Christianity 201

May 28, 2022

The Bible in One Short Sentence

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
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Today we want to return to an author that we featured only once here, in 2012, and share for the first time an archived post from his blog from 2016. David P. Kreklau blogged at For the Glory of God, which you can also reach by clicking the header which follows.

I Am God: The Point of the Bible

Listening to a seminary lesson years ago, the professor asked what the central theme of Scripture was for the whole Bible.  What would you say?  Well, he entertained several opinions and he eventually offered that it’s hard to settle on one.  I thought at the time, “Seriously? It’s redemption… right? RIGHT?”  But thinking about it now, even the events that stand inside God’s great redemptive historical narrative are all meant for a very specific purpose: to glorify God.  This glorification of God is all for the purpose of Him demonstrating His greatness… more than that, His holiness, which means His “set apart” self.  I.e. He is the only God, the one true God.

His whole point of Scripture is to demonstrate that “I Am God.”

Redemptive History

The Bible, as a whole, is about how God preexisted creation, God spoke into existence that creation of all things (including us and our world), God entered into creation to redeem what we destroyed, and God is making and will ultimately finish making new that creation.

Recall that in the Garden of Eden, He had one rule: do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17)… the basic gist of this command: “You can do anything but be God because I am God.  Do not try to be God!”

So naturally… we tried to be God (Genesis 3).

And then He spent the rest of the Old Testament describing how despite our treason of trying to be God (when only He is God), He would find a way to rescue us…

And then He begins the New Testament revealing how God, at great personal sacrifice, made a way through Jesus Christ to redeem us from our treason.  He continues the New Testament by revealing how God, through the Holy Spirit, picks up the mantle of redemption in the Church Age, and He finishes the New Testament with a glimpse of the close of history and what it looks like when God’s plan has come to fruition.

Scriptural Pronouncements

When Moses first meets God in the burning bush in Exodus 3, God tells him His name is “I AM WHO I AM (written about previously here).”

The intro to the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 start with “I am the Lord your God,” which pretty clearly states the thesis of this blog.  He goes on to spend the next three commandments basically saying “do not try to be God or make any other gods because I am God.”

In the Gospel of John, we see Jesus make several pronouncements of His divinity, statements of “I Am” followed by supporting clarifications:

I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst (John 6:35).”

I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12).”

I am the door.  If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture (John 10:9).”

I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11).”

I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die (John 11:25-26).”

I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).”

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit (John 15:1-2).”

And one additional statement that speaks to Christ’s preexistence of Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish faith (but I would argue is also indicative of His preexistence to all creation as a whole), is John 8:58, “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am.’ ”

In fact, the beautiful irony is that we could never make ourselves God.  Yet out of love when we least deserved it, He made us one with God through His Son, and gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit to live in us.  We are now one with Him, and at the end of all things, everything will be renewed… including our perspective where we will no longer have a mutinous desire to be God, but will joyously spend the rest of eternity proclaiming the breath-taking glory of He who is the one and only God (Cf: Revelation 4).

A Final Word

One final thought to drive home this thesis: at the beginning of Scripture, He gives us the one rule that basically says, “Don’t be God because I am God.”  And I already spelled out above how the Ten Commandments and the whole of Scripture underline this message that “I Am God.”  So when we come to the consummate kingdom, one may notice that there are no longer any rules… and one might say, “Well why not?  Can’t we break that one rule again like we did before?”  But this time, the difference is that God has come to live in the lives of believers and we are now one with Him.  We are no longer alone in our wretched selves, but, as 2 Peter 1:4 says, we have become partakers in His divine nature.

Thus, so it is that the only thing that will keep us from usurping God… is FROM God.  Left to ourselves, we cannot coexist with Him without trying to usurp Him.  The only answer is for Him to come to us and help us let Him be God… which is what he did through Christ Jesus… the one and only God… the one and only way to God.

He Is God.

May 24, 2022

Your life is Precious; of Great Value

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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It is always encouraging to return to sources we’ve used before and find people are faithfully continuing to write online. Today we return to Melody at In Pleasant Places and this is a really beautifully composed reminder of our worth before God. Do you need to read this today? Is there someone you can send this to? Click the header which follows which is a link to the original article.

The Value of All of Us – Psalm 139:11-16

“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me,
and the light around me will be night’—
even the darkness is not dark to you.
The night shines like the day;
darkness and light are alike to you.
For it was you who created my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I will praise you
because I have been remarkably and wondrously made.
Your works are wondrous,
and I know this very well.
My bones were not hidden from you
when I was made in secret,
when I was formed in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw me when I was formless;
all my days were written in your book and planned
before a single one of them began.”

Psalm 139:11-16 (CSB)

I want to better comprehend the value of a human life – the value of all of us.

Those God created and declared “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

Those God breathed His life into and put eternity in our hearts (Genesis 2:7; Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Those He pursues for relationship even though we loved the darkness more than His light.

Those He died to rescue from that darkness and sin so He could bring us into true, abundant life and freedom.

I’m struggling to put what’s in my heart into words, but gaining a sense of the value of each one of us feels so important in so many ways. Stretching beyond the current upheaval considering abortion, although that has brought it to the forefront of my thoughts.

Because the baby who is still in the womb, being actively and intricately knit together as God brings it through stages of development – the baby has this great value.

And so does the mother, so let us honor her and protect her and help her on this journey in practical, relational ways.

The father has great value as well, and the power to use his voice to protect his family and influence it for good.

Those with developmental and physical challenges have this same value, same intentionality, same love of the Creator who wants to bring them into His family.

Each one with emotional and mental struggles is equally precious, put together with the same care, and God desires wholeness for them as well – wholeness personally offered through His Son, Jesus, who came to make a way for us.

I have this great value. Remarkably and wondrously made. Knit together by the hands that fashioned the stars. Regardless of my poor choices made or the effects of others’ harmful choices on me, that value still holds fast and I am loved by my Creator, who has also become my Father, loving and wise and mine, through Christ.

And you, reading this. You have this great value.

Your life is precious and valuable. It has been from the moment you came into being and started being formed, and it will be through the moment you take your last breath in this life and shift into eternity. You have been put together with love and purpose, and you are loved and seen right where you are. God knit you together with intentionality, to fill the role only you can fill.

Remarkably and wondrously made. And greatly, greatly loved by the God who wants light and hope and freedom from darkness for you. The God who will walk with you and provide for you every step of the way, whatever your journey holds, when you choose to walk with Him. He came to offer all of that. He came to offer Himself, to take your place in the just payment for rebellion against Him, and to draw you into relationship with Him forever.

You are immensely valuable. He sees you. He knows your pain and your joys. He cares. He understands. And He is drawing you to Himself through Jesus, who died to make that possible, and rose again to show that it was all true.

Let us sense the hope and wholeness in this truth.

And let us stand firm on the value each one of us holds. From our beginning as babies in the womb to our becoming more elderly and our bodies more frail. Beautiful, precious value, not to be taken or treated lightly.

Let this honoring and valuing of all people be a defining marker for our lives. Lived out in every conversation, every action, as we conform our speech and behavior to mindful intentionality in building each other up, actively coming alongside to help and encourage, loving without boundaries, and going above and beyond to show honor even as we recognize the importance of accountability and responsibility (Ephesians 4:29; Romans 12:9-10).

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light—for the fruit of the light consists of all goodness, righteousness, and truth—testing what is pleasing to the Lord.”
Ephesians 5:8-10, CSB

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
all the remnant of the house of Israel,
who have been borne by me from before your birth,
carried from the womb;
even to your old age I am he,
and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save.”
Isaiah 46:3-4, ESV

April 23, 2022

Misplaced Blame

The Message, Job 40:3-5 Job answered:

“I’m speechless, in awe—words fail me.
    I should never have opened my mouth!
I’ve talked too much, way too much.
    I’m ready to shut up and listen.”

