Christianity 201

January 18, 2021

The Heavens are Telling

Don’t you wonder why
The stars are in the sky?
They’re telling you and I
Of the glory of God

And every flower and tree
Is there for folks to see
So that there no doubt can be
Of the glory of God

So let the words of my mouth
And the meditation of my heart
Do the same thing for Thee
And a witness be
To the glory of God
To the glory of God

In my younger days, I could name four different songs that were all based on Psalm 19, and as I consider it now, I can think of a few others which have lines which allude to it. There is something to be said for the theory that scripture verses are trending for a few decades and then are replaced by others. These days there is much repetition of

  • Be still and know
  • “For I know the plans I have for you”
  • I can do all things

Readers here will recognize that while these verses have brought much comfort to many people, each has a very specific context which is either not known or ignored by most of the people doing the quoting. (I may claim to be able to all things, but I can’t fly an airplane, dismantle a bomb, or perform brain surgery. I can’t even get the jar of apricot jam open, and I need to ask my wife for help finding the last place the roll of packing tape was cut.)

On the other hand, rediscovering a passage of scripture which had fallen off your radar is somewhat akin to meeting up with an old friend. (I don’t remember the title of the song I quoted above, but feel free to leave its name in the comments.)

Psalm 19 begins:

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.

God has made a home in the heavens for the sun.
It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding.
    It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race.
The sun rises at one end of the heavens
    and follows its course to the other end.
    Nothing can hide from its heat. (NLT)

David wrote this one, and in these first six verses he’s talking about what theologians call the general revelation of God. This is the evidence of God’s being in nature, what scientists who are Christians call the unveiling of intelligent design in the universe. And it’s a non-stop broadcast; verse 2 (NASB) says “Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” and this giving of speech is anthropomorphizing either the heavens and skies, or the entire general revelation itself.

Have you ever had a friend who looked at a beautiful scene and said, “It speaks to me.” Well according to verse 2, it really does!

The general revelation can introduce someone to deism, but of course Jesus is not named. Is it sufficient for someone unevangelized to respond to; someone who has never heard the name of Jesus? Objectively, I want to say no, there is no salvation apart from His name, but there have been a few anecdotal accounts of people who decided that not only did there need to be a God behind the skies and heavens, but that this God would want to make himself known; and then they started connecting the dots. These are however, the exception, not the rule; but never rule out anything in terms of God’s ability to get through to human hearts.

The rest of the Psalm — and you could easily try to argue this is a mash-up of two Psalms — concerns God’s law.

The Law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
10 They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much pure gold;
Sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, Your servant is warned by them;
In keeping them there is great reward.
12 Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.
13 Also keep Your servant back from presumptuous sins;
Let them not rule over me;
Then I will be innocent,
And I will be blameless of great wrongdoing.
14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
Lord, my rock and my Redeemer. (NLT)

Look at the words used: Law, precepts, commandment. It echoes the conveniently numbered Psalm 119. (I don’t want go down the rabbit trail of verse and chapter numbering — a system which sometimes breaks up our reading and can be more harmful than helpful — but there are some interesting things which occur as you study the Bible. I remember in our youth group looking at the interesting collection of “3:16” verse which one finds, but I wouldn’t look to start a new church based such numerical anomalies.)

David loves God’s precepts. He’s got them on his fridge, in posters and plaques on his wall, on bumper stickers on his car.

David loves the law. It’s as simple as that. We groan inwardly when the speaker says, “Turn with me to the book of Leviticus;” but not so David. When I did a consecutive reading of scripture a few years back and came to Leviticus, I remember very specifically praying that God would help me to see the reasoning behind the rules; an understanding of the purpose behind the many intricate details by which Israel would form a distinct identity and be set apart from neighboring nations.

It’s like David is saying, ‘I love traffic lights. I love speed limits.’ (One wonders if in our day he would say, ‘I love having to wear a mask. I love social distancing.’ If he felt that all these things were for our good, he might indeed say those things.) (Please don’t comment on this paragraph. Thank you.)

Then there what I see as a benediction for readers like us. I’ve already shown it here as the translation I used included it with the previous verse, but it could also stand alone.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. (v14, NIV)

While David ends with this, I’ve used it before as part of prayer of invocation at the start of a worship service, or at the beginning of a sermon. You can use this personally as you start your day; as you go into your school or workplace; as you prepare for a Zoom meeting with family members; or as you are about to type that reply on Facebook or Twitter!

I’ll leave us with the first part of the verse in The Voice Bible:

May the words that come out of my mouth and the musings of my heart meet with Your gracious approval

 

July 12, 2020

Knowing Creation is Part of Knowing God

Even after 10 years, I love introducing you to new writers. Leiah writes at Yellow Diamond Blog. Why the name? Her hope is, “that you will discover that you are far more precious and valuable than even a rare yellow diamond.” Her writing is adorned with some beautiful pictures that we can’t post here, so as usual, you’re encouraged to click the title which follows to read this at her site and then look around for other articles.

