Christianity 201

June 23, 2019

The Various Idols We Worship

For today’s Sunday Worship column, we’re featuring an author who is new to us. We tried to find Jack Garrott is what is termed a “Third Culture Kid.” That’s what it means when the country you think of as home is not the same as the country on your passport! He writes, “Raised in a missionary family, I’ve been steeped in the Bible from infancy, and my life has been a journey of learning to apply it. I’m far from perfect, but it is a joy to me to share with you some of the things God shows me day by day.” His website is Virtual Vitamins. Click the title below to read today’s article at source.

Idols

1 John 5:21 Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.

I’m sure I’ve never written on this verse, but I was drawn to it by the very fact that it’s not underlined in my Bible! Why would this be the final word in a letter from “the Apostle of Love?”

I think it comes from the broader definition of “idol” that we use today, rather than the stone, wood, or metal sculptures that were widely worshiped at the time John wrote this. That is to say, an idol is anything the devil uses to distract you from God, to steal your devotion away from Him. Defined that way, modern society is absolutely rife with idols. We even have the honesty to call popular entertainment figures “idols.”

For some people, computer games are idols. For many people, their smartphones are idols. Actually, in both those cases and in a lot of others, the real idol is being entertained, that is, self. Countless people worship sex, in one way or another. Money, prestige, security, the list goes on and on.

Almost none of these things are originally or fundamentally bad in themselves, but the moment they become a distraction from God, they become an idol. It indeed comes back to lordship, which is an issue I’ve touched on a great deal recently. We must constantly be on our guard to be sure that Jesus is Lord in all our decisions and activities.

That certainly doesn’t mean we aren’t to relax and have a good time; Jesus Himself went to dinner parties, not to mention taking His disciples away from the crowds from time to time to relax. However, our goal should be a constant and growing awareness of God, our place in Him and His place in us. Idols are anything that distracts from that.

My understanding of this has been weak at times, but has grown greatly in recent years. I am interested in a vast number of different things, from physics to electronics to biology to history to geography to many more, and often enough I have allowed those interests to distract me from the One who creates all that.

I’ve never been particularly taken by the “entertainment industry,” but recently politics has been quite a distraction. I need to keep my focus on the “God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:6) At the same time, since I deal with so many distractions myself, I need to have grace and mercy on those around me who are likewise distracted. I need to keep Christ in focus myself, and seek to help those around me do likewise.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Father, thank You for this reminder, and for directing my attention to a verse that wasn’t underlined. Help me not set up expectations that cause me to miss what You are saying to me, but rather listen always for Your still, small, voice, to obey You with all I have and am, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

 

May 7, 2019

Fix Your Eyes on the Goal

by Russell Young

It is often said that without a compass, people in a forest would often travel in circles. Without focus on an end-point, journey toward a goal becomes confused. Certainly, without clear focus and committed determination, objectives can become lost or altered.

With limited understanding and purpose choice-making is often based on the immediate. This truth is evident from the Israelites while on the Exodus. They had experienced slavery in Egypt with its cruelty, but as they traveled the wilderness, they had lost motivation and the reality of slavery, and at times even desired to return to it. They became focused on the immediate not on the purpose or promise of their journey.

Would you have been like them? They walked, walked, and walked. Day followed day. The rocky crag before them was no different than the one they had just passed. There was nothing on their horizon to stimulate hope. Month followed month. They often became thirsty through lack of water. They complained and grumbled. The wilderness provided no source of food and they lived on the Lord’s provision of manna for forty years. Would you have grumbled at the monotony of diet over such a long time, or would you have rejoiced that your needs had been provided? Would you have remembered the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, garlic, and fish that supplemented your diet in Egypt? After time slavery had become a distant memory; however, eating was an ever-present occurrence. Have you every groused about having the same dinner two days in a row?

The Lord was not pleased with those he had brought out of bondage. They did not appreciate him or his accommodation. He hadn’t provided enough. They wanted more and expected more. “They despised the pleasant land; they did not believe his promise. They grumbled in their tents and did not obey the LORD. So he swore to them with uplifted hand that he would make them fall in the desert.” (Ps 106:24−26)

God does not like grumbling; it demonstrates a lack of faith in him, a lack of trust. The Israelites felt and experienced trials, pressures, and discomfort. Their eyes were consumed with the present and they could not envision “the pleasant land.” To many of them the trials and travel had no purpose. They had surrendered their expectations and had become doubtful of those leading, both God and Moses.

The land to which they were headed and to which believers are headed is not for all; it is for the faithful, for those whose hope is fixed and whose eyes are on the goal. The land is reserved for those who trust enough to feel secure in God when trials come and when wants are not fulfilled, for those who can see beyond the everyday and rest confidently in his promises. Those in him do not need to know the solution for their challenges. They do not need to know where water can be found in the wilderness of life because they are sure that their Lord knows. He knows the need and has a plan; he is to lead, and they are to follow with thanksgiving. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” (Jn 10:27−28) When following is abandoned, so is hope.

Those who will dwell with their Lord are not called to an easy and pleasant journey through life; in fact, they have been reminded of the need to persevere through the mundane, through difficulties, and even through the threat of death itself. “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what you have promised. For in just a little while, ‘He who is coming will come and not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith.’” (Heb 10:36−38) The righteous will obediently follow their Lord with thanksgiving.

During trials, the passage of time tends to dim hope, but the test of faith and of their hearts was the very purpose of Israel’s journey. Focus must be set on the goal, not on the interruptions to it. At every age believers have had to journey through the wasteland. Their faith will be tested and must be proven. “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” (Deut 8:2) God is still testing hearts (1 Thess 2:4; Jas 1:12) to identify those who recognize his sovereignty and to find those who obey his authority. (Heb 5:9) Paul admonished the Philippians, “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of god without fault in a crooked and depraved generation in which you shine like stars.” (Phil 2:14−15)

Many teachers have neglected to convey the purpose of testing and the need for obedience. Regardless of one’s situation the response during testing must always be to trust and obey. The situation may not be understood but God is always in control and his provision is for his child’s eternal good. “[I]n all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28)

The gospel is not to become person-centered or offering the promise of the abundant life today, but needs to be God-centered and for the achievement of his goals while giving the believer an eternal hope. Concern for life in the immediate reflects the attitudes of the Israelites who had lost sight of their goal and of God and had allowed the day to rule their lives.