We’re back for a fourth time with Matt Tullos who has been writing dramatic, devotionals, sermons, videos, poems and humor since 1985. Click the link in the header which follows to read this online, and to discover more.

I put my hand over my mouth

It’s something in the core of most people: a desire to find out what or who causes messes. And no one likes to get the blame for a mess. As children we blamed our brother or sister for the broken vase and when we’re older we blame our self-sworn enemies for the broken world. And it is broken. The world is a mess and many just can’t do mess.

Cal Jarrett, the father in the 1981 movie, “Ordinary People” said to his emotionally distant wife:

“We would have been alright, if there hadn’t been any mess. But you can’t handle mess. You need everything neat and easy. I don’t know. Maybe you can’t love anybody. It was so much Buck. When Buck died, it was as if you buried all your love with him, and I don’t understand that, I just don’t know, I don’t… maybe it wasn’t even Buck; maybe it was just you. Maybe, finally, it was the best of you that you buried. But, whatever it was… I don’t know who you are.”

I’ve heard many explanations at the graveside, where people tried to explain or theologize accidents, cancer, or covid. These philosophical expeditions are fool’s errands. Others don’t blame, they just disconnect.

We’ve lived through a season of blame. Some blame the mandates, immune systems, fake news, Facebook, critical race theory, politicians, presidents, doctors, the masked, the unmasked, antifa, news outlets, millennials, boomers, China, political parties, and mandates. Blaming is what we do to make ourselves feel better. We feel more in control when we have an enemy we can attach to the post office walls of our souls. But that feeling becomes eventually void, brief and ephemeral. We dig into our own feeble logic and construct belief systems that tie neat little bows over our limited and inadequate world view. Our nature is to forward blame to others so that we can feel better about ourselves and rationalize the root of anger that grows beyond the borders of our personal lives. This is Springsteen’s darkness on the edge of town. We live in the shadows and snipe at our enemies from Twitter accounts and snarky memes.

One thing is certain: Blame keeps us in safe little bubbles where we don’t have to engage. It works until we realize that the bubble is an eternally dangerous place to be. That bubble of isolation and stagnation leads to an insidious rot of the soul.

I’ve witnessed the birthing process. It’s messy. There’s pain, blood, sweat, snot, cries, and danger. I’ve also experienced graveyards. There’s organization, specific dates, symmetry, and nice, tidy rows. But, I’d rather be in the labor room. You learn so much more.

Throughout the book of Job, we see men doing postmortems of tragedies that come in bunches. We’ve all had cascades of crises which appear together out of nowhere. The baby is sick, the car blows up and we get passed over for the promotion- all in one day. It’s easy to ask the wrong questions when life gets dark and messy. The default is often, “Why?” “What did I do?”  Or, perhaps, an even more insidious question, “Why is God doing this to me?” More often than not, these questions are pointless.

The meaning of the book of Job is found late in the fourth quarter after all the armchair quarterbacking is completed. God finally speaks. A lot. Finally. God asks him forty-six answerless questions about the mysteries of His purpose. Forty-six! How would you like that divine interrogation? I can relate to Job’s response: “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth.”

When God speaks all I can do is put my hand over my mouth.

When God speaks I get tired of my own opinions.

When God speaks I realize that maybe I should shut up about my theories for once.

When God speaks I realize that I’ll never understand the world on this side of eternity.

I say like Job: I have spoken once, but I have no answer— twice, but I have nothing to add.”

It brings Job to a majestic response: Only God knows. His plans are much higher than my mind can fathom.

There’s a joy in not having to explain God, and simply trusting Him when troubles come in bunches. There’s serenity when you hand the gavel over to the Almighty Judge of the universe. You don’t understand? Well, guess what. You aren’t God. How can I add anything to what God has already decreed and ordered in the timeline of His sovereign grace?  I ask about injustice and He replies, “Go look at the elephant. I made that.” I worry about the future, and He tells me to look at the birds.

I give up.

I put my hand over my mouth.

March 20, 2022

Putting God Back Into Everything Church-Related

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
– Colossians 4:5-6 NIV

“So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.”
– Deuteronomy 11:18-19 NLT

 

I’ve heard people talk about being at a fairly typical church meeting thing, and “then God showed up.” This may assume that he wasn’t “showing up” at previous meetings, or it may mean that he was there all along but an awareness of his presence finally broke in on the assembly.

When leading worship, I have often — though not every time — begun by following the traditional concept of invocation; inviting God’s presence into our time together. Or at least, sort of. I take it as a given that God is already among us, especially on Sunday morning. He never misses our church service, right?

So I’ll begin with something like,

“Lord, we don’t presume to invite your presence because after all, you said you would never leave us nor forsake us. Furthermore, we sometimes say that this building is your house, a place set apart for your worship, so we know if you’re omnipresent, you’re everywhere, then certainly of all places you are here.  No, instead, we ask you to help us have an awareness of your presence, an awareness of a presence that already exists, but we’re too distracted to realize. Open our hearts. Meet with us today in a special way.  Amen.”

The fact of the matter is however, that some things the church — as opposed to The Church — does are purely perfunctory. And I think a church business meeting is a good example of that. Unless of course, you are committed from the beginning that this business meeting is open to the possibility of God breaking in and doing something greater.

Basically, the question I want to ask is, “What if we spiritualized church?” Yeah, seriously. What if we decided there were no task-only, business-only events, but lived out each time we gathered together as moments full of eternal possibilities?  What if…

  • What if every item run through the church photocopier had to have a ministry value, even if it was just a verse tacked on at the end?
  • What if every church spring cleaning day was seen as a teachable moment, the way Jesus taught as he walked along the road with his disciples?
  • What if every mailout and every church newspaper advertisement kept its seeker appeal, but still contained the DNA of the gospel?
  • What if every church business meeting was more like a town hall forum where old men (and women) could prophesy and young men (and women) dream dreams?
  • What if every time there were announcements, they were viewed not as commercials, but as opportunities for greater fellowship, greater teaching, greater service?
  • What if every time there was a collection or offering, it was truly viewed as an act of worship?
  • What if the church bulletin had teaching or devotional value, not just announcements, to the point where people wanted to hang on to them beyond a single week?
  • What if your tax receipt for those donations was accompanied by a note of thanksgiving, or a teaching on how God delights and will reward our cheerful giving?
  • What if every salesman, tradesman, public sector worker, etc., who came in the front door of your church was told, “It’s no accident that you came in just now…” and then heard a piece of the particular good news that he/she needed that day?
  • What are the “What ifs” that your heart longs for?

That’s what I mean by “spiritualizing Church.” Yes, God is there with us all along, but we need to leave him a place to break into our program.

Quick example. Before we got married, I was a performing Christian solo artist in southern Ontario. I worked alone. One time, a friend of mine who was a professional, recording-studio quality jazz bass player offered to do a concert engagement with me at a local church. To maximize his talents and contribution, we rehearsed the songs with some instrumental ‘bridges’ in them so he could do a few improvised bass solos.

But when we actually got out before the audience, I got distracted and started playing the songs the way I normally do, moving quickly from verse to chorus to verse.    At the end of the first set, I realized this and told him, and his reply was, “I was trying to break in, but I couldn’t find an opening.”

I think that’s how the Holy Spirit would say it to us today.  ‘I was there, but you didn’t leave me any room in the program.’

