Christianity 201

December 29, 2018

Thunder! Lightning! Shaking!

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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This is our fourth time featuring the writing of David Kitz at I Love the Psalms. David has served as an ordained minister with the Foursquare Gospel Church of Canada. For several years now, he has toured across Canada and into the United States with a variety of one man plays for both children and adults. For further information visit: http://www.davidkitz.ca/

LORD of the Storm

Reading: Psalm 29
A psalm of David.
Ascribe to the LORD, you heavenly beings,
ascribe to the L
ORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
worship the L
ORD in the splendor of his holiness.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders,
the L
ORD thunders over the mighty waters.
The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic.
The voice of the L
ORD breaks the cedars;
the L
ORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon leap like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the LORD strikes with flashes of lightning.
The voice of the L
ORD shakes the desert;
the L
ORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the L
ORD twists the oaks and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King forever.
The L
ORD gives strength to his people; the LORD
blesses his people with peace (NIV).

Reflection
In Psalm 29 we see and hear the LORD, the God of the storm. There is an evocative poetic style to this psalm that helps the reader to picture the fury of the approaching tempest. But we not only see the flashes of lightning and the power of the wind, we also hear the booming thunder as it shakes the desert. The voice of the LORD twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

Nine times the psalmist repeats the phrase the voice of the LORD. In this psalm, the voice of the LORD is a very active force. The voice of the LORD thunders, breaks, strikes, shakes, twists and strips. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic.

The voice of the LORD spoke the world into existence, set the planets in their orbits, and scattered the starry hosts across the heavens. A thunderstorm sweeping down from Lebanon is as nothing to Him.

But the LORD of the storm is also the LORD of peace. One day on the Sea of Galilee Jesus our Lord brought peace to the storm.

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm (Mark 4:37-39).

Response: You are the LORD of the storm and the LORD of peace. When storms arise in my life help me to trust you completely. Lord Jesus, grant me peace in the midst of the storm. Amen.

Your Turn: Jesus says to us, Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith? (Mark 4:40). Are you hearing him?

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.

March 19, 2016

Breath of God

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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The writers of scripture constantly search for imagery and metaphors to help us understand our God, and yet I suspect none of these comes even remotely close to a complete picture of who God is. Today we pay a return visit to Leon Dean at the blog Come See A Man. Click the title below to read at source.

God’s breath: how powerful?

A few days ago, I was chatting with some buddies about the Bible and we came upon the topic of the breath of God. I walked away from that conversation with a deeper appreciation of the sheer power of God’s breath. God is omnipotent. We are not. I can’t do much with my breath than spread a few dandelion seeds around my lawn.

God can do much more with His breath. Let’s look at a few examples from the Bible:

1. With His breath, God created man.

Gen. 2:7 – “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

Adam was formed out of the dust of the ground, but he was just a lifeless piece of earth until God breathed into him. When God breathed into him, Adam became a living soul. Adam became a human, the most complicated and sophisticated of all God’s creatures.

2. With His breath, God wrote the Bible.

2 Timothy 3:16 – “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,”

Physically, it seems that Bible was written by more than 40 different authors over a period of more than 1,500 years. But in reality, the Bible was written by God exhaling. Because God breathed out the Bible, there are deeper spiritual realities behind the physical words on its pages.

3. With His breath, God destroys His enemies.

The Bible contains numerous cases of God defeating His enemies simply by breathing on them. For example, Job 4:9 speaks of the consequences for those who plow iniquity: “By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of his anger they are consumed.”

The most poignant example of victory by breath, however, is still to come. 2 Thessalonians 2:8 describes the fate of the man of lawlessness (Antichrist): “Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth… Antichrist will fight with all his might and all his armies, but he will be slain by nothing more than a gentle puff from the the Lord’s mouth. Kind of anticlimactic.

4. With His breath, God gave us the Holy Spirit.

John 20:22 – “And when He had said this, He breathed into them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Of all the things that God has done and will do with His breath, this is my favorite. After the resurrection, when the Lord breathed on His disciples, they didn’t just smell the fish He was preparing for them. Through the Lord’s breath, the disciples actually received the Holy Spirit. Today, it is the same. The Lord desires to breathe the Holy Spirit into people. All we have to do is open up and receive.


Today we end with the classic hymn Breathe On Me Breath of God. After considering various versions we went with something traditional.

 

October 21, 2012

Finding Your Worship Moment

Psalm 19: 1

The heavens keep telling
    the wonders of God,
    and the skies declare
    what he has done. (CEV)

God’s glory is on tour in the skies,
    God-craft on exhibit across the horizon. (Message)

The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
    The skies display his craftsmanship. (NLT)

The verse above is fairly typical of what we think of when we think of God creative gifts expressed in the natural world. I often tell people to take time during the week to find their ‘worship moment;’ worship prompted not by the singing of a choir or a worship team, but by the majesty of creation. I’ll mention walks in the forest or looking at the sky on days when multiple layers of clouds are struck by an early morning or late day sun.

But God’s handiwork is evident — I would say more evident — in the micro as well as the macro. In the intricate fine tuning of the design elements in creation we see things we would otherwise miss. Some of the ones that apply to humans are more important to us…

NIV Psalm 139 : 3 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

…but there are intricacies in the plant and animal world we could never imagine unless someone pointed them out to us. 

Which brings us to this video. This is not a Christian video clip per se, but was intended for people who are interested in mathematics. Starting with the Fibonacci sequence, the numbers are translated into shapes that you should recognize.

I hope for some of you who know the Creator personally, this brief clip becomes a worship moment.

To continue your worship moment with the song Creation Calls by Brian Doerksen, click back to this post from one year ago.

Go deeper with Indescribable with Louis Giglio. The total run time is 27 minutes, this link takes you to part one.