Christianity 201

January 5, 2018

God Intervenes in Our Circumstances

NIV Ps. 18.32 It is God who arms me with strength
    and keeps my way secure.
33 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
    he causes me to stand on the heights.
34 He trains my hands for battle;
    my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

40 You made my enemies turn their backs in flight,
    and I destroyed my foes.
41 They cried for help, but there was no one to save them—
    to the Lord, but he did not answer.

43 You have delivered me from the attacks of the people;
    you have made me the head of nations.

47 He is the God who avenges me,
    who subdues nations under me,
48     who saves me from my enemies.
You exalted me above my foes;
    from a violent man you rescued me.

Once again, we’re back with the blog, Counseling One Another by author and pastor Paul Tautges. This has been a great source of excellent articles for us over the years. Please click the link below to read this at source.

Praise God for His Intervention

In Psalm 18:30-50, David praises God for intervening in his circumstances and coming to his aid when he needed it the most. Today, God wants you to give thanks and praise for three specific ways He intervenes on your behalf.

Praise God for renewing you with strength (vv. 30-42).

David gave clear testimony as to the source of his strength. His strength did not originate within himself, but it was from the Lord. It was from the Lord whom Isaiah would later direct Israel to: the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary…He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

God was a shield in battle (v. 30) and equipped David with strength (vv. 32-34). God defended the glory of His name through His servant David (think Goliath). And David was able to be this courageous because He knew the Lord was with him and the Lord was his strength. Therefore, he testified “your right hand supported me” (v. 35), “you gave me a firm footing” (v. 36), and “you equipped me with strength” (v. 39). This is more than military strength, though. God gave David spiritual strength (fortitude, endurance) to persevere.

Are you tired? Is your spirit worn down? Go to the Lord for your strength. Know that His strength is made perfect in your weakness. Pray Ephesians 3:16 for yourself, “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” Trust the Holy Spirit to give you strong courage when you need it most.

Praise God for restoring you from (after) strife (vv. 43-45).

David praised God because He “delivered [him] from strife” (v. 43). God delivered David, making him head of nations, giving him military superiority. God certainly gave him the victory. Near the end of his life—in the last letter he wrote—the apostle Paul gave the same testimony of God’s intervention in his troubles and conflicts (2 Tim. 4:14-17). What Paul experienced is what Jesus had predicted in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

When you have been through severe conflict you don’t necessarily bounce back right away. Healing takes time. But know this: God is your healer. He will restore you in His time and according to His perfect plan. Some of you, I am sure, have been through very painful conflicts in the past. Perhaps you still feel wounded. By His grace, and through the love of the brethren, God will heal your hurts and restore you. Lean on Him. Lean into Him. He heals through the ministry of others. Don’t try to do it alone. As you receive His means of grace, the Lord will heal and restore you. You will not be the same; that is true. But you will be more like Christ because of having fellowship in His sufferings.

Praise God for recovering you in (through) salvation (vv. 46-50).

Verse 46 is a triumphant declaration. “The Lord lives! He has intervened for me!” Why? Because He is “the God of my salvation.” Verses 47-48 summarize the saving deliverance of God. The Lord “rescued” David (v. 48). I could have used the word “rescued,” but intentionally chose “recovered” instead. Our world likes to speak of people as always being in recovery. The recovering alcoholic. The recovering drug addict, etc., as if to imply that a person is always in the process of recovering to the healthy state. It implies that one never truly becomes a new, changed person.

But the hope of the gospel is greater. Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave to fully recover us for God. If you know Jesus Christ then your life has been recovered for God’s purposes. Yes, you may continue to battle certain temptations for your remaining years on earth, but that is not what defines you. In Christ, God has redeemed you from the slave market of sin. You now belong to Him. He has recovered you from a life wasted on sin and given you victory in Christ.

In Christ, Romans 6:10-11 is true of you: For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. As believers, our sins and weaknesses do not make up our identity. Our identity is bound up with who Jesus is. We should enthusiastically praise God for this great salvation!

The Lord is worthy of this praise “among the nations” as, together, we “sing” His praises (v. 49). And this praise will go on forever. Why? Because of Jesus, the Son of God, is also the son of David. Therefore, David’s “offspring” will forever sing praise to God.

