Christianity 201

November 27, 2019

Don’t Say What You’ll Never Do

Today’s article comes from a blog I’ve linked to at Thinking Out Loud, but not here. “Gospel Taboo is a contributor-based platform that provides articles as resources and biblical counseling opportunities.” The author of this piece is Rebekah Hannah. The header below is a link to the article at its original source.

Never Say Never

The older I get, the less I have to say. I find words and phrases get eliminated from my vocabulary over time. God slowly and kindly shrinks my words with his Spirit, wisdom and small bits of experience. Whether it’s particular, embarrassing things I’ve said that can’t be erased from memory or just my regular, daily idiotic thoughts, the Lord slowly morphs and renews my thinking. Recently, there’s a common phrase that’s been utterly and completely taken out of my lexicon.

I will never. 

There. I admit it. Only problem now is I’m saying, “I will never say ‘I will never.”

Right now, I’m living with two giant “I will nevers.” But God is using these “nevers” to change me in very specific ways. He’s showing me that my “nevers” are a form of boasting that I must repent over. In this process of transferring my “nevers” over to “Lord, help me trust you,” God is leveraging my old “nevers” for my now good.

When God changes our proclamations to supplications, he teaches us several things.

He teaches humility. 

When we’re corrected and have to go back on things we’ve said, humility grows. It teaches us that we don’t know everything. We can’t predict the future, but there’s One who can. He teaches meekness through our lack of control over our own futures. I can honestly and wholeheartedly mean “I will never” do this or that, but 10 years later I may indeed find myself doing that very thing. I’m unable to determine my future self’s ultimate well-being (Prov 16:9). I can’t know where I’m going to be 10 minutes from now, much less 10 days, 10 months or 10 years from now. But God can.

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. Proverbs 27:1

He teaches human limits. 

Of course, humility is about me knowing my finite limits. I was not at the beginning of the world nor do I have control over the air I breathe. I rely solely on the One who created me, gave me air and knows the number of my days. How dare I declare “I will never.” To do so is to proclaim a foolish likeness to God in his timelessness. Of course, this is irrational. To know I have limits causes me to cast my eyes on the One who has none.

Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:14-15)

He teaches grace.

Saying “I will never” and later having to shove those words back into my mouth teaches me about the gaping hole only grace can fill. Because God shows me how little I know and control, there’s a deeper understanding of my need for grace. Grace says God gives me everything I need. He provides help for my small capacities and inabilities, my misunderstandings and shortcomings. This kindness is then available for me to give to others. If I know God leads, guides and allows us all to do and be different, how does this change how I react to others? It teaches me to withhold judgement on things I cannot know everything about, because I’m not God.

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Heb 4:16

He teaches his preeminence. 

Anytime I’ve proclaimed, “I will never,” God was sitting on his throne. And guess what . . . he knew I absolutely would do whatever my never was. When we say I will never do this or I will never go there, we are displaying foolishness as God preeminently resides in greatness. He is infinite. He has no boundaries in knowledge. He is all-wise. He sees all things. He is the beginning and the end. To say, “I will never,” is to have a small reverence for a God who easily says, “Yes you will.”

God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne. Psalm 47:8 

He teaches eternity. 

God teaching about eternity is his love on display for us. To teach an eternal perspective is to teach how to survive in a world that is not my forever home. It gives me something to cling to, to look forward to when things go haywire here. God knows that to persevere in our insufferable world, I must know and believe what he promises will come. Enter eternity. I can’t tell you where I’ll live, what I’ll be doing or what my life will look like, but I can acknowledge my certain hope in God’s eternal plan. Refraining from “will nevers” makes me look for what I can know. Eternal good with Jesus, my Savior, my Joy, my Hope is an absolute certainty (Heb 6:19).

. . . for the sake of the faith of God’s elect . . . in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began . . . Titus 1:1b-2

We have a good Father who loves to give good things (Matt 7:11). For me, he’s leveraged my “nevers” to teach me some of these good things. He gives me exactly what I need, puts me exactly where I need to be and plans my life better than I do. Our God is always faithful, even in our foolish “nevers.”

