Christianity 201

March 10, 2018

Encouraged and Satisfied

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Elsie Montgomery is one of the most faithful devotional writers I encounter when preparing these articles to share with you. She’s now in her 12th year of writing and this is her 14th article here at C201. Click the title below and read it at her blog, Practical Faith.

Content with God’s plan?

God arranges devotional readings to fit whatever is going on in my life. I don’t know how He does that but am so thankful for it. Some days I need correction or a rebuke. He knows and does it. Some days I need something new to challenge me. He does that too. Some days I need to be encouraged and He always knows what to say, both from the Scriptures and from A.W. Tozer’s refreshing perspectives.

My main function in the Body of Christ is prayer. I used to teach and be more involved with other people. Now I am still with people, yet my role has changed from talking and teaching to observation and intercession. God is teaching me to pray as I listen to the Holy Spirit. It is a wonderful thing, yet at times I feel disconnected. I sometimes wonder if this is all He wants.

Tozer says that many ordinary folks may have nothing to recommend them but a deep devotion to the Lord and the fruit of the Spirit which they unconsciously display. The Lord says to me, “This is where you fit.”

Then Tozer goes on. He says the church could not carry on without these people. Some of them are the first to come forward when work is required. My health spoils this, but then he says some are the last to go home when there is prayer needed. The way I see it, prayer is always needed. Tozer says I might not be known outside of the local church because faithfulness and goodness are rarely newsworthy, but people like this are a benediction wherever they go.

I am encouraged. Being great might produce admiration in carnal people but God helps me be content to walk with Him in the fullness of His Spirit that I might pray His will and be satisfied that this is a relatively hidden ministry. He also encourages me in small ways that far out-weigh any accolades. For instance, in the past month He put on the hearts of three children, a three-year-old girl, a boy of about six and a girl of about four to make cards for me. One said, “We hope you are feeling better. I love you.” The boy’s said, “I pray that you are not afraid because God is with you.” Last week, I was blessed by a card with hearts and handprints. Her mother said it was totally the child’s idea to make it for me.

Today’s verses are about what comes from the heart. The children’s cards tell me of their openness to the Holy Spirit and as a result are blessing others. The devotional does that too. Those verses begin with Jesus’ rebuke to the hypocrisy of religious leaders:

“You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:34–37)

Those children leave a fragrance of Christ that lingers in my heart. I want to be like them. God assures me that in praying for them and for others, this role in His kingdom has great value. He hears my heart, puts blessing into the hearts that listen to Him, even the hearts of “the least of these” so that they become a blessing to others, even to me. There is great joy in being loved by little people who hardly know me. Imagine the joy in the heart of Jesus when those who know Him express their love by obedience and by loving others.

^^^^^^^^^
Dear Lord Jesus, Tozer ends with this: “Come unto God, unite yourself to God, and the doing power you have is infinite!” You have encouraged me. Prayer is sometimes a delight, yet also at times very hard work. It is spiritual warfare for the enemy wants to stop me, but also is an unimaginable link to You — and it sometimes results in great surprises.

January 25, 2018

Redefining Family

by Clarke Dixon

Who feels more like “family” to you, the family you were adopted or born into, or a group of friends? There was an article some time ago which lamented the breakdown of the family. Though I don’t remember much about the article, the author looked at how tv shows were helping to redefine family with “Friends” leading the way.  Many shows portray one’s family members as the last people you would go to for empathy or understanding. However, one’s friends are portrayed as always being there for love and support. With family being redefined in our day how are we supposed to define family? Jesus tells us in Mark 3, and you may be surprised:

31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:31-35

Considering the importance placed on family in Old Testament law, Jesus’ redefinition of family was shocking to the people of that day. It may be just as shocking today. We may find ourselves asking if Jesus should have been a better Christian and taken the opportunity to affirm the importance of family. Instead he redefines his family as those who do the will of God. What are we to make of this?

First, Jesus redefinition of family as those who do God’s will is good news for those with no family, or whose family has abdicated their role. You might lose out on the ideal family, but you never need lose out on a family. This, of course, speaks to the nature of the Church. If one’s experience of church is to just show up, sing a few songs, hear a sermon and go home, then we are missing out on part of what God’s will for the church is. Reading the New Testament, you never get the sense that people just went to church. You get the sense that they are the church, in relationship with God and with each other. While some churches practically demand a quiet sanctuary prior to worship as a sign of reverence, I pastor a very noisy church. I prefer to look at the positive side of this and celebrate the fact that people are relating to each other. Many churches, including ours, are known as being friendly. However, churches need to go beyond just being friendly, to being family.

Second, Jesus’ redefinition of family is good news for world peace. We have family everywhere, and that family transcends political, racial and language boundaries. Moving from Ottawa I do not miss city life. I do, however, miss the diversity we enjoyed at Fourth Avenue Baptist. Each Sunday I could look around and see people from Jamaica, Russia, Iran, England, Northern Ireland, Haiti, Benin, and often other nations besides. My favourite Sundays were the combined services with a primarily Congolese church. We would worship in up to four different languages with our love for decorum before God Almighty mixing wonderfully with their excitement about Jesus. One is reminded of what’s ahead:

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb . . .  Revelation 7:9

Third, Jesus’ redefinition of family is not a rejection of our genetic family, but a call to enter into it with passion. When someone does the will of God as the brother or sister of Jesus, it is good news for one’s family. What is the will of God within family life? We can think of specific instructions for a wife to “respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:3), and for husbands to “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Such sacrificial love and mutual respect is good for family life. We can think of instructions for children to “obey your parents” (Ephesians 6:1), and for parents to not “provoke your children to anger” (Ephesians 6:4). Many other passages pointing to God’s will for us are beneficial for family life also. Like, “love one another” (John 13:34), and “do to others you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31). Those things work well in family. Also “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), and “Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4). Sobriety and faithfulness are always good for family. And one more on God’s will:

“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

Many a dysfunctional family could use more justice, kindness and members who walk humbly with God. Far from a call to renounce family, God’s will is that we do family well.

