Christianity 201

September 4, 2017

God Explains Judgment and Punishment to Ezekiel

As we did last year at this time, we’re returning to the devotional page of the Southern Baptist Convention. Their devotionals don’t have titles, just a description of the passage under consideration and there are no links. Take in the truths of today’s reading, but also note the format; this is how to organize a thorough Bible study.

Highlights:

God warns leaders to repent (14:1-11). Each person clearly accountable for their own choice to be saved (14:12-23). A breathtaking, tragic account of the love and faithfulness of God to Judah and her callous attitude (chap. 13). Guard against spiritual adultery.

Ezekiel 14 to Ezekiel 16

Even so, there will be survivors left in it, sons and daughters who will be brought out. Indeed, they will come out to you, and you will observe their conduct and actions. Then you will be consoled about the devastation I have brought on Jerusalem, about all I have brought on it. 23 They will bring you consolation when you see their conduct and actions, and you will know that it was not without cause that I have done what I did to it.”  This is the declaration of the Lord God. (Ezek. 14:22-23).

The Lord had sent punishment to Israel because of her idolatrous ways. The nation had turned away from the Lord and chosen to walk in the ways of their heathen neighbors. The people had followed their own desires for their lives instead of the perfect desires of the Lord. We have also read how the prophets themselves had gone against the will of the Lord.

The Lord is not some strict taskmaster who imputes His will on people just for His satisfaction. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are the children of God. The Spirit itself testifies together with our spirit, that we are the children of God (Rom. 8:16).

God treats us the way any good father treats his children. The Lord gives us the Word of God as a guide to live our lives. These guidelines will direct us to the most fulfilling and abundant life available to us. God’s rules are not simply made for Him. They are made to protect us and to provide us with a way to live a godly life, rather than just a good life.

What happens when the inevitable time comes that God’s child strays from His Word? How should God respond? Should He just hope for the best and wait to see? Should He just mark them off and hope for better luck with the next human? We all know the answer to these questions is a resounding “no.”

The Lord responds just as any loving father would. He corrects His children by sending punishment our way. The goal of the punishment is to open our eyes to allow us to see where we went wrong and thereby to correct our paths. Once redirected, we should be able to get back on life’s correct track, the track of following the Lord.For they disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but He does it for our benefit, so that we can share His holiness (Heb. 12:10).

This process worked with Israel at times. They would rebel, so God would send a judgment against them. As a result they would return and fall back into line with the Law of God.

In these verses, God is explaining all this to Ezekiel. There is always a plan when the Lord sends judgment upon His people. The Lord is desiring to bring them back to the proper path.

If we live outside the will of God, we will find life is not so easy. He has said that His four worst punishments are war, famine, wild animals and diseases. The Word of God is given to us to make sure that we live under the provision and protection of the Lord. Our best case scenario will always be not to stray. But if we do, we need to let His correction get us back in line with His Word.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine,  for reproof,  for correction,  for instruction in righteousness (II Tim. 3:16).

Thought for Today:

At the end of the day, will the Lord say, Well done good and faithful servant (Matt. 25:23)?

Christ Revealed:

In the everlasting Covenant (Ezek. 16:60). He is the Mediator of a better Covenant (Agreement) (Heb. 8:6).

Word Study:

16:8 I spread My skirt over thee = symbolic of a covenant of marriage (Ruth 3:9; Deut. 22:30); 16:25 opened thy feet = offered yourself as a harlot; 16:30 imperious whorish oman = shameless prostitute; 16:31 eminent place = prominent public location; thou scornest hire = you refuse a fee; 16:43 fretted me = provoked me to anger.

Memory Verse:

John 15:1-5

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.

April 19, 2017

Building from the Materials God Provides

Psalm 104:14 NRSV:

 You cause the grass to grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to use,
to bring forth food from the earth,

Today we’re paying a return visit to the website, Theology of Work. Many scripture references are embedded in the commentary today; feel free to click back and forth. (Suggestion: With most PCs, right-click and select “Open in New Tab.” This allows you to go back and forth more easily.)

Human creativity with God (Psalm 104)

From the beginning, God intended human work as a form of creativity under or alongside God’s own creativity (Genesis 1:26-31; 2:5, 15-18). Human work is meant to fulfill God’s creative intent, bring each person into relationship with other people and with God, and glorify God. Psalm 104 gives a delightful depiction of this creative partnership. It begins with a broad canvas of the glory of God’s creation (Psalms 104:1-9). This leads naturally to God’s active work in sustaining the world of animals, birds and sea creatures (Ps.104:10-12, 14, 16-18, 20-22, 25). God provides richly for human beings as well (Ps. 104:13-15, 23). God’s work makes possible the fruitfulness of nature and humanity. “From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work” (Ps. 104:13).