Questions for Reflection: 

1.    What have you said “never” about?

2.    How can you acknowledge your smallness before God so as to worship his greatness?

3.    What are some ways to give up your illusion of control in your life?

4.    Do you worry about today more than you think on eternity with Jesus?

5.    What are some practical ways you can spend more time thinking God for having control over your life?

February 15, 2019

Mercy in the Middle of Judgment

This is our second visit to the site, Life Walk With Marlene. Click the header below to read this at source.

Re-Discovering God’s Mercy

Exodus 9:31 (Now the flax and the barley were ruined, for the barley was in the ear and the flax was in bud. 32 But the wheat and the spelt were not ruined, for they ripen late.)

I have read the 10 plagues more than 10 times and this reading is the first time that I noticed this verse. What does this verse imply?

I realise that even in God’s powerful sovereignty, there is still mercy. Even when the hail struck every man and beast and tree in the land (vv.24-25), the wheat and spelt were not destroyed. Spelt is an old kind of wheat with bearded ears and spikelets that each contain two narrow grains, not widely grown but favoured as a health food.

As I read through the last 6 plagues, I wonder if anyone died in the first 9. Only in the last plague was recorded that people died. Amidst all the calamities that God sent to Egypt, He was merciful to them – giving chances again and again for Pharaoh to set the people free. Even when God knew that Pharaoh would go back on his word, God still stopped the plague each time Pharaoh asked Moses to intercede for them. We often thought but it was said that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart – so how He could count it against Pharaoh? Did Pharaoh know that? Did he not have a choice? God knew his pride and hardened heart, yet and so God gave him 9 chances to change his mind. In all the 10 plagues, God’s purpose was to reveal himself – that you may know I am the Lord. (7:17, 9:16, 10:1-2)

I am reminded of what I learned in our Old Testament 1 class. We often let our familiarity of/with the Bible hinder us from new discoveries and lessons to learn. The 10 plagues in Exodus are so familiar that I can memorise all of them (though never tried to remember their particular order except the 1st and the last.) The professor said that when she was studying at a certain school, some of her classmates who were not as familiar with the Bible sometimes shared fresh and new perspectives from reading certain bible passages.

I have read through the entire Bible for the past few years and still there are new lessons to learn even for the same passages read many times. The Holy Spirit helps us to read and understand and apply what we read. We just need to persist and disciplined ourselves to read the Bible regularly with a desire to know God more and apply Biblical truths in our daily living. Sometimes I get lazy, I get complacent and I falter. I read for the sake of reading. Still I continue. It might be an up and down journey but God persists – He does not let me go. So dear friends, just keep reading the Bible.

When life is not easy and God is still merciful. There is something new in the old; a fresh truth to hold in the familiar trials of life. God’s mercies are new every morning.


After we’d formatted today’s devotional, we realized it was shorter than many we run, so we decided to give you a double feature from the same author. The title of this one may intrigue you. These were several days apart, but both are rooted in the book of Exodus.


Mr. Christian, A.T.L.C.

I’ve been reading from Exodus all the details of making the Tabernacle and all the things in it. Once from the instructions of the Lord for the Israelites what to give, what to do and how to do (Exo. 25-28) a second time – a narration of all the people did. (Exo. 36-40)

I wondered what is there for me to take away from all the details in the description and construction of this grand project. But one phrase kept coming up: ATLC

As the Lord commanded… as the Lord commanded Moses/him…

1) Moses was a good listener. He listened attentively and correctly to all of God’s instructions.
2) Moses was a good teacher. He passed on God’s instructions accurately for the people to execute.
3) The people were good followers. They did all that were needed as the Lord commanded.

Applications:
A good listener listens attentively but more importantly, listens with discernment and understanding from the One true source of knowledge and wisdom.

A good teacher teaches diligently making sure the instructions are carried out to the last detail. A good teacher sows not just knowledge but reaps actions and results from the application of the knowledge.

A good follower listens and does as instructed. He hears, he listens and he works with his hands.

Mr. XXX M.D.; Ms. YYY Ph.D.; Mr. ZZZ D.M.D. I always wonder what all the letters after the doctor’s name mean. I surmise that the more letters, the more degrees, the more expertise, the more accomplishments, the more prestigious.

What a different and more impactful Christian witness the world would have if Christians were to have ATLC at the end of their names… not just letters but the spirit of the letters that form the words As the Lord commanded!

How do we know then that ATLC is as what it should be?

