Christianity 201

August 8, 2021

A Devotional Three-for-One Special!

For the third year in a row, we’re bringing you a trio of short-form devotionals from The Bare Soul Daily Devotional by Rick Roeber (aka The Barefoot Runner). Click on each of the headers below to bookmark or read at source.

The Valley of Decision

Joel 3:14 – “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.”

The day of the Lord will characterize itself in a terrifying way to most. However, the day of the Lord can also be a day of great victory. For those of us who have accepted the Lord Jesus, our day of the Lord has come and God has already entered into judgment with our sin through the Lord Jesus Christ. Only as we have accepted Him as our sacrificial Lamb, will we then have moved from judgment to mercy as our sin has been forever atoned for by Christ’s perfect life.

The tragedy is that most will be caught in the conundrum of their own indecisiveness, not accepting the Lord’s most gracious gift before their respective death or His eminent return. If only they had known how close the Lord was to them in this time of decision! He patiently waited for their response but there was none.

As the writer of Hebrews tells us, if today you hear His voice, do not harden your heart but give your life to Him for He is full of love and abounding in mercy (Hebrews 4:7).

Divine Recognition

Acts 4:13 – “Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.”

Have you ever recognized someone as having been with Jesus? They aren’t difficult to spot. As the Pharisees witnessed, the hallmark of these folks is their immovable confidence in what they believe. How does confidence of this type manifest itself? Well, it starts in secret and spills out publicly. It oozes out of believers that truly believe their Lord and desire to spend time with Him. It comes by searching out His Word, and then living it to the best of their ability. It comes by living out the Great Commission and spreading the love of Jesus Christ to their communities, counties, states, countries, and finally to the world. Godly confidence is something that cannot be self-created but is a by-product of living and breathing the Lord Jesus Christ on a daily basis.

Do you want to provoke amazement as the Pharisees experienced? They merely acknowledged the confidence of Peter and John, that they were uneducated but yet they recognized the Lord Jesus in them. Confidence in one’s standing with the Lord only comes by getting into that secret place with Him — to pour out one’s heart and to pour over His word. Then, when we come out into the public light, there will be little to mistake any of us from having been with our Risen Lord.

Love and Compassion

Matthew 20:34 – “Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him.”

Often people confuse God’s compassion with His love. The Lord certainly loves at all times, for this is His nature (Proverbs 17:17), However, His compassions are often kindled according to His great will (Hosea 11:8). These ebb and flow in perfect measure as He touches and mends lives. Jesus’ nature did not always look loving, yet He never failed in this respect, even when He was angry or openly grieved. Likewise, His compassion was always at work although it was most demonstrative when God’s heart was “kindled.”

Always know God is a loving Father, even when He does not appear that way. The sign of a mature believer is patiently discerning how the Lord chooses to reveal Himself through His compassion. When God does touch us, there is a new awareness of His love and kindness and a greater desire to follow Him no matter where He might lead.


Bonus content:

It’s been awhile since we shared anything from Ruth Wilkinson. Today we have two video teachings for you in what will eventually become a series of four or five, which are based on the hymn Holy, Holy, Holy.

Click these links for

October 6, 2020

When God Ran

I’ve always felt a great deal of affinity with Jim Thornber, probably because we both have a blog called Thinking Out Loud, and both started in 2008, although his journey and mine are quite different. Since I last caught up with him, he’s faced the loss of his father and the passing of his wife on September 12th from complications arising due to Covid-19. Both are the subject of two previous pieces on his blog, which were then preceded by this one, which appears below under its original title. Our own title today is the title of a song by Benny Hester which came to mind as I was reading and appears at the end. Click the header below to read this at Jim’s site.

The God Who Runs

“And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” –Luke 15:20

I’d like to share with you a snippet of a recent conversation I had with God.

It started when I wanted to write the way Jesus portrayed God in Luke 15. After the wayward son spent his inheritance on wild living, he decides to return home. Verse 20 says the Father ran to the son, embraced him before he could deliver his well-rehearsed speech, and called for a party on his behalf. But I was missing something in the story and didn’t know how to start. I had blogger’s block. Finally (why is it always “finally’?), I settled myself down and prayed.

Me: Lord, as I think about Luke 15, how would You like me to represent You?

God: Tell people My forgiveness predates their repentance.

Me: Okay. What is the best way to do that?

God: Tell them why I ran.

I’ve been studying Luke 15 since the 1980’s when I first read Lloyd John Oglivie’s book on the parables called The Autobiography of God. The first parable Oglivie writes about is this one, which he calls, “The Prodigal God.” About the Father he says, “Rivet your attention on him. Don’t take your eyes off him,” because the spotlight is never off Him, even when He is off stage. He is the prodigal God.

That strikes most people as absurd, mostly because they think prodigal means “going away and returning.” In fact, the word “prodigal” means extravagant, lavish, unrestrained and copious. True, this describes the son in the way he lived in the far country, but it better describes the father. His love knew no limits, his joy no restraint, his forgiveness no boundaries. His forgiveness isn’t even bound by time.  The son was unrestrained with his money, but the father is unrestrained with His love.

