Christianity 201

April 8, 2021

What’s Included In Romans 8’s “All Things?”

Regular Thursday contributor Clarke Dixon will appear tomorrow.

Today we’re again back at the website Forward >> Progress, the personal website of Michael Kelley who is an in-house curriculum develolper for LifeWay. Because he does what he does as his vocation, you know his daily devotionals are going to be good, and the one we selected for today is no exception. Click the header below to read this at his site, and then take a few minutes to look around at his books and other writings.

What “All Things” Should We Expect from God?

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Rom. 8:31-32).

If you read these verses in isolation, there are a number of questions that ought to come to mind. You might, for example, ask, “What things?” Paul the apostle has some pretty audacious promises to make here, and he does so in response to “these things.” So what things lay the background for his rhetorical claims here?

Well, the “these things” are the weighty truths Paul has written about in the first 7 chapters of Romans. They’re the truths of sinful humanity’s desperate situation, whether Jew or Greek, from Romans 1-3. They’re the truths of the necessity of faith from Romans 4 and the peace we can have with God from Romans 5. They’re the truths of our ongoing battle with sin and the only power to overcome it from Romans 6-7. And they’re the truths of the indwelling Spirit, the fatherhood of God, and our adoption as sons and daughters from Romans 8. Those are “these things.”

In response to the ocean of grace given to us in Christ, Paul asked the rhetorical question, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” For surely God is for us. How could we conclude otherwise in light of everything we’ve just read? Yes, God is most certainly for us. But not stopping there, Paul asked another rhetorical question:

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

And this is where we ought to ask a second question of our own. We know what “these things” are, but what about “all things?” What are the “all things” we can and should expect from God, in light of the fact that He has already given us so much?

This is a big question. It is, after all, a question that relates deeply to our expectations and our future. It has bearing on how equipped and fortified we will be through life. It matters to both what is happening right now and what will happen in the future. But it’s also a big question because, if we’re honest with ourselves, we know our tendency toward dissatisfaction.

Let’s face it – we are not a very content culture. If we order cheeseburger, we wonder if we could have a few strips of bacon. If we buy a new TV, we wonder just how big the screen could be and still fit on our wall. If we go on a vacation, we wonder what it would have been like if we had paid a little more for the hotel. We are always pushing for more. More food, more entertainment, more prosperity, more of everything.

So when we come to this promise in Romans 8 – that God will give us “all things”, there is at least a part of us that looks around at everything the world has to offer and rubs our hands together. Does “all things” mean money? Power? Prestige? Constant good health?

Interestingly, this is not the first time in Romans 8 a question like this comes up. If you look back just a few verses to one of the most widely quoted verses in the Bible, you find this:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28).

Here, again, we find ourselves drifting into the same thought pattern. God works all things together for our good. So what exactly does that mean? Does it mean we will face no troubles? No difficulties? No sickness? And the answer here is no. You only have to keep reading in Romans 8 to find that there will be all kinds of things that might threaten to separate us from God’s love – things like tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and sword (v. 35). Clearly, then, Paul doesn’t mean that we won’t ever suffer in this life.

Back, then, to our question – what are the “all things” we can expect from God?

The answer to both of these issues is in God’s intent for us. His intent is emphatically not that we never have difficulty, but instead that we become more and more like Jesus. This is what God is moving us toward in this life – to be be conformed to the image of His Son. It is not a life without difficulty; it is a life that looks more and more like Jesus. The “all things” God will give us are those things which equip and form us in this pursuit.

Maybe a little illustration here – when our family goes camping, we go to the back of the garage and get two plastic tubs and put them in the car. Over the years, we have accumulated everything we need in those tubs. There are lanterns, cooking supplies, matches, s’more sticks, bug spray, flashlights – you name it. And when we run out of one of those things on the trip, we make it a point to refresh the supply before we put the tubs away. That way, when it’s time to go, we don’t have to do another inventory – we know we have “all things” we need.

For camping.

We do not have “all things” we need to go another kind of vacation. Or the movies. Or to school or work. For the specific purpose of camping, though, we have everything we need.

Here is the answer to the question. God has outfitted us with “all things” we need for us to live His highest purpose for our lives, which is to become more like this. Of this we can be absolutely sure – no matter what else happens, He has given us all we need for this specific journey. For this specific purpose. In light of that, the new question is whether our purpose for our lives is the same as His.

March 18, 2021

Is Suffering Proof that God Has Cancelled Us, or that We Should Cancel God?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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by Clarke Dixon

Has God cancelled us? Should we cancel God?

There is a lot of talk about cancel culture in our day. The idea is that when someone does something offensive, their influence is stripped away. They fall from everyone’s radar. Perhaps we feel like we have disappeared off God’s radar. Perhaps there are some who think God should disappear from theirs.

When we experience pain and suffering, we may feel like God has cancelled us, that He has abandoned us.

Jesus encourages the disciples knowing they will soon feel abandoned. As related in John chapter 14, Jesus knows the disciples will be troubled when he tells them that he is going away, so he begins:

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.

John 14:1-3 (NRSV)

The disciples are going to feel at a loss, like Jesus has abandoned them. Jesus will go to the Father, but they will still be left behind in the same old dark world, where pain and suffering still happens. If anything, their suffering will increase as they begin to speak about Jesus to people who do not want their comfortable status quo disrupted. In some ways it may seem like nothing has changed at all.

But Jesus tells them to not be troubled, to trust in God, to trust in himself. He tells them that there are many rooms in the Father’s house. That particular verse has often been translated rather poorly. The ‘many rooms’ or ‘many mansions’ idea comes from the ancient practice of building extra ‘rooms’ onto a home to accommodate a growing family. When your son grew up and got married, he wouldn’t necessarily leave home, but rather he would get married and bring his wife home. ‘Rooms’ would be added onto the house to accommodate everyone. What Jesus is saying then, is that though you may feel I am abandoning you, we will be together again, in fact together with the Father. This is a growing family and there will be room for you and many others when you come home!

But that is not all:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

John 14:15-17 (NRSV)

Though Jesus is going away, the Spirit will be near, in fact very close, indwelling the disciples even, including we who become his disciples today. Taken together, God has prepared a home for us, and has made himself at home within us.

Now let us consider the promises of Jesus here. Jesus did not promise to protect the disciples from all difficulty or suffering. They were left in the dark world like everyone else, just as we live in a dark world today. In fact Jesus warns them that they will suffer more, because of being Christians:

As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations. When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.

Mark 13:9-11 (NRSV)

The early Christians were not bubble wrapped by God. Neither are we.

The laws of nature still impact Christians, like they do anyone else. When I dumped my motorcycle a few years back, I hit the ground as hard as the motorcycle and as hard as anyone who is not a Christian. If we, who are Christians, are not careful around a contagious virus, we will catch it like anyone else.

The promise of Jesus is not to shield us from all harm, though there are moments that does happen, but to walk with us through difficulty and suffering when it comes.

