Christianity 201

May 18, 2022

They Trusted in the Lord With All Their Hearts

Today we’re back for a second time with a writer we introduced to you in September. Beth Madison writes at Soul Scientist, and is also the author of the book Good Ground, Volume 1 from National Baptist Press. Clicking the header below will take you to today’s article where it first appeared.

Making Lists

■ This devotional is also available as a podcast. Click this link to listen.

Proverbs 3:5-8 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do; and he will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom, instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones.

Since I devoured books when I was growing up, Mother always made sure I had a good supply of good reading materials. She described my love for reading as “she’ll read anything that isn’t tied down” (similar to how my boys used to eat when they were teenagers!). I loved them all – be they periodicals like National Geographic or my father’s scientific academic journals or those Christian comic books popular in the late 1970’s to a plethora of books from Little House on the Prairie to Jane Austen to Nancy Drew and oh so many other friends who I dreamed with there on the page.

But Mother’s favorite choice for my reading material (other than Scripture, of course) was missionary biographies. I fell in love with them all – be they Lottie Moon to Elisabeth Elliot to Annie Armstrong or Hudson Taylor to Adoniram Judson to David Brainerd and oh so many other friends with whom I learned to trust God with there on the page. I can still remember dreaming about when I grew up and was living and working in Africa or China or whatever country I’d just read about.

Similarly, these verses from Proverbs 3:5-8 were some of the first verses I learned as a child. Mother and Daddy didn’t just let me sit in the corner and read after my chores were done. They were also very careful to teach me Bible verses at all times and in all ways just like we are commanded to do with our children in Deuteronomy 4:9-10.

Only be on your guard and diligently watch yourselves, so that you don’t forget the things your eyes have seen and so that they don’t slip from your mind as long as you live. Teach them to your children and your grandchildren. The day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, the LORD said to me, ‘Assemble the people before me, and I will let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days they live on the earth and may instruct their children.’ (CSB)

And now, these stories and verses are still shaping my life in the dust of today.

Yet even now, my faith needs a lot more growing up to reflect the truth found in the stories and especially in the verses…

For example, a few weeks ago, when an unimagined opportunity popped into my email, my first thought was “no way, I can’t do this, because I don’t have ________”. Then my next thought was “just how can I make this work anyway?”. (note the emphasis on the “I” in that sentence) And there I went – straight into the quicksand of searching, calculating, and all the things (without any praying) until I ended up frustrated, disappointed, and exhausted without any progress towards my goal (note the emphasis on the “my” in that sentence).

Oh yes, I ran that gopher wheel to nowhere a few more times until two days ago when I told God, “I’m done!” and “if You want this to happen, here’s what I need for this opportunity”. I wrote out the full list with all the details and put the list away in my office. And then I started praying those verses from Proverbs and meaning it.

Well, here am I in tears watching as my triumphal God is checking off every piece of that list in ways that show me He not only heard my cry, He put the pieces into motion before the words came out of my mouth and heart. And just like God, He’s using other people to bring the resources for that list and increasing their faith along with mine in the details and directions of how He’s providing for them.

As I’m marveling in His working today, I am reminded of those missionary biographies from my childhood. Those missionaries modeled faith in their prayers and their lists. Their pages-long lists of known needs that exceeded available resources were checked off one by one in ways that only God could and did engineer for His plans to be completed. And He did it so that these plans would be completed in ways that not only increased the faith of those missionaries but the faith of those in their world who didn’t know or want to know God. No one who knew the stories or saw the results could deny God’s unmistakable, unshakable, unstoppable power at work.

That power that raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him at God’s right hand is the same power available to us as Christians today (see Ephesians 1:19-20). Nothing has changed with God. His power is still unstoppable like it was with waters, lions, giants, and fire in the Old Testament; with famine, persecution, deserts, and orphans in missionary stories; and with us in the details, dust, disease, and doubts of today.

So if you’re tired of your gopher wheel of trying to figure out all the things or you’re up to your neck in a quicksand of exhaustion, stress, denial, or disappointment, now is the time to stop fighting and simply tell our powerful God all about it (dear friend, please don’t be afraid. God already knows the ins and outs, of all of it, even better than you do). Then, make that list with all the things and all their details. Next, put the list away, start praying Proverbs 3:5-8, and pull up a chair to watch things happen. Trust me, the story’s gonna be far bigger and more beautiful than you can imagine!

