Christianity 201

October 7, 2018

The Heavens Announce: “God’s Got This!”

This is the first time featuring the author of “A Contemplative Heart” who we think (maybe?) is from Canada!

Click the title below to read at source.

Of the sky and my gaze

I’m not always good with surprises. Gift surprises – great. Shifting plans surprises – much less great. My mind starts whirling. What could happen? What could go wrong? How come my mind never asks “What could go right?” At heart, am I really a pessimist with regards to my plans and change? 

The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory. Psalm 97:6 (NIV)

The heavens announce that he’ll set everything right, And everyone will see it happen – glorious! Psalm 97:6 (MSG)

 The author of Psalm 97 had a much better view than I usually do. His eyes weren’t on himself. If he was noticing the heavens, then his eyes were not fixed on the present. They weren’t fixed on circumstances – the rightness or wrongness of the moment. They weren’t fixed on how excited or nervous, joyful or angry he felt.

His eyes were focused upward. Gaze fixed on the heavens above him.

I wonder what he saw? Was it the morning and he had just gotten up and was wondering what the day had for him? He watched the sun make its way up over the horizon. The sky a wash of reds, oranges and yellows. Was it the middle of the day and he needed a break from his work? He looked up and the sky was clear. Majestic blue spreading out to the horizon. Or was the sky filled with clouds, the premonition of rain and a storm waiting to be unleashed. Was it evening and the meal’s residue was being cleared away and he happened to glance out the window? The sky speckled with millions of stars all twinkling down. Regardless of the kind of sky he saw, God’s glory was on display. It could not be missed.

Sometimes, I let the sky dictate my mood. Grey and overcast – somewhat grumpy and gloomy. Brilliant blue – joyful and fun. Stormy – uncertain and unsettled. Rain or snow – wanting to stay home with a cup of tea and a good book.

That’s not God’s intention for me. Instead, the sky is the canvas of reminders that God’s got this! He knows the sun that is needed for life to be sustained, plants to grow, people to thrive. He knows the rain needed for plants to bring forth their crop and the earth to be watered. He knows that snow provides the perfect carpet to cover the ground and give it a rest even as I anxiously await the melting of spring. He knows. He’s not surprised. He’s not mistaken or confused. The sky is another reminder of His beauty on display. A testament of His care for all He has made.

God, make me a sky watcher. I want my gaze fixed on You. I want to notice how you provide for each detail of my life. I want to be focused on You and what You are doing. Your plan is better and more wonderful than I can imagine. You are the one to “set everything right.” Thank you! Amen.


Behind the Scenes at Christianity 201

Hunting and gathering material for C201 is always interesting, especially on the days we seek out writers to highlight here for the first time; as often happens with the Sunday Worship feature.

This week we discovered the blog SamSword, written by Jori Sams; and the article Commentary: God-Inspired Music.

She had this paragraph:

In the Bible where we see music and song taking place, it is always full of the love and praise of God. Look at Deborah’s song in Judges. Or the songs sung in the book of Revelation. In 1 Chronicles 16. The New Testament reveals Jesus breaking into songs of praise with His disciples. In modern times we can look at songs like, “I Can Only Imagine,” for inspiration.

which got me wondering what she meant about “Jesus breaking into songs…”

The first search result took me to the article, Jesus Sings at the Desiring God website.

…In four places in Scripture we read that Jesus, the Son of God himself, raised his voice in worship.1

Which is immediately confusing on one level. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with singing, just that I imagine our Savior much better suited as the silent recipient of adoration and worship (Revelation 5:6–14). But he also sings. And the only way to understand why Jesus sings is to briefly walk through all four passages…

Two of the passages were parallel reference to the hymn at the end of The Last Supper; the other two require connection to the Old Testament passages alluded to. You can read the article yourself and decide how much can be inferred.

Personally, I believe that Jesus would have sung at the synagogue services he attended, but there are no explicit references beyond the Upper Room meal. Apparently the gospel writers didn’t attach a lot of importance to it.

 

March 20, 2014

Spiritual Responsibility

In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. (Acts 17:30 NIV)

This is another verse that teaches what some refer to as spiritual responsibility in the light of privilege. Those of us who live in a time where there are multiple Bibles in every home, where Christian radio and TV proliferate, where millions of pieces of Christian periodicals and devotional literature are printed each month, and now where the internet offers untold access to unlimited Bible study resources and commentary; we have a much greater responsibility.

