Christianity 201

December 3, 2022

When God Sifts Your Resources

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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“Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side! He may have a great army, but they are merely men. We have the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles for us!” Hezekiah’s words greatly encouraged the people.” – 2 Chronicles 32:7-8 NLT

So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty. – Zechariah 4:6 NIV

A year ago we introduced you to Joey Rudder who is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and occasionally shares a devotional blog post, like the one today, at JoeyRudder.com. Click the title below to read this where it first appeared.

A Miraculous Rescue

“The Lord said to Gideon, ‘You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her, announce now to the people, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’ So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained. But the Lord said to Gideon, ‘There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will sift them for you there.’ The Lord said to Gideon, ‘With the three hundred men that lapped I WILL SAVE YOU and give the Midianites into your hands.’”

Judges 7:2-4b, 7a NIV, emphasis my own.

God ultimately sifted Gideon’s army from 32,000 to 300 men, and He brought them victory when it seemed impossible.

Sometimes God will sift your resources, finances, and solutions.

Your bank account gets so low you can’t use your debit card to get gas.

All the treatments the doctors recommended have failed you.

Everything you do to “fix” your situation backfires.

When things get so bad, and victory seems impossible, or when you’re out of answers and resources and nearly out of hope, Almighty God can step in and do what only HE can do – and He will receive ALL the glory.

When the miraculous happens, you can’t credit it to your salary, the medical experts, or your intelligence.

You’ll know the victory is from God and God alone.

Doubt will never tarnish it. The enemy won’t be able to hide it under a pile of lies. And the faithless will be silenced when it happens – even if they try to speak, their words will have no credibility as you bask in the glow of God’s unfailing love and faithful provision.

Of course, God can use the resources He’s provided to rescue you. He can increase your finances and wisdom. He can use doctors to bring about healing. But He jealously longs for you to know it’s HIS doing.

God will not share His glory with another.

Oh, precious soul. If God has sifted your resources and you’re holding onto mere fragments of what you once thought could save you, hit your knees and acknowledge that this is beyond you. Cry out to God, admit that you need Him and His miraculous rescue, and BELIEVE He still performs miracles today.

Because He does. ❤️

 

November 15, 2022

The King the People Wanted versus The King God Wanted

Back in April we reconnected with a guy we knew as Kuya Kevin aka Kevin Sanders who we had often linked to back in the day at Thinking Out Loud. Still faithfully writing online, his blog is simply titled Pastor Kevin Sanders, and you can read today’s post by clicking the title which follows.

The Blessings of 8th Place

1st Samuel 16 introduces us to one of the most well-known characters in the Bible: David. What you may not realize is just how unlikely a choice he was to be the King of Israel.

God told Samuel it was time to stop moping around and dwelling on the dismal leadership failures of Saul, Israel’s first king. Samuel was ordered to anoint another king, but this time it would be different. Saul was exactly the type of king the people wanted, but the new king would be the kind of man God wanted.

Samuel was told to go visit Jesse in Bethlehem. There he would meet Jesse’s sons, one of whom would be God’s choice for the next king.

The meeting eventually happened, and Samuel was immediately presented with the most obvious choice: Eliab.

Eliab had won the genetic lottery in more ways than one. He was the firstborn son, which meant he would be the leader of the family once Jesse passed away. This also meant he would receive twice the inheritance of any other sibling. Even now, being first has its advantages: firstborn children tend to surpass their younger siblings in both leadership ability and intelligence.

Eliab had something else going for him: he was tall and handsome–an impressive physical specimen of a man.

All things considered, this alpha male was the obvious choice to be Israel’s next king. Even Samuel was impressed: he was ready to cast the one and only deciding vote for Eliab.

But God had a different plan–a plan so surprising that it had to be spelled out in no uncertain terms. God told Samuel that He was looking for something that Samuel couldn’t see:

 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

-1st Samuel 16:7

Eliab was clearly not God’s choice, so Jesse did the most sensible thing he could think of. He presented Samuel with the second-born, then the third-born, an so on until he had presented seven of his sons as potential candidates. God rejected them all.

“Are all your sons here?” Samuel asked. There was one more, but no one in the family thought he should even be invited. David, the youngest, had been assigned to watch the sheep while everyone else attended to these more important matters.

