; after all, I was trying to believe, couldn’t he see that!

But he answered that prayer. Eventually I came to see that faith does not come by seeing supernatural signs. Satan can perform supernatural signs, and loves to; and by them many, many are deceived.

As it turned out in my case, the man who brought me to the Lord counseled me to read the Word of God every single day. So I began. And that’s where I found faith.

The first thing I noticed was the “types.” I had never heard of “types.” As I read through the Bible, the Spirit of God showed me what I called “pictures of Jesus” in the stories of the Old Testament – and that absolutely astounded me. I would come to learn that there are many throughout the Bible.

“You search the Scriptures,
for in them you think you have eternal life;
and these are they which testify of me.”
John 5:39

My favorite has always been the picture of father Abraham taking his beloved son Isaac up Mount Moriah to sacrifice him there, recorded in Genesis chapter 22. He placed the wood for the altar on Isaac’s back as they went up the mount, such a beautiful picture of Jesus being sent by the Father up Mount Moriah, the cross on his back, to be sacrificed there. When the altar was prepared, God directed Abraham to substitute a ram in place of his son, showing a picture of a substitutionary sacrifice, just as Jesus Christ would later be a substitutionary sacrifice, dying in OUR place on that cross of wood. And there are many, many more such “pictures of Christ” throughout the Scriptures.

This is what created faith in me. I realized that there was no way the consistency of so many portrayals of Christ in the Old Testament could possibly be coincidence, and that God had chosen this way to validate his Word.

Later on, I began to see that the Bible is also filled with prophecy. There are hundreds of direct prophecies about Jesus throughout the Old Testament, that were fulfilled in his mission on this earth when he came to die in our place. And I later would learn that there are many, many more that speak of his second coming. When you see the exactness of the prophecies of his first coming having been literally fulfilled, it becomes obvious that likewise, the prophecies of his second coming will also be literally fulfilled.

Friends, if you’re struggling with faith, don’t ask for signs. The Scriptures make it clear that seeing something supernatural is not what creates faith in a person, so if that’s you, stop seeking faith by this means.

In the story of the rich man and Lazarus recorded in Luke 16:19-31, the rich man in hell asked that Lazarus be sent to his five brothers to persuade them not to come to such a horrible place of torment as he was in. Abraham replied that if they do not believe the Bible, not even a supernatural miracle will persuade them.

“But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.”
Luke 16:31

How DOES faith come then?

“So then, faith comes by hearing,
and hearing by the WORD of God.”
Romans 10:17

There are two Greek words for “word.” One is logos which is the written word, and the other is rhema, which is the Word spoken. In this Scripture the Lord is saying that faith comes when the Spirit of God speaks a rhema to your heart, not in a supernatural sign, but the spoken word which creates faith in the hearer.

You can read the Bible as literature for all of your life and never grow in faith. But if you take the Word of God seeking to learn from him, the Holy Spirit will reveal things to you, he will enlighten you “Line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little” (Isaiah 28:10). I’ve been reading the Word of God daily for many years, and it never ceases to amaze me how even now I “see” things in the Scriptures that I never noticed before. It’s quite amazing.

But it must be led by the Spirit of God. Back to the original passage in John above, in a few verses before that, we see Jesus imparting the Spirit of God to the disciples.

“So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you!
As the Father has sent me, I also send you.’
And when he had said this, he breathed on them,
and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.'”
John 20:21-22

If you have not experienced a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not yet imparted the Holy Spirit to you, ASK him to make that a reality in your life. Do not be afraid – as Jesus said above, “Peace to you!” When he imparts his Holy Spirit to you, the Word of God will come alive to you. You will have new eyes to see and new ears to hear, indeed, you will be born again into a brand new life.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,
old things have passed away;
behold, all things have become new.”
2 Corinthians 5:17

All you need to do is humbly ASK. Then pick up the Manufacturer’s Handbook, the Word of God, and read it.

April 1, 2023

It’s Our 13th Birthday

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Christianity 201 became a teenager today. Since we talked about this yesterday, I want to talk today about our motto, “Digging a little deeper.”

Why is this necessary?

It’s important to strike a balance on this subject. On the one hand, the good news of Jesus is so simple that a little child can understand it. In Matthew 18:3 Jesus is quoted, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. It’s echoed in Mark 10:15, “I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” (NIV and NLT, respectively.) This is about the approach to God, that initial response to his life, his teaching, his ministry.


Understanding the riches and depth of the message of Jesus is so complex that we can never stop considering or discussing it. Think of the Christmas/Advent season just past, and you’re speaking about incarnation. Theories abound on the nature of God the Son becoming flesh in Jesus Christ; the mystical union of humanity and divinity.

Then consider the Easter/Holy Week season we’re about to enter, and you’re speaking about atonement. There are five or six major theories as to the nature of God’s atoning sacrifice for us, and all of its implications.

(Allow me to pause here and say, if you only go to church at Christmas and Easter, you’re choosing the most difficult weeks theologically. Better to go near Valentine’s Day when the sermon is about love, or in North America, on Thanksgiving weekend where the theme is giving thanks.)

John 21:25 offers an imaginative picture: “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which, if every one of them were written down, I suppose not even the world itself could contain the books that would be written. (CSB)

Remember, this is talking about the thirty-three year life of Christ, and mostly about his three-year ministry life. But think about this: Although John is being hyperbolic here, if the world couldn’t contain all that could be written about his life, then what about the implications his life brought? (I think we’re safe reading that into the text.)

