Christianity 201

March 22, 2021

Two Psalms of Comfort

Today I paid a return visit to Prayerful Pondering by Pat Luffman Rowland. She has not been actively writing this year, so I reached back a decade in her archives finding this article from March, 2011. However… in the process I also noticed the ‘bonus’ devotional which appears further down the page, and realized I simply had to combine these. You might even want to print that one! (In case you do copy/p[aste that section, I’ve left out the green which normally accompanies scriptures here.) The links for each appear in the titles which follow.

Psalm of Comfort

Psalm 103 is a psalm of comfort for the one who feels ashamed and discouraged over sins and needs reassurance that God forgives and loves His children in spite of their actions.  It is for the one who needs encouragement, healing, and hope.  This psalm answers the question “Does God still care about me?”  And the answer is a resounding yes!

David, who wrote this psalm, was called “a man after God’s own heart.”  He was called that because he had, from his youth, developed an intimate and trusting relationship with the Lord.  He walked with Him and talked with Him — always.  Even so, because David was human, he sinned.  Adultery and murder were among those sins.  But David knew how to come back to God when he had gotten off track.  David knew the way back because he knew God.  His years of living intimately with the Father taught David who God truly was.  He knew that God hated sin, but loved him with an everlasting, unfailing love.  He knew God would always forgive him and always welcome him back when he came with a contrite heart.  What David had in relationship, we can also have.

Notice that David begins and ends with praise for God.  Scripture says that God inhabits our praise.  David wants to be heard, he wants the presence of God, and he adores his Maker with words of exaltation.  His intention is to establish a right position between Creator and created.  After David has entered God’s presence with words of exaltation, he continues to pay tribute to God by explaining all he finds in Him.  This is a defining poem about a God of love and David’s confidence in Him.

May this psalm provide comfort to the one seeking it, for whatever reason.  We can claim it as our blessing from the One who knew everything we would do before we did it and still sent His Son to die for us to save us from those things we could not save ourselves.   Before we were born, God knew the obstacles we would face and the pain we would go through, and He gave us the promise that He would never leave us to go through it alone.  Declare this psalm to your weary mind, body, and spirit and be infused with His love and the peace that follows.

Psalm 103  (NIV)

1 Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits– 3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. 6 The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. 7 He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: 8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. 13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; 14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. 15 As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; 16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. 17 But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children– 18 with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts. 19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. 20 Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. 21 Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. 22 Praise the LORD, all his works everywhere in his dominion. Praise the LORD, O my soul.

Father, there is no one’s forgiveness we need more than Yours.  We may hide our sins from other people, but we can never hide them from You.  There is no one that can encourage us like You.  A word from You, O God, is precious beyond measure.  We come with praises and thanksgiving for a love like Yours!  We hide ourselves in the shadow of Your wing, where we are comforted and restored.  No matter how hard life gets, there is always healing in Your presence.  There, you renew our hope and give us new vision. We bless Your holy name, most high God!     

Comfort Prayer

The book of Psalms provides much comfort.  As David and other psalmists share with us their own emotions, we learn how to deal with our own.  Psalm 91 is a psalm many of us like to pray for ourselves or others when comfort is needed.  We do that by personalization.  To make it your own declaration, or your prayer for a family member or friend, fill in the blanks accordingly.   If it is your loved one who needs comfort, bless them further by reading it to them.

Psalm 91 (NIV translation, but with capitalization of pronouns indicating God’s name)

1 He (or she) who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  2 _______ will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”  3 Surely He will save _______ from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.  4 He will cover _______ with His feathers, and under His wings _______ will find refuge; His faithfulness will be _______‘s shield and rampart.  5 _______ will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.  7 A thousand may fall at _______’s side, ten thousand at (her/his) right hand, but it will not come near _______.  8 _______ will only observe with (her/his) eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.  9 If you make the Most High your dwelling– even the LORD, who is my  refuge—  10 then no harm will befall _______, no disaster will come near (her/his)tent.  11 For He will command His angels concerning _______ to guard _______ in all (her/his) ways; 12 they will lift _______ up in their hands, so that _______ will not strike (her/his) foot against a stone.  13 _______ will tread upon the lion and the cobra; _______ will trample the great lion and the serpent.  14 “Because _______ loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue _______; I will protect _______, for _______ acknowledges My name.  15 _______ will call upon Me, and I will answer _______; I will be with _______ in trouble, I will deliver _______ and honor _______.  16 With long life will I satisfy _______ and show _______ my salvation.”