The work of humans is to build further, using what God gives. We have to gather and use the plants. “You cause the grass to grow for the cattle and plants for people to cultivate” (Ps. 104: 14, alternate reading from NRSV footnote f). We make the wine and bread and extract the oil from the plants God causes to grow (Ps. 104:15). God provides so richly, in part, by populating his creation with people who labor six days a week. Thus, while this psalm speaks of all creatures looking to God for food, and God opening his hand to supply it (Ps. 104:27-28), people still have to work hard to process and use God’s good gifts. Psalm 104 goes so far as to name some of the tools used for the work of God’s world—tents, garments, beams, fire, ships (Ps. 104:1, 2, 3, 4, 26, respectively). Intriguingly, the Psalm happily ascribes use of such tools to God himself, as well as to human beings. We work with God, and God’s ample provision comes in part through human effort.

Even so, remember that we are the junior partners in creation with God. In keeping with Genesis, human beings are the last creatures mentioned in Psalm 104. But in distinction from Genesis, we come on the scene here with little fanfare. We are just one more of God’s creatures, going about their business alongside the cattle, birds, wild goats, coneys, and lions (Ps. 104:14-23). Each has its proper activity—for humans it is work and labor until the evening—but underneath every activity, it is God who provides all that is needed (Ps. 104:21). Psalm 104 reminds us that God has done his work supremely well. In him our work may be done supremely well also, if only we work humbly in the strength his Spirit supplies, cultivating the beautiful world in which he has placed us by his grace.


© 2014 by the Theology of Work Project, Inc.; used by permission
Unless otherwise noted, the Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, Copyright © 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission. All rights reserved.


Read another devotion from the same source: God’s Guidance in Our Work: Psalm 25


Because we often get first time readers, every few months we like to review our purpose statement:

Mission Statement: Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of Christian blogs and websites. Sometimes two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading.

Scripture portions from various translations quoted at Christianity 201 are always in green to remind us that the Scriptures have LIFE!


Introducing EMU Music. “Emu is a collaborative ministry focused on contemporary, Biblical, Christ-centered music in church. Founded in Sydney, Australia, and now operating throughout the world…” This is the 2nd most-viewed (in the last year) video on their YouTube channel:

This is their highest viewed song in the same period:

 

 

March 15, 2017

Right Results, Wrong Method

Numbers 20 (NIV):

1In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried.

2 Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. 3 They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD! 4 Why did you bring the LORD’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? 5 Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”

6 Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. 7 The LORD said to Moses, 8 “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”

9 So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

This passage contains an interesting sequence of events:

  • The people are thirsty
  • God reveals to Moses that water can be obtained by speaking to a particular rock
  • Moses hits the rock instead (this worked before)
  • Water gushes forth

Maybe God had His instructions wrong, or maybe it applied to some other rock? After all, the water issued forth and the thirst of the people was satisfied.

Hardly. Moses was angry. “…Listen you rebels…” In anger he struck the rock.

In Moses defense, he was using a tried and true formula; see Exodus 17. And he got the desired result. No biggie, right?

The point is that Moses disobeyed; he did God’s work in a sense, but didn’t do it God’s way.

I find myself often guilty of this. I can justify something done in anger because it produced results. I’ve even said to myself, “I think sometimes you just have to get mad enough about something and then God uses that anger.”

Yes. I’ve really thought that. More than once.

And there is such a thing as righteous anger. But it is characterized by being shaped over a long-term, not a short-term; and by its righteousness more than its anger-ness.

James 1 19b & 20 (NIV)

…Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

Whether or not you feel like you are more a product of the information age or the industrial age, either way you are probably results oriented.

But just because it worked doesn’t mean that God was in it, or that He was pleased, or that you were obedient. Even if the “worked” in question seems to bear the mark (vs. 11) of the miraculous.

And a great danger lies in trusting in what worked before, when God wants to lead you into something new.

And like Moses (vs. 12) by doing it our way, you and I may be missing out on God’s greater blessing and the fullness of God’s highest goal for our lives.

~PW


*Reader mini-survey:

Just curious… Have blog posts here resulted in you making the author’s blog part of your daily or weekly routine?  My hope is that in introducing you to a wide variety of Christian devotional and Bible-teaching bloggers, some of them will resonate with you to the point you bookmark their sites and/or subscribe, making their writing a regular habit.

November 30, 2016

God’s Providence for His People

Today we’re paying a first-time visit to the blog No Condemnation. Click the title to read at source. (This Psalm appears in your Bible just a couple before the one we looked at yesterday, and is quite different.)

Let the redeemed tell their story

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures for ever. Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story – those he redeemed from the hand of the foe …

Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle.

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.
Psalm 107:1, 6-7, 19-20 (NIV)

Read: Psalm 107

Consider: A few days ago we looked at the problem of praying when the words just won’t come. This can be because the problem we are facing is so enormous, or potentially life-changing. It is in times like these that the Holy Spirit takes our unspoken words and groans, and intercedes to God on our behalf. Prayer in difficult times is generally more heart felt than prayer in easy times.