When we face trouble, it is not evidence that God has cancelled us or abandoned us, it is evidence that we are human beings living in a beautiful, but broken, world.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

John 14:27 (NRSV)

Jesus told the disciples to not let their hearts be troubled because he knew that would be the very thing that would happen. The light of the world was leaving them in a dark world. It should be no surprise that there will be times our hearts may be troubled, for we too live in that beautiful, yet often dark and difficult world.

Let us be encouraged by the promises of Jesus. We will be at home with God someday. God is very much at home with us, even within us, on the journey home.

When we experience pain and suffering, we may feel like cancelling God, like abandoning Christianity.

Can we cancel God? We can, and often do, take offence at the suffering in the world, and the seeming lack of answers to our prayers. The writers of the Psalms did not hold back a similar disgust in their prayers.

However, what we have already looked at is applicable here also. Jesus did not promise the perfect life, free from troubles. In fact, when we look at the testimony of Bible as a whole, we see that troubles happen for people from Genesis right through to Revelation. We should not be surprised when troubles happen for us now.

If we think that Jesus promised a trouble free life, then when a crisis hits we will either doubt ourselves, that we don’t have enough faith or enough holiness, or we will doubt God. We would be better to doubt our understanding of God’s promises, our theology of how things work.

God does not promise the perfect, trouble-free life, but his presence through a predictably troubled life.

God promises to be present to a people he should cancel! Far from cancelling us because of our sin, he embraces us in all our messiness, then he invites us to walk with him. We get to decide if we are going to walk with him. Or reject him.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:6 (NRSV)

Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, there can be no other way for reconciliation with God apart from God reconciling us to himself. We can never be holy enough on our own, we can never cover over our sins on our own. We need help. God gives that help. We can reject God, we can reject Jesus, we cannot cancel Him.

In our cancel culture, careers are trashed and friendships are ended as people are cancelled. We can think of all kinds of celebrities who are no longer getting big roles. We can try to cancel Jesus, but he is still Lord, he still has the greatest role. He is the way, the truth and the life. And he still offers to walk with us as a friend.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33 (NIV)


Clarke Dixon is a Canadian pastor whose sermon blogs are republished here each Thursday. The full video of the sermon can also be seen as part of this online worship expression”.

January 13, 2021

It is a Time to be Stirred

Again today we have a new writer for you! Alex Steward is the pastor of a rural ELCA congregation in the greater Detroit area. He blogs at A Mysterious Way: A Journey Through the Desert of Life. Click the header which follows to read this in full on his page and then he encourages you to browse the rest of the site for other articles.

He begins with a paragraph describing his family’s downsized Thanksgiving which happened to coincide with the Perseid Meteor shower. In the scripture passage, Jesus talks about the stars falling. That’s where we pick up the devotional…

God Wakes Us

24 “But in those days, following that distress,

“‘the sun will be darkened,
    and the moon will not give its light;
25 the stars will fall from the sky,
    and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’[a]

26 “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.

28 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it[b] is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert[c]! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

…Jesus sets out in the gospel lesson to provide an apocalyptic image of his return. He is preparing the disciples for what lays ahead of them. He begins with darkness and the stars falling from the sky. It is quite the image and one that often will generate fear in some people. However, this is not the purpose of apocalyptic literature. The purpose of apocalyptic literature is to inspire hope and not sow fear.

From Daniel in the Hebrew Scriptures to Revelation in the New Testament, we read of a promise and hope in the promise which points us to an unflappable God that reigns down with mercy and love.

It may be difficult to find the mercy and love that God promises to all of creation in the past eight months. From a pandemic that seems like a plague, to an election that divided many Americans,  to wars around the world, and civil unrest in our own country, it may seem as though we are living out the last days that much of the apocalyptic literature writes about. Yet, Jesus reminds us to keep awake because we do not know when the master of the house will return.

If we look at the history of Mark’s Gospel, we will find out it was the first gospel written and provided a basis for both Matthew’s and Luke’s gospel, thus the similarities. It was written thirty to forty years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Up to this time everything was shared through stories and word of mouth. It was written around the time of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and was most likely shaped around those events. Mark encouraged his community not to get involved in the revolt of the Jewish people against the Roman Empire.  This is a time of high tension for the followers of Jesus as they witness the destruction of a community in which they grew up. As Mark reflected on Jesus’ words, there is the thought which the day of the Lord must be near and surely not a generation will pass away before seeing that day.

And yet, here we are. Still waiting with an impregnated hope and living in the promise of Jesus Christ. As we enter this Advent season, we come bearing deep wounds of events that have been cancelled and lives turned upside down as we face struggles and challenges which the majority have never had to even think about. God’s creation continues to groan and limp forward as we await something greater to come.

As Christians, we are set apart by our faith, placing our hope in the promise that has echoed throughout the millennia. As we hear these words from Jesus, it is not a time to panic or to be set on edge. It is not a time to fear and bury our heads in the sand or snow depending upon where we live. It is not a time to fret.

It is a time to be stirred. A time to be fully present to the season and contemplate on what Jesus’ birth means not just for us personally, but for all of creation. A time to be alert to those wondrous sightings of God in our world, like viewing a sky full of stars and witnessing meteors streak through the vastness of that sky. This past week in one of my morning devotions was the refrain:

Wake us to your presence, Lord: that we might not waste our times of trial.

The trials we have faced for much of this past year have been debilitating. There are mornings that it is just enough to get out of bed and take a shower. We are in unfamiliar territory and it is easy to get tired when confronted with the unknown. Our bodies are so incredible in telling us what we need, and at times we also need to push ourselves to move forward. Our relationships are more important now than ever before, even if that means we cannot reach out and give someone a personal greeting face to face.

It is times such as this that God invites us into the mystery. A mystery that has shaped our faith for the last two millennia. A mystery of God incarnate. God has come down to us in the form of a newborn baby to lead the way and give us a sign of hope. A sign that shows up in those very same stars that Jesus says will come falling down. A star that shines so brightly announcing the birth of a new reign of God. A time that God in Jesus walks among creation and is one with us in humanity. A time that we are invited to participate in the mystery of Christ’s reign in creation.

As we are awakened and become alert, we learn about ourselves and the place of our community in the greater aspect of creation. The trials that we face today are only a step along the way to that glorious new creation that will come down to earth. We participate by meeting our friends and neighbors where they are. We stare up at the stars together and are reminded of how connected we truly are and how God’s creation is limitless. A creation that invites us to be an active part of the welcoming of a soon to be newborn baby.

