Christianity 201

May 19, 2019

Entering the Place Where the Lord Dwells

Today we’re introducing an author who is new to us here. Mark Stephenson co-pastors Horizon Church of Towson. Maryland and writes at Fire and Light. In today’s article, he paints a vivid picture of what it is like to enter into the dwelling place of the Lord, referred to in scripture as Zion or Mount Zion.

Click the link below to read at source.

City of the Living God

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel…

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”[ref. Deuteronomy 4:24]

– Hebrews 12:22-24, 28-29

When we worship God we get to enter the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. We get to walk among thousands upon thousands of angels who have gathered to joyfully worship the Lord. We get to approach the throne of grace with confidence knowing that Jesus has made a way by His blood.

Can you picture it?

As you walk toward God’s throne, surrounded by cheering angels, you are clothed in garments of white. The aisle to the throne is as clear as a crystal sea. The angels, as servants of the King, all know that a child of the King has entered the throne room. Royalty has walked in and they all act accordingly. You are an heir of an unshakeable Kingdom, a co-heir with Christ.

As you approach God on His throne, your pace slows. Your steps are careful. You are reminded that this is not only the King of Kings but also your Heavenly Father. You stop. You know this is close enough. The rest of the distance from you to Him is for Him to walk if He decides. He is a consuming fire, and you can feel His power from here. You bow down with your knees to the ground to honor the One who deserves all glory and honor.

You bow your head in reverence and awe. You don’t bow as a slave bows to a master. You are not afraid. You don’t bow in shame and guilt. His eyes see through you, but it is not a stare of disappointment or judgment. It’s a gaze of pure love. He loves that you bow your head in reverence, but He doesn’t want your head to stay bowed. As a loving Father, He signals to you to lift your head. He doesn’t want the top of your head but your eyes looking back at Him. He loves to see your face. The joy and pride of a proud parent fills His countenance.

As He stands to His feet, all the angels–the cherubim, seraphim, and all the other heavenly beings–drop to their knees in worship. As He walks the transparent aisle toward you, He signals you to your feet. You’re not sure you should be standing so your personal angel has to tell you to stand up. You stand before pure love and pure light walking toward you.

Self-limitation is an act of love and had He not reduced His own glory and power in this moment, you’d be fatally consumed immediately. And you know it. You can feel Him dial down His presence and majesty in order to draw near to you. It’s what He did in Jesus and here He is doing it again…just for a moment with you.

He has a smile that makes you smile. When you see His smile it’s so contagious you can’t help but feel joy well up from your gut and overtake your face. He puts His left hand on your right shoulder. You instinctively know that if His power wasn’t sustaining you in this moment you’d collapse under the weight of His glory.

He doesn’t have to say a word. Somehow everything that needs to be communicated is already being said, heart to heart, mind to mind. And somehow He’s not speaking one word at a time but instead it feels like He’s downloading whole ideas instantaneously. These thoughts would take a long time to explain using words but somehow the ideas come all at once.

He draws even closer. He wraps you in His arms. He transmits a love that is intoxicating and overwhelming. Tears burst from your eyes, and your heart feels like it is about to explode. It’s like your current heart wasn’t meant for this amount of love. You need a new heart, one with the capacity to hold a fraction of what is coursing through you in that moment.

The encounter ends.

Grateful is such a small word for what you feel in the aftermath, but it’s as close as you can get to describing the feeling. You have come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and you are in awe!

 

March 31, 2019

The Glory of God: Evident and Displayed Throughout Creation

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

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

 

Hymn of the Creator – Psalm 104 Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today we will conclude our study of Psalm 104.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

 

 

June 29, 2017

Good Grief! And a Lack Thereof

by Clarke Dixon

Expressing emotion during a time of grief is a very natural thing to do. To not grieve, and to suppress emotion, is a very unnatural thing to do. If we understand that, then we are well on our way to understanding why God told Ezekiel to show no grief over the death of his wife:

Ezekiel 24:15-18 (NRSV) The word of the Lord came to me: 16 Mortal, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes; yet you shall not mourn or weep, nor shall your tears run down. 17 Sigh, but not aloud; make no mourning for the dead. Bind on your turban, and put your sandals on your feet; do not cover your upper lip or eat the bread of mourners. 18 So I spoke to the people in the morning, and at evening my wife died. And on the next morning I did as I was commanded.

So why is Ezekiel told not to grieve? Ezekiel’s lack of grief becomes a lesson in grief for God’s people during the exile. They have been demonstrating a lack of grief over something very important. We find the clue as to what in these following verses:

Thus says the Lord God: I will profane my sanctuary, the pride of your power, the delight of your eyes, and your heart’s desire . . . . And you, mortal, on the day when I take from them their stronghold, their joy and glory, the delight of their eyes and their heart’s affection, . . . Ezekiel 24:21-25 (NRSV)

Do you notice something about the loss God’s people are experiencing? Where is the mention of the presence and glory of God? Remembering that the temple was to be known as the place of God’s presence, and remembering the need for humility in approaching God’s glory and presence, it is strange that the temple should be called “the pride of your power”. The temple has become “the delight of your eyes, and your heart’s desire,” and their “joy and glory.” The temple has taken the place of God in the lives of His people. The temple itself has become for God’s people nothing more than another idol. Yet there has been no grief over the fact that God has already “left the building.”

When God’s people lose the temple they are told they ought not to grieve, for all along they have not shown any grief over losing what should have been most important to them, the presence and glory of God. In fact God’s people have been actively doing the very things that take them away from the presence and glory of God: “you shall not mourn or weep, but you shall rot away in your iniquities and groan to one another” (Ezekiel 24:23 ESV). In other words, this is the status quo. God’s people have not been grieving over the sin that has led them away from the presence and glory of God.

What are we to learn from this for our day?

There are two things:

First, we learn about what ought to elicit deep emotions in us. When you have an understanding of the reality of the presence and glory of God, then anything that would take you in the opposite direction should make you feel sick. What are those things? We learn them from God’s Word, but let Jesus summarize for us:

Matthew 22:34-40 (NRSV) 34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

When we know the Lord, when we have a mature understanding of His greatness and glory, we will naturally grieve when we see a lack of love, both for God and for neighbour. When we see God mocked, and when we see people suffer injustice, we ought to grieve.