Back to the parable. The son is now walking through town on his way to the Father’s house and Jesus says, “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.”

Let’s pause at that word “run.” Most of us skip over it and move ahead to the embrace and the call for a new wardrobe. But if we don’t stop and consider the Father running, we miss a very important part of the story.

In his exegesis of Luke 15, Kenneth Bailey tells us as the son approaches the village, a crowd will gather. The village, well aware the son wanted the father to die so he could have his money now, will taunt the son, abusing him verbally and possibly physically. Therefore, the only way for the father to protect his son from a distance was to draw the attention of the crowd away from the son and onto himself. Therefore, the father ran.

Bailey writes, “An Oriental nobleman with flowing robes never runs anywhere. To do so is humiliating.” Aristotle wrote, “Great men never run in public.” But the father ran anyway. Why? Because he had “compassion” for his son. The only way to keep the crowd from harming his son was to distract them, so the father runs this gauntlet, drawing the attention of the away from the son in order to observe the father’s shameful behavior. Bailey writes, “The boy, having steeled his nerves for this gauntlet, now, to his utter amazement, see his father run it for him. Rather than experiencing the ruthless hostility he deserves and anticipates, the son witnesses and unexpected, visible demonstration of love in humiliation.”

This is the character of God. Not concerned for His own dignity, He does the unexpected so those who would never expect it see a side of God they least expected: love in humiliation. This is Christ the Messiah who, more concerned with our salvation than His dignity, voluntarily hangs naked from a Cross. Why? “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame” (Heb. 12:2).

While we were disabled due to sin, Jesus disrobed, shedding both His eternity and His clothes, to enable us to live again. Like the father running in the parable, he took the shame upon Himself and drew Satan’s attention away from us, knowing His death would set us free. By the time the Accuser figured out the resurrection, Christ’s victory over sin and death had already been won.

Our Savior exchanged his majesty for mortality, His sovereignty for shame, His glory for a grave. At the best possible moment in the history of humanity upon this earth, Christ came to us. Even as a baby, Satan’s attention was riveted upon Him. Christ ran.

We’ve been created by a Father who runs toward us. In His compassionate love, He forgives us before we ask, before we can convince Him we need His presence with our well-rehearsed speech. All the Father knew was His child who once was lost is now returning home, so He ran to embrace him.

Our Father, Holy is His name, likes to run. Have you experienced His embrace?


May 19, 2020

The God Who Touches Lepers

Melody has creating devotional writing at In Pleasant Places since January, 2013. This is her 5th time being highlighted here. Her blog started somewhat organically from correspondence she was sharing with a friend, as she explains in her story. To read this at her blog, click the header below.

Powerful Healing, Compassionate Love – Isaiah 53:4-5

“Surely He has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows…
Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with His stripes we are healed.”

Isaiah 53:4-5

I read these words by Charles Spurgeon this morning:

“What a mass of hideous sickness must have thrust itself under the eye of Jesus! Yet we read not that He was disgusted, but patiently waited on every case… Whatever my own case may be, the beloved Physician can heal me; and whatever may be the state of others whom I may remember at this moment in prayer, I may have hope in Jesus that He will be able to heal them of their sins.”

This is the example the disciples witnessed. Jesus, with compassion and care for all. Not repulsed. Not hesitant or intimidated. Instead, He was welcoming and patient. Demonstrating that there is no lost cause; He can heal all who come to Him. A powerful physical demonstration of His ability to heal, cleanse, and restore, pointing to His greater healing of the soul for all who believe in Him.

No sin is too great, too dark, too ongoing. He cleanses all.

That’s what He died for.

And He meets us with the same compassion regardless of how dirty, shameful, and unworthy we feel – just as He met the high priest in Zechariah’s vision, rebuking his accuser, removing his iniquity (taking it on Himself ultimately on the cross), and clothing him in pure garments (Zechariah 3:1-4).

As Jesus reached out His hand to touch the leper (Luke 5:11-13), He reaches out His hand to touch and cleanse us. To pull us out of the mire and give us a new song to sing (Psalm 40:1-3). To change our lives because we are delivered into His kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13-14), freed to know Him in relationship and experience His grace in obedience. Freed to love and serve Him, walking in the newness of abundant life. With strength and peace, joy and steadfast hope.

When we are freed, may we never forget the greatness of His salvation, the depth and depravity of sin He saves us from, or our continual need of His mercy and grace – and His ability and ready willingness to meet that need (Hebrews 4:16).

May we never look at others’ chains and sicknesses with disgust, but as our Savior does – with compassion. With love. Reaching out to meet them where they are, and gently sharing our experience of a God who loves them enough to die for them, a God who will not shame them, a God who stands with ready open arms to assure them, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments” (Zechariah 3:4).

Fellow believers, let us not be repulsed.

Let us not shame.

Let us not cast down.

Rather, let us reach out to love.

Let us listen.

Let us share of the Father’s great love and mercy, manifested on the cross of Jesus and extended very personally to those He puts in our path.