All believers are assured to have wilderness experiences where life is “parched” and where there is no water in sight and no visible solution. Answers are promised, but in the challenges, focus needs to be set on the coming glory. The day should not callous hearts since the Lord journeys with each one committed to him. The faithful are only called to obediently follow and to trust his leadership. Like the Israelites, those who grumble and complain or go their own way, will not find relief from the wilderness nor a place in the Promised Land.



Russell Young’s column appears here on alternate Tuesdays. His book, Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? is available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link. There is also an extended article at this link.

February 15, 2019

Mercy in the Middle of Judgment

This is our second visit to the site, Life Walk With Marlene. Click the header below to read this at source.

Re-Discovering God’s Mercy

Exodus 9:31 (Now the flax and the barley were ruined, for the barley was in the ear and the flax was in bud. 32 But the wheat and the spelt were not ruined, for they ripen late.)

I have read the 10 plagues more than 10 times and this reading is the first time that I noticed this verse. What does this verse imply?

I realise that even in God’s powerful sovereignty, there is still mercy. Even when the hail struck every man and beast and tree in the land (vv.24-25), the wheat and spelt were not destroyed. Spelt is an old kind of wheat with bearded ears and spikelets that each contain two narrow grains, not widely grown but favoured as a health food.

As I read through the last 6 plagues, I wonder if anyone died in the first 9. Only in the last plague was recorded that people died. Amidst all the calamities that God sent to Egypt, He was merciful to them – giving chances again and again for Pharaoh to set the people free. Even when God knew that Pharaoh would go back on his word, God still stopped the plague each time Pharaoh asked Moses to intercede for them. We often thought but it was said that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart – so how He could count it against Pharaoh? Did Pharaoh know that? Did he not have a choice? God knew his pride and hardened heart, yet and so God gave him 9 chances to change his mind. In all the 10 plagues, God’s purpose was to reveal himself – that you may know I am the Lord. (7:17, 9:16, 10:1-2)

I am reminded of what I learned in our Old Testament 1 class. We often let our familiarity of/with the Bible hinder us from new discoveries and lessons to learn. The 10 plagues in Exodus are so familiar that I can memorise all of them (though never tried to remember their particular order except the 1st and the last.) The professor said that when she was studying at a certain school, some of her classmates who were not as familiar with the Bible sometimes shared fresh and new perspectives from reading certain bible passages.

I have read through the entire Bible for the past few years and still there are new lessons to learn even for the same passages read many times. The Holy Spirit helps us to read and understand and apply what we read. We just need to persist and disciplined ourselves to read the Bible regularly with a desire to know God more and apply Biblical truths in our daily living. Sometimes I get lazy, I get complacent and I falter. I read for the sake of reading. Still I continue. It might be an up and down journey but God persists – He does not let me go. So dear friends, just keep reading the Bible.

When life is not easy and God is still merciful. There is something new in the old; a fresh truth to hold in the familiar trials of life. God’s mercies are new every morning.


After we’d formatted today’s devotional, we realized it was shorter than many we run, so we decided to give you a double feature from the same author. The title of this one may intrigue you. These were several days apart, but both are rooted in the book of Exodus.


Mr. Christian, A.T.L.C.

I’ve been reading from Exodus all the details of making the Tabernacle and all the things in it. Once from the instructions of the Lord for the Israelites what to give, what to do and how to do (Exo. 25-28) a second time – a narration of all the people did. (Exo. 36-40)

I wondered what is there for me to take away from all the details in the description and construction of this grand project. But one phrase kept coming up: ATLC

As the Lord commanded… as the Lord commanded Moses/him…

1) Moses was a good listener. He listened attentively and correctly to all of God’s instructions.
2) Moses was a good teacher. He passed on God’s instructions accurately for the people to execute.
3) The people were good followers. They did all that were needed as the Lord commanded.

Applications:
A good listener listens attentively but more importantly, listens with discernment and understanding from the One true source of knowledge and wisdom.

A good teacher teaches diligently making sure the instructions are carried out to the last detail. A good teacher sows not just knowledge but reaps actions and results from the application of the knowledge.

A good follower listens and does as instructed. He hears, he listens and he works with his hands.

Mr. XXX M.D.; Ms. YYY Ph.D.; Mr. ZZZ D.M.D. I always wonder what all the letters after the doctor’s name mean. I surmise that the more letters, the more degrees, the more expertise, the more accomplishments, the more prestigious.

What a different and more impactful Christian witness the world would have if Christians were to have ATLC at the end of their names… not just letters but the spirit of the letters that form the words As the Lord commanded!

How do we know then that ATLC is as what it should be?

Exodus 40
34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

In the Old Testament, the cloud represents God’s presence. The glory of the Lord refers to His presence – it signifies that God is living among them – right in their midst, in their company.

God’s presence
The cloud covered… A covering that encompassed and surrounded all of my being… The cloud settled… A settling – lasting and staying presence that continuously guides my doing…

Is God present in my life? Am I aware that He sees, He hears, He listens, He covers and He settles?

God’s glory
The glory of the Lord filled… A filling that leaves no space for anything else… a filling that overflows so that nothing else occupies… no vacuum… no emptiness

Does God’s glory shine through in my being and doing? Do my words and actions point people to God?

Let me ask myself… Ms. Christian ATLC… how are you doing?

Dear Holy Spirit, help me today to be and do as the Lord commands. Amen


Previously by the same author:

January 20, 2019

He Makes Our Path Straight

a worship liturgy by Ruth Wilkinson

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

So, what is a straight path? Today we read through some passages from the Bible that help us understand what that means.

A straight path follows after Jesus.

Whoever keeps His word, in that person the love of God is truly complete. This is how we know we are in Him: The one who says they live in Him should walk just as He walked.

1 John 2:5-6

A straight path leads to healthy relationships.

Once you walked in anger, rage, meanness, gossip, filthy language and lying.
But now, walk in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting and forgiving each another.

Colossians 3:7-9, 12-13 

A straight path leads to doing good in the world.

For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

A straight path leads to life.

There is life in the path of righteousness, but another path leads to death.