Second, is it possible that our grief as God’s people is misplaced in very much the same way it was misplaced in Ezekiel’s day? We grieve over the loss of churches and church buildings. A recent local newspaper article lamented the closure of churches in the rural areas. To quote one church member: “When I was a kid, there would be square dances and community meals here” (Northumberland News, Thursday, June 22nd 2017). What about the prayer there, the digging into the Word of God there, the care of the soul there, the presence of God among God’s people there, the worship of God there? To quote a clergy person from the same article: “When I was a child everyone went to church – why do people go to church? For the community. It was the only game in town for some communities.” Again, does no one go to church for prayer, for the Word of God, for the presence of God, for the worship of God, for the glory of God?

The sentimentality around losing churches and church buildings is completely natural and understandable. But are we grieving more over the apathy towards Christ, and active pushing away from God in our day? Are we getting emotional over God’s presence and glory? To do otherwise is unnatural and we may be lacking in good grief.


Read more from Clarke at clarkedixon.wordpress.com

June 30, 2016

Leviticus Lessons

Overview of the book as found at Bible Charts:

Chart of Leviticus

 

Today we’re paying a return visit to Susan Barnes, whose writing we included here two years ago. In addition to book reviews, she’s currently blogging some devotional thoughts on the book of Leviticus. Today you get a two-for-one special, as we look at restitution and sacrifice. Click the titles to read the individual devotions, or for more click this link, and look for the articles headed “Devotional Thought.”

Devotional Thought : Leviticus 6:4-5

 … they must return what they have stolen or taken by extortion, or what was entrusted to them, or the lost property they found, or whatever it was they swore falsely about. They must make restitution in full, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the owner on the day they present their guilt offering. Leviticus 6:4-5

A common theme in the Old Testament is restitution which varies according to the offense and the attitude of the offender. In the situation described here, restitution is made in full plus a fifth when they ‘realize their guilt’ (v. 4). They have voluntarily realized the error of their ways and sort to make amends.

Elsewhere when someone is caught with stolen goods in their possession they are to pay back double (Exodus 22:4 & 9) and if they are unable to give back the stolen property because they’ve disposed of it, they are to pay back four or fivefold (Exodus 22:1). These directives were known and taken seriously as we can see in Zacchaeus’ response to Jesus (Luke 19:8).

It’s remarkable that after restitution has been made the victim is better off than if the item hadn’t been taken. The forgiven person is better off than before they sinned. This is a Biblical principle and even God restores people double for their misfortune. This restitution represents stolen property being found in another’s possession. Not that God steals from us but sometimes he removes his protection and the devil has an opportunity. This is seen most clearly in Job 1 & 2 and in his restoration in 42:12 (also Isaiah 61:7, Zechariah 9:12). God accepts responsible for evil being in the world, even though it was caused by Adam’s disobedience.

We always receive more than we lose.


Devotional Thought : Leviticus 9:24

 Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown. Leviticus 9:24

Wenham in Constable’s Commentary writes: “This chapter brings out very clearly the purpose and character of Old Testament worship. All the pomp and ceremony served one end: the appearance of the glory of God.” It’s also interesting to note that this is the first time in the Bible a word for joy is used.

The purpose of worship is to draw near to God. Then he will draw near to us (James 4:8) and we will experience his presence. Sometimes this will be almost tangible but most times we will simply know we are in his presence because of his promise (Matthew 18:20).

We might view worship as a duty or a sacrifice and while there is sacrifice involved, God’s intention is to bless. David writes in Psalm 16:11 “you will fill me with joy in your presence”. God wants us to draw near to him so we can receive his joy.

The sacrificial system in Old Testament times was quite elaborate and costly as they sacrificed animals which could otherwise have been eaten. Yet they remind us of God’s costly sacrifice – his own Son. As we focus on God surrendering his Son for us, anything we forego is minor in comparison. Any sense of duty we feel dissolves, as our response becomes one of gratitude.

Perhaps we are reluctant to draw near to God? May be we are challenged by his holiness and our lack of it. God’s presence can be like a refining fire to us (Malachi 3:3). Yet his intention is to purify us so we can experience his joy.


Has God put a scripture passage on your heart you’d like to share with a larger audience? Consider trying devotional writing. See the guidelines in the right margin here, and also check out the page marked ‘submissions.’ If you don’t have your own website or blog, also tell us a bit about yourself. If you wish, first send us a one paragraph summary of what you’re proposing to write.

June 10, 2016

Supernatural? Not Really

God's CreationThis article is from an article at Mystery of Faith, a site we haven’t visited before. Click the link below to read at source.

Why Christians Should Not Speak of the Supernatural

Christians believe in a Triune God who created the cosmos, and who stands in some way outside of it, or beyond it. To call God ‘holy’ is to acknowledge that God is completely ‘other’ than anything else. He is not simply separated from created things by degree but in kind. The Creator is not on the same spectrum as the creation; He is on His own spectrum. This is all summed up in the Hebrew and Christian confession that God is ‘holy‘.

But to confess this ‘otherness‘ of God is not to speak of God as ‘supernatural‘. {TWEET THIS} Webster’s defines the supernatural in two ways: ‘of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe; especially of or relating to God or a god, demigod, spirit, or devil’; or, ‘as departing from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature, or attributed to an invisible agent (as a ghost or spirit).’ So, yes, in one sense God is supernatural; His existence is ‘beyond the visible order of the observable universe’. But the language of ‘natural‘ and ‘supernatural‘ leans on a framework which divides the ‘natural‘ world from the ‘supernatural‘ world, a view which emerged during the Enlightenment, particularly when Sir Isaac Newton, outlined his mathematical principles of natural philosophy out of the conviction that there is a deep created order to the world, and to name these laws was to glorify God.

Ironically, these principles were used to effectively relegate God ‘upstairs’ and humans ‘downstairs’. Deism, the formal name for this view, accepted that the order in creation owed its origins to a creator, but that like any good invention, it did not require its inventor to keep running. Deism eventually led to post-Enlightenment rationalism, which rejected miracles both in Scripture and in contemporary life. After all, why would a God make rules only to suspend them whenever He liked? Why set the world up like a great clock only to move the hands at a whim? And if interventions were needed to correct the mechanism, how good was its design to begin with? (Voltaire, Spinoza and Hume are examples of a few philosophers whose skepticism led to a ‘de-miraclizing’ of the New Testament.) In one sense, it was Newton’s faith-driven science that led to the rejection of faith in the West.