Let us share this not to change them, but to introduce them to the living God of love, hope, peace, and freedom. For each precious one who believes in Him, He will draw them out of the mire into His light. He will free them from their sin. We bring others to Jesus in love and compassion; His Spirit does the rest, just as He continues His work to free us from our sin. A work that He will bring to completion for all who are His (Philippians 1:6).

Because His healing work is that powerful and His love for us is that great.

“I waited patiently for the LORD;
He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the LORD.”
Psalm 40:1-3


July 11, 2019

In a Precarious Position

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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by Clarke Dixon

Have you ever felt a sense of desperation? Like you are having, not just a bad day, but a bad year, or even a rotten season of life? You will be able to relate to Ruth and Naomi, who at the beginning of Ruth, chapter two, are in a precarious position.

Naomi is a widow, who not only lost her husband and sons, but therefore also lost the rights to the family land. Ruth is a foreigner, and a Moabite at that! The Moabites did not a great reputation among the Israelites. Neither Naomi nor Ruth had a livelihood. These were desperate times for them.

Despite their precarious position, Ruth chapter two is all about hope. Where we can find hope when we are in a precarious position?

Now there was a wealthy and influential man in Bethlehem named Boaz, who was a relative of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech. Ruth 2:1 (NLT)

This book is full of hints, and chapter two begins with one; though Naomi and Ruth are destitute, there is a rich man in the family! Now, back to poverty:

One day Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go out into the harvest fields to pick up the stalks of grain left behind by anyone who is kind enough to let me do it.”
Naomi replied, “All right, my daughter, go ahead.”Ruth 2:2 (NLT)

Poverty was the reality for Naomi and Ruth. Picking up the leftovers from the harvesting was what the poor did in ancient Israel. In fact the Old Testament law instructed that leftovers ought to always be left over for the relief of the poor. We should also note the danger that Ruth is in. She planned on sticking close enough to the women labourers for the sake of safety.

So Ruth went out to gather grain behind the harvesters. And as it happened, she found herself working in a field that belonged to Boaz, the relative of her father-in-law, Elimelech. Ruth 2:3 (NLT)

The keys words here are “as it happened.” Remember the well-off family member from verse 1? Ruth unknowingly just happened to pick his field.

Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The Lord be with you! ”
“The Lord bless you! ” they answered. Ruth 2:4 (NIV)

Remember that well-off family member from verse 1? He just happened to be drop by. Talk about Ruth being in the right place at the right time! But what kind of man is he? Is he kind, or blind to the needs of the poor? We will soon find out.

Then Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?”
 And the foreman replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi. She asked me this morning if she could gather grain behind the harvesters. She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter.”
 Boaz went over and said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields. Stay right behind the young women working in my field.  See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. I have warned the young men not to treat you roughly. And when you are thirsty, help yourself to the water they have drawn from the well.”
Ruth 2:5-9 (NLT)

As it turns out, Boaz is a kind man, a godly man. Talk about Ruth being in the right place, a the right time, with the right kind of person! Coincidence? No, the reader is to clue in that God is working unseen in the background on behalf of Ruth and Naomi. Despite their precarious position, there is hope!

God is working, unseen, in the background of your life in surprising ways. God is caring for you, even when you are not aware. 

Let us take a moment to see things from the perspective of Boaz. First, consider the blessing Boaz speaks over Ruth:

May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.” Ruth 2:12 (NLT emphasis added)

Keep that in mind as we continue on with the story.

Ruth heads back to Naomi at the end of the day with a good haul of food, and the happy news that the owner of the field was a very kind man. Naomi asks for his name and upon hearing the name, Boaz, says,

“The Lord bless him! ” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our guardian-redeemers. ” Ruth 2:20 (NIV)

Here is another hint. Help will come! Boaz is not just a kind man, he is a ‘guardian-redeemer’ to Naomi, and therefore, Ruth. An NIV footnote describes the Hebrew word behind ‘guardian-redeemer’ as “a legal term for one who has the obligation to redeem a relative in serious difficulty.”

Talk about Ruth being in the right place, at the right time, with the right kind of man, with the right kind of relationship to her. He is one who has a potential obligation to help. In fact, he may have an obligation to marry Ruth in order to restore the land to the family. Let us skip ahead to the next chapter where Ruth carries out instructions from Naomi on how to approach Boaz with a marriage request.

 When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down. In the middle of the night something startled the man; he turned—and there was a woman lying at his feet!
“Who are you?” he asked.
“I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.” Ruth 3:7-9 (NIV)

Most translations focus in on a request to be covered by Boaz’s cloak. However, there is something profound about the Hebrew word that gets lost in translation. The English Standard Version brings out well that a word we have seen earlier is used again:

He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” Ruth 3:9 (ESV emphasis added)

Boaz spoke in verse 12 of Ruth seeking refuge under the wing of God, not knowing that Boaz himself would be asked to take Naomi and Ruth under his wing. God was working through Boaz on behalf of Ruth and Naomi. God may care for someone through us. You may be the person God uses to bring hope to someone in a desperate situation, you may become the answer to someone’s prayer for refuge.