Nobody is saying that God isn’t with us.  But we need to see the spiritual possibilities each time we get together, even if it’s just to rake the leaves on the church lawn or clean the church kitchen.  And just think, if we were really focused on doing this, we could actually invite our neighbors to “help out” in our church clean-up day, and they might actually see Christ in the most seeker friendly of all possible environments.

It would also revolutionize the way we do things  outside of church.   We would be spiritualizing or God-focusing our entire lives.  Nah. That’s way too radical.

Years ago (13 to be exact) our friend Kathy put this on her blog:

I’m reminded of a little church my sister and I visited in the UK, in 2007. St. Leonard’s in Speeton, Yorkshire dates back at least the the 12th century, maybe even further.  It’s the tiniest church I’ve ever seen — surely couldn’t hold more than 50 people — set on the outskirts of the village. It was lovely to sit in its pews and meditate for a while; so quiet and peaceful.

But what struck me the most was the sign on the door:

Don’t you think this sign should be on every church door?

Those routine church events — from cleanup days to business meeting — have a holy, supernatural potential; and we should participate with the expectation of seeing amazing things take place.

 

March 14, 2022

God Saw That It Was Good; Very Good

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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We’re back again at Practical Theology Today with writer Curt Hinkle, who reminds us that “A theology that doesn’t play out in one’s everyday life is impractical, or of no real use.” You’re especially encouraged to click through today (on the header which immediately follows) to see some pictures which enhance the devotional.

Tov Meod

Growing up on a farm, we had a dairy herd with a mix of registered and non-registered Holstein cows. My dad was on the cutting edge of dairy husbandry, locally and nationally. He served on the local Holstein Association and on local and national levels of the Dairy Herd Improvement Association. I might have mentioned elsewhere that we received monthly computer printouts showing production, cost analysis, and mature potential for each cow, dating back to the mid-1960s.

The Holstein Association provides a classification system similar to academic grading. The herd owner pays a significant fee to have a “classifier” come to the farm to grade each registered cow. Even though a well-developed rubric is used, the process is a bit subjective. The classification categories are Excellent, Very Good, Good, and Fair. Excellent and Very Good classifications garner national attention, leading to a greater value of the cow, beyond just her production history. I noticed on the Holstein Ass’n website that there is a national “honor roll” of cows receiving one of these two classifications, as can be seen here. It’s a big deal! And we are only talking about cows.

Ever wonder how human value is classified/determined? Historically, we have created classification systems that separate out royalty, aristocracy, common people, serfdom, etc. (think Downton Abby). What about God? How does he classify humanity in the grand scheme of things?

Looking at the creation narrative (Genesis 1) we can see that at the completion of each of his creative activities, God saw that it was good (cf 1:10, 1:12, 1:18, 1:21). The Hebrew word for “good” is tov. God looked at his creation, calling it tov. We love God’s tov creation, which is one reason we so enjoy nature and national parks so much.

I love looking at images from the Hubble telescope. The Hubble was designed to peer deep into space, into this massive universe that God created. Here are a few fun images…

Scientists estimate the Milky Way — our galaxy — to be 100,000 light-years in diameter and 20,000 light-years thick (keep in mind that a light-year is approximately 6 trillion miles), consisting of a couple billion stars. And there are several billion such galaxies in this universe that God saw as good, tov.

Looking further into the Genesis 1 creation story, we find the description of the creation of humanity…

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

Right now I don’t want to focus on the “in our image” portion – that’s a whole other conversation. What’s of importance here is the fact that the narrative repeated three times that God created humans. Something to know about Hebrew poetry: Anything stated is worthy of our attention. If stated twice, then more so. However, anything repeated three times is exponentially more important. We should lean in and take heed. Repeated three times is an indicator that the creation of humans far outweighs the creation of the rest of the universe, as beautiful and grand as it is. We are of great value!

After the completion of humanity, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good (Genesis 1:31). Very good in Hebrew is tov meod. Only after the creation of humanity did God describe his creation project as very good, tov meod. Apparently, as the pinnacle of his creation, we are exponentially more valuable to God than the rest of creation. Or as someone reminded me 40 years ago…

As a creation of God’s, my worth is a given. There’s nothing I can do to gain more worth or to lose my worth – tov meod news!

March 2, 2022

God Will Sort Out Our Enemies

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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This is our fourth visit with Rev. Tonia Slimm who has been writing very faithfully at blog Growing with God . A blogger after my own heart, there has been a fresh post on that site every day since September, 2015; and we’re talking original devotional studies; not the beg-borrow-and-steal approach that we take!

Clicking the header below will take you there, where a bonus music video awaits you.

God Deals with our Enemies – Isaiah 51:23

Isaiah 51:23 (NIV)

“I will put it into the hands of your tormentors, who said to you, ‘Fall prostrate that we may walk on you.’ And you made your back like the ground, like a street to be walked on.”

Isaiah 51:23 (MSG)

“I’ve passed it over to your abusers to drink, those who ordered you, ‘Down on the ground so we can walk all over you!’ And you had to do it. Flat on the ground, you were the dirt under their feet.”

****************************************

“I will put it into the hands of your tormentors, who have said to you, ‘Lie down so that we may walk over you.’ You have even made your back like the ground and like the street for those who walk over it.” -AMPLIFIED

“This strong drink is now to be taken from Judah and given to Babylon, so that it will stagger and fall. God is going to destroy Babylon as he destroyed Judah.” ~Bridgeway Bible Commentary

In yesterday’s text, we found God reminding Israel that their suffering was only for a time. Soon He would remove the cup of anger that He had given to them, and they had drunk deeply from.

“Your children have fainted and lie fallen in the streets, like a gazelle caught in a net.
Yahweh’s anger, the rebuke of your God, has overwhelmed them. So listen, you who are weak and wounded, who are intoxicated not with wine but with God’s anger. This is what your sovereign ruler,
Lord Yahweh, your God, the Mighty Defender of his people, says: “Look! I have removed from your hand the intoxicating cup that made you stagger. You will no longer drink from the bowl of my anger.”
-Isaiah 51:20-22 (The Passion Translation)

In today’s passage, God tells Israel He is about to pass that cup of anger on to their oppressors.

“And I will give that drink to those who abused and oppressed you—who ordered you, “Get down so we can walk all over you.” And your backs became the ground they walked on, the streets they passed by.” -(VOICE)

Adonai–Tzva’ot, God Almighty, the God who does the impossible, is able to humble the enemy. Consider how many times had God told Israel in the past that all they need do is be still, and allow Him to fight their battles? Case in point, Moses speaking to the Israelites:

“So I told you, “Don’t be scared! Don’t be afraid of them! You won’t have to fight this battle yourselves; the Eternal your God, who always goes ahead of you, will fight for you just as He did in Egypt—you saw Him do it! And here in this wilderness, all along the route you’ve traveled until you reached this place, haven’t you seen the Eternal, your True God, carrying you the way a parent carries a child? But you still don’t trust the Eternal your God, even though He always goes ahead of you as you travel and finds places for you to camp. In a pillar of fire by night and in a cloud by day, He always shows you the right way to go.” -Deuteronomy 1:29-33 (VOICE)

Guaranteed, this was not always the case, but once again, we do find God defending Israel in our text. Adonai–Tzva’ot, God Almighty, tells Israel that He will take remove this cup from their hands, and place it in the hands of their tormentors. The tables will be turned now, what Babylon had done to Israel, tormenting them, and abusing them, will now be done to them.

If you wondered about the truth of the abuse that is mentioned in Isaiah, wonder no more. Grogan tells us that this practice of Babylon, having people lie on the ground and walking across on their backs, is well documented.