Father, may this bless the lives of the wounded and weary.   May it bring needed peace and new hope.  May Your children feel Your very presence surround them as they pray these words.   

February 5, 2021

Care for the Soul

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Today we were introduced to, and are now introducing you to Elisha who is a former school teacher and now a homeschool mom. Her blog is titled Mindful Heart and Home. I do love that she transparently shares the challenges of life with her readers.

In November, after a stressful day, she wrote:

…Have you ever had days like this?
How do you reset?
Do you throw in the towel and wait for the next day?

…I decided to stop and embrace a pause.

In that pause I felt God’s gentle reminder that I am enough. I’m not a failure because my plans did not get accomplished. I could hear Him tell me that out of all the mishaps, I loved my kids well today…

Several days later, she continued this theme:

May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD.” – Psalm 103:34

…Cue autoimmune flare ups. The thing about autoimmune diseases, at least the one I am diagnosed with, is that stress is a major catalyst for flare ups. Refusing to pause, and ignoring the signs my body is screaming for me to STOP sends me to bed for days. I feel as though I am hit with a terrible flu bug, my body feeling completely exhausted, migraines, and pain from neck down my spine. These episodes where I am unable to take care of myself and family is my reminder to embrace a PAUSE.

The best way I have been able to embrace my pause is through meditation. Instead of filling my mind and body with the stress of to-do lists, playing my fears and failures on repeat, or comparing myself to others on social media. I begin pouring bible verses, uplifting songs, helpful podcasts, and soaking up the sounds of baby giggles into my heart. I cling to these joys and truths in my moment of pause. It allows my heart to meditate on the comfort and promise of God’s word. This grounds me, calms my nervous system, and allows my body to feel at peace instead of a flare up…

The post by Elisha we actually chose to share today appeared just hours ago. I invite you to send her some “link love” by reading this at her site, and I’ve closed comments here so that you can leave some encouragement there instead. Click the header which follows.

Self Care is Spiritual Care

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”– Mark 1:35

When you hear the term self care do you immediately think what a selfish thing to want or do you think spa day, shopping spree, and Starbucks?

Self care shouldn’t be a term that makes you cringe or feel guilt. It should be a term that you should embrace in your daily life as act of loving the person God created you to be and giving thanks to your creator.

God took six days to create the beauty all around us and then rested on the seventh. He commanded his people of Israel to take sabbath on the seventh day to do nothing but wait and trust in Him. Jesus took time to be alone in order to spend time with his Father in prayer.

These are spiritual acts of self care and a daily practice we should incorporate into our lives in order to refuel and find our grounding. This allows us to come closer to God. It helps us to embrace a much needed pause in our busy day to praise God for his blessings. It helps us to realign our expectations by asking God to show us what needs to be done and where our focus needs to be that day. It takes our focus off us and puts it on God.

So as a hardworking, on the go, busy mama that you are; you may be wondering how do you possibly implement this act of spiritual self care?

⁃ On your drive to work talk with God or turn up that praise and worship music and sing your heart out.

⁃ while you’re watching your kids play, give thanks to God for these amazing little humans that he trusted you to raise up.

⁃ Instead of reaching for your phone in the morning reach for your bible and fill your heart with His truths

⁃ Have a dinner or game night free of distractions and talk about things you’re thankful for or what God is doing in your lives.

⁃ Find a few minutes each day to retreat in a quiet place to connect with God.

This act of spiritual self care gives us the opportunity to be intentional with God. Through our act of pause, prayer, and worship we are putting aside our pride and self sufficiency and admitting we can’t do it all.

How will you begin practicing this act of spiritual self care? Leave a comment.

 

 

June 3, 2011

Everyday Worship

Canadian pastor and Tyndale Seminary instructor Jeff Loach has been on my Thinking Out Loud blogroll for a long time, but apparently I’ve never excerpted any of his material here.  This post may seem so very basic, but it is equally so easily forgotten.  It first appeared on his blog under the title Worship as a Lifestyle Choice.