I leave you with a prayer from that same devotional I mentioned earlier:

What would you teach us today in our trials, Lord? Make us receptive. Help us to see your victory and compassion rather than look for every answer to our troubles. So make us expectant, Lord, and patient. AMEN


  1. Mark 13:25 Isaiah 13:10; 34:4
  2. Mark 13:29 Or he
  3. Mark 13:33 Some manuscripts alert and pray

November 6, 2020

The Tribe from which Kings Would Come

Today we return to the website ThisIsToday.com which is based on the Today devotional booklets, a daily resource widely circulated in the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) in the U.S. and Canada. The writer featured this month is Michigan pastor Darrin Compagner. Use the titles in the two devotions we selected to go to the website and then use the left and right arrows to see the entire series on this theme.

Royal Promise

Scripture Reading — Genesis 17:1-8, 15-16

“I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.” — Genesis 17:6

Our story begins with humans called to reflect the rule and reign of God (Genesis 1:26-29). But people turned away, seeking to build their own kingdoms. This quickly turned to violence and oppression, and now humanity lives in rebellion rather than in harmony with God’s rule (Genesis 3-11).

Even so, God called Abraham and Sarah. He came into their lives to make covenant promises, to reestablish them as a people living in harmony with God as King.

Abraham and Sarah were an old and childless couple. The new start God made with them didn’t look very promising. But God makes promises in unpromising situations. God promised to be their God, to bless them, and to make them a blessing on the earth.

Then, tucked in with this packet of promises came a power­ful little seed. God said to Abraham, “Kings will come from you,” and God said about Sarah, “Kings of peoples will come from her.” What would that have been like—to hear God say that your descendants would be kings and queens on the earth?

God is in the business of reestablishing right kingship on the earth. His promises to Abra­ham and Sarah would, in time, bear good fruit for their descendants and for the whole earth.

Looking for a Leader

Scripture Reading — Genesis 49:8-12

10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,
    nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
    and the obedience of the nations shall be his. Genesis 49:10

Every human organization needs leadership. Schools, businesses, governments, and churches all seek competent and faithful leaders. What makes for a good leader? Strength? Vision? Good looks? Age? Character? Shrewdness?

Families need good leadership too, including the family of God’s people. Yesterday we considered how Abraham and Sarah were chosen, along with their descendants. Through them, God was reestablishing his rule of righteousness in a fallen world.

But the story that follows in Genesis shows a family that gradually descends into chaos. This is what happens in the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel), and his twelve sons: fear leads to unfaithfulness; deception leads to betrayal and broken trust; favoritism leads to envy and hatred. But God spares this family and keeps it together—because God keeps his promises. In our reading today from Genesis 49, Judah, one of Israel’s sons, is named as the main tribe from whom kings would come.

The New Testament also reveals later that Jesus is “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5). He is the true King whom God promised would come, and he will restore God’s rule of righteousness forever.

Prayer (Royal Promise)

Lord God, thank you for your promises. Fill us with your Spirit so that your kingdom may come and your will may be done in us this day. Amen.

Prayer (Looking for a Leader)

Almighty Father, we thank you for sending Jesus, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah,” to save us from chaos and destruction. By his rule, guide us to live for you and to follow your good ways each day of our lives. Amen.

August 14, 2020

Simply “Claiming” a Biblical Promise is Not Enough

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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“Simply claiming God’s promises without speaking to Him about the issue for which you are claiming them is more a reflection of your reliance on yourself … rather than your reliance on God.” – Biblical Diagnosis

Today we have two shorter devotions on the subject of prayer. Our first thoughts today are from our 7th visit to Biblical Diagnosis and are appropriate for the season we find ourselves in these days. The second is from one of our most-quoted sources here, Canadian pastor Kevin Rogers’ The Orphan Age.

Click the respective headers for each to read at their original site.

It is Not Enough to Claim God’s Promises

The notion of God’s protection has taken on a whole different dimension in light of the Coronavirus outbreak. It certainly goes without saying that we should all follow the practical tips our officials are giving us, and apply some common sanitary sense.

But with the Lord’s permission, I would like to give you, my dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, a very important advice:

DO NOT JUST CLAIM GOD’S PROMISES

Yes, you can comb through the Bible and find all the promises of God’s protection. You may recite them, claim them, appropriate them for you and your family. BUT THAT IS STILL NOT ENOUGH.

You need to TALK TO GOD. You need TO PRAY FOR PROTECTION. You need to COMMUNICATE WITH GOD. Simply claiming God’s promises without speaking to Him about the issue for which you are claiming them is more a reflection of your reliance on yourself (i.e. how strongly you can claim them, how high your faith may reach, or even how well you can memorize them), rather than your reliance on God.

How about speaking with Him about this problem in prayer? How about petitioning for you, your family, and for your neighbors? How about seeking insight from God as to why this is happening, rather than conjecturing with your own mind? 

It is easy to recite and to declare Bible verses boldly. But where is the humble Spirit to kneel at the Lord’s feet to intercede and to listen? 

Our Lord Jesus is a personal Lord. GOD our Father, is a GOD OF RELATIONSHIPS. Do not just attempt to take what is HIS (i.e. His promises). BE WITH HIM in PRAYER.

BE WITH HIM IN PRAYER MY DEAR FRIENDS.

And let His peace guide you. Let Him reveal you His secrets (if He so chooses). Let Him show you how you should navigate and how you should strengthen your brothers and sisters, and why not, even the unbelievers. For just as He did with the Apostle Paul, when He committed to him all the souls on the ship he was traveling on, who knows whether He will commit to you some souls for their protection?

Acts 27:23,24last night an angel of the God I [Paul] belong to and serve stood by me 24 and said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul. It is necessary for you to appear before Caesar. And indeed, God has graciously given you all those who are sailing with you.’

Run to the Father. PRAY. Talk to HIM. SEEK HIM.


John 17.11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.

15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.

Intercede on Behalf of Others

As we see in priestly descriptions, there is a place between God and man that priests inhabit. You may have heard of people being described as intercessors. That is a priestly description. To intercede is to appear on someone’s behalf to present their condition to the one God who can help them.

When we intercede, we recognize a person’s brokenness and appeal to God to come and be present in their life in a way that will break through the barriers shielding them from God’s grace and truth.

Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John chapter 17 is an intercession. He appeals to the Father based on his own relationship with the people he has loved.

A real intercessor is not a reclusive, power-hungry, spooky person claiming to have secret knowledge. Intercessors are deeply personable and considerate of people because they understand their priestly function. They may feel torn between the house of prayer and the outer courts. But they move from the people to the altar and back again.

We are tasked with being intercessors for the world around us.

 

March 4, 2020

Altars Powerfully Mark the Movements of God

Today we’re back once again highlighting Seedbed, and an excellent devotional by J. D. Walt. This one falls in the middle of a series title, “People who Say Such Things,” and I can’t encourage you strongly enough to click through and read several of these. You might even want to subscribe!  Click the title below to read this at source.

People Who Say Such Things: Show Us How to Build an Altar

Genesis 32:22-28 (NIV)

Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.”

2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. 3 Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.”

CONSIDER THIS

When is the last time you built an altar?