“This “barbaric practice…is well documented in the ancient Near East, featured especially, but not exclusively, in Assyrian inscriptions” ~Geoffrey Grogan

This was a form of abuse that was intended to humiliate and bring suffering and affliction to people. Babylon had done this very thing to Israel, now God says it will happen to the Babylonians.

The time of Israel’s redemption has come. And the time for Babylon’s punishment is about to begin. If you wondered why God would punish Babylon for doing what He intended for them to do, it is because they carried out their assignment with the wrong attitude. They used and abused Israel. They took all the glory in their conquering of other nations, and never gave any of the glory to God.

“But I will put that terrible cup into the hands of those who tormented you and trampled your souls to the dust and walked upon your backs.” -(TLB)

“There will be a reversal of circumstances for them when He gives the cup of stupor of bowl of wrath into the very hands of those who dished it out, so that what they did to others now happens to them. What the King of Assyria and his people did to the people of God is now done to them.” ~Avraham Gileadi 

In the book of Exodus, God told Israel that if they would obey Him, then He would be an enemy to their enemies. God said:

“If you are obedient to his voice and follow all of My instructions, then I will be an enemy to all of those who are against you, and I will oppose all those who oppose you. When My messenger moves ahead of you and leads you to the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, and Jebusites—I will annihilate them.” -Exodus 23:22-23 (VOICE)

Throughout Scripture God reminds us that He will deal with our enemies. He promised that He would avenge us. Take a look at what Paul wrote to the Romans:

“Do not retaliate with evil, regardless of the evil brought against you. Try to do what is good and right and honorable as agreed upon by all people. If it is within your power, make peace with all people. Again, my loved ones, do not seek revenge; instead, allow God’s wrath to make sure justice is served. Turn it over to Him. For the Scriptures say, “Revenge is Mine. I will settle all scores.” -Romans 12:17-19 (VOICE)

We would do well to learn this lesson that Solomon tried to teach his son:

“Do not rejoice and gloat when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad [in self-righteousness] when he stumbles, or the Lord will see your gloating and be displeased, and turn His anger away from your enemy.” -Proverbs 24:17-18 (AMP)

Let us take into consideration something that God said to Jeremiah:

Eternal One (to Jeremiah): Hear me, Jeremiah: I will make you strong in these trying times to accomplish My good. I will make it so your enemies ask you to pray for them in times of disaster and suffering.” -Jeremiah 15:11 (VOICE)

Our job is to pray for our enemies, and let God avenge us. Finally, consider what Jesus told His followers to do when it came to how they should treat their enemies. Jesus said:

“If you’re listening, here’s My message: Keep loving your enemies no matter what they do. Keep doing good to those who hate you. Keep speaking blessings on those who curse you. Keep praying for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, offer the other cheek too. If someone steals your coat, offer him your shirt too. If someone begs from you, give to him. If someone robs you of your valuables, don’t demand them back. Think of the kindness you wish others would show you; do the same for them. Listen, what’s the big deal if you love people who already love you? Even scoundrels do that much! So what if you do good to those who do good to you? Even scoundrels do that much! So what if you lend to people who are likely to repay you? Even scoundrels lend to scoundrels if they think they’ll be fully repaid. If you want to be extraordinary—love your enemies! Do good without restraint! Lend with abandon! Don’t expect anything in return! Then you’ll receive the truly great reward—you will be children of the Most High—for God is kind to the ungrateful and those who are wicked. So imitate God and be truly compassionate, the way your Father is.” -Luke 6:27-36 (VOICE)

“We may not be able to prevent other people from being our enemies, but we can prevent ourselves from being enemies toward others.” ~Warren Wiersbe

My friend, let us be careful of how we are treating those who call themselves our enemies. Our job is to pray for them, and allow God to deal with them, and their sins against us. Vengeance belongs to the Lord. Your job is to follow the example of Jesus, and love your enemies. By doing so, you are heap burning coals on their heads, and the LORD will reward you for doing the right thing.

“Prayer is the great engine to overthrow and rout my spiritual enemies, the great means to procure the graces of which I stand in hourly need.” ~John Newton

My Prayer:

Adonai–Tzva’ot, God Almighty, help me to love my enemies, just as you have loved me. When they strike out, intentionally hurting me, remind me that vengeance is yours, not mine. Help me to do what is right, according to your Word. Help me to follow the example of my Savior, who did not retaliate, but He was kind and compassionate towards those who hurt Him. I lift these hurting souls up to you, Lord, and ask that you reveal yourself to them. Help them to see their need for you in their lives. Heal their hurting hearts, Lord. Let them come to an understanding of their deep-seated need for a Savior. Amen.

February 6, 2022

You Were God’s Idea

We’re continually grateful to HarperCollins Christian Publishing for special permission to share book excerpts here at Christianity 201.

Today’s devotional is one you might want to read aloud to any kids or early teens you have nearby right now. Devotions Daily kicked off this one earlier this week with a note saying that some of their most popular readings are actually kids devotionals. (I’ve found that to be true in my work connecting people with resources; there’s a Max Lucado devotional that I’ve recommended for men more than I’ve recommended it for children.)

This one is an excerpt from You Can Count on God: 100 Devotions for Kids.

[Adults: Check out the bonus item at the bottom of the page today.]

If it’s possible that anyone here doesn’t know Max Lucado, he as been a pastor in churches in Miami, Florida; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and San Antonio, Texas. He is America’s bestselling inspirational author with more than 130 million books in print.

Click the header which follows to read this at Devotions Daily.

A Great Idea

God’s fingerprints are all over you.

I praise You because You made me in an amazing and wonderful way. What You have done is wonderful. I know this very well.Psalm 139:14

You are a great idea! I don’t mean you have great ideas — though I’m sure you do! I mean that you yourself are a great idea. How do I know that? Because you are God’s idea — and He only has great ideas.

When God sat down to create the very first man and woman, He said,

Let Us make human beings in Our image and likeness.Genesis 1:26

God didn’t say, “Let us make oceans in our image” or “flowers in our likeness” or “giraffes in our likeness.” Nothing else in all of God’s creation is made in His likeness. Not plants, or weeds, or trees. Not elephants, anteaters, or even the cutest little puppy. Not stars, or mountains, or seas. Only people — including you and me.

What does it mean to be made in God’s likeness? It means you are made to look like Him. Maybe not on the outside. But on the inside, in your heart and mind and soul. Does that mean you’re perfect? Nope, nobody is. Except Jesus, of course. But it does mean that you take after Him. You get your kindness and your courage from Him. And when you love and help and forgive others, that’s when you look the most like Him.

In this world, people will sometimes see your mistakes as a reason to laugh at you. Some people might call you names. Others might decide not to be your friend because of where you live or the way you look. Don’t listen to them. Instead, remember this:

You are made in the image of God.

You’re a diamond, a precious jewel. You are so important to God, so loved by Him, that He sent His only Son to save you.

You can’t see them, but God’s fingerprints are all over you. So be sure to thank God today for His great idea of making you!

Remember

You are God’s great idea!


Excerpted with permission from You Can Count on God by Max Lucado, copyright 2022 Max Lucado.


Bonus item:

Two weeks ago I was listening to some older interview excerpts at Canadian Church Leader’s Podcast, and I came across several things recorded with Kim Moran when she was a pastor at a Pentecostal Church in Abbotsford BC. Kim is a friend of a friend, so I listened with interest.

One of the questions was about her church’s seven core values, and I transcribed them to present here without additional commentary. You can listen to the full 4-minutes at this link.