The fulfillment of your story may take far longer than two days and might not happen in ways that you’d choose, but trust me, that story will be good. Because good is what our Good God promises to those who love Him and are called according to His promise (see Romans 8:38). And He always keeps all of His promises, all of the time.

Ephesians 1:19-20 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms

May 4, 2022

Our Hope of Glory

NIV.Colossians.1.25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Today we have a new writer to feature. Darrell Koop is the Lead Pastor of Upwards Church (which is also the name of their blog) with two locations in Texas. He has been posting faithfully since January, 2011, and there is a wealth of Bible commentary available at this page. To read today’s — which we always encourage — click the header which follows.

Supreme Hope – Colossians 1:25-27

In the Survival Journal.com they state, “One of the common rules we have amongst survivalists and preppers is called the Rule of Threes.”

The Survival Rule of 3’s States That You Can:

  • Survive Three Weeks Without Food
  • Survive Three Days Without Water
  • Survive Three Hours Without Shelter
  • Survive Three Minutes Without Oxygen
  • Survive Three Seconds Without Hope

Wow, three seconds without hope.  I find it interesting that among survivalists that they would put such a high priority on hope.   Here’s what they say,

“The Survival Rules Explained: Let’s break down this rule of survival piece by piece so you best understand it and why it’s important for us to remember ‘3 Seconds Without Hope’  A big part of why preparation is so crucial is so that you don’t panic! If you panic, you’re done. The first part of the rule of 3’s in survival states that you can only survive three seconds without hope. So be prepared for emergencies before they happen so you’re prepared.” They explain that preparation brings confidence and hope which is vital.

To survive in today’s hostile environment to our faith, our passage shows us the hope we have in Jesus! We see that we can grow in our confidence and be prepared against doubt, false teaching and keep our hope alive in Christ.

The key verse in this passage is verse 27“…Christ in you the HOPE of Glory.”

Let’s break it down from the beginning staring with verse 25 with Paul explaining how we get prepared with the hope we have in Christ.

Paul had referred to himself as “a servant of this gospel.” Paul’s service came because of God’s commission. No human had commissioned Paul; no human authority had called him; instead, Jesus Christ himself had spoken to him (Acts 9:4-6). Paul’s credentials as an apostle need never be questioned. Although Paul was called after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, he and the other apostles were called by Jesus Christ and God the Father, and they answered to God as their final authority.

Paul explained that this commission was given to him for you, that is, for Gentile congregations such as the one in Colosse. When Paul was commissioned by God, the focus of his ministry was made clear. God said of Paul, This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles” (Acts 9:15 NIV). Paul was keenly aware of who had commissioned him, to whom he had been commissioned, and what he had been called to do.

He was commissioned to make the word of God fully known.NRSV The heresy in Colosse drained hope from Christ followers by claiming the need for mystical knowledge, and that only a few could find it.  When Paul wrote of making God’s word fully known to all the believers, he was pointing out once again that God’s word is for all people. They could have all the wisdom they needed to be saved and to grow in Christ.

1:26 The MYSTERY which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but NOW has been revealed to His saints.NKJV

What is this mystery?  There are some things God reveals to no one. Deuteronomy 29:29 says, The Lord our God has secrets known to no one. Still other things were hidden in the Old Testament but have now been revealed in the New. The New Testament calls them mysteries (mustērion). Paul’s use of this word is not to indicate a secret teaching, rite, or ceremony revealed only to some elite initiates (as in the mystery religions), but truth revealed to all believers in the New Testament. This truth, that has now been revealed to His saints, is that which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, namely the Old Testament era and people. Now refers to the time of the writing of the New Testament.

27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. 

One of the greatest scientists of our time was Albert Einstein. He was a man who was so focused on his scientific theories. He was so focused, he often neglected even the simplest things of life, such as personal appearance (as evidenced by his hair). One time, Albert Einstein was taking a train out of town for a speaking engagement. As he sat in his seat engrossed in his work, the conductor stopped by to punch his ticket. Looking up in shock, Einstein realized he didn’t know what he had done with his ticket. Frantically, he began to search his coat pockets, and then his briefcase.  Gently, the conductor said, “We all know who you are, Dr. Einstein. I’m sure you bought ticket. Don’t worry about it.”