Proverbs 12:28

The Lord said, “They always go astray in their hearts, and they have not known My ways so they will not enter My rest.”

Hebrews 3:10-11

But He will enter into peace everyone who lives uprightly.

Isaiah 57:2

He makes our paths straight through each other’s guidance.

Teach a youth about the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6  

He makes our paths straight through giving us wisdom.

Wisdom holds long life in her right hand; in her left, riches and honour. Her ways are pleasant, and all her paths are peace.

Proverbs 3:16-18

He makes our paths straight through giving us discernment.

I have kept my feet from every evil path to follow Your word. You Yourself have instructed me. Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.

Psalms 119:101-105

He makes our paths straight through the companionship of the Spirit.

He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake. Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for You are with me.

Psalm 23:3

He makes our paths straight through being our example.

Make Your ways known to me, Lord; teach me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation.

Psalms 25:4-5

He makes our paths straight through setting us free from the ruts that lead to death.

I will always obey Your instruction, forever and ever. I will walk freely in an open place because I seek Your precepts.

Psalm 119:44-45

He makes our paths straight through correcting us when we go wrong.

Whenever you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear this command behind you: “This is the way. Walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

He makes our paths straight by making his commandments clear.

Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

Walking a straight path sounds simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. The principle we find in this proverb doesn’t promise that our road won’t go uphill and downhill, or through shadowy valleys.

It simply and joyfully reminds us that as we travel, as we “walk by faith, not by sight”, we don’t have to figure it out on our own. And that the journey itself is part of our reward.

 

 

 

December 29, 2018

Thunder! Lightning! Shaking!

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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This is our fourth time featuring the writing of David Kitz at I Love the Psalms. David has served as an ordained minister with the Foursquare Gospel Church of Canada. For several years now, he has toured across Canada and into the United States with a variety of one man plays for both children and adults. For further information visit: http://www.davidkitz.ca/

LORD of the Storm

Reading: Psalm 29
A psalm of David.
Ascribe to the LORD, you heavenly beings,
ascribe to the L
ORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
worship the L
ORD in the splendor of his holiness.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders,
the L
ORD thunders over the mighty waters.
The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic.
The voice of the L
ORD breaks the cedars;
the L
ORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon leap like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the LORD strikes with flashes of lightning.
The voice of the L
ORD shakes the desert;
the L
ORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the L
ORD twists the oaks and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King forever.
The L
ORD gives strength to his people; the LORD
blesses his people with peace (NIV).

Reflection
In Psalm 29 we see and hear the LORD, the God of the storm. There is an evocative poetic style to this psalm that helps the reader to picture the fury of the approaching tempest. But we not only see the flashes of lightning and the power of the wind, we also hear the booming thunder as it shakes the desert. The voice of the LORD twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

Nine times the psalmist repeats the phrase the voice of the LORD. In this psalm, the voice of the LORD is a very active force. The voice of the LORD thunders, breaks, strikes, shakes, twists and strips. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic.

The voice of the LORD spoke the world into existence, set the planets in their orbits, and scattered the starry hosts across the heavens. A thunderstorm sweeping down from Lebanon is as nothing to Him.

But the LORD of the storm is also the LORD of peace. One day on the Sea of Galilee Jesus our Lord brought peace to the storm.

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm (Mark 4:37-39).

Response: You are the LORD of the storm and the LORD of peace. When storms arise in my life help me to trust you completely. Lord Jesus, grant me peace in the midst of the storm. Amen.

Your Turn: Jesus says to us, Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith? (Mark 4:40). Are you hearing him?

December 19, 2018

The Mary/Martha Dichotomy Isn’t About Busyness

Psalm 27:4
One thing I have asked of the LORD, this is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and seek Him in His temple.

Despite the hundreds of authors featured here, I have only two devotionals which I personally subscribe to, and one which I read online. One of the daily emails is titled “Breakfast of Champions” by Andy and Gina Elmes. To get these sent to you by email, go to Great Big Life and click on Breakfast of Champions.

Don’t miss what she says here about posture. It’s a part of the Mary/Martha story that’s so obvious we can totally miss it. Especially at Christmas, when we’re all so very… busy!

The posture of a listening heart

Luke 10:42, The Truth version
Only one thing is really important and this is what Mary is doing. So I won’t deprive her of what is most important: to listen to what I say!

by Gina Elmes
My 10-year-old daughter was given a really unique devotional which she asked if I would read with her at night before bed. The book teaches how to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and to listen out for the often still, small voice of God. It is a highly interactive devotional, filled with exercises in listening for God’s voice. We began reading this book and then we would come to the interactive part where we speak to God and ask Him a question such as, “Who do I need to encourage tomorrow, Lord, and what would you like me to say to them?” Then we wait for a few minutes listening to what the Lord says to our heart.

My daughter and I would close our eyes and we would wait, and my head was so full of the stuff of the day that I found this exercise really difficult! I had plans and lists and ‘to do’ stuff and recipes and ‘don’t forget’s’ all flying around inside my chaotic mind that I found it hard to listen for the voice of God. My daughter, on the other hand, would hardly close her eyes when she would say, “I’m done! He talked to me and I know just who needs encouragement and I know what I need to tell them.”

Night after night this happened and the things she was hearing from God were amazing, and I was struggling to hear anything. I was reflecting on this one morning when I recalled Luke 10:38-42, which gives the account of Mary and Martha. Martha was the busy one preparing the meal and getting everything perfect for her guests, and Mary was found sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to all He had to say. The more I read this account the more I realize it is not so much about lessening our busy schedules as much as it is about the posture of our listening heart.

I have so many responsibilities and I can’t see that changing any time soon, but I can learn better to incline my ear to His voice wherever I am and whatever I’m doing. Somebody in the Mary/Martha scenario had to cook lunch after all! Jesus isn’t advocating laziness, but He is commending Mary’s desire to be always listening to Him and this will always be the better part of anything we do. Somehow, in the busy-ness of life, I had lost the posture of a listening heart; forgetting that God desires to have a relationship with me all day, not just in the moments I call ‘quiet time’. Now, when I’m busy with the everyday stuff of life, I use these opportunities to talk to God and for Him to talk to me.