There is something bigger hinted at here in Ruth, chapter 2. This is the first we hear of Boaz being a ‘guardian-redeemer,’ the one who can help family members in desperate situations. There is a desperate situation that we all face. We experience separation from God, an incredible loss of relationship with God due to sin. As Naomi had lost the rights to the land, land that was originally a gift from God, so we have lost our right to eternal life, life that was originally a gift from God. We need a redeemer, to restore what has been lost. There is a story of redemption in the Book of Ruth that hints at a bigger story of redemption. In the Book of Ruth we learn how God cared for Naomi and Ruth through Boaz. In the Bible, in its entirety, we learn how God cares for us through Christ. There is a redeemer, and his name is Jesus.

God cared for Ruth and Naomi. God cares for us. God cared for Ruth and Naomi through Boaz. God cares for others through us. God is our refuge when we find ourselves in a desperate and precarious situation. He is our redeemer.


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Cobourg, Ontario; a small(er) town about an hour east of Toronto, Canada whose writings appear at C201 most Thursdays. Read more here or at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon.

 

 

November 26, 2018

In The Eye of the Beholder

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Today we’re introducing a new author. Ron Harris is the author of Not Dressed for the Occasion (Word Alive Press, 2018) and has given us permission to use a couple of excerpts from the book which he describes as having “no specific beginning or end but is a string of observations birthed out of my walk with God. It delves into the deeply personal failures of life and honest confession of sins, as well as explores the wonderful experiences and potential we have in God. Though the book exposes the present world view that contradicts the traditional six thousand years of proven moral lessons, it also deals with the daily experiences that challenge our faith and intimacy with God, the most common thread being God Himself and the incredible revelation we enjoy because of the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.” 

Not Dressed for the Occasion may be ordered wherever you purchase Christian books.

Love and Beauty

It has been said of some new born babies that they are so ugly “only a mother could love them.” That term has become a way of describing many things that appear to be ugly in the eyes of the beholder, particularly human beings. Because my profession is to attempt to create beautiful environments, it is difficult for me to see beauty in things that I know from training and experience is intrinsically ugly.

We tend to judge the choices of others stating, “Love is blind” or “I can’t understand what he or she sees in her or him,” while still others say they are deaf, dumb, and stupid. We say the mother is blind because she loves an ugly baby, but I have come to understand that WE ARE THE BLIND ONES because the mother sees a beauty that can only be observed through THE EYES OF LOVE. Love sees with eyes that the natural man cannot understand and can therefore enjoy what others reject as ugly. Because we live in a society that is obsessed with “beauty,” we are blinded to the splendors that only love can see.

We all know the verse from John’s gospel that states; “For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” [John 3:16 (KJV)] but I would like to amplify the word “world” to include; “every living person ever been born or even aborted; every weak, suffering, sickly soul, every Down’s Syndrome person, every child with cleft lip, every person regardless of age that is abandoned, abused, beaten, sexually or verbally assaulted and every soul ravaged by sin or tormented by Satan. Despite all of this, God still sees something in us because we were created in His image; “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: [Genesis 1:26 (KJV)] but it doesn’t stop there; He also says that; “You saw me before I was born…”[Psalm 139:16 (TLB)]

…I was at an annual conference of the Apostolic Church and a person with a Prophetic ministry came up to me, put both hands either side of my face, stared compassionately into my eyes and said, “God wants you know that He really loves you.” With that he removed his hands and walked away.

That encounter changed my view on both God and myself. Like all of us when we look at our lives and see our sins and failures we often despair at ourselves and wonder how could God love us with such faults and failures? Now I know that theologically we can say God sees us through the eyes of Christ because; “God has given me that genuine righteousness which comes from faith in Christ”=[Philippians 3:9 (J.B. PHILLIPS)] but I believe “He really does love us” even with all our quirky personalities. There are no “ugly babies” in God’s eyes because He sees beyond the obvious, loving us just as we are and because He loves us so much He will not leave us in our failure and sin. He sees so much incredible potential in us all, that He will move “heaven and earth” to bring us to the place of change for our full destiny in Him.

So, will this love that God has for us motivate us to be changed or will we continue to follow our own ways and never discover the full potential and destiny for our lives? One of the scariest powers we possess is the freedom to choose. We can spit in the face of God, even deny His existence but we do this to our own terrible eternal loss, breaking the heart of a God who has given everything possible to win us with His love. Yes, He will give strength and Grace to change those ugly things of sin in our lives and because He loves us so much He sees beauty where others only see ugliness.

If God then shows such love, we can, we must show this same type of love for each other for He has promised; “…God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” [Romans 5:5 (NIV)] As we choose to take that step of faith of loving each other, God’s Spirit is released in us. We can then start to see beauty in each other that the natural eye cannot see. We are not like the scripture that states; “Having eyes do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear?”[Mark 8:18 (NASB)] We are not the blind ones; we now have eyes that see the beauty that only love can see.

 

October 24, 2016

Freedom from What is Hurting You

Articles here are often a mixture of in-depth Bible study and personal devotions. Sometimes I think we don’t do enough of the latter. Today, we’re again returning to Proverbs 31 Ministries. This time it’s a different writer, Leah DiPascal. Click the title below to read this on their site.