Finally, Jesus’ redefinition of family points forward to the wonderful possibility of being God’s child. You may say, “But Pastor, I try to do God’s will and find it impossible to always do it. I always mess up at some point”. Keep reading the Gospel of Mark until you get to that place where Jesus prayed “remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will” (Mark 14:36). God’s will was that in Jesus’ death and resurrection death should be defeated and we would be reconciled to God. Jesus did the will of the Father and now we have the wonderful opportunity of being adopted into His family, not because of our perfection in keeping His will, but because of His.

Should we be surprised that Jesus redefines family? We should not be surprised for it is an act of love and grace. God calls us into a new kind of family, then calls us and enables us to do His will within our family of origin.

 All Scripture references are taken from the NRSV.

Listen to the audio of Redefining Family at this link.

January 17, 2018

Prayer for World Leaders

Today, I want to do something completely different. I want to share something that Jill, a friend of ours posted on Facebook, and help her take it to a wider audience.


Praying these scriptures, and sounding a warning for all leaders of all God’s nations to follow, praying that they will speak with Godly wisdom, discernment, respect, may they humble themselves, live a life of compassion and love for all the people they rule over and for each other’s countries.

Psalms 2:10-11 – Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling.

Proverbs 11:14 – For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.

Proverbs 21:1 – The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.

Job 12:23-25 – He makes nations great, and destroys them; he enlarges nations, and disperses them.

Proverbs 2:1-8 – My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2) turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding— 3) indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4) and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5) then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. 6) For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7) He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, 8) for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.

2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

• Dear LORD God,
This day and always may we be reminded of:

1 Timothy 2:1-6:

“I exhort therefore, that, first of all , supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified 
in due time.

Dear faithful Holy LORD God Almighty we give you thanks that you are in control and that: Jesus Christ is the Ruler of all the Kings and leaders on earth.

May you alone, LORD God receive all the glory and honor, may we humble ourselves, and come before you in prayer, in continued praise and adoration. may we walk in your paths of righteousness and may we live a life mirroring Jesus and do what he continues to tell us to do:

” You have heard people say, “Love your neighbors and hate your enemies.” But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for anyone who mistreats you. Then you will be acting like your Father in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both good and bad people. And he sends rain for the ones who do right and for the ones who do wrong. If you love only those people who love you, will God reward you for that? Even tax collectors love their friends.” (Matthew 5:43-46)

Father God, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, may we seek to always be in the center of your perfect will.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

May 16, 2017

Seeking God’s Approval

Today we’re paying a return visit to Mark McIntyre at the blog Attempts at Honesty. Click the title below to read at source.

A difficult transition

One of the things about the Christian life that I have had the most difficulty with is fully appreciating my identity in Christ and the implications of that identity.

I have nearly completed my sixth decade of life, all but five years of it as a believer, yet I find myself trying to earn the approval of both God and the people around me. I need to transition from trying to earn God’s approval to responding to the love and acceptance that I already have. Rather than trying to be an initiator, I need to be a responder.

In the case of God, my head knows that he already approves of me. I do not need to earn his love. By doing so, I am trying to earn what I already possess.

In the case of the people around me, it is a fools errand to try to please them due to a combination of my propensity to failure and their own similar struggles. My experience is (John Lydgate not withstanding) that I can’t please some of the people all of the time. I can’t even please myself all of the time.

Yet, I am reminded that while I do not need to earn God’s approval, my life goes better when I am obedient to what he calls me to do. While I cannot earn God’s love, nor earn my salvation, I can act in such a way that brings pleasure to God. In the parable of the talents, Jesus enjoins us to faithfulness so that in the end we hear “Well done, good and faithful slave . . .” (Matthew 25:21).

But I find this complicated by the distractions both within and around me. My life has been a process of transitioning from being a man-pleaser to being first and foremost a God-pleaser. I feel that I should be so much farther along than I am in making this transition.

I am very good at making excuses for my lack of progress. I might blame it on personality (indirectly blaming it on God who made me), I might blame the way I was brought up or I might blame it on the people in my life. While these often make it more difficult, they are not the reason for my lack of progress.

My lack of progress in making this transition is due to my pride. I want to be in charge. I want to earn what I am given. I want to be admired for what I have done. I want to finally conquer the lingering feelings of inadequacy through hard work and determination. I. I. I. I ad infinitum.

My only hope is what Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:4-7:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (ESV)

I should follow God’s advice and cease striving and know that he is God (Psalm 46:10) and let him do the work that only he can do.

April 3, 2017

Pray for People in High Positions

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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I’m not sure who recommended it, but I have had it bookmarked in my computer for some time to introduce you to Thomas Mathew whose website banner is ‘Praise the Lord Jesus Christ.’ also known as Believer Blogs. I had a really hard time choosing which article to post here, so you’re encouraged to click the title below and then surf the site for more interesting and helpful articles.

Pray for Kings

1Tim 2:1-3 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior

Dear friends, I thank God for the freedom that we enjoy in many nations in this world to worship Jesus in spirit and truth and to proclaim our faith freely. But not every place has this privilege. Always, everywhere, the “spirit of the world” is opposed to the proclaiming of the truth! In the apostolic times, we see the men of God much taunted and persecuted for their passionate preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In such a context, Paul exhorts the church to pray for all people, especially to those who are in authority & the kings especially.

