Christianity 201

January 22, 2021

Another Plague Which Covered the Whole Earth

Today another new writer to introduce. Rolain Peterson is a writer who lives in Harare, Zimbabwe and currently is involved with children’s ministry. His blog, which he’s been writing since January, 2012, is called Kingspeech. He is the author of the 31-day digital devotional, Rise Above Fear. Send some love across the ocean to Rolain by reading this at his site, not here. Click the header which immediately follows…

In the darkness, God has a plan

I was encouraged today as I read the story of Joseph. With all that is going on with the pandemic, it’s easy to get discouraged but I was reminded that God is working in our lives in the midst of intense darkness.

So let’s get into it.

We all know the time Pharaoh had dreams and when no one could interpret the dreams someone remembered Joseph and he was summoned to interpret them. He told Pharaoh seven years of plenty would come followed by seven years of famine.

The seven years of plenty came and Joseph who had been promoted to second in charge stored away grain. He stored away so much that it became impossible to keep track of how much they were storing.

Then the seven years of famine arrived and this is what I want to focus on. The famine didn’t just affect Egypt but the whole world.

“And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.”

Genesis 41:57

It was a difficult time for the world but in that dark time God had a plan. There were some very important and key things that God was doing in that seven year famine period. I want to highlight two things.

  1. Israel reunited with Joseph, who he presumed had died.

Since the famine affected the whole world, Israel was affected too and had to send his sons to buy grain which in turn led to the discovery of Joseph. That is important because it leads us to the next key thing that happened.

       2. Israel’s entire family relocated to Egypt because of Joseph.

Joseph made plans for his whole family to move to Egypt so they would be provided for during the famine. And that is also important because it was a fulfillment of what God told Abraham,

“Then the Lord said to him, know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there.

But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.”

Genesis 15:13, 14

We know God was talking about Moses and the deliverance of Israel from Egypt.

So do you see?

In the seven year famine period, God was working and setting some big things up. And the famine had a part to play in the grand scheme of things.

God was setting pieces in place for Israel’s next chapter and that encouraged me because in this season of Covid-19, God has a plan too.

You may not see it or understand but He is working. You don’t need to stay discouraged or hopeless because He is in total control.

His plans and purposes for your life are working out in the midst of the darkness.

And that’s my encouragement to you. He will fulfill what He has promised you and this season will end.


Second Helping: About a month ago I bookmarked another article from Rolain; take a minute to read Patiently Endure, a short look at a verse in Numbers 21.

December 27, 2020

Christmas is an Apocalypse?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:39 pm
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CEB.Luke.2.22 When the time came for their ritual cleansing, in accordance with the Law from Moses, they brought Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. (23 It’s written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male will be dedicated to the Lord.”) 24 They offered a sacrifice in keeping with what’s stated in the Law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

Simeon’s response to Jesus

25 A man named Simeon was in Jerusalem. He was righteous and devout. He eagerly anticipated the restoration of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 The Holy Spirit revealed to him that he wouldn’t die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 Led by the Spirit, he went into the temple area. Meanwhile, Jesus’ parents brought the child to the temple so that they could do what was customary under the Law. 28 Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God. He said,

29 “Now, master, let your servant go in peace according to your word,
30     because my eyes have seen your salvation.
31 You prepared this salvation in the presence of all peoples.
32 It’s a light for revelation to the Gentiles
    and a glory for your people Israel.”

33 His father and mother were amazed by what was said about him. 34 Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “This boy is assigned to be the cause of the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that generates opposition 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your innermost being too.”

Anna’s response to Jesus

36 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, who belonged to the tribe of Asher. She was very old. After she married, she lived with her husband for seven years. 37 She was now an 84-year-old widow. She never left the temple area but worshipped God with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 She approached at that very moment and began to praise God and to speak about Jesus to everyone who was looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

Jesus as a child in Nazareth

39 When Mary and Joseph had completed everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to their hometown, Nazareth in Galilee. 40 The child grew up and became strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was on him.

Today’s thoughts are from a writer who is new to us, Father Steve Grunow. His page doesn’t tell us where he serves or in what capacity. I’ve included (above) the gospel reading for today which he refers to. Click the header below to read more of his writing.

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Christmas is an apocalypse.

What do I mean?

Contrary to the popular notion that an apocalypse is some kind of divine plan for planetary destruction, the Bible has a different idea — an apocalypse is a revelation, a revelation that occurs what God intervenes in a remarkable way in history.