Purpose Beyond the Clouds

I don’t often get the opportunity to look at Gods creation uninterrupted. The hustle and bustle of daily life is often all consuming. It can so easily steal the joy of recognizing God through the simplest of ways. But In the times I can look up, I always see Him there. I am reminded of His majesty, His splendor, and His omnipresence. I am reminded that not only is the creator of all that I see, but the creator of all I can’t see. I remember that there is purpose beyond the clouds. There is a home I am striving to get to. There is a spiritual kingdom I am working in that is bigger than the constant emails, text messages, phone calls, social media feeds, deadlines, and demands.

I remember that there are those out there with darkened hearts still. And I remember that it is my job to shine the light of Jesus into their lives and bring them back to a purpose greater than themselves.

I also remember that the greatest way to shine light into those darkened hearts is to live out my own purpose. To live out love and kindness in the least to greatest aspects of my life. I must live out my purpose at home for the ones I know and love. I must live out my purpose in the world for the ones I don’t know but learn to love.

I must live out my purpose in front of the ones who hurt me, betray me, use me, abuse me, hate me, accuse me, lie about me, misunderstand me, mistreat me, slander me, gossip about me. I must never stop recognizing and honoring God and giving Him thanks for the creation that is me.

The only way to do that is by being who He created me to be, and not a single thing less.

The Lord lead me to Romans this week, and this verse hasn’t left my mind since.

I want to know God and reflect Him for all that He is. I don’t want to miss a single part of Him. I want to know Him as creator, and also as my very best friend. What a wonderful God we serve that would desire more than our praise for what He created, but desire to then have a personal relationship with His creation.

Don’t miss out on a single aspect of the Lord. He is calling us closer as the world is calling us further away. Draw near to Him. There is so much more than we could ever imagine waiting there. ❤️

“For even though they knew God [as the Creator], they did not honor Him as God or give thanks [for His wondrous creation]. On the contrary, they became worthless in their thinking [godless, with pointless reasonings, and silly speculations], and their foolish heart was darkened.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭1:21‬ ‭AMP‬‬

 

March 31, 2019

The Glory of God: Evident and Displayed Throughout Creation

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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Today wraps up nine years of Christianity 201, and tomorrow, as we begin year ten, we will keep highlighting the work of writers we’ve used before, as well as introducing new writers for the first time.

Today is an example of the latter. I discovered Tonia Slimm’s blog Growing with God yesterday. Not to many writers use The Voice Bible as their base text, so that was kinda cool! To read this at source, click the header below. If you click the banner at the top of her blog, you’ll find the article which preceded this one, on the first part of Psalm 104.

 

Hymn of the Creator – Psalm 104 Part 2

Psalm 104:33-35 (NIV)
I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord. But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more. Praise the Lord, my soul. Praise the Lord.

Psalm 104:33-35 (MSG)
Oh, let me sing to God all my life long, sing hymns to my God as long as I live! Oh, let my song please him; I’m so pleased to be singing to God. But clear the ground of sinners—no more godless men and women! O my soul, bless God!

“I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. May my meditation be sweet and pleasing to Him; as for me, I will rejoice and be glad in the Lord. Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless and affectionately praise the Lord, O my soul. Praise the Lord! (Hallelujah!)” -AMPLIFIED

Author: Unknown, many theologians think that David was the author, but no one is identified.

Occasion: This psalm is a celebration of the Creator, Elohim. It closely follows the presentation of the creation in Genesis 1.

Purpose: Orthodox Jews will recite Psalm 104 in its entirety every day during morning prayers. It is also part of the Mincha, Sukkot and Shabbat Hagadol services. Within the Catholic setting this psalm is part of the Easter Vigil. In other Christian churches it is read as a celebration of Elohim, the Creator and Judge of all.

There are thirty-five verses in this psalm; which are set into eight stanzas.

Today we will conclude our study of Psalm 104.

Stanza 4: (verses 19-23)
The moon strides through her phases, marking seasons as she goes. The sun hides at his appointed time, and with the darkness You bring, so comes night—when the prowling animals of the forest move about. It is then that lions seek the food You, the True God, give them, roaring after their prey. At sunrise, they disappear and sleep away the day in their dens. Meanwhile, the people take to the fields and to the shops and to the roads, to all the places that people work, until evening when they rest. -(VOICE)

Stanza four focuses on the orderliness of God’s creation. The moon has her cycles and the sun his appointed times. Time is reliant on the sun and moon, and God is ultimately in charge of both; hence God is in charge of time. We need to remember that time is irrelevant to God because He transcends it, He stands outside of it, but He also controls it. It is Yahweh who provides for the lion, the lord of the night, and man, the lord of the day. This is what Yahweh has ordained.