The story of the people of Israel is one of bringing their troubles before God and, once the immediate danger had passed, they promptly forgot and rebelled against Him. As a Christian you are unlikely to go into open rebellion against God, but do you remember or forget God’s providence once the danger you have been facing has passed?

I love the opening verses of Psalm 107 where it says: ‘Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story …’ (v2). It speaks to me of the providence of God and how he cares for and loves us, but it also speaks to me about my response to God’s goodness in my life. When God rescues you in your trouble (note: not from your trouble) are you forgetful, or do you want to thank God so much that your can’t stop talking about it? Are you willing to share details of God’s rescue with your close relatives, home group members, the wider church membership? I’m not advocating being so talkative about yourself that you very quickly become a bore. What I am advocating is the willingness to recognize God’s hand in your circumstances and thanking him first and foremost for this. As the psalmist puts it : Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures for ever (v1). Having first thanked God, we should then be willing to share with others what God has done for us.

Look again at Psalm 107 and some of the words the psalmist uses to speak of God’s providence for his people. He uses words like redeemed, delivered, led, saved, healed and rescued. All these speak so clearly of God’s love.

Don’t let the fact that the immediate danger has passed prevent you from thanking God and telling others about his providence in your life. You never know who is going through similar circumstance to yourself, who needs to hear your words of encouragement.

Pray: Father, forgive us for being so quick to forget your goodness to us. May we remember to thank you and also to share with others what you have been doing in our lives. Amen

Every blessing.

 

October 27, 2016

When God’s Solution Comes Gift-Wrapped

Sometimes we connect with other writers in the comments section. This is from Melissa at Tin Roof Sky. Click the title below to read at source.

Shut. Up.

“Jericho was shut up tight as a drum because of the People of Israel: no one going in, no one coming out.  God spoke to Joshua, “Look sharp now. I’ve already given Jericho to you, along with its king and its crack troops.” Joshua 6:1-2 – The Message

Joshua and the rest of his crew had just been told that their long national nightmare of wandering in the desert was over. Hooray! No more manna, man – milk, honey, and (I’m sure) beans and cornbread were now on the menu! Their lives were going from day after day of same old, same old, to finally getting started with what their forefathers had been promised.

But then – they hit a wall. Literally. They were getting the band back together to take over Canaan, and Jericho was the first stop on the tour. Their mojo was working, but it hit a snag made out of stone.

And we love to look at this story, and imagine the Israelites marching around that city for a week and then shouting the walls down on the last day. We sing songs about it and watch children’s videos with French peas taunting hapless vegetable Hebrews. But don’t skip over those first two verses. They’re the key to this whole thing.

“Jericho was shut up tight as a drum because of the People of Israel: no one going in, no one coming out.”

You know what I think? I think the Jericho-ians (or however they were known) were afraid. I think there were probably more Israelites outside that wall than there were of them inside, and I think word had reached their ears of all the great things God had done for His people. Remember Pharaoh losing a chunk of his soldiers and their gear? Remember supernatural provision? Remember divine judgement and so much quail they literally got sick?

They were afraid. They were under a self-imposed siege. They placed all their faith in the wall, and in the hopes that the Israelites would keep on truckin’.

But I think God put that fear into their hearts, so that their defeat would be certain and complete.

 God spoke to Joshua, “Look sharp now. I’ve already given Jericho to you, along with its king and its crack troops.”

Their king couldn’t hide out in an undisclosed location. Their army couldn’t sneak out and come from behind in a surprise attack. Joshua was facing his first big test as Commander-in-Chief, and God had gift wrapped the city for them.

All they had to do was obey his (admittedly odd) instructions. All the people had to do was keep their mouths shut, and keep walking. And then, on the last day, they had to shout to the Lord for the victory.

That’s it. Obey God, watch the walls crumble, and take the first steps into fulfilling God’s call on their lives.

So here’s my question to you: What walls are you up against? Maybe they aren’t obstacles, so much as a gift box. Maybe instead of seeing them as your enemy, you need to see them as God’s way of making sure your victory is complete. Maybe God is going to give you some instructions, and when you follow them, you will have a whole new perspective.

I’m facing some walls. I’ll bet you are too. Let’s look beyond and see them as wrapping paper, instead of a stop sign.

June 7, 2016

The God of Angel Armies

Today we’re paying a return visit to Blogos. This time, the post is by Denise Baum. Click the title below to read at source, and then be sure to look around the rest of the site.

Elisha and God’s Angel Army

So he said, “Go and see where he is, that I may send and take him.” And it was told him, saying, “Behold, he is in Dothan.” He sent horses and chariots and a great army there, and they came by night and surrounded the city. Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. When they came down to him, Elisha prayed to the Lord and said, “Strike this people with blindness, I pray.” So He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha. 2 Kings 6:13-18

Just preceding these verses, we read that the king of Aram was furious with whoever it was that was revealing his highly classified military secrets to the king of Israel. He thought that someone in his own court was a traitor. Instead, it was God who disclosed the enemy plans to Israel’s king through his servant Elisha. When Aram’s king found out about Elisha, he focused his hostility against the city of Dothan where Elisha was staying. Imagine the fearful shock Elisha’s servant felt when he rose early on the morning described in this passage and saw the enemy horses and chariots circling his master’s city. He probably knew that Elisha was an informant against Aram, revealing to Israel’s king the maneuvers of the enemy. Being God’s spy for Israel involved risk, and now their backs were up against the wall.