We will say goodbye to Jacob today but not before he completes the God cycle. What is the God cycle? Thanks for asking. It is the movement from promise to struggle to blessing to worship.  Remember, it was at Bethel where God first revealed himself to Jacob through a dream. As Jacob ran from the consequences of his broken life, God met him in a dream, revealing to him the Covenant Promise given Abraham and Isaac would also determine his destiny.

Yay God! Right? Yes, . . . but. Perhaps the biggest lesson of the Bible so far is how the promises of God necessarily mean struggle. Something in us wants to believe the presence and promises of God mean an easier path. It does not. God’s promises mean an infinitely and eternally better life, but they almost guarantee a harder path. The way of the Cross is the way of blessing and yet struggle.

After the promising dream in Bethel, the next twenty years delivered the struggle for Rachel, the struggle of Leah, the onerous yoke of Laban, and more than a dozen children who would define the legacy—and all of this under the impending cloud of doom from an angry older brother bent on revenge.

Remember, through it all . . . God. Promise. Struggle. Blessing. God blessed Jacob. God prospered Jacob. God favored Jacob. God delivered Jacob. Following the miraculous change of heart of older brother, Esau, and the happy reunion on the far side of the River Jabok, God instructed Jacob to complete the cycle. The time had come to worship.

Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.”

Promise. Struggle. Blessing. Worship. Certainly we worship our way through it all and yet there is something to be said for building a new altar from time to time to mark significant God moments and faith milestones. They call for something more than the usual.

2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. 3 Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.”

People who say such things show us what building an altar requires. First, it’s a community affair: “So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him.” Second, it means a personal and community call to repentance: “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you.” Third, it means a call to a renewed heart level consecration to God: “Purify yourselves.” Fourth, it calls for an outward sign of the inward reality: “Change your clothes.” Finally, it means sharing the testimony that it might become the shared witness of all: “Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.”

Altars powerfully mark the movements of God while extending them forward for all who will kneel. So let me ask you again, when is the last time you built an altar? It’s been too long for me. I see one coming on the horizon. You too?

 THE PRAYER

Father, I want to be a person who says such things. Help me become this kind of person in my deep heart and this kind of leader in my relationships with others. You don’t so much need this from me as you want it for me. Guide me in the who, what, where, when and how of building an altar to mark your movement in my life, to complete the cycle of promise, struggle, and blessing with worship. Come Holy Spirit, and train me be such a person of faith. I pray in Jesus name, Amen.

THE QUESTION

So when is the last time you built an altar? What was that like? How did it go? What might the altar on the horizon look like in your life, family, church, community?


Get J. D. Walt’s latest book, THE FIRST REAL CHRISTIAN, or his new church-wide Lenten Study, LISTEN TO HIM. Subscribe to get devotionals like this in your email inbox here.

June 24, 2019

If You Don’t Step Out, You Can’t Receive It

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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George Whitten is the editor of Worthy Devotions to which we’re paying a return visit today. Click the title to read at source, and then take a few minutes to browse the site.

Tread and Receive His Promises!

Joshua 1:3,7-8 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

As Joshua is about to enter the promised land, God reassures him and affirms the promise that was given to Moses, saying, “Wherever you place your feet – it shall be given to you!” God reveals His will, makes an amazing promise, then gives His servant a practical principle for working the promise out and claiming it, telling Joshua to literally step into His will. This is true for every believer. Our mandate is to know, understand and step out into the will of God. How can we know God’s will?”

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” [Romans 12:2]

But once we know His will we need to have the faith and courage to step out into it. If you don’t step out – you can’t receive it!

Who knows how many blessings we’ve passed on because we were too afraid to step out! So become like Joshua today! Step out in faith! The enemy of our souls is desiring to prevent us from stepping out – but the promise was given that we should “tread upon the power of the enemy” [Luke 10:18-20].

Step out in His will, claim the promise He has spoken to you– and it shall be given to you! Step out – press through – and know the promises are sure to follow – God has spoken, your part is to step out!


Go Deeper: Click the article title above and scroll down to see four linked pieces dealing with other aspects of the Joshua story.

June 20, 2019

A Compelling Future

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Are Heaven and Hell Consistent with a Good and Loving God?

by Clarke Dixon

Does Christianity have a compelling vision for the future? It would be odd if you were considering the compelling reasons to trust in Jesus, but then upon asking about the afterlife you are told that you enter an endless cycle of being reincarnated as a bird if you receive Christ, and as a worm, if not. That should strike you as utter nonsense. Now what about Christian teaching? The idea that upon death we either sprout wings and play a harp while sitting in the clouds, or burn in an eternal fire, is for many people, too much to believe. Is the Biblical Christian vision for the future consistent with a good and loving God? Or is it nonsensical? When we hear what the Bible teaches about eternal destination, do we say ‘of course that is what a good God would do”?

Let us look first, to the Book of Revelation;

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

Here we have, not a hope of going up into heaven when I die, to spend eternity there, but something much grander. This is a vision of God’s re-creation of all creation. All of creation was negatively impacted by the sin of humanity (see Romans 8:18-23). All of creation will be positively impacted by God’s rescue of humanity.

2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Here we are told of a city, not in the sense of roads and buildings, but in the sense of people. The holy city is the “bride,” that is, the people of God. Just as people are the focus in the creation account of Genesis, people are the focus of the re-creation account. God created humanity, the only creature we are told he created in his image, for a special relationship. That relationship is what is truly important.

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;

There is much in the Bible about separation from God being a huge problem for humanity. It begins with Genesis chapter three and the banishment of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. It becomes apparent at Mount Sinai when the people cannot approach the mountain on which God’s presence was made palpable. It is emphasized in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, with the establishment of both the tabernacle and priesthood. While God was willing to dwell among his people, as symbolized through the pitching of his “tent” among them, God needed to remain separated from the people, for their sake. An unholy people cannot approach a holy God without becoming holy first. The sacrificial rigmarole of the priesthood was a constant reminder of separation from God and the need for atonement. The priesthood and the sacrifices pointed forward to something greater; God the Son making people holy through his sacrifice. In Christ the future of God’s people is wrapped up with being at home with God. There is no more separation from God.

The problems of this world, which separation from God creates, also are dealt with;

4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”  Revelation 21:1-4 (NRSV)

The consequence of sin and separation from God is death. The consequence of being reconciled to God is eternal life. In Christ death is no longer part of the human condition. However the consequence of God’s grace is not just eternal life, but as we have already seen, eternal life with God.

In sum, the Biblical vision of the future is one of transformation, for all creation, for our bodies, and for our very selves. The transformation within us begins now through the Holy Spirit. The fact that the Christian is to look to God to fix everything in the future is compelling. The fact that the Christian need not wait for Christ’s return to fix everything in us is also compelling. The hope of meaningful change, not into brilliant cloud-sitting harpists, but into good people who dwell with a good God in a good creation, is consistent with a good and loving God.