I still set regular times for myself to solely focus on God but now even when driving, cooking, walking the dog, cleaning out a closet, these have all become opportunities for me to lift my ear to heaven and hear the One who desires an audience with me, and I have found that I can learn to hear Him over the loudness of everyday life when I make a practice of purposely posturing my heart to hear Him.


Learn more about the UK ministry Great Big Life.

November 14, 2018

You Can’t Be Affluent in Faith and Ignorant in the Word

Today we’re back with Lori Thomason at Pure Devotion. Click the title below to read at source. Click here to read her story. To read this at source, click the title below.

Speak for Your Servant Hears

I Samuel 3:8-10 (NKJV) And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. So he arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you did call me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord had called the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel answered, “Speak, for Your servant hears.”

God speaks to people every day. Whispering within by His Spirit inviting us to sit in His Presence, meditate on His Word, speak with Him in prayer, and listen to what He says. Though desperate for our attention, the Lord does not speak above soft utterance. He is a gentleman who vies for one’s acceptance but would never force us to come. The Lord called to Samuel. Just a servant to the prophet, the boy served in a time when the “word of the Lord was rare” and there was no “widespread revelation”. God had a word. He needed a voice. He spoke to Samuel.

It would be natural to seek out the only one close by. The person you expect to hear from which in Samuel’s case was Eli. Eli, now advanced in years, depending on the boy as the word of God says, “his eyes had begun to so dim that he could not see.” I believe this is a natural and spiritual reference. So when the Lord spoke to him, it was only natural for him to assume it was his earthly master calling out. However by the third time, Eli realized that the Lord was speaking to the young man and so instructed him to go lie back down and if he heard the voice again to say, “Speak Lord, for Your servant hears.”

God is speaking to you today. You may not hear him or understand that it is the Lord but I promise you that the Lord is trying to tell you something. There are secrets and hidden things that belong to you and God will only reveal to you. Personal, life changing, and intimate details of a future that is absolutely too good to be true. Things that will change your hopeless perspective to a faithful pursuit. It is time to stop running with every little question to the men and women of God, family, friends, acquaintances, social media, and any other mentor or advisor. God is speaking His Word directly to you today. You must only say, “Speak Lord, for Your Servant hears.” Are you listening for the voice of the Living God today?

Deuteronomy 29:29 (NKJV) “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

Every secret thing belongs to the Lord our God. What does that mean? There are things not written in His Word for you and me that can only be discovered in an intimate relationship with God. Righteousness gives us full access to God including every secret and hidden thing reserved for you. His Word defines His Nature and His Intentions for us. It creates familiarity so there can be discernment in the voices heard within our heart and head. In other words, by reading, studying, mediating and coming to know God’s Written Word (the Law) – then and only then can we distinguish between them all. Secondly, Jesus is the Word. Without the person of Jesus Christ, there is no salvation or righteousness. We must have a personal relationship with Jesus (who is the Word of God made flesh) to know and understand the communication of God with His People. The keys to the Kingdom unlock the secrets and hidden things to God’s People.

Isaiah 45:18-19 (NKJV) For thus says the Lord, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited: “I am the Lord, and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth; I did not say to the seed of Jacob, ‘Seek Me in vain’; I, the Lord, speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17) You cannot be ignorant in the Word and affluent in faith. It’s contradictory to think you can have all of God’s Promises randomly because faith in God is intentionally sowing our life in the Kingdom of God and reaping faith’s productivity. Faith is completely believing and being fully assured of God’s Faithfulness outside of every natural sense that people rely upon. It means taking God completely at His Word. Are you seeking God in vain? By ignoring the Word of God as our way of life, we are living the same life expecting different results which some might call insanity.

Isaiah 48:5-8 (NKJV) Even from the beginning I have declared it to you; before it came to pass I proclaimed it to you, lest you should say, ‘My idol has done them, and my carved image and my molded image have commanded them.’  “You have heard; See all this. And will you not declare it? I have made you hear new things from this time, even hidden things, and you did not know them. They are created now and not from the beginning; and before this day you have not heard them, Lest you should say, ‘Of course I knew them.’ Surely you did not hear, surely you did not know; surely from long ago your ear was not opened. For I knew that you would deal very treacherously, and were called a transgressor from the womb.

In Jeremiah 29:11 [we read] that the Lord knows the plans that He has for you. Thoughts of peace and not of evil. To give you a future and a hope. This is confirmed in other scriptures including Psalm 139, Ephesians 2, and Romans 8. God has revealed His Purpose for us and instilled it us with a measure of faith to attain it. There is no such thing as coincidence without separating ourselves from God. Why? God is Sovereign. Coincidence implies a compromise in God’s Sovereignty. A breach in His Power and Authority. It means that He is not the Great I AM. Creator of the World and everything it in. It crumbles all foundations of faith because it compromises the Truth. The Word. Coincidence is not possible when Roman 8:28 is true. God not random. He is reckless only in His Love for us.

Ephesians 3:8-12 (NKJV) To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.

Oh friend, God is speaking to you today. He has a voice that is absolutely worth hearing. Daniel said, “He reveals deep and secret things…He knows what is in the darkness and Light dwells within Him.” (Daniel 2:22) He knows everything about you. Every significant and insignificant detail. His Grace is always sufficient. He wants to have a relationship with you unlike the superficial friendships formed in this world. He sent us His Word. An instruction book for better living and a new life. God then sent His Son, the Word wrapped in flesh, to be a poignant love letter of the deepest devotion and utmost affection for lost and dying people like you and me. He continues to speak though few are listening. Jesus said that while He was speaking in parables fulling the prophecy, “I will open My Mouth in parables; I will utter things kept in secret from the foundation of the world.” Pay attention to the red letters. What Jesus spoke in parables always contain even greater hidden truth and meaning. The manifold wisdom of God is available to us but cannot be complete until we listen to the still small voice of God whispering secrets and hidden truths to us just for us that cannot be given by another only confirmed. There is no such thing as a coincidence in the life of a Christian. God has an intentional plan and is devoted to its fulfillment. Jesus came to give you and I access to the Father including a rich and satisfying life. We must avail our eyes, ears, mind and will to the spoken word of God and when He whispers to respond, “Speak Lord for your servant hears!”