Was Elisha scared? How could he be, considering what he saw and believed? But he had to share his confidence with his servant. “O Lord, open his eyes that he may see!” The servant saw that beyond the Aramean army, circling the city of Dothan, was God’s invincible army. This supernatural vision revealed a mountain “full of horses and chariots of fire.” Talk about confidence! No wonder Elisha was fearless in the face of imminent death. No one could threaten his composure and faith when he could see, with his own eyes, the military presence of the Lord of hosts. Not only was this army in a superior offensive position, but they were fueled by the fire of the Lord. “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24). Nothing can resist or overcome fire.

Whether our enemy is an army or an individual, God can give us victory or peace.tweet

This vision of faith, which God gave to Elisha and his attendant, is humorously contrasted in the next event in this drama. Instead of destroying his enemies with that fiery army sent from heaven, Elisha asked the Lord to blind them. Isn’t that fascinating? We read about supernatural vision and blindness in the same paragraph, the sense upon which this whole story pivots. The purpose of Elisha’s request was a reflection of his humility and love for his fellow man. Like Paul, in Romans 12, Elisha wanted to transform enemies into friends.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:14-21

Don’t miss the end of this amazing piece of history. Elisha actually led the blind Aramean army, now helpless and childishly obedient, to Samaria, into the city of Israel’s king! When their sight was restored, they found themselves at the mercy of their enemy’s sovereign. Instead of slaughtering them, however, he fed and watered them. This is the most peaceful disarmament in history. When the Aramean army received back their sight, were treated to a bountiful feast and then released, I imagine they were far more perceptive than ever before. 2 Kings 6:23 reveals the fruit of Elisha’s kindness: “And the marauding bands of Arameans did not come again into the land of Israel.”


Of course, we couldn’t run this without including the song suggested by the title! We already had the original Chris Tomlin song here in a version with guitar chords, this one is an acapella version by our friend David Wesley. For more of his videos click here.

January 22, 2016

God’s Promises are Guaranteed

A year ago I asked our friends at Daily Encouragement to recommend some souces for material here at C201 and they mentioned one and one only, a marriage enrichment blog by Sabra and David Penley called Simply One. Today we pay a return visit. There is always a danger in misreading a principle in scripture as though it is a general, absolute promise. But if we meet any conditions mentioned, we have the assurance of God’s faithfulness to his promises.

Clicking the title below to read this at source will get you not only a graphic image, but also some discussion questions. And you don’t have to be married to extract the truth of today’s teaching, even though their blog is written for couples.

Five Promises of God to Guide Us through the Year

1 – God enables us to live a godly life.

We read in 2 Peter 1:3-4: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”

In this passage, God gives us “great and precious promises.” These promises are found in His Word, and they are “everything we need for a godly life.” This includes a godly marriage. This is why Sabra and I teach about marriage from God’s Word. And this is why we developed Couple Connect and encourage you and your spouse to use it together. (For a printable PDF of how to design your own time together, click here.)

When we live by God’s great and precious Word, He promises that we will “participate in the divine nature,” and we will escape “the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” This is the only way we will have the marriage God designed for us.

2 – God is always with us.

A second promise God gives to us in His Word is that He is always with us, and He will always be with us in our marriage. The last thing Jesus said before He ascended to heaven, after His death and resurrection, was such a promise. We read these words from Jesus in Matthew 28:20: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Hebrews 13:5 gives us a command of God, followed by His promise: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” By the way, this directly follows God’s word to us about marriage: “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4).

So God tells us the key to a blessed marriage. If we’ll be faithful to Him and each other in our marriages, He’ll be right there with us. We can be certain that when we seek Him together He will guide us down the right path and He will take care of our every need along the way. We can have a marriage without fear because He is at the center of it and in control of it.

No matter what He allows to come our way, God will go through it with us.

Psalm 139:7-12 says: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”

As God’s children, our faith and hope for our marriages can be founded on the solid rock of His constant presence.

3 – God will provide all our needs.

He promises at the end of this section in Hebrews 13:6: “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’” In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus promises that we do not have to worry about anything because He will provide everything. He says in Matthew 6:33: “‘But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’”

4 – God will answer our prayers when we seek His will together.

Jesus gives us another promise in Matthew 18:19-20: “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” This certainly applies to a husband and wife who are one in Christ.

As one in Christ, we desire to do His will together. When we desire to do His will, He is pleased to reveal it to us through His Word. When we pray together as a married couple, seeking and desiring to do His will, that is a prayer we can pray with confidence. For He promises to answer us. We are told in 1 John 5:14-15: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”   

5 – Whatever we face in the year ahead, God will bring good out of it.