One of the greatest example of this is the revelation proclaimed on the Mass of Christmas Day — God, the one true God, eternal and unchanging, accepted for himself a human nature and without losing anything of who he is, was born into this world, born in time, as all humans are born — revealing himself to us as a baby, as the Holy Child of Bethlehem. This is an apocalypse — a revelation.

Now the other implication of an apocalypse is there is an end, a kind of cataclysm that results from God’s remarkable intervention. This is true of the revelation of God in Christ. God’s revelation in Christ brings about an end, signaling to the great powers of the world, spiritual and worldly powers, that things have changed and their time of unchallenged influence and control is coming to an end.

It’s for this reason that the great powers of the world resist the revelation of God in Christ- both at the time of his holy birth to this very day. The Lord Jesus ends worlds, shakes the foundations upon which our assumptions of politics and culture have been built. He does things that we would rather have God not do (like becoming a baby) and he says things that we would rather not have God say (like forgiving our enemies).

Worldly powers resist him. And let’s be honest — so do we.

Thus, his revelation is an apocalypse. Christmas is an apocalypse. The Lord Jesus is an apocalypse.

The end he brings about always brings about a new beginning and that too is what the Biblical understanding of an apocalypse is all about.

Whether we accept him or not, the Lord Jesus changes us and changes the world. Those who most virulently oppose him know this and this is the source of their greatest consternation. In the end, they know, that he has already won.

Today’s Gospel is about Christ the Apocalypse, the tiny child who is God who brings an old world to an end and quickens a new world to life.

When the Holy Child is brought to the temple of Jerusalem as an infant, more is going on than the fulfillment of a religious custom — God is entering his own temple and doing so in a way that most are too narrow or distracted to understand.

God was expected to come to his people, but not in the form that he came — as an infant in his mother’s arms. Again, this revelation is an apocalypse, that once accepted changes forever the way one can think about who God is and what God wants for us. Even many who profess to believe that this revelation is true, struggle to comprehend all the implications. So, it should not shock us so much that most who encountered God in Christ just couldn’t make sense of his revelation.

But two people do recognize Christ the apocalypse, God the baby — an elderly man and woman whose lives have been spent watching, wondering and waiting — living in hope that God would come- and come personally.

They see him for who he is, while others do not.

And perhaps that is the lesson.

To watch. To wonder. To wait. And to live in hope.

We are Christians, and because of this our lives are spent in longing for the coming of Christ. He makes himself known in Sacraments and in the bodies of the poor and our spirituality as Christians is learning to see and receive him in these peculiar ways. But even more than this, we long for him — for Christ — and we long for him to come to us personally.

We want him to heal our hurts and take away our sins. We want him to rescue us from death and set a world gone wrong right. We want him to do what we cannot or will not do ourselves. We want him- personally.

But this encounter evades most of us in this world- but the desire for him remains. Because this is difficult for some, Christian spirituality becomes limited to cultural expression or a religious rule book. Unfortunately, it is precisely in these ways that we end up missing him when he draws near. The deep mysticism of the Christian faith is negated by what are really expressions of our need to control. In our frustration that God in Christ does not come to us on our terms, we set up idols in his place.

Then what are we to do? How are we to live?

Old Simeon and venerable Anna model for us the way — to watch, to wonder, to wait and to hope. Living each day in expectation of his coming. Understanding that our spirituality as Christians is not fulfilled simply in feelings, but in fidelity to Christ.

Christians are always living on the verge of an apocalypse. This apocalypse is not about the destruction of the planet (as some have come to believe) but it is instead about the coming of the Lord, his revelation into our own lives.

One day, like Simeon and Anna, we will see him as they did face to face — but until then, like Simeon and Anna — we watch, we wait, we wonder, and we hope. And we do this so that we will recognize him when he comes.

December 13, 2020

Part of Love is Going ‘All In’

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Rebecca LuElla Miller is a freelance writer and editor whose blog A Christian Worldview of Fiction is actually a great source of devotional insights. This our third time with her, and she sees something in the Jacob/Joseph/Benjamin story which I had missed. Don’t let the blog title fool you. Click the header below to read at source, and then click the header at the top of her page to refresh and look at her other writing.

What It Means To Love

The Bible gives us the greatest example of love that exists:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

God gave His only Son because He loved the very people that were spitting in His face. Not literally at first, but eventually that happened too.

The thing is, the Bible also gives pictures of this love throughout the Bible. The one perhaps best known is Abraham willing to offer his son as a sacrifice, not for another person but in obedience to God as an evidence of his love for Him.