That’s humbling. It means that perhaps all of our theological writing to date has only scratched the surface of what could be said about God the Son, and today we’re not even considering God the Father or Holy Spirit.

Job 26:14, speaking of God the Father, reads, “Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways, And how small a whisper we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power who can understand?” (NKJV)

1 Corinthians 2:9 adds, …“Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard and which have not come up in man’s heart; things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

Digging a little deeper? That could involve a lifetime of study, and for many saints, it has!

So we find ourselves in a strange place, where the offer of God’s peace, His salvation, and the entry point to participating in the building of His kingdom is so simply that a child may come, and so wonderfully complicated that we can never stop admiring that complexity.

So why have we done what we’ve done here, every single day since April 1st, 2010? It’s simply our little contribution to whoever wants to go beyond Christianity 101.

Want to start out at the simple level? If you’ve never crossed the line of faith in Jesus this moment, right now, could be the place you begin.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Romans 10: 9-10 (NIV)

Christianity 201 has no product to sell you, no Patreon to ask you to join, and collects no referral fees from other websites. It’s a free gift to you, and has been for 13 years. Enjoy!


March 25, 2023

Don’t Quench the Spirit’s Candle

Today we’re featuring a website for the first time. It’s title is GazeUp Arts: Messages of Hope. According to their About page, “Gaze up arts is a prophetic arts ministry focused on speaking the heart of God through artistic creations to encourage and guide people around the world.” Encourage the authors by clicking the titles which follow to read these devotionals where they first appeared.

Do not quench the Spirit

Prov.20.27 – The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly.

We are reminded that we all have a “candle” (our spirit man) that we carry around with us. That candle is the potential we have in us to receive the light and warmth of the Lord. It carries our faith and our hope. When we stay in faith, we allow ourselves to experience the Lord’s light: His guidance and His joy. In times like this, we keep aware that the Lord is there to be our teacher, to enlighten us.

The image of God gives us confidence. On this battlefield of life, we serve under a brilliant Military Strategist who does not see us as expendable but who wants to keep us protected. Meanwhile, He is helping us to advance, to move forward.

We remain confident in God for His directions towards the path to His Light.

We mustn’t keep our faith and hope in God to ourselves but rather we must share with those whose “candles” (spirits) have been put off by the kingdom of darkness. That is, these people’s spirits have no flame on them.

For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”~Matt.18.20

We are edified when we move in the company of Spirit-filled people.

The Word of God gives life to man and causes us to see and deal properly with those dark areas of our hearts.

Through salvation, the Life and Light of Christ flood our hearts by grace, through our faith in Him, we become His hands to help, His feet to go, His heart to love, and His Light to shine forth His Life in our human frame.

Job.32.8 – But there is a spirit in man, And the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding.

Beloved, let your spirit be lit up with the Flame (The Holy Spirit) of the Lord.

Ps.18.28 – For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.

Your spirit has no flame to keep it burning until you’ve received the Holy Spirit.

In all you do, as long as you live, let the Spirit of God be the flame of your spirit.

No matter the number of trials and tribulations you face, let the Holy Spirit be your spirit’s flame.

Of course, the devil will want to mess with you, but never blow out the Flame of your spirit with your words or actions.

The Bible says, “Quench not the Spirit”. 1Thess.5.19

Just like a candle stick, till you take your last breath, let the Spirit of God be your Flame!

Second Helping: From the same website… You may have noticed that using a visual arts perspective, the image of quenching a candle fits perfectly the closing verse from 1 Thessalonians. In today’s bonus link, the writers visualize trusting God as taking hold of his hand. There are illustrations that go with these two articles so make sure you click through.

Why you need to take hold of God’s hands


As a child of God and the apple of His eyes, You need to know that you’re not alone in that ”storm”.

Jesus has been with you from the start but you’ve never noticed.

You’re not at peace with yourself because you think you can conquer that battle all by yourself with your feeble strength.

He’s waiting patiently for you to take hold of His outstretched hands.

Take hold of His hand and with His divine leadership, you will get to the other side as a conqueror.

In Romans 12:12, the apostle Paul describes ways of living above our circumstances, no matter what we may be facing. He says: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

As followers of Christ, we are never without hope. We know that even if our circumstances seem negative now, brighter days are up ahead for us. Why? Because God is a good God, and His love for us is everlasting and unfailing.

The psalmist wrote: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:11). When our hope is in the Lord and His goodness, we will experience the supernatural joy that is our inheritance in Christ.

Take hold of God’s hand.

Let Him order your steps to the destination He had planned for you.

Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps and makes them sure”.

Proverbs 20:24 says, “Man’s steps are ordered by the Lord. How then can a man understand his way?”

When God directs your paths, He sometimes leads you in ways that don’t make sense to you so you’re not always going to understand everything.

If you try to reason out everything, you will experience struggle, confusion, and misery—but there is a better way.

“Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind, and do not rely on your insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths “.(Proverbs 3:5-6)

This sounds so simple, yet too many people make the mistake of trying to figure everything out themselves. You may have spent all your life trying to take care of yourself, but when you accept Christ as your Savior, you must learn to entrust your life to His care. When you do, you can say with the psalmist, …I trusted in, relied on, and was confident in You, O Lord; I said, You are my God. My times are in Your hands…(Psalm 31:14-15).

Beloved, the Lord wants you to take hold of His outstretched hands and let Him lead you to where you need to be in your life.

Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)


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