Not only will God be with us through every situation we face, but He will see that good comes from it. This amazing promise is found in Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

This promise can help us be strong and stand firm in our faith when our circumstances become difficult and the days seem dark. God is able to work it all together for good.

So, as you look together toward the year ahead, remember God is eternal and omniscient–He knows everything that will happen. And He promises to be with you in the midst of every trial, pain, victory, and defeat. He longs for you to hold on to His promises and to recognize His presence at every moment, in everything you do. He wants you to be full of the hope for this year because He is God. He is your God. And He will be there with you and help you every step of the way.

Never forget His promise to you: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

December 27, 2015

Physical Reminders of God’s Provision

This morning at church we had an opportunity to share a testimony of God’s provision during the past year. After speaking, participants were asked to take a marker pen and write one or two words that describe what they had shared.

First we need to know the background to this account in Joshua 3:

Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. After three days the officers went throughout the camp, giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits[a] between you and the ark; do not go near it.”

Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”

Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.” So they took it up and went ahead of them.

And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’”

14 So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. 15 Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.

and in particular the stones of remembrance in the next chapter, Joshua 4:

When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”

So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the Lord had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down. Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day.

Of course, not everyone at church this morning could participate in this, but as I thought of what I might say or write, a Biblical phrase came to mind:

“Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.”

The language is KJV, and I wasn’t sure of the reference. So returning home, I looked it up only to find that it is from a similar story of using a stone as a marker remembering God’s provision or faithfulness or both; this time in I Samuel 7:

10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. 11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar.

12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer,saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

There’s a pattern here:

  • First Moses has the original experience of seeing the waters of the river part so that the nation could cross on dry land. (This is directly alluded to in verse 7 of chapter 3, above)
  • Then the miracle repeats for Joshua and he establishes the placing of stones of remembrance.
  • Then Samuel repeats the setting up of a memorial stone, one that hymn-singers have kept alive in the verse, “Here I raise my Ebenezer” (in Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.)

In some churches over the past century, stones of remembrance were replaced by plaques in the lobby (or even on individual pews) which instead of honoring God’s help, honored those who had given significant amounts of money toward the building of the church.

Now the modern church doesn’t even have those. There’s good and bad in that. The one who gives should do so in secret, but we often forget that as a faith community in the local church, we have history.

The raising of an Ebinezer sounds rather old-fashioned and quaint today, but we need to find visible, tangible, even tactile ways of remembering God’s help in ages past.


We’ve covered this theme here at least two times previously:

Go Deeper with this article

 

 

 

December 22, 2015

Experiencing Abundance

I wasn’t planning to do another devotional from Breakfast of Champions this soon, but this one arrived in email the same day as yesterday’s study on Elisha’s double portion. So it seemed to form a theme. Andy heads up Great Big Life, which produces the Breakfast of Champions weekday devotional.

Are you expecting abundance from God, or just enough?

Do you know today, Champion, that your God is a God of abundance? And all of His plans and intentions toward you are always plans and intentions of abundance, not ‘just enough’.

Here are some verses to think on today; they all reveal to us God’s abundant intentions towards us for different areas of our lives.

1. The measurement of His saving grace (unmerited favour)

Romans 5:17 (NKJV)
For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

Notice that it is abundance, not ‘just enough’. It’s when you understand this truth, and also that you have been made perfectly righteous through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus, that you will reign in life as promised!

2. His provision in our lives – again, notice it does not say ‘just enough’!

2 Corinthians 9:8 (NKJV)
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.

• All grace (not some)

• All sufficiency (not some)

• All things (not some)

3. The quality of new life He has for us in Christ.

John 10:10 (NKJV)
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (in abundance).

4. The giving of His Spirit, to transform us into all we are called to be.

Titus 3:5-6 (NKJV)
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Good news: His ability matches His intentions. God is not just wanting to do abundantly for us in these areas of life and so many more, He is able too! He is the God who is able to and wants to do abundantly in your life, so start expecting abundance. Sadly, some of those damaging doctrines of religion made by men have left us all for too long expecting nothing or very little from God. It’s time to bring our thinking into alignment with His word and truth – God wants to do abundantly for you so make room in your life for it!

Ephesians 3:20 (NKJV)
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.

Stop expecting a bit, Champion, and start thanking Him for abundance!

God bless,

Andy

October 24, 2015

Remember to Remember

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
Tags: , , ,

NIV Joshua 4:1 When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”

So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the Lord had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down. Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day.

J. Mark Fox is the author of A Faithful Man and a pastor in North Carolina. This is his first time here at C201. Click the title below to read at source at the blog Christians in Context.

Set up your monuments

After God parted the Jordan River and Joshua led the people across into the Promised Land, God had them stop and build a monument and said, “That this might be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them …” The monument was a visible reminder of the grace of God.