Exodus 40
34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

In the Old Testament, the cloud represents God’s presence. The glory of the Lord refers to His presence – it signifies that God is living among them – right in their midst, in their company.

God’s presence
The cloud covered… A covering that encompassed and surrounded all of my being… The cloud settled… A settling – lasting and staying presence that continuously guides my doing…

Is God present in my life? Am I aware that He sees, He hears, He listens, He covers and He settles?

God’s glory
The glory of the Lord filled… A filling that leaves no space for anything else… a filling that overflows so that nothing else occupies… no vacuum… no emptiness

Does God’s glory shine through in my being and doing? Do my words and actions point people to God?

Let me ask myself… Ms. Christian ATLC… how are you doing?

Dear Holy Spirit, help me today to be and do as the Lord commands. Amen


Previously by the same author:

February 23, 2017

Little Power and Great Affirmation in Philadephia: Revelation 3

by Clarke Dixon

You feel powerless. Something is broken and you don’t think you can fix it. There is a problem and you don’t think you can find a solution. The complexities of life are like a maze and you don’t think you can find your way. What are we to do when we feel powerless?

Our friends may respond with a big dose of positive thinking; you are powerful, you can do anything, you are amazing! And sometimes, when we are thinking of ourselves more lowly than we ought, we need affirmation. But sometimes affirmation falls short. It feels hollow somehow. It is not just that we think we can’t fix it, or find the solution, or find our way. It is that we can not fix it, find the solution, or find our way. Sometimes we don’t just feel powerless, we are powerless.

In Revelation chapter three we have a letter to a small community of Christians who are of “little power.” (Revelation 3:8) This small community of Christians in Philadelphia could easily feel overwhelmed by those loyal to Roman ways of thinking and acting. They could also feel overwhelmed by those who strictly observe the Hebrew Bible but who don’t share their excitement over Jesus as the fulfillment of those scriptures. These two communities were much larger than the Christian community, and persecution was known to happen. So what does Jesus have to say to these powerless Christians?

Here is what Jesus says:

“These are the words of the holy one . . .” (Revelation 3:7)

Jesus is in effect saying, “I am the Holy One, and so the only One who has the power of God.” We read in Mark chapter 1 of a demon saying “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” (Mark 1:24). The demon knew Jesus had the power to destroy because the demon knew Jesus was God’s Holy One. 

“. . . the true one, . . .” (Revelation 3:7)

The word “true” here means “authentic, genuine.” Jesus is the “real deal.” No one but Jesus can promise relationship with God, life, or eternal life, and deliver on the promise.

“. . . who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.” (Revelation 3:7)

Jesus holds the key of of the Kingdom, and makes decisions on the door of the Kingdom. Persecutors may make decisions about a person’s death, but Jesus is the one who makes decisions on every person’s life & eternal life.

“I know your works.” (Revelation 3:8)

Jesus knows stuff! Nothing escapes his notice, neither the patient suffering of the persecuted, nor the evil deeds of those who persecute.

“Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.” (Revelation 3:8)

Jesus creates opportunities. It may feel like opportunity belongs to the strong and powerful. However, Jesus can create opportunities for those with little to no power.

“I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but are lying—I will make them come and bow down before your feet,” (Revelation 3:9)

In other words “I will make justice happen.” There is a turning of the tables here, from the Philadelphian Christians being kicked out of the synagogue to those of the synagogue gathering around them.

“ . . . and they will learn that I have loved you.” (Revelation 3:9)

Jesus will clear up misunderstandings. Those who hate people because they think God hates them will someday find out whom God loves and how foolish it was to hate.

“I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.” (Revelation 3:10)

Here Jesus promises to hold the Christians through a time of trial. There are differing interpretations on the “what” and “when” of this “hour of trial.” The important thing is the promise of Jesus to keep his people through it.

“I am coming soon;” (Revelation 3:11)

Jesus will return and those persecutors who say that he is of no consequence, will see him and come to a new appreciation of just Who He is.

“If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God; you will never go out of it.” (Revelation 3:12)

Jesus will ensure the believer’s presence with God. They may have been cast out of the synagogue, and disowned by the city, but Jesus will give them a secure standing in his temple, the Bible’s great symbol for the presence of God.

