Christianity 201

September 15, 2021

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

A popular scripture verse right now is “Be still and know that I am God;” and sometimes, walking through the giftware section of a store you’ll see it rendered simply as “Be still.” A currently popular Christian book is titled, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry.

Our world is in a frantic rush all the time. The classic pop song admonition to “Slow down, you move to fast / You’ve got to make a moment last;” was apparently decades ahead of its time.

Today we’re returning to the blog we introduced you to last year, Wattsup with Kids written by Tracy Watts. She’s put together a beautiful scripture medley here, and I invite you to read this on her site by clicking the header which follows, and then slow down to meditate on each verse.

The Unharried (and Unhurried) Jesus

Reading through the gospels we see a purposeful and unharried Jesus. He was not involved in the rat race of competition and human busyness, though he was very effective with how he used his time. He was intentional, for he was not working for his own purposes but the Lord’s. And when I see His example, I have much to learn. What then are some ways He slowed down instead of rushing about? Here are some thoughts:

Jesus noticed his disciples’ weariness and urged them to rest

And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. ~ Mark 6:31

Jesus slept himself when he needed to

 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him ~ Matthew 8:24-25

Jesus was not too busy to be with children.

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. ~ Mark 10:13-16

Jesus stopped to listen to those who called out to him

And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” ~ Mark 10:46-49

Jesus took time to eat with those he taught

So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table ~ John 12:2

And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.  ~ Mark 2:15

Jesus also took time to feed others

 Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way….” And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. ~ Matthew 15:32, 35-37

Jesus took time purposefully to go off and pray

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.  ~Mark 1:35

We often are pulled by the pressures of the world – where efficiency, busyness and money are valued over compassion, patience, and love. But when we take time to slow down, as Christ did, we find that our lives begin to be changed for the better. Instead of my life being characterized by the whims of fickle humans or society or my own false expectations, I can begin to steward what the Lord Himself has placed in my hands.

Lord, grant us wisdom to slow down and walk with Your purposes!


More from Tracy Watts on a somewhat similar theme:

“Keep silence” is a hard phrase because it means that I must stop. I must pull to a halt all that I am juggling and pushing and speaking. And I am often uninclined to do so…

[continue reading this short devotional at this link]

February 17, 2021

Hope That Can Never Perish, Spoil, or Fade

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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One year ago we introduced you to Chris Miller at the blog Get Encouraged. Reconnecting today, I read three of his devotionals. Click the header which follows to read this recent one at source. This is a theme so many are searching for in these days.

A Living Hope

Their lives were hard. Day after day, they endured harsh labor as they made bricks. Their bosses overlooking every step, and their quota seeming unrealistic and never ending. They cried out for relief and hoped that one day it would come. Their hope fueled by a forefather, who by faith, requested his remains be carried with them to the promised land. Generation after generation heard this request and cherished the idea it would come true someday. Hope continued through the generations.

Hope, in many ways, is fuel for our soul. It is what drives us forward. Hope of something better coming pushes us through the rough and challenging times. When our bank account is empty or we’re being slaughtered in the gossip circles, it is our hope which propels us forward.

For the nation of Israel, their hope was in Joseph’s request to carry his remains with them as they left Egypt for the promised land. Hebrews 11:22 says it was Joseph’s faith which gave him this hope.

  • 22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.

Because of his faith, Joseph knew the Lord would bring Israel out of Egypt. He understood he would not see Israel’s deliverance, but he knew it would come when the time was right. So, Joseph gave instructions for his burial. It was Joseph’s instructions which gave the Israelites hope for generations. Basically, they were placing their hope in a dead man’s faithful instructions.

We, as Christ followers, have something better. Our hope is not in a forefather’s faith, but in a living Savior. 1 Peter 1:3-9 encourages:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Max Lucado writes:

Others offer life, but no one offers to do what Jesus does—to reconnect us to his power. But how can we know? How do we know that Jesus knows what he’s talking about? The ultimate answer, according to his flagship followers, is the vacated tomb. Did you note the words you just read? “A living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” In the final sum, it was the disrupted grave that convinced the maiden Christians to cast their lots with Christ. “He appeared to Cephas [Peter], and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time” (1Co 15:5–6).