December 1, 2015

If You Feel You Missed the Spirit’s Moving

Prolific Christian author Max Lucado recently wrote a book titled Glory Days which he feels describes the particular time in Israel’s history described in the first 14 chapters of Joshua and centered on the time leading up to entering the promised land. (I covered that book very briefly in this review.)  He begins the book:

For seven years they were virtually untouchable.  Seven nations conquered.  At least 31 kings defeated.  Approximately 10,000 square miles of choice property claimed.

Seven years of unbridled success.

They were outnumbered but not out powered.   Under equipped but not overwhelmed.  They were the unlikely but unquestionable conquerors of some of the most barbaric armies in history.  Had the campaign been a prize fight, the referee would have called it in the first round.

The Hebrew people were unstoppable…

On the timeline of your Bible, the era glistens between the difficult days of Exodus and the dark ages of the Judges.  Moses had just died and the Hebrews were beginning their fifth decade as Bedouin in the badlands and sometime around 1400 BC, God spoke, Joshua listened, and the glory days began.  The Jordan river opened up. The Jericho walls fell down.  The sun stood still, and the kings of Canaan were forced into early retirement.  Evil was booted and hope rebooted.  By the end of the campaign, the homeless wanderers became hope filled homesteaders.  A nation of shepherds began to quarry a future out of the Canaanite hills.  They built farms, villages and vineyards.  The accomplishments were so complete, that the historian wrote,

NLT Johsua 21:43 So the Lord gave to Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. 44 And the Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had solemnly promised their ancestors. None of their enemies could stand against them, for the Lord helped them conquer all their enemies. 45 Not a single one of all the good promises the Lord had given to the family of Israel was left unfulfilled; everything he had spoken came true.

But what do you do if the Passover has already passed over, the Red Sea has already parted, and the son has already stood still?

Years later, Habakkuk no doubt felt like he’d missed Israel’s “glory days.”

Habakkuk 3:2(NIV) LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.

We do the same thing. It’s easy to wish that we could see the miracles. Maybe you missed the “third wave” of the charismatic movement in the 1970s; or missed the ocean baptisms of the Jesus movement, also in the ’70s. Maybe you missed the moment at a Creation Festival; or couldn’t attend a particular year of Promise Keepers. Perhaps you weren’t there when that church doubled its attendance in six months; or when that individual was dramatically healed, or another delivered from a particular addiction.

Or maybe you didn’t miss a thing, but feel like nothing compares to Old Testament signs and wonders or first century miracles. Like Habakkuk you say:

Habakkuk 3:2(NIV) LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.

But always remember how he ends this particular chapter. Even if life appears to be the opposite of all that you’d like to see, even if, as the Brits say, it’s all gone pear shaped; our faith is not shaken. It doesn’t negate the prayer of verse 2, but in 17-19 the prophet puts things in a larger perspective:

Habakkuk 3:17-19a (NLT) Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign Lord is my strength!

…By all means, keep praying “Lord, repeat them in our day;” but as Eugene Peterson renders this, he reminds us that we may not plant olives, but…

Though the cherry trees don’t blossom
    and the strawberries don’t ripen,
Though the apples are worm-eaten
    and the wheat fields stunted,
Though the sheep pens are sheepless
    and the cattle barns empty,

… at those times keep rejoicing in the Lord. Remember,

NIV 2 Cor. 4:8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.


If you decide to reblog this, you’re welcome to the title “Sheepless in Seattle.”

August 15, 2012

They Arose Up In The Twilight

2 Kings 7

New International Version (NIV)

7 Elisha replied, “Hear the word of the Lord. This is what the Lord says: About this time tomorrow, a seah of the finest flour will sell for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria.”

The officer on whose arm the king was leaning said to the man of God, “Look, even if the Lord should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen?”

“You will see it with your own eyes,” answered Elisha, “but you will not eat any of it!”

The Siege Lifted

Now there were four men with leprosy at the entrance of the city gate. They said to each other, “Why stay here until we die? If we say, ‘We’ll go into the city’—the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die. So let’s go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.”

At dusk they got up and went to the camp of the Arameans. When they reached the edge of the camp, no one was there, for the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army, so that they said to one another, “Look, the king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!” So they got up and fled in the dusk and abandoned their tents and their horses and donkeys. They left the camp as it was and ran for their lives.