What we are left with now are the remnants of warring worldviews– one which claims the belief in a supernatural, and one which argues against it on the basis of scientific discovery. It seems we are at an impasse. But I suggest it’s time to re-examine the very framework which divides reality in ‘natural’ and a ‘supernatural’ one.

Listen to how the Hebrew poets and prophets talked about the relationship between God and His world:

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. (Psalm 24:1-2)

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth! (Psalm 57:5)

And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3)

God is holy AND His glory fills the earth! The Enlightenment taught us to see the world (and the phenomena in it) as either natural or supernatural. The Hebrews saw God as above and beyond His creation, and yet somehow also within it.

As it turns out, not only is this view of the world better theologically, it actually coheres with science, but a more a more up-to-date science. My supervisor, David Wilkinson, is a brilliant and Godly man who earned a double PhD in Astrophysics and Systematic Theology. A recent article captures his thoughts on miracles and science from his book on prayer:

Quantum theory tells us that the small-scale structure of the world is, in the words of Christian physicist John Polkinghorne, “radically random”: “By that he means it is unpredictable and nothing like a mechanical clock,” says Wilkinson. “It is a world that is unpicturable, uncertain, and in which the cause of events cannot be fully specified.”

So, suggests Wilkinson, there’s plenty of room for God to act, because the system isn’t closed at all. He can “push” electrons here and there and alter the course of events in the world without breaking any of the laws of nature. The problem is that too many theologians simply don’t know enough about physics and are stuck with out-of-date science. Quantum theory doesn’t answer all our questions, Wilkinson says cautiously, but it “may be one dimension of how God works in the world”.

Miracles are not God over-riding the laws of the universe, but rather God working within His world. {TWEET THIS}

Such a framework also challenges us to take a closer look at how the Holy Spirit works. If we view the Spirit’s work as over-riding the ‘natural’, then we will bristle at ‘natural’ explanations of ‘spiritual encounters’. This is where the subject comes closer to home for me and my research on how hope is experienced in congregational worship.

For example, the discovery that oxytocin—the chemical associated with the feeling of well-being—is released in the brain in group singing can be used as a ‘natural’ explanation for why we feel better after a time of ‘congregational worship’. An atheist may say there’s nothing ‘supernatural’ going on; it’s just chemicals in the brain. Christians who would argue it’s the ‘presence of God’ and therefore can’t have anything to do with chemicals in the brain are left to either deny the science or ignore it. And, worse, folks who can’t ignore the science are left to believe that faith is inherently contradictory to science.

But a brief bit of theological reflection on how the Spirit works can help. The hermeneutical key to understanding the Spirit’s operation in the New Testament is the Day of Pentecost. On this day, the Spirit enabled speech in various cultural languages so that people heard Christ being proclaimed in their own tongue. The Holy Spirit does not over-ride cultural norms; He inhabits them. {TWEET THIS}

In the above example of worship and oxytocin, why would the discovery that the brain gets a buzz from group singing automatically disprove the belief that the Spirit is at work in congregational worship? The two things would be mutually exclusive in Newton’s universe, but not in Polkinghorne’s. If there were a God who created us, desires relationship with us, and instructed us to gather to sing to Him, why wouldn’t He also have made our brains to respond to this with a chemical that reinforces this behavior and aids in our obedience? In other words, why can’t the Spirit work within the way we are made?

One more example connected to my research…

Congregational worship is, in a very real sense, a communal ritual. There are defined ways of acting and responding, whether the ‘script‘ is formal or informal. This serves not only to help everyone know how to participate, but also to reinforce the particular identity of that congregation. When sociologists/social anthropologists use the lens of ritual to study congregational worship, they discover things such as the realization that the qualities of an ‘emotionally expressive‘ service (like those in many Pentecostal or Charismatic churches) have features that are just as defined as those in ‘non-emotionally expressive‘ services (like those in many liturgical churches). Pentecostals and Charismatics have been, in my limited experience, uneasy with the suggestion that there is a script or pattern or ritual in their worship. If it’s the ‘anointing‘, it must be spontaneous or unique. But I suggest this is because we think the two things are antithetical: either the Spirit is working through the ‘anointing’, or we are responding to cultural norms and communal scripts. But just as miracles are instances of God working within His world, why can’t these experiences in worship be examples of the Spirit inhabiting our cultural and communal selves?

As long as we insist on seeing the world as split between the ‘natural’ and the ‘supernatural’, we will see the Holy Spirit as opposed to the ‘laws of science’ or ‘patterns of human behavior’.

I think instead of speaking of the ‘supernatural’, it’s time we recover the ancient confession that the holy God is filling His world with His glory. We are the people who believe in the incarnation– a God who became flesh. We affirm a story of the Holy Spirit filling people by inhabiting their ‘language’ and culture not by over-riding it.

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord almighty. May the whole earth be filled with His glory.

 

June 8, 2016

Where is God When Life is a Mess? Ezekiel Knows!

•••by Clarke Dixon

With the world in a mess, and even our own lives sometimes in a mess, we might well wonder; “where is God?” If God is truly in our world, shouldn’t things be better by now? Is God weak? Or perhaps the powers of darkness are stronger? In Ezekiel’s day the people of God could wonder the very same thing for they were in a mess. Ezekiel was among a group of 10,000 people or so who were taken into captivity from Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Things were not looking good back in Jerusalem and in another five years the city would be completely destroyed along with the Temple. Was God weak? Were the gods of the Babylonians stronger? If God’s house is destroyed is He gone? Ezekiel is called to bring some clarity to the situation. His summary of the first vision is given in verse 28 of the first chapter:

Like the bow in a cloud on a rainy day, such was the appearance of the splendour all around. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of someone speaking. . . (Ezekiel 1:28 italics mine)

So what clarity does Ezekiel bring?

In reading Ezekiel chapter one we learn that the glory of God is indescribable and incomparable.  God’s people in captivity would have been reminded by Ezekiel’s first vision of the religions around them. The Babylonians, like most nations of the day, but unlike God’s people of Israel, had statues and idols representing their gods. As Bible scholars point out, through the vision the Lord is drawing a contrast between Himself and the gods of the Babylonians. The statues of the Babylonians were lifeless, in contrast to the “living creatures” (verses 5,13,14,15,19,20,21,22) of Ezekiel’s vision which point to the living God. The statues could not see, in contrast to the many eyes, representing the all seeing nature of God. The statues could be destroyed, in contrast to the fire in Ezekiel’s vision, showing that God is the one who has the capacity to destroy and is not Himself consumed. The statues were stuck wherever humans put them whereas in Ezekiel’s vision there are many wheels and free movement. God is not stuck and will go where He wants to go! That God is alive, all seeing, the indestructible destroyer, and has the capacity of presence anywhere and everywhere is all part of the glory of God in direct contrast to the gods of Babylon.