But, as the conductor moved along, he looked back to see Einstein on his hands and knees searching under the seats for his ticket. The conductor walked back, “Dr. Einstein, please, don’t worry about it. I know who you are.”   Exasperated, Einstein looked up and said, “I, too, know who I am. What I don’t know is where I’m going.”

The Christians at Colossae had gotten to the point that they weren’t sure where they were going because somebody had begun to convince them that they weren’t going to heaven. Somebody had slipped into their midst and begun to tell them they weren’t acceptable to God

They weren’t even sure who they were. To understand what was going on here, it helps to realize that back in the days of this letter – behind the scenes – there was a spiritual battle taking place

The congregation at Colossae was composed of Gentile believers. A Gentile was anyone who was not of Jewish descent. (I asked the audience on Sunday how many of them had “Jewish blood” in their veins? Only one raised their hand. “The rest of you are all Gentiles”)

Gentiles had always been despised by God’s people. The Jews referred to them as dogs, and perhaps had even worse names for them. Jews refused to spend any time with them if they could avoid it. Jews wouldn’t eat with them, work for them, play with them. If a Jew purchased anything from a Gentile, the product was washed to cleanse it the filth of those who had no part in God’s covenant.

So when the church early got started it is no surprise that there were no Gentiles in the church. After the church had established itself in Jerusalem, God moved Philip to share the Good News with an Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8 who believed and was baptized.  In Acts 9 God called Paul to “take my message to the Gentiles.” In Acts 10 God led the Apostle Peter to he household of a Roman Centurion named Cornelius to preach the Gospel to him and his family who all believed and were baptized.

As more and more Gentiles came to Christ, the apostles and church leaders met together to decide what to do about all the gentiles coming to faith in Chris in Acts 15: They agreed that God was drawing them and giving them the Holy Spirit as they believed (Acts 15:8) that they were acceptable just as they were – no circumcision required, no need to follow Jewish laws, or customs.

What Paul was telling the Colossians that there was something these false teachers didn’t understand.  “The mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery,”

And, what was that mystery? It’s…Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:26-27

Of all the mysteries God has revealed in the New Testament, the most profound is Christ in you, the hope of glory. The Old Testament predicted the coming of the Messiah. But the idea that He would actually live in His redeemed church, made up mostly of Gentiles, was new and mind-blowing!  The New Testament is clear that Christ, by the Holy Spirit, takes up permanent residence in all believers (cf. Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 6:19, 20). The revelation of the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles awaited the New Testament (Eph. 3:3-6).

Believers, both Jew and Gentile, now possess the surpassing riches of the indwelling Christ (John 14:23; Gal. 2:20)! The church is described as “the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people’ (2 Cor. 6:16).

That Christ indwells all believers is the source for their hope of glory and is the subject or theme of the gospel ministry. What makes the gospel attractive is not just that it promises present joy and help, but that it promises eternal honor, blessing, and glory. When Christ comes to live in a believer, His presence is the anchor of the promise of heaven—the guarantee of future bliss eternally. In the reality that Christ is living in the Christian is the experience of new life and hope of eternal glory!

  • The Gentile believers in Colossae were already saved
  • The Gentile believers were already acceptable before God.
  • And the Gentile believers there already had the hope of living in Glory.

Why, because Christ was living inside of them. They were acceptable just as they were!

The hope was this: That God would let anybody be acceptable to Him through faith in Christ.

The hope was that God would allow those who had been His enemies to now be called His friends

Now that’s a supreme hope!

April 4, 2022

The Time God’s People Stopped Trusting

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
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Some of you, who know the Bible’s first testament well are reading the title and saying, “You mean there was just one time?” And they are right, it wasn’t a single occurrence…

Today we’re back with Kristen Larson who writes at Abide.Trust.Believe. Clicking the header below gets you the opportunity to read this at her site.

If you’re not familiar with the story of “The Twelve Spies” click here to read the account in Deuteronomy 1.

Assuming the Worst

“The Lord must hate us. That’s why he has brought us here from Egypt—to hand us over to the Amorites to be slaughtered.”
Deuteronomy 1:27

The twelve leaders had returned from scouting the promise land. Two of them raved about the beautiful land, saying it was indeed everything God had been promising, and they encouraged the community to press forward and claim the land that had been promised to them!