Can Jesus actually replace death with life? He did a convincing job with his own. We can trust him because he has been there.

He’s been to Bethlehem, wearing barn rags and hearing sheep crunch. Suckling milk and shivering against the cold. All of divinity content to cocoon itself in an eight-pound body and to sleep on a cow’s supper. Millions who face the chill of empty pockets or the fears of sudden change turn to Christ. Why?

Because he’s been there.

He’s been to Nazareth, where he made deadlines and paid bills. To Galilee, where he recruited direct reports and separated fighters. To Jerusalem, where he stared down critics and stood up against cynics.

We have our Nazareths as well—demands and due dates.

Jesus wasn’t the last to build a team; accusers didn’t disappear with Jerusalem’s temple. Why seek Jesus’ help with your challenges? Because he’s been there. To Nazareth, to Galilee, to Jerusalem.

But most of all, he’s been to the grave. Not as a visitor, but as a corpse. Buried amidst the cadavers. Numbered among the dead.

Heart silent and lungs vacant. Body wrapped and grave sealed.

The cemetery. He’s been buried there.

You haven’t yet. But you will be. And since you will, don’t you need someone who knows the way out?


■ From the same author: Guiding Through Adversity.

June 10, 2020

A Study in Patience

Today’s devotional is unlike anything I’ve ever featured here. Usually we run between 650 and 1200 words. Occasionally shorter, and sometimes longer. But often I run into a writer I want to highlight who uses a shorter format, so I’ll combine two (or three) pieces into one.

Today we’re combining nine pieces where the author(s) have created a scripture medley on the subject of patience. The thoughts come from Glorious Ministries, a “non-profit organization located in Genesee county* and established in 2014” which states is mission as “seeking to encourage, empower, and support individuals who are striving for excellence in their walk with Christ by offering retreats, motivational classes, support groups, group therapy, a 12 step Christ-centered program, and individual counseling.” [*so either Michigan or New York State.]

The Bible is clear that it’s not about the number of words. A short, concise word “fitly spoken” can be a treasure to the right person.

The link below takes you to the site in general. To see these at source, you want to track down articles from May 31st to June 8th. Each of the nine short articles comes with graphics you can use on social media which were not included here.

Patience

But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
 – Rom.8v25 NASB

When we hope for something we are not able to see we have to be patient. Have you waited on the Lord and said “I could have had this done already, my way!” You take it back and then your way doesn’t work! Patience… wait with patience!

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
 – Rom.12v12 ESV

God is our hope and we should rejoice in Him. When we are experiencing a little turbulence in our life we should be patient and wait upon the Lord. Praying and thanking God always.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
 – I Cor.13v4 NIV

In our daily walk, no matter where the walk takes us, we are to be patient! We are to show love and kindness to everyone! We are made in God’s image and our actions should reflect such!

Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.
– James 5v7 NIV

Have you been patient in waiting on the Lord for answers? For the land to be fruitful? For the purpose of what is happening on going on in your life? God tells us over and over in His Word, Be patient, Be still, rest in Him! Remember to be patient and wait on the Lord!

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.
– Galatians 6v9 NLT

We are to wait upon the Lord. Be patient! Do not grow weary! We will reap when the time is right as long as we are patient!

Hot tempers cause arguments, but patience brings peace.
– Proverbs 15v18 GNT/TEV

We are suppose to be slow to anger! When we are patient we provide peace not only to ourselves but also to those we come in contact! Remember, when you do not know people are watching you and how you react to things.

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.
 – Ephesians 4v2 NLT

When we are kind always, patient, and accept each other where each person is at we are able to show the light of Christ through us.

The end of something is better than its beginning. Patience is better than pride.
  – Ecclesiastes 7v8 GNT/TEV

When it is finished we are wiser than when we started! We have grown and are able to pass on what we have learned to those around us! Patience to press on and keep pressing on is important. Pride gets in our way! May your journey today be full of patience to press on and wisdom to go to the steps ahead!

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
  – Colossians 3v12-13

It is no surprise to me patience with one another and forgiveness of each other go hand in hand. We are not suppose to complain about each other. We are required to forgive each other as we have been forgiven. We are to share the light of Christ in everything we do! Let us practice patience with one another and providing forgiveness in place of complaining!