So what is being clarified here? We could sum it up with O people of God. God is alive, all-seeing, powerful, and present. You are not in a mess because God is weak, or because the gods of Babylon are strong.” This is a good reminder for us when our world is in a mess, or when our lives are in a mess. It is not because God is weak, or because the powers of this world have any power over God.

In reading Ezekiel chapter one we also learn that the glory of God is terrifying. While the smallest of animals and the weirdest of bugs can scatter a room of humans, four creatures are seen which must have struck terror. Notice also the noise:

24 When they moved, I heard the sound of their wings like the sound of mighty waters, like the thunder of the Almighty, a sound of tumult like the sound of an army; when they stopped, they let down their wings. (Ezekiel 1:24)

The noise is part of the terror for anyone who has lived through a tornado, or stood next to a railway crossing for a fast moving train with horns at full blast. This was not just a vision, but an experience for Ezekiel, a frightening one. The people of God in Babylon have good reason for fear; God is a God of judgement. They are not in captivity because God is weak or the gods of Babylon are stronger. They are there because they are reaping what they have sown. The glory of God is terrifying because the justice of God is perfect.

Where is God When Life is a MessSo what is being clarified here? We could sum it up with “People of God, examine yourselves and see why you are in a mess. Not because God is weak, or because the Babylonian gods are stronger, but because you have been in rebellion against God.” This will be a theme of the prophecy of Ezekiel. And this is a good reminder to us also; every mess has sin behind it somewhere, even if indirectly.

In reading Ezekiel chapter one we also learn that the glory of God is comforting. Think of Genesis chapter 3 where Adam and Eve experienced the consequence of their sin in being banished from the Garden of Eden. It is an amazing fact the Bible does not end there, indeed that is only the beginning. Adam and Eve go on to experience the presence of God. In addition to experiencing the consequence of their sin, they go on to experience the consequence of God’s love. Life in the presence of God goes on! Likewise, in Ezekiel the people of God experience the consequence of the sin of the nation, yet God is present with them in captivity! That the Temple might be destroyed is not of great consequence to God. He can be anywhere and there is nowhere He would rather be than with His people. That was the point of the Temple in the fist place. His presence is an expression of His love, whether at the Temple in Jerusalem, or in captivity in Babylon.

After seeing and experiencing the creatures, the wheels, and the fiery figure on the throne Ezekiel mentions a rainbow as part of his summary in verse 28. This was a reminder of God’s covenant promises. Yes, God’s people would suffer the consequences of not keeping their covenant promises, but yes, God was still faithful and would continue to keep His covenant promises.

So what is being clarified here? We could summarize it with “O people of God, despite the fact you are reaping what you have sown, there will be a future.” This is a good reminder for us, that when our lives get in a mess, even when it is a mess of our own making, God will love us through the mess. He remains faithful.

One last thought on Ezekiel chapter 1. There is a similar vision in Revelation chapters 4 and 5 where the glory of God is seen again. The themes of justice and mercy running through Ezekiel’s prophecy point forward to God’s perfect justice and perfect love coming together in Christ Jesus, “the Lamb that was slain”. At the end of his vision Ezekiel fell flat on his face. At the sight of Jesus in the vision from Revelation the elders fall down to worship. Falling on our faces is still the appropriate response to the glory of God. As the writer of Hebrews says about Jesus:

He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Hebrews 1:3)

Yes the world can get messy. But God is not weak. Neither is His love.

(Scripture references are taken from the NRSV)


Clarke Dixon is a Canadian pastor whose writing you can check out at this link.

February 6, 2015

The Gospel Points in Three Directions

NIV Rom. 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

J.D. Greear wrote a book on the subject of assurance, Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart, which I enjoyed reading and I always make a point of tracking his blog.  This article appeared recently and I felt it would be a good fit here at C201.  To read at source click the title below.

The Gospel in Three Directions

If you were to ask the average Christian, “How can you become more self-controlled, more upright—essentially, more in line with God’s will?” what would the answer be? Greater will power, perhaps. Or maybe more theological knowledge. Having accountability partners. Maintaining a consistent quiet time. The list goes on.

What if you asked the Apostle Paul? His answer would be clear: you change when you experience the grace of God. “The grace of God,” Paul says, “train[s] us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives” (Titus 2:11–12). How does God’s grace do this? By focusing our attention in three directions:

Upward Backward Forward - The GospelThe gospel points UPWARD, redirecting our worship.

Sin problems don’t start as sin problems. They start as worship problems. At the root of all sin, as the Apostle Paul explains, is the colossal mistake of “giving the glory of God to created things” (Romans 1:23). The Hebrew word for glory (kabod) carried the connotation of “weight.” The Greek word for glory (doxa) hints at ideas of majesty and beauty. Put the two together and you get a good idea of the problem: we gave a weightiness and a beauty to things more than we gave to God. As Matt Papa says in Look and Live, sin is simply worship misdirected.

To change sin at the heart level, which is where God wants to change it, he has to change what we worship. As Paul Tripp puts it, “If we worship our way into sin, we have to worship our way out.” The gospel, and the gospel alone, does that, redirecting our worship and reigniting our passions. It points us upward to a God who is better and more glorious and more satisfying than any of our pathetic idols.

The gospel points BACKWARD, restoring our gratefulness.

Every now and then, someone tries to identify one sin as the core sin, the one really bad guy that leads to everything else. I’ve seen people point the finger at pride, at lust, at envy. What I hardly ever hear is what Paul says in Romans 1:21: “They did not honor God as God or give thanks to him.” Thanklessness! Did I hear you right, Paul?

This may not seem obvious at first, but think about it. When you lack gratitude, not only do you rob someone of the glory that belongs to them; you also convince yourself that you could have gotten on fine without them. I’ve heard Tim Keller describe it like plagiarism. When you plagiarize, you steal credit that belongs to someone else. But that’s only half of the problem. The other half is that you also deceive others into thinking you’re someone you aren’t. If I were to find some lost C.S. Lewis book manuscript in a relative’s attic and publish it as my own, that may impress some folks. But when the publisher comes asking for more, I’m in a bind.