Did you know that you should worship God every day?

One of the things I learned this week as I prepared to preach on the second commandment is that it has a lot to say to us about worship.  And heaven knows that one of the many things that Christians like to differ on, and sometimes argue about, is worship:  hymns or praise songs?  Organ or guitar?  High liturgy or low liturgy?  (There’s no such thing as ‘no liturgy’.)  All of these questions, and others, cause believers both joy and angst, depending on the situation.

I’m learning, though, that if we worship God every day, many of these questions fade into the background.  True, we still have our preferences, and our cultural norms, but when we make a daily habit of worshipping God, they matter less when we gather as a community on Sunday.

Worship can, and should, be a lifestyle choice.

But does that mean we give up whatever else we’re doing and head on down to the church to sit in a pew (or on a chair)?  Not necessarily.  That’s not an option for most of us.

Does it mean taking time each day for Scripture reading, reflection, and prayer?  Yes.  But most of us can’t do that all day, either.  (We praise God for those saints who are in a position to spend much of their time in devotion and intercession, but they are rarer than not.)

It does mean, however, looking at our daily activities in a new light.  For example, if you have a job (paid or volunteer), do you see your work as worship?  You can, and you should!  The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Colossae, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people” (Colossians 3.23, NLT).

You can make your everyday tasks acts of worship.  You can do a good job because you want to praise God with your work.  You can be courteous to people in the grocery store because you want to praise God with your shopping.  You can be considerate of other drivers, because you want to praise God with your driving (whether or not you have a fish on your bumper!).  These are all ways of worshipping as a lifestyle choice.

Cloistered monks refer to their daily offices, their prescribed times of worship, as “the work of God”.  We who are not set aside for monastic vows, however, can make every task we undertake into “the work of God”.  Just do whatever you do as an act of praise.  Worship God with every aspect of your life.  And watch what happens to your perspective on Sunday.  The invitation to worship that you receive will become more of a familiar call, more of a ‘comfy shoes’ feeling, because you’re being invited to do something together that you do at other times apart from the community of faith.

Let every breath be praise!  After all, it was God who gave us breath in the first place.

March 13, 2011

Before You Pray, “Our Father…”

This was part of our worship time this morning.  My wife adapted this from something one of our team members sent.

If my religion and my life have no room for others and their joys and needs,

…I cannot pray “Our”

If I do not live as a child, beloved and learning,

…I cannot pray “Father”

If all my interests and pursuits are earthly things

…I cannot pray “Who art in Heaven”

If I — called to be holy as he is — am not holy

…I cannot pray “Hallowed be thy name”

If he is not King in my own life,

…I cannot pray “Thy Kingdom come”

If I will not listen for and obey his voice on Earth

…I cannot pray “On Earth as it is in Heaven”

If I will not make an honest effort, or if I ignore the immediate needs of others

…I cannot pray “Give us this day our daily bread”

If I choose to remain in a situation where I am likely to be tempted

…I cannot pray “Lead us not into temptation”

If I am not prepared to fight the spiritual fight with faith and truth and love

…I cannot pray “Deliver us from evil”

If I insist on my own rights and my own way

…I cannot pray “Thine is the Kingdom”

If I live according to what my neighbors and friends may say or do

…I cannot pray “Thine is the Power”

If I’m controlled by anxiety about every day’s problems and promises

…I cannot pray  “Forever”

If I cannot honestly say ‘Cost what it may, this is my prayer’

…I cannot pray “Amen”

March 10, 2011

Temptation Eyes

Actually this is just about temptation, but I wanted to see how many out there are old enough to remember the title of the old Grassroots song.

We’re going to begin this however at a different place than usual; starting at a motivational (i.e. not a faith blog) web page that I doubt many of you would ever get to.  Erin Williams has a life-coaching blog where the following three paragraphs appeared on Monday under the title, Deliver OURSELVES From Temptation.

In a recent interview, a high-profile celebrity who has been happily married for over two decades was asked, “So…how do you do it? Your personal life has survived the scrutiny that so many other stars has not…what is the secret to having a lasting marriage in Hollywood?” The icon stated simply, “I consciously avoid situations that might create cause for concern for me or my family. I deliver MYSELF from temptation”. Although this statement is referencing one person’s strategy to protect himself from potentially engaging in infidelity, let us consider how this practice might affect our own personal battle with good ol’ temptation.