However, is the future of those who reject God consistent with a good and loving God? The idea of being on fire forever does not seem consistent to many of us. In answering this we must first appreciate that the people of the Bible often speak in poetic ways, just as we do today. We sometimes pick apart the Bible as if we are in math class working out equations. Let us remember our English literature lessons and have an appreciation for the poetic and literary nuances which often escape the math whizzes. We will not dig into this too deeply, but it is best to take the language about hell, with the everlasting fire and torment, as poetic. The least poetic, the most matter-of-fact, the most precise and concise description of hell we have in the Bible is this;

9 These will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 2 Thessalonians 1:9 (NRSV)

What is hell? It is separation from God. What is it like to be separated from God? Thankfully, no one alive can truly tell, for to be alive at all is to experience a measure of God’s grace. However, we do well to remember that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23 NRSV). As you read through the Bible, watch out for how often salvation is spoken of as a matter of eternal life versus death. This is consistent with the Genesis account and the promise that death would occur if the forbidden fruit were eaten. What we can say with certainty is that to experience hell is to experience everlasting separation from God.

If hell is separation from God, then is separation from God consistent with a good and loving God? Consider first, the holiness and justice of God. That unholy people cannot dwell with a holy God is made clear in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers; at Mount Sinai, and through the establishment of the tabernacle and priesthood. God did not teach about His holiness and our sinfulness in the Old Testament then come to us in the New Testament and say “it doesn’t matter anymore.” It does matter, but God offers to make us holy in Christ and through his Holy Spirit. If you reject that offer of being made holy, then separation from God is a very natural consequence. The experience of death is a natural consequence of refusing the offer of eternal life. Therefore, the future of those who reject God is consistent with a good and loving God who respects the wishes of those who want nothing to do with him. Of course that is what a good God would do.

The Bible presents a compelling and beautiful vision for the future of those who receive Christ and accept God’s offer of relationship. While we might not use the word beautiful, the Bible provides a vision of the future of those who do not want a relationship with God that is consistent with His goodness and love. The consistency of the Christian vision of the future is yet another aspect of Christianity that is compelling.


This post is part of a series called “Compelling” which begins here. The full sermon can be heard on the podcast which is found here.

March 19, 2019

Your Disappointment with God Doesn’t Offend Him

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Matthew 6:5*

Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires; God will satisfy them fully! (GNT)

God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,[a]
    for they will be satisfied. (NLT)

How enriched you are when you crave righteousness![a] For you will be surrounded with fruitfulness (TPT)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for God’s approval. They will be satisfied. (NOG)

You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat. (MSG)

We return today for another visit with Amy Simpson, author of Troubled Minds and Anxious. Amy devotes her ministry to the study of mental health issues.  Her new book is Blessed are the Unsatisfied: Finding Freedom in an Imperfect World (InterVarsity) and you can still read chapter one from the book for free at this link. (Look around her blog for chapters two and three as well!) To read today’s post there, along with some reader’s comments, click the title below.

Your Disappointment Doesn’t Scare God

At some point, as it has for many of us, life probably has confronted you with the devastating truth that it was not going to live up to your visions and dreams. You had plans for the way your daily life would look, expectations of what your church life would be, and assumptions about the trajectory your family’s life would follow. And in some way—or perhaps many ways, big and small—your life is not what you imagined it would be. It’s not what you hoped for and still long for.

Me neither. Until my mother’s schizophrenia finally reached a point where my family could no longer ignore or hide it, I thought people who follow Christ were supposed to be deeply and joyfully satisfied, no longer needing anything but a connection with God’s presence in this life. I thought Christians would go through “hard times” but without the kind of lament or loss that plagues other people.

Boy, was I wrong. In a family altered by severe mental illness, not a single day is untouched by lament, loss, and disappointment. My mother’s schizophrenia didn’t change my satisfying life into an unsatisfying one; it brought me to a place of honesty with myself and before God, where I could not overlook the fact that life was going to fall short no matter what.

You live with your own reasons for disappointment. Have you been forced into that place of honesty? Are you lonely there? Do you get the feeling that many Christians are terrified by the ways your life has not lived up to expectations? by your disappointment? your anger? Like me, perhaps you feel that many would like to keep their distance from you and your stubbornly unfixable circumstances.

You probably aren’t imagining things. Many people haven’t yet been placed in a position that irreparably undermines their illusions. And most of us put up at least a little resistance to evidence that contradicts what we really want to believe. Many people are desperate to believe life always makes sense, everything happens for a reason, and every cloud comes with a silver lining. If you acknowledge you live with not only gratitude and a gentleness born of suffering, but actual disappointment as well, you are likely to threaten someone’s carefully constructed convictions about what we should expect from life as followers of Christ.

So let me say this: It’s OK with me, and with God, if you admit you’re disappointed.

I say this on my own behalf because I’m right there with you. That’s why I wrote a book on this: for people like you and me.

There are two reasons I make this claim on behalf of God.

First, God wants your honesty more than all the good attitude, positive thinking, and false expressions of gratitude you could ever muster.

Second, an unsatisfied life is exactly what God wants for you—for all of us.

I don’t mean that God put you in difficult circumstances for fun or wants you to live in frustration. God hasn’t singled you out for a special “character-building experience” to keep you in line or punish you. God has allowed you, like everyone else, to live with both the heady delights of human freedom and the terrible consequences of using our freedom to reject and resist God. All suffering comes down to that painful bottom line.

What I do mean is that God wants more than this for you, just as you do. He wants better. He wants total and complete restoration of health, wholeness, and goodness in your life and in the world around you. He wants it so much, he bought it with his own life. And every moment in human history is bringing us closer to the time when his righteousness, justice, and powers of creation will usher us into the world we were meant for.

Every time we acknowledge just how desperately our lives and our world fall short of the one God created, we agree with God. Each time we get angry, or sad, or wrecked at seeing someone in pain, our hearts beat in time with God’s. And every single time we whisper a prayer of longing for the people and places we love to be whole and flourishing, we catch a glimpse of God’s grand vision for his creation.

There is grace in your disappointment. You have been given a tangible expression of the longing that lives in your heart and mine. And God wants you to stay with it.

In Matthew 5:1-12, Jesus teaches about the counter-intuitive ways God blesses people, in the passage known as The Beatitudes. In Verse 6 he says God blesses people with a promise of satisfaction, and it’s not the ones who have everything; it’s the people who live with a gnawing hunger and thirst for righteousness. In other words, Blessed Are the Unsatisfied.

This verse pronounces blessing on people who are longing not only to be righteous themselves, but to see God’s righteousness reign. They are longing for the better world we were all made for—a longing that will not be satisfied in this life.

Jesus did not trivialize our hunger and thirst any more than he trivialized the pain of mourning, purity of heart, or the work of peacemaking. He declared we are blessed if we stay hungry and thirsty—desperate for his kingdom, which is the only kingdom where we and all we love can possibly be restored.