Interestingly, there’s a kind of reverse illustration, too. Abraham’s grandson, Jacob actually had twelve sons, but he loved one more than all the others. The jealous brothers kidnapped him and sold him into slavery, then lied to their dad to make him think the teen had been killed by a wild animal.

Years later a famine hit the land, so ten of Jacob’s sons traveled to Egypt to purchase grain because they heard in all the region hit by the famine, Egypt still had a supply of grain available.

When they arrived, they came face to face with the brother they’d sold into slavery. He recognized them, but they did not recognize him. After all, he was dressed like an Egyptian, was obviously in charge of the grain selling operation, and communicated with them through a translator.

Long story short, Joseph, the despised and forsaken brother who became a ruler, challenged his brothers—if you want to buy and sell in Egypt, bring me your other brother, the one who stayed home with his dad. That was Benjamin, Joseph’s full-blood brother.

Not sure what Joseph’s intentions were. Maybe he wanted to see if the ten had become as hateful toward Benjamin as they had been toward him. In that case, he could actually rescue Benjamin from them. Or perhaps he wanted to know if they had repented of their evil and were changed men. In which case, he’d have the chance to include his family in his life again. There is the possibility that he was toying with the idea of revenge against the ten. The point is, Scripture doesn’t tell us what he was thinking.

What we do know is that Joseph’s brothers, all except one he kept on condition of their return with the younger brother, went back to their dad, with food but without one of their number. Jacob was distraught. He’d never gotten over losing Joseph, and now one of his older boys was held captive in Egypt, and would not be released unless Benjamin went with the guys on their next trip.

So he delayed. And delayed. At some point things were becoming desperate. The famine continued and the food ran out. His sons needed to go back to Egypt to get food.

But Jacob said, “My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should befall him on the journey you are taking, then you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow.”

At that point Jacob didn’t love anyone but himself. He was not willing to sacrifice his son.

But he didn’t stay in that state of mind. After time, he came to realize the severity of their situation, and he gave permission for Benjamin to go.

The story ends with Joseph revealing his identity to his brothers and telling them to bring their father and their entire households to Egypt to live because there were still years left of the famine. They did, and he was reunited with his father.

Of course Jacob was not sacrificing his only son, and he wasn’t even sacrificing him. More like risking him. Sort of an “all in” decision. But I think that might be part of love. Going all in. It certainly was the way in which God showed His love for the world.

October 27, 2020

What Motivates You Not To Sin?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:37 pm
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“We never see sin aright unless we see it as against God.” – Jerry Bridges


Yesterday I was scrolling through blog posts here from 2011 and came across the name Clay Gentry whose writing was highlighted three times in total. It was nice to go back to his blog and find it still active; find him still writing. His blog at claygentry.com is called Sharing the Good News of the Lord.

Click the header below to read this online, including contact information there for Clay if you want to reach out to him.

The #1 Reason Not To Sin

What motivates you to not give into temptation? Now, I realize, depending on the situation several different reasons might be cited. For example, an unhappily-married couple facing the temptation of divorce might stay together for the sake of the kids. Or, an employee may not steal because he or she is afraid of getting caught. Or, a teenage couple may abstain from sex because of the fear of pregnancy. These reasons are all well and good, however, there is one fatal flaw they all share… the motivation for not sinning is temporal in nature.

When the kids get older or leave for college, the marriage ends. When the employee figures out how not to get caught, he or she steals. When the teenagers no longer fear pregnancy, they will have sex. In essence, so long as our reasons for not sinning are solely based on our ever-changing circumstances, we will eventually yield to temptation and thus sin.

However, there is another approach to overcoming temptations; a motivation that will keep us from sinning. What is this reason you ask, well consider with me the example of young Joseph from Genesis 39:6b-10. In this reading, we find Joseph as a slave in the house of an Egyptian named Potiphar. But trouble is at hand in the form of Potiphar’s wife.

“Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Come sleep with me.” But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God? And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to go to bed with her.” (Genesis 39:6-10 ESV)

Did you notice what motivated Joseph to resist what must have been an intense time of temptation? It was not merely his position or the kindness of his master; but more importantly, it was his relationship with God. Read it again, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” For Joseph, his relationship with God was the #1 reason not to sin. He would do nothing to compromise that relationship.

Consequently, if we want to overcome temptation then we have to see our relationship with our Heavenly Father as the #1 reason not to sin. He has saved us and thus calls for us as His children to live lives of holiness before Him (cf. 1 Peter 1:15-16). Therefore, may our prayer echo that of the Psalmist, “[Lord] may [we] store up Your words in [our] heart, that [we] might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11).


The quotation from Jerry Bridges appeared most recently in this June, 2019 article here, Sinning Against Another, Against Yourself, Against God.


The last time Clay Gentry appeared here was in a 2014 piece on the danger of over-contextualizing which we were only able to use in part. The article is still online; check out The Contextual Meaning of Romans 15:4.

July 14, 2018

The Purpose of Patience

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Joanna Pierce writes for the blog of Apostolic Pentecostal Church in Bloomington, Illinois. This is her second time appearing here at C201. As with our last visit, the scriptures are embedded within the post as links. The links take you to a KJV version of the verses, but once there, you have an option to switch over to two Amplified Bible texts.

Patience is a Big Part of Your Journey

Endurance and Patience

Jesus encouraged the disciples to endure until the end to see their salvation (Matthew 10:22, 24:12–13). But, what did He mean? Endure means to suffer patiently, or to last. So, what’s patience? Patience is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.

Our salvation journey has a starting place and then continues until we reach Heaven. There’s a gate we enter and a way we follow once we start on our journey with God (Matthew 7:13–14). Patience makes up for a lot of our way!

Necessary for Salvation

How much is patience critical to our salvation experience? Is it as importance as repentance and baptism? Scripture tells us to add to our faith virtue, then knowledge, then temperance, then patience, then godliness, then brotherly kindness, and lastly, charity (II Peter 1:5–9). If we don’t have patience, we’ll be unfruitful in God’s Kingdom; we’re called to bear fruit! If we lack all of these things, we’ll be blind and forget we’ve been purged from our sins. When this occurs, there’s a strong likelihood we’ll follow false truth or be bound by condemnation—all because we’re missing patience in our life.

It is through our trials and tribulations will our patience flourish. It builds experience in us which leads to hope (Romans 5:3–5). We are called to glory in our tribulations and how it aids our spiritual development.

3 Men Who Demonstrated Patience

Abraham

Abraham began his life in an idolatrous society, was childless, and God called him to leave everything he knew and follow Him. Because he believed in God, it was credited to him as righteousness. After given the promise of a child and being the father of all nations, he waits 25 long years. Then, 12–13 years after the birth of Isaac, he’s instructed to sacrifice his son. What a journey of trials!

But, Abraham had learned through every trial to stand on the promises of the Word of God. He knew at the moment of sacrifice, God would raise up his son (Hebrews 11:19). Abraham is our example of a person who waited, endured tribulation, and struggled to develop patience in his life. We must learn to rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him no matter how long it takes and no matter what He tells us to do (Psalms 37:1–7).

Joseph

At the age of 17, God gave Joseph a dream of his future. From that moment on, he faced trial after trial. He was cast into a pit by his brothers, sold into slavery, accused of rape and thrown into prison, and left to abide there, forgotten for years. However, through these experiences God was grooming Joseph into a vessel who could glorify Him.

At times, Joseph may have struggled to see God’s purpose in patience because he was in the midst of a 20-year long trial. But, at age 37, he winds up in the second most powerful seat in all of Egypt and it all becomes crystal clear. God never promised we’d have an easy life; our promise is that we will see a lot of trouble. But, God has also promised to give strength to the weary if we wait upon Him and not give up (Isaiah 40:28–31).

David

David was 12 years old when the most powerful prophet in Israel anoints him with oil as the future king. Even with this promise, David faces trial after trial in his life. He fights a giant, spends most of his reign running for his life from the murderous Saul, commits adultery and devises a plot to kill the woman’s husband, numbers Israel and causes the death of 70,000 people in the process, and the list goes on and on.

At the death of his child, the product of his adulterous relationship, David still gets up and goes to the house of the Lord to worship. In his trials (and mistakes) David was in the process of learning patience. God was shaping him into being a man after His own heart.

Purpose of Patience

Every trial we experience is for our good (Romans 8:28); it’s working patience in us! Scripture tells us we need patience to complete the will of God (Hebrews 10:36). Ultimately, we sill be saved if we have patience (Luke 21:19)—patience is part of the way, not the gate to Heaven.

As in the examples of Abraham, Joseph, and David, we are put through trials so our lives can bring God glory (I Peter 1:3–7). What an example we can show to others of God’s goodness, grace, mercy, and transformative power. What God can do in us can be done in someone else!

God pushes patience so we will have 1) reduced stress, 2) fewer times we hurt others, 3) more joy, and 4) help to keep us on our journey with Him. We need to allow patience to have its perfect work in us (James 1:2–4). It’s all to get us ready (and patient) for the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (James 5:7–8).