But the other ten didn’t see that. All they saw were obstacles and enemies. They incited fear and rebellion, causing the nation to cry out, “The Lord must hate us! That’s why he has brought us here from Egypt — to hand us over to the Amorites to be slaughtered.”

Do you see what’s going on here? Instead of hearing the good news that the land ahead of them was everything God had been promising them, they believed the worst.

As I’ve said before, I’m on a journey of reading through the Bible in chronological order, with the help of The Bible Recap as a resource and a guide. I’ve now read Genesis, Job, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. And through these books I’ve gotten to see a lot of God’s character. And this is specifically why the verse I’m talking about today struck a chord with me. Because of all I’ve seen in these five books so far, God isn’t out to get us. He doesn’t play with us like toys. He doesn’t create these complex evil schemes to destroy us.

So to see the Israelites claim “The Lord must hate us!”…it simply stopped me in my tracks.

God didn’t hate them. In fact, he felt the very opposite and had done nothing but act in that manor. Yet all they could see was their own fear. And all they could do was act out of that fear.

Had they learned nothing since Egypt?

…Have I?

This is where the rubber meets the road. Because as soon as I was surprised by their reaction, I was convicted of my own reactions to the way God works.

God doesn’t hand a good life to us in a pretty basket. And what he was asking of the Israelites wasn’t pretty or easy either. He told them, in a matter of words, Before you is the land I have set aside for you. But you must go in and drive out those who live there now. You must go to war with them and destroy themeven though they are more numerous and stronger than you.

But he also said, in a manner of words, I will go with you and I will give you victory.

But they didn’t believe his promise of victory. Even though they had witnessed miracle after miracle after miracle, they still doubted his power. They still doubted that he cared for them.

I don’t think we need to see more miracles. I think we need to trust him. Clearly, miracles alone won’t keep us close to God. And I think the reason may be that we beg God for a miracle in times of desperation and agony, but as soon as we are satisfied we no longer need him.

It’s time to take a leap of faith and trust God. Time to cultivate a relationship with him that continues through the good and the bad. One that never ceases to acknowledge him and ask him for daily wisdom and guidance. For confidence and courage!

If we live one desperate moment to the next, we’ll only see the trials. We will assume that God has evil planned for us. But if we live in reverence we’ll see that he actually has a master plan at work that has a long term vision that reaches far past today.

He is worthy of our trust. He is trustworthy.

I dare you, as I’m daring myself, to assume the best. God is for you, not against you. Submit to his ways, his timing, his plans. And when he say go, go! When he says stay, stay. And when he sends you out against a foe that is bigger and stronger than you, march in confidence.

God doesn’t need to prove himself to us. But we need to prove to him that we can take orders and trust his word. And if we can do that, we will look back and see provision after provision, miracle after miracle, and a depth of relationship that will last into eternity.

 

December 12, 2021

Our Expectations of the World to Come

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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A new writer today, Randy Livingston is a police chaplain in Florida who writes at From the Chaplain. In addition to quoted scriptures today a number are alluded to, and you’re encouraged to look them up. Clicking the header which follows will take you to where we sourced this, and you’re encouraged to read it there.

The Next World

The Scriptures tell us that after Christ was raised from the dead that the Father “set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come (Ephesians 1:20-21; emphasis added).  It is fascinating, engaging, and somewhat overwhelming to take note of the truth that there is another world yet to come!  We have only a brief exposure to it in the word of God, but there is enough there to convince us of its reality and a beauty that far surpasses our meager understanding or imagination.

One would expect it to be beyond our comprehension, and rightly so, because God himself dwells there (Revelation 21:3).  It will be characterized by righteousness because the Lord reigns there (Zechariah 14:9).  It will be a place of unsurpassable glory because God is all-glorious (Revelation 5:13).  It is a world that we aspire unto though we have not seen it. It is a place that our hearts long for because Christ himself is there and where Christ is there is righteousness, peace and joy unspeakable.

This sounds almost too good to be true were it not for the promise of Christ himself.  “I go to prepare a place for you and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3).  Yes, friend, there is another world to come.  It is real; it is unimaginably joyful; and, it is forever!

We could spend more time filling in some gaps in our expectations about this world to come from what has been revealed to us in God’s word.  But the point of this writing it this – there is a whole new world coming after this one has expended its strength and vigor on wickedness.  Christ is coming again and when he does there will be peace and righteousness (Micah 4:3-4).  Truth and holiness will be the key characteristics of this new world order.  Note the contrast to this present world.