“I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.” (Revelation 3:12)

This is a promise of inclusion in God’s people, as well as a promise of reflection of God’s character, a “family resemblance” if you will.

The Christians in Philadelphia have little power. Does Jesus respond with affirmation, telling them that they have much more power than they think? There is affirmation, but most of the affirmations are about Jesus Himself! Let us look at the full letter to Philadelphia and notice the affirmations that pertain to Jesus:

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens8 “I know your works. Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but are lying—I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. 11 I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God; you will never go out of it. I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Revelation 3:7-13 (emphasis mine)

Jesus does not affirm the power of his followers. He affirms His own power! In other words Jesus is telling the Christians in Philadelphia that they do not need to be God. He is! They do not need to be powerful. He is, and He loves them. Their part is to keep doing what they have been doing;

“I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. . . . Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, . . .” (Revelation 3:8,10).

Do you feel powerless? Something is broken and you don’t think you can fix it? There is a problem and you don’t think you can find a solution? The complexities of life are like a maze and you don’t think you can find your way? Perhaps you are correct. But you are not God. You don’t have to be. Look instead to the One Who Is.

There is one matter in life where we are completely and utterly powerless. We have absolutely no power to reconcile ourselves to God. But God does. And He has made it happen through Jesus at the cross. Let us not look to ourselves with false affirmations, but look to our Lord and Saviour with honest affirmations of His power and love.

 All Scripture references are from the NRSV

 Original Source: Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon

January 4, 2017

The Better Source of New Year’s Resolutions

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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Today we pay a return visit to the Presbyterian Church in Canada’s website. Click the title below to read at source. The author of this piece is .

Follow Your Star

I had once given up on making New Year’s resolutions, because I never kept them. I now realize that the problem was that I had not consulted the Lord. They were my ideas of what I should do, or what other people thought!

The image of a star comes to mind, because Epiphany, when we observe the arrival of the wise men, is in the first week of January. When they followed that star, it was because the Lord had placed the goal of doing so in their hearts.

Matthew 2:9b-11 – The star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of frankincense and of myrrh. (NIV)

We each have a star to follow as well. The Lord has placed within each one of us hopes, dreams, and goals, but we often push these aside.

My experience has been that the quiet voice of the Spirit gets louder and more persistent until I start listening. Even then, my response is likely to be, “I’m busy now. I really don’t want to do this” or “I am a senior; I am past that sort of thing.”

Then, I am reminded of the story of Abraham, who was told that his ninety-year-old wife Sarah would have a son.

Genesis 18:13-14 – Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” (NIV)

Indeed, nothing is too hard for the Lord. We are not too old, too young, too inadequate, if it is the Lord’s idea. The Lord knows what gifts we have to offer, and like the wise men, He will direct us to the place where we need to give them.

Some years ago, I left a secure job because the Lord was calling me to work in the community. I was scared because it involved becoming self-employed and operating with no paycheque. All my life, my greatest fear was financial insecurity. Not only was I challenged to face that fear, but He has always provided, to this day. I have also had a lifelong fear of public speaking, and although I have a good singing voice, I have been terrified when asked to do a solo.

Once I said “yes” to the Lord, however, over a six-month period, both fears not only disappeared, but now I also enjoy both public speaking and solo work. So my New Year’s resolution will be to listen carefully for the Lord’s direction, then to follow my star wherever it leads. That feels sort of scary. However, I am determined. Why not join me in this prayer?

Prayer: Lord, I ask You to take over. Help me to listen for and hear Your direction for my life, and to trust You, knowing that You will always be present to help and guide me as long as I seek to do Your will, and follow my star. Amen.


July 16, 2012

Living a Life of Faith

Tim Schraeder is literally on a faith walk. What started as a short trip to Australia has turned into a three month stay. Sometimes when you’re at a place like that in life, scripture verses suddenly take on greater meaning. As I tried to find ways to edit this into the usual form here at C201, I decided it was better to just leave it as is, but more than ever, you’re encouraged to read this at source, so you can click to see some of the posts that led up to this part of the journey. This appeared under the title Walking By Faith.  (Here, scriptures have been highlighted in green as we do every day.)

Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you.  – Jeremiah 1:5 (Message)

So it’s been nearly a month since my somewhat cryptic blogpost about my move to Australia. So far things have been incredible and I wish I could tell you everything… but I can’t! Haha. What I can tell you, though, is that God has been teaching me a ton, growing my faith, and revealing His grace and faithfulness in my life is some pretty major ways.