This is the situation thanklessness puts us in toward God. We rob his glory, which is bad enough. But then we also parade around as if we’re self-sufficient. We forget that every breath we have comes from God. And that thankless spirit leads to bitterness, pride, and a host of other sins.

The gospel gives us a reason to be thankful, eternally thankful. It transforms us by reminding us that as much as we’ve dishonored God, he still came for us. And as we reflect on what he did for us, it begins to change what we do today.

The gospel points FORWARD, raising our expectations.

In the gospel, we see what God is making us and the future he has for us. He puts in us a taste, a hunger, for the perfection he’s creating in us. My wife was at a conference recently with an older Christian leader. Reflecting on his life—and knowing he didn’t have many years left—he said, “What am I looking forward to? Sinlessness. I can almost taste it.” When this man looked forward to the future, he didn’t grow frustrated because his youth was gone. He trembled in anticipation of seeing his God face to face, of having all of the poison of sin once and for all taken away.

Is that what you’re excites you about heaven? If it is, you long for it and move toward that now. You work against injustice. You battle sin in your own life. You become eager to do good works (Titus 2:14), not because they save you, but because what God has shown you about the future is so beautiful that you can almost taste it.

In contrast, religion points INWARD, toward our failures.

The gospel points us upward to a God who gave himself for us, backward to the price he paid for our sin, and forward to what he’s making us into. Religion can point, too. But instead of point out toward what God has done, it points a finger at us, telling us to try harder.

As Tim Chester puts it, religion says you should not, while the gospel says you need not. Religion is constantly shouting, “You shouldn’t sleep with your boyfriend! You shouldn’t get drunk! You shouldn’t lose your temper!” That’s not good news to people struggling with those issues. That’s condemnation. But the gospel says, “You need not give yourself to your boyfriend, because God’s love will never fail you. You need not get drunk, because Jesus offers a more sure refuge. You need not lose your temper, because God is in control.”

Sin is always making promises it can’t keep. Religion doesn’t do anything to expose them; it just adds more false promises. But the gospel exposes every lie by showing us a God who is better. As Charles Spurgeon wrote, “When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could ever have rebelled against One who loved me so, and sought my good.”

 


 

For more on this, be sure to listen to the entire message here.

July 28, 2014

For Thine is the Kingdom…

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Okay, let’s be clear here. We do have a six month rule. We don’t revisit a blog more than twice a year. And it’s only been three weeks. But last night I found myself back at Glen Scrivener’s blog with the unusual name, The King’s English. People often wonder about the differences between how The Lord’s Prayer is recited in Catholic versus Protestant churches. So here’s the 411 on that. But let’s do Glen a favor and click through to read at source. (You’ll find a whole series on the prayer.)

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen

1 Chronicles 29:10-22; Matthew 6:5-15

Modern translations put this verse in footnotes.  It does not appear in Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, nor in the earliest manuscripts of Matthew that we have.  It does appear in the Textus Receptus and so, for 300 years it appeared in all the English translations from Tyndale onwards.  In that time it has taken root, most particularly in Protestant Churches where it is said as part of the Lord’s Prayer.

It is a doxology (word of praise) that bears a resemblance to the prayer of David from 1 Chronicles:

“Thine, O LORD is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty:  for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all.”  (1 Chronicles 29:11)

It is a glad-hearted affirmation of the LORD’s all-sufficiency.  And perhaps it’s significant that the Lord’s Prayer ends this way.  The prayer that begins “Father” ends on a note of power and glory.

The person who rests in the Son and is brought to the Father will, in the end, confess His power and glory.  To such a Father as this we ascribe all majesty, and gladly so.  But this is the way around which Jesus would have it.  He does not ask us to approach the glorious Potentate and then to seek fatherly care in Him.  That would be quite a different spirituality.  No, Jesus our Brother introduces us to His Father and invites us to call Him “our Father.”  As a little child we pray for His Kingdom to come and, as we wait, we ask for daily provision, pardon and protectionThen, knowing His Fatherhood and our own littleness, we confess “Thine is the kingdom!”

This total self-abnegation is not the precondition for prayer.  If it were, it would be something we drum up in ourselves, therefore not self-abnegation at all.  Instead what Jesus calls us to is a joyful outflow from delight in a Father who will indeed provide, pardon and protect.  How happily we place the kingdom in His hands, knowing who He is!

So, this is the Lord’s Prayer. And Jesus says, “After this manner therefore pray ye.” (Matthew 6:9)

Is this the manner in which you pray?

CS Lewis compared the Lord’s prayer to a Christmas tree.  The lines of the prayer are like the boughs and our own personal prayers are like the decorations that we hang.  That’s good advice.  When we pray, perhaps we can use the Lord’s Prayer like that.  At each line we pause, adding our own prayer, decorating the Christmas tree.  And as we put words to our desires and needs we can enjoy, in a deeper way, our union with Jesus and the Fatherhood of God.  Then we’ll gladly declare “Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever.  Amen.”


I wanted to add a performance of Thine Be The Glory here; the one with the clearest fidelity featured a slide of Easter eggs the whole time!

This song appears in some hymnbooks as Thine Is The Glory

Thine is the glory, risen, conqu’ring Son;
Endless is the victory, Thou o’er death hast won;
Angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
Kept the folded grave clothes where Thy body lay.

Thine is the glory, risen conqu’ring Son,
Endless is the vict’ry, Thou o’er death hast won.

Lo! Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb;
Lovingly He greets us, scatters fear and gloom;
Let the church with gladness, hymns of triumph sing;
For her Lord now liveth, death hath lost its sting.

Thine is the glory, risen conqu’ring Son,
Endless is the vict’ry, Thou o’er death hast won.

No more we doubt Thee, glorious Prince of life;
Life is naught without Thee; aid us in our strife;
Make us more than conqu’rors, through Thy deathless love:
Bring us safe through Jordan to Thy home above.

Thine is the glory, risen conqu’ring Son,
Endless is the vict’ry, Thou o’er death hast won.

April 7, 2014

What Glory Looks Like

Ruth Boven serves as minister of pastoral care at Neland Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI.  She writes today in the devotional booklet Today (I don’t get to write that sentence often) about What Glory Looks Like. You can follow this series each day at this link. (There isn’t an archive page link, but Ruth will be writing this series throughout April. This one is from April 7th)

John 13:31When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him.32If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.