Our world is full of lies, unbridled wickedness (or so it seems), selfishness, hatred and every form of impurity the mind can conjure.  Would anyone debate that?  Do we really need convinced of man’s intrinsic wickedness and rebellion against God?

But when Christ comes he shall put down every resistance, silence every foe, root out and vanquish all wickedness (Revelation 19:11-21).  The inauguration of his kingdom shall be glorious indeed! Even so, not everyone will enjoy the benefits of this coming world.  It is a prepared place for a prepared people.  Only those who have washed their sins in the blood of the Lamb and are dressed in his righteousness will be able to participate.  The Apostle John tells us that “there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Revelation 21:27).

Is your name there?


Second Helping: When we’re checking out a devotional blog for the first time, there’s always that article that was the runner-up in terms of what we would have liked to share with you. The one today was about preserving the reputation and legacy that we leave on the day of our death.

December 7, 2021

Reconnecting with Friends in Heaven

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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More than a dozen times we’ve quoted or re-blogged material by J. Lee Grady who writes at Fire in My Bones. He was editor of Charisma Magazine for 11 years before he launched into full-time ministry in 2010 and is considered a bridge-builder between Charismatics and non-Pentecostals because of his balanced approach. Today he directs The Mordecai Project, a Christian charitable organization that is taking the healing of Jesus to women and girls who suffer abuse and cultural oppression. Click the header below to read this where it was sourced.

Will We Know Our Friends in Heaven?

J. Lee Grady

The year 2021 was a painful year for me personally because I lost three good friends. Robert died of lymphoma in February; Fernando died last week after a heart attack he suffered while on an international flight; and James died suddenly last weekend of heart failure. All three men left grieving wives and families behind.

To cope with my own grief, I’ve been looking at photos and writing down memories. But it’s hard. James and I talked or texted almost every day so it’s surreal to see his number in my phone with no “What’s up, bud?” or “You doin’ OK?” messages from Alabama.

One thing that has helped me so much in the grieving process is meditating on the reality of eternal life. We know the Bible tells us our loved ones go immediately into God’s presence in heaven when they die, if they were believers in Jesus. We love to tell our grieving friends and relatives, “He’s in a better place” or “She’s enjoying heaven now.”

Those words don’t always help me, to be honest. That’s great for them but what about those of us here on earth who are missing them? I know my friend James is in heaven but I can’t text him there. My phone plan with AT&T doesn’t include coverage in glory. (I would pay extra for that!)

What encourages me most is not that my friends are safely in the arms of Jesus but that when this world as we know it ends, I will be with my Christian friends again.

Some Christians have a weird idea that heaven is an ethereal, dreamy place that is more shadow than substance. They imagine that we all show up there as disembodied spirits, floating around in white robes while choirs sing 24 hours a day. Some Christians even believe we will have totally new identities and that our memories of this earth will be totally erased.

We would do well to read the last chapters of the Bible over and over until we understand that God has so much more in store for us than that. The last words of Revelation remind us of these truths:

This world will be reborn. After God judges the wickedness of humanity at the end of time, He will totally remake this earth and bring heaven down to this domain. It will be “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1, MEV), a paradise like it was at the time of creation. The new earth will have trees, animals, roads and indescribable beauty. And the glorious, heavenly city of Jerusalem, a new and perfect city, will be the capital of the new creation.

We will live and work with each other in a new world. Revelation 21:24 says “the nations” will walk by the perpetual light of the Son of God, who will rule from His eternal throne. There will be nations in the new earth. We will live as citizens of God’s glorious kingdom, in a world where there is no war, violence, tears, pain, pandemics or death (21:4). The Bible is not clear about what kind of work will we do but those who have been faithful to God in this life will be involved in management of the new world.

We will maintain our identities. We will have new bodies (1 Cor. 15:49) but that doesn’t mean we won’t be ourselves. Jesus said when we are in the new earth we will “recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (Matt. 8:11). These great heroes of faith will not lose their identities—they will still be themselves.

I will be myself, you will be yourself and we will have the opportunity to meet saints who lived in different time periods. I am personally eager to schedule appointments with Paul, Timothy, John, Ruth, Mark, Luke, Lazarus and Mary Magdalene, as well as William Seymour, Corrie Ten Boom, Charles Spurgeon and C.S. Lewis.