When the Struggles of Life Knock You Over

“When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’ Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.” Luke 13:12-13 (NIV)

She heard His voice but couldn’t see Him clearly. The surrounding crowds had blocked her view.

Bent over at the waist and unable to stand up straight, she strained to get a good glimpse of Him. Then, unexpectedly, He’d called her forward.

I imagine her heart was racing as she slowly shuffled her way to the front of the synagogue.

Why would Jesus single her out of the crowd? Was He going to make a spectacle of her brokenness? Or expose her deepest pain and darkest secrets?

As the crowds around her murmured, each step toward Jesus felt as if she were lugging the weight of the world behind her.

For 18 years, her body had been crippled. Eighteen long, exhausting years.

She certainly had plenty of reasons not to go to the synagogue that Sabbath morning. Why subject herself to the possible harsh stares and hurtful comments? Yet she was there, listening intently to the teachings of Jesus.

She didn’t say a word. She didn’t try to get His attention. She simply stood in His presence, soaking in the life-giving statements that gave her hope in the midst of her hopeless situation.

But Jesus saw her. Jesus had compassion for her. Jesus loved and wanted to heal her. And in one swift statement, those 18 long, exhausting years came to a screeching halt.

“Woman, you are set free from your infirmity” (Luke 13:12b).

With the gentle touch of His hands, warmth flowed through her body, and she suddenly realized she was standing upright. She no longer strained to get a glimpse of Jesus … she now saw Him face to face.

With a burst of joy, bondage gave way to freedom and she exhaled in worshipful praise and adoration to her Lord. Her healer. Her bondage breaker.

Scripture doesn’t tell us her name, but I think we all can relate to this woman in one way or another. Maybe you see a small part of her story that rings true in your own life, connecting you though years separate. Could it be:

  • An ailment that physically restricts your body and makes you feel weak?
  • A spiritual battle keeping you in bondage to the enemy?
  • An unwanted flaw that draws painful attention and hurtful comments from others?
  • A heavy heart filled with shattered dreams and stinging emotions?
  • A burden you carry, causing you to shuffle through life feeling alone, unwanted or disposable?

Whatever has made your life seem long and exhausting, Jesus can repair it by His powerful presence, His comforting words and His healing touch.

He loves you. He longs to be gracious to you. He rises to show compassion so you can stand upright again.

Assured. Secure. Enveloped in His comforting embrace.

You are never lost in the crowd because you have captivated Jesus’ heart. His gaze is always fixed on you.

He sees your pain. He’s aware of your affliction. He knows your struggles.

Like the woman in the synagogue, come as you are — with all that makes you feel less than. Draw near to Jesus, soak in His life-giving Word and wait expectantly to hear Him speak freedom over your situation:

“Woman, you are set free from your infirmity” (Luke 13:12b). Jesus did it for her … and He can do it for you too!

Lord, I come to You today and lay all my burdens at Your feet. Take the emotional and mental weight I’ve been carrying so that I can stand upright again. Draw near to me. Heal me. Free me. I want to live assured, secure and continuously aware of Your loving embrace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Isaiah 30:18, “The LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (NIV)

Psalm 145:14, “The LORD supports all who fall, and lifts up all who are bent over.” (NET)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
I would’ve loved to see Jesus miraculously heal that precious woman in the synagogue on that Sabbath day. It’s beautiful how her very first response was to praise God. How do you express gratitude for all God has done in your life? What are some things you can praise Him for today?

December 3, 2015

When Current Events Crowd Our Thoughts

I’ve pre-empted the devotional that was scheduled here today in order to share something that Gene Appel posted on Facebook earlier today.

San Bernadino mass killing

Like many of you, I woke up this morning grieving. While radios and iTunes are playing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” it sure doesn’t feel that way. Especially for those grieving from the San Bernadino tragedy and so many others. Some of you, like my sister Gail, have buried your spouse this year or someone you couldn’t have imagined living without. Many of us are burdened by the increase of violence and terrorism in our world. I was reminded as I was reading from Matthew 2 this morning that while the first Christmas on the one hand was a time of great joy and Jesus came to bring peace to all, on the other hand it was also a time of great weeping, and violence, and terror, and grief. Matthew 2:16 says,

“When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under….”

First Christmas - Gene AppelJust imagine you’re a parent in Bethlehem with a baby boy, or maybe even a couple of boys under the age of 2. Imagine the terror you feel as Herod’s soldiers are going from house to house, tearing babies out of the arms of mothers screaming in anguish. Imagine watching these little ones being pierced with swords until they are all dead. You see, even the first Christmas was not only a time of great joy, but it was also a time of great weeping and mourning and pain…..and there were parents and families whose lives were forever shattered.

So what’s our appropriate response today? How does a follower of Jesus process these tragedies? Eccl. 3:4 says,

“There is a time to laugh and there is a time to cry.”

