Christianity 201

December 1, 2021

Sheep in the Presence of the Shepherd

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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After a break of a couple years, for the seventh time we’re back with author and pastor Colin Sedgwick at the site, Welcome to Sedgonline, an excellent devotional writer. Click the header which follows to read this (and then explore other things) at its point of origin.

The Voice of Jesus

The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep… He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice… Jesus said, I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me… John 10:2-4, 11, 14

I have a cousin who is a dairy-farmer. His farm is a one-man business, and that can present problems when he needs to take a break for a few days. Certainly, he can get people to stand in for him, but if he does he finds that the milk-yield of the cows is seriously depleted – it’s almost as if they go on strike until he returns.

Which seems strange. Nearly all modern milking, including his, is done by mechanical means, so what difference should it make who actually attaches the equipment to the cows? But apparently it does.

I use the illustration of the farmer and his cows rather than the shepherd and his sheep because… well, I don’t happen to know any sheep-farmers! But if you read John 10 right down to verse 20 you won’t have any problem seeing the connection. Jesus describes himself as both the shepherd of the sheep and the gate by which they go in and out, but if he had chosen to talk about cows and their farmer the same essential truths would emerge.

What’s it all about? Trust, that’s what! And trust is at the heart of all good and healthy relationships, so it’s about that too. Lacking it, the cows don’t give their milk, and the sheep don’t follow.

The idea of sheep and shepherds is strong in the Old Testament to describe the relationship between the king and his people.

Moses is recorded as praying that God would appoint for his people a leader “who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd (Numbers 27:16-17). (Compare that with Matthew 9:36, where the heart of the good shepherd is moved with “compassion” – that is, pity and deep sadness – for the big, swarming crowds “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”.)

Go to Ezekiel 34 and you find the prophet condemning false leaders as being like worthless shepherds who are only concerned for themselves. And it’s surely no accident that Israel’s greatest king – David – was, in his youth, a shepherd-boy (1 Samuel 16). In adulthood he simply swapped one type of flock for another…

So it’s a very natural parable that Jesus makes use of. What I find particularly striking about it is that four times in verses1-18 Jesus speaks about the shepherd’s voice.

Once when I was a small boy the head-teacher spoke during the assembly about the beauty of human eyes. To prove his point he told us, “There are many things you probably can’t remember today about your mother. But one thing I’m sure of – if I asked you what colour her eyes are, you would answer straight away.”

And I felt bad! Rightly or wrongly, I didn’t have a clue about the colour of my mother’s eyes. I had simply never noticed. Ah, but the sound of her voice – that was a different matter. Eyes, after all, are just there; but a voice is something you relate to. I would be able to pick that out in a roomful of noisy people.

And so it is with the voice of Jesus, our good shepherd; it is more precious to us than we can say.

But… how exactly do we hear it? Not, after all, with our physical ears. There may be times when in fact we don’t seem to hear it at all, perhaps because we have wandered away from him, or because it is crowded out by the many troubles, distractions and noises of our daily lives. But he is always speaking, even when we are not listening, or when our circumstances are such that we cannot hear.

This is where another memory of my early life comes in: as a child in Sunday School, and even more as a young convert, I was encouraged each day to have a “quiet time” of prayer and Bible-reading. That expression has, I think, fallen out of use over the years – people think it sounds a bit twee.

Well, perhaps. But I still think it has a real value, and I am not at all embarrassed to say that even all these years later I still try to make it my practice, and I’m still happy to recommend it to others.

In fact, the modern popularity of “mindfulness”, for us as Christians, is really just a recognition of our need to “be still, and know that God is God” (Psalm 46:10). To find such a time may be difficult in the busyness of our lives. But it needn’t be lengthy; it need only be sincere and determined. A few minutes with a focused heart and an open Bible can make all the difference.

So… Is it time you set aside a few minutes in your life to be still in the presence of Jesus and to allow him to speak? A few minutes to deepen that relationship I spoke about earlier? Everything good and wholesome springs from that, just as the sheep learns to confidently follow the shepherd and (if you don’t mind me comparing you to a cow) the cow produces rich, foaming, frothy, health-giving milk.

May God bless us all as we learn to listen for the voice of Jesus!

Lord Jesus, please train my ear through scripture and the Holy Spirit so that it becomes attuned to the sound of your voice, and so that I learn the secret of guidance, obedience – and peace. Amen.

October 2, 2021

Becoming an Oasis in a Spiritual Desert

I am amazed at how much one man’s “deeper” is another man’s “boring.” While some theologian types salivate over a discussion of some tertiary doctrine, and others start hyperventilating at the discovery of a lost document by an early church father; others can’t get past the second paragraph before their mouse is clicking them off to a Christian dating site, or an online vendor of Christian t-shirts.

The love and grace and mercy of God should never be boring. But theology for theology’s sake can be dry and lifeless.

Instead, God’s word should be the opposite to dry; the Bible should contain words that refresh us. It’s the world which is the desert; it’s the company of God’s people sharing God’s word that is the oasis.

Which brings us to rather different place today, Amos 8:11

11 “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD,
“when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. (NIV)

The Message Bible couples that verse with verse 12:

12People will drift from one end of the country to the other,
roam to the north, wander to the east.
They’ll go anywhere, listen to anyone,
hoping to hear God’s Word—but they won’t hear it. (The Message)

How is that possible?

The website Never Thirsty (appropriately named for today’s discussion notes that,

…the rebellious and idolatrous Israel was doomed for punishment. Punishment was coming and it was unavoidable. Their sins were too great. In verse 3, God summarizes the pending punishment as songs of the palace that would stop and corpses that would be everywhere.

The songs of the palace will turn to wailing in that day,” declares the Lord GOD. “Many will be the corpses; in every place they will cast them forth in silence.” Amos 8:3 (NASB)

Then God proceeded to list their sins in verses 4-10. Verses 11-14 describes the horrors of the punishment that would follow.

Therefore, Amos 8:11 is part of God’s description of judgement upon the nation of Israel. Verse 11 contains the phrase “famine for hearing the words of the Lord” that we want to understand.

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD,
“When I will send a famine on the land,
Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water,
But rather for hearing the words of the LORD.” Amos 8:11 (NASB)

The first act of punishment listed is that God would send a famine. But the famine was not one of no food or no water. The people would not suffer from a lack of food or water. Instead, they would suffer due to a famine of not hearing the words of the Lord. That is, they would not hear the words of Scripture which God wrote. The judgement would be an act of God withholding prophecy. There would not be any prophets. God would not communicate through a prophet.

1 Samuel 28:6 is an example of Amos 8:11. In this passage we discover that God would not communicate to Saul through a prophet.

When Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by prophets. 1 Samuel 28:6 (NASB)

At a forum on eBible, someone asked how there could be a genuine famine for God’s word at a time we have so many copies of the Bible available in over 200 English translations. One reply reminds us,

…It could also be a statement about today’s world where people don’t understand God’s Word and are hungering for someone(s) to explain it to them.

Unlike the US, where atheism and other false gods (polytheistic religions) are drawing people away from God, many people in other parts of the world are desperate for answers to their problems which can only be found in Jesus and need to hear the Gospel message.

That reminded me of the passage where Philip encounters the Ethiopian official going to Damascus and asks him, ‘Hey, whatcha reading?’ Well he actually asks him,

“Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.“How can I,” he [the Ethiopian] said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. – Acts 8:30b-31 NIV

I think that now, more than ever, people in the world at large need people like you and me who can (choose a phrase)

  • explain the Bible passage to them
  • provide additional background commentary; understanding
  • exegete; that is, take them slowly, word-by-word through a particular verse or passage
  • read it with the understanding and passion of someone who understands the bigger picture; someone who has “met the author”

This is the heartbeat of Paul’s words to the Romans:

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? (10:14 NLT)

Sadly, in our time, as in the time of Amos, hearts have grown hard. The website Daily Verse tell us,

For multiplied centuries, the prophetic call to Israel was to return to the Lord. For generations of time, Israel consistently and continuously rejected God’s repeated calls to repent – a call for both individual and national repentance. But their collective disobedience finally resulted in the rejection and crucifixion of their promised Messiah, centuries later.

When a man or woman repeatedly refuses to acknowledge God’s Word and obey the truth, their proud hearts and unrelenting minds become seared and hardened, until God permits that inflexibility to become permanent – God gives them over to their rebellious heart.

The same is true with a people-group or nation, and Israel’s collective heart had become so de-sensitized to God’s Word, and so stiff-necked towards Him, that God finally gave them over to their lustful desires – pronouncing a famine for the hearing of the words of the Lord.

Lord, keep our heart always turned toward you; keep those around us from hardening their hearts toward you; and help us to be their oasis in a spiritual desert.


Worship song: Hungry


We recently touched on the Amos 8:11 passage briefly in two other devotionals:

Read the first part of A Famine of God’s Word from August, 2020 and the second part of the devotional What if Our Sabbath…? from just a few weeks ago (Famine of the Word).

September 19, 2021

The Enemy’s Most Effective Weapon

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Last year at this time we first used an article here at C201 from a site we’d often referred to at Thinking Out Loud. The Daily Article at The Denison Forum is distributed via email, social media, and podcast to hundreds of thousands of culture-changing Christians daily. They employ eleven full-time employees who produce and distribute content worldwide which usually begins with a “teaser” item from news media, and then continues with a spiritual application.

To read this one (which begins with a story of freak accident killing a man outside a Vancouver McDonald’s) you need to click the link in the header which follows. For those who stay here, we begin halfway through.

The devil’s most destructive tool

by Jim Denison

We are focusing this week on ways to experience transforming intimacy with Jesus. Yesterday we discussed the temptation of so-called private sin and its danger to our spiritual health. Today, let’s focus on a second enemy of spiritual intimacy.

I often state that God redeems all he allows. One way I believe he would redeem the demonstrations of human finitude and fallenness we encounter each day is to show us our constant need for resources only he can supply.

Here’s the reason we need such reminders: as C. S. Lewis noted, “It is pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.” Thomas A. Tarrants of the C. S. Lewis Institute adds: “Lewis is not simply giving us his private opinion but summarizing the thinking of great saints through the ages. Augustine and Aquinas both taught that pride was the root of sin. Likewise, Calvin, Luther, and many others.

“Make no mistake about it: pride is the great sin. It is the devil’s most effective and destructive tool.”

Consider three ways pride manifests itself in our lives today.

1: Time

In Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life, Tish Harrison Warren quotes Dorothy Bass, who warns us of “a false theology: we come to believe that we, not God, are the masters of time. We come to believe that our worth must be proved by the way we spend our hours and that our ultimate safety depends on our own good management.”

Warren confesses that Bass described her “with stinging accuracy.” I must make the same confession today. That’s why we should proclaim, This is the day the Lᴏʀᴅ has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24, my emphasis).

2: Prosperity

In 2013, Margaret Loughrey won $37 million in Ireland’s EuroMillions lottery. However, she said in 2019, “Money has brought me nothing but grief. It has destroyed my life. I have had six years of this. I don’t believe in religion, but if there is a hell, I have been in it. It has been that bad.” She was recently found dead in her home.

The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche claimed that the “will to power” is the basic drive in human nature. He was especially right with regard to prosperity. The more we have, the more we want. If money is a means to power, we can never have enough. That’s why “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (1 Timothy 6:10).

3: Adversity

Conversely, adversity can promote pride. We think we can solve our problems, so we double down on ourselves by trying harder to do better.

Artist Winslow Homer spoke for many in our self-reliant culture when he stated, “There’s no such thing as talent. What they call talent is nothing but the capacity for doing continuous work in the right way.” Psychologist Carl Rogers added: “What I am is good enough if I would only be it openly.”

To the contrary, when Paul faced a “thorn in the flesh” he could not remove in his strength, he heard God say, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Tomorrow I plan to close our week with practical ways to defeat pride and to experience transforming intimacy with Jesus each day. For today, let’s make David’s prayer ours:

“O Lᴏʀᴅ, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lᴏʀᴅ
From this time forth and forevermore” (Psalm 131).

Is your heart “lifted up” in self-reliant pride, or would God say you are as dependent on him as a child on its mother?

There is not a third option.

September 4, 2021

Moving Past an Inherited Faith

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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A year ago we introduced a new author to you, Hannah, who writes at Morning Glory Journal. Of three articles I looked at, I chose this one for us today, but you can discover more by clicking the link in the previous sentence, or the one in the header which follows.

Genealogies: Pitch Our Tents Near The Well

When neither of your parents are around you suddenly have to decide who God is to you. You suddenly need to figure out if you think He was just a fable they believed in, or if you will believe that He is real, alive, and loving just like they always told you. I think the journey starts while we are with our parents; that’s where the foundation is set. But it’s when we are alone that we decide if we believe in that foundation or if we will give in to our deceptive senses.

Abraham had lived a full and satisfied life. After Sarah’s death, he had married another woman named Keturah. With her he had Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. His son Jokshan had two sons Sheba and Dedan. And Dedan had three of his own: Asshurim, Letushim, and Leummim. Midian, another of Abraham’s sons from Keturah, had five sons whose names were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah. Now, because Isaac was the promised son, Abraham left everything to him. It was while he was still alive that he gave gifts to his other sons. He then sent them away towards the east, away from Isaac.

Genesis 25:7-11; NASB
7 – These are all the years of Abraham’s life that he lived, 175 years. 8 – Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and satisfied with life; and he was gathered to his people. 9 – Then his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, facing Mamre, 10 the field which Abraham purchased from the sons of Heth; there Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah. 11 – It came about after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac lived by Beer-lahai-roi.

He’d lived a good life and, just like God said he would in Genesis 15:15, Abraham died in peace at a good old age. The first man mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, one who was called God’s friend, was put to rest. And so, the torch was passed on to his son Isaac. Both of his parents were now dead, buried in the same cave. By now he must have been around his 40’s. But without his dad around, would he still follow God? Since his parents weren’t around to influence his decisions, would he still choose God?

I like to think he chose to simply because of verse 11. Let’s look at it again: “It came about after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac lived by Beer-lahai-roi.”

Where did he live? Close to “the well of the living one who sees me.” He and God were already building a unique relationship. He believed in the God who saw him in the midst of all the sorrow and pain that comes with life. Where will we pitch our tents? God wants to build a unique relationship with each of us today, right now. He’s not a blind god but the God who sees you and me. Let’s put our tents up near Beer-lahai-roi and start to really get to know the God we’ve heard so much about.

 

July 1, 2021

Ready to Meet Your Maker?

Thinking Through 1st John 5:6-21

by Clarke Dixon

So you have become a Christian trusting in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. But are you sure you are ready to meet your Maker? Should I be bringing you a “Shrunk Sermon” right now on how you need to try harder and do better so that you will be okay on the day you meet your Maker?

In our day it seems there is an epidemic of doubt among Christians. Not doubt in God’s existence, but in our standing with God. In the apostle John’s day it seems there was an epidemic of doubt thanks to a certain group of false teachers.

So John wrote a letter. What John said to the Christians of his day in addressing their doubt is going to help us with ours in ours.

Here near the end of John’s letter we find the main point:

And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

1 John 5:11-13 (NRSV)

What is the main point? You can have confidence!

Since you have the Son, you have life! John does not say “Whoever has kept all the rules has life, or whoever has been religious enough, or knows enough, so that when you meet the Son, you will perhaps get life,” but “Whoever has the Son has life.” It is clear that John believes his readers have the Son. He says that he wrote the letter “so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Note the tone of confidence! John knows they have life, they should too!

The word “know” shows up a lot in the final paragraphs of John’s letter:

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. . . . We know that we are God’s children, and that the whole world lies under the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

1 John 5:13,19-20 (NRSV emphasis added)

John did not say “you need to know,” but you know already. Note the confidence! Reading between the lines, and knowing that the false teachers were, according to Bible scholars, spreading an early form of Gnosticism where you are saved through increasing your knowledge, John was in effect saying “don’t let the false teachers tell you that you need something more, that you are lacking knowledge, that you need to learn from them.” Whoever has the Son has life.

In our day, many Christians have doubts, through false teaching, but also through incomplete teaching.

For example, God is thought of by many primarily, and sometimes only, as a judge. While that is to be taken seriously, Jesus taught us to also think of God as our Heavenly Father, as we see, for example, in the Sermon on the Mount and the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus also said “if you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9). Want to know what God looks like? Jesus is the best picture we have!

There are two very different kinds of relationships we can experience, egg shell relationships and solid rock relationships.

In egg shell relationships you are not sure where you stand. You think it could all fall apart at any moment. You start each day knowing that you need to be the right kind of person, doing the right things in order to be accepted, to be loved, to still be in the relationship at the end of the day. In this kind of relationship, the phrase “suffer the consequences” is important. You try, and try, and try harder, and keep trying. You live in fear.

In solid rock relationships you are sure where you stand. You have confidence that you are loved. You are able to lean into that love, you are able to live out of that love. You live in confidence.

People often portray God as the God of egg shell relationships. It is a “suffer the consequences of your actions, and even your thoughts,” kind of relationship.

In Jesus we see that God is the God of solid rock relationships. He suffered the consequences of what we have done so that we might enjoy the consequences of what He has done. God is faithful, not fickle. That solid ground allows us to lean into God’s love, to live out God’s love in all our relationships and in all of life. Yes, we can always be growing and doing better at living out the Christian life. But that is a walk of confidence, not fear.

So are you ready to meet your Maker? If you trust in Jesus, you already have.


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Cobourg, Ontario and articles here appear first at his blog, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon.

June 30, 2021

Prayer: Have You Reached the Stage of Saying “What’s the Point?”

Today we have two alternative articles for you, but this one, while perhaps seeming elementary to some of you, is a good review and as we reach the end of the month and the halfway point in the year; I sense someone needs to read this.

The U.K. blog author, who we’re featuring for the first time, simply goes by “The Godly Lady” and the blog has the title, Christian Lady After God’s Own Heart. Click the header below to read at source, and then explore!

What’s the use of praying?

Ever found yourself in a place where you feel angry, annoyed, frustrated, downhearted, and feel a little bitter towards God? Well I have, and I’m sure that several other Christians have also felt this way too. It’s not abnormal to express emotions of annoyance over why God let a specific circumstance, pan out the way it did. My encouragement to you today is that you’re not alone in your feelings of frustration, although our experiences are different we all encounter pain, joy, and happiness in our lives.

So what’s the use in praying or striving to live a life of righteousness? If God has already determined my future, and there’s no changing what has been predetermined, why bother to pray, and pursue holiness? I can confirm that I’ve asked myself these questions, and God has recently brought two major points to my attention.

First point being an analogy. I know that my parents would do whatever they can to help me live a great and fulfilling life, and I’m also aware that if I desire something within their means to obtain, they will not hesitate to give me that thing. Now just because I know my parents will help support me doesn’t mean that I should stop speaking with them altogether, because they’ve done their job as my earthly guardians. What my parents desire most, is to have a deep, loving, and meaningful relationship with me. And we all know that a key ingredient to maintaining a good relationship is GOOD COMMUNICATION.

Now even if an answer to prayer seems delayed, it doesn’t mean that we should stop praying to God, because God desires intimacy with us, and wants us to pour out our hearts to Him. He desires for us to speak with Him! We mustn’t forget that prayer is a form of communication. Be honest and real with God, and pour out all your complaints before Him. God cares about everything that bothers your mind, no matter how small or big your concerns may be, God cares! So what’s the use in praying? It’s about building a better relationship with God, and enhancing our level of closeness with Him.

Psalm 27:8 ~ My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”

Psalm 55:22 ~ “Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.”

Secondly one should not do good (pursue to live righteously) in order to get from God, or to be seen by others. Remember God freely gives to us, not based upon our works or performance, but simply because that’s part of His loving nature! We should pursue to live godly lives, and mustn’t give up on doing good, purely because of our love for The Lord. The great act of love which God showed us through His death on Calvary, should motivate us to love Him through our actions, because He first loved us!

Galatians 6:9 ~ “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

So let us not give up on praying, and let’s not throw in the towel because of challenging circumstances. And let us not forget that when the going gets tough, we should strive to use it as an opportunity to build a better relationship with God!

Luke 18:1 ~ “One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.”


Bonus items for today:

Today we have two suggested articles. These are opinion pieces, not Bible studies, but ones we would carry here if the format were different.

The first is by Michael Frost and just published today, If Jesus Planted a Church, What Would it Look Like? Highly recommended.

The other is by Chris Tiegreen and deals with the online disputes often carried out in the name of doctrinal purity; Disagreement or Heresy?

Both of these are respected Christian authors. Enjoy.

June 16, 2021

God is Always Up to Something!

Do you agree with today’s title? I believe God is always active and orchestrating things behind the scenes, but we often frame this type of discussion in terms of our subjective experience of unanswered prayer(s). Or we dismiss key passages in Isaiah such as the one which follows today as no longer applying to us, or only claimed by Pentecostals and Charismatics with a penchant for signs and wonders.

But the popular worship song Waymaker reminds us,

Even when I don’t see it, You’re working
Even when I don’t feel it, You’re working
You never stop, You never stop working

We sing those words on Sunday mornings, but do we believe it? I know my own faith can falter in a season like the one we’ve been through this past year.

Today we’re back with a mash-up of three devotionals from “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 dwell on the past

Isaiah 43:18-20, NIV
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

Forget former things! It will cost you your future to live in the past, and that is a far too expensive a price to pay. If those former things you need to forget were negative it is time to forget and move on. If those former things were positive it is time to give thanks for them and move on to what God has for you next.

Make sure that you spend your life living for what God is doing now, not forever wandering down memory lane; memory lane is great to visit every now and then but it is not where we live! To live there would cost you the ‘weekly rental payments’ of your present and your future…

Trade in your old moments for His new ones

Isaiah 43:16-21, The Message
This is what God says, the God who builds a road right through the ocean, who carves a path through pounding waves, the God who summons horses and chariots and armies — they lie down and then can’t get up; they’re snuffed out like so many candles, “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.”

…We need to daily resolve that we will not live our lives desiring to be in moments that have passed but rather to be a part of the moment that now is. Ever had a postcard from somewhere real nice that had the classic message written on it, “Wish you were here”? It is great that the sender thought of you, but the truth is you are not there and you will never be there for the sunset captured in the photo on the postcard. But the good news is you can be a part of the “what God is doing” postcard of today.

The Bible and the history books are like catalogues of great moments that happened, that you were neither at or a part of. Plus, you don’t own a Tardis or converted DeLorean time machine, so you cannot be in them. If God had wanted you there then He would have put you there – but the good news is, He had something even better in mind for you. The truth is God wants you alive today, to live for what He is doing today.

These verses say, “Look, I am doing a new thing”. So trade in your desires to be back in a moment that has been and gone for the honour and excitement of being in a moment that, like an artist, God is still painting.

If you “make the trade” then, in the future, when people say, “Did you hear what God did in 2021?”, you will be able to say, “I know because I was there when it happened!” If you keep your heart set on moving with the God who does new things you can say that about every year of the rest of your life, because our God is always doing a new thing somewhere.

Perceive, know and give heed

Isaiah 43:18-19, AMP
Do not [earnestly] remember the former things; neither consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Concerning the new thing that God is doing and “causing to spring forth”, He asks us to do three things to relate to it:

• Perceive it
• Know it
• Give heed to it

Perceive it

According to the dictionary, to perceive is to “recognize, discern, envision, or understand”. We need to make sure that we are at a point in our daily spirituality that we are able to sense and perceive what God is doing in a person’s life or any given situation.

It would be a shame to miss the wave of something God was doing because our senses, or ability to discern “new things”, were numb – maybe numbed from carnality or distraction. Make sure your “taste buds” for spiritual things are sharp and able to know the flavour of our God doing something new in your day.

We need to know it

Know when God is bringing a change of season. Jesus said to a crowd, mentioned in the Scripture below, that they knew how to discern natural changes like the weather and then He rebuked them for not being able to sense or know when a spiritual change of season was at hand. Let’s make sure we do not fall into the category of the ignorant, but stand with those who can feel the wind of change when it blows.

Luke 12:54, NKJV
He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?

Give heed

Finally, He wants us to give heed to it – another way of putting that would be to be aware of it or live in accordance with it. Let’s make sure we understand when God is doing something new and that we are passionate to be a part of it, and not bound to a previous moment. Choose to live in accordance with what He is doing today and not just what He has done.

May you know God doing something new in your life today.

March 6, 2021

Looking at the Face of God

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If we compiled a list of the five authors we’ve featured here most often, Elsie Montgomery would be in that list.  She has been faithfully writing daily at Practical Faith since 2006.

For 2021, she decided to do something different, and use the alphabet to provide word prompts for themes. “God directed my thoughts to the alphabet and 2×26 equals the weeks in a year, and that He can be described by many English words beginning with those 26 letters.” (Never say you can’t think of anything to write!)

As always, please support our contributing writers by clicking through (it send them traffic) and reading this on her site. Click the article title which follows.

Seeing God?

During their wilderness travel, the Israelites sinned and Moses interceded for them. In that conversation, he asked God to “Please show me your glory” but God said to him:

(Exodus 33:19–23) “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But, you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live. Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

I picked FACE as a word about God for today. In Hebrew, FACE is a plural noun. It means “the presence or proximity of someone understood in terms of the face; with the implication of being before or in front of them.” This supports the idea that much can be known about someone by the look on their face.

However, God says no one can see His face and live. Then other passages speak of seeing the face of God. This stumped me. I found an article in a theological word book about this Hebrew term. The section is long but the content is helpful. Here are a few main points:

The face identifies the person and reflects their attitude and sentiments, much the same as we talk about how another person feels according to their facial expression. In the Bible, “face” can also refer to behavioral patterns as well as revealing human emotions, moods, and dispositions.

For instance, a “hard” face indicates defiance, impudence, ruthlessness. A “shining” face is evidence of joy while a “shamed” face points to defeat, frustration, humiliation. A “fallen” face indicates very strong anger or displeasure. The phrase “to hide one’s face” means to show aversion or disgust and “to turn away the face” is to reject.

There are more examples, many of which are applied to God. God’s face “shines” as a sign of favor and good will, or “falls” in anger. He also may “hide” his face. The phrase “to see God’s face” probably indicates someone is visiting the sanctuary to worship. It includes “to see” or “to appear” suggesting the idea of “appearing before” God rather than seeing His face even though it is said that Jacob and Moses saw God “face to face.” Even so, Moses, Elijah covered their faces in God’s presence. These who saw Him were overwhelmed with astonishment and gratitude and awe.

In the New Testament God is manifested in Jesus. John 6:46 says “Not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.” He is not only the Word through whom God is heard but also the image through whom God is seen.

(Hebrews 1:3) He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high . . . .”

GAZE INTO HIS GLORY. My eyes cannot ‘see’ the face of God nor do I get a full look at the face of Jesus Christ, yet when He walked on earth He was ‘seeable’ — His disciples could say, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) and “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” (2 Peter 1:16)

Their testimony helps me see the face of my God and Savior. It also makes sense of the reason why the Bible tells me to keep my focus on Jesus because by seeing Him, I am transformed to be like Him. This is the blessing in this pandemic isolation — for it has given me the time and motivation to draw near and see Him more clearly, not so much His face but the wonderful qualities of who He is.


What can be known about God? For starters we can know he exists. Here’s a bonus article from the same writer, The Fundamental Truth.

July 31, 2020

His Presence Doesn’t Need to Be ‘Worked At’

Today’s writer is new to us and simply goes by the (lower case) name appolus. His blog is titled A Call to the Remnant, with the subtitle Scottish Warriors for Christ and has been online since December, 2007.  As always, click the header below to read this at source. A number of resources are shown there in the left and right margins.

In Him We live

Acts 17:28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being

If we are passionate worshipers of Jesus, then everything else is secondary. If Jesus is the primary object of our passions, then everything else becomes the by-product. If we ever get that wrong, we cease to be effective. If soul winning is our primary object, we cease to be effective soul winners. If faith is our primary object then we cannot be faithful. If holiness is our primary object than we cannot be holy. If revival is our primary object then we will never see revival. Outside of Jesus being the primary object of our lives then we immediately begin to lose ground in every aspect of our walk, whether we are pastors or teachers or whatever role we have in the Body.

I would argue that the saints who have rocked this world for Jesus are the saints who have walked in intimate communion with Him. He is the source of all love and majesty and glory and power. Only by abiding in Him ( Him being our primary object) can we walk in forgiveness and mercy and grace. Out of the abundance of the passion that we experience as we walk with Jesus as our grand obsession comes the overflow that changes those around us and brings light into a dark world. Are you being ineffective in your walk? Have you wondered why? Is Jesus the primary object of your life? Is there joy in you life? Is there glory in your life? Are you an over-comer? Do you have a thankful spirit?

Listen saints, if Jesus is truly the primary object of your life then what flows from that is love, joy, peace, faithfulness, thankfulness, forgiveness and so on. How often have I heard a saint say, on any one of the aforementioned issues “I need to work on that.” That is quite exactly wrong. No amount of “work,” can muster up joy nor thankfulness nor love nor any of the issues of the heart. He must be our all in all. In Him we live and move and have our being. Jesus Himself is the answer to any problem you are having, any problem. The answer lies in Him alone, the answer lies before the throne.

Whatever you seek to achieve in the Kingdom of God comes directly from the depths of your relationship with Him. Find a man who is passionate about sports and he will bore your pants off speaking about it. Find a man who is passionate about politics and he will rip your shirt of telling you all about the latest policies and issues and the state of the world. Find a man who is truly passionate about Jesus and you will find a man who is changing the world. Out of the abundance of our passion flows the power of God.


Do you use BibleGateway.com? Today at our parent blog we included a guest post review of the updates to the site from our friend Clark Bunch at The Master’s Table.

July 26, 2020

The God You Can Know; The God Who Wants to be Known

NLT.Phil.3.10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death

There has been quite an outpouring of tributes following the death of J. I. Packer. I would say more than I expected. I posted a very brief tribute to him at Thinking Out Loud, and just eight days ago I ran a series of quotations by him here at C201. But today I felt led to see if anyone had posted a larger book excerpt — transcribing things is half the battle — and found this excerpt from his most popular book.

Knowing God was first published in 1973, with a 20th Anniversary edition published in ’93. You can learn more about the book at the website of its publisher, InterVaristy Press (IVP), where you will also find this tribute. Knowing God may also be read as a 365-day devotional published by IVP under the title Knowing God Through the Year.

The excerpt below was not originally paragraphed so what appears may slightly vary from the paragraphing in my print copy (which I can’t locate right now!) Material below is © InterVarsity Press.

Knowing God

…[U]nlike horses, people keep secrets.

They do not show everybody all that is in their hearts. A few days are enough to get to know a horse as well as you will ever know it, but you may spend months and years doing things in company with another person and still have to say at the end of that time, “I don’t really know him at all.”

We recognize degrees in our knowledge of our fellow men. We know them, we say, well, not very well; just to shake hands with, intimately, or perhaps inside out, according to how much, or how little, they have opened up to us. Thus, the quality and extent of our knowledge of other people depends more on them than on us. Our knowing them is more directly the result of their allowing us to know them than of our attempting to get to know them.

When we meet, our part is to give them our attention and interest, to show them goodwill and to open up in a friendly way from our side. From that point, however, it is they, not we, who decide whether we are going to know them or not.

Imagine, now, that we are going to be introduced to someone whom we feel to be “above” us; whether in rank, or intellectual distinction, or professional skill, or personal sanctity, or in some other respect. The more conscious we are of our own inferiority, the more we shall feel that our part is simply to attend to this person respectfully and let him take the initiative in the conversation. (Think of meeting the queen of England or the president of the United States.) We would like to get to know this exalted person, but we fully realize that this is a matter for him to decide, not us. If he confines himself to courteous formalities with us, we may be disappointed, but we do not feel able to complain; after al, we had no claim on his friendship.

But if instead he starts at once to take us into his confidence, and tells us frankly what is in his mind on matters of common concern, and if he goes on to invite us to join him in particular undertakings he has planned, and asks us to make ourselves permanently available for this kind of collaboration whenever he needs us, then we shall feel enormously privileged, and it will make a world of difference to our general outlook. If life seemed unimportant and dreary hitherto, it will not seem so anymore, now that the great man has enrolled us among his personal assistants.

Here is something to write home about-and something to live up to!

Now this, so far as it goes, is an illustration of what it means to know God. Well might God say through Jeremiah, “Let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me”—for knowing God is a relationship calculated to thrill a person’s heart. What happens is that the almighty Creator, the Lord of hosts, the great God before whom the nations are as a drop in a bucket, comes to you and begins to talk to you through the words and truths of Holy Scripture.

Perhaps you have been acquainted with the Bible and Christian truth for many years, and it has meant little to you; but one day you wake up to the fact that God is actually speaking to you—you!—through the biblical message. As you listen to what God is saying, you find yourself brought very low; for God talks to you about your sin, and guilt, and weakness, and blindness, and folly, and compels you to judge yourself hopeless and helpless, and to cry out for forgiveness.

But this is not all.

You come to realize as you listen that God is actually opening his heart to you, making friends with you and enlisting you as a colleague; in Barth’s phrase, a covenant partner. It is a staggering thing, but it is true — the relationship in which sinful human beings know God is one in which God, so to speak, takes them onto his staff, to be henceforth his fellow workers (see 1 Cor 3:9) and personal friends.

The action of God in taking Joseph from prison to become Pharaoh’s Prime Minister is a picture of what he does to every Christian: from being Satan’s prisoner, you find yourself transferred to a position of trust in the service of God. At once life is transformed. Whether being a servant is a matter for shame or for pride depends on whose servant one is.

Many have said what pride they felt in rendering personal service to Sir Winston Churchill during World War II. How much more should it be a matter of pride and glorying to know and serve the Lord of heaven and earth! What, then, does the activity of knowing God involve?

Holding together the various elements involved in this relationship, as we have sketched it out, we must say that knowing God involves, first, listening to God’s Word and receiving it as the Holy Spirit interprets it, in application to oneself; second, noting God’s nature and character, as his Word and works reveal it; third, accepting his invitations and doing what he commands; fourth, recognizing and rejoicing in the love that he has shown in thus approaching you and drawing you into this divine fellowship.


NIV.I Cor.9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

July 20, 2020

Incomplete Devotion

Today we’re introducing a source which is new to us, Meanderings of a Minister by Pastor Jack Jacob. (I tried to learn more, but couldn’t 100% map his name to a church site which mentioned the blog.) There are some great articles here which fit in well with what we do here, though we only repeat authors every six months. I hope you’ll click through to his site and read one or two more. Click the header below to send Jack some traffic and encouragement and read the article there.

Not Complete

The Lord said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in executing what is right in My eyes, and have done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in My heart, your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.” But Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart; he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel sin. (2 Kings 10:30–31, NASB95)

Many people do not know the name, Jehu.  Jehu was king in Israel and was used of God to do some disturbing and amazing things.  Years prior, God had told King Ahab that his sins would cause his family to be decimated and he would no longer have a male descendant to be on the throne after him.  Ahab had repented and God said He would relent until the life of Ahab’s son.  Jehu carried out that punishment.

Jehu went even further in carrying out God’s plans for revival of true worship by destroying idols, tearing down shrines to other gods, and killing those who were leading Israel to worship other gods.  He went throughout the land leading a revival.  He even got a young man to go with him to witness the purifying of religion in Israel.  In 2 Kings 10:30-31, God told Jehu that he had done well in executing the justice and judgment of God on Ahab and in leading the people to do right in their worship and individual lives.

With all the good and big things Jehu did for God, 2 Kings 10:31 tells us that he was not careful to walk in the Law of the Lord, the God if Israel, “with all his heart.”  In other words, while he had been faithful in the public, external, or “big” things, he was not careful to let that be translated into devotion with his heart.  He had failed to follow God in his own personal devotion to God and in the consistency of his walk with God.  How could this be?

When Solomon died, Rehoboam became king of Israel.  When he failed to use wisdom, and in accordance with God’s warning to Solomon, the kingdom split in two with ten tribes following Jeroboam and retaining the name of Israel.  The remaining two tribes remained loyal to the house of David and became Judah.  Jerusalem was in Judah.  That would mean for those who had sided with Jeroboam, they would have to travel to Jerusalem to worship to obey the Law.  Jeroboam did not want this to happen probably from fear of losing control of them or a desire on the side of the people to reunify after a while, so he had two golden calves built and placed them in the cities of Bethel and Dan.  He told Israel that these idols were the god that had delivered them from Egypt and insisted they worship the idols instead of going to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple where God had told them to go.

As good as Jehu had done on the bigger, more public issues, he had allowed this to continue and was inconsistent in the reforms he had instituted.  God’s evaluation is in 2 Kings 10:31.  He had done great in the bigger things, but not in his heart or the things of personal devotion.

If we are not careful, we will be tempted follow the same pattern.  We will do well in the larger, public issues like teaching our Sunday School classes, singing in the choir, or serving as a deacon and miss out on consistency in our private devotion to God.  We do not have to be hypocrites for this to settle into our lives.  Sometimes, it is just a matter of losing focus and beginning to be drawn into habits or patterns of behavior that are less consistent than the full devotion God deserves from us.

What “gods” have crept into your heart, your home, your habits, your health, or other areas that are not as consistent as your church attendance, giving, or service?  Let’s pray God will work in us to make us complete and filled up with Him and His Holy Spirit.


Unrelated: Earlier today our parent blog, Thinking Out Loud posted an article about the Bible translation used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the New World Translation. Although the article was a somewhat superficial look at the translation, and not their doctrine, some of you may be interested in reading it and comparing the wording of popular verses. If so, click this link.

July 12, 2020

Knowing Creation is Part of Knowing God

Even after 10 years, I love introducing you to new writers. Leiah writes at Yellow Diamond Blog. Why the name? Her hope is, “that you will discover that you are far more precious and valuable than even a rare yellow diamond.” Her writing is adorned with some beautiful pictures that we can’t post here, so as usual, you’re encouraged to click the title which follows to read this at her site and then look around for other articles.

Purpose Beyond the Clouds

I don’t often get the opportunity to look at Gods creation uninterrupted. The hustle and bustle of daily life is often all consuming. It can so easily steal the joy of recognizing God through the simplest of ways. But In the times I can look up, I always see Him there. I am reminded of His majesty, His splendor, and His omnipresence. I am reminded that not only is the creator of all that I see, but the creator of all I can’t see. I remember that there is purpose beyond the clouds. There is a home I am striving to get to. There is a spiritual kingdom I am working in that is bigger than the constant emails, text messages, phone calls, social media feeds, deadlines, and demands.

I remember that there are those out there with darkened hearts still. And I remember that it is my job to shine the light of Jesus into their lives and bring them back to a purpose greater than themselves.

I also remember that the greatest way to shine light into those darkened hearts is to live out my own purpose. To live out love and kindness in the least to greatest aspects of my life. I must live out my purpose at home for the ones I know and love. I must live out my purpose in the world for the ones I don’t know but learn to love.

I must live out my purpose in front of the ones who hurt me, betray me, use me, abuse me, hate me, accuse me, lie about me, misunderstand me, mistreat me, slander me, gossip about me. I must never stop recognizing and honoring God and giving Him thanks for the creation that is me.

The only way to do that is by being who He created me to be, and not a single thing less.

The Lord lead me to Romans this week, and this verse hasn’t left my mind since.

I want to know God and reflect Him for all that He is. I don’t want to miss a single part of Him. I want to know Him as creator, and also as my very best friend. What a wonderful God we serve that would desire more than our praise for what He created, but desire to then have a personal relationship with His creation.

Don’t miss out on a single aspect of the Lord. He is calling us closer as the world is calling us further away. Draw near to Him. There is so much more than we could ever imagine waiting there. ❤️

“For even though they knew God [as the Creator], they did not honor Him as God or give thanks [for His wondrous creation]. On the contrary, they became worthless in their thinking [godless, with pointless reasonings, and silly speculations], and their foolish heart was darkened.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭1:21‬ ‭AMP‬‬

 

July 9, 2020

Father in Heaven: How Praying the Lord’s Prayer Can Help us Pray Through the Disconnect

by Clarke Dixon

We may feel a certain disconnect in prayer. Like we are trying to connect with God, but it feels like he is up there, we are down here, and “never the twain shall meet.” We may feel like the Psalmist in Psalm 42:

As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and behold
the face of God?
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me continually,
“Where is your God?”

Psalms 42:1-3 (NRSV)

Our best, sometimes only, prayer may be like one of my brother’s favourite expressions “beam me up Scotty, this planet sucks!” Lord, just let me escape this world and its problems.

Our prayers are to go much further than that, prayer itself being much deeper than that. Prayer is connecting with God, inviting God to participate in our lives as we seek to participate in God’s.

We are going to take a deep dive into prayer over the summer and we will do so through the core teaching of Jesus on prayer; the Lord’s Prayer. So let us begin, appropriately enough, at the beginning.

The very first word of the Lord’s Prayer, if we are reading the original Greek, is Father. This means that the very first thought, the very first thing we are to expect to experience, is intimacy with God. That is where prayer begins, with a recognition and acknowledgement of intimacy with God.

Prayer begins with the recognition that praying matters, because prayer is heard. We need not pray wondering and worrying if there is some God up there who might hear us. We pray knowing that God has revealed himself to us as the one who does hear, who listens as a good father does.

There are speed bumps on the way to this experience of intimacy.

For starters, religion may have taught us to doubt God’s desire for intimacy. Religion may teach us that God is there, yes, but God is just waiting to punish us.

The story of the prodigal son comes to mind. The story of a son who demands his inheritance even before the death of his father. The story of a son who went away from his family chasing the “good life.” The story of a son who realised that being a servant in his father’s household would be much better than where he ended up.

“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’
“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

Luke 15:20-24 (NLT)

This is our story. God is not waiting to punish us. God is waiting for us to come home. When we are done with trying to live life on our own, when we recognise that we have separated ourselves from God, when we return to the Lord, he runs to us and embraces us. No matter what religion may tell us, intimacy with God is possible, for it is something God longs for.

The whole story of the Bible comes to mind. God created us for intimacy with Him. We ran away. God kept in relationship with us through the covenants and prophets. We continued to be on the run. Then God came to us in Jesus, and in doing so opened the door to our coming home. When we return, God runs to us with a warm and welcoming embrace.

The second speed bump on the way to intimacy is that our own fathers may have taught us to be frightened of fathers. We may have learned from an early age that intimacy with a father is not possible. Some people have been seriously hurt by the very people that should make them feel safe.

I was trained in seminary to never begin a public prayer with “Father.” This is out of sensitivity to those for whom the image just won’t work. While I’m not inclined to move away from traditional language for God, some people think of “Heavenly parent,” or even “Heavenly mother” instead. Since I don’t know what it is like to live with such wounds, I think holding out some understanding is the “do unto others” thing to do. What we don’t want to lose sight of, though, is the intimacy of God the relational terms provide. Always beginning our prayers with “Creator God,” or “Lord God,” misses the reminder of intimacy which Jesus would have us think of as pray.

A third speed bump on the way to intimacy with God is our own idea that God is far away. We may, in fact, think this is what Jesus has in mind when he teaches us to pray “Father, in heaven.” There is a reason that Jesus teaches us to pray “Father, in the heavens” and it has nothing to do with distance. It has to do with the transcendence of God. Heaven is not far away, it is a completely different realm. God is not far away from us, but He is very different from us.

What we mean by the transcendence of God is that, though we are created in the image of God, God is not like us in fundamental ways. God is God, we are not. God is eternal, we are created. God is Creator, we are created to be creative, but we cannot create out of nothing. God is able to save sinners. I do well to save a document. God knows all truth. We do not, and we would do well to admit that more often than we do.  God is omnipresent, try as we might, we cannot be in two places at once. God is holy, we are often wholly messed up.

As we pray, we begin with the reminder that God, though intimate like a father listening intently beside us, is not limited to sitting beside us, nor prone to the limitations of even the best of fathers. Our Heavenly Father is God, with all the powers and purposes that go along with being God. He is profoundly capable.

In teaching us to pray “Father, who is in the heavens,” our prayers begin with a focus on an absolutely amazing fact: God, who is so not like us, and whom we rebelled against, still wants an intimate relationship with us. God, who could have hit the delete button on us ages ago hit send instead; He sent his son. God came to us Himself, as God the Son. This is the opposite of “beam me up Scotty” we mentioned earlier. Far from taking us out of the world, God enters our world of suffering, to begin the process of making a better world, to help us look forward to an even better world still. God came to us in Jesus so that intimacy with God whom we sinned against could happen.

We may feel a certain disconnect in prayer. The Psalmist is honest about that feeling of discontent in Psalm 42. But the disconnect is a feeling. The Psalmist also knows the fact of the connection:

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God.

Psalms 42:11 (NRSV)

The feeling of disconnect we may feel from God is just that, a feeling, and it is temporary. The connection with God through Jesus is a fact, and is permanent.

Jesus teaches us to remember the facts as we begin to pray, praying “Father in heaven.” Let us remember the amazing intimacy we can have with an amazing God, thanks to his amazing grace.


Clarke Dixon is a Canadian pastor. This reflection comes from the “online worship expression” which has replaced regular church services where he ministers due to COVID-19 precautions.

May 19, 2020

The God Who Touches Lepers

Melody has creating devotional writing at In Pleasant Places since January, 2013. This is her 5th time being highlighted here. Her blog started somewhat organically from correspondence she was sharing with a friend, as she explains in her story. To read this at her blog, click the header below.

Powerful Healing, Compassionate Love – Isaiah 53:4-5

“Surely He has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows…
Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with His stripes we are healed.”

Isaiah 53:4-5

I read these words by Charles Spurgeon this morning:

“What a mass of hideous sickness must have thrust itself under the eye of Jesus! Yet we read not that He was disgusted, but patiently waited on every case… Whatever my own case may be, the beloved Physician can heal me; and whatever may be the state of others whom I may remember at this moment in prayer, I may have hope in Jesus that He will be able to heal them of their sins.”

This is the example the disciples witnessed. Jesus, with compassion and care for all. Not repulsed. Not hesitant or intimidated. Instead, He was welcoming and patient. Demonstrating that there is no lost cause; He can heal all who come to Him. A powerful physical demonstration of His ability to heal, cleanse, and restore, pointing to His greater healing of the soul for all who believe in Him.

No sin is too great, too dark, too ongoing. He cleanses all.

That’s what He died for.

And He meets us with the same compassion regardless of how dirty, shameful, and unworthy we feel – just as He met the high priest in Zechariah’s vision, rebuking his accuser, removing his iniquity (taking it on Himself ultimately on the cross), and clothing him in pure garments (Zechariah 3:1-4).

As Jesus reached out His hand to touch the leper (Luke 5:11-13), He reaches out His hand to touch and cleanse us. To pull us out of the mire and give us a new song to sing (Psalm 40:1-3). To change our lives because we are delivered into His kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13-14), freed to know Him in relationship and experience His grace in obedience. Freed to love and serve Him, walking in the newness of abundant life. With strength and peace, joy and steadfast hope.

When we are freed, may we never forget the greatness of His salvation, the depth and depravity of sin He saves us from, or our continual need of His mercy and grace – and His ability and ready willingness to meet that need (Hebrews 4:16).

May we never look at others’ chains and sicknesses with disgust, but as our Savior does – with compassion. With love. Reaching out to meet them where they are, and gently sharing our experience of a God who loves them enough to die for them, a God who will not shame them, a God who stands with ready open arms to assure them, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments” (Zechariah 3:4).

Fellow believers, let us not be repulsed.

Let us not shame.

Let us not cast down.

Rather, let us reach out to love.

Let us listen.

Let us share of the Father’s great love and mercy, manifested on the cross of Jesus and extended very personally to those He puts in our path.

Let us share this not to change them, but to introduce them to the living God of love, hope, peace, and freedom. For each precious one who believes in Him, He will draw them out of the mire into His light. He will free them from their sin. We bring others to Jesus in love and compassion; His Spirit does the rest, just as He continues His work to free us from our sin. A work that He will bring to completion for all who are His (Philippians 1:6).

Because His healing work is that powerful and His love for us is that great.

“I waited patiently for the LORD;
He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the LORD.”
Psalm 40:1-3


May 11, 2020

Have You Been Conscious of God’s Love in the Past Week?

This is an excerpt from Healthy Me, Healthy Us: Your Relationships Are Only as Strong as You Are by: Dr. Les Parrott and Dr. Leslie Parrott releasing later this month with Thomas Nelson. To read the full excerpt go to Devotions Daily. Learn more about the book at this link.

How to Change Your Negative Self-Talk

…In the 1700s, Jonathan Edwards used a simple analogy: “There is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet and having a sense of its sweetness.” You can know honey is sweet because someone tells you, but you don’t really know its sweetness until you’ve tasted it.

We’re talking about opening your heart and allowing the sweetness of God’s love to be experienced. This is more about your heart than your head. It’s what John Wesley was getting at in pondering God’s love when he described his heart as being “strangely warmed.” Pascal, who was a mathematician and scientist as well as a philosopher, said his heart was “directed into the love of God.” It’s a feeling at the center of our beings. It’s beyond knowing with your head. In fact, it’s beyond comprehension. How can you wrap your head around being loved by the Creator — so much so that you feel it?

When I (Les) was a graduate student in seminary, a professor asked a class of more than fifty students: “How many of you experience God’s love?” He quickly added, “Don’t raise your hands on impulse. Think about it and only raise your hand if you know the feeling of being loved by God.” Out of this room of students preparing for ministry, how many hands went up? Fewer than a dozen. Those who didn’t raise their hands gave answers like “I know I’m supposed to say that I have… I know the Bible says He loves me… but I don’t feel it.” Some even admitted that God felt cold, aloof, and demanding — not loving.

The professor wasn’t surprised. It wasn’t his first time to pose the question to a class of students. He followed it up with another: “How many of you have been conscious of God’s love for you, personally, in the past week?” No hands went up this time. He waited a couple of beats and continued: “How many have been conscious of God’s disapproval of you this week?” Hands shot up all around the room.

If you want to experience God’s love, if you want to feel it deep in your spirit, you’ve got to admit that you are indeed inadequate — that you haven’t and will not ever earn God’s love. It’s an impossibility.

You can only receive it as a grace gift. When God tells us,
Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually.
— 1 Chronicles 16:11 ESV

He is not merely making a suggestion. He designed us to live with Him. That’s where we find health, wholeness, and fulfillment. Jesus underscored this when He said,
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
— John 10:10 ESV

You may feel as though a million hurdles stand in your way to experiencing God’s love — guilt, shame, blame, perfectionism, legalism, inadequacies, hurts — but be assured that nobody has or ever will earn the love of God. Each of us is undeserving. But when we open our hearts to receive it and continually walk with God to experience it, our internal dialogue forever changes…


Taken from Healthy Me, Healthy Us: Your Relationships Are Only as Strong as You Are by: Dr. Les Parrott and Dr. Leslie Parrott Copyright © 2020 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. http://www.thomasnelson.com.

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