I reckon [notice how much Australia is already rubbing off on me?] if any of us tried to predict our future, our plans would come up short of the great plans and purpose God has for our life and days here on earth. As much as we can try to plan ahead and prepare, there’s no way of knowing what each new day will bring with it, and more importantly the purpose God has woven into it.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29.11

Every single day we have new opportunities and new connections at our fingertips. The world around us is getting smaller and our ability to make an impact is even greater.  What is possible today was inconceivable a decade ago, and where the days ahead have the potential of leading us is beyond what we can imagine.

“No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this, Never so much as imagined anything quite like it—What God has arranged for those who love him.” – 1 Corinthians 2.9

That being said, the question we all have to answer is this: what will we do with our days? Or more importantly, how will we spend time? I’m learning, sometimes the hard way, that one of the most dangerous prayers we can pray when it comes to that question is, “Lord, have your way.”

…and Jesus prayed, “let our kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…” – Matthew 6.10

Praying a prayer like that [and meaning it] makes it clear who really is control of our lives and the choices and decisions that we make. It determines how we spend our time and what we give our energy and attention to. And it determines the direction we walk, oftentimes that means we will be following a narrow path. Your friends and family may think you are crazy, the world and culture may think you are out of your mind, you may even think your’re crazy yourself, but stay faithful to God’s call and the winds of the Spirit in your life.

“But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life.” – Matthew 7.14

I don’t have much experience in life, only about 30 years so far, but in my short time I’ve discovered that faithfully following the path God sets before will lead you on an adventure greater than you could have never imagined or planned yourself. Regardless of where life has you today God could very well be preparing you for a tomorrow you couldn’t even begin to comprehend. Life can seem routine or mundane, but it’s often by staying faithful in those ordinary places that God can bring about the miraculous and extraordinary in your life.

“you’ve crowed the year with your goodness and your paths drip with abundance…” – Psalm 65.11

These last six weeks I’ve been living a dream. Literally. I would have never believed God would have blessed me with the opportunity I have to be doing what I’m doing right now. At the same time, it’s forced me to live life more in the moment and more reliant on God’s grace than ever before. I’ve relocated around the globe and immersed myself in an experience and opportunity that seems so far above my ability and strength. But God, by His mercy, has blessed me beyond what I could have imagined… He’s given me faith to trust He will provide, courage as I’ve stepped out in faith, and peace to know He’s with me every single step of the way.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. – Proverbs 3:5-6 

I’m taking lots of notes through this experience and know I have many more things to learn along the way. I don’t know what to expect on the road ahead but believe l’m becoming more alive to the purpose God has for me and trust He’s leading me closer to becoming the man I know He created me to be.

~Tim Schraeder

January 24, 2012

Following God’s Road Signs

Today’s post is by Janelle Keith, and appeared at her blog under the title Travel Companion.  Although this appeared as a post-Christmas mediation, I really liked the message it has for us all year round.

Road signs tell us if we are going in the right direction.  They are also a marker of milestones passed.  They can mark our travel.  They outline highways and they designate halfway points, note miles to next destination.  They bring welcome relief to the weary with rest stops, refreshments, gas and overnight accommodations.

I find it interesting in reading the books of the Old Testament that the people of Israel are always reminded of their travel days by referencing “days of the desert”.  God and the prophets never miss the opportunity to remind Israel of where they have come from.  Remember when God brought them out of the desert?  Remember how the great I AM helped the Israelites walk over the dry Red Sea bottom to escape the Egyptians?  Remember how the great I AM brought them daily food and water?  Remember how God was seen in the cloud by day and the fire by night?
Don’t forget…God is with us!
With the [recent] Christmas message… we are reminded of some desperate life-travel information.  The message centers around the song “O come, O come, Emmanuel”. 
Why is this message so needed today?   Because we need to know and remember that we are not alone in this world. 

Emmanuel means God is with us! 
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel“—which means, “God with us.”Matthew 1:21-23
Just like the days of the desert, in the town of Bethlehem, and like Mary and Joseph, we also need to know that God is with us, everyday, to help us, to strengthen us, to deliver us, to show his mercy to us.  Emmanuel is with us like the great I AM was with the Israelites in the desert.  And God hasn’t changed over the years! 
God is with you…God was with you…God will be with you!