And I can picture Jesus saying to each of us right now, “Hey, this is crying time.” This is a time to give permission to grieving people to let it rip and express the pain without burying anything, or editing anything, or sanitizing a single emotion or feeling. Let it out in it’s raw uncensored form. The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 (NIV),

“You do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.”

And the implication is…but certainly go ahead and grieve! Don’t grieve like those who think God is dead and heaven isn’t real and Jesus didn’t rise from the dead and He’s not in heaven preparing a place that defies the imagination….but grieve. Weeping is the language of the soul and it’s a critical part of healing.

This morning I’ve been thinking about these words from Lamentations 3:

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.”

Today, I’m choosing to trust the faithful God who promises the love and mercies I need for this new morning and day. He’s there for all of us if we will just take His hand and trust Him. Great is his faithfulness!


Gene Appel, is the senior pastor of Eastside Christian Church, a multi-site church in Anaheim, CA and Park Rapids, MN.  Follow him on Twitter @GeneAppel

May 10, 2015

For Mother’s Day (Because God is not Gender-Specific)

This was shared in the opening of our worship gathering this morning. Many years ago a popular Christian book portrayed God as a woman, and some people were quite outraged. But there is a variety of imagery for God used in Holy Scripture. Someone observed tongue in cheek, “Just because it says God gathers us under his wings, doesn’t mean God is a chicken.”

Although the church has used the pronoun “He” for centuries — because English lacks a suitable substitute — we see the character of God extending far beyond any male-specific definition. Also, some people see the God of the Old Testament as violent compared to the “gentle Jesus, meek and mild;” but in these verses from Isaiah and Psalms, we see the compassion and love of the God of the First Covenant.

Our Gentle Patient God

(An Invocation Prayer for Mother’s Day)

by Laura Steen

Gentle, Patient God
Today we thank God for the gift of mothers and those who mother.
Isaiah wrote that God is a mother to us, comforting and carrying us in her arms.

As one whom a mother comforts, so I will comfort you. Isaiah 66:13.

Gentle, patient God
thank you for your tender care.

Isaiah also wrote that God will never forget us and that he
knows each one of us just as a mother knows her own children.

Can a woman forget her baby at her breast, feel no pity for the child she has borne?
 Even if these were to forget, I shall not forget you. Isaiah 49:15

Gentle, patient God
thank you for your tender care.

David wrote that in Gods presence, he was quiet and at peace,
trusting his God like a child safe in its mothers arms.

No I hold myself in quiet and silence, like a child in its mothers arms. Psalm 131:2

Gentle, patient God
thank you for your tender care.

Jesus spoke of himself as a mother, longing to wrap his arms around us like a
mother-hen gathering her chicks under her wings.

How often have I longed to gather your children together,
as a hen gathers her chicks under her
wings… Matthew 23:37

Gentle, patient God
thank you for your tender care.

May we have the power to grasp how wide and deep
and high and long your love is for your children
fully expressed in all that Jesus has done for us,
and may we share this love with others.

In His name we pray, Amen

March 10, 2015

A Time to Mourn, A Time to Feast

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Today’s thoughts are from the unnamed writer at Justified And Sinner, based in California. Click the title below to read at source.

Time for Church? Time to Celebrate or be Reverent?

8  They gave an oral translation of God’s Law and explained it so that the people could understand it. 9  When the people heard what the Law required, they were so moved that they began to cry. So Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra, the priest and scholar of the Law, and the Levites who were explaining the Law told all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God, so you are not to mourn or cry. 10  Now go home and have a feast. Share your food and wine with those who don’t have enough. Today is holy to our Lord, so don’t be sad. The joy that the LORD gives you will make you strong.” 11  The Levites went around calming the people and telling them not to be sad on such a holy day. 12  So all the people went home and ate and drank joyfully and shared what they had with others, because they understood what had been read to them. Nehemiah 8:8-12 (TEV)

There are those that think church is a time for high reverence.  For everyone to sit calmly and sedately, to not make noise.  To somberly listen to the music, the sermon, play their part in the responsive readings and prayers.

And while I know we are to be in awe of God, I think the somberness of church can be taken too far.  This is especially true when God is at work. At work as He reconciles and restores His people. Seeing God at work, whether it happens when God’s people are gathered together, is an awesome thing. I am not saying being irreverent, but that our definition of reverence needs to be changed, changed to include the joy of God’s love, manifested in our lives.

As people hear God’s word, things happen.  This is why it is so critical that they are told, as they were in the passage above, in a way they can understand!  The Holy Spirit’s work is amazing, as the Spirit breath’s life into people.

You see it in this passage, as the crowd has to be told that this day, the one God has made, is not a time for weeping and mourning.  They heard the Law, they knew where they fell short, and hearing the law grieved them.  They had a heart that was no longer stone (see Exodus 36:25) but flesh, and was still broken, damaged by the sin.  Their hearts were broken because they realized how they had rebelled against God, how they had treated the special relationship He had created, where He would be their people, and He would care for them, love them, and protect Him, for He is their God.

Hearing that was painful.  So much, that the priests had to go around and assure them of God’s love, and teaching them not to mourn, not to cry, this is God’s day.  As they gather they are told that this is the day, He has set aside for us to rest, to be at peace, to know His love.