33“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines glory as great “praise, honor, or distinction.” Christians use the word glory often, especially in worship. In the church I serve, we sometimes sing these words: “We will glorify the King of kings. We will glorify the Lamb. We will glorify the Lord of lords, who is the great I AM.” Giving glory to God lifts our hearts upward toward the reigning King. We praise him for his greatness, power, and majesty.

But Jesus gives us another angle on glory in our text today. Remember that Jesus is on the brink of his brutal march to the cross. “Now the Son of Man is glorified,” he said. Jesus’ glory is first of all about the fulfillment of his Father’s purposes. Jesus’ obedience to his Father’s plan would be his glory, even though it meant suffering and death on a cross. Jesus showed us that glory comes through sacrificial love and obedience to God.

How do you and I think about glory? Our world would like us to think glory comes through achievement and status. Sacrificial obedience to someone else’s plan would not seem to be the path to glory. But, truly, that’s what it takes. Our submission and obedience to God’s loving plan for this world is the only achievement worthy of praise, honor, and distinction.

To God be the glory!

God of glory, help us to realize that glory comes through sacrificial obedience to your loving plan for this world. Through Jesus we pray. Amen.

 

Elsewhere on the web:

At the blog of New Hope Bible Church in Kenab, Utah:

…Ex. 15:11 speaks of God’s Glory: “Who is like you–majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? Listen to the definition of  “glory” (“doxa” GR): “opinion, estimate, a good opinion concerning one, resulting in praise, honour, splendour, brightness, magnificence, excellence, preeminence, dignity, grace, majesty, a thing belonging to God, the kingly majesty which belongs to him as supreme ruler, absolute perfection, the absolutely perfect inward or personal excellency of Christ.”

From Watnal Road Baptist Church in the UK:

…Now, all of this might seem a bit strange until we realise that in John’s gospel Jesus’ glorification is in the cross. Judas’ departure means that Jesus’ betrayal has come that much closer. So Jesus, the Son of Man, is being glorified by the Father in his coming death. Jesus can thus speak of both betrayal and death as the means by which we are to understand his love. Complicating things for the disciples is that where Jesus is about to go they cannot come with him, though unlike the times when Jesus said this to the Jews in [John] 7:34 and 8:21 this is not a word of judgement where they will die in their sin. It is a simple fact that Jesus’ impending death means they cannot follow him…

Finally, from the blog A Dollar Three Eighty:

[The previous] passage ended on the poignant note “And it was night.”

…But Jesus is talking GLORY! Glory – the polar opposite of night if you ask me. Think radiance – you know not just sunglasses bright but warm, shiny golden stuff, brilliance… well, LIGHT…

The real meaning of this word “glorified” is to make renowned, render illustrious, i.e. to cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest and acknowledged. It’s a version of the word not found in secular writings (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon).

What is happening, Jesus is telling them, is His mission is on track, in motion and headed for victory. He is the Light and if there was any confusion about God or what He’s about – well, it’s out in the open now!

December 30, 2013

Four Things to Add to Your New Year’s Resolutions

spiritual resolutionsThe Christian blogosphere is somewhat dominated by American writers, so I’m really excited to mix things up today and introduce you to Enoch Anti from Ghana. His blog is called Truth Publication and to bless him with some blog traffic, you should click here to read at source.

The Glory of God

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Revelations 4:11).

To God Be The Glory. That phrase should be our marching orders for 2014. The glory of God should be top priority on our list of resolutions. All things—including you and I ―are and were created for God’s pleasure . We are on earth on His assignment. We are here on His errand. His glory. His joy. His purposes. His agenda. His plans. Everything in the end is to His glory. We are here to give glory to his name: “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.“ (Isaiah 60:1-2).

This life is more than us. It is more than our dreams and visions. It’s more than the things we want to achieve for ourselves. There’s a bigger agenda, and that agenda is the glory of God. Romans 8:29 gives us very clear insight into God’s agenda for our lives: it makes us understand that conforming us to the image of Christ (character and virtues) is that agenda. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son…“ Life is for “His name sake“: …he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake“ (Psalms 23:3). As we enter 2014, let‘s seek to put the glory of God ahead of everything we seek to achieve. “He must increase. [we] must decrease“ (John 3:30).

Now, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.“ (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Spirit-Controlled Living

Plans are good. Strategies are needed. Clear cut smart (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) goals are very necessary. But human wisdom, skill and talent is not enough to live a victorious life: “…This is the word of the LORD … Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.”  (Zechariah 4:6). On top of our plans and strategies, we also need the direction and leading of the Holy Spirit.

By Spirit-controlled living, I mean a life that is controlled by the Holy Spirit. He leads and we follow. We cannot live a Spirit-controlled life and still have control over our lives so to speak. There must be a place for the leading of the Holy Spirit of God in the life of every child of God, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the [children] of God.“ (Romans 8:14).

Speaking about the Holy Spirit, I am not only speaking about church meetings, prayers, reading our bibles, living a holy life(very important), speaking in tongues, anointing, prophesy, unction and all our other repertoire of “spiritual“ cliches. I am speaking about the totality of our lives. Every other area of our lives—career, marriage, family life, finances, education, entertainment, etc ―matters to God.

A few days away, we will be walking into a new year with its uncertainties and unknown territories. But we have a guarantee of God’s guidance and direction if we will heed to His voice. “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left“ (Isaiah 30:21).

Using Your Gifts

“…he gave…to every[one] according to [their] several ability…“ (Matthew 25:14-15).

Everyone is gifted. There are no exceptions. God has endowed everyone with what they need to live a fulfilled life. However, just like the parable of the talents, it’s not enough to be gifted. It’s not enough to be talented. It’s not enough to have dreams and visions. No matter how gifted you’re, you have to step out there and get started. The only time a difference is made is when people step out to use what they have. If you read Matthew 25 further down, you will realize those who made a difference are those who stepped out to use what they received.

The problem with many of us is that we sit in the stands “spectatoring“ and cheering people who are using their gifts on without doing anything with ours. I am in no way saying it’s wrong to cheer gifted people on. We all need encouragement and a push, but while you are cheering people on, be encouraged with what others are doing and get to work with your gifts. You can also make a difference if you start using what you have.