Diversity over Division

Great over Good

Servants over Stars

Cooperation over Competition

Extraordinary over Expected

Restoration over Rejection

Victors over Victims

What a great set of core values; agree?


Also available, new from Max Lucado, the adult edition:

November 20, 2021

The Criteria By Which We Measure Worship Services

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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A year ago we introduced a new writer to you. Sam describes himself as ”a minister, teacher, husband, dad, artist, basketball fan, Ph.D., computer geek, and SG-1 fan;” and blogs at Word-Centered Living. Clicking the header which follows takes you to read this direct from the source.

Worship God in Spirit and Truth

“O clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with the voice of joy.” (Psalm 47:1-9, NASB)

Worship is an important part of human life. It’s not just for the religious but for all human beings. It’s because God created all of us, and we are commanded to worship Him and nothing else. You may argue that God doesn’t exist. But beware. Because if God is real, then you will be accountable to Him in the end.

Worship is the natural response of created beings to their Creator, and it is a command that we worship Him. So, how do we know what is the right way to worship?

It seems there are many ways of worshiping God. Some worship God with a quiet and solemn spirit, while others do it in a celebrative mood. What is your worship like?

Read the psalmist’s words today try to picture the kind of worship they experienced. In verse 1, he writes, “O clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with the voice of joy.” Again in verses 6-7, he writes, “Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a skillful psalm.” So, what do you think? What kind of worship did they experience? Is there one right way or many ways to do it?

Based on my understanding of the Scriptures, I would have to say that there are many ways but only one God who is to be exalted. For instance, there are different ways of worship based on human culture. Latino believers do not worship the same way Asians do. African believers do not worship the same way as the Americans do.

Even among the churches in America, we see different styles of worship between different cultures. Also, different denominations worship God differently based on how they view the workings of the spiritual gifts such as tongues, prophesying, and healing. We also have differences in worship based on musical accompaniment. Some churches use traditional instruments such as pianos, organs, and orchestras. Many contemporary churches use praise band types of worship with acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, drums, and keyboards. Some are liturgical and others are charismatic. Some are preaching-oriented, and others are singing-oriented.

I believe that all these ways are legitimate as long as you are worshiping the one true God. The criteria that we must measure our worship services ought to be based on the question: Is the worship service more about us or God?

If it is for God, then we must understand the kind of worship He desires and offer it to Him. And here is what Jesus said about the kind of worship that God desires. He said, But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (Jn.4:23-24).

Worshiping in spirit gives us a lot of room for freedom. God desires His worshipers to worship Him using different languages, cultures, emotions, gifts, and abilities. We must allow the Spirit of God to lead our spirits in expressing our love, joy, and reverence for God.

Remember, what happened to Michal when she mocked David for worshiping in spirit and dancing before God. The Bible says, “And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death” (2 Sam.6:23). You cannot quench the Spirit of God when He is leading people in spiritual worship.

On the other hand, worshiping in truth gives us boundaries of what we can do and cannot do in worship. Remember what happened to Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, when they tried to offer up a strange fire before God. The Bible says, “And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD” (Lev.10:2).

And during the early church stage, a couple by the name of Ananias and Sapphira lied about their offering and were put to death by God (Acts 5:9-10).

Furthermore, Apostle Paul warned the Corinthian church that if they participate in the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner, they may become sick or even die. He said, “For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep” (1 Cor.11:30).

God desires worship from us, and He wants us to worship Him in the freedom of our spirits and according to His truth.


Second Helping: Here’s another article from Word-Centered Living. I had a hard time choosing between two recent items, and maybe this one is needed by you today. It’s titled Don’t Panic.


What’s your library like? Today, for readers of Thinking Out Loud, I offered some general category suggestions in Building a Personal Christian Library.


Technical problems mentioned yesterday with our blog appear to be unique to Firefox. If you’re having problems, try using Chrome or Opera browsers.

October 11, 2021

Thankful for Everything

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:24 pm
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This is Thanksgiving Day in Canada. After 30 minutes looking for an appropriate devotional to share with you, I came across Joy in the Everyday, written by Janet who lives on Canada’s east coast.

Click the header which follows to read this at source, then take a few minutes to check out more of her writing..

give thanks

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. 1 Chron. 16:34 NLT

Wishing all of my Canadian friends a Happy Thanksgiving!

I’m sitting here enjoying the aroma of roasting turkey and anticipating a lovely dinner with family and friends who are family. Pumpkin trifle is awaiting final touches and I am relaxing until last minute work must be addressed. Admittedly, the last couple of years have not been easy ones, but I truly have so much to be thankful for.

I re-shared the give thanks graphic on Facebook this morning and thought of this post from way back when…

Have you ever been challenged by this quote:

“What if you awoke today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?”

I am guilty of taking little things and big things alike for granted.  While I am thankful for my wonderful family, a roof over my head, food on the table and clothes on my back, I do not always remember to show my gratitude to my Heavenly Father.  He is the giver of all good gifts.  And these items would definitely be on my ‘good gifts list.’

What about the little things?  I have never read Anne Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts:  A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, though it’s on my mental list of books I’d like to read … I can imagine from the title and gleaning from the thoughts of others that she challenges us to see beauty in the ugliness, and in the commonplace.

I’ve seen this quote: “Gratitude for the seemingly insignificant—a seed—this plants the giant miracle.”  Am I truly filled with thankfulness in each magnificent sunset?  For a day filled with love and opportunities to fulfill His purposes for me and in me? For that first sip of morning coffee?  For that hug and “I love you”  from my boy?  For my husband who reaches over to hold my hand?  For mounds of laundry…because this means my home is not empty, and we have the necessities of life, and the benefit of brilliant imaginations so that I don’t need to do laundry by hand?  For the opportunity to serve a sick neighbour, to show the love of Jesus? I’m trying to learn this lesson well, as the name of my blog suggests.  I pray that I would not only find joy in the everyday, but I would be thankful in it. A life lived in thankfulness is a life that is content and full of joy.

It’s easy to be thankful for good things.  FaceTime with grandlittles.  Visits with friends and family.  The precious gift of salvation.  What about the hard things?

I Thessalonians 5:18 tells us “in everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  We’ve talked (here, here and here) about difficult circumstances being occasions for God to draw us closer and to make us more like His dear Son.  I can certainly be thankful that He hears me when I cry out to Him in those troubling times, He sustains me in my trials and walks beside me as I face those hard things.  I do not face them alone.

God is good. May my heart be filled and overflowing with thankfulness to Him.

September 27, 2021

Deeper Meaning in Being “Created from Dust”

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Today we have a new author to introduce to you, with the added bonus of a link to an audio podcast reading of today’s study. Beth Madison describers herself as “Christ-follower, wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, friend, learner, soil scientist, author, teacher, professor, and one who holds hard to Jesus and the promises of His Word given to us.” The reference to “soil scientist” is relevant to today’s article, as is the name of her blog, Soul Scientist.

Clicking the header which follows will take you directly to today’s article on her site.

Dusty

Genesis 2:7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature

podcast link: https://anchor.fm/beth-madison/episodes/Dusty-e17aqcr

I learned today that the term, living creature, has much more to it in the original Hebrew than we see today in English. Such thoughts as that the Hebrews didn’t separate the physical, spiritual, mental, or emotional parts of a person into separate categories. All were one working as one in making up that man of dust formed from the ground.