Not the day to mourn, not the day to dwell on the failures of our past, but the day to celebrate!  You are His people!  He has restored you! He is your God, you are His people, and nothing will separate you from Him.

The result is amazing!  They leave the gathering and go and feast together. Even the poorest of the poor are provided for, as they celebrate His love.

IF this was the pattern before the Crucifixion, before Jesus rose from the grave. How much should it be now?  For now we can explore the height, the depth, the width, the breadth of His love.   Now we can realize that He has brought us to life with Christ in our Baptism.

Church, a place for mourning and tears because of our sin?  Now, there are times and places for that, This is the time for a feast, for a celebration, to realize that the Lord is with us!

So make sure you don’t miss the celebration … and when you are there, celebrate!


Do you have a scripture passage or theme you’d like to see explored here? Use the “Submissions and Questions and Contact” page in the right margin to let us know.

 

March 4, 2013

Embracing Weakness

We try to go six months before revisiting an author, but after formatting this, I realized it’s only been two months since we featured Elsie Montgomery and her blog, Practical Faith. (I guess she writes good stuff.) Here is another one of her great devotional posts, titled Weakness is a Good Thing. You’re encouraged to read ‘borrowed’ C201 posts at their original source. This one also continued to look at the key verse the next day, that link is below.

Jesus loves me, this I know,
for the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
we are weak but He is strong.

For someone who often sings “Jesus loves me…” God surprises me again by pointing to thinking about my weakness in terms of His love and compassion toward me.
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:13–14)
Today’s devotional uses these verses again. Obviously, I’ve still more to learn from them. Spurgeon again focuses on the compassion of God, this time on the weakness of His children.
 
As he says, children cannot do much. They have little strength and little children are quite helpless. Yet their father does not chide them for this. In fact, he will enjoy carrying his baby who cannot walk and not at all be angry with the little one who is unable to help himself.
 
As verse 14 says, my heavenly Father knows my weakness. Whether it is a physical lack of strength due to some infirmity or some other shortcoming that keeps me from full capacity, He remembers that I am only dust. He even sympathizes with my weakness.
 
This is the God who became a man, actually, a tiny baby. He became helpless and knows helplessness. This is the Creator of the universe who allowed Himself to be beaten, mocked, and strung up on a cross. The Bible says, “He was crucified in weakness… we also are weak in him… (2 Corinthians 13:4)
 
Yet there is power in weakness, partly because it means I will be carried by my Father, but also because when I am weak, I will call on Him and experience His power. Without weakness, I would not do that. This makes weakness, especially a childlike weakness, my friend, not my enemy. Paul said,
… I will not boast, except of my weaknesses…. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:5–10)
Weakness is more than feeling weak. It is also being weak and unable. I’ve struggled as a teacher on those days I could not put together a lesson plan. Many times God has put people with questions in my path and I knew the answers, but my mouth seems sewn shut and I could not speak. I get weary, disorganized, depressed, and bowed down, and feel like a total failure, yet God has compassion on those who fear Him. He knows that I am dust.
 
I have to ask, why should I think I should be able to do everything I want to do? When I see problems, why can’t I solve them? When I see spiritual blindness and hardened hearts, why can’t I open eyes and soften hearts? Maybe my attitude of wanting to fix everything stems from pride. Maybe it stems from wanting to be like God in the wrong way, the way that tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. But I cannot do it all nor does God put me up against a wall and hammer me with “do it.” Instead, He says things like…
We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26)
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. (Hebrews 12:12–13)
If I were able, I would not need God or even seek Him. It is weakness that breeds faith and weakness that keeps me in the right place before God, on my knees in humility and utter dependence. I see this clearly and can only say no wonder Paul was content to be weak and even boasted of his weaknesses.
 
Spurgeon says that “a person in perfect health and strength may joyfully accomplish what another cannot even think of undertaking,” but is this what God wants? I don’t think so. Jesus was such a person, but He chose weakness…
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5–8)
For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but… we will live with him by the power of God. (2 Corinthians 13:4)
Click this link: Another Practical Faith post continues to look at Psalm 103

February 21, 2013

In The Hands of One Who Cares for You

Today we’re featuring Timothy Foster who is a brand new member of Faithful Bloggers and whose Bible study and devotional blog is titled Worship Forward+.  As always, we encourage you to click through to read at source.  (With a limited number of posts to date, you can read everything he’s written!) I think many of you will like Timothy’s writing style in this piece, which appeared at his blog as He Likes Me, He Really Likes Me. (You can encourage new bloggers with a comment on their page.)

During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said,  “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.  If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.” (Mark 8:1-3 NIV84)

Poor Sally Field, our blog post title today comes from that memorable speech she made at the Oscars in 1984 where she said, “… The first time I didn’t feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me.”  Whatever that speech really meant, I think among other things, it sort of hits on an emotional challenge many have, and that is that we really crave to be truly, deeply, cared for, “liked”, and loved.  We don’t want lip service, we don’t want to be “stroked”, we want to know and feel that someone out there really and truly cares.