Why should we do this ? Because it’s pleasing in God’s sight. Because, this prayer will help the authorities to change their mind concerning our faith and will cause us to lead our lives in a quiet & peaceful manner with the precious fruits of godliness & honesty.

These people may even come to the faith!! Verse 4 says: It’s God’s will that all men are saved and that they should come to the knowledge of Truth. Dear child of God, the Lord has uniquely positioned you to minister the gospel to certain people who may be your friends, relatives and colleagues. No other evangelist may reach them, but the Lord has given them into your hands to lead them to a knowledge of Truth.

A verse in Phil 4:22 is a great encouragement for me. It says: All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. Someone in those times had the anointing and calling to go into the Caesar’s palace to proclaim the gospel to them, and as a result many were saved there.

I thank God for all the blessed missionaries who are taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the unreached nations and people groups. But that leaves a lot of people within our reach: Whom we can reach with the message of God’s love, if only we are filled with God’s love for them, and boldness for declaring the gospel to them. Like Paul says, we need to come to the stage where we say “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the power of God to salvation!”

Pray for all people without ceasing! Pray for Kings and rulers and governments! Pray for nations! Pray for your near & dear! Pray that the Lord of the harvest will send His chosen ones into the fields. Ask the Lord to show you the people whom you should be reaching with the Gospel. As we pray faithfully, we will see the hand of the Lord moving in our nations and turning the hearts of even the rulers towards the Lord Jesus.

God bless you !

October 1, 2016

“I Am Willing”

This is our sixth visit with Ben Nelson at the blog Another Red Letter Day. He has been faithfully writing since June 2012, and if you click the title below, you can then browse other posts.

I Am Willing

Join me in Mark 1 today and let’s think about what Jesus said in these three little words. But first … a little context.

And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” – Mark 1:40-41 NASB

Jesus ran into people every day during His ministry years. It is in fact why He came, to seek and to save the lost, to run into people and bring the kingdom of heaven into their lives. No two of the folks He encountered were alike. It was not as though everyone who came to Him for a miracle came with the same level of faith and expectation.

Some knew deep inside that if they could reach Him, they would find healing, like the woman with the issue of blood.

for she was saying to herself, “If I only touch His garment, I will get well.” – Matthew 9:21 NASB

Some were not even sure He had any power whatsoever.

“It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” – Mark 9:22 NASB

Some understood He was not limited to proximity, and could heal across the miles like the centurion.

But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. – Matthew 8:8 NASB

So what about this leper we meet in Mark 1? He had a concern I often hear voiced in Evangelical circles. It’s common thought today that Jesus can still heal and does still heal, but it is linked to some sort of whim or fancy or divine fiat. We come to the Lord in prayer asking for healing as though we hoping He’s in a good mood and might just condescend to do us a little favor and heal our loved one.

This phrase only comes up five times in the NASB and three of them are three accounts of this event. One is when Jesus is talking about John the baptist, explaining that he was Elijah who would come. The only other time we hear this phrase is in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus cries out to the Father:

saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” – Luke 22:42 NASB

Many have adopted this phrase as part of their prayer life.

Here’s the thing.

Jesus answered the question.

He answered this man in no uncertain terms.

He could have simply healed the leper to demonstrate His will without saying a word.

But Jesus—the Word of God—the very Will of God incarnate—the express image of God—Jesus—answered.

I am willing!

And if this doesn’t answer it for you with enough clarity, look at His ministry. He healed all who came to Him. Time after time we see Him heal them all.

The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. – Matthew 4:24 NASB

But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. Many followed Him, and He healed them all, – Matthew 12:15 NASB

We are not calling out to God for something unclear, or something unprecedented.

Jesus, in the Garden, placed Himself into a circumstance we could never see. He was facing separation from the Father, He was facing the cup of God’s wrath stored up against all our sin and the prospected was horrifying.

This is not our case when the come to the Lord Jesus for our healing. He told us His name is Jehovah Rapha – the Lord our Healer.

I understand that when we are talking about our future James tells us to leave it in the Lord’s hands.

Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” – James 4:15 NASB

But James is not teaching us to pray. He’s talking about our attitude toward life.

Jesus Christ who is the same, yesterday, today and forever, said without hesitation:

“I am willing; be cleansed.” – Matthew 8:3 NASB

Hallelujah! (That’s a place for shouting!)

July 27, 2016

How God Brings About What He Intends

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

How God Changes the World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 18, 2016

God’s Plan for My Life: What is It?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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God Has a Plan

Today we pay a return visit to Scott McCown’s site, The Morning Drive. I looked over several items there; seeing some great themes that we could consider. But I had to choose, so I picked this one from late June. Click the title below to read it on his blog. (The graphic above was not part of the original article.)

How to Know God’s Plan

  • If God leads me to it He will lead me through it.
  • If this is God’s will, then I will endure.
  • I guess this was in God’s plan for me.
  • I don’t know why God planned for me to go through this.
  • God must has more for you to do, that is why you survived.
  • They finished what God planned for them to do, so He took them home.

I hear these and similar phrases more and more each day. “How can I know what God wants me to do in my life?”

I know these are people of faith, that are sincerely wanting to do God’s will. After all Paul tells us, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:17). I do not want to be foolish in God’s eyes, so I need to know his plan for me!

What is God’s plan?

I want to share a few verses and some advice that will help you determine God’s plan for you. What I will share is what you can use to determine what you should be doing and what you should do in the future.

Jesus gives the answer, “And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31).

Love God with all that you are.