There are I believe a number of reasons people don’t use their gifts. Top on the list will be: (i)Fear (ii) Self-doubt (iii) Waiting for the right time (iv) Waiting for inspiration from others to start. You see, it is ok to have fears and self-doubts. But those who step out despite their fears are the ones who make the difference. You have a gift—no doubts about, but step out and get things done.

Impacting your World

Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life (Genesis 45:5)

Life is not about us only. There are destinies tied up to our lives (beyond blood relatives). Sometimes the routines of life can get you wondering. Is this all there is to life? But life gets interesting if looked at from the perspective of assignment. In this life, we are on an assignment: A God given assignment. An assignment to fulfil God’s will in on earth, an assignment to impact other lives.For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption (Acts 13:36)” Read Genesis 45: 5 above again and note: “for God did send me before (ahead) of you to preserve life“. In other words, whatever evil was done Joseph was part of God‘s agenda to save lives. The nations Israel and Egypt would have been destroyed by famine if Joseph had jumped into bed with Potiphar (taken a shortcut route to his destiny).

Life is that simple. Every life is a life on purpose and assignment. We are on a God sent errand. Life  is a string of interdependence. Like a food chain, we all contribute to the survival of each other. For the sake of all the lives intertwined with our destinies, let’s look beyond ourselves. Our pains, temptations and challenges (I still love the old word problems) are part of God‘s grand design to change other lives. All things indeed work together for good for those who love God. Look beyond yourself, it’s not all about you. Step out into the New Year and impact your world.

December 18, 2013

Reasons to Praise God

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:51 pm
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Today’s thoughts are from the blog Filled with God’s Fulness by a writer who simply goes by the name Gracious. In reading this in preparation, the thought occurred to me that I have fallen out of the habit of simply offering praise to God that is not motivated by circumstances; simply taking time to express something back to God that goes beyond the emotions of a specific moment.  Click here to read this at source.

Why You Must Praise God

If we are to praise God effectively, we must know and have a reason for doing so. The popular saying goes: ‘where purpose in not known, abuse is inevitable’.

When we don’t know why we must praise God despite our prevalent challenges, it is possible that we might abuse such virtue, express ingratitude and become unappreciative.

Let us learn more reasons we must praise God so we can do it confidently and effectively.

1. Praise God for who He is. Psalm 48:1 He is God, the maker of all things. He is our father and friend. He is our sustainer- He sustains us even when we have nothing to rely on. He is the ultimate and final authority over our lives. It doesn’t matter who said nor did anything to us- God is the final authority over that situation.

He is God, He is not a man. He doesn’t change.

He is ever faithful. He is the, I AM.

2. Praise Glorifies God. When you praise God, you glorify Him. Psalm 50:23  Do you want to see God’s glory? Praise Him!

3. God commands Praise. Romans 12:1 All through the Scriptures we see different commands as regarding our praise and worship to God. ‘Praise God, Make known His praise, offer and give yourself to God.’

4. Praise God for all His benefits. Psalm 103:2. His grace, infinite love, mercies, protection, provision, health, redemption, family, life, job, home- all His benefits to you and those you love.

Praise Him for all the benefits and display of love you have enjoyed.

5. Praise Him for His Goodness and for His works. Psalm 107:21. If the Lord has been good, kind faithful and loving to you in any way, then you owe Him your praise.

6. Praise Him for His mighty acts. Psalm 150:2. Praise Him for all His acts of love, redemption plan and mercy. Praise Him for all the miracles, healings, deliverances, divine provision, and protection and any other act you have experienced personally and have seen in the lives of other believers.

7. God is worthy of our Praise. 2 Samuel 22:4, Revelation 4:11. Even if you do not have anything physical or tangible thing to praise God for, He would still deserve your undivided praise and worship even till the next age.

God has given us all things He owns, all that He is, Himself and all things that pertains to life and godliness.

You know the saying: ‘a living dog is better than a dead lion’? But we are neither dogs nor dead lions. We are God’s most treasured and priced creature. He put all that He is and had to make us.

For the fact that we are alive and have everything working well alone, He deserves our highest praise. Whatever our situation is or challenge we face, as long as it has not taken our lives or robbed us our salvation; then God deserves our highest praise.

8. Praise magnifies God.

9. Praise is proper and comely.

10 God dwells in our praise

11. Praise generates power.Praise moves God to begin to act on our behalf. Praise provokes prophecy, Psalm 89:3-5. God speaks more often when we praise Him than He does in prayer.

12. Praise brings our heart desires. Psalm 37:4. Praising God is one way we can receive immediate and instant answer to long years of prayer.

Worshiping God produces more effective and instant results, and solution to problems.

There are various instances of miracles, healing and met expectations in the Bible that occurred as a result of worship and praise. We can see it in Mark 7:24-26, John 11:32-34, and John 6:11.

13. Praise precedes victory. In 2 Chronicles 20:1-29, we see practically how God used the praise of His people to procure victory against the Moabites and Ammonites. Do you want victory over the battles in your life? Praise God.

SO, my Friend, what reasons do you have to praise God? Praise Him, and praise Him NOW!!!

Here’s another article from the same blog: Five Good Ways to Praise the Lord (Some of you might #4 a bit of a stretch!!)

September 27, 2012

Reading Leviticus With Jesus

Joe Amaral is one of Canada’s leading experts on understanding the New Testament in the context of the Old Testament. Originally self-published, his book Understanding Jesus was published by FaithWords, who have just released What Would Jesus Read, a daily devotional.  To learn more about Joe’s books and videos, visit First Century Foundations.

Our post here is actually two consecutive devotionals from the book.

Leviticus 9:22 Then Aaron lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them. And having sacrificed the sin offering, the burnt offering and the fellowship offering, he stepped down.

This passage is about the beginning of the priests’ ministry and their responsibilities.  You have to remember that at this point in time, the people themselves were not able to approach God.  They couldn’t even come into the tent.  The priest did everything for the people when it came to their spiritual lives.

The priests sacrificed the animals on the people’s behalf and would make atonement for their souls.  There were many daily rituals and rites that could only be performed by the priests.  But they were also responsible for blessing the people.  They would speak God’s Word and blessing over them.  It’s a pattern that needs to be carried out today by believers.

We are all priests.  We all have the responsibility to be a blessing and to bless those around us, both in word and in deed.  As people of faith we need to be a light in a dark world.  People are verbally beaten down on a daily basis.  Be like Aaron: speak a blessing over and into people.  Live like a priest today.