God isn’t afraid of your disappointment. He wants you to live in awareness of the gap between your current circumstances and the ones he is leading you toward. But disappointment isn’t your only choice, and he doesn’t want to leave you there. He wants to turn your disappointment to anticipation.

Chronic disappointment is one path to dissatisfaction. Anticipation, on the other hand, comes from being temporarily unsatisfied. You can choose to be unsatisfied rather than dissatisfied.

What’s the difference?

Dissatisfied people believe God owes them something and isn’t delivering. Unsatisfied people know God has promised something he will deliver. Dissatisfied people learn to expect life to let them down. Unsatisfied people learn to live with long-term expectations. Dissatisfied people try to quell their desires with spiritual and emotional junk food, while unsatisfied people keep the coming feast in view and keep their appetites sharp for the real thing.

As I wrote in my book Blessed Are the Unsatisfied, “While dissatisfaction implies either rejection or frustrated pursuit of satisfaction, unsatisfaction is something more like acceptance combined with anticipation. It is acknowledgment of desire without the demand that it be satisfied. It is a kind of openness that doesn’t ask for closure. It is a kind of desire that can live with deferral. It is an embrace of the God-shaped vacuum in us and a commitment to stop trying to make it full. It is a healthy hunger that is content to wait for the feast.”,

God is not put off by your recognition that life is not what you want it to be. He is in it with you, more than you can know. The good news is, he is in the business of redemption, restoration, and re-creation. His good plans will far exceed your wishes. So live in grief for what you have lost, and live in anticipation for what will be. You are blessed.


*Translations: GNT = Good News Translation; TPT = The Passion Translation; NOG = Names of God Bible

November 1, 2018

Do It Again

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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A popular worship song this year, performed by both Elevation Worship and Bethel Worship is titled “Do it Again.”

I’ve seen You move, You move the mountains
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again
You made a way, where there was no way
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again.

Excerpted phrases from the lyrics include:

  • You have never failed me yet
  • Your promise still stands
  • Great is Your faithfulness
  • I know the night won’t last

It’s a confidence-inspiring song, trusting God to act as he has in times past. While everyone else is singing it, I am joining in as well, believing that God is fully able to move as he has in times past, and knowing that there are people standing nearby who long for God to move as he has before, either in a general sense of revival or restoration, or concerning a current need they are facing that day.

But life involves the valleys as well as the mountains.

What do you do if the Passover has already passed over, the Red Sea has already parted, and the son has already stood still? 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 Christian music 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 were there, but have a sense of that was then and this is now. You — quite correctly in one sense — don’t want to be coasting spiritually on that event that happened all those years ago, but desire to see God move as he did then.

Or maybe you didn’t miss or aren’t missing 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!

It’s also important to remember that God doesn’t always move the same way twice. Compare the two healings of two blind men; one involves Jesus simply speaking, the other involves a messy, muddy paste. One is a single-step process while the other is a two-step healing.

Asking God to “Do it again” may mean that God answers your prayer but in a wholly different manner.

Isaiah 43:18 (NLT) “But forget all that—
it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
19 For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

PW



Clarke Dixon returns next week.

October 26, 2018

God Did Not Abandon His People

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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This is our third visit with Peter Corak who writes devotionals at My Morning Meal. Click the title below to read this at source.

A Sanctuary

“Elvis has left the building.” That’s the phrase once used at the end of an Elvis Presley concert to indicate that the concert was done–like, really done . . . as in, “It’s over, folks. No more music, tonight.”  The people could disperse because the king of rock and roll wasn’t coming back for an encore.

And reading in Ezekiel this morning there’s a sense of similar finality. The glory had the left the building.

From the house to the threshold (10:4), then out from the threshold to the court (10:18), and finally up from the midst of the once holy city to a mountain to the east (11:22-23), the cloud that once filled the holy of holies, the brightness that once emitted the very presence of God, the glory of God, had, quite literally, left the building.

The glory had departed and the people were dispersed. They would be scattered among the nations. The land of their promised possession in ruin, they would be sent away for an extended “timeout” to consider their ways that they might repent of their rebellion. Heavy sigh!

But here’s the thing that I’m chewing on this morning, though the glory had departed, and though they would be the dispersed, yet God would not abandon His people. In fact, they would come to know His glory in a different way, a way not dependent upon a brick and mortar temple, but through a new type of relationship.

“Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: Though I removed them far off among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a while in the countries where they have gone.’”

(Ezekiel 11:16)

While in exile, while trying to make it in a foreign land, though far from the holy temple site which was no longer so holy because the glory was gone, the Lord GOD says, “I will be their sanctuary for a while.”

God, through Ezekiel, reaffirmed His promise: “I will gather you from the peoples . . . and give you the land of Israel” (11:17).

God then expanded the promise: I will put a new spirit in them. Give them a new heart, a heart of flesh ready, willing, and able to obey (11:19-20).

And until the full realization of the promise, God says I will be a sanctuary. I will be the temple and will tabernacle directly with them.

For a little while, though far from home, God’s people would come to know and be satisfied with God’s abiding presence as they waited until the day of their full and complete restoration and return to the land of promise.

The glory had left the building, but the God of glory had not turned His back to His people. He would draw near to His remnant in the place of their sojourning and would be their portion, their protection, and their power. All the while, drawing out their hearts toward Him in obedient worship.

We also are people in a foreign land waiting to go home and know afresh the glory of God in all its fullness. But until then, His abiding presence through His Holy Spirit is our sanctuary, the means by which we encounter the glory, though “in a mirror dimly” (1Cor. 13:12).

What’s more, He is making us part of that sanctuary. As, in Christ, we are “being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22).

Though often, as we look around us, it may seem the glory has left the building, yet within us, through redeemed and regenerated hearts, we can know God as a sanctuary. His glory abiding with us and in us.

By His grace. For His glory.

October 20, 2018

Seared Conscience | Revealed Truth

Having many years of archives to draw on, we get to know certain authors and offer their latest writing here on a regular basis; but I also like to keep adding new devotional writers as I discover them. Paula Maillet has been blogging at Along Emaus Road since 2005. Her pieces are shorter than some we include here, so I’ve posted two below which couldn’t be more different.

Or are they?

Don’t most of us wrestle with a sinful nature on one hand but also a sincere to see God reveal himself? The dichotomy of being in the world but not of the world? Realizing the weakness of being easily enticed into sinful thought patterns or actions, but at the same time longing for a greater revelation of God? (Maybe it’s just me!)

I placed these in the order I did so we could see our problem, and then its cure.

It Starts With Just Flirting With Sin

“This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord,
that you should no longer walk
as the rest off the Gentiles walk,
in the futility of their mind,
having their understanding darkened,
being alienated from the life of God
because of the ignorance that is in them,
because of the blindness of their heart;
who, being past feeling,
have given themselves over to lewdness,
to work all uncleanness with greediness.”
Ephesians 4:17-19

“who being past feeling…”

I once had a married friend who was beginning an affair with another man, and I spoke to her about it, asking how she could do such a thing. Her response was that she felt a lot of guilt the first time, but that afterwards she felt less and less guilt as time went on and now just didn’t feel guilty at all.