Love your neighbor with the same intensity that you love yourself.

What does God have planned?

  • He did not and does not plan the day of your death – He may know when that will be, but He did not set the date.
  • God did not plan for you or your loved one to battle that disease or disaster. Those things simply are a part of a physical world. He is there to carry you through to healing, recovery, or on eternity.
  • God does not have written down what job you should have to please Him, nor did he pre-plan your soul-mate you should marry.
  • He did not make you straight or LGTB.

You and I choose our life’s direction based on both our heredity and environment and must discern our the choices we face and make the choice we find consistent with the Word of God and how we should live as God’s children.

What God wants is for us to do? “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).

That is God’s plan!

September 5, 2015

Pursuing God’s Agenda

Today’s article is from the blog Disciple All Nations which came recommended. Russ Mitchell serves as Assistant Director of Research for One Challenge www.OneChallenge.org. The article I would have liked to post here, On the Study of God’s Great Works was a bit longer than what we usually run here, but I hope you will check it out if you have time. As always, you’re encouraged to click the title below and read this at source…

Spiritual Leaders Must First of all Pursue God’s Agenda in Unity

My last posting highlighted two characteristics of spiritual leaders found in 1 Chronicles 12:32, namely that spiritual leaders understand the times and know what God’s people should do. Considering this passage in its context, a third characteristic of spiritual leaders emerges: spiritual leaders must first of all pursue God’s agenda.  So let’s see how this idea emerges from the passage.

1 Chronicles 12:23, which introduces the entire passage, says: “Now these are the numbers of the divisions equipped for war, who came to David at Hebron, to turn the kingdom of Saul to him, according to the word of the LORD (NASB). The last few words are key, as they provide insight into why these leaders of Israel took the action they did. They understood that it was God’s revealed will to make David king.

agendaThe fact that David was chosen by God to rule over all Israel was not new news. More than a decade had passed since God revealed to the prophet Samuel that David was to rule instead of Saul and Samuel anointed David as king (1 Samuel 13:14; 16:13). So the fact that David was God’s choice to rule all Israel had been known for some time.

Instead, we see that for a period, Israel’s leaders pursued a different agenda. At this point in time, seven and a half years passed since the death of Saul, from which time David reigned over only the tribe of Judah. These seven and a half years were characterized by conflict and civil war as the leaders of the other eleven tribes attempted to maintain the kingship of Saul’s house, whom God had rejected, instead of making David king, as God directed. Thus we have a significant amount of time where un-spiritual leaders were seeking to do their own will rather than pursuing God’s revealed agenda.

So the action that we see here in 1 Chronicles 12 was not immediate action based on a new revelation, but rather the leaders and people finally (!) coming into alignment with God’s long ago revealed will.

Henry and Richard Blackaby, in their book Spiritual Leadership, state that effective spiritual leaders move God’s people into alignment with God’s agenda. I find this description of spiritual leadership very helpful. But this passage in 1 Chronicles 12 brings to light the problematic issues that emerge when the majority of spiritual leaders choose to not pursue God’s revealed agenda. The intervening seven and a half years between Saul’s death and David being made king over all Israel involved civil war, assassinations and needless death and suffering, all because Israel’s leaders would not accept God’s revealed word. Instead they pursued their own agenda – to their own detriment.  In this context, spiritual leaders must first choose to pursue God’s agenda; then they are able to move God’s people into alignment with God’s agenda.

In my experience two plus decades of working with Christian leaders, I have observed that it is frequently necessary to persuade spiritual leaders to pursue God’s revealed agenda. One would think that this should not be an issue; but it is. There are many possibilities of why this is so. Some may be ignorant of God’s revealed agenda. Others have forgotten or neglected the pursuit of God’s will or have a list of excuses of why God’s  revealed will does not apply. A few have outright rejected God’s word in order to pursue a self-seeking agenda.  Maybe the pursuit of God’s agenda is “politically incorrect” or challenges the status quo of those who are positional church leaders. So the first task is to help spiritual leaders wrestle with what God wants, to take God’s revealed word seriously, to lay down their own agendas to pursue God’s agenda in unity. I ‘ve observed that a primary factor that derails church planting and disciple making initiatives is that leaders are unable to come together in unity to pursue God’s agenda. Is it any wonder that there is so much disunity in the Body of Christ when its leaders are unwilling to pursue God’s agenda?

So this is the key point: spiritual leaders must first of all pursue God’s agenda in unity; then they will be able to move the rest of God’s people to accomplish what is on God’s agenda.  We see this happening in 1 Chronicles 12, where hundreds of thousands of people come into alignment with God’s agenda to make David King of all Israel. Would it not be more wonderful to see hundreds of thousands – even millions –  of God’s people working together today to make Jesus king of the whole earth!

Adding this perspective to our previous observations from 1 Chronicles 12 about spiritual leadership it is seen that spiritual leaders must:  (1) pursue God’s agenda in unity, (2) understand the times and (3) know what God’s people should do.

I see that several practical applications that follow from these observations. So the next piece will focus on three practical questions every spiritual leader must be able to answer.

August 14, 2015

Wishing You Were Someplace Else

It’s very easy to wish your circumstances were different. If only we’d bought that other house. If only I had taken the other job. If only I had married the other person. If only I had moved to that other city.

Earlier today I found myself stuck by the wording of 1 Cor. 7:17 in the NIV:

Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.

The specific context is marriage; and the earlier verses can be applied what a new believer is to do if they find themselves married to a non-believer; as well as to widows, the unmarried, etc. But the verse also seems to speak to the broader life issues I outlined in the first paragraph.