I Kings 19:11-13 (NKJV) Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

 

July 16, 2018

God Speaks in a Multitude of Ways

Once again we’re back with Sam Williamson, author of two books I’ve reviewed at my other blog, Is Sunday School Destroying our Kids? and Hearing God in Conversation. His website is Beliefs of the Heart. This is a book excerpt from the latter. Click the title below to read this at source.

Hearing God in the Abundance of His Methods

Most believers long for—desperately long for—God’s voice, but most of us experience silence. Scripture says, “God speaks in many and diverse ways, but nobody notices” (Job 33:14). We miss his voice because he’s not a paint-by-number God. He speaks in ways we don’t expect.

Well-meaning people often mislead us when they describe their conversations with God. Their exchanges with God sound like dialogues written by master playwrights:

I asked God: What should I do with my life?
God answered: Are you willing to take a risk?
I replied: Yes, but I don’t know what to do.
God said: Move to Timbuktu.

When people tell us these stories, we think, I never hear God so clearly. Let me tell you a secret: neither do they. At least not most of the time. Their stories are usually shorthand summaries of hours spent reading Scripture, reflecting on his words, praying, getting Godly nudges, and recognizing God’s voice in circumstances or through friends.

Because God speaks through his infinitely imaginative, artistic mix of methods.

Methods

Let’s not put God in a box. If we limit his voice to a few methods—the scripted dialogue or heavenly visions—we will miss his voice when he paints his words with different brushstrokes. Below are seven common methods in which God speaks.

Responsive Resonance: God’s Spirit often resonates in our spirits as a response to external events. Perhaps it’s a burning in our heart or a sense that God has something significant for us in this moment: a Scripture passage leaps out at us in prayer, or we overhear a “chance” comment in the coffee shop. God moves speaks to our hearts to pay attention.

For example, “While waiting in Athens, Paul’s spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was full of idols” (Act 17:16). Now, think with me: there were idols every city Paul visited, but God stirred something in him in that moment in Athens.

Spontaneous Nudging: Sometimes God nudges our heart out of the blue: to pray for a friend or to act on an issue. It comes more as a sense on the heart than as a direct word.

I once got a sense to pray for a friend, so I phoned him. He had been let go from his job just hours before. We prayed on the phone and he thanked me for my concern. Only I hadn’t been concerned—I hadn’t even known—it was a concerned God who spontaneously nudged me.

Direct words: Sometimes God speaks direct words—usually just a sentence or two, or perhaps just a phrase. The first time I heard God speak, I had just become a ten year-old atheist. He simply said, “Sam, I am really and you don’t understand.” For me, most direct words—if any—usually only come after I pursue God in prayer and reflection following a resonance or nudging.

Unbidden Memories: Sometimes God brings to mind a past event. I once remembered my twelve-year old self saying something harsh to a neighborhood kid. Weeks after remembering, I bumped into that kid, now a grown man. I reminded him of the story and repented. He too remembered and wept when I repented. (My eyes teared up as well. Just don’t tell anyone.)

Planted Images: God isn’t limited to nudges and words. Sometimes he even paints pictures.

Around 1915, my grandfather received a mental picture in which the letters KWANGSI were spelled in red letters across the sky. In the local library he discovered that the letters spelled a province of China (now spelled GuangXi). He spent the next two decades living in that very province, founding four churches. Should we tell God we won’t accept a vision?

Recalled Passages: God often brings unbidden passages to mind at just the right moment.

Once while talking with a man—and when I had zero wise words to say—a verse popped to mind: We comfort others with the comfort we’ve been given (a paraphrase of 2 Cor. 1:4). I told him of a comforting word God had recently given me. Nothing wise, just comfort. It answered an unspoken question of his. Since my Bible memorization is abysmal, it simply had to be God.

God Shaped Thoughts: Perhaps these are the hardest to recognize because our thoughts feel like our own. Yet how many times have you felt utterly empty, no words to pray, and then a brilliant (and obvious) thought streaks through your mind? C. S. Lewis expressed it like this:

Then, seeing me empty, you forsake
The listener’s role and through
My dumb lips breathe and into utterance wake
The thoughts I never knew.

God speaks in many and various ways. Let’s not box him in.

Sam

P. S. This article is an excerpt from my book Hearing God in Conversation. Its topics include:

► Learning to recognize the sound of God’s voice
► Hearing God in his silence
► Hearing God for another person (and how to respond when someone gives us “a word”)
► Hearing God in the ordinary
► Hearing God for guidance

God is the good Father who wants to enter into a divine dialogue with each one of his kids.

September 27, 2017

The Fresh Start of Repentance

Life doesn’t always hand us an opportunity to redo every mistake we’ve made, but in Christianity, through grace and repentance we can go back to where we faltered, and ask God for a fresh start. But it’s more than just the confession of particular failings. It can also mean repentance of being on the wrong path, choosing an errant lifestyle, or even misunderstanding God’s truth.

We’re paying a return visit to Rick Joyner; click the title below to read this at source.

A Special Grace

Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to Thee in a time when Thou may be found;
surely in a flood of great waters they shall not reach him (Psalm 32:6).

There is often a tendency in Christians not to really seek the Lord until we get into a crisis situation. Then we seek Him earnestly. We see this same pattern with Israel in the Old Testament. This is a primary reason why many stay in a seemingly perpetual state of crisis. As we are told in Matthew 7:21-27:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven;
but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.

“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in Your name,
and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’
“And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them,
may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock.

“And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house;
and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock.

“And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them,
will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand.

“And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew,
and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall.”

As we read here, just calling Jesus Lord does not guarantee that we will enter the kingdom of heaven. We must do His will. To call Him Lord and not do what He says disqualifies us from being believers, and makes us obvious unbelievers. How could we really know the glorious King of kings and not do what He says? To know that He is God and not obey Him is an ultimate delusion. This delusion leads to many tragedies and failures when the floods of life come.

One of our ultimate quests should therefore be to hear the words of the Lord. As we are told in John 10:4: “When he (the good Shepherd) puts forth all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.” The obvious counterpoint here is that if we do not know His voice we will not follow Him. However, hearing His words and obeying them are two different things. Many glory in how well they hear the Lord, but they do not do what He says. We must count His words as the unfathomable treasures that they are. When the Lord gives us direction we should write it in a journal, reviewing it often to see how we have complied with our King’s directives.