By our measurement this is still a shorter devotional, but by their standards we ‘borrowed’ a lot of their content. (It took a lot of patience just to format this!) So I want to one more time direct you to Glorious Ministries, and this link to their page. This is part of a longer series on the Fruit of the Spirit you might want to check out.

 

June 2, 2020

The Disciples in Lockdown

Today we’re also featuring a new (to us) writer. A.K. Francis has been writing fiction for more than ten years, but more recently started writing faith-focused articles as well. During the time of pandemic, that writing moved into a series titled In The Valley of Fear and Solitude which began in the Old Testament and has worked its way to the New. Click the links in this paragraph to read more, or click the header which follows to read today’s article at source.

The disciples behind closed doors

As we edge our way out of lockdown, it seems an appropriate time for a probably last blog post on faith in isolation. For today’s edition I have chosen two stories that are very similar in their structure and story from Acts and the end of the Gospels respectively.

The first story (from the gospels) is that of Jesus first appearing to his disciples after His resurrection. The disciples are together in a room with the doors locked, out of fear of the Jewish non-believers around them. Earlier that morning, some of their women had been to the tomb and found the place empty – it is unclear whether they believed in the resurrection from this or not. Jesus is suddenly in the room with them. He speaks to the disciples and encourages them. Then he is gone. Later he appears again and seeks out Thomas, who had been absent previously and had said that he would not believe the resurrection story until he saw the walking talking, and scarred evidence in the body of the risen saviour.

The second story is near the beginning of the book of Acts. The disciples are again in an upper room, with the doors closed. This time the room is suddenly filled with flames and wind as the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus had promised, swept through the room and entered each disciple. They begin speaking in other languages as that spirit enabled them, and then leave the room to spread the word about Jesus to those in the city. As it is the festival of weeks, the city is full of Jews from across the then known world – making their languages essential to their message being understood. At first, their audience take them for drunks – but then are persuaded – and over 1,000 converted to belief in Jesus.

What are these stories telling us about isolation…and its end?

1. Wait, prayerfully and in hope.

In both these stories individuals are alone and waiting for something. At Pentecost (the second story) it is highly likely that the disciples were meeting in prayer at time when the Spirit came upon them. In the first story there may have been prayer, but there was certainly fear – enough to find the key for the door. In both of these stories God comes and meets with the disciples in their time of need – and builds them up for the next step in His plan. At both points they are in a place of loss – of Jesus on the cross in the resurrection story, and of Jesus to heaven in the Pentecost story – and in both places they have been given the promise of God’s presence – Jesus spoke of His resurrection prior to his death, and spoke of the Holy Spirit as a helper who would come after he had ascended. Both of these events show the joy of the disciples as they celebrate the fulfilment of these promises. Jesus also made a promise ‘to be with you always, to the very end of the age’ to the disciples and all His followers, when he ascended.

I do not think it is pure coincidence that the period of lockdown has fallen over the season in the year where churches focus on these events and celebrate them. Here is a message of waiting on the Lord, calling out to Him in hope that he is working his purpose – and then seeing the promise of His presence among them fulfilled – in resurrection and in the Holy Spirit. That spirit is still available to us today, the promise ‘to be with you always’ remains open to us. In our isolation we can lean on these fulfilled promises, and call on our saviour to face the fears of the world outside.

2. God meets us in the place of lockdown fear

In both of these stories, God walks among His disciples and strengthens them in their hour of fear and isolation. As I have mentioned throughout this series, there seems to be a big message in the Bible that it is often in our times of fear, loneliness and imprisonment that God walks among His people to strengthen them for His work in their lives and the lives of others. Here it is no different. Jesus steps into a room full of his mourning and terrified friends – at the point when they are most confused, doubtful and afraid – and turns their lives around. At Pentecost, the disciples are changed so much that they go outside and tell of Jesus’ resurrection – risking their lives as they have not yet done. This is the real starting moment of the church – it comes out of God strengthening His people in isolation and sending them out into the world.

In our time of isolation, it has perhaps been a challenge to be away from church, but perhaps this has allowed us as churches and individuals to spend more time away from the bustle of the world with the God who loves us, learning from Him about how we can be advancing His kingdom. As we face the fear of having to leave what may well have become the safe space of our home, I think it is good to stop, reflect and take time to let God walk into our lives, revealing how we should be working for His glory to come out of this time of fear and suffering.