We need to remember that Elohim is a God of order, not chaos. “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace…” -1 Corinthians 14:33 (NIV)

“He assigned the moon to mark the months and the sun to mark the days. He sends the night and darkness, when all the forest folk come out. Then the young lions roar for their food, but they are dependent on the Lord. At dawn they slink back into their dens to rest, and men go off to work until the evening shadows fall again.” -(TLB)

Stanza 5: (verses 24-26)
“There is so much here, O Eternal One, so much You have made. By the wise way in which You create, riches and creatures fill the earth. Of course, the sea is vast and stretches like the heavens beyond view, and numberless creatures inhabit her. From the tiny to the great, they swarm beneath her waves. Our ships skim her surface while the monsters of the sea play beneath.” -(VOICE)

The writer next turns his focus to the nautical world, the world under the sea. God has indeed made such a wide variety of creatures, too many to even count. Even the waters of the earth are teeming with an array of creatures.

The mention of the monsters of the sea playing with the ships is mentioned in this passage. Depending on which translation you are using it may use the word Leviathan, or in other translations it uses the word whale. Whichever word is used matters little; the point is, God is in charge of even this creature.

“O Lord, what a variety you have made! And in wisdom you have made them all! The earth is full of your riches. There before me lies the mighty ocean, teeming with life of every kind, both great and small. And look! See the ships! And over there, the whale you made to play in the sea.” -(TLB)

Stanza 6: (verses 27-30)
“And all of these look to You to give them food when the time is right. When You feed, they gather what You supply. When You open Your hand, they are filled with good food. When You withdraw Your presence, they are dismayed. When You revoke their breath, the life goes out of them, and they become, again, the dust of the earth from which You formed them at the start. When You send out Your breath, life is created, and the face of the earth is made beautiful and is renewed.” -(VOICE)

Here we find reference to God’s benevolent, compassionate care for His creation and creatures. Once again we are reminded that God did not create the world and step back. But He is a loving, considerate Caretaker, who watches out for and provides for everything that is under His control.

“Every one of these depends on you to give them daily food. You supply it, and they gather it. You open wide your hand to feed them, and they are satisfied with all your bountiful provision. But if you turn away from them, then all is lost. And when you gather up their breath, they die and turn again to dust.
Then you send your Spirit, and new life is born to replenish all the living of the earth.” -(TLB)

Stanza 7: (verses 31-32)
“May the glorious presence of the Eternal linger among us forever. And may He rejoice in the greatness of His own works—He, who rattles the earth with a glance; He, who sets mountains to smoking with a touch.” -(VOICE)

The writer points out the glory of the Lord evident and on display throughout Creation. He asks that that glory linger and be replenished forever. In fact, the writer’s desire is that Yahweh take pleasure in His handiwork.

“He (God) is so much greater than his creation that with a look or a touch he could undo it.” -NIV footnote

“Praise God forever! How he must rejoice in all his work! The earth trembles at his glance; the mountains burst into flame at his touch.” -(TLB)

Stanza 8: (verses 33-35)
“I will sing to the Eternal all of my life; I will call my God good as long as I live. May the thoughts of my mind be pleasing to Him, for the Eternal has become my happiness. But may those who hate Him, who act against Him, disappear from the face of this beautiful planet. As for the Eternal, call Him good, my soul.
Praise the Eternal!” -(VOICE)

The writer concludes this psalm with a call for all to praise Yahweh. He, personally, will praise, but his desire is that all praise. We can see the devotion and adoration of the psalmist throughout this whole passage. the wonder and delight of the writer observing the handiwork of the Almighty within His Creation is evident throughout this hymn of praise.

“I will sing to the Lord as long as I live. I will praise God to my last breath! May he be pleased by all these thoughts about him, for he is the source of all my joy. Let all sinners perish—all who refuse to praise him. But I will praise him. Hallelujah!” -(TLB)

My Prayer:
Yahweh, the glory of your Creation is all around me, and your awesome handiwork is evident. Thank you for taking the time to make such a beautiful world. I see your care for each detail and also the orderliness and I am filled with peace and hope. If you care so much for  these things; I know you care, even more so, for me. I am reminded that You love me with an overwhelming love. Thank You, Lord. May your glory continue forever. I will praise you now and forever. You are such a good, good God.


Usually we consider “borrowing” the devotional texts enough; and don’t include pictures and videos here. (That’s why we tell you to click the header to read it at source every day.)

But this video was too cool not to share. (That’s twice I’ve used ‘cool’ today.)

 

 

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.

 

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: