Christianity 201

November 30, 2018

Delighting in the Way God Works

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Back in May we introduced you to the writing of Melody who has been writing devotions at In Pleasant Places for almost six years. Her blog started from correspondence she was sharing with a friend, as she explained in her story. To read today’s article at her blog, click the title below.

To See More of Our God – Psalm 119:16

“I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.”

Psalm 119:16

This verse compelled a specific prayer of my heart: Lord, may I delight in Your statutes.

Not just obeying them because I know I’m supposed to – although we are to exercise discipline to obey even when we don’t “feel” like it – but seeking to delight in them.

Including the very difficult ones. Those we don’t understand. Those that seem impossible. Those that quite honestly can hurt to follow.

Like forgiving someone who appears unapologetic and unrepentant, with no indication of turning. Who has cut so deeply. May I delight to forgive, even under these circumstances.

Delight not because it is fun or easy, and not because of pride or self-righteousness (which would be sin on my part) – but because it shows me more of the Lord.

Delight because as I feel the deep hurt and wrestle with the decision to forgive, to love, I gain a deeper understanding of my God’s character.

Because this is who our God is. And isn’t that amazing? This is what the Living God, Creator and Ruler of all things – this is what He does. This is what He chooses.

He forgives. He loves. Even at great personal cost. He went through such pain, such suffering, to forgive sinners who had rejected Him and given Him no reason to show mercy. Let alone to show favor, to offer to bring them in as beloved children.

When I am hurt and offended, when I am faced with the command to forgive, to bless, to show compassion, I gain a glimpse of my Savior. Of His choice. Of His greatness and the greatness of His love. The power of it to overcome any desire for retaliation. That He would desire forgiveness and restoration, that He would choose patience in order to give so many the choice to reconcile instead of delivering the justice so rightfully due to them – so rightfully due to me (2 Peter 3:9, 15).

What great, powerful love. What astounding character. What strength to choose forgiveness when it demands so much. This is our God. This is the Savior by whose name we are called. The name above all names, because of what He accomplished on the cross.

We grasp that more deeply when we walk through a situation that brings us even an inkling of His suffering.

This is the delight I see within the statutes of our God, within the commands of how we are to walk through this life…it isn’t just some list of rules. He didn’t outline them in order to make our life difficult. It is insight into who our God is. There is purpose in each command, and it is all for our good and to display His goodness and glory and salvation to the world. So they will see Him.

O Lord, may I delight in Your statutes, delight to follow them, because they show me more of who You are. More of Your character, which is holy, righteous, blameless, faithful, pure, steadfast, and filled with powerful love. May I delight to see You here, and delight to know more deeply how holy and wonderful You are as I follow in Your footsteps. Requiring Your strength to walk in Your ways, because they are so far above my broken, fallen capabilities. Highlighting the great beauty of You and stirring renewed wonder at how You are molding me into Your character, to reflect that beauty in this vessel of clay. So may I delight. Delight to see You. Delight to walk with You in the light, experiencing You in the process, realizing the choices Jesus made as one who was fully human and fully God, and delight to know You more as a result.

September 19, 2017

Surviving a Valley Experience

by Russell Young

Every believer will be faced with a valley experience at some point. That is, something will come into his or her life that seems devastating and destructive. It might be the loss of a loved one, financial damage, health issues, the pain of a destroyed relationship, the hurt of perceived betrayal, etc. For those living in Florida or Texas, or those suffering through the destructive earthquake of southern Mexico the valley experience is very evident.  Bad things happen and those engulfed in them must find a way through if they are to once more find hope on the other side.

When bad things happen, a person needs to clearly understand what victory looks like to him or her since without it only defeat remains. Their appreciation of victory provides objectivity and the goal that offers hope and recovery. It provides direction for obtaining the mountaintop and the ability to confidently proceed with life.

Although overcoming disaster may look different and feel different for each person, it is singular and consistent for all believers.  Victory while in this life is the attainment of God’s eternal kingdom. Jesus taught, “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (Jn 12:25 NIV) This life and the glories of this world are not to be valued. There are lessons to be learned from all “misfortunes.” For believers, the lesson may be a reminder to rely on God and to live according to his priorities and purposes. The “consistent and singular” need of the Christ follower is to focus and remain focused on him.

Paul put difficulties into an eternal perspective. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor 4:17─18, Italics added.)

Victory must not be accepted as triumph over a momentary event but seen from an eternal perspective with the finding a place in God’s kingdom. There is no doubt that loss brings hurt and causes pain, even great pain and help and compassion needs to be shown the suffering. No one enjoys such experiences but it is through them that faith is tested and proven.  “…you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Pet 1:6─7 NIV) The faith of all will be tested. God made the Israelites wander for forty years to test their hearts (Deut 8:2), and Christ was tested in the desert for forty days. Those who confess Christ should not accept that they will be provided a life free of tribulation, turmoil, and pain. Trials are promised to all believers.

Whether or not release can be found from the effects of the devastations of life depends entirely on a person’s perspective. Those who do not have an eternal hope will feel great loss; those who know the Lord can find their way up to the mountaintop by fixing their sight on the only one who can meet their eternal need. They can look past their circumstance and onward to a better hope. Valleys are necessary for spiritual growth. They test our mettle and either engender and prove faith or reveal its weakness. Contrary to the teaching of many, the believer must be made into an “offering acceptable to God” (Rom 15:16 NIV) and “conformed to the likeness of his Son.” (Rom 8:29 NIV) When the believer’s perspective becomes focused on the issues and pleasures of this life, it must be adjusted. That is not to say that all people who are walking in the valley need an adjustment.  Sometimes the valley experience becomes ours due to proximity of those around us…family members, neighbors, communities, etc. Few live in isolation.

Concerning God’s intercession Paul wrote, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV) This understanding can provide great encouragement for those who are suffering. Regardless of the believer’s circumstance he or she can accept that through humility and obedience all will be well.

Here and now issues must not be permitted to cast the Lord aside. Things arise that require immediate effort and resources. Although the tendency might be for the troubled one to address the problem through his or her own resources without the Lord’s leading a wrong path might be taken and his purpose thwarted. In 2 Corinthians 11:23─27 Paul has listed many of his trials; however, he never gave in to defeat. He did not lose himself in their midst but set his sight on the bigger picture.

Whatever the struggles of life seem to be, they are temporal and must be seen as temporal. As bad as they are if the Lord leads they will eventually pass allowing the sun to shine once again and peace to be restored. The believer is to keep his or her eye set on Christ and on honoring him. That is faith in practice. He must be honored even in the midst of trials. Earthly possessions, health, and relationships may be lost never to be regained; but God is in control and will always remain sovereign over all things.

Paul suffered through despair but found assurance of victory through Christ.  “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us…” (2 Cor 1: 8-10 NIV)  Surviving a valley experience requires eyes set on God and a heart set on honoring him.

July 27, 2016

How God Brings About What He Intends

Today’s thoughts were found at ReKnew, the blog of Minnesota pastor and author Greg Boyd, who we’ve quoted here and mentioned several times before. Greg is one of my frequent sermon downloads, and you can check out recent teaching at Woodland Hills Church. Click the title below to read this at source.

How God Changes the World

God’s hopes for us began before the creation of the world. And what God intended from the beginning gives us insight into how God works to bring about what he intends. In the first chapter of Ephesians, Paul teaches that God “chose us in [Christ] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Eph 1:4). In Christ, Paul continues, God “predestined us for adoption to sonship…to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves”—which, of course, is Christ (vs. 5-6). God made known to us “the mystery of his will” which he purposed in Christ (and that was hidden from the demonic realm throughout the ages, vss. 8-9).

greg boydThis plan was put into effect at the right time, and its goal was to “bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (vs. 10). Paul then says again that we who are in Christ were “predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (vs. 11). And all of this, Paul says, was “to the praise of his glorious grace” (vs. 6).

What a teaching! The Bible teaches that God created humanity to rule with Christ on the earth so that we might participate with God in God’s intentions for the world (Gen. 1:26-28; 2 Tim.2:12; Rev. 5:10, 22:5). How God plans to accomplish this has always been to put his perfect love and grace on display by having humanity united in Christ and the whole of creation united under Christ. And when humanity co-rules with Christ the way God always intended, the whole of humanity, and the whole of creation, shall magnificently shine as the dome in which God is King—the Kingdom of God. This is the way that God changes the world.

Paul is making the same basic point when he says that all things were created by Christ and for Christ. Christ was always intended to be the head of humanity, his “body,” and the means by which God united the cosmos together (Col. 1:15 -20). This is also why Paul taught that the grace that saves us was “given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time” (2 Tim. 1.9) and why Jesus said that the glory he gives to us was given him “before the foundation of the world” (Jn 17:24).

God’s hopes of incorporating us in Christ and loving us with the same love he has for Christ was no afterthought on God’s part. The incarnation was not merely a response to our fallen state. This dream of uniting God and humans was there from before the foundation of the world. This dream for the world is the way that God changes the world. In the midst of all kinds of agendas to make the world a better place, Jesus prayed for what seems like the most unusual way of bringing about change. Take a moment to meditate on Jesus’ words:

“My prayer is not for them [the disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:20-26)

What a beautiful hope! What a beautiful way to change the world.

October 3, 2013

God Lets Us In On His Plans and Purposes

Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets. Amos 3:7 (NIV)

The Reformation Study Bible says that God acts, God reveals himself and God interprets his actions through the prophets. In the first such instance,

God revealed His plans for Sodom and Gomorrah to Abraham, the first “prophet” so designated in Scripture (Gen 18:17, 20:7) Moses, the supreme Old Testament prophet, was called “the servant of the Lord” (Deut. 34:5). Subsequent prophets were characterized by the similar phrase, “my servants the prophets”

On this passage, Matthew Henry writes:

The secret of God is with them [the prophets]; it is in some sense with all the righteous (Prov. 3:32), with all that fear God (Ps. 25:14), but in a peculiar manner with the prophets, to whom the Spirit of prophecy is a Spirit of revelation. It would have put honour enough upon prophets if it had been only said that sometimes God is pleased to reveal to his prophets what he designs to do, but it speaks something very great to say that he does nothing but what he reveals to them, as if they were the men of his counsel. Shall I hide from Abraham, who is a prophet, the thing which I do? Gen. 18:17. God will therefore be sure to reckon with those that put contempt on the prophets, whom he puts this honour upon.

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  John 15:15 (NIV)

There is a connection between this New Covenant verse and the Old Covenant verse quoted from Amos. Although we refer to Jesus’ closest followers as “The Twelve,” “disciples,” or even “apostles,” there is a real sense in which we could describe them as “prophets,” since they received considerable revelation of God Himself, even if we don’t speak of ‘the prophet Matthew,’ or ‘the prophet Nathaniel.’

However, at the same time, this verse breaks the connection between “prophets” and “servants,” because in this New Covenant, the relationship between God the Son and The Twelve is going to be more relational, hence “friends.” Again, the Reformation Study Bible states,

No longer do I call you servants There is no previous record of Jesus Christ calling the disciples “servants,” except possibly 12:26; yet Jesus had a right to do this, as He had the right to be called “Lord” (13:13). “Friend” suggests a close relation, and the language of brotherhood is closer still (Heb. 2:10, 11).

all . . . I have made known Christ did not have a higher revelation reserved for an inner group; He revealed Himself to the disciples unstintingly.

If the U.S. President wants to let people know about some plan or scheme or program the government is initiating, he can choose to make it known through his Press Secretary. We often see this man standing in the Press Briefing Room, and clearly he is speaking for the President. However, he is doing this as a servant.