Samuel sent for him, and God made His choice clear: David would be Israel’s next king. He was anointed on the spot–right in front of his higher-status brothers.

Why David? Because God wanted a man after His own heart (1st Samuel 13:14).

David is an example of something we see repeatedly in the Scriptures: God delights in using the unlikeliest of people to do extraordinary things. Social status, appearance, wealth, or any other external measure of “success” are meaningless in His eyes. God looks at one thing above everything when deciding who He will use: the heart.


Thanks, Kevin.

Back in 2014, I had an unusual moment involving today’s key verse; looking for something to jump out at me in a fresh way.

I wrote:

I Samuel 16 offers us a verse we know but tend not to practice:

7bI do not judge as people judge. They look at the outward appearance, but I look at the heart.

The Louis Segund translation renders it this way:

…l’homme regarde à ce qui frappe les yeux, mais l’Éternel regarde au coeur.

In English, it would read that man looks at what “strikes the eyes;” in other words first impressions and superficial indicators.

That’s even more true today as social media compels many to make a good impression, and many of us gravitate to people who simply look good.

God uses different metrics than we do. He looks at the heart.

November 9, 2022

When Prayer Moves the Heart of God

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:28 pm
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It’s nearly a year, but we’re very grateful to HarperCollins Christian Products for their special permission to carry book excerpts from Thomas Nelson and Zondervan authors.

Matthew 6:11

  • Give us today our bread for the day (Weymouth)
  • Give us today the food we need (NLT)
  • Give us this day our bread sufficient for sustenance (Smith’s Literal)
  • Give us this day the bread for our support (Anderson New Testament)

Today’s author has appeared here once previously. Tyler Staton was a pastor in New York City for many years before moving one coast to another where he became the lead pastor of Bridgetown Church in Portland, which was founded by John Mark Comer. He is the National Director of 24-7 Prayer Movement which makes it even better that his new book is Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools: An Invitation to the Wonder and Mystery of Prayer (Zondervan). (See links below.)

Daily Bread (chapter excerpt)

In Exodus 32, we get a glimpse into Moses’s prayer life. To set the stage, God is very unhappy with the Israelites, and his anger is well-founded. After freeing them from slavery, parting the Red Sea, feeding them with bread from the sky, and quenching their thirst with water from a rock, they’ve begun to worship another god. God voices his anger, and in response, Moses prays, essentially calling God back to his own character:

Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: “I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.” (Exodus 32:12-13)

Moses is holding God to his word. He’s reminding God who God is: “by your own self.” He’s not just pleading with God to give him what he wants. It’s more like he’s reminding God what God really wants.

And check out God’s response: “Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.” Wait, what? Moses confronted God . . . and won? Yeah. Something like that.

The word relented is the translation of the Hebrew word naham, which can also be translated as “changed his mind” or even “repented.” God nahamed. God changed his mind. God repented. Really? That’s really what it says.

This doesn’t mean God was caught in sin and went to confession. Naham doesn’t mean God was in the wrong. It means God was moved emotionally. Moses’s prayer moved the Creator of the universe on an emotional level. That’s what the Bible teaches.

Aristotle famously called God the “unmoved mover.” The God Moses prayed to is more like the “moved mover.” He’s moving heaven and earth, but he’s also movable. He hears us. He actually listens and actually cares. He responds. This idea of God may seem pretty radical, but that’s only because many of us have a concept of God formed more by Aristotle than by Moses.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a ton of mystery here. There are so many unanswered questions. Sure, that’s how it happened with Moses, but what about Malachi? He heard God say, “I the LORD do not change.” But then there’s Hosea, to whom God said, “My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.” How can both of these revelations of God be equally true? Because God is a relational being to know, not a formula to master.

When it comes to any relational being, we’re gonna have to get comfortable with mystery. We will never know anyone so thoroughly that there’s no mystery left. I will know and love my wife for the rest of my life, and I’ll never reach the end of her. I’ll never eliminate the mystery in my most intimate relationship.<

Of course, it would be dangerous to form an entire theology out of this one Moses prayer, but there is a definite biblical pattern supported by this passage: God responds to his own character. That’s his nature. John Mark Comer concludes, “God is more of a friend than a formula.”