The men who had leprosy reached the edge of the camp, entered one of the tents and ate and drank. Then they took silver, gold and clothes, and went off and hid them. They returned and entered another tent and took some things from it and hid them also.

Then they said to each other, “What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace.”

10 So they went and called out to the city gatekeepers and told them, “We went into the Aramean camp and no one was there—not a sound of anyone—only tethered horses and donkeys, and the tents left just as they were.” 11 The gatekeepers shouted the news, and it was reported within the palace.

12 The king got up in the night and said to his officers, “I will tell you what the Arameans have done to us. They know we are starving; so they have left the camp to hide in the countryside, thinking, ‘They will surely come out, and then we will take them alive and get into the city.’”

13 One of his officers answered, “Have some men take five of the horses that are left in the city. Their plight will be like that of all the Israelites left here—yes, they will only be like all these Israelites who are doomed. So let us send them to find out what happened.”

14 So they selected two chariots with their horses, and the king sent them after the Aramean army. He commanded the drivers, “Go and find out what has happened.” 15 They followed them as far as the Jordan, and they found the whole road strewn with the clothing and equipment the Arameans had thrown away in their headlong flight. So the messengers returned and reported to the king. 16 Then the people went out and plundered the camp of the Arameans. So a seah of the finest flour sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley sold for a shekel, as the Lord had said.

17 Now the king had put the officer on whose arm he leaned in charge of the gate, and the people trampled him in the gateway, and he died, just as the man of God had foretold when the king came down to his house. 18 It happened as the man of God had said to the king: “About this time tomorrow, a seah of the finest flour will sell for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria.”

19 The officer had said to the man of God, “Look, even if the Lord should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen?” The man of God had replied, “You will see it with your own eyes, but you will not eat any of it!” 20 And that is exactly what happened to him, for the people trampled him in the gateway, and he died.

Today’s commentary is from Faith at the blog Faith Rises.

Twilight — The period of the evening which takes place, between daylight and darkness is called twilight…

In the days of Elisha, there was a severe famine. Outside the city gates there were four men who were lepers. These four men reasoned among themselves,  “Why should we just sit here until we die? If we go into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there, and if we just sit here, we will die also. Let’s go to the camp of the Syrians. Maybe they will save us alive, or if they kill us, we shall but die… And so they rose up in the twilight, to go to the camp of the Syrians.

When they got to the camp of the Syrians, there was no one there because the Lord had made the entire Syrian army to hear a noise of chariots, and a noise of horses, and the noise of a great army approaching, and they thought that the king of Israel had hired other foreign armies to join with him to fight them...So they arose and fled in the twilight... When the lepers arrived they found an abundance of food, silver and gold. They sent word back to the king and the starving people were satisfied.

I love this story… You can find it in II Kings chapter 7. I am always amazed that at  precisely the same moment that the lepers decided to step out in faith, God began working on their behalf. As soon as they arose to go at twilight, God allowed the Syrians to hear an illusion at twilight, which scared them out of their wits and caused them to leave their treasures. The lepers were on their way, had probably walked all night, but God had already fought the battle for them, He had already solved their problem, and He had begun at precisely the moment that they believed… At twilight.

The next morning, with the rising of the sun, came long-awaited  joy and deliverance…

June 18, 2012

God is Not Always Ordinary

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This post is from C. Michael Patton and Tim Kimberley at the Credo House blog, Parchment and Pen.  Click here to read at source, and then explore the rest of the blog.

1 Kings 8:10-11
It happened that when the priests came from the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the LORD, 11 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD.

I don’t know why, but I am possessed by this passage this morning (or as we say in Oklahoma, “this smorning”). Two subjects: 1) the glory of the Lord, 2) the service of the priests.

Get this: the glory of the Lord overwhelmed the service of the priests.

Now this seems unfair to the priests. After all, they are only doing as God had instructed. Why does God come in and mess things up? “So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud.” They could not minister? Their religious candles blew out. The smell of incense was diluted. The ram got loose. The prayers were silenced due to a distracting and overwhelming noise. All that the Lord had been doing through them was brought to cessation as it was replaced with something else. Something breathtaking. Something that buried the service they had become accustomed to.

One priest went to a growing line before the king to log his complaint.

Another priest went home believing this excused him for day off.

Another priest looked at the glory with entertainment, happy to have the monotony of his days interrupted.