Sadly, the same printing, broadcast and electronic resources offer us the potential for limitless distraction when it comes to spiritual focus. While I don’t believe we’re meant to live in a bubble — you should enjoy know what’s happening in popular music and by all means take ten seconds to look at the cat pictures your friend emailed you — we are citizens of another country and there should our focus lie.

In context, verse 22 tells us, Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus; this was the TEDTalk of Paul’s day and verse 32 tells us Paul was invited back; …others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” With the completion of God’s work in Christ, followed by the giving of the Holy Spirit to enable his followers to share this message with power; the message is broadcast in that culture with every bit as much significance as our mass media holds today.

The Reformation Study Bible so clearly explains the importance of our key verse today, verse 30:

That is, God took into consideration the limitations of their knowledge about God, but now Paul has revealed the truth about the living God. With all people, they are called upon to repent of their sins.

So what knowledge has always been available? Paul writes,

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)

This verse is one of several that establish the general revelation of God.

He then says,

Romans 2:2 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)

Jesus teaches in Luke 12:

47 “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Paul is talking about ultimate responsibility in light of the general revelation given to all, Jesus is explaining particular responsibility in light of what has been heard and seen.

The truth is, You and I are the means by which the truth of God can now be seen and heard. Yes, we are to share a verbal and visible witness to our friends, co-workers, neighbors, fellow-students and extended family; but we are also the ‘givers’ who can make possible the printed literature, the Bibles, the radio broadcasts, the television programs, the podcasts, the blogs, the films, etc.  We live in a time where media can do much. (Is this part of what Jesus meant by ‘greater works you will do’?) But it still takes individuals to produce and disseminate that media.

What role are you playing in all this? What role would God want you to have?


This devotional was prepared exclusively using BibleGateway.com.  You can do this, too. Try your hand at writing a devotional based on a scripture God has placed on your heart. Submit it; we’ll critique it, edit it and send it back to your final approval and then possibly print it here.

July 1, 2013

Nature’s Splendor Necessitates Accountability

One of the toughest things with which theologians have two wrestle with is the destiny of the unevangelized. In several places however, scripture challenges our ability to consider the idea of anyone existing outside an awareness of God, in passages such as “The heavens declare the glory of God,” and also our passage today.

Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California kicks us off today with a post from his daily devotional blog entitled A Master Designer:

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.Romans 1:20

God has revealed Himself in many ways to every person, everywhere. He has given us the testimony of His own creation. Romans 1:20 tells us, “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. . . .”

To say that all of the beauties of God’s creation came about randomly is ridiculous. The person who believes in the theory of evolution makes a choice to believe it. I believe they make that choice because the lifestyle they want to live has no place for God. If there is a Creator, then there is a God. If there is God, then there is a Judge. If there is a Judge, then there is a judgment. And if there is a judgment, they will have to stand there one day. So they have to try to find a way to write God out of the script.

But I think we know intuitively there is a Master Designer behind it all. To look at this world and say that it all just came about randomly borders on the absurd. It would be like saying the 747 aircraft was not the result of the engineering efforts of countless engineers, designers, and workmen at Boeing, but came into being because a tornado swept through a junkyard, and after it was done, there it sat in all its glory.

Yet people will look at something as intricate and amazing as the human body and the creation around us and say it all came about randomly. The Bible says, “Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God’ ” (Psalm 53:1).

God has given us the witness of His creation.

Go deeper with some quotations on this verse from the website Bible Verse Reflections:

Fine tuning of the universe calls for a Fine Tuner
Not only did the universe explode into being out of nothing.
It did so with extreme precision.
In other words, the Big Bang was not a chaotic explosion but an incredibly precise event.

Source: Frank Turek


Our universe operates according to some very specific numerical values. We have the speed of gravity, speed of light, the weak force, the electromagnetic force, the strong nuclear force.

One physicist who teaches at Princeton said it is sort of like this.

It is like God is sitting at a big desk and He has got loads of different dials each representing one numerical constant each set precisely to a fixed number.

Now what one of the dials were moved? For example what if light were not to travel at 186,000 miles per second but 200,000 miles per second.
What if the values of the universe were a little different?

