Christianity 201

February 23, 2019

When You Are Falsely Accused

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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And now, my lord, as surely as the LORD your God lives and as you live, since the LORD has kept you from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, may your enemies and all who are intent on harming my lord be like Nabal. I Samuel 25:26

But David thought to himself, “One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his hand.” I Samuel 27:1

A year ago we introduced you to Jim Grant and his blog, Preach Between the Lines where he was working his way through the poetic/wisdom books. Now he’s moved on to I Samuel. There is no specific reference in the devotional today; if you have the time you might want to read all five chapters indicated below. Also, if you can, I urge you to read the devotional which preceded this one; the story of King Saul and David characterized as The Hunter and The Hunted.

Click the title which follows to read at source.

Through it All

1 Samuel 24-29

The greatest struggles in life have to be when we are attacked or accused falsely. We can think of Job and his trials or even Joseph and his jail times. When thinking of David, many times we overlook the character he displayed during those hunted years by King Saul. I know, and so do you the encouragement to endure hardship, to count it all joy when trials and tribulations come – but that is so much easier said than done. The “why” always seems to dominate our thinking. It fact we are so stressed out and emotionally charged it prevents us from understanding and rationally responding to all that is happening.

David has been anointed as the heir apparent for the throne, there are some 13 years before that happens. King Saul is no longer anointed with the “Spirit upon him” so he can only react in a fleshly out of control, paranoid person. Saul repeated tries to kill David, in the process he is filled with guile and cause his son, Jonathan to be severed in their relationship. Jonathan, what a blessing to have for David. The covenant he and David make has been the text of countless sermons. Everyone needs a “Barnabas or Jonathan” surrounding them during severe trials. This is a problem for Pastors especially, why because they are fearful to take people into their confidence – afraid that anything they say will be used against them.

Something else happens in our readings: Samuel dies. The grand and glorious old man is no longer able to run interference for David. I found it appalling that David was hunted by over 3,000 man army under the skewed leadership of Saul. Scripture tells us to pray for our enemies and do good to those who hurt us. It sounds good, but going through great vexing of our spirit, it is difficult to do. But even through the most difficult times of life, there comes a ray of hope: The Abigail and Nabal story finds its way into our hearts. Here is a woman/wife who is under the tyranny of an abusive and egocentric husband. Nabal by all estimation is not a God-fearing man. Abigail, is an intelligent and beautiful woman, God uses the story to deliver both David and Abigail. It’s a unique love story for sure. Sometimes we have to look beyond ourselves to find the good that God is doing. Of course we know that Nabal is killed and David and Abigail marry later.

There are times when an opportunity avails itself for us to take matters into our own hands. David gets an opportunity to kill Saul, even his men compel David to reach out and kill Saul, but cuts a piece of his robe off and shows Saul how that David could have taken advantage of the situation. Again, with Abner supposedly watching Saul, David is able to sneak into camp and take Saul’s spear and a jug of water. Again, David calls to Saul and shows him how he had opportunity but would not “touch the LORD’s anointed.” How we go through trials and tribulations is just as important as getting through them. Our character is on display for others to see if Jesus Christ really makes a difference in ALL of LIFE.

Of course King Saul repents and weeps over his actions, yet it is not a repentance unto godliness. Saul had been exposed, or better yet his heart. Saul doesn’t get it – God is done with Him. Saul’s final act of going to a witch/soothsayers/medium for advice is the last straw. Calling up Samuel through a séance King Saul gets an answer he didn’t want. Samuel tells Saul the reality that Saul would not admit to; the Lord has left you and has become your adversary. A person without the SPIRIT of God in him cannot be pleasing to God – it could have been so different, but Saul would not acknowledge the work of God in David. It all the attempts and attacks on David – Saul lost.

We will be vexed in our spirits, but let the HOLY SPIRIT do the choosing for you. When we think we should take matters into our own hands, know that we are rebelling against God and what He has brought us to. Trust in the LORD – let HIM finish the work he started in you!

Phil 1:6. being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

August 17, 2018

Daniel: A Trajectory of Consistency and Faithfulness Towards God

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Today we’re introducing you to “a freelance writer, wife, and mom,” whose blog is titled My Way Home. I read several different articles before choosing this one to feature here at C201. Click the title below to read at source.

The Man Who Walked the Line

Daniel in the lions’ den is perhaps one of the most beloved Bible stories of all time, especially by children. I’ve taught it a number of times through the years, and Daniel’s great courage and the miracle of the lions’ closed mouths never fails to thrill.

But another aspect of Daniel’s life came to mind today when I was considering what to highlight in the life of this faithful man.

In Daniel 6, Darius the king formed a group of one hundred twenty princes, and over those, three presidents, of whom Daniel was chief. Daniel was so revered by Darius that the other leaders grew jealous of him and concocted a plan to get rid of him.


Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him.

Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God. – Daniel 6:4, 5


Daniel was a man of such integrity that his only apparent “weakness” was his faith.

So, the princes and presidents tricked Darius into signing a law requiring everyone in the kingdom to pray only to the king for thirty days.

Those who petitioned “any God or man” (Daniel 6:7) would be lion fodder.


Plot a graph of Daniel’s deeds throughout his life, and you’ll find a straight line connecting each point. Though his life was punctuated with the miraculous and the dramatic, Daniel himself was a steady, straightforward sort, solid as a rock in his faith. He never showed fear, never seemed to consider any alternative other than the right one, even when facing death.


Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. – Daniel 6:10


Daniel just kept doing the same thing he had always done.

He had always prayed three times each day in front of his open window, and he continued to do so immediately following the new decree. His habits and character were so reliable that the men who plotted his demise were certain of their success.

And they were right. As we know, Daniel was caught, convicted, and cast among lions. But God saved his life, and his adversaries were tossed to the lions in his stead.


I will certainly strive, as Daniel did, to maintain godly habits, come what may. Sometimes, the habits of prayer, Bible reading, church attendance, Christian fellowship, and even blogging are what will keep us heading onward and upward in the valleys of our Christian lives.


Do you have a teenager in the house who would benefit from something like C201, only written by a teen for a teen? Today’s writer’s 13-year-old daughter, who calls herself Bible Blogger Girl has just launched Teen, Meet God.

April 1, 2014

A Day Devoted to Lies

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:24 pm
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For much of the morning, in some parts of the world, people made outrageous, preposterous or untrue statements; waited a few seconds; and then said, “April Fools!” I’m writing this ahead of time, but no doubt online there were false news stories, manipulated photos, and skillfully edited videos. In most cases, nobody gets hurt and everyone has enjoys having their gullibility quotient tested.

I don’t want to go so far as to say that Christians should never enjoy a good prank — I am, after all, writing this to appear late in the day of April 1st — but it’s important that this never defines us.

In Matthew 5:37 we read,

All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

The context is about swearing oaths, but in The Message Bible, the definition is widened:

“And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.

The entire passage is paralleled in James 5:12

Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear–not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.

Wikipedia notes how these verses impacted one Christian sect:

Quakers place importance on being truthful at all times, so the testimony opposing oaths springs from a view that “taking legal oaths implies a double standard of truthfulness” suggesting that truthfulness in legal contexts is somehow more important than truthfulness in non-legal contexts and that truthfulness in those other contexts is therefore somehow less important.

But by refusing to take an oath, many were imprisoned.  The article also noted some of the variances we encounter today:

  • I swear on my mother’s life
  • I swear on my grandmother’s grave

The idea is that we are promising something that is precious to us to demonstrate sincerity. I didn’t grow up around people who use these expressions, but to be honest (pun intended) I often wonder that people who feel the need to add this might be the ones most likely not telling the truth.

This passage also means more than just whether or not we can be trusted when we make a statement, it’s also about whether or not we can be trusted when we make a promise. My wife and I often joke that we’ve spent a measurable percentage of our lives waiting for people who said they would arrive somewhere at a certain time. Before we even got married, I noticed that my wife was extremely punctual, and I’ve always hated being late and keeping people waiting. But often others find it easy to say they will be somewhere at a certain time and then think nothing of arriving a half hour later (and we’re not talking about being fashionably late to a large party or gathering.)

For the Christian, decision-making can be extra-complicated, as we desire to submit everything, big and small, to God’s will. But if commit to something, if we agree to do something or be somewhere, then we need to honor our commitments and agreements.

Freelance writer Fiona Soltes writes,

There’s much to be said for being a person of integrity and doing what you say you’re going to do. There’s even more to be said, however, for being a person who carefully considers decisions with God’s input and sticks to those decisions once they’re made. God is, after all, the same yesterday, today and forever. If we are to be like Him, we must show ourselves faithful and dependable, as well.

Jered Bridges commented on this passage in the context of living in a world filled with hidden cameras. He noted our ultimate accountability is not to the people we make promises to, but rather…

Proverbs 5:21 warns that, “…a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he ponders all his paths.” (ESV)  Ultimately it matters not if there’s a hidden camera watching you —- the eyes of the Lord penetrate far further than a grainy twenty-frames-per-second camera could ever go.  It is in the healthy fear of those eyes that we should accordingly adjust our conduct.

Go Deeper: Check out a detailed study on this passage at Bible.org

 

 

 

June 1, 2013

Two Different Measures

As we begin a new month, before we start today, I just want to say how absolutely amazed I am at the people who are blogging Bible study and devotional material on a regular basis. We’ve featured at least a couple of hundred by now, though we probably only see a very small tip of the iceberg; but clearly God is working in the lives of many people in many ways. Though the readership of some may be very small, there is no way — and I say this from personal experience — you can accurately measure what it’s doing for them to be posting material like this each day.

Today’s feature comes from a blog with a creative name re-Ver(sing) Verses; and appeared under the title Deuteronomy 25:15. Click the link to read at source, and again, you’re encouraged to explore the rest of the blog. Also, I need to add that when we feature the writing of others, we usually leave it to you to click through and see any related graphics or pictures, but I had to include this one.  Zec, the author, follows this format each day with a brief, analysis, conclusion and sometimes other sections.

Deuteronomy 25 15

You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.Deuteronomy 25:15 | NIV | Other Versions | Context

Brief

Deuteronomy 25 continues a long string of laws that have been put in place for this new people after they had escaped from captive in Egypt. In particular, Deuteronomy 25 looks into laws dealing with criminals [Deu 25:1-3], a law on animals/tools of labor [Deu 25:4], laws on family [Deu 25:5-12], and laws on justice [Deu 25:13-19]. Zoning in onto the laws on justice, there were two laws stated in this chapter – one on general justice [Deu 25:13-16]; and the other a promise of justice against the Amalekites [Deu 25:17-19]. Focusing on the law on general justice, we shall examine some common tools of the trade – weights and measures as we look into how important it is for us to lead our lives with integrity so that we can enjoy our lives to the fullest in God.

Analysis

accurate and honest weights – Back in those times they use scales and weights to weigh a lot of things – Leviticus tells us about ephahs and hins [Lev 19:36], ephahs a measure of all things dry [Exo 16:36], like corn; hin a measure of all things liquid, like oil or wine [Exo 30:24]. When you do business with somebody else, and you’re selling corn, it is easy for you to cheat a few grams off every buyer for per 100g that you sell. Your hands move so fast to weigh it and sweep them into a bag that your buyers will never find out. Or your weighs and your scales could be weighted, and your buyers would never know – they won’t usually have any means to measure it at home, and even if they do, they usually won’t bother measuring what they bought.

accurate and honest measures – And there are some things that are sold not by weight but by length, like cloth. Recently I had to buy some cloth for an exhibition, and I was trying very hard to keep my eyes on the ruler, but the seller measured it so fast that I wouldn’t be able to tell if he did give me exactly 5 yards, or if I only got a length closer to four-and-a-half yards at the end of it. I’m sure they sold cloth back in the old days, but even till today these inaccurate measures and dishonest weights still exist.

What does the Bible say about them? The Lord detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him [Proverbs 11:1]. This is a matter of integrity, and often it’s so easy to gain a little here and there that we tend to do it naturally and think of it as harmless. It isn’t harmless though. It harms your integrity. The Lord frowns on it. It incurs the Lord’s wrath – For the Lord your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly [Deu 25:16]. Let us learn to be honest and have integrity in small things and big things alike.

Symbolically

Bias and deviation – we often hold some kind of prejudice against certain people, and some kind of bias for others. It is easy to be quick to judge somebody just by his race, his size, his face – it is easy for us to have double standards – we often have two different measures in our house [Deu 25:14]. But no – honest weights and accurate measures – let us measure a man for his own worth, and let us weigh a character not with a prefixed weight. Let us not judge, for who are we to judge? Let us accept those of low positions. A man who has integrity has no space in his heart for bias and deviation.

so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you – This is a promise. A promise from God, a promise to be fulfilled by God. Who says we cannot enjoy our lives in the grace of the Lord? In the context of this verse this promise is a huge one – to live long in the promised land – land of milk and honey, a great and fruitful land. Back in those days, people had longer lifespans that we do today, and the promise of a lengthy lifespan is a great one to enjoy. Compare the blessing of longevity for honest people to the curse for the dishonest people – the bloodthirsty and deceitful will not live out half their days

[Psalm 55:23]. When we talk about blessings of longevity, one other instance comes into mind – Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you [Exo 20:12,Deu 5:16|Article]. This is a great blessing that comes after we’ve fulfilled important duties of what God expects of us.

Conclusion

I had to step aside from myself as I studied this verse, for, who am I kidding? I am certainly by far not the most upright person, especially when it comes to little things. I often find my integrity lacking when it comes to little, little things. It is hard to always be gracious and magnanimous all the time – traits which are often demanded by integrity – especially so when you’re short on money or you’re in a hurry. It’s hard to be rooted to the ground, it’s hard not to jump at a fantastic opportunity, albeit a dubious one. It’s hard to call a wrong as a wrong and a right as a right, especially when you might have much to lose.

We must, though. We must. The Bible didn’t say, ‘you should’ or ‘you ought to’. We must – because if we do not, we will incur God’s wrath knowingly. Sometimes what constitutes as right is a blurry picture. Let us steer clear of the grey areas that we so often pounce at, and instead, build our characters based on integrity. If it is right, let us call it as right. If it is wrong, let us call it as wrong and seek to better ourselves next time. It’s hard, but certainly possible.

With God’s grace, let us have honest and accurate weights and measures.


Here’s another post from the same blog, where Zec tackles a tough passage, Matthew 15: 27.