Let’s face it. Chances are, we will be faced with temptation our whole lives in one form or another. Just as we are trying to quit drinking, we are invited to the best blow out party of the year…just as we start a new diet, grandma makes her famous enchiladas…just as we commit to a relationship, the hot co-worker wants to put in some overtime with us. Staying on track when we have chosen a path is hard enough, however, being constantly bombarded by hazards that add to our potential for failure makes it an energy-consuming workout just to stay the course. While we cannot completely eliminate temptation from our environment, we CAN manage our exposure to it.

The point is that we need not only be concerned with creating quality of life, but also with protecting it. When we set goals or make commitments we are creating the structure of how we want to live. We then must do what is necessary to execute and maintain that vision. Finding ways to eliminate temptation to stray is time and effort well invested. If we have set a family budget, for example, and know that we can’t go to Target without being tempted to buy things we don’t need…why not make our life easier and save ourselves the inner struggle by getting our supplies somewhere else? If we have committed to a healthier lifestyle, why not remove the foods or substances from our space so we are not having to stare at what is not on our options list? If we are married, why not opt-out of situations that might find us struggling with desirous thoughts for another? Finding ways to avoid temptation might take a little creativity but we can be sure of this…it takes a lot less energy and effort than getting back up on the wagon after we have toppled over. Make it easier on yourself to honor your commitments by managing your exposure to temptation.

~Erin Williams

Ernie Curtin is an Episcopal (Anglican) priest in Newton, Pennsylvania.  The following is but a small portion of a much longer article I encourage you to read, which appeared today at his blog Transformation Meditations as a reading for Lent.

…In Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness we see the pattern of temptation the devil brings.

First, the devil attempts to convince us to meet a legitimate human need by wrongful means. So, the devil recognizes Jesus’ hunger and tempts him to use his divine power to turn stones into bread. This is the corruption of miracle into magic through an appeal to power.

Jesus meets this temptation by quoting scripture. So, the devil switches tactics and quotes scripture. He misquotes it, to be sure. But, the fact that the devil quotes scripture at all can be very confusing to people, especially religious people.

Jesus fights fire with fire and uses scripture to correct the misuse of scripture. That is why it is important not just to read the Bible but to study the Bible and to memorize the Bible. The devil will use false teachers to misquote the Bible in order to confuse the faithful and scandalize unbelievers. Jesus sets the pattern for us to counteract this temptation by his careful and insightful use of scripture.

The third temptation is the same appeal Lucifer made to the angels. It is the appeal he made to our first parents Adam and Eve. It is the distortion of worship.

That is why the first commandment God revealed to Moses deals with worship. The devil always seeks to redefine worship and to confuse the meaning and purpose of worship. In a very simple and crude manner he appeals to the human will to power. He encourages us to approach worship with the question: what’s in it for me?

The devil only needs a tiny foothold in our conscious awareness of the call to worship. He only needs to intrude a small deceit to produce ever expanding levels of frustration.

~Ernie Curtin

December 31, 2010

We Don’t Need Another Hero

When Pete Wilson mentioned this piece, which he originally titled Plodding Visionaries, as one of his top posts of 2010, I decided to give it another read.    It’s true.   We don’t need another Christian superstar.

So this is me, re-blogging Pete re-blogging Keven…

So, I read a blog post last week that has challenged me all weekend as I’ve reflected back on it. I rarely quote this much of someone’s blog post but I couldn’t do it justice any other way. The following post was written by Keven DeYoung on the Ligonier Ministries blog. Do yourself a favor and read the post in its entirety.

I’m quite confident many of you won’t agree with the entire thing but man did he challenge me. There are times I get so frustrated with the church that I just want to scream and walk away. Generally it’s because I see something in her that reminds me of something glaringly obvious in my own life.  Trying to consistently lead a church to be everything God has called her to be is the biggest challenge of my life. So thankful for all the “plodders” God has put around me. Don’t know where I would be without you!!