I was moved in the Mark passage by Jesus’ loving reaction to the physical condition of the people to whom He had been ministering so fervently.  Mark explains that He had compassion for the people.  Here Jesus, teaching for 3 days, probably exhausted and hungry himself, has the magnitude and fortitude to feel compassion for a people so hungry for a Savior, they are willing to ignore their own hunger; even to the point of possible collapse during their journey home.  As only a parent would know, Jesus recognizes their state and wants to feed them.

In Luke 15:20 we see this word compassion used again in yet another familiar story, the Prodigals Son:

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”  

The story did not say that his Father saw him and waited for him to come to him, it said that he ran to him and threw his arms around him.  That’s not just a feeling, that’s a passion.  That’s a loving parent who truly deeply cares for the well-being of His son.

We again see this property shown in possibly its purest form when Jesus actually weeps for His friend Lazarus who has recently died.  John 11:33-36:

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.  “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.  Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

This English word compassion comes from the Greek word Splagchnizomai (Strong’s 4697) and the definition is “to be moved as to one’s bowels, hence to moved with compassion”.  OK.  I’ll say it.  Gross.  I know your saying, wow, this Greek thing is really helpful :)  Fact is that the Strong’s definition goes on to explain that “the bowels were regarded as the seat of the more violent passions, such as anger and love; but by the Hebrews as the seat of the tenderer affections, esp. kindness, benevolence, compassion; hence our heart”.

So, if we put this in our bowl and stir it all together we see a compassion that is a very deeply felt.  This is not just a feeling but a passionate reaction to the physical condition of His people, to the sheep of His flock.  Like our Father in heaven, like a loving parent, Jesus looks to us in a way only a parent can.  As when our own children are running out the door without a coat or when we send our kids off to school, we love them deeply enough to put that coat on them or to give them their bag lunch.

The Psalmist says it well, when he says,

“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” (Psalms 36:9 NIV84)

I am personally comforted by all this, as I want to follow a Savior who I know cares about me; who feels deeply for me.  I may not know what’s around the corner in life, but this I know.  That I am following a loving Savior, who cares not only for my soul, but also for my sanity.  A parent who loves me and cares for me deeply.  A friend who weeps for me.  I am in good hands.  I am in His hands.

He loves me, He really Loves Me!

October 4, 2012

Grace is Getting More Than We Deserve

John 8 : 2 (NLT) …but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

Today’s reading is from the new book by Max Lucado, Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine (Thomas Nelson). I love the way he is able to paint a descriptive picture of this familiar text, and offer a fresh take on Jesus writing in the dirt.

Stunned students stood on one side of her.  Pious plaintiffs on the other.  They had their questions and convictions; she had her dangling negligee and smeared lipstick.  “This woman was caught in the very act of adultery,” her accusers crowed.  Caught in the very act.  In the moment.  In the arms.  In the passion.  Caught in the very act by the Jerusalem Council on Decency and Conduct.  “The law of Moses says to stone her.  What do you say?”

The woman had no exit.  Deny the accusation?  She had been caught. Plead for mercy?  From whom?  From God?  His spokesmen were squeezing stones and snarling their lips.  No one would speak for her.

But someone would stoop for her.

Jesus “stooped down and wrote in the dust” (v.6 NLT).  We would expect him to stand up, step forward, or even ascend a stair and speak.  But instead he leaned over.  He descended lower than anyone else – beneath the priests, the people, even beneath the woman.  The accusers looked down on her.  To see Jesus, they had to look down even farther.

He’s prone to stoop.  He stooped to wash feet, to embrace children. Stooped to pull Peter out of the sea, to pray in the Garden.  He stooped before the Roman whipping post.  Stooped to carry the cross.  Grace is a God who stoops.  Here he stooped to write in the dust.

Remember the first occasion his fingers touched dirt?  He scooped soil and formed Adam.  As he touched the sun-baked soil beside the woman, Jesus may have been reliving the creation moment, reminding himself from whence we came.  Earthly humans are prone to do earthly things.  Maybe Jesus wrote in the soil for his own benefit.

Or for hers?  To divert gaping eyes from the scantily clad, just caught woman who stood in the center of the circle?

The posse grew impatient with the silent, stooping Jesus.  “They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up” (v. 7 NLT).

He lifted himself erect until his shoulders were straight and his head was high.  He stood, not to preach, for his words would be few.  Not for long, for he would soon stoop again.  Not to instruct his followers; he didn’t address them.  He stood on behalf of the woman.  He placed himself between her and the lynch mob and said, “‘All right, stone her.  But let those who have never sinned throw the first stones!’  Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust”  (vv.7-8 NLT).

Jesus wasn’t finished.  He stood one final time and asked the woman, “Where are your accusers?” (v. 10 NLT).

My, my, my.  What a question – not just for her but for us.

~Max Lucado

After reading this again, I thought to add this scripture, suggested in Lucado’s text above:

(NLT)Psalm 103 : 13 The Lord is like a father to his children,
    tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
14 For he knows how weak we are;
    he remembers we are only dust.