We have friends who were missionaries in Kenya, East Africa. One young man who was confined to a wheelchair accepted Christ as Savior and Lord and felt called to be a missionary. The Christian workers there presented him with the impracticalities of this, but he felt assured of the Lord’s protection from weather and wild animals, so when last seen, he was headed off in his wheelchair along a dirt path to destinations unknown.

While I don’t know how that story ended, I do know of people in North America who have followed the call of Christ, and felt that immediately they were to quit their job and go into ministry. I am sure that this works out well for some of them, but no doubt others get caught up in the zeal of the moment, missing out on the possibility that Christ has now called them to be his representative in whatever office, factory, school, neighborhood, etc. they find themselves living.

Closer to the verse’s context, I am sure that other have used their new-found faith to justify leaving an unbelieving spouse. Eugene Peterson translates the same verse this way:

And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life. Don’t think I’m being harder on you than on the others. I give this same counsel in all the churches.

At the root of this is a general discontentment. Ray Pritchard notes:

  • If we’re young, we want to be older. If we’re old, we wish we were younger.
  • If it’s old, we want something new. If it’s new, we want something newer.
  • If it’s small, we want something bigger. If it’s big, we want something really big.
  • If we have a hundred dollars, we want two hundred. If we have two hundred, we want five hundred.
  • If we have an apartment, we want a condo. If we have a condo, we want a house. If we have a house, we want a bigger house. Or a new house. Or a nicer house. Or maybe we want to scale down and live in an apartment again.
  • If we have a job, we dream of a better job, a bigger job, a closer job, with a bigger office, a better boss, better benefits, more challenge, bigger opportunity, nicer people to work for, and more vacation time.
  • If we’re single, we dream of being married. If we’re married, … (you can finish that sentence yourself.).

We Were Born Discontented. None of this is unusual in any way. We were born discontented and some of us stay that way forever. And a certain amount of discontentment can be good for the soul. It’s not wrong to have dreams about what the future might hold. The hope of something better drives us forward and keeps us working, inventing, striving, creating and innovating. But there is a kind of discontentment that leads in a wrong direction. Here are five signs that discontentment is dragging us down spiritually:

1) Envy. The inability to rejoice at the success of others.
2) Uncontrolled Ambition. The desire to win at all costs, no matter what it takes or who gets trampled in the process.
3) Critical Spirit. The tendency to make negative, hurtful, cutting remarks about others.
4) Complaining Spirit. The disposition to make excuses and to blame others or bad circumstances for our problems. A refusal to take personal responsibility. Inability to be thankful for what we already have.
5) Outbursts of Anger. Angry words spoken because our expectations were not met.

The discontented person looks around and says, “I deserve something better than this.” Because he is never happy and never satisfied, he drags others into the swamp with him. No wonder Benjamin Franklin declared, “Contentment makes a poor man rich, discontent makes a rich man poor.”

He goes on to note:

The first principle is repeated three times in this paragraph:

“Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him” (v. 17).

“Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him” (v. 20).

“Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to” (v. 24).

This is a case where the meaning is very clear: Lead the life God assigns to you. God has given each of us a job to do. He has gifted each person in a certain way and has assigned us a particular place in life. This reflects a very high view of God’s sovereignty. We are both assigned and called to a certain place in life. The Greek words are very strong and definite. The old Puritans used to say, “God orders everything with perfect wisdom.” I wonder how many of us would say that. Almost unconsciously, we want to change “everything” to “some things” or “a few things” or even “most things.” But “everything?” Isn’t that going too far? What about all the pain and suffering and evil in the world? How can that be “ordered” by God? We can either talk about that for the next 70 years and still not settle it, or we can simply say that if God doesn’t “order” all things, then he’s not really God at all. He’s not the author of evil but even evil must serve his ultimate purpose. Sin cannot exist outside of God’s control or else God isn’t truly sovereign. I freely admit this is a mystery, but it is a mystery inherent in being creatures and not the Creator. The fact that we can’t fully understand these things simply proves once again that “he’s God and we’re not.”

This is just a small part of larger sermon manuscript; you can read the whole text at Sermon Central.

Of course, I couldn’t just stop there without reminding us of Paul’s words in Philippians 4:

11b I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12a I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…

Again, while the specific context is marriage and family-related, Paul is laying down a principle here that applies broadly; but oh, how often we wish were just someplace else. While some of this is a reasoned consideration of life options, I am sure that some of it is just an escapist mentality or a fantasy mindset.

God has you exactly where you are today to fulfill his purposes in your world. Remember Pritchard’s words above: Lead the life God assigns to you.

August 9, 2015

The True Lord’s Prayers — Part Two

This is the second of three parts of an original C201 devotional study.

We said yesterday that we would look at some instances of Jesus offering prayer on our behalf. Probably the best example of this is in the extended section of his life and ministry found only in the Gospel of John, the section that begins at the conclusion of what we call “The Last Supper” in John 13, taking place in and around the Garden of Gethsemane. The entirety of chapter 17 is probably most deserving of the title “The Lord’s Prayer.”

I believe that some of this clearly falls into the category of something meant to be overheard. The IVP Commentary notes:

This chapter contains the most extensive and profound prayer of Jesus we have. When Jesus prayed at Lazarus’s tomb he made it clear that he had no need of expressing prayer because he is one with God in his whole life, the union true prayer expresses. Nevertheless, he prayed for the benefit of those present (11:41-42), and the same is true here as well (17:13).

Although it’s out of the chronological order, we’ll look at the example of Lazarus tomorrow.

We don’t know how John recorded all this; the standard stereotype at this point of the narrative is of The Twelve (minus Judas) having a hard time staying awake.