It’s sexy among young people — my generation — to talk about ditching institutional religion and starting a revolution of real Christ-followers living in real community without the confines of church. Besides being un-Biblical, such notions of churchless Christianity are unrealistic. It’s immaturity actually, like the newly engaged couple who think romance preserves the marriage, when the couple celebrating their golden anniversary know it’s the institution of marriage that preserves the romance. Without the God-given habit of corporate worship and the God-given mandate of corporate accountability, we will not prove faithful over the long haul.

What we need are fewer revolutionaries and a few more plodding visionaries. That’s my dream for the church — a multitude of faithful, risk-taking plodders. The best churches are full of gospel-saturated people holding tenaciously to a vision of godly obedience and God’s glory, and pursuing that godliness and glory with relentless, often unnoticed, plodding consistency.

My generation in particular is prone to radicalism without follow-through. We have dreams of changing the world, and the world should take notice accordingly. But we’ve not proved faithful in much of anything yet. We haven’t held a steady job or raised godly kids or done our time in VBS or, in some cases, even moved off the parental dole. We want global change and expect a few more dollars to the ONE campaign or Habitat for Humanity chapter to just about wrap things up. What the church and the world needs, we imagine, is for us to be another Bono — Christian, but more spiritual than religious and more into social justice than the church.

As great as it is that Bono is using his fame for some noble purpose, I just don’t believe that the happy future of the church, or the world for that matter, rests on our ability to raise up a million more Bonos (as at least one author suggests). With all due respect, what’s harder: to be an idolized rock star who travels around the world touting good causes and chiding governments for their lack of foreign aid, or to be a line worker at GM with four kids and a mortgage, who tithes to his church, sings in the choir every week, serves on the school board, and supports a Christian relief agency and a few missionaries from his disposable income?

Until we are content with being one of the million nameless, faceless church members and not the next globe-trotting rock star, we aren’t ready to be a part of the church. In the grand scheme of things, most of us are going to be more of an Ampliatus (Rom. 16:8) or Phlegon (v. 14) than an apostle Paul. And maybe that’s why so many Christians are getting tired of the church. We haven’t learned how to be part of the crowd. We haven’t learned to be ordinary. Our jobs are often mundane. Our devotional times often seem like a waste. Church services are often forgettable. That’s life. We drive to the same places, go through the same routines with the kids, buy the same groceries at the store, and share a bed with the same person every night. Church is often the same too — same doctrines, same basic order of worship, same preacher, same people.

But in all the smallness and sameness, God works — like the smallest seed in the garden growing to unbelievable heights, like beloved Tychicus, that faithful minister, delivering the mail and apostolic greetings (Eph. 6:21). Life is usually pretty ordinary, just like following Jesus most days.

Daily discipleship is not a new revolution each morning or an agent of global transformation every evening; it’s a long obedience in the same direction.

December 12, 2010

What’s Your Concept of God?

Today’s post is by Justin Buzzard, who pastors in the San Francisco area, and blogs at Buzzard Blog, where this post appeared under the title…

A Quote That Changed My Life

When I was 20 years old I read a sentence that changed my life. I still remember where I was sitting, how the book felt, and what started to happen in my heart.

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

-A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy.

Anyone else changed by this sentence?

The book continues:

The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech. She can never escape the self-disclosure of her witness concerning God.

Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, “What comes into your mind when you think about God?” we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man. Were we able to know exactly what our most influential religious leaders think of God today, we might be able with some precision to foretell where the Church will stand tomorrow.

November 8, 2010

Worship Classic: Psalm Five

There are a number of versions online of a later Maranatha! Music recording of this song, but I have always felt nothing is as raw and heartfelt as this particular version.

Give ear to my words, O Lord
Consider my mediation
Hearken onto the voice of my cry
My King and my God

For unto Thee will I pray
My voice shalt Thou hear in the morning
O Lord, in the morning
Will I direct my prayer
Onto Thee and will look up.

Here are some other notes about the song from the description and comments in a different YouTube video of it (no longer available):

The way I heard it Big Bill was asleep and woke with a melody to King David’s words in Psalm 5. A week or two later Bill went to heaven after a massive heart attack. He never got to hear this final recording. Thank you Big Bill and David and God that we have been given this beautiful melody from a dream.

A week later, the rest of the band (The Road Home) and various backing singers from the Calvary Chapel/Maranatha music community, gathered in the studio and completed the recording, which was first released on the Album “Maranatha 5” .