As a Christian and as a soil scientist, that opens up whole new worlds of thought that I’m just beginning to explore…please stay tuned for more to come on this in the future…please like or comment on this post if you’re interested in knowing more. With these thoughts rolling around in my head and heart, I’m now seeing even more beauty, richness, and wonder in the soil under my feet. Sharing even a taste of that beauty with you is the main purpose of this blog…thank you so much for joining me in this journey. Trips are always better taken with friends! So if you know anyone else who might want to travel with us, please invite them along…

And while we’re talking and walking, let’s go down the road a bit with these thoughts…

Since much of our culture in the Western world is disconnected from agronomy, many don’t have a direct link to soil like Adam did. Less than three percent of the U.S. population is actively involved in agriculture while an alarmingly large of amount of our school-aged children (and daresay, adults) have no idea of where their food comes from before it is on their plates. Keeping this in mind, even if we might not consciously realize it, we could be yearning to connect with that from which we came.

Therefore, I propose that we yearn for intimacy with that from which we were created, like Adam could’ve known after Eden. Could that yearning be a call to greater intimacy with creation as a means of worshipping our Creator? Could that yearning be a call to making daily deliberate choices to make space for knowing more of our Creator and His creation? Could that yearning be a call to more intentional creation care in our daily lives as an offering to our Creator?

If so, when we begin to reconnect with the natural world in pursuit of following God in the daily choices of spiritual disciplines emphasizing intimacy with Him and His creation, we can find joy. This joy can then spur us onwards to greater affection for our God, His creation, and the beauty of both. And as we unearth this beauty, we move closer in communion with Christ and embracing our role as caretakers of all of God’s creation, including the world underneath our feet.

Psalm 103:14 For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.

Dear Father,

Thank You that You remember that I am dust. Thank You that You want me to remember this too, especially on days like today when my dust is bone-dry and in need of Your refreshing. Please keep reminding me that You do restore and rebuild from dust that which I thought was lost.

In the strong Name of Jesus,

Amen.

©2021 Beth Madison, Ph.D. – used by permission

 

August 25, 2021

After God’s Image, After God’s Likeness

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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In today’s search for new authors to present to readers here, I found an article which drove me to read Genesis 1:26 in every translation that BibleGateway.com had to offer. With only a very few exceptions, all the translations preserved the phrase “in our image, in our likeness” or something very close. I knew I could count on Eugene Peterson for something different, “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature…” but it was about the only one to deviate from the pattern.

The blog we’re introducing today is called In Plain Sight. There isn’t an ‘about’ page, but I believe I’m safe in saying it originates outside the countries from which many of our devotions here are derived. It has been posting material since September, 2013.

The author today is Abayomi Ayo, but there are other contributors, and I encourage you, as I do every day, to click the header which follows and then navigate out to read other articles.

Anthropos

I was thinking earlier today, and the thought of man started to capture my mind. It was kick started by the question; ‘What is Man?’ It’s a question that man has grappled with for centuries. Several well-intentioned men have attempted to answer this question. Some have settled for Scientific answers, others for Philosophical ones, and a few others for Religious answers. The unbothered ones also make up the ranks. Even as I write this, I’m starting to suspect that this a matter I am better off not engaging, but it is well.

No, I do not intend to prosecute the matter of ‘What is Man?’, but in other to deal with some disclosures that the scriptures make about man, I would have to, in broad strokes, deal with with what man is, as that would serve as the constant I’d be feeding off of.

In the Bible, we find in the book of Genesis – the book of the beginnings – a disclosure from the Triune Council with respect to man. And it is this:

[26]And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
[27]So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

Genesis 1:26-27

I’m resisting the urge to delve into this verse, but at the very least a few things stand out:

Firstly; that man started out as an initiative of God. He didn’t just happen. He was not a product of an evolving process. On the contrary, he is product of Divine Intention.

Secondly; that the template for the creation of man was going to be according to two dimensions: the Image of God, and the Likeness of God.

Thirdly; that the reason for this particular template was tied to the reason for his creation. Because only that which is created (according to this template) can exercise and fulfill the assignment that man was now going to be saddled with the responsibility of prosecuting.

It was based on the conclusions of verse 26, that verse 27 then opened with: so, God created man…

Thus man was created in the image of God. Then a curve ball was thrown in, for it was then added..male and female, created He them.

Just when we were coming to terms with the creation of one entity – man, we are now seeing a plurality. So did he create one or two? Or two-in-one or something? I do not intend to pursue that strand of thought in this series of discussion.

So in keeping with the driver question, we can start by saying stating that Man is a direct creation of God, who was created after the image and likeness of God.

March 9, 2021

The Masculine Soul

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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I realize that today’s title automatically alienates half of the population! But hear me out: Well over 75% of the Christian literature published these days targets a female readerships, and while I don’t know if that’s the exact number, working close to Christian publishing as I do, I suspect it’s fairly accurate.

Recently at Devotions Daily, there was an excerpt from the newly revised and expanded edition of Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. This is one of the few Christian authors who targets a male readership. To read it in full — we’re only officially allowed 800 words, so we made some cuts — click the header which follows.

No More Mr. Nice Guy

Adventure, with all its requisite danger and wildness, is a deeply spiritual longing written into the soul of man. The masculine heart needs a place where nothing is prefabricated, modular, nonfat, zip lock, franchised, on-line, microwavable. Where there are no deadlines, cell phones, or committee meetings. Where there is room for the soul. Where, finally, the geography around us corresponds to the geography of our heart.

Look at the heroes of the biblical text: Moses does not encounter the living God at the mall. He finds him (or is found by him) somewhere out in the deserts of Sinai, a long way from the comforts of Egypt. The same is true of Jacob, who has his wrestling match with God not on the living room sofa but in a wadi somewhere east of the Jabbok, in Mesopotamia. Where did the great prophet Elijah go to recover his strength? To the wild. As did John the Baptist, and his cousin, Jesus, who is led by the Spirit into the wilderness.

Whatever else those explorers were after, they were also searching for themselves. Deep in a man’s heart are some fundamental questions that simply cannot be answered at the kitchen table.

Who am I? What am I made of? What am I destined for?

It is fear that keeps a man at home where things are neat and orderly and under his control. But the answers to his deepest questions are not to be found on television or in the refrigerator. Out there on the burning desert sands, lost in a trackless waste, Moses received his life’s mission and purpose. He is called out, called up into something much bigger than he ever imagined, much more serious than CEO or “prince of Egypt.” Under foreign stars, in the dead of night, Jacob received a new name, his real name. No longer is he a shrewd business negotiator, but now he is one who wrestles with God. The wilderness trial of Christ is, at its core, a test of His identity. “If you are who you think you are…” If a man is ever to find out who he is and what he’s here for, he has got to take that journey for himself.

He has got to get his heart back…

…Society at large can’t make up its mind about men. Having spent the last thirty years redefining masculinity into something more sensitive, safe, manageable and, well, feminine, it now berates men for not being men. Boys will be boys, they sigh. As though if a man were to truly grow up he would forsake wilderness and wanderlust and settle down, be at home forever in Aunt Polly’s parlor. “Where are all the real men?” is regular fare for talk shows and new books. You asked them to be women, I want to say. The result is a gender confusion never experienced at such a wide level in the history of the world.

How can a man know he is one when his highest aim is minding his manners?

And then, alas, there is the church. Christianity, as it currently exists, has done damage to masculinity. When all is said and done, I think most men in the church believe that God put them on the earth to be a good boy. The problem with men, we are told, is that they don’t know how to keep their promises, be spiritual leaders, talk to their wives, or raise their children. But, if they will try real hard they can reach the lofty summit of becoming… a nice guy. That’s what we hold up as models of Christian maturity: Really Nice Guys. We don’t smoke, drink, or swear; that’s what makes us men.