But imagine if you knew the President as a friend. He might let you in on the same information, but he would be confiding in you as a friend. Then, when the information can be released, you would share it with your friends as you heard it, not under orders, or under a requirement to do so, but out of the overflow of your heart from what the head of state shared with you.

From the first days of creation, God asked Adam to name the animals, making him a partner in creation. In the New Testament we are called friends of God.

Click the link to read a previous post here containing the video for the song Friend of God.

May 11, 2013

Just Deserts

This is from the popular website Crosswalk.com where it appeared recently under the title Comeuppance: A Study in Stewardship.

Micah 2:1-5 (New International Version)
Man’s Plans and God’s
1 Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning’s light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it. 2 They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them. They defraud a man of his home, a fellowman of his inheritance. 3 Therefore, the LORD says: “I am planning disaster against this people, from which you cannot save yourselves. You will no longer walk proudly, for it will be a time of calamity. 4 In that day men will ridicule you; they will taunt you with this mournful song: ‘We are utterly ruined; my people’s possession is divided up. He takes it from me! He assigns our fields to traitors.’ ” 5 Therefore you will have no one in the assembly of the LORD to divide the land by lot.

God’s plans will override those of the swindlers Micah describes. And that sounds only fair, doesn’t it? In fact, we get a certain sense of satisfaction when we read about the just deserts coming to these terrible individuals. It goes without saying that we can identify with the swindled, or at least that we stand with them in our righteous disgust over the injustice they are experiencing.

Pastor and author Bill Hybels points out in a sermon that each of us is born with closed fingers. He goes on to describe ways in which that grasping response stays with us until finally, in death, we relax our grip. That sounds pretty consistent with Micah’s oppressors. But Hybels is talking about you and me.

When we get to the Gospels, we see Jesus responding to peoples’ greed and oppression in a different manner than the judgment described in Micah 2:1–5. Hybels envisions a scene between Jesus and a certain swindler named Zacchaeus.

Luke 19:1-10 (New International Version)

Zacchaeus the Tax Collector
1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. 5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’ ” 8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

Zacchaeus was a clutcher… until he had dinner with Jesus…

Here is what I imagine Jesus might have said over dinner: “Hey, Zacchaeus. What your heart yearns for will never be satisfied by that which you are hanging on to so tightly. Your heart was meant to be in deep communion with God and in loving community with other people in the Family of God. You have walked away from that kind of communion and are settling for something far less. You are settling for trying to meet the needs of your heart by clutching stuff.”

I think Jesus might have gone on, “You know what I am going to do for you? In the not too distant future, I am going to open up my hands and they are going to receive steel spikes so that guys like you with hands like yours can be changed. I am going to be so generous to you, Zacchaeus. I am going to take your sin and greed and lack of love and I am going to pay for it on the cross and present salvation to you as a gift.

“And I won’t stop there. I am going to adopt you into my family. I am going to answer your prayers. I am going to give you strength through the storms of life. And I am going to give you heaven on top of all.”

At a certain point in the conversation, I think the enormity of Jesus’ generosity melted Zacchaeus and something changed on the inside. Zacchaeus emerges with his voice trembling with excitement and newfound conviction …

When your heart gets transformed by generous grace, your hands have a way of opening up.

Maybe it isn’t so hard after all to see ourselves on the negative side of justice, at least some of the time. None of us looks forward to comeuppance, but “Come to me, … and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28) sounds inviting.

Think About It

•What weighs most heavily on you?

•Are you ready to let it go?

•Are you willing, like Zacchaeus, to allow your life to be transformed?

Pray About It

Lord, transform my life by your power and presence. Help me to fully realize the extent of Jesus’ gifts to me.


Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of the Christian blogosphere. An individual article may be posted even if some or all readers might not agree with other things posted at the same blog, and two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading. You might even decide to make some of these a daily habit.

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