Vance Havner used to tell the story of a little town in Alabama where the main livelihood was cotton. Then tragedy struck in the form of the devastating boll weevil. All of the cotton was destroyed and it looked as if the farmers were headed for the poorhouse. But they didn’t despair. One man decided to plant peanuts instead, because boll weevils hate peanuts more than a mom whose son has a peanut allergy. Another farmer planted a different crop, and another and all of the farmers did the same. Before long, peanuts and other crops took over for cotton. The town later became known as Enterprise, Ala. And do you know what they did to commemorate that year? They erected a monument to the boll weevil!

Vance Havner wrote this: “Sometimes we settle into a humdrum routine as monotonous as growing cotton year after year. Then God sends the boll weevil; He jolts us out of our groove, and we must find new ways to live.” Financial reverses, great bereavement, physical infirmity, loss of position — how many have been driven by trouble to bring forth finer fruit from their souls! The best thing that ever happened to some of us was the coming of our boll weevil.

What should we do? Build monuments as a visible reminder of the grace of God in our lives.

Monuments are often found hanging on our walls, as we put up pictures of our children, or we have videos of their baptisms and the family events that we celebrate and don’t want to forget. We have Bible verses framed on the walls, the Word of God set there to remind us daily of his grace, as frontlets before our eyes. We have marked out our lives, as a reminder to ourselves and our children and grandchildren that our God is real, and that we belong to him. But we shouldn’t just build monuments to great successes. Write down what you learn from your crop failures. Your sickness and surgery.

The loss of a loved one. As CS Lewis said, “God whispers in our pleasure, but he shouts in our pain.”

I recently heard an interview of Terri Roberts, whose son Charlie was the man who walked into an Amish schoolhouse in 2006 and shot ten children, killing five. Terri Roberts heard the sirens while on lunch break at her job at Sight and Sound Theater that day, and then got the news that her son was the murderer and had taken his own life as well. Can any of us imagine hearing that news about our son?

Could any of us imagine doing anything upon hearing that news besides crawling into a hole and never coming out again? But God’s grace was poured out on those parents immediately through the Amish neighbors who came to their house to say they loved them and forgave their son.

Terri has just written a book called “Forgiven,” in which she talks about the tragedy and how God brought the community together through it. What a powerful monument to our God who brings hope through great pain.

What monuments to God’s grace have you set up?

June 9, 2015

The Lord’s Prayer with Full Verse Cross-References

Monday morning at Thinking Out Loud, we offered a list of twelve (plus 3 bonus items) Bible passages (as opposed to verses) that every seasoned Christian should know. You can read that list by clicking here. Topping the list was The Lord’s Prayer. A few months ago at the blog Journey to the Center of the Soul, the author presented an expanded version of the prayer, which consists of incorporating a number of cross references; and I wanted to share that with readers here.  To read this at source, click the title below. Because we always put the scriptures in green here (to remind us of the similarity to a branch that is green when it has life) the entire post today is in green!

The Lord’s Prayer – Expanded Edition

We all know it by heart. We can recite the words without even thinking about what we are saying. I don’t think that was Jesus’ intent when He gave us that template for prayer we now call The Lord’s Prayer. So I would like to offer you an expanded version that I hope will help you think about what He was teaching us.

Our Father in heaven, let your name be kept holy, By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples1. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven2. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ3. [And] that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him4.

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people5.  [Saying], for this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life6.  But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you7.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven8.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come9.  Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ 10.

Give us this day our daily bread,

And he said to his disciples, Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing… And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them11. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus12.

and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses13.  And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses14.  So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift15. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive16.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it17.  Because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted18. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you19. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil20.

For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen

There’s nothing else to say! Blessings.

References:   1John 15:8,  2Matthew 5:16,  3Romans 15:5-6,  4John 5:23, 5Matthew 4:23, 6John 6:40, 7Matthew 12:28, 8Matthew 16:19,  9Matthew 24:14, 10Matthew 25:34, 11Luke 12:22-23,30, 12Philippians 4:19, 13Matthew 6:14-15, 14Mark 11:25, 15Matthew 6:23-24, 16Colossians 3:12-13, 171Corinthians 10:13, 18Hebrews 2:18, 19James 4:7, 20Ephesians 6:11

October 27, 2014

Only Visiting This Planet

On Sunday our sermon had a “passport” theme. One of the central points was that we’re just visitors, or what the Bible calls “strangers and aliens.”

NLT Phil. 1:21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.

25 Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. 26 And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what he is doing through me.

27aAbove all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ…

NLT 1 Peter 2:10 “Once you had no identity as a people;
    now you are God’s people.
Once you received no mercy;
    now you have received God’s mercy.”

11 Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.

At one point in the message, the pastor reminded us that we go on vacation we recognize that our “moving in” to a motel or hotel room is at best a 6 or 7 day proposition. We’re not there to stay, we’re just using the room, it’s not our home.  As I let that allegory sink in, it occurred to me that the way to tell if you’re not staying is this:

You don’t rearrange the pictures on the wall.