Excerpted with permission from pp125-6 in Praying Like Monks Living Like Fools by Tyler Staton ©2022 Tyler Staton. (link is to book’s page at zondervan.com)

Previously by Tyler Staton here at C201: Searching for Enough excerpt

Teaching at Bridgetown Church based on the book.

For an overall look at the book, Click here for my review.

Bible translations used in our introduction were from BibleHub.com (click ‘additional translations’ after search results)

August 1, 2022

No Prayer Request Too Small | Valuing God

Where I live today is a holiday Monday, and so we’re offering two shorter devotions today. We’re returning to an author we introduced eleven months ago, Pastor John Jakes who writes at Calvary Baptist Church in Indianola, Iowa. Clicking the two headers which follow will take you to the source of both articles.

Both of these writings are two sides of the same coin. The first is about how God values us; that we can bring even the smallest request to him. The second is about how we value God, our passion and excitement at his presence.

God Loves Us More Than We Understand

I have a bad habit in my prayer life. It isn’t that I don’t bring my requests to God. It isn’t that I don’t believe that God can answer my prayers. My habit is that I routinely decide which needs are too small to bring to God.

1 Peter 5:6 — 7  Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

This encouragement from Peter always catches me. It doesn’t catch me because of the call to humility. Anyone who has heard the teachings of Jesus knows His opinion on pride. However, here in 1 Peter he connects it to how we pray in a profound way. In the midst of talking about prayer and exaltation, Peter urges us to cast all our anxiety upon God. He doesn’t tell us to bring God just the big stuff. He doesn’t say to take to God just the “spiritual” stuff. Peter tells us to bring all our anxiety to Him – every single thing.

I know the usual response. It usually goes something like this: “I pray for others. I pray for the needs of my church and community. I pray for my family. But, I don’t pray for myself much because my needs are little compared to others. God needs to take care of those bigger needs. I can manage these small things.” I don’t want to be too hard on us for trying to be humble in our prayers, however I think we have missed the point. We have missed that we aren’t actually expressing humility when we say such things. We are making the love and expansiveness of God smaller. We are missing that He loves us so much that He wants to know what is on our heart. We are losing sight of what it means for God to be omnipotent = He is so powerful that He can work in the smallest of our problems!

So, instead of shielding God from our little needs I propose we do something truly humble – bring Him every single one of them! Let’s acknowledge our complete dependency upon Him. Let’s embrace a love that wants to know every need of our heart. Let’s marvel in a God like Him. He is so great that He loves you and me. He loves us in our smallness. He loves us in our brokenness. He is always faithful. So, when you think of humility don’t try to make yourself smaller. Make Him bigger. Make Him your everything. Make Him your strength. Make Him your confidence. Make Him your answer. He is big enough for even the little things.

God’s Value to Us

There are a couple of ways to measure what we value. The first way to measure what we value is what we are willing to pay or sacrifice to get it. The other way is how does what we value stack up to other similar items. Consider those that love Apple devices. The average iPad is between 200-300 dollars. The similar Android device is half that price. The new iPhone 13 is just under 1000 dollars. The comparable Android device is a third of the price. Now, ask that Apple user if they are willing to pay that amount. The answer will be yes. Then ask them if they would take a free Android device. Can you guess the answer? It will probably be a snarky, “Yeah, I can use it as a brick to lift up the corner of my bed – it’s a little low.” That’s value. They love their device. They will pay the price and they won’t give it up.

Psalm 84:10 For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside.
I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

That’s God to us. The Psalmist declares that He would be willing to be a door keeper at God’s house than dwell in the tents of wickedness. That’s quite a cost – stand outside the house of God as a ceremonial guard rather than enjoy the party! Wow. What value! He also says that he would rather spend one day in God’s courts than a thousand outside. No exchanges. Nothing else is acceptable. When compared with all other opportunities, God is worth more. That is value.

God’s people are clear in their declaration: God is worth it. He is worth any sacrifice. He is worth giving our heart solely to. Because of that worth, giving and sacrificing for Him is joy. It is the joy of value. We get to be with Him. We get to walk with Him. We get to follow Him. He makes it joy. Do you know this joy? Do you know His value? How do you show it? He is worth it.

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.

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