If you are in confusion about how to hear from the Lord, go back and review the things that you know He has directed you to do. These are things like prayer, reading the Bible, fellowship, etc., all of which are directives that are clearly given to us in Scripture. As we obey these we will begin walking in the light, and the light will make our paths, and His voice, increasingly clear. As we are told in Proverbs 4:18:

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.

If we are on the right road, things should be getting brighter. If we are on the wrong road, things will be getting darker and more confused. If our path is not getting brighter and clearer every day, then we have departed from the right path somewhere. In the Lord the wrong path never turns into the right path. The only way for us to get back on the right path is to go back to the point where we made the wrong turn. That is called repentance.

Repentance is not only a good thing—it is one of the greatest Christian truths. In Christ we can actually go back to where we made a mistake and start over and get it right. In Acts 11:18 we read the response of the Jewish believers after hearing Peter’s testimony about going to the house of Cornelius: “And when they heard this, they quieted down, and glorified God, saying, ‘Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.’” Eight of the most powerful words in Scripture are found in this verse: “God has granted . . . the repentance that leads to life.” Repentance is a special grace that God grants, and it leads to life.

September 25, 2017

Knowing God’s Will in the Absence of a Direct Message

Last year at this time we introduced you to California pastor Brian Loritts, author of Saving the Saved. We decided to track him down again this year at his blog and found this helpful teaching. Click on the title to read at source.

When I Don’t Hear From God…

Every last one of us has asked the question, What’s next? High school students trying to figure out where to go for college have asked this question. So have college students trying to lock in on a major (80% will change majors at least once), along with singles who are in a dating relationship and married people needing to discern when to have kids and how many. While these questions defy any unique faith category, Christians have historically filed these under the heading of the will of God. “God, what are you saying?,” we groan when faced with life’s proverbial forks in the road.

But this very question now sparks an age-old theological debate. While Christ followers contend that Christ does speak, we can be at odds over the method. Sure God’s primary voice is the Word of God, but does He also speak audibly? Garry Friesen’s, Decision Making and the Will of God, is weighted towards the no, while the title to Dallas Willard’s, Hearing God, let’s you know where he stands on the question.

If you’re looking for an answer to whether you should attend Stanford or Morehouse, marry Shiela or break up with her or take the out-of-state job, you just won’t find a chapter or verse in the Bible that will give you that answer. So what are we to do when faced with these decisions? I’ve found the following steps to be helpful:

Step One: Ask Him

In John 10, Jesus describes himself as “The Door” and “The Good Shepherd.” The metaphor of “The Door” points to salvation—how one gets into the sheepfold of the flock of God. The metaphor of “The Good Shepherd” depicts Jesus’ relationship with His sheep once they’re in. Then Jesus says, “When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (John 10:4).  The Greek word for know is an intuitive knowledge, like the kind of knowing I had when after a few months of dating Korie I just knew she was going to be my wife. Or the kind of knowing one has when they meet someone for the first time and just know something’s not right.  It’s that knowledge the sheep have when their shepherd speaks. Do you see what’s being implied here? The Shepherd is speaking long after the sheep have come through the door (of salvation). Jesus speaks.

A few chapters later, Jesus pictures the Holy Spirit as our guide. Now what does a guide do? He speaks. When I was a little boy, my father taught me the timeless principles of fishing—things like how to bait a hook, cast and reel. A few years ago, I went on a fishing trip where I hired a guide. All he did was take the basic truths I’d learned of fishing and he showed me how to apply them in specific places at specific times so that I had great success. This is how the Holy Spirit works with the Word. The Word gives us the timeless principles, and the Holy Spirit—our guide—shows us how to apply them in specific ways. We just need to ask Him.

Step Two: Use Wisdom

In his book, Hearing God, Dallas Willard tells the story of a preacher who was out in the middle of a field late one night, and he couldn’t see. The field was full of rocks which made his journey treacherous. Several times he heard someone calling his name. Finally, he stopped and felt around. It was a good thing he did this. A few more feet and he would have died. Oh, by the way, he never saw the person who was speaking to him, and concluded it had to have been God.

Can I confess to you that this rarely happens to me. Maybe a handful of times in my whole life have I heard the voice of God in this way. The normal pattern for me is that I pray and ask God to speak into something, and I don’t hear anything. Now what?

There’s a whole section of the Bible called Wisdom Literature. Books like Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and several others make up this genre of Scripture. Wisdom is skillful living.  It’s practically applying the timeless principles of Scripture to the specific scenarios of every day life. Now this is interesting, because embedded in the very idea of wisdom is choice.

By the end of this year, my boys will be teenagers, and what I’m trying to do, the older they get, is to not tell them exactly what they need to do. Hard, I know. I think good parenting empowers children to make age appropriate decisions. I also think this is how God parents us. A sign of immaturity is the need to be told exactly what to do in every situation. It’s the mature person who can make decisions within certain parameters.

So, when I don’t hear from God, I take that as God saying, make a decision. Now I know this will rub some of you the wrong way, because you think God needs to speak into every decision you make. But can I ask you a question? Did you pray about what pants to wear today? Or if you should wear pants at all? Did you pray about brushing your teeth, or where to get gas? Of course you didn’t, and you shouldn’t. We make decisions every day, wise ones. It’s the child who needs to be told to brush his teeth. The mature person doesn’t. Again, when you don’t hear anything from God, make the decision, a wise one.  But how do we do that?

Step Three: Figure Out the Fences

Imagine your child asks you if she can play in the backyard. You say, “yes,” but a few minutes later she comes in and says can I play on the slide? You agree. A few minutes later she asks if it’s okay to play on the swing set? “Of course,” you say. Then she asks comes back in moments later and asks if she can play in the sandbox. You look your sweet daughter in the face and tell her your will is she plays within the fences of the backyard, and she can make whatever decision she wants as long as its within those fences.

The same holds true for us. I think it’s good to ask God about our “sandboxes,” but when we don’t hear an answer we have to figure out the fences—those biblical parameters—that will help us make a decision. So, for example, when thinking through a job situation, it’s always helpful to process these fences: 1. Will the job contribute to the common good of society; 2. Will it allow me to provide for my family (As a man this is my call); and 3. Has God given me the gifts and capacity to meet the demands of the job? While there are more questions we could ask, these are the fences. Now we are free to choose.

July 1, 2017

God’s Direction for the Rest of Your Year

Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left. Isaiah 30: 20-21 (NLT)

The year is half over. What’s next? Ever wish you could see God’s entire plan for your life like a giant road map?

Back in the day, if you were heading on a vacation trip to a place in the U.S. or Canada where you’d never been before, if you were a member of AAA (or CAA) you could request a trip guidebook. Using previously printed pages representing different highway sections, someone would assemble a series of these ‘strip maps’ into a booklet that also provided commentary on places of interest, restaurants and motels.

Hard to imagine in a world of MapQuest and GPS tracking.

These ‘strip maps’ are a closer representation as to how life presents itself to us. We’re given direction that is sufficient for the day, but don’t always know how the pieces of the journey are going to form an overall story. It’s not unlike walking across a stream using stepping stones, and stopping on each to determine where to put your feet next.

Chuck Smith says of our key verse: “How glorious to be led of the Spirit and having God say, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’ What is the way? The way of waiting upon God and trusting in Him.”

As C.S. Lewis once suggested, to understand how God sees time, draw a line with two ends in a blank sheet of paper, then look at the entire paper. We see the line as a progression, but God sees it as a whole. We live within time, but God is eternal and separate.

Another way to say this is that the difference between our perception of time and God’s might be compared to having a travel atlas where the journey across a country or a continent reveals the beginning and the end. This is the type of “big picture” that God has. Our perception would be more flipping through the strip map, getting the journey in small bite size pieces.

I’m told Lewis also compares our perception and God’s perception to the difference between sitting at a level crossing waiting for a long train to pass by. Each car passes sequentially, one after the other. But miles above, as seen from an airplane, the entire train is visible from beginning to end, and as it slowly snakes its way through the mountains and valleys, seems to almost be standing still.

The problem is, we want the big picture. We want to know where the story is going. But often information is supplied on a day-to-day, hour-by-hour and even minute-by-minute basis.

And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness. Evil-minded people will never travel on it. It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways; fools will never walk there. Isaiah 35:8 NLT


I heard a story once from someone who was unimpressed with the Christian bumper stickers which proclaimed, “God is my Co-Pilot.” He proposed this amendment: “If God is your Co-Pilot, you need to switch seats.”

If anyone can find a link to the Lewis/train story, or knows an equally good time analogy, feel free to add it in the comments.

June 6, 2017

Seek Wisdom, Understanding, Insight

“My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:1-5

Let’s bullet point the first part of the verse:

  • making your ear attentive to wisdom
  • inclining your heart to understanding
  • calling out for insight

The two payoffs are in the last part of the verse:

  • you will understand the fear of the Lord
  • find the knowledge of God.

How would you evaluate yourself in terms of these two criteria?

As you can imagine, on some days I read several devotions before selecting one to include here. This week I was reading a longer piece by a woman who moved from being a former Mormon to Evangelical Christianity. She described her Bible study method. You can click this link to see this section with illustrations (it makes more sense if you can see her examples):

  1. Write down the date at the top of the page. Simple step, but it will help you see what days you studied (or didn’t) and how your understanding progresses over the coming weeks and months.
  2. Write the chapter(s) you’re in and/or the topic you’re focusing on.  If you haven’t been reading regularly and need help getting started, there are reading plans on www.biblehub.com.  I highly recommend the fantastic app Read Scripture www.readscripture.org put out by Francis Chan and The Bible Project.  It has given me a hunger for the scriptures that I never had before using it.  I must note here that its important to be flexible.  Don’t be totally stuck on chronological reading.  I read chronologically sometimes and other times I feel like there’s a specific topic I want to study.  Sometimes I have no impression at all and those are the best times because then God tells me what to study.  Which brings me to the next step…
  3. Pray before you begin your study.  A week ago, I was feeling so scattered and had no idea what to read.  I had been in the Old Testament in the Read Scripture app but didn’t feel like that’s where I was supposed to study that day.  I prayed a heartfelt prayer and asked God to calm my mind and show me what He wanted me to focus on.  Almost instantly, he answered by putting five distinct topics in my mind.  I wrote them in my notebook with blank lines underneath.  I felt like each one of these topics deserved a dedicated study so each day this week I have spent searching for references containing these topics.  Sometimes I do a simple word search inside one of the bible apps I use, other times I Google a phrase and find entire pages full of references dealing with that topic. I write down the ones that seem to stand out to me and once I have them all jotted down I read and ponder them.  Sometimes, I’ll feel like one of the references deserves another day of dedicated study so I’ll write it down on a the next blank page in my notebook.  By doing this God has already started to outline my future study sessions for me.
  4. Write down “random” thoughts, phrases and cross references you come across as you’re reading.  They’re not random at all.  Once you write it down you can keep going and not worry you’ll forget about it later.   God will reveal many side topics that are related to the one you’re focused on.  I find it important to follow a chapter or set of verses through or I would be constantly distracted by all the ideas coming in my mind.  Once I started jotting thoughts down and moving along I have felt amazed that I never run out of topics to study.  Here’s an example of some thoughts I had when skimming through Romans 12 that I plan to study in depth once I’m done finding scriptures related to the five topics God gave me.  I felt impressed to write out the entire verse and as I did, I noticed a few key words that might be important to study so I underlined them. A few questions came to mind so I jotted them down.  Normally I would’ve wanted to go research those questions right away which would’ve totally gotten me off track.  There’s nothing wrong with being all over the place in the Bible, because the fact you’re reading is great, but having a game plan will help your study connect to your spirit and will improve your relationship with God.  May sound simple for some of you but for someone with a busy mind, it is a game changer.

But then I was really struck by her section on “Deliberation.”

Deliberation is defined as “long and careful consideration”.  I would add “prayerful”.  The most important thing here is to be prayerful and to talk with God about what you’re studying, to listen to how He wants you to understand it and what meaning it has for your current situation.  Without deliberation, we are only reading to be reading, not to gain understanding.  Keep going back to what you write down and see what else God wants you to notice about what you’ve been studying.  The five topics God gave me last week are very specific to me personally and to what’s been on my mind.  A couple of them I recognized right away as answers to my prayer asking Him what I was lacking.  He hasn’t revealed yet how the other topics relate but as I keep going deeper into them I am positive I will understand what He’s teaching me.

In so many ways, this deliberate study is growing my relationship with my Father.  I am learning to hear Him better, I am learning to trust Him more as he shows me He is very aware of my specific needs, and I am finding greater joy in His word.  These are all things I had prayed for numerous times.  The answer to all of them was to spend more time in study and prayer.

Although it’s not on the same level as our opening scripture, let’s unpack the payoffs listed in the above paragraph:

  • I am learning to hear Him better,
  • I am learning to trust Him more
  • He shows me He is very aware of my specific needs
  • I am finding greater joy in His word.

How would you evaluate yourself by these four criteria?

 

 

 

 

May 24, 2017

Listening

Today’s devotional is an excerpt from a newly published book by Paul J. Pastor, The Listening Day. It’s a 90 day devotional which follows the format used in other books (Francis Roberts’ Come Away My Beloved, Larry Crabb’s 66 Love Letters, Sheri Rose Shepherd’s His Princess, and Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling) with what God is saying to us written out as though God is speaking in the first person; with the difference that this book includes interjections on behalf of the reader. I’ll have a fuller review of it in a few days on my other blog. Clicking the title below will take you to Zeal Books.

Luke 8:15 NIV But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

The Needed Thing

Luke 10:41-42 NIV ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’

The life of God, of truth and understanding, lands in your heart with the fragility of a seed.  It is possible it will wither, be crushed, be pecked and torn, be strangled by lies.

The same word is sowed to all.  Christ the Sower shows no favoritism, respects no person above another.  The truth is the truth, as a kernel of wheat is wheat indeed, and an acorn is only and always the seed of the ancient oak.

The human heart is a fickle field, rocky and weed-laden. Your own heart makes it hard for truth to take root. Too often you work, when you ought to surrender, then give up when you ought to be working.

Your way is not easy, Lord.

It is better than easy. It is life.

What do I need to do?

Today, quiet your heart. Look inside. Consider the growth of the word in you. Where is your soil stony? Where do the birds ravage my tender promises to you? Where do the thorns and poisonous vines sprout?

Listening is the needed thing. Sit still at the feet of Christ. Silence fears. Cease frenzied activity. Stop your mouth. Breathe in the presence of the Quiet Planter. Listen to the voice of the one in whom is all truth and every understanding. You may keep whatever treasures you gather at the feet of your simple King.

Lord, you know that many things trouble me, from outside my heart and from within it. Help me quiet myself today, to truly listen and receive your word, allowing your truth to bear fruit in my life. Amen.

April 9, 2017

Their Hearts Were Hardened

by Russell Young

The Lord had hardened the hearts of Pharaoh and his officials when Moses asked for the freedom of God’s chosen people being held captive in Egypt. This hardening was done to accomplish his purposes. The purpose for hardening their hearts was so that the story of his miraculous signs would be relayed through the generations of Israel that they might know that he is the LORD. (Ex 10:1) He has hardened hearts throughout history in order to accomplish his purposes. However, Christ also spoke of the hardness of people’s hearts that inhibited or prevented the furtherance of the gospel and the hope of salvation.

Having a “hard” heart or a hardened heart means that a person’s heart is fixed on an issue as engraved in stone. It is not a heart of flesh that is malleable and can be influenced. A hard heart is not sensitive to anything other than its own interests and goals. It is not a humble heart but is often one that is prideful. As stated, God can harden a heart, but so can individuals. People can have hard hearts in relation to the Word and in relation to others.

The Lord stated that the hearts of his disciples were hard at times in referring to their lack of comprehension or understanding. (Mk 6:52; 8:17; Jn 12:40; Eph 4:18) It is troublesome when the hearts of believers have become hardened and fixed concerning others in the family of God so that they will not even examine the convictions of one another to discern underlying truths. God does not want his created people to have hard hearts and no one can come to him whose heart cannot be molded into the likeness of that of his Son. (Rom 8:29)

It is easy to find people with hardened hearts. They cannot conceive of the truth of God’s sovereignty over the world and all that is. They are not willing to see the divine hand of God in creation or in the miracles about them. They have trouble listening to or considering others and their opinions. They are often selfish and self-centered. We should be careful about applying the label of hardheartedness to others, however, until we have considered our own state. Most people have areas in life where a stubbornness and dogmatism persists and where the heart is no longer malleable and the Spirit’s influence is resisted. This does not mean that a person’s values and “truths” should be easily altered. The gospel is truth, after all, along with the rest of God’s Word; however, only God knows pure truth.

Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (Jn 10:27 NIV) ‘Listening’ is the sign of a receptive heart, a heart eager to absorb or accept the Lord’s teachings and directions. Obediently ‘following’ is indication of a sensitive heart. Paul told the Ephesians that they must “no longer live as the Gentiles do in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their heart. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.” (Eph 4:17─19 NIV) Their hardening prevented the knowledge of truth and the presence and leading of the Spirit for righteousness.

Every believer should examine himself or herself to check for hard spots in their heart. Honesty might reveal that there are more than they would like to accept. Regardless, Christ condemned blindness and ignorance to his teaching. He requires obedience to the Spirit; hearts that are sensitive and able to be led. It is easy to dismiss one’s ungodly attitudes and behaviors if they are common to those around, even the ungodly. Society gives many permissions that the Lord does not and one day all of those who call themselves by his name will have to answer for their rejection of his righteous standards. He knows because he is in the believer trying to lead and to gain victory. “[T]hose who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:14 NIV) Victory cannot be gained by those who have hardened their hearts to sin, and particularly to a favorite sin.

The hearts of the Israelites were hardened and they could not understand or accept God’s righteous requirements. The writer of Hebrews cautioned his readers: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion during the time of testing in the desert.” (Heb 3:8) Accept it or not, those who belong to Christ today are wandering in the desert with the aridness of sin and deceit all around them. They have pledged that Christ was their Lord (Rom 10:9) and he desires to lead them to victory to the promised land, but they must have hearts that are sensitive and are prepared to obediently follow. (Heb 5:9)


Russell Young is the Sunday contributor to Christianity 201 and author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

9781512757514

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link

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


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