Big Picture

In the first few verses, Jesus reviews the “master plan” that we looked at yesterday.

NLT John 17:1 After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.

“I have revealed you to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me.

I’ve omitted verse 9 here for the moment, the passage continues:

10 All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. 11a Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name;… 12 During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.

13 “Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. 14 I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.

Then jumping a few verses:

22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me.  23a I am in them and you are in me…

And finally:

25 “O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. 26 I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.”

Specific Petitions

Now I want to gather up the other parts of this text; the sections clearly prayed on our behalf:

“My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you…

11b …now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are…

15 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to this world any more than I do. 17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19 And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.

20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me…

23b … May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. 24 Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!

I could have fine-tuned this a little more, but I hope you see the distinction between the internal focus of the Father and Son commiserating over the master plan that is drawing to a conclusion, and the outward focus of Jesus praying for his disciples and us; also the interweaving of both types of prayer.

If you want to know what is God’s will for the capital-C Church, read the last section of his prayer again; this spells it out very clearly. If you haven’t already done so, make a point of committing verse 21 to memory.

June 3, 2015

Recognizing God’s Voice (3)

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Today we conclude a 3-part series from Rick Warren’s devotional blog: (click the section headers to read at source). To catch up on the whole series at his site, use this link.

The Fifth Test

“We will all be judged one day, not by each other’s standards, or even our own, but by the judgment of God … it is to God alone that we shall have to answer for our actions.” Romans 14:10, 13 (PH)

If something is not your responsibility, why should God talk to you about it? Wouldn’t he just talk directly to the person it concerns? This is the fifth test to consider when you wonder if an idea or impression you have comes from God – “Does it concern your responsibility?”

In John 21, Jesus told Peter that he would die a martyr’s death. Peter’s response was to glance at John, who was standing nearby, and ask Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” (John 21:21 NIV). Peter wasn’t satisfied with God telling him what was going to happen in his life. He wanted to know about John’s future as well.

Jesus responded by saying, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me” (John 21:22 NIV).

“What is that to you?” My wife, Kay, calls that the WITTY principle. We get ourselves in so much trouble when we start comparing ourselves to others. But when we do this, God says, “What is that to you?” He wants our focus to be following him, not worrying about other people.

Have you ever heard someone say, “God told me to tell you”? My response to that is, “Are you sure about that?” All believers have a direct line to God. And God doesn’t have to tell someone else to tell you. He can talk to you directly.

Now, does God ever speak to others through another person? Of course he does. But there are three guidelines you need to follow if feel God is using you to speak to someone else.

  1. Be patient and pray. Give God a chance to speak to that person directly.
  2. God will typically use you to confirm in someone else’s life what he’s already told them. So when you share your words with someone it won’t be a big surprise if it’s really from God.
  3. God will usually use you without you being conscious of it. If God is going to speak through you to others, he will often do it in a way that you don’t even realize it was God speaking through you. But the person on the receiving end will recognize its truth.

The Sixth Test

“There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 (NLT)

When you get an idea and you are wondering if it is from God, the sixth question to ask yourself is, “Is it convicting or is it condemning?” If it convicts, then it is from God, but if it condemns then it is from Satan.

A lot of Christians live under condemnation, or constant guilt, and they think it is from God. It isn’t. Condemnation comes from Satan. But conviction comes from God.

Here’s the difference between the two: The purpose of conviction is to correct you on a specific issue in order to bring a change in your life, and it is motivated by God’s love. Because God loves you, when he sees an area in your life that needs change – a relationship, a habit, an attitude – he will nudge you and say, “You need to work on this thing that’s out of whack in your life.”

The purpose of condemnation is to criticize and make you feel guilty, usually in a vague way. If you’ve ever felt guilty but you couldn’t point to anything specific, or if you’ve ever had a feeling of worthlessness, that is condemnation from Satan.

But Romans 8:1 says, “There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (NLT). God will never attack you; he will never say you’re worthless or unlovable. In fact, in Revelation 3:19 God says, “Those whom I dearly and tenderly love, I tell their faults and convict and discipline. So be earnest and repent (changing your mind and attitude)” (AMP).

As soon as you start to confess and change, you will no longer feel any conviction. It’s short-term.

But condemnation is Satan’s way of making you feel worse and worse. It doesn’t go away even after confession. It’s like the American court system. First there is the conviction of a crime in the court; then comes the condemnation, or sentencing which can last for years.

But God doesn’t work that way. In God’s justice system the Holy Spirit convicts us of what’s wrong in our life and we admit it. Jesus pays the condemnation. He serves the punishment for our sin through his death on the cross. And we are free to live the way God created us to live, to live the way Jesus enables us to live. That’s the grace of God.

The Seventh Test

“[God’s] peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 (NIV)

The final test in recognizing God’s voice is to ask yourself, “Do I sense God’s peace about it?” If you think you’ve heard from God, it measures up to God’s Word, you’ve gotten advice from other people and passed the other tests, but you still feel confused or anxious, then it doesn’t pass the seventh test.

Why? “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33 NIV). So you wait and remain patient until you sense God’s peace.

God is a perfect father. Parents don’t want their kids to feel worried or pressured when they ask them to do something. No, they want their children to feel encouraged. That’s the same way God wants to relate to you. He doesn’t want you to feel anxiety in anything he asks you to do.

The only time a sense of pressure is legitimate is when you keep saying no to God. That is a relational pressure that comes from holding God at arm’s length.

Satan wants to drive us compulsively in the things we do, but God doesn’t work that way. God wants to draw us compassionately. He’s the shepherd who wants to lead the sheep. He doesn’t drive us; he guides us. And, as sheep, we need to listen for his voice.