God, the great I AM, the LORD is with us.  No matter where we travel, no matter where we have been, no matter where we are headed.  God is with us.  We can’t be separated from God.  The God of all comfort, comes alongside of us in our trials.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35, 37-39
One thing to remember…God is with you!   Even in the dark days of confusion, doubt, trials and temptations.  BUT there are things that get in the way of experiencing God’s presence in our lives.  Sin detours us from a close journey with God.  
So…remember God is with us…but are you with God?

What steps do you need to take to experience more of God?

October 12, 2011

A Closer Look at Jesus’ Daytimer

This is from Mark Buchanan’s book, The Rest of God

…The distinguishing mark of the purposeful is not time-management.

It’s that they notice.  They’re fully awake.  Jesus for example.  He lived life with the clearest and highest purpose.  Yet he veered and strayed from one interruption to the next with no apparent plan in hand other than his single overarching one: Get to Jerusalem and die.  Otherwise, his days as far as we can figure were a series of zigzags and detours, apparent whims and second thoughts, interruptions and delays, off the cuff plans, spur of the moment decisions, leisurely meals, serendipitous rounds of story telling…

  • who touched me?
  • you give them something to eat
  • let’s go to the other side

Jesus was available — or not — according to some oblique logic all his own. He had an inner ear for the Father’s whispers, a third eye for the Spirit’s motions. One minute he’s not going to the temple, the next he is. One minute he refuses to help a wedding host solve his wine drought, the next he’s all over it. He’s ready to drop everything and rush over to a complete stranger’s house to heal his servant but dawdles four days while Lazarus — “the one he loves” — writhes in his death throes or fails to come at all when John — “the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” — languishes on death row. The closest we get to what dictated Jesus’ schedule is his own statement in John’s gospel: “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3: 8 NIV)

~Mark Buchanan

March 24, 2011

Run it by God First

My wife and I met at an interdenominational summer camp in eastern Ontario where she was the food services director, and I was there to teach a one-week staff training session on “relationships.”  (Always good when you can provide a teachable moment by starting a lifelong one at the same time!)

Camp IAWAH is actually an acronym for In All Ways Acknowledge Him, taken from a familiar passage in Proverbs 3: 5-6.  Here’s the larger context:

1 My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
2 for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you peace and prosperity.

3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Some of you work in an office or on an assembly line where you have to “submit” to a boss on any changes you’re making, decisions you’re facing, or new initiatives you’re considering.  You may have some creative control, but unless it’s “rubber stamped” by someone higher up the chain of command, you don’t really have the authority to just forge ahead by yourself, or issue orders to others to act solely on your command.

But verse 6 in the NLT clarifies this isn’t just talking about asking for God’s approval on a decision you’ve basically already made, but also looking to him for guidance in advance:

Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.

However, I don’t think the latter element negates the former.  God has given each of us intelligence, insight and other giftings, and I believe sometimes he does indeed throw the ball back in our court and says, “What do you think would be the best thing to do here?”

“Uh, God, I was hoping that you would make that clear.”

So, if I may, let me suggest that part of our submission to God might involve something like, ‘Work out your decision-making with fear and trembling.’  Seek his advance guidance to be sure, but in the absence of clear direction, or direction to simply wait, make the clear and logical decision that most honors Him or is most productive for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.  Then talk to Him about it and ask for continued guidance.

Are you one of the “givers?”  While churches and ministry organizations are often pleading for money, there is a small group of generous Christ-followers who are often looking for projects worthy of their support.  If that’s you, consider interdenominational Christian residential camp ministries.  Their needs are great and many limp along with just a handful of supporters.

Someone once said, “You can accomplish more in the life of a child with one week of camp than you can with 52 weeks of Sunday School.”  I don’t want to minimize the importance of weekly Christian education, but the statement does reflect the potential life change that can take place in the life of a child when removed from the comforts of home.  Contact me for information on how you can track down camp ministries in your area, and remember, we’re talking about rustic summer camps that take in kids for a simple program of sports, crafts, and devotions; not five-star conference centers!