She was “past feeling.” Her conscience became seared. I saw it with my own eyes.

“…having their own conscience seared with a hot iron…”
1 Timothy 4:2

This was an example to me as I watched as she was given over to a debased mind.

“…and even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge,
God gave them over to a debased mind…”
Romans 1:28

Don’t think it can’t happen to you if you’re flirting with sin, any sin. Eventually it won’t hurt your conscience any more – when the Holy Spirit has left you. Don’t try it. Don’t flirt with it.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.”
Psalm 51:10-11

Take heed that you be not deceived and lured into something you would not have wanted to be attached to.

“Repent therefore and be converted,
that your sins may be blotted out,
so that times of REFRESHING
may come from the presence of the Lord…”
Acts 3:19


It’s All About Revelation

“…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of glory,
may give to you the spirit of wisdom
and REVELATION in the knowledge of Him,
the eyes of your understanding being ENLIGHTENED,
that you may know what is the hope of His calling,
what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints…”
Ephesians 1:17-18

It all comes by revelation, and NOT by human reasoning. If you’ve tried to understand God or to understand his Word and find you cannot, there is a reason for that. You are trying to do with your human resources what only the Spirit of God can do.

It’s all about REVELATION.

“Jesus answered and said to him,
‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah,
FOR FLESH AND BLOOD HAS NOT REVEALED THIS TO YOU
but my Father who is in heaven.’”
Matthew 16:17

ASK the Lord to REVEAL his Word to you. What you do not understand, set aside for now. Let him reveal himself and his Word to you as you read it (the Bible) prayerfully. He WILL reveal it, gradually more and more, as you sit before him. Put the time in. It’s worth it. It’s beyond worth it.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ASK of God,
who gives to all liberally and without reproach,
and it WILL be given to him.”
James 1:5

These are great promises in the Word of God. Receive them, meditate on them, believe them, and he will do the rest.

 

September 12, 2018

God Affirms, Fulfills and Activates His Promises

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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This is our fourth time with Steven C. Mills at the website, Steve’s Bible Meditations. Click the title below to read at source.

God’s YES Man – 2 Corinthians 1:19-22

“For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silvanus and Timothy—did not become ‘Yes and no’; on the contrary, a final ‘Yes’ has come in Him. For every one of God’s promises is ‘Yes’ in Him. Therefore, the ‘Amen’ is also spoken through Him by us for God’s glory. Now it is God who strengthens us, with you, in Christ and has anointed us. He has also sealed us and given us the Spirit as a down payment in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 1:19-22, HCSB).

Do you ever get down and depressed because you feel like you’ve got so much to handle and you just can’t do it all? And then you get all locked up inside and you don’t do anything. I call it “gridlock of the soul.” Why even try, you wonder.

It seems like life is saying “No!” to you, “No you can’t. No you can’t. No, no, no!”

When life keeps telling you “No,” there is something you can do to escape soul gridlock.

Open your Bible to 2 Corinthians 1:19-22 and read, re-read, and read these verses again until you realize that when life seems to be telling you “No,” God is telling you “Yes!”

And not just “Yes,” but an emphatic “Yes,” God’s big “YES!”

God’s “Yes” is a Big “YES!” because God doesn’t just acknowledge His promises, He affirms His promises!  God doesn’t just make promises! God fulfills His promises! And then God activates His promises in your life!

All God’s promises are “Yes” in Christ. Jesus Christ is God’s “Yes” Man!

God speaks His promises into existence and then applies them to our lives through the redemptive power of the cross of Christ and the sustaining power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

In other words, God’s affirmation is not a “Yes” that just says it’s okay or gives permission or indicates agreement. Rather, God’s “Yes” is a substantive “Yes!” It affirms and confirms the truth of His promises! And it enables and empowers us to live God’s truth!

When God says “Yes,” He does something about it. He acts on it. He not only gives His promise but He equips us to receive His promises and accomplish His will.

Now I’m not suggesting that in your life there won’t be times of trouble or that you won’t have times when you feel down and defeated. But, I am sure that if you are feeling down and defeated, the source of your depression is not God but Satan, the evil one.

So, you can be God’s “Yes” Man or “Yes” Woman! When you live your life according to God’s “Yes” not Satan’s “No.”

Don’t prolong disappointment and despondency with Satan’s deceitful and deceptive “No.”

Confront despair with God’s Big “Yes!”

God affirms all His promises to us through the atoning work of Jesus on the cross, once and for all, which is reinforced to us by the indwelling Holy Spirit, enabling us to accomplish God’s will in our daily lives.

I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13, NLT)

March 16, 2018

God’s Longing for Your Life Will be Fulfilled

I pray with great faith for you, because I’m fully convinced that the One who began this glorious work in you will faithfully continue the process of maturing you and will put his finishing touches to it until the unveiling of our Lord Jesus Christ! – Phil. 1:6 (TPT)

Currently, much attention has been focused on a new version of the New Testament, The Passion Bible. This has in turn resulted in interest in the author, Brian Simmons and his other writings. We decided to check out his book of 52 devotions, I Hear His Whisper.

The style of this devotional places the text in the first person as though God Himself is speaking. We’ve previously discussed that this style is used in classics some as Come Away my Beloved and more recent books such as 66 Love Letters. In order to emphasize this, I’ve set today’s devotional in italics.

“I am Building Your Life into a Masterpiece of Love”

Just as a builder lays a foundation for a large and strong house, I have laid a deep foundation in your life. This foundation is built upon the Rock of Truth. I have set up your walls and strengthened your being. You will be a stronghold of My presence, and I will display you to the world as My beautiful, artistic masterpiece!

Sacred blood I gave for you. Holy hands were opened to receive your nails. Beautiful feet that walked the streets of Jerusalem were pierced so that you would walk the streets of holiness with Me. I will bring My plans to pass. My longings for your life will be fulfilled. Do not look at the structure and say that it is inferior.

Look at My wisdom and say, “You do all things well.” Even now I am preparing the next steps of your journey with Me. I am building you into a house of glory that I might show My overcoming, conquering strength on your behalf. Slowly and carefully, as the Master Builder, I have constructed you and built you up. The superstructure is now seen, and I will finish what I have begun.

Many times you have asked me, “Why does this take so long?” I speak to you this day: believe in My wise plan for your life, look to Me and it will come to pass. My power and grace will rise up within you, and what now seems impossible will be lifted from you. Your limitations are invitations for My power to deliver you. I will never fail you or disappoint you. My promises are rainbows of hope that cover you. My declarations over your life are greater than your heartache. Your tears are liquid words that I read and understand. Never doubt My conquering love, for I have determined to build you up into a spiritual house filled with trust, hope and love.