Philippians 4:6-7 describes the attitude you should have when you listen to God’s voice. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (NLT).

It’s not just a matter of hearing God’s voice; it’s also a matter or responding. Hearing is not enough. You have to act as well.

The Bible says that God speaks to people who do three things. “Listen to this wise advice; follow it closely, for it will do you good, and you can pass it on to others” (Proverbs 22:17 LB).

God speaks to those who listen to what he says, follow it closely, and then pass it on to others.


We appreciate being able to use these thoughts over the past three days. You can learn more and support Saddleback, Rick’s church, with these resources:

  • Foundations is a comprehensive tool for teaching the essential truths of Christian faith in a simple, systematic, and life-changing way. The 24 sessions, taught by Kay Warren and Tom Holladay, will take you on a thought provoking, life-changing exploration of 11 core doctrines: The Bible, God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit, Creation, Salvation, Sanctification, Good and Evil, The Afterlife, The Church, and The Second Coming.

 

 

June 1, 2015

Recognizing God’s Voice (1)

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:45 pm
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This is from Rick Warren’s blog: (click the section headers to read at source)

The First Test

“Don’t believe everything you hear just because someone says it is a message from God; test it first to see if it really is!” 1 John 4:1 (LB)

When I get an idea in my mind, how do I know if it’s from God? How do I know it’s not my own desire or even a lie from Satan? The answer is clear in 1 John 4:1 – I must test it to find out.

This week I want to share with you the seven biblical ways to test an impression and find out whether it is from God or not. These seven tests form a filter and you need to make sure that the idea you are testing passes all seven of them. When it does, you can have absolute confidence that the idea is from God.

The first test is to ask the question, “Does it agree with the Bible?”

God will never contradict his written word. Luke 21:33 says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (NIV). God’s truth is consistent. He is not going to tell you one thing in the Bible and then tell you something different in an impression.

And as Proverbs 12:19 says, “Truth stands the test of time.” How does this apply as a filter? For example, the Bible tells us to pay our taxes when it says “give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:21 NIV). So if you feel God telling you not to pay your taxes this year, that thought isn’t from God. It would be a contradiction of his Word.

There are also many verses in Proverbs that say God will bless your business if you have integrity and if you are honest and fair in all your business dealings. So if you get an idea that you could make more money and increase your profits by being dishonest, that idea is not from God.

The vast majority of God’s will for your life is in God’s Word. So if anyone ever comes up to you and says you need the Bible plus another book to find truth, they are wrong. Galatians 1:8 says,

“Even if an angel comes from heaven and preaches any other message, let him be forever cursed” (NLT).

That may sound harsh, but God’s truth does not change. If you want to know God’s voice, the only book you need to read is the Bible. You need to memorize it, study it, and meditate on it.

When you know God’s Word you will not be fooled by lies. But you will always get into trouble when you doubt the Bible.

The Second Test:

“In your lives you must think and act like Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5 (NCV)

God’s number one purpose in your life is to make you like Jesus. He is the standard for your life in how you think, act, feel and speak. That’s why the second test to determining whether an impression is from God or not is to ask this question: “Does it make me more like Christ?”

God is never going to tell you something in your mind that would cause you to do something that’s un-Christlike. If it is not like Jesus, believe me, you didn’t get the idea from God.

What is Jesus like? James 3:14-17 gives us some specifics that are a good measure for testing an idea:

“If you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition … such ‘wisdom’ is of the devil. The wisdom that comes from God is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy, impartial and sincere” (NIV).

First of all, this passage tells us two things God’s wisdom is not. It will not be motivated by bitter envy or selfish ambition.

These verses instead give seven things to test if an idea that comes into your mind is from God:

  • Is it pure? If any thought is impure, God didn’t give it to you.
  • Is it peace-loving? If the idea is from God, it will promote harmony and reconciliation, not conflict.
  • Is it considerate? Any idea that would hurt or harm someone, even though it may benefit you, is not from God because he cares about the effect it might have on others.
  • Is it submissive? If you get an idea from God, you must be open to having it tested by other people, asking them what they think about it. If you are hesitant and don’t feel like letting other people test the idea, then it didn’t come from God because it isn’t leading you to submit to others’ feedback.
  • Is it full of mercy? An impression from God will make you more gracious and forgiving. It won’t make you judgmental or critical.
  • Is it impartial and sincere? When you get an idea that’s from God, you don’t use it to manipulate people to get your own way.

Any idea that encourages these seven qualities in your life is an idea that will make you more like Christ.

 

May 31, 2015

God’s Higher Purpose

Applegate Christian Fellowship

A couple of times yesterday, I came across the name Jon Courson who is a pastor at Applegate Christian Fellowship in Oregon and has a podcast called Searchlight.  This is a sample of his daily devotional online, which you can read at this link.  (The picture is the outdoor amphitheater they use in the summer.)

Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
Romans 8:26 27

I spent some time this week with a man in his early thirties who is on his deathbed. The body of this young man, once a good athlete and a vibrant father, is now racked by cancer. His family asks, understandably, ‘Why? Why doesn’t the Lord just take him Home? Why the suffering? We prayed for his healing and that didn’t happen. What’s the Father doing?’

In those situations, you wonder. I understand the family saying, ‘Take him Home.’ But what if, in these final days of our brother’s difficulty and suffering, the Father is putting on the final touches of the inner person shaping and molding what he will be for the next billion years in Heaven? Is that what’s happening? I don’t know, for, like Paul, I know not how to pray. The only thing I do know is that I don’t know.

Let us ever remember that while prayer is to be directed to God, it is not to be directing God. Most people, at least for part of their pilgrimage, try to direct the Lord, thinking that’s what prayer is about. ‘Let me explain the situation, Lord. Here’s what you need to do …’ we say with great piety and audacity.

Jeremiah, a godly man to be sure, prayed, ‘Save Your people, Lord. Restore the nation. Revive us.’

‘Quiet thyself,’ answered God. ‘I will not hear your prayer, for I have determined that My people must be carried into Babylon, into captivity,’ (Jeremiah 20:4).

Thus, regardless how hard Jeremiah prayed, God had a different plan, for it was through their captivity that Judah was finally healed of her affinity for idolatry.

‘We know not how to pray,’ said Paul. We feel this as well, don’t we?

Someone comes to us and says, ‘Pray I’ll get the job.’ ‘Pray this project will prosper.’ Wait a minute. So many things I thought would be wonderful proved to be detrimental, a distraction, a curse; and so many things I thought would be terrible and awful proved to be a huge blessing.

The same is true nationally. It might be that the Lord wants to close us down. That’s a possibility. Maybe the best thing that could happen to our country would be a collapse economically, politically, militarily — because that’s what it might take to heal us spiritually. I don’t know. I’m not God. Therefore, I’m not going to give Him direction on what He should or should not do. Instead, I just groan, ‘Lord, You see what’s going on in the nation. You see what’s going on with that person. You see what’s going on in our congregation. I don’t know how to pray. I don’t know what Your will is. But I just give it all to You to work out according to Your perfect and beautiful plan.’

Now, if we don’t know how to pray, then why pray at all? Understand this: Prayer is not getting my will done in Heaven. Prayer is getting God’s will done on earth. It’s not me giving directions to the Father, but rather me saying, ‘Father direct me. I open the door for You to work. I hold up this need for You. I place this situation in Your hand’. I do this all through prayer because the Word tells us that God has chosen to work through prayer, and that if we do not pray we will limit what He would do, what He could do, what He desires to do (James 4:2).

Therefore, if I don’t pray, I will never know if God got His way with Peter John, or in this congregation, or in our nation. But if I do pray and say, ‘Lord, here’s the situation. I’m not directing You, but I’m just looking to You to have Your will done’ — then I can be at peace. Whatever happens, I know I played my part; I opened the door, and since the Father knows best, I can rest. The Spirit groans through me, the Son intercedes for me, and the Father will do what’s right concerning me — but if I don’t pray, I’ll always wonder if things would have been different if I had.

This Daily Devotional is an excerpt from the book “A Days Journey” by Pastor Jon. “A Days Journey” is a collection of 365 short devotions from the New Testament.

May 14, 2015

“It’s a God Thing”

This article by Shane Pruitt is somewhat topical, as it looks at a popular Christian cliché that some of us use. I wasn’t sure whether to post it here or at Thinking Out Loud, but I thought the content was a good match here at C201. As always, click the title below to read this at the blog I Already Am.

Should We Be Saying, “It’s A God Thing”?

It's a God ThingIt was a total “God thing!”

If you’ve spent much time around church people, you’ve probably heard (and maybe said) this statement hundreds of times.

“It’s a God thing” is used in Christian culture when things unexpectedly work out the way we wanted them to. We raised the total amount of money for our mission trip, the chips fell our way, we were totally surprised by an event that popped up from out of the blue.

But, inevitably this statement always follows something good that has happened to us—a story of healing, a rare coincidence that worked out well for us, finding a parking space, getting a job or when our child stops warming the bench in time to hit the game-winning shot.

Who’s in Control?

Should this statement be a part of our vernacular? Well, first, let’s see if the phrase is even biblically accurate:

“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!” (1 Chronicles 16:31).

“Our God is in the heavens; He does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3).

“Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps” (Psalm 135:6).

“The heart of man plans His way, but the Lord establishes His steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

“Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isaiah 46:10).

These five compelling verses tell us one clear thing: God is sovereign. And, there are literally dozens upon dozens of other verses that say the exact same thing.

God has supreme authority, control and power over all that has happened, is happening and will happen in the future in all times across all history. God has the right, the authority and the power to govern all that happens in accordance to His divine will. He has the right and the power to achieve His purposes. He is in control of circumstances that dictate whatever He wills to come to pass. He has complete control of everything and there is nothing that happens that is not done by or allowed through His will.

So, is the statement “It’s a God thing” accurate? Yes, of course, it is.

The great things that happen in our life—it’s a God thing! When things go our way—it’s God thing! We get that promotion we’ve been wanting—it’s a God thing!

All Things for Good

However, there is a flip side to that coin. When things don’t go our way—it’s still a God thing. When we don’t get the promotion that we’ve been wanting—it’s a God thing. Times of suffering, times of tribulation, times of loss—God thing, God thing. It’s all within God’s sovereign plans.

If God is truly sovereign, then He is in control of the “bad” days just as much as He is in control of the “good” days. Sometimes His plan is not what we may want or would plan for ourselves. Sometimes it’s hard to see where He is during the hard times. But we can trust that He’s there, that He cares, that this world is fallen, but He’s in control.

True faith is being able to say, “It’s a God thing” even in the midst of suffering, difficulty and heartache. When something doesn’t go my way, I can still know, trust and believe that God is working out all things for His glory and my good.

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

Maybe, the best way to look at the statement, “It’s a God thing” is to really understand that everything that is and occurs are all “God’s things” and not mine. And He can do what He wants with His things, including me.

(This Article was also picked up by RELEVANT Magazine online)

Go Deeper:  For a similar theme by the same author, check out Why We Stopped Saying, As Long As They’re Healthy”

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