We will continue our friendships in the next life. When Jesus shared the Passover meal with His closest friends, “He said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will never eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:15-16). Jesus was clearly stating that He would reunite with His disciples and they would fellowship together again.

When this world ends, I’m invited to the greatest party ever celebrated. I’m sure the food will be amazing and the music will be off the charts, but the joy will be uncontainable because all of our friends and relatives who loved the Lord will be in the crowd. We will dance, hug, laugh, share our hearts and visit each other’s new homes. And I plan to enjoy coffee—or some new, heavenly beverage—with Robert, Fernando and James.

I might also talk and text with them on some type of superior phones and I’m sure the signal will be perfect—with no spam, dead batteries or dropped calls.


Scripture texts marked MEV are from the Modern English Version.

November 9, 2021

God Keeps His Promises

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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A year ago we introduced you to who writes at Our Living Hope. Today we had a tough time choosing among four recent devotionals. Click the header which follows to read this one at its point of origin.

The Promises of God

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ”. 2 Corinthians 1:20.

Our God is a promise keeping God and everything he says he will do, he does. He will fulfill all his promises in our lives. We cannot see God and his promises separately, his promises proceeds out of him.He is who he is and he does what he wills. All of God’s promises involves a process, and in his presence we receive the patience to see it fulfilled in God’s time. As much as we cannot separate God and his promises, we also cannot separate God’s will and God’s time, his will can happen only in his time.

He makes all things beautiful in its time. It says in Galatians 4:4, ‘ But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law”. It shows that God was willing to put himself through a process to reveal to the world his greatest gift, he was patient enough to wait for the set time to fulfill his promise. We who are called to reflect him must also wait patiently for the promises of God to be revealed in our lives, his plans to be fulfilled in our lives. The scripture says in Hebrews 6:15 that, And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised’. It is in God’s presence Abraham received the strength to wait patiently for the unseen, because we cannot receive his promises apart from his presence, it is the reason Moses asks God’s presence to lead the Israelites to the promise. We can experience his presence only when we travel along with him, he surely does take us in to the path of patience where we are enriched in him.

God said to Abraham,

“Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” Genesis 15:1.

I’m your reward — In our patient endurance God strengthens the relationship we have with him, he teaches us to seek him and put our trust on him. He tells to Abraham that the relationship with the promise giver is key to the promise itself, and to desire his presence above everything. He strengthens our relationship with him as we wait in his presence, which becomes the most important process, and our communion with him will transform our nature to agree with God in everything when we receive his plans and promises. The peace that surpasses all understanding is found in our patience for God’s move.

It is only when we value God, the promise giver, we will be able to value and honour the promises we receive from him. As we are strengthened in his relationship with him, we will have the strength to obey and hold the promises he gives faithfully. Only when we understand God through our relationship with him, we will be able to have the wisdom to find the meaning and purposes in the promises we receive. Only when we receive his promise we can bring blessing in to the lives of others.

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him”. Luke 2:25.

Simeon and Anna was waiting patiently to see the messiah, and the consolation of Israel in the temple, they were waiting in God’s presence with the strength of the Holyspirit to see Jesus in flesh as a child . They were filled with hope even when they witnessed all the political turmoil and instability in Jerusalem, because they waited patiently in God’s presence. In the end Simeon was able to see and prophetically declare the mission of Christ.

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about’ Acts 1:4.

So even with dangers all around and the challenges they had in Jerusalem, the disciples patiently waited as Jesus told them to receive the promise of the Father, they were waiting in God’s presence and strengthened their communion with him in prayer, and at the time of Pentecost when the Holyspirit was poured out on them abundantly, they were able fulfill God’s plans and use the promise of the Holyspirit received to bear fruit.

All the promises of God are yes and amen in Christ Jesus….. it is through Jesus we are reconciled to God, through him our communion and our relationship with God is strengthened, and in him we receive the promises from the father. Through the fullness of Christ we receive grace upon grace.

Our patient hope to fulfill his plans will find its greatest meaning in God’s presence where we are renewed to find his likeness in us and our communion with him as our reward.

“And Patience was willing to wait”. – Pilgrim’s Progress

Prayer : Heavenly Father, thank you for your communion with us, which enables us to fulfill all the plans you have set before us. Help us to be faithful. Amen.


Second Helping: By the same author, check out this recent article, A Letter of Encouragement.

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

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