This question was described by Stephen Hawking in his book a Brief History of Time.
If you move one of the dials not 1% (one percent) but 1 part in a hundred thousand million million you would have no universe and you would have no life!

The entire universe has to be as big as it is and as old as it is and contain precisely the numerical values it does because if it didn’t we wouldn’t be here.
The universe is a giant conspiracy it seems to produce us.

Now this argument has put modern atheism completely on the defensive.
Why?
Because it is an argument utterly immune from Darwinian attack.
We are talking why, not just our planet, but the whole universe has the values it does.
I would suggest that the idea of a Creator is the best available explanation.

The universe is fine tuned for life.

The fine tuning of the universe suggests a fine tuner.

I am calling that finer tuner “God”

Source: Dinesh D’Souza vs Dan Barker – The Great God Debate.mp3


The fine tuning of the universe for intelligent life makes Gods existence highly probable.

During the last 30 years or so scientists have discovered, that the existence of intelligent life depends on a complex and delicate balance on initial conditions simply given in the Big Bang itself. We now know that our existence is balanced on a razors edge.

The existence of intelligent life depends on a conspiracy of initial conditions which must be fine tuned to an accuracy and degree that is literally incomprehensible and incalculable. It has been calculated that a change in the strength of gravity or the weak force by one part in 10 to the 100th power would have prevented a life permitting universe.

There is no physical reason why these constants and quantities should possess the values they do.

Source: William Lane Craig debate

April 24, 2013

The Heavens Are Trying To Get Your Attention

Today we’re featuring Charlie LeHardy, who writes at AnotherThink.  At first look, this particular devotional article may seem somewhat elementary, but allow yourself to dig a little deeper with this.  You’re encouraged to read this at source, where it appeared simply as Look Up!

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display His craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make Him known.
They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard.
Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.
— Psalm 19:1-4, NLT, a Psalm of King David

On Tuesday night, my friend Parks set his camera up on a hillside and captured an image of the comet Pan-STARRS, below. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I attempted the same thing, but failed to even see the comet much less get a photo. Millions of people around the globe saw the comet, but not me. Thousands of people on every continent photographed this visitor as it passed by, but I completely missed it.

The problem, of course (aside from my bad eyes) is that while the heavens are busy proclaiming the glory of God, they do it silently and subtly. What I needed were icons, arrows, and flashing pop-up messages in the sky. If I had been wearing one of those Google Spectacle™ gizmos, I could have turned my head in the general direction of the comet Pan-STARRS and an animated Google Doodle™ would have directed me right to it. Oh brave new world.

Because the heavens “speak” of God’s glory “without a sound or word,” their message is admittedly ambiguous. As David looked up at the night sky, especially on those long night watches in the fields as a shepherd, he had the time to really study what he was seeing, time to ponder what it all meant. He saw beauty. He would have observed the way the stars moved across the sky night after night, always returning to their places for the next night’s performance. He saw the faster-moving planets, the cyclical phases of the moon, streaking meteors, perhaps even a comet or two. When you take the time to look deep and long into the night sky, the universe seems almost alive, immense, ordered but sprinkled with random acts of unpredictability and surprise.

In all that wondrous beauty and ordered chaos, David saw God at work. But what about today?

Well, for one thing, half of us live in the midst of so much artificial light pollution that we never see the stars at all. And even when we might have a chance to look up, there are so many wondrous things dragging our gaze downward that we seldom do.

I ate lunch yesterday at a Thai restaurant with some friends, and during the meal I noticed a table of four young men, all with their heads bowed. I smiled, assuming they were praying together. On closer inspection I could see that each of them was hunched over his smart phone, oblivious to the others sitting nearby, lost in the artificial wonders to be found in a tiny glowing screen.

That may be an apt metaphor for our times: the heavens still declare the glory of God, but we’re all engrossed in our cell phones, too busy surfing and chatting and tweeting to look up.

God is speaking. Are you listening? God’s glory is displayed in the heavens. When was the last time you paused to look up?

Here’s a classic worship song from The Maranatha Singers’ Psalms Alive project based on today’s text:

October 7, 2011

Worship Weekend: Like Cannons in the Night

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Phil Wickham’s song Cannons: