Christianity 201

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.

March 31, 2020

Connecting With God’s Presence

Two years ago this month we introduced you to the devotional First 15 — for the first 15 minutes of your day — from Seedbed. Today we’re back with them again. Click the header below to read this at source, where it appears along with the music video for the day or with the option of hearing an audio version of today’s reading.

  • lee esto en español: Read today’s devotional in Spanish

The Reality of God’s Presence

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” Psalm 139:7-8

It’s a troubling truth in Christianity today that many believers don’t know about or aren’t experiencing continual encounter with the real, manifest presence of God. The Bible contains story after story of life-changing, world-altering encounters with the reality of God’s presence. From Moses and the tent of meeting to the disciples at Pentecost, we continually read about God supernaturally encountering his people in real, transformative ways. Jesus died so that we might walk in communion with our heavenly Father not only in heaven, but here on this earth. Biblical characters modeled what it was to experience God consistently in both the New and Old Testaments. God, in his desire to have restored relationship with you, has made the reality of his presence fully available to you. Through the death of Christ there is nothing separating you from him. Before we dive into different stories of God’s manifest presence on the earth, let’s take time to focus on the biblical basis for encountering God. Open your heart and mind to the truth about God’s nearness and allow your faith to be stirred for all the ways your heavenly Father would transform your life through encounter with him.

Psalm 139:7-8 says, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” Acts 17:26-28 says,

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

Scripture is clear that God is omnipresent and his presence can be tangible to us. David describes God’s presence this way: “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).

The sons of Korah wrote in Psalm 84:1-2, How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Then in verses 10-12 they declare,

For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!

There is no doubt in looking at Scripture that God’s presence is real, good, and available to us. Rest in the truth of that for a moment. You can consistently enter into the tangible presence of your heavenly Father anywhere and anytime. Have faith today that God created you to experience him. Encountering his presence is made possible entirely by his grace, so it is available apart from any good or bad thing you do. But, know that God will never force his presence on you. He only fills up what is open and ready to receive. He sweetly calls you to meet with him and waits for you to make space in your life to receive what he longs to give.

There is no more life-giving pursuit you can embark on than the pursuit of God’s presence. Spending time resting in him is meant to be the satisfaction that lays a foundation for you to live the life of abundance made available to you through Jesus. Your role in encountering God is simply seeking him. If you will make time to encounter him, open your heart, and have faith in his word, then you will discover the wellspring of life, joy, love, and transformation that is the presence of our heavenly Father.

Deuteronomy 4:29 says, “You will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Seek and find the presence of the living God today as you meditate on his word and pray.

Prayer:

1. Meditate on the availability of God’s presence. Allow your faith to be stirred up in response to God’s word.

“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” Psalm 145:18

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” Psalm 139:7-8

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’” Acts 17:26-28

2. Now meditate on the goodness of God’s presence. Allow your desires to be stirred as you read about the wonders of encountering the living God.

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.” Psalm 84:1-2

3. Open your heart to receive his presence. Ask the Spirit to make known God’s nearness. Seek his presence and have faith in his word that when you seek him you will find him.

“But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Deuteronomy 4:29

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Hebrews 11:6


That wraps up ten years of Christianity 201. Tomorrow we begin year eleven!

January 1, 2020

A Year of Vision

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Just face it. You’re going to see many, many references over the next 366 days connecting the year 2020 to the idea of 20/20 vision. So vision seemed like a good place to start.

We kick off the year with an article from a site that is relatively new and offering resources for the whole family, Minno Life brings us this brief devotional by Carlie Kercheval.

What Does the Bible Say About Vision?

As we enter into a new year, many people are searching for a fresh, new start and a new vision of what God has for their life. And with it being 2020, this seems like the perfect year for vision and clarity.

In the world of optometry 20/20 vision refers to a person’s visual acuity. More specifically, 20/20 vision measures how clearly a person can see objects 20 feet away. There are limits to what we can see clearly with the naked eye.

Yet, isn’t it amazing to know that there are no limits on the vision and clarity that God brings into our lives? His omnipotence means that there are no limits or constraints to His vision, and His truth stands the test of time.

Let’s take a look at what the Bible says about vision and lean into His Word for wisdom to enter into this new decade and beyond.

What Does the Bible Say About Vision?

Without a Vision People Perish

Where there is no vision, the people perish . . . Proverbs 29:18 KJV

One of the things that this verse makes very clear is that a vision is vital to carrying out God’s will for our lives. And without any revelation of His will, we have no way of creating a Christ-fueled vision for our family. However, when we are actively seeking God, we not only download His vision for our lives, we are able to teach our children to do the same. Our children watch everything we do and by modeling a life of seeking God, we are sowing an eternal legacy that will bless our children’s children.

God Has a Good Plan

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

The words of Jeremiah 29:11 bring a confident peace in knowing our good Father has a good plan for our lives. He promises us that we have hope and a future. Knowing this gives us a great understanding of what our future with Christ holds, and it is always good. This is so comforting as a parent as we seek to teach our children about God’s love and goodness. This verse is a wonderful way to keep God’s vision for us at the forefront of our minds, especially when circumstances are leading us to believe otherwise. It is important that we hold fast to the vision of God’s plans to guide and protect us as we raise our children unto Him.

The Holy Spirit Shows Us Things to Come

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. John 16:13 NIV

I don’t know about you, but this verse gets me really excited. Why? Because Jesus promises us that the Holy Spirit will show us His truth and things to come. This is especially helpful through the different stages of parenting so we can continue to trust in Jesus for our children’s future. That means when we position ourselves to hear God speaking to us through prayer, reading the Bible, and worship, that He will give us wisdom about His vision for our future. I am so thankful for this promise!

The beautiful thing about serving a mighty God like ours is that He is all-seeing and all-knowing. There are no limits to the wisdom and vision that He gives as He shows us things to come through His Word and His Holy Spirit. Be sure to keep this truth at the forefront of your heart as you enter into this new year!


Go Deeper: The website Bible in One Year offers an article on the importance of vision, the power of vision and the fulfillment of vision. Check out From Vision to Action.

August 25, 2019

Seeing God Accurately

It’s been several weeks since we introduced a new author here, but on the weekend we discovered Geno Pyse, who describes himself as “an author, poet, musician, ordained minister, and avid animal lover.”

This is part two of a two-part (so far) series. If you wish to read the first part first, click this link.

The Importance of Correct Perception of Him

In his book, Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer writes how modern man tends to think of idolatry in terms of people bowing to figures carved of stone, metal, or wood. However, idolatry begins in the mind, even if no overt worship takes place. Tozer goes on to explain that idolatry is any entertaining of thoughts about God not worthy of Him, not only worshipping something other than Him.

This has great relevance in our society that views God in so many different ways other than what He reveals in the Scriptures, and that tries to use Him for political and financial gain. This also has great relevance within modern Christendom where many of its adherents often seem to stress more as to whether or not they like the worship services, rather than truly considering if He likes them.

Nearly across the board people believe in God’s love. Certainly love is part of God’s character. The Scriptures declare, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8 [ESV]). However, it is imperative we understand His overarching attribute—holiness! This attribute is the umbrella to every other one. Holy means “set apart; other; extraordinary; transcendent.” It is the only attribute of His mentioned to the third degree—and in both the Old and New Testaments:

And [the seraphim] called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’” (Isaiah 6:3)

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8)

God’s love is a pure, holy love. His love will never be separated or go against His holiness. Jesus says the Father desires worshipers who worship Him in spirit and in truth (see John 4:23-24). So, to profess God’s love while disregarding His holiness is to make a mockery of true worship and to plummet heart first into idolatry, which leads to holy judgment.

One of the tragic cycles we read of in the Old Testament is the Israelites’ regression into idolatry. Integrating the customs, behaviors, and beliefs of the people around them into the worship of God, only to drift away from Him without even realizing it. Perplexed and angered by the prophets rebukes and confrontations, all the while indulging in the immorality of the cult religions of Baal and Astarte, and the child sacrifice of Moloch (something God declares that never even entered His mind [see Jeremiah 7:31]).

One of my great concerns for many churches today is the adapting of customs, behaviors, and beliefs of the secular and pagan society around us, trying to integrate these into the Christian faith, dismissing the very attributes and ways of God He reveals to us in the Scriptures.

Jesus said of some of the religious people of the day, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me’” (Mark 7:6-7).

And one of the most haunting things He says is, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23).

God is holy, but He is also loving. Although He is loving, may we remember He is also holy, holy, holy, and His love is a holy love. If we try to tweak these to accommodate our desires or to condone or justify our beloved sins, we are guilty of idolatry. To not desire God as He is is merely to desire a god of our own making.

 

March 18, 2019

Videoing God

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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…and Videoing Ourselves

Seven years ago we visited the website Glory to God for All Things written from an Orthodox perspective by Fr. Stephen Freeman. Somehow we lost track of Father Stephen in the intervening years, but today we catch up. I believe that our Orthodox friends have much to teach us in many different areas. You’re encouraged to click the header below in order to read this at source.

Facing Up to God

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. 2 Cor. 3:18

Among the most striking of all images in St. Paul’s writing is his description of beholding the glory of God with an unveiled face. It’s a very difficult passage to translate. The word rendered “beholding” in the translation quoted above is actually “to see something as in a mirror” (κατοπτριζόμενοι). One commentary describes this as a mirror making something visible that would otherwise be invisible. This is, in fact, Christ Himself, who is the “glory of God.” In Christ, we see God Himself. It is equally striking that St. Paul describes this “seeing” as transformative. How is it that merely gazing at something, we are changed into its very image?

This question takes us into the heart of Biblical and Orthodox understanding. The Greek word for knowing, is related to the word for seeing. Indeed, it has the same root as our word “video.” It imagines a form of seeing, a depth of seeing, that is often absent in our conversations. It is there to a certain extent in our phrase, “Do you see what I mean?” There is an assumption that truly seeing, truly understanding, and truly knowing are one and the same act. We hear this echoed in St. John:

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He [Christ] appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. 1 John 3:2

Of course, a key in all of this is found in the word “truly.” Its implications are found in Christ’s saying, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” When read in the light of St. Paul’s “beholding as in a mirror,” this is revealed to be an ongoing, reciprocal action. As we see, we become pure. As we become pure, we see more clearly.

This same action could be described as a “refining fire.” What we see (of God) also reveals the truth of ourselves. The sight of that truth, when compared with the sight of God, “burns.” This burning, refining image is the only true mirror of the soul. It is this aspect of seeing God that often causes us to turn away.

It is a very rare thing to have an accurate glimpse of ourselves. The amount of debris and dissonance that shroud the soul make it difficult clouds our vision. We look for the self, but see shame. And though we imagine that clarity of sight would merely be a matter of the will, it is not that simple. The life of the soul has a great complexity and is not obedient to the whims of what we imagine to be the “will.” Our “willing” is largely the work of the “gnomic will” (when we’re not merely obeying our passions and calling that “willing”). This is a distortion of the true will (the “natural will”). To see the truth, even of ourselves, does not belong to those things we have at our demand.

The Tradition is filled with a different language regarding the heart. We pray, “Open to me the gates of repentance,” and “create in me a clean heart,” and “grant me an image of repentance,” and so forth. The “will” is evident in the offering of such prayers, but it is not in our power (alone) to make it so.

I once heard it said that if we were to see the true depth of our sin and brokenness in a single moment, we would not be able to bear it. I have also heard it said that if we were to see the truth of our existence in the image and likeness of God, we would be overwhelmed by the beauty and imagine that we had seen God Himself. Both are true and neither are to be taken lightly or deemed a minor matter. In plain speech, we’re not ready for such truth.

In the Scriptures, Simon Peter does not see the truth of himself. The first intimation is a revelation of glory – Christ names him, “the rock.” Another revelation comes when he is rebuked by Christ who says, “Get behind me Satan!” He is warned of his impending failure when he will deny Christ and is told that “the devil has desired to sift you like wheat.” A deeper and greater moment comes, following his denial, when he “went out and wept bitterly.” His restoration after the resurrection begins to reveal yet more. He sees both the failure of his love, as well as Christ’s steadfastness. He is told to “feed my sheep.” Lastly, we are told in a veiled manner of the final test and revelation of Peter who will end his life in martyrdom – having become the rock that is the truth of his being. It is the story of a lifetime.

St. Peter’s story points to the very character of our salvation. The journey towards the true vision of God is lifelong. It is as much or more the outworking of God’s providence than the outcome of some long chain of excellent choices on our part. What we see of St. Peter is a guide for us. He remained loyal to Christ. When he fell, he returned. When he returned and the questions became difficult, he remained. When his last trial of martyrdom came, he finally resisted the temptation to flee and journeyed to the place that Christ Himself was leading him.

This is a map for every day, as well as a lifetime. When you fall (and you will), get up. When the fall reveals more of yourself to you, don’t run, justify or pretend otherwise. Be steadfast and patient. You do not yet see as you will see – either of yourself or of God. But, we have a promise, when it is all said and done, we will see Him as He is, and we will be like Him.

In all faces is seen the Face of faces, veiled, and in a riddle; howbeit unveiled it is not seen, until above all faces a man enters into a certain secret and mystic silence where there is no knowledge or concept of a face. This mist, cloud, darkness or ignorance into which he that seeks Your face enters, when he goes beyond all knowledge or concept, is the state below which Your face cannot be found except veiled; but that very darkness reveals Your face to be there, beyond all veils. – Nicholas of Cusa, The Vision of God

 

February 10, 2019

The First Commandment is the Cornerstone for the Other Nine

Blessed is the people of whom this is true; blessed is the people whose God is the LORD.
 Psalm 144:15

Listen to me and make up your minds to honor my name,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “or I will bring a terrible curse against you. I will curse even the blessings you receive. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you have not taken my warning to heart.
 Malachi 2:2

And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.
 Deuteronomy 6:5  
(all NLT)

More than anything else in the past two years, our Sunday Worship feature has resulted in us connecting with a great variety of writers in a the widest variety of places. This time around the search process took us to Pembrokeshire, Wales; and to a congregation where a large number of the leadership take turns in delivering the weekly sermon. The article was written by Gareth Edwards and appeared on the website of Penuel Baptist Chapel, Roch. The article really didn’t have a title, so we gave it one, and you can learn more by clicking on the header which follows.

No Other Gods

You shall have no other gods before me.’ Exodus 20:3

The first four commandments are about our relationship with God and lay the foundation for the remaining six, which refer to our relationship with others. To be right with God is our first priority, it gives the basis on which we can be right with others. Even within the first four commandments there is a logical progression. The first commandment acts as a cornerstone on which the rest are constructed. ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Exodus 20:3) is the prime directive for life.

Each of the commandments is expressed as a negative, ‘You shall not.’ The purpose of the commandments being presented in negative language is to underline a positive. The first commandment tells us that we are to worship God alone. God is demanding an exclusive commitment to Him alone. All must be put aside (verse 5). The Lord speaks about Himself as being a jealous God. He will not share us with anyone or anything else. God is jealous for His people. They are His, they belong to no other. He is jealous for all His creation. Therefore, the devotion of our lives in worship belongs uniquely to God (Isaiah 42:8).

Why is this so? There are no other gods. He is the only supreme God (Isaiah 44:6). There are no other gods, but men invent them. When men refuse to worship the true God they make false ones. They have a natural desire to worship. If they refuse to worship the one true God, they will worship a lie (Romans 1). There are no gods – just the foolish rebellion of men (1 Corinthians 8:4). God expects the exclusive worship of our lives. He alone is deserving of worship.

He alone has done all. The Ten Commandments are set against the context of God saving Israel against tyranny (verse 2). They were to worship God not only because of who He is, but also because of what He has done for them. For them and for us there is nothing better than to spend our lives in the worship of the one who gave us life in the first place, and whose grace has brought us spiritual life through the death of His Son at Calvary.

It’s unjust and ungrateful that we should give away our worship to anyone but God. It is He who gives us life, He who gives us our daily blessings, He who gives us new birth and eternal life.

What are the implications of the first commandment?

  1. The Almighty is God alone, therefore we should render to Him alone the adoration and worship of our lives. This is the very purpose of our existence – to fulfill a calling to worship God and to give to Him the unadulterated commitment of all we have. The Westminster Confession begins ‘The chief end of man is the glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.’

Psalm 144:15. There’s nothing more worthwhile then the worship of the triune God in every part of our lives. It is a particular grace and blessing of God that we come together to enjoy worshipping Him. That’s the purpose of this day, a day set apart in which we come together to glorify His name and to enjoy Him. Did you come this Sunday morning to have the privilege of worshipping God and to enjoy Him, to meet with Him? The songs and sermon are the means to the end, to enjoying God.

We were made to know God. When we sacrifice our lives for His glory we experience what it means to be truly human. This commandment is for our blessing.

  1. What fools men are. They will worship everything and anything rather than the one true God. There are those who will worship idols – the gods of man’s imagination. Romans 1:21-23. God declares men either worship Him or waste their lives in the pursuit of imaginary gods. Those who reject Him come under His curse. Malachi 2:2.

Men, in their sin, reject God and are rejected by Him. Our nation is under the curse of God. The lives of our friends and family members are under the curse of God because in their sinful rebellion they do not worship Him. They have gods of their own imagination and creation. There are those who will think they are so intellectually complete that they think they are wise and can look disdainfully down on us. Were we once not with them – devoted to other gods? Did not God, in His grace and mercy, have compassion on us and open our eyes to see, open our ears to hear and open our hearts to know Christ? How gracious God has dealt with us. He has called us to Himself. Will we not pray for our friends, our family, the people of Roch, of Wales, Europe and the world, that God will have mercy upon them as He has mercy on us? Their greatest need is to know Him, to know that there is but one God and that He is to be worshipped for who He is and what He has done. Will we not tell them, preach to them, by the lives we live, declaring here is the Lord Almighty, and you must know and worship Him, have your sins forgiven? Man is a fool until God’s grace comes.

  1. You cannot worship God half-heartedly. He demands our all (Deuteronomy 6:5, Mark 12:30. He’s unwilling to share this with anyone else. This doesn’t mean we can’t serve our community and others. What it means is it’s shaped by our desire to glorify God in all that we do. In our love for our family, to do a good job of work, primarily our deepest desire in doing all of these things is that He will be glorified. In all we do we are to have a single-minded dedication to the Lord which puts Him first, above all else. We must guard against doing anything in the name of the Lord which, in fact, we are doing for ourselves, for our own praise. That is a denial of the first Commandment. We cannot play games with God. This is the most serious business, the worship of the Lord Almighty. Because it is so serious we need the help of God, God the Holy Spirit, when we fail in this duty, which we so often do. We need to know the saving grace that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh gracious God, grant to me the strength, the faith, the desire to honour you in all things. You are worthy to be praised.

November 30, 2018

Delighting in the Way God Works

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Back in May we introduced you to the writing of Melody who has been writing devotions at In Pleasant Places for almost six years. Her blog started from correspondence she was sharing with a friend, as she explained in her story. To read today’s article at her blog, click the title below.

To See More of Our God – Psalm 119:16

“I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.”

Psalm 119:16

This verse compelled a specific prayer of my heart: Lord, may I delight in Your statutes.

Not just obeying them because I know I’m supposed to – although we are to exercise discipline to obey even when we don’t “feel” like it – but seeking to delight in them.

Including the very difficult ones. Those we don’t understand. Those that seem impossible. Those that quite honestly can hurt to follow.

Like forgiving someone who appears unapologetic and unrepentant, with no indication of turning. Who has cut so deeply. May I delight to forgive, even under these circumstances.

Delight not because it is fun or easy, and not because of pride or self-righteousness (which would be sin on my part) – but because it shows me more of the Lord.

Delight because as I feel the deep hurt and wrestle with the decision to forgive, to love, I gain a deeper understanding of my God’s character.

Because this is who our God is. And isn’t that amazing? This is what the Living God, Creator and Ruler of all things – this is what He does. This is what He chooses.

He forgives. He loves. Even at great personal cost. He went through such pain, such suffering, to forgive sinners who had rejected Him and given Him no reason to show mercy. Let alone to show favor, to offer to bring them in as beloved children.

When I am hurt and offended, when I am faced with the command to forgive, to bless, to show compassion, I gain a glimpse of my Savior. Of His choice. Of His greatness and the greatness of His love. The power of it to overcome any desire for retaliation. That He would desire forgiveness and restoration, that He would choose patience in order to give so many the choice to reconcile instead of delivering the justice so rightfully due to them – so rightfully due to me (2 Peter 3:9, 15).

What great, powerful love. What astounding character. What strength to choose forgiveness when it demands so much. This is our God. This is the Savior by whose name we are called. The name above all names, because of what He accomplished on the cross.

We grasp that more deeply when we walk through a situation that brings us even an inkling of His suffering.

This is the delight I see within the statutes of our God, within the commands of how we are to walk through this life…it isn’t just some list of rules. He didn’t outline them in order to make our life difficult. It is insight into who our God is. There is purpose in each command, and it is all for our good and to display His goodness and glory and salvation to the world. So they will see Him.

O Lord, may I delight in Your statutes, delight to follow them, because they show me more of who You are. More of Your character, which is holy, righteous, blameless, faithful, pure, steadfast, and filled with powerful love. May I delight to see You here, and delight to know more deeply how holy and wonderful You are as I follow in Your footsteps. Requiring Your strength to walk in Your ways, because they are so far above my broken, fallen capabilities. Highlighting the great beauty of You and stirring renewed wonder at how You are molding me into Your character, to reflect that beauty in this vessel of clay. So may I delight. Delight to see You. Delight to walk with You in the light, experiencing You in the process, realizing the choices Jesus made as one who was fully human and fully God, and delight to know You more as a result.

November 20, 2018

Zeal Not Based on Knowledge

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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by Russell Young

It is easy to level accusations at the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. They certainly defied him, sought his death, and were instrumental in bringing it about. They had political and economic reasons for condemning the Lord. Had the gospel message been widely accepted their positions and their livelihoods would have been jeopardized. However, in their own minds they were defenders of the Law and of Jewish traditions as they understood them. According to Wikipedia, “The Pharisees were at various times a political party, a social movement, and a school of thought in the Holy Land during the time of Second Temple Judaism. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, Pharisaic beliefs became the foundational, liturgical and ritualistic basis for Rabbinic Judaism.” They had become the scholarly class. In their own minds they had legitimate reasons for opposing the proclamations of Christ that God was his Father and that he could forgive sins; after all, he was a man who walked among them.

In hindsight it is easy to condemn the Pharisees, but do their attitudes prevail even today? Paul spoke of their zeal for God. “For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.” (Rom 10:2) The Lord said that the Pharisees would travel over land and sea to win a single convert. (Mt 23:15) Their zeal was commendable, but they did not know the truth about God. Despite their training they did not appreciate him or his purposes. The Pharisees were the “wise” concerning adherence to God’s requirements; however, they were in error.

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees were undoubtedly trying to protect the system of worship and the legitimacy of the Jews, God’s chosen people. The traditions and spiritual practices of Israel had existed for thousands of years and the ordained task of the priests was to maintain all that had been revealed to Moses and to the Prophets. Their system of honouring God was placed on laws, sacrifice, and ceremonies. The problem was that over the course of time and through improper guidance the purpose of the law and the Prophets had become lost and the law itself had become their focus. The teaching of the “wise” had missed the greater truth. Their zeal was not based on knowledge; the Lord called them “blind guides” (Mt 23:16) and “blind fools.” (Mt 25:17) He also revealed that “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” (1 Cor 1:27 NIV) To them Jesus was just a man intent on destroying the nation of Israel but despite their knowledge they were blind.

The gathering of truth does not need to be relegated to those who are deemed “wise” by worldly standards. The Spirit gifts as he sees fit and God will not give his glory to another. The truth is not necessarily held by the scholarly class, as was found with the Pharisees; the Spirit is to be our teacher. In their zeal to interpret and to define the law, the Pharisees had missed relationship, love, justice, and righteousness. Institutions had replaced God. Although their intent may have been noble, they had simply become lost.

Has reliance on institutions, philosophical thought, and abandonment of the Spirit as teacher led to the distortion of truth as embodied in the Word? Would God be pleased with the multitude of “truths” as revealed in modern “knowledge” and practices? Has the key to understanding become so corroded that it can no longer function according to the Lord’s intentions? After all there is only one God and one truth, not many. Care needs to be exercised before responding since truth will have been lost before the Lord’s return. Isaiah has recorded that destruction will come to the earth because, “its people [will] have twisted God’s instructions, violated his laws, and broken his everlasting covenant.” (Isa 24:5 NLT) To what extent are false teachings being promoted today for the sake of preserving misguided “truth”?

Teachers do not intend to “twist” his instructions; that is not the motivations of their hearts, but it will happen. Jude has challenged believers to “contend for the faith.” (Jude 1:3) According to him contending for the faith is necessary because “godless men, who change the grace of our God into license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only sovereign and Lord,” will have slipped in among his people. (Jude 1:4 Italics added) They are teachers who deny the need to practice the sovereignty of Christ, who do not accept his lordship, and by their proclamations are giving license for immorality. They do not recognize the truth of God’s instructions, they dismiss the righteous requirements of his laws, and break his everlasting covenant. A philosophical emphasis on love—that which people’s itching ears want to hear (2 Tim 4:3 NIV)—often displaces recognition of the holiness of God and his requirement of a holy nation. The teaching of those who have denied the sovereignty of Christ for practical purposes will also have taken away the key to knowledge since only he, through the Spirit, can conform people to his own likeness. Stubborn adherence should not be given to denominational perspectives; prayer, the Word, and the Spirit’s leading must become the believer’s teacher. Christ is the Word (Jn 1:1; Rev 19:13). and he is also the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:17, 18)

Christ reported, “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the law.” (Lk 16:1617) The only way to find the kingdom of God is by entrance through satisfying the righteous requirements of the law which is accomplished through obedience to the Spirit. (Rom 8:4)

Zeal must be based on knowledge. Caution has been given to contend for the faith because its truths will be lost. They will not be intentionally distorted, but they will be. In many cases focus has been taken from God, the Holy Spirit, as teacher, and has been allowed to rest on the philosophies of men, the same practices that brought about the weakening of truth and purpose, and enabled the abandonment of God’s glory for Israel. The zeal of the church must be based on knowledge and truth.


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

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link. There is also a feature-length article at this link.

November 14, 2018

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

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

Speak for Your Servant Hears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

November 12, 2018

The Bridegroom Prepares the Way for the Bride

Today we’re paying a return visit to Dylan Tarpley at the blog One Thing. He’s currently working his way very carefully through Song of Songs, with several blog posts devoted to a single verse. Click the title below to read at source.

Hephzibah | A Bridal Paradigm

Growing up in church, I only remember hearing people talk about God as a righteous, angry judge. While this is certainly a part of who He is, that is the only side of Him that I ever knew. This only produced fear, guilt, and shame in my heart. No matter how often I heard about how God was angry with my sin, it never seemed to help me grow out of the sin patterns that were in my life. I just ended up like Adam who tried to cover his sin and hide from the presence of God.

For others, God is a distant being that is uninterested and not involved in their lives on earth. He spoke the earth into existence and then sat back as it took its course. In this view, God has no interaction with us on earth.

While there are many facets of who God is, I believe that the most paramount way to view God is through the eyes of a bride who is passionately in love with her Bridegroom King. While God may act as a righteous judge who is angry because of sin, He is also a tender Father who longs to walk with us in the cool of the day, just as He did with Adam in the garden.

As a young man, I remember being afraid that my dad would get mad at me. This had a measure of impact on the way that I behaved, but for the most part I just kept doing the same things. I would just try to hide it from him. There came a transition though as I grew in maturity to where I was no longer afraid of him being angry with me. Rather, I actually wanted to please him. I wanted to make him proud of the decisions I made. I assure you that one was much easier than the other, and made for a much better relationship between us. I have found this in marriage as well. Your marriage will always be a struggle if you are constantly afraid that your spouse is going to leave you or be angry with you. However, I have found marriage to be easy as long as you are in love. The same is true in our relationship with Jesus. We must mature to a place where our obedience is no longer only motivated by fear, but instead by love. This is the only way to experience true holiness.

It’s easy for most people to recognize their affection for God. In one sense, it is easy to love God. He’s holy, He’s perfect, He’s beautiful. What is perhaps more difficult is for people to understand God’s affection towards them. We find this in the beginning of the Song when the Shulamite begins to explain to the Beloved, “I am dark!” This type of thinking has caused many people to reject the love of God in their lives because of a false humility and a faulty way of thinking that says they are dark in the eyes of God.

As we watch Jesus prepare for His ministry on earth, there is an interesting transaction that takes place between Him and the Father. In Luke 3, the heavens are opened and the Father declares, “You are my beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.” Even Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God, had to be baptized into beloved identity before operating in the fullness of what was intended for Him. We must begin to ask ourselves, if Jesus needed to receive affirmation from His Father, how badly do we?

David modeled this in his life as the man after God’s heart. After living in a compromised state for some time in Ziklag, God delivers David from harm and David’s response is profound. He says in Psalm 18:19, “He delivered me because He delighted in me.” If we are honest, none of us would respond this way. We would put ourselves in some sort of Spiritual time out where we would make ourselves suffer for awhile, beating ourselves up because of our mistakes. Not David though. He was so rooted in beloved identity that even in a season of compromise, He was confident that God delighted in Him.

One of my favorite illustrations of this is found in Isaiah 62:4-5

You shall no longer be termed Forsaken,
Nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate;
But you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah;
For the Lord delights in you,
And your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a virgin,
So shall your sons marry you;
And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
So shall your God rejoice over you.

What a promise! There are two words that I want you to focus on: Hephzibah and Beulah. Hephzibah means, “My delight is in her.” Beulah means, “married.” Many of us are content with the idea that He no longer calls us forsaken or desolate. We’re simply happy with the idea that He has forgiven us. Jesus longs for much more though. He does not simply want to bring you out of your desolation, He wants to give you a new name called “Delightful” and “Married.”

The entire story line of the Bible was built around a Bridegroom preparing a way for His bride. What if I told you that there was more to this journey than only going to heaven, but that Jesus died so that He could marry you here and now? It sounds too good to be true, huh? I agree, and that’s the best part. Dr. Brian Simmons has an interesting commentary on Jesus’ declaration on the cross, “It is finished!” Did you know that it was possible that Jesus actually says, “It is finished, my bride!” Jesus declared that it was the joy set before Him that empowered Him to endure the cross. You were that joy. As He was beaten and tortured, He was filled with the joy of one day being married to you.

I am praying this prayer tonight, “Jesus, sing your song of love over my life. Baptize me in beloved identity. I want to know how You feel about me.” I encourage you to begin to meditate on this idea that Jesus died, not only so that you go to heaven when you die, but that He could be married to you, today. You are always on His mind. I want you to get alone with Him and allow His love to wash over you as you begin to feel His affection for you as His bride. The Spirit and the bride say, “Come, Lord Jesus. Come.”

October 28, 2018

To Look into the Depths of God

NIV.John.3.1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again…5 Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit…   12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?16 For God so loved the world that he gave…”

Those 3-D Computer Generated Picture Things at the Mall

by Ruth Wilkinson

You know the ones? They look like an explosion at the pixel factory, unless you stand just so far away and refocus your eyes just right and for just long enough that a 3-D panorama leaps out, thrilling and amazing all.


Except me. I can’t do it. I’ve tried starting with my nose almost touching the glass and slowly backing away. I’ve tried gently relaxing the muscles in my eyes. I’ve tried defocusing, unfocusing, disfocusing — everything. My husband and kids go from one to the next, saying, “Hey, cool! This one’s a cow! This one’s a space ship! This one’s the ceiling of St. Peter’s Basilica, complete with Michelangelo, paintbrush in hand!”

I’m still standing there crossed-eyed and head-achy looking at an explosion at the pixel factory.

I think it would have been better if I didn’t know. At face value, they’re visually interesting; a collage of images and colours, almost a pattern, but not quite. I could enjoy them that way.

But I do know and I’m missing something. Something my family sees, but I don’t. They tell me it’s there and, for them, it is. But not for me. I want it to be. I’d like to get it. They patiently try to help and advise. They really want me to get it, too. So I keep looking.

Nicodemus was like that. John, who was one of Jesus’ closest friends while he was on earth, tells us that Nicodemus was a Pharisee; one of a group who were deeply passionate about their faith. They knew the good that God had for His people and how much He loved them. But they had some very real and legitimate concerns about how the Jews could be drawn away from God by philosophical and religious influences of other nations and cultures. Pharisees worked hard at guarding the hearts of God’s people. We like to dump on them for working too hard. Making too many rules, making the whole thing cumbersome. Getting uptight at little things. We call them “legalists” and thank God that we’re not like that.

But Nicodemus, and others, were not entirely stuck in the mud. They were wise enough, humble enough, to know that they didn’t have God all figured out and someday He’d have more to say than 10 commandments and a whole lot of rules, and they’d better not be asleep at the switch when it happened.

Nicodemus and friends found Jesus very interesting. There was definitely something going on there beyond cool stories and sleight of hand. He wasn’t just a nice guy who knew a lot. He was extremely 3D. N & Co. realized that and they went to work trying to refocus in order to figure out the picture. They listened and followed and asked questions.

Everything they saw fit with everything they heard. Jesus wasn’t a fake. He wasn’t loopy. But he might be dangerous.

These guys cared genuinely about keeping people in line with God and Jesus was saying things just different enough to make them nervous.

All we know about Nicodemus is that. 1. He went to the trouble of getting alone with Jesus and asking some questions. 2. He risked his reputation to give Jesus a fair hearing. 3. When it came down to it, he made the choice to step up and take ownership of his respect and love for, and relationship with Jesus. We don’t hear anything else about Nico.

Tradition says he became a Christ follower and given John 19, I think he probably did. If so, he would have sacrificed a lot: prestige, power, family maybe, reputation. Maybe, in those three turning point moments, he found himself wishing he didn’t know. Life was good before Jesus. Obeying the rules was easier. Simpler. Walking through this relationship is a whole other layer of paint.

But in exchange, he would have fulfilled his mission as a true Pharisee. To know God’s voice and obey.

To look into the depths of God and see what’s hidden there. Love. Truth. Life.

October 20, 2018

Seared Conscience | Revealed Truth

Having many years of archives to draw on, we get to know certain authors and offer their latest writing here on a regular basis; but I also like to keep adding new devotional writers as I discover them. Paula Maillet has been blogging at Along Emaus Road since 2005. Her pieces are shorter than some we include here, so I’ve posted two below which couldn’t be more different.

Or are they?

Don’t most of us wrestle with a sinful nature on one hand but also a sincere to see God reveal himself? The dichotomy of being in the world but not of the world? Realizing the weakness of being easily enticed into sinful thought patterns or actions, but at the same time longing for a greater revelation of God? (Maybe it’s just me!)

I placed these in the order I did so we could see our problem, and then its cure.

It Starts With Just Flirting With Sin

“This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord,
that you should no longer walk
as the rest off the Gentiles walk,
in the futility of their mind,
having their understanding darkened,
being alienated from the life of God
because of the ignorance that is in them,
because of the blindness of their heart;
who, being past feeling,
have given themselves over to lewdness,
to work all uncleanness with greediness.”
Ephesians 4:17-19

“who being past feeling…”

I once had a married friend who was beginning an affair with another man, and I spoke to her about it, asking how she could do such a thing. Her response was that she felt a lot of guilt the first time, but that afterwards she felt less and less guilt as time went on and now just didn’t feel guilty at all.

She was “past feeling.” Her conscience became seared. I saw it with my own eyes.

“…having their own conscience seared with a hot iron…”
1 Timothy 4:2

This was an example to me as I watched as she was given over to a debased mind.

“…and even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge,
God gave them over to a debased mind…”
Romans 1:28

Don’t think it can’t happen to you if you’re flirting with sin, any sin. Eventually it won’t hurt your conscience any more – when the Holy Spirit has left you. Don’t try it. Don’t flirt with it.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.”
Psalm 51:10-11

Take heed that you be not deceived and lured into something you would not have wanted to be attached to.

“Repent therefore and be converted,
that your sins may be blotted out,
so that times of REFRESHING
may come from the presence of the Lord…”
Acts 3:19


It’s All About Revelation

“…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of glory,
may give to you the spirit of wisdom
and REVELATION in the knowledge of Him,
the eyes of your understanding being ENLIGHTENED,
that you may know what is the hope of His calling,
what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints…”
Ephesians 1:17-18

It all comes by revelation, and NOT by human reasoning. If you’ve tried to understand God or to understand his Word and find you cannot, there is a reason for that. You are trying to do with your human resources what only the Spirit of God can do.

It’s all about REVELATION.

“Jesus answered and said to him,
‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah,
FOR FLESH AND BLOOD HAS NOT REVEALED THIS TO YOU
but my Father who is in heaven.’”
Matthew 16:17

ASK the Lord to REVEAL his Word to you. What you do not understand, set aside for now. Let him reveal himself and his Word to you as you read it (the Bible) prayerfully. He WILL reveal it, gradually more and more, as you sit before him. Put the time in. It’s worth it. It’s beyond worth it.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ASK of God,
who gives to all liberally and without reproach,
and it WILL be given to him.”
James 1:5

These are great promises in the Word of God. Receive them, meditate on them, believe them, and he will do the rest.

 

September 26, 2018

What it Means to be a Godly Man

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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After a break of a couple of years, we’re paying a return visit to the blog Brothers of the Book, written by Bill Hood. While the column is directed at men, I hope that 50% of our readers don’t simply tune out today’s devotional, but rather, see what God is showing you as you read. As you’ll see, they’re wrapping a series on the Book of Daniel.

The Godly Man Shines Like The Stars

The book of Daniel tells us that the godly man shines like the stars. Are you a godly man? Do you humble yourself before God seeking to understand? Do you share the Gospel?

[Suggested reading: Daniel 10-12]

Today we finish Daniel. I love what these final chapters have to say about those who belong to God. I have always intended this blog to look at how God defines a godly man. Take a look at this verse.

Daniel 10:12 ESV
“Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.”

A godly man humbles himself before God and sets his heart to understand. Our prayers are heard and answered when they are offered in the right spirit and are consistent with His will. Remember that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane that the cup He was to drink be taken away. He also prayed that even though He did not want the cup, His desire was for God’s will to be done nonetheless. Did God take the cup away? No. It is good to bring your cares and desires before God; just don’t expect to get what you want. God may have other plans. If you are humble before Him, and seek to understand, your prayers will grow to be consistent with His will. In these verses, I see the need to grow in our prayer life and in our Bible study, for these are the tools needed to search for understanding.

Daniel 10:18-19 ESV
“Again one having the appearance of a man touched me and strengthened me.  And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.”

Greatly loved by whom? Those who submit their life to the authority of Christ are greatly loved by God. What does this love mean? It means that we need not fear. It means that we have a peace surpassing understanding. It means we are strong and can have good courage for the touch of the Lord God in our life revives and strengthens us. How precious is His saving grace!

Daniel 11:32-35 ESV
“… but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.   And the wise among the people shall make many understand, though for some days they shall stumble by sword and flame, by captivity and plunder.  When they stumble, they shall receive a little help. And many shall join themselves to them with flattery, and some of the wise shall stumble, so that they may be refined, purified, and made white, until the time of the end, for it still awaits the appointed time.”

Do you know your God? Will you stand firm and take action? Will you make many understand even though you suffer for it from time to time? This is what it means to be wise – to be a child of the King. Here we see that the trouble that comes in our life is intended to refine and purify us. This is what it means to be His! Godly men stand firm and take action as directed by Christ Himself.

Daniel 12:1-3 ESV
“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.   And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”

Is your name found in the Book of Life? Will you awake to everlasting life or shame and everlasting contempt? We saw in Daniel 11:32-35 what it means to be wise. The result of faithfully taking action in the name of Christ in His work of building the Kingdom, is the great honor of shining like the brightness of the sky above. To turn others toward Christ is to become like the stars forever and ever! When was the last time you told someone about the love of Jesus Christ? If you love Christ, you should have a burning desire to tell others of His love.

All of these things are what it means to be a godly man.

Vivere Victorem! (Live Victorious!)

July 8, 2018

A Tower to Run To

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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The Beautiful Spirit is designed to encourage women to apply the truths of living a Spirit-filled life. It was founded in 2006 as a print magazine, reaching women around the globe. In the fall of 2017, it moved from the print magazine to a blog. Click the title below to read at source and see images, and then visit the rest of their site.

Refuge in the Names of God

Written by Sarah Hudson. Sarah and her husband, Todd, live in Vienna, Austria.

When we moved into the little house at the edge of the Vienna Woods, I had no idea what lay beyond our doorstep. As the kids and I ventured up a path through the trees, I saw the tower. It was tall and rather narrow with concrete walls, edged with stone work, curving upward in strength. There was no visible door from the path, and I figured it had been used for water or even a lookout tower a hundred years ago. Now it stood like a surprise in a modern setting, surrounded by trees with a nearby water pump and a picnic table.

Not long after we had moved to that house on “Pötzleinsdorfer Höhe,” one of my dear friends encouraged me to study the names of God. My friend and I developed a sweet bond as we prayed the names of God for each other and claimed them for our various burdens. Soon the “hidden tower in the woods” became my special place to run to when my spirit was overwhelmed. Although I couldn’t enter it, it was my symbol of Proverbs 18:10: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous man runs into it and is safe.” There in the woods, I could cry to my God El Roi*, who sees all my struggles and all my exhausted efforts. There I could beg for Jehovah Rapha to bring His healing to the brokenness and hurting. There I could meet with my El Shaddai when I wanted to quit, and He would give His grace and fruitfulness. As I saw my kids and church folks wrestling in life’s battles, I would beg for Jehovah Nissi to proclaim His victory and work His miracle. As I grew weary in my own battles with besetting sins, I would reach for Jehovah Tsidkenu to cover me with His robes of righteousness.

“Finding Him is not just a flat surface that has ‘God’ written on it. Rather it is like opening the cover to an ocean of immeasurable depth and comfort. As our Redeemer, He brings beauty from the ugliness of this fallen world.”

We moved to an apartment about 3½ years ago. I no longer visit that strong tower in the Vienna Woods, yet I continue to run headlong to the strong tower of His name. Discovering the many facets of His names has enriched my Christian journey beyond description. My prayer life has been strengthened as I plead to Him using the specific names He has revealed in His Word.

Have you ever noticed how the apostles pray in Acts 4? After being arrested and threatened, they prayed to their sovereign God for increased boldness—not less persecution. They recognized that He is El Elyon, our sovereign God. How far I have drifted from that example! Have you ever found yourself treating this sovereign God like a giant heavenly vending machine at a church prayer meeting or even in your own private prayer time? While reading about hardships in 1 Thessalonians 3 (ESV translation) I was struck again by the phrase “you are destined for this.”  We will have hardships—that’s what happens to the followers of Jesus. And of course, our Father wants us to cry to Him in our hardships. However, I find myself at such rest as I cry to Him with a deeper understanding of Who He is. This hardship is not an end but a means. It is but for a moment; but it is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond comparison. Suffering is never wasted. I cannot escape the wonder of finding God—in all His names, as my strong tower—because of the afflictions that have sent me running to Him as my refuge. My prayers have begun to shift from merely asking that He deliver and heal, to asking that I find Him in the hurting. And finding Him is not just a flat surface that has “God” written on it. Rather it is like opening the cover to an ocean of immeasurable depth and comfort. As our Redeemer, He brings beauty from the ugliness of this fallen world.

For many, many years, my friend had asked that I would make a calligraphy for her that reflected the refuge we had found in the names of our God. I am not a professional artist, nor do I have a huge overflow of time for such a project, so I put her off year after year. Finally, after a very challenging 2017, I tackled the project. I needed that meditation time, and the art was a wonderful “brain therapy” for me in the middle of the whirl of life and ministry. Of course, the result is more of a “heart work” than an art work—but a deep reminder of all we have in our God. I no longer have a tower just beyond my front door; yet the door to the tower of His name is always accessible. What safety and rest I find there, as I seek refuge in His names.

[click the article title above to see the calligraphy]


*El Roi: The God who sees
Jehovah Rapha: The God who heals
El Shaddai: Lord God Almighty
Jehovah Nissi: The Lord, my Banner
Jehovah Tsidkenu: The Lord our Righteousness
El Elyon: The Most High God

 

June 27, 2018

Knowing in Part

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely – I Corinithians 13:12a NLT

Today we’re back at the devotional page of Susan Barnes, who most recently has been working her way through I Corinthians. Click this link, to see the full index, or click the title below to read this one at source and comment.

Devotional Thought : 1 Corinthians 13:12b

Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12b

This thought is rather like what John writes in 1 John 3:2:

“Now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.”

Living by faith requires that we acknowledge that we only know “in part”. We know we are children of God yet we won’t know “fully” until Jesus comes and “we shall see him as he is.”

I only have to look at my garden to know that God’s kingdom has not fully come. I still have weeds! And when God’s kingdom fully comes not only will I not have weeds, but, “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4).

Heaven is described in terms of a city. God isn’t taking us back to the garden but rather to a “city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10). A city with foundations speaks of permanence, of security, and of community. The garden was a graceless state – one wrong decision and Adam and Eve were out of there. Heaven, however, is a permanent destination.

God’s grace is so amazing that we gain more than we lost in the Garden. The forgiven person is better off than before they sinned because God not only forgives us but credits us with righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). We start our Christian lives with a righteousness we could never have achieved for ourselves.

However we are not, as Paul says, “already been made perfect.” We still live with the difficulties and inconveniences of a broken world with broken people and nothing works like it should. Nevertheless let’s press on to gain all Christ died to give us (Philippians 3:12).


Writing on the first part of the verse, Susan says,

God is waiting for a face to face meeting with you and me. At the moment no matter how clearly we may think we hear from God we always lose something in the communication. We only see “as in a mirror” but the day is coming when we will see face to face and then we will really know. Really know how much we are loved, how much we mean to God and how much He wants to be with us.

 

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