You might move a table to let you work at your laptop in better light. You might change the chairs around to play a board game. But that’s about it. You have no sense of belonging there. You aren’t going to do any painting or change the carpet.

But so many times we let ourselves get absorbed in activities that basically amount to rearranging the pictures. We allow ourselves to fall into the mindset that this place we call Earth is permanent. We invest so much in this life, and I’m not just speaking financially.

The Reformation Study Bible speaks of these investments as “bodily” desires, or we could use the word physical equally, and notes that the desires of our fallen, sinful nature are always going to be perverted by our sin nature. There’s a reference to Galatians 5:

NIV Gal. 5:19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Jesus certainly intended us to take a second look at even our concerns for what we would call the necessities of life in Matthew 6:

NIV Matt. 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

Take a minute to re-read that last verse: “The pagans run after these things.” The IVP New Testament Commentary reminds us:

Some people today associate faith with being able to obtain possessions from God, but Jesus did not even associate it with seeking basic needs from God. Pagans seek those things, he warned (v. 32; compare 5:47; 6:7); we should seek instead God’s kingdom and his righteous will (6:33).

Verse 33 is familiar to everyone here, it references not worrying in light of God’s ability and promise to provide for those necessities.

However “this world is not my home.” A new passport was issued to you when you affirmed Christ’s divinity, His payment for your sin, and your desire to subject your life decisions to His best ways.

Don’t spend too much time and energy concerned about the paintings on the walls.

July 18, 2014

Right Attitudes Toward Money

ESV Proverbs 28:6 Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity
    than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.

ESV Proverbs 19:22 What is desired in a man is steadfast love,
    and a poor man is better than a liar.

NIV Proverbs 18:11 The wealth of the rich is their fortified city;
    they imagine it a wall too high to scale.

NIV Proverbs 23:4 Do not wear yourself out to get rich;
    do not trust your own cleverness. 

NLT Proverbs 28:27 Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing,
    but those who close their eyes to poverty will be cursed.

ESV Proverbs 19:17 Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord,
    and he will repay him for his deed.

Yesterday morning James MacDonald concluded a two part series on wisdom in handling money.  Some of the scriptures he used are listed above.  You can listen to the audio for both this and the message which preceded it.

What struck me however was something that James said at the end when he talked about giving God the “first fruits” of our income. Of course, this was an agricultural society and “first fruits” meant that yes, you brought a bushel of apples to church! But today we have currency as a medium of exchange.

ESV Proverbs 3:9 Honor the Lord with your wealth
    and with the firstfruits of all your produce;

But then he pointed out that this is part of a trio of firsts that belong to God.

  • The first day of the week
  • The first hour of the day
  • The first part of my income

He said that just as one day a week to rest is an eternal principle, so also is giving first fruits to God an eternal principle.

10 then your barns will be filled with plenty,
    and your vats will be bursting with wine.

While it’s true that we’re not supposed to test God, there is one area where we are told to do so:

Malachi 3:10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.

James concluded with this verse:

NASB Proverbs 11:24 There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more,
And there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want.

Remember the illustration of the monkey with its hand in the jar. It wants the banana, but as long as its fist is clenched, it can’t get the banana. The proverb is teaching this:Those who are generous with what they have never run lack; it seems to increase; but those who hold on to it tightly are always in crisis.

Conclusion: His major points about money from the 2-part series:

  • Gain it honestly
  • Esteem it accurately
  • Share it generously

 

July 1, 2014

Lay Your Burdens Down

With a few exceptions, we try not to “borrow” devotions from the same source more than every six months, but Stephen and Brooksyne Weber at DailyEncouragement.net are an exception. This is my personal “go to” devotional blog, and I try to make it the first click when my computer boots up in the morning, but sometimes email interrupts!  When I read this, I thought of the video I wanted to include with it, Chuck Girard’s Lay Your Burdens Down, and then realized a few days later that they had the same idea. There’s also a great illustration in the middle of this that I hope to remember. To read today’s devotion at source, including pictures and other suggested videos, click this link.

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens” (Psalm 68:19). “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). “Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

In our final session at the chaplaincy training conference this week we heard Doug Clay share a message on coming to Jesus for our needs. He based his message on the story of the blind man in Mark 8 who came to Jesus to be healed and then came back a second time because he saw men as “trees walking”. Doug shared that this illustrated a persistence in coming to Jesus concerning our needs. One of the lines I really liked from his message was, “Starve your doubts and feed your hope”.

Following his message he asked the various leaders on our chaplain team to come to the front and then extended an altar call for any who may have come to the conference with a special need for which they wanted prayer. I think he was only expecting a few but long lines formed. As I observed the lines I thought of the burdens these people were bearing. For some it was a physical need, for others perhaps a matter in their marriage and family. For others it might have been a financial burden. Perhaps it was a special challenge or hard time for some in their ministry. Brooksyne and I sure recall going to meetings with a heavy heart due to ministry matters in past years.