..Walk into most churches in America, have a look around, and ask yourself this question: What is a Christian man? Don’t listen to what is said, look at what you find there. There is no doubt about it. You’d have to admit a Christian man is… bored. At a recent church retreat I was talking with a guy in his fifties, listening really, about his own journey as a man. “I’ve pretty much tried for the last twenty years to be a good man as the church defines it.” Intrigued, I asked him to say what he thought that was. He paused for a long moment. “Dutiful,” he said. “And separated from his heart.” A perfect description, I thought. Sadly right on the mark.

As Robert Bly laments in Iron John, “Some women want a passive man if they want a man at all; the church wants a tamed man — they are called priests; the university wants a domesticated man—they are called tenure-track people; the corporation wants a… sanitized, hairless, shallow man.” It all comes together as a sort of westward expansion against the masculine soul. And thus the heart of a man is driven into the high country, into remote places, like a wounded animal looking for cover. Women know this, and lament that they have no access to their man’s heart. Men know it, too, but are often unable to explain why their heart is missing. They know their heart is on the run, but they often do not know where to pick up the trail. The church wags its head and wonders why it can’t get more men to sign up for its programs. The answer is simply this: we have not invited a man to know and live from his deep heart.

An Invitation

But God made the masculine heart, set it within every man, and thereby offers him an invitation:

Come, and live out what I meant you to be.

Permit me to bypass the entire nature vs. nurture “is gender really built-in?” debate with one simple observation: men and women are made in the image of God as men or as women.

So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created Him; male and female He created them.Genesis 1:27

Male and female. Now, we know God doesn’t have a body, so the uniqueness can’t be physical. Gender simply must be at the level of the soul, in the deep and everlasting places within us. God doesn’t make generic people; He makes something very distinct — a man or a woman. In other words, there is a masculine heart and a feminine heart, which in their own ways reflect or portray to the world God’s heart.

God meant something when He meant man, and if we are to ever find ourselves we must find that. What has He set in the masculine heart? Instead of asking what you think you ought to do to become a better man (or woman, for my female readers), I want to ask, What makes you come alive? What stirs your heart? The journey we face now is into a land foreign to most of us. We must head into country that has no clear trail. This charter for exploration takes us into our own hearts, into our deepest desires.

There are three desires I find written so deeply into my heart I know now I can no longer disregard them without losing my soul. They are core to who and what I am and yearn to be. I gaze into boyhood, I search the pages of Scripture, of literature, I listen carefully to many, many men, and I am convinced these desires are universal, a clue into masculinity itself. They may be misplaced, forgotten, or misdirected, but in the heart of every man is a desperate desire for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.


► More information about the book is available at this link.

Taken from Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul by John Eldredge Copyright © 2021 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. http://www.thomasnelson.com.

October 29, 2020

The Exceptionally Long Lifespan of Early Biblical People

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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NIV.Gen.5.3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Adam lived a total of 930 years, and then he died.

When Seth had lived 105 years, he became the father of Enosh. After he became the father of Enosh, Seth lived 807 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Seth lived a total of 912 years, and then he died.

When Enosh had lived 90 years, he became the father of Kenan. 10 After he became the father of Kenan, Enosh lived 815 years and had other sons and daughters. 11 Altogether, Enosh lived a total of 905 years, and then he died.


NIV.Gen.6.3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”

 

This week Clarke Dixon’s church had a time of testimony with different people sharing their spiritual journey. Some of these people I knew somewhat superficially, but I was so encouraged to hear more of their story.

This week’s post from Clarke appeared on his blog Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon eight years ago this month. Click the title below to read at source.

Genesis 5 and The Short Life of a Cricket

by Clarke Dixon

Having recently closed the pool I have lost one of my morning rituals; a rescue operation for crickets and beetles. Most bugs that find their way into the pool drown fairly quickly, just like the mice, chipmunk, and a skunk that went for a swim this year. Beetles and crickets seemed to be able to keep their heads above water, so in the mornings I would skim off the dead bugs (and the occasional animal), and rescue the living. The beetles were numerous and began to get annoying, and at one point I considered spray painting them to see if the same ones kept coming back for a swim each night.

The crickets however, were even more annoying. They would cling to the side of the pool so I would try to splash them off making it possible for me to pick them up in the skimmer and bring them to safety. Problem is, they were tenacious and held onto the side for dear life, then when I did finally get them into the water, then into the skimmer, no sooner would I get them out of the water that they would leap right back in. This would then often result in my scolding them for their foolishness, and no doubt my neighbours wondering if I was losing my mind. I was trying to lengthen the crickets’ lives, they seemed intent on shortening them.

This reminds me of Genesis 5 where we find some people with incredibly long lives, some reaching nearly 1,000 years. Some people get to this point in the Bible and wonder if the Bible isn’t on the level of fairy tales after all. People just don’t live that long and we have trouble imagining that they ever did. A perusal of Bible scholars will yield four possibilities as to why we find these incredibly long lives in Genesis:

1) Several generations are ‘hidden’ within each person listed, the ancients not being as set on historical details as we are today.
2) There was a different way of counting time back then.
3) The ages are a literary embellishments which allow the lesson in theology to trump a lesson in history.
4) They really did live that long.

No matter which option is closest to what you think, we can remember that the book of Genesis exists primarily to teach us theology, that is, it tells us what it tells us to help us know God better. So what do we learn from these long lives? That life is short, of course!

In the Bible, and especially in the early parts, we find a whittling down of life. Adam and Eve were to live forever, but that didn’t work out so well. Then we find these very early people not even making it to a thousand years. It is thought that Moses, who it is also thought to have had a hand in recording Genesis in some way,  wrote these lines:

You turn men back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men.”  For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.  You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning– though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered. (Psalm 90:3-6 NIV)

We think of these people as living extraordinarily long lives. But from the perspective of the eternal life God wanted to give them,  they didn’t live long at all. It is interesting that in other records from Ancient Near East, there are “kings lists” which record the reign of ten kings, some of whom were said to have reigned for over 60,000 years. If the people who were alive when Genesis was committed to writing were aware of such things in nearby cultures, the Biblical account would have had the affect of reminding them of how short life really was.

Then beyond Genesis 5, we find the average lifespan being whittled down until we get to Joseph who lived for 110 years, as we are told in the final verse of Genesis. Beyond that we get to the time of Moses, again an important time in the bringing forth of the book of Genesis, and the declaration that  “The length of our days is seventy years– or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.” Psalm 90:10

The point of the whittling down of lifespans, from Eve and Adam, through the early generations, down through the rest of Genesis and into the days of Moses, is clear. We are like crickets that refuse to be saved. God’s desire has always been to bless us with life, but we have turned away from His blessings and have chosen death instead. People still do this today. Just like we have a moving away from  the garden of Eden, first with Adam and Eve in chapter 3, then even further with Cain in chapter 4, in Genesis we have a moving away from the blessing of life and the hastening of death, as chapter 5 helps make clear. Besides the ages these early generations, the repetition of their deaths sounds an ominous reminder of the curse of sin. And for the Christian, it serves as a reminder of the depth of God’s grace and His desire to bless us with life:

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. . . “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  (1 Corinthians 15:22,55-57 NIV)

September 27, 2020

How God Uses the Problem(s) You’re Facing Today

Today again, we’re introducing a new (to us) writer, K.K. Hodge, who describes herself as “a family nurse practitioner, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, Sunday School teacher, church treasurer, and crazy critter farmer.” She’s also the author of three books, but only began blogging daily devotions at Inspirations from the Funny Farm after Coronavirus hit. Click the link below to read today’s at source. You might also enjoy the one she posted this morning.