Leviticus 9:23 Moses and Aaron then went into the tent of meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people; and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people.

Everybody loves to read about the glory of the Lord appearing to people.  Not just in ancient times, but still to this day.  How do we get to see His glory?  Is it when we whip ourselves into a spiritual frenzy during worship?  Is it when we pray for hours at a time?

It’s not that God can’t or won’t move during these times.  However, we seldom think of the context in which God moved in this particular passage.  It’s no secret, yet very few catch it.  Here it is… are you ready for it?  The priests had just finished performing the sacrifices as God required; then they emerged and blessed the people.  After that, that’s when the text says the glory of the Lord appeared to the people.  Did you catch it?  The priests obeyed God’s commands… and He appeared to them.

That’s the not-so-secret to seeing God’s glory.  He has called us to live a life of obedience.  When we walk in His ways, it brings glory to His name.  And in turn, He shows us His glory.  Obey Him today and release His power and glory in your life.

Joe Amaral

August 14, 2012

King of Heaven Come Down

NIV Daniel 4:37
Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

Including periodic worship songs here was part of the plan from the beginning. I’m a strong believer in “worship and the word.” I can publishes pages and pages of Bible study here, but a simple worship song may connect more with some individuals on certain days than all the paragraphs of text I could have used.

I usually like to feature worship songs that offer “rich text” or songs which are being widely used in many of our churches, like this new one. Today we feature the writing of composer/musician Paul Baloche with King of Heaven. Lyrics appear onscreen, though there are not a lot of words, so I also invite you to close your eyes, turn up the volume and let this prayer saturate where you are today.


Blog Update:

While Thinking Out Loud continues to be my most visible blog project, Christianity 201 is fast becoming the more active franchise. Each day more people sign on for this potpourri of Bible study discussion and devotional thoughts culled from the widest variety of the Christian blogosphere.

At the same time, going on a daily “hunting and gathering” routine can be exhausting, so I’m looking for someone who is already familiar with the WordPress platform who might want to eventually have editing privileges here. To start, needed is someone who has been blogging regularly for at least a year themselves, so I can see where they are coming from, and then they need to be able to source out material suitable for C201 subject to the guidelines posted in the sidebar.You also need to be able to generate appropriate post tags; and need to work with HTML in terms of setting blockquotes within quotes and adding color to scripture passages and subheadings and adding to superscripts on Bible references. (Note: This particular theme is not H1, H2 responsive so you have to change font sizes.) Initially, submissions would be emailed in coded text.

A needle in a haystack person, basically; but if you feel that’s you, start by contacting me at the address on the “Submissions” page. Anyone who does not feel up to this task, but wants to send a particularly strong C201 guest post is welcomed to do that anytime by email.

April 30, 2011

Unfashionable Worship

A shorter post today to make up for yesterday! This is from the worship.com blog where it appeared under the title, Worshipping Unfashionably.

Isaiah 6 teaches us something foundational about public worship. If you read the first few verses you’ll notice the first thing Isaiah encounters in the house of God is the glory of God. It doesn’t first say he encountered friendly faces or hot coffee, or soft bagels or a booming sound system. It says he encountered the glory of God. In the Bible, the glory of God is God’s “heaviness”, his powerful presence. It is God’s prevailing excellence on display. In God’s house, Isaiah meets a God who is majestically in command.

What does this mean for our worship services? It means we ought to come, first and foremost, expecting to encounter the glory of God–his powerful presence. We should come ready to sing of who he is and hear of what he’s done. We come to feel the grief of our sin so that we can feel the glory of his salvation. We come, in other words, to see God on display, not preachers or musicians. A worship service is not the place to showcase human talent. It’s the place for God to showcase his Divine treasure.  A worship service that contains the power to change you is a worship service that leaves you with grand impressions of Divine personality, not grand impressions of human personality.

Isaiah did not leave the temple thinking, “What great music, what a great building, what a great preacher.” He left thinking, “What a great God.” This is why songs and sermons need to be about God first. Everything done in worship ought to communicate God because it is God and God alone who can transform your life and mine. Seeing me will not help you. Seeing God is the only thing truly capable of moving you from one place to another. This is why John Piper rightly asks, “How shall entertaining worship services – with the aim of feeling light hearted and friendly – help a person prepare to suffer, let alone prepare to die?”

March 29, 2011

We’re a Big Deal

Those cute (or annoying depending on your perspective) talking vegetables known as the Veggie Tales cast may tell you that “God made you special and he loves you very much;” but did you ever consider that “being made special” actually brings God glory?  It has to.  The creation speaks as to its creator.  John Fischer, at the blog The Catch, recently blogged this under the title, Big Deal:

Job argued with God. Moses bargained with Him. Jacob wrestled with Him. Nehemiah changed His mind. What do these amazing stories tell us about God if it isn’t that He wants a relationship with us probably more than we want one with Him. What does it tell us about God if He is willing to be persuaded, cajoled, bargained with and wrestled? It tells us He created us like Him so we could participate in a relationship with Him that means something in terms of integrity. It’s no small thing for God to be swayed by a puny human being, but such is the wonder of His will.

The Psalmist has declared a similar wonder when he wrote, “When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you have set in place—what are mortals that you should think of us? For you made us only a little lower than the angels, and you crowned us with glory and honor. You put us in charge of everything you made, giving us authority over all things—the sheep and the cattle and all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea, and everything that swims the ocean currents” (Psalms 8:3-8 NLT).

In other words: What’s the big deal here? We’re the big deal. Does this bring us glory? Yes, but that only brings Him more. That He would create us with this much power and authority says a lot about our Creator and what He created us for. He created us with intelligence and emotions. He created us like Him so He could relate to us and we could relate to Him. And He gave us the right to refuse Him, accept Him, argue with Him, badger Him—even tell Him to get lost if that’s what we want to do. Think about that. Even unbelief has integrity. What kind of God would create a being that might not even believe in Him? A God who wants a relationship with him when he does.

That’s why the very next verse of this Psalm reads, “O Lord, our Lord, the majesty of your name fills the earth” (Psalm 8:9)! We are part and parcel of God’s glory. That He would do it this way—that He would create a world, people it with beings like Him, and then give them authority over that world—even the opportunity to believe Him or not—says as much about Him as it does about us. You and I are a big part of God’s glory. Imagine what we could accomplish if we really believed this!

~ John Fischer

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