As I observed the line I considered the burdens those we minister to are enduring. Encounters we have in the course of our chaplaincy, notes and prayer requests we receive from Daily Encouragement readers and those in our church and churches we have served. It was a long line in my mind as I considered specific situations people have and are experiencing.

One of our favorite writers is Robert J. Morgan, a pastor in Tennessee who shared an interesting illustration: he had been on a long trip and was travel weary as he walked through the airport. He was physically relieved when he spotted a long moving sidewalk and headed in that direction. It was here that the Lord spoke to his heart.

He had a bag in each hand but in his fatigue he didn’t even think to set them down. “I was still carrying my load while the moving sidewalk was carrying me. Not until halfway down the hall did I have the presence of mind to release my bags and let the moving sidewalk carry them for me.”

Can you can identify with Morgan’s illustration? In regard to my burdens I tend to set them down (trust) and then pick them back up again (doubt).

As we write this message today I consider several I know who face heavy burdens, part of the long line of people who need God’s tender touch.

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” In Scripture God often emphasizes the unit of time we call the day.  In fact it’s the very first unit of time that is referred to in the Bible and the most frequently mentioned starting with Genesis 1:14.

Certainly each of us knows about burdens and we can readily identify with the Lord’s statement that “each day has enough trouble [burdens] of its own” (Matthew 6:34b). A commentary considers the meaning of the daily text in this way: “God daily carries us as a manifestation of His protective and sustaining care.” Such an interpretation brings to mind “Footprints in the Sand” written by Mary Stevenson during her teen years in 1936 as she endured major obstacles in her young life.*

What assurance His Word brings. Believing friend, God is bearing your burdens today, and wants to lighten your load. He loves you, and the trial you are presently enduring does matter to Him. He is faithful and He will see you through to the other side! Don’t try to shoulder your burdens for the heavy load will surely break you.  Instead lay your burdens down at the foot of the cross. Jesus will meet you there.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

*I didn’t want to edit the devotional, but I’ve always heard “Footprints” credited to Margaret Fishback Powers. Either way, the illustration applies. (At least a half-dozen people have claimed the poem was ‘theirs,’ Powers is widely considered to be the author of record.)

February 6, 2014

Breaking the Predictable Ministry Pattern

Luke 5:1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret,  the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

Today we pay a return visit to the Living Truth website, the ministry of Charles Price, pastor of The Peoples Church in Toronto. You can read this at source here.  For broadcast times of Living Truth in your country, click here.

“He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” —John 21:6

Just when we think we’ve got it all figured out we have to shake our heads in awe. What is there about Jesus that will surprise us almost every time?

In Luke, Chapter 5, Jesus tells Peter to go out into the deep and let down his nets for a catch. It’d been a long night. They hadn’t caught anything, and Peter was reluctant, but followed Christ’s instructions. Then in John, Chapter 21, Jesus stood by the Sea of Tiberias, and called out to His disciples, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they replied, and He said to them, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”

On both occasions, the disciples were hesitant and sceptical, but after obeying Jesus’ instructions, they were left in awe of the massive amount of fish they had caught. Why do we think the disciples were fishing out of one side of the boat? Because that’s what they always did. In the process of fishing for people, we like to work in the same way; reduce it to a predictable pattern, because that’s how we’ve learned to do it; however, it does not require the initiative of God. We often diminish the work of God by doing what we’ve done before, and then wonder why we’re not catching any fish.

We have to allow the Lord Jesus, Himself, to be the origin of how we are going to reach out to people. We can’t tie Him down to familiar methods or programs that have met with success before. We simply will not be fruitful operating in automatic mode. Jesus is original every time, and it’s when our relationship with Him is alive and fresh that He initiates, directs and enables. We should not be looking at patterns, but at the principle that lies behind them. The patterns we bury, but the principle remains the same. And that is in our obedience and dependence on Christ, we give Him freedom to operate through us in His way and His time.

Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow me.” That means we keep in step with Him. Then He says, “And where I am, my servant also will be” (John 12:26).The fixed point is always Jesus, and keeping in step with Him will sometimes take us to unexpected places in unexpected ways. In relationship with Jesus, we learn to discern His will, reading into it all the circumstances of divine providence and divine initiative that works out His purpose. That often means casting our nets in different ways and in different places. It’s when we wait for His direction and follow His leading, that again and again, Jesus will astound us.

Matthew Henry writes:

He from whom nothing is hid, no, not [even] the inhabitants under the waters (Job 26:5), knew on what side of the ship the shoal of fishes was, and to that side he directs them. Note, Divine providence extends itself to things most minute and contingent…

Charles Price’s devotion concludes:

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, You amaze me again and again, and I pray, Lord, that I will always be able to discern your voice and follow your leading. Thank You, Lord.

TO REFLECT UPON: How has Jesus led me in an unexpected way?

Next Page »