February 17, 2011

Pray for the Illumination of the Spirit

This week we’re catching up with devotional bloggers featured here last summer.  Dwight Wagner blogs at Strengthened by Grace and presented this quotation today:

“We must pray daily for the teaching of the Holy Spirit, if we would make progress in the knowledge of divine things. Without Him, the mightiest intellect and the strongest reasoning powers will carry us but a little way. In reading the Bible and hearing sermons, everything depends on the spirit in which we read and hear. A humble, teachable, child-like frame of mind is the grand secret of success. Happy is he who often says with David, “Teach me Your statutes.” (Psalm 119:64.) Such an one will understand as well as hear.”–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels.

This ties in so well with a book I’m currently reading for the second time, The Forgotten God by Francis Chan.  This follow up book to Crazy Love presents a theology of the Holy Spirit.

A lot of people want to talk about supernatural things like miracles, healing or prophecy.  But focusing inordinately on these things quickly becomes misguided.  God calls us to pursue Him, not what he might do for us or even in our midst.  Scripture emphasizes that we should desire fruit, that we should concern ourselves with becoming more like His Son.  God wants us to seek to listen to His Spirit and to obey.  The point of it all was never the miracles in and of themselves.  Those came when they were unexpected, when people were faithful and focused on serving and loving others. (p. 88)


February 15, 2011

Letting God Be Your Mentor

Back in August we connected with Tim Burt, a devotional blogger and associate pastor in Minnesota.  Today we decided to see what Tim’s been up to lately, and discovered this piece at Fresh Manna, which he titled, Mentored By God.


One definition for mentored is “to be instructed by a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.” Did you know that people pay good money to be mentored? They really do. Many times when people want to experience higher levels of achievement and success, they hire personal trainers or mentors that observe their thinking and behavior so they can make suggestions for improvement. Did you know that the greatest mentor of all time wants to be your mentor… for free?

1 Th 5:23 says, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through…” Did you catch the words “May God Himself… sanctify you…” The word sanctify means to be set apart. Set apart from what? He want us do be set apart from or to think and act differently from how those that don’t know how the Lord would have us think and act. He wants us set apart in how we approach life, in how we think through life, and in how we speak, act, and walk out our day-to-day life.

How are we going to do that? The verse says that God Himself will help us accomplish that. It begins with holding Him in our heart with reverence as Almighty God. At the same time, He wants to be a Father to us. That is His heart behind the words, “May God Himself…” It’s pretty amazing that the God of the universe Himself wants to be a Father to us. In being a Father, He desires to mentor us.

It’s interesting—many times I’ve had people ask me if I would be a mentor to them. I do not have the resource of time available to mentor people one-on-one. I’ve told them if they want to be mentored by me, they will simply have to be a part of what I am doing and become a part of my leadership team. My leadership is more exposed to my thinking and doing than most and they can learn from listening and observing. (And of course they can read Fresh Manna!) I am just a man and just one man. I can only accomplish so much. That’s the very reason we want to be mentored by God. He is not limited. He is really the only one that is absolutely capable of steering each and every individual into right thinking and the plan for their life. Knowing this then—knowing that the God of the universe loves you so much that He wants to set you apart and mentor you personally—is truly a mind boggling statement of just how awesome and loving the Lord is. The way He will mentor you is through His Holy Spirit whom lives within every person who has accepted Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit will take the Word of God and bring understanding to it so that we can understand God’s ways. This is a very special and supernatural thing. It is what allows you to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the God of the universe.

Now as today’s Fresh Manna verse continues, it says, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through…” What does that mean, “…through and through?”

God wants to teach you how to think through each decision in your life from His perspective. How do we do that? That could lead to volumes of writing. The simplest way to hear from God’s Holy Spirit in a practical ongoing way is for you to ask yourself, “What would Jesus think and do?” And then, in putting it to work in your life, remember that the rudder for all you do in Christ comes from Galatians 5:6 “…faith working through love.” You have to have faith that God is mentoring you and HE WILL help you think through every situation. But, you also have to make sure your heart is guided by the spirit of God’s love. God’s love is filled with forgiveness, mercy, and grace toward you and that must be how you think it through toward others. This is the rudder to good decisions and to being mentored through and through by God Himself.

Psalm 143:10 (NLT) “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing.“

In His Love,
Pastor Tim Burt