Psalm 38:9 (TPT)

Lord God, you know all my desires
And my deepest longings.
My tears are liquid words
And you can read them all.

• Stand back and look at your life as if it were a building being constructed. Can you see His wise plan coming together? Reflect on His faithfulness to you throughout the different stages of your life.

-from I Hear His Whisper (Broadstreet, 2015) pp. 111-113


Other key scriptures in The Passion Translation:

Each year there are many new translations of the Bible released, but only a select few reach a level whereby they find acceptance and are known by the broader Christian community. We’ve seen conservative translations such as the ESV and more recently the CSB do this but there are also versions of the Bible which attempt to do something new and different, while still remaining faithful to original language documents. Such was The Message and more recently The Voice; and it’s into that marketplace that The Passion Translation (sometimes being referred to now as TPT) by Dr. Brian Simmons enters. Hardcover editions are now available and several leather editions, and in addition to the NT contains Psalms, Proverbs and Song of Songs.

Ephesians 2:8 – For it was only through this wonderful grace that we believed in him. Nothing we did could ever earn this salvation, for it was the gracious gift from God that brought us to Christ!


Matthew 28:18 – Now go in my authority and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


2 Timothy 3:16 – Every Scripture has been written by the Holy Spirit, the breath of God. It will empower you by its instruction and correction, giving you the strength to take the right direction and lead you deeper into the path of godliness.


Romans 10:9 – And what is God’s “living message”? It is the revelation of faith for salvation, which is the message that we preach. For if you publicly declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will experience salvation.


Romans 8:28 – So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose.


Romans 12:2 – Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.


Philippians 4:13 – I know what it means to lack, and I know what it means to experience overwhelming abundance. For I’m trained in the secret of overcoming all things, whether in fullness or in hunger. And I find that the strength of Christ’s explosive power infuses me to conquer every difficulty.

 

 

December 14, 2017

Here Is Your God. A Comforting Thought?

by Clarke Dixon

Suppose someone who knows you very well, based on your habits, intentions, thoughts, use of time, money, and giftedness says “Here is your god!”. To whom or to what would they be pointing? In Isaiah 40:9 there is an important announcement:

Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Here is your God!” Isaiah 40:9 (emphasis mine)

This announcement is the central thought of a prophecy that looks forward to the time God’s people would be brought back to their own land from exile. When the nation had fallen to the Babylonians and the people taken away to other lands, God himself “left the building” so to speak, and the symbol of God’s presence, the temple, was destroyed. So when the announcement is made “Here is your God!” not only have God’s people been brought back from exile, most importantly, God Himself has also returned! This is great news, comforting news:

Comfort, O comfort my people,
says your God. Isaiah 40:1

What do we learn from this message of comfort in Isaiah 40:1-11?

First, God’s arrival is comforting because the penalty has been paid:

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that she has served her term,
that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins. Isaiah 40:2

When our children were young we would give them “time-outs” according to their age. So, for example, when they were each three, they had to sit quiet in one spot for three minutes. When they were four, they had to serve four minutes and so on. Now that I am forty-five, I just wish someone would give me a forty-five minute time-out! For the children, it was always good news when Mum or Dad announced that the sentence had been served, the time-out was completed.

In being exiled, God’s people were on a time-out. Now the penalty was paid, the time-out was over, they could return home, and God Himself would also arrive. That was a very comforting thought.

At Christmas we celebrate the same news; “Here is your God” . It is good news, it is comforting news for likewise, a penalty has been paid:

He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24

Second, God’s arrival is worth preparing for and getting excited about.

A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain. Isaiah 40:3-4

The image here is of preparing for the arrival of a ruler. The appropriate preparation for a ruler was to make sure the road was in really good shape. The appropriate preparation for a divine ruler is repentance. Now before you think something like “I hate it when preachers preach on repentance, it seems like such a negative thing”, let us consider that there is very positive aspect to it. The most exciting moments of my life have been my wedding day and the birth of our three boys. These were moments worth preparing for. Your wedding day is a day when getting “cleaned up” is not a chore, but part of the anticipation. Putting together a crib is no easy task (I speak from experience), but something done willingly in anticipation of the arrival of someone very important.

At Christmas we celebrate the same news “Here is your God”. He will arrive again, an arrival worth getting excited about and preparing for.

Third, when God arrives, his glory will be seen by all. It will be a world-changing event:

Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 40:5

However, it felt like the return from exile never really lived up to this promise. It was not world changing. God’s glory was not evident in the way it was in the past. But it was part and parcel of world changing events that were yet to come.

At Christmas we celebrate the same news “Here is your God”. In Jesus God’s glory has been seen:

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

Historians and scholars debate many things, but there is no argument about the fact that the arrival of Jesus has been world-changing. His return will also be world-changing and God’s glory will be seen by all!

Fourth, God’s arrival is comforting news because God keeps His promises:

A voice says, “Cry out!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass,
their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand forever. Isaiah 40:6-8

That God keeps His promises is in contrast to people who can and do fail us. God can be trusted. However, in Jesus’ day some may have doubted that God had kept all His promises. The Romans are in charge, this can’t be what it is supposed to look like.

The promises to Israel were part of a much bigger promise to the world which we can read about in Genesis chapter 12: “. . . in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).  It is not that God had kept all His promises in the return from exile, but that He was keeping His promises and the exile was part of that. The rest is yet to come.

At Christmas we celebrate the same news “Here is your God”. It is not that God has already kept all His promises through the birth, life, death, and resurrection ofJesus, but that He is keeping His promises and Jesus’ arrival 2000 or so years ago was part of that. He will arrive again. The announcement will be made “Here is your God”. The rest is yet to come. The promises will be kept.

Fifth, God’s arrival is comforting news because He comes with responsible power.

See, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep. Isaiah 40:10-11

The Lord comes as one who is both mighty (verse 10) and compassionate (verse 11). If God were mighty but not compassionate, that would be scary. If God were compassionate but not mighty, that would be disappointing. God is both, and that is comforting.

At Christmas we celebrate the same news “Here is your God”.  In Jesus we see both the power of God to deal with sin, and the Good Shepherd who deals kindly with us.

We return to the original question:  if someone who knew you well could say “here is your god”, to whom or to what would they be pointing? If it is to the LORD who has revealed Himself to us through Jesus, then there is great comfort. If it refers to anything or anyone else, comfort will not be the appropriate word. No one else, and nothing else . . .

  • Can pay the penalty God has already paid for you.
  • Could cause such excitement, worth getting ready for.
  • Will have an arrival that is such a world changing event.
  • Keeps promises like God does, or can even make the kinds of promises God makes in the first place.
  • Has both the might and the shepherd’s heart to be able to take care of you, now and for eternity.

Here is your God. To whom or to what am I pointing?

All Bible references are taken from the NRSV

Read more at ClarkeDixon.WordPress.com

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