Give me a word, Lord: PICTURE THIS

Isaiah 41:13 For I hold you by your right hand—I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, “Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.”

Isaiah 46:4 I will be your God throughout your lifetime—until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.

Isaiah 41:10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

We’ve been reading in the book of Isaiah the last few nights as we continue our reading through the Bible in a year plan. There are some very good words of wisdom in this book and many great reassurances. I praise God for His Word. I am so thankful that He provided His Holy Word to give us guidance, strength, and peace. We have God that is bigger than all our troubles and problems, and His Word reveals that to us over and over again.

We all have problems. We may not admit them, but if we are living and breathing, we probably have some sort of problem or concern. The problem with our problems is that we try work them out on our own. I’m a very visual person. I love to take pictures. I take pictures of anything and everything, and when I’m working things out in my mind, I do so with pictures or images. Sometimes we have to picture things in order to get a clear image of the situation at hand.

When we picture all our problems in our mind, we see all the different problems in the picture. We may see financial problems, relationship issues, concerns about our children, health troubles, job stressors, and the list goes on. We see all of these troubles in the picture, and then we see ourselves sitting in the middle of the picture surrounded by all of these problems. The problem with this is that we are seeing it all wrong! When we look at a picture of all those problems, we shouldn’t see ourselves sitting in the midst of the trouble, but rather we should see GOD in the picture with our problems. We have to take ourselves out everything, and we need to give everything to God.

Some might say, if God is handling all of my problems, why do I have so many? Well, my friend, sometimes we bring those problems on ourselves. We aren’t perfect. We goof up every now and then even when we are trying to live a good and righteous life. God can and will handle any and all problems that we are enduring, but we have to trust Him through the process. Psalm 119:71-72 tells us, “My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees. Your instructions are more valuable to me than millions in gold and silver.” What? Did he say that suffering is good for me? Yea, buddy! When we go through the struggles in life, we learn from the difficulties and we learn to lean on our Lord and Savior. We are going to have problems in this life. Life is a problem solving adventure. WE may not choose the problem, but we get to choose how the problem affects us. The problem will either develop us or defeat us. We get to make the choice.

No matter what type of difficulty you are going through, you can rest assured that God will use the problem for your benefit. Sometimes He uses the situation to direct you. Maybe He needs to get you to start moving in a certain direction, and He uses a problem to ignite you and get you going. Maybe, just maybe, God has placed something on your heart that He wants you to do, but you won’t budge. Maybe He uses a problem to get you moving in the direction in which He desires for you to go.

Sometimes He uses a problem to correct you. Maybe you are going down a path of destruction, and God uses a problem to teach you a lesson. Ouch! We don’t like the sounds of that one, but there is truth there. Just as a parent disciplines a child who is doing wrong, God is going to discipline His kids. He’s going to get our attention, and a lesson will be learned. Just as we love our children too much to allow them to do things that will harm them, God loves us too much to ignore us when we are doing wrong.

Maybe God is using the problem to inspect you. Did you ever think of that? I’ve read this little saying on social media. “You are holding a cup of hot coffee, and someone bumps you and causes the hot coffee to spill everywhere. Why did you spill the coffee? Because there was coffee in the cup. Had there been tea in the cup, you would have spilled tea. The point is whatever is in the cup will be spilled out. Therefore, when life comes along and shakes you, whatever is inside of you will spill out.” So…what spills out when you are struggling through a difficult situation? Do people around you see fear, anger, bitterness, or do they see love and grace as the marks of a true child of God? What does God see when He inspects you?

Maybe God is using your problem to protect you. Perhaps He has closed the door on a job, a new place to live, or a dream that you had, and it seems like the end of the world. We have to remember that God knows what is coming down the road, and sometimes He closes doors so that other doors can be opened. We can’t see as God sees. He is all knowing, and He knows just what we need when we need it. He may remove a person, a thing, or even a job from our lives in order to provide needed protection.

Our problems weigh us down. We try to carry the burden all alone. Oh, if we could only see the big picture. All those problems that we picture are not too big for God. We may or may not have invited the problem in, but regardless, God is going to use the situation for our good and His glory every time. Stop picturing yourself surrounded by all of the problems of the day. Begin picturing our perfect Lord and Savior…sitting right there in the middle of it all…working it all out. He’s working on each one of us. He’s directing us, correcting us, inspecting us, and protecting us, and ultimately, y’all, He is perfecting us. Just picture it!

 

September 25, 2020

From Grazing in a Field to Feasting at a Table

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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The Lord is my shepherd…
…You prepare a table before me…
Psalm 23

Sometimes the search for new authors to introduce here takes me to some rather unusual places. Rabbi Pesach Wolicki serves as Associate Director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding & Cooperation in Jerusalem www.CJCUC.com. In the title for the post from which today’s quote is drawn, he asks the question, Since When do Sheep Sit at a Table?

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies

This is the standard translation of Psalm 23 verse 5. A glance at one of the numerous Bible translation websites that provides lists of all the many translations shows very little difference from this exact version. However, a close and careful reading of the Hebrew original of this verse reveals that not only is this standard translation imprecise; but the deeper meaning of the verse is lost in these translations.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

The Hebrew word NEGED does, in fact, usually mean “in the presence of” it also means “opposite” or “against”. In other words, NEGED often implies a confrontational stance. The fact that this nuance is what is intended in our verse is clear from the phrase before it:

You prepare a table before me

The word for before me – LEFANAI – also means “in front of” – but not ever in a confrontational way. If our verse meant that the Lord provides a table before me, which is also in front of my enemies, the same word should have been used for both. The choice to change from one word to another tells us that the implication and connotation of the two words is different.

Complicated? Let me sum this up and make things simple.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; can easily be understood as a kind of peace offering. A table is set before me and my enemies for us to sit together and peacefully resolve our differences. But the change from LEFANAI – before me – to NEGED – opposite / in front of tells us what is really going on. To understand further we must understand what preparing a table means in Scripture.

From there he continues looking at the table imagery — I encourage you to read the full article — and also the phrase which follows, about anointing with oil. Then he returns to the earlier topic.

…I’d like to draw our attention to a remarkable transition that took place in our Psalm. And we may not have noticed.

Remember the beginning of the psalm when the Lord was described as a shepherd? Well, if the Lord is a shepherd, then we are sheep. In fact, in verse 2 the psalmist refers to himself grazing in green pastures. This is not exactly something most humans would find too appetizing. The Hebrew word in verse 2 for “He lays me down in green pastures” YARBITZEINI is actually a word that refers throughout Scripture only to animals laying down. (e.g. Genesis 49:9,14; Exodus 23:5)

In other words, in the opening verses of Psalm 23 we are sheep and the Lord is a shepherd.

And then here in verse 5 we are sitting at a table. We are drinking from a cup. What happened to the animal imagery? Since when do sheep sit at tables and drink from cups?

But it is this transition that teaches us deeper lesson of Psalm 23.

At times we are as fully dependent and as clueless as sheep. This is not a very mature relationship with the Lord. We are sheep. We wander. We seek comfort. Our goals are not much beyond food and a comfortable place to lay down or drink. Sheep are not beasts of burden. They do not serve the shepherd or bear any of the burdens of his work. They are selfish beings who are being cared for. The Lord’s relationship to us is focused on keeping us safe and well fed.

But this is not the ideal relationship to God. There is a higher, more meaningful relationship to Him. We are no longer sheep. We are human beings created in His image. We are aware. We battle our enemies. We defeat them with the help of the strength and confidence that God provides for us. He does not do all the work. We are his anointed agents to defeat evil.

 

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