Another priest say to his friend, “Don’t believe what you see. This is not how it normally happens. We only adore the normal.”

Only one priest stepped aside to observe and partake in the awe and hope that was coming into being. Only one allowed the curtain to be rent, the locks to be broken, and the glory to be shown.

Theological thought: How often to I allow God to step into my life and do something different, something extraordinary?

How often do you? Or are we too set in the ways that we think the Lord must do things? But sometimes God is not ordinary.

~C. Michael Patton

More at Parchment and Pen: Follow the series Ten Myths About God with Tim Kimberley and C. Michael Patton. When this blog was scheduled they were up to #5, click here to watch.

More about the “not ordinary-ness” of God: Check out the post yesterday at Thinking Out Loud —  God Doesn’t Do Boxes.

December 24, 2010

When God Invades a Life

From Internet Monk, this question:

Mary was more than likely no more than 13 or 14 years old when the angel appeared to her. She had her whole life in front of her—a marriage to a man who would be able to provide for her, and that was not something to take for granted in those days. And then … and then God came and turned her whole world upside down.

Was this fair? Shouldn’t God knock before entering someone’s life? How would you have responded if the angel had come to you with this news? And does God still move in impossible ways today? Is God still coming and turning people’s lives upside-down?

And these responses:

  • Karin: Being told that you are favored by God would make saying ‘yes’ a whole lot easier and saying ‘no’ a whole lot harder. Mary seemed wise beyond her years and said, “I am the Lord’s servant.” At age 13 or 14 one usually does not have preconceived ideas about the consequences of such a life changing decision. Perhaps this kind of visitation by an angel and being chosen to be the mother of the long awaited Messiah was every young spiritually minded Israelite girl’s dream!If my daughter had come and told me that she experienced the same as what Mary experienced, I would probably have needed a visitation from an angel to confirm it, just as Joseph did!
  • Joanie: I have noticed that when Zechariah questioned the angel about how his wife could possibly become pregnant, he was made unable to speak until John was born. But Mary questioned the angel about how she could possibly get pregnant and the angel explained. I have read that Zechariah was a priest, was old and should have known that God could do whatever God wanted to do. Mary was a young girl and as such, was treated more…patiently. Do you often wonder what it would be like to encounter an angel? Do you think angels take on human-like properties so that they can communicate with us? I wonder how long it took for Jesus as he was growing up to fully realize who he was, why he was and what he had to do? And how much of that would Mary have understood? When they were at the wedding in Cana together, she obviously knew that he could turn water into wine. How did she know he could do that and would do that?
  • Hannah: Mary’s response of submission to God is so beautiful. I wonder if this was, completely and utterly out of the blue for her, or if, in some way, God had been preparing her for what He needed her to do? He doesn’t test us beyond what we can bear, so says the word, and she must have trusted God so much to just submit to him like that, not knowing at that time if Joseph would stick by her or not. And if God was preparing Mary in some small way, would He have been preparing Joseph too then, to do the right thing and stay with her. Did they risk small town humiliation and unbelief, or was the culture of the time open to what they said to curious neighbors and family friends about Mary’s pregnancy? They had to be so strong, it seems to me, in their commitment to God and each other and their trust in what God had told them. I wonder what Mary and Joseph’s individual relationships to God had been like up to that time?
  • John: I think when God speaks to people in these more direct and miraculous ways, we encounter more closely just what the nature of his kingdom is and how it operates. And because of that, things like having our lives turned upside down tend to pale in comparison. It’s not that there aren’t real effects on our lives, but that we have encountered in some very real way an intersection between our earthly plodding and the fuller reality of God’s eternal kingdom and purpose. When that happens, priorities get shifted a bit. In other words, the reality of God with us begins to take hold and change things, starting with us. “Shouldn’t God knock before entering someone’s life?”  I think God does, but in our dullness and distraction we aren’t always listening. And even if we are, he still tends to look and act a little different than we imagined before the actual encounter.God still turns lives upside down and moves in impossible ways today, but it’s easy to miss if I’m not looking and listening. Lord, give me the eyes to see and the ears to hear.

Read the other comments and join the discussion at Internet Monk.

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Heartfelt thanks to faithful blog readers and wishes for God’s best in your life in the year to come.   Merry Christmas.   ~ Paul.