3.Be built up, question, be sent out.

These two passages create a great image of what discipleship in isolation could look like. Here the groups of disciples have met in isolation and alone, here Thomas feels safe to question the judgement of others about the resurrection of Jesus, and to gain an answer from Jesus himself. Here the disciples experience the Holy Spirit as a gift for the first time as they turn to God in prayer and expectation. And out of these two events, one after the other, and the lessons that come from Jesus in them, comes the knowledge of God and the strength of the Spirit to go out into the world in confidence to share the message they have been given with those around them. To face death potentially, for what they now believe is the truth.

Thomas, as he recognizes Jesus, and proclaims him as his Lord and God, is told:

“Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen me and yet have believed.”

John 20 v 29

This is a wonderful reassurance for Christians living today, who have not seen Jesus in the flesh but who believe in Jesus as their saviour. In our times of isolation, we have had an opportunity to explore faith online and in our greater times of quiet and solitude, and numbers of those viewing church services online would suggest that people are looking to explore faith. Today, we should take these stories as pointers to ensuring we are being built up and sent out to His glory. The world outside the comfort of our Christian homes, and the privacy of our internet browser, is scary, and we, and those exploring faith, will need the strengthening of the Spirit and human encouragement in the challenging months to come. But I pray that these months have been, and will continue to be, the start of something of a renewal of faith in our world.

April 17, 2020

Potsherds, Grog, and other Pieces of Our Past

Today’s devotional is an excerpt from popular Christian author Lysa TerKeurst‘s bestselling book, It’s Not Supposed to be This Way in which she shares living through cancer. To read the full excerpt, click this link. To learn more about the book, click this link.

When God Gives You More Than You Can Handle

[O]ne day… a couple of girls introduced themselves while standing in line to get some take-out food at a restaurant near my house. We chatted for a minute about what God had been teaching them, and then the topic of what I’d be writing next came up. I told them about… the revelation God had given me about dust. Jessica’s eyes lit up. Her mom is a professional potter…

…She’d seen clay being formed into many beautiful things when placed into her mother’s hands. And then she shared something with me that made my jaw drop.

She told me that wise potters not only know how to form beautiful things from clay, but they also know how important it is to add some of the dust from previously broken pieces of pottery to the new clay. This type of dust is called “grog.” To get this grog, the broken pieces must be shattered to dust just right. If the dust is shattered too finely, then it won’t add any structure to the new clay. And if it’s not shattered enough, the grog will be too coarse and make the potter’s hands bleed.

But when shattered just right, the grog dust added to the new clay will enable the potter to form the clay into a larger and stronger vessel than ever before. And it can go through fires much hotter as well. Plus, when glazed, these pieces end up having a much more beautiful, artistic look to them than they would have otherwise.

Jessica smiled and said, “C’mon, that will preach, right?!”

Oh, it absolutely did. I kept thinking about what Jessica shared and how it might relate to my season of suffering. What if the clay made from all the other dust currently in my life could be strengthened by this newly added broken piece?

And then I read Isaiah 45:9:

Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘The potter has no hands’?

God is making something beautiful out of my life. I know that. So, why question what He sees as the necessary ingredients to make my life stronger and more beautiful than ever? Sure, my diagnosis added some more brokenness, but even this could be used for my good.

I kept reading that verse from Isaiah and decided to do a little investigation into the term potsherd.

A potsherd is a broken piece of pottery.

Interestingly enough, a potsherd was also mentioned in the story of Job when he was inflicted with an awful disease.

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. — Job 2:7-10

A broken potsherd can lie on the ground and be nothing more than a constant reminder of brokenness. It can also be used to continue to scrape us and hurt us even more when kept in our hands.

Or, when placed in our Master’s hands, the Master Potter can be entrusted to take that potsherd, shatter it just right, and then use it in the remolding of me to make me stronger and even more beautiful.


Taken from It’s Not Supposed to be This Way by Lysa TerKeurst Copyright © 2018 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. http://www.thomasnelson.com.

December 6, 2019

Anna The Prophetess

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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This appeared originally as a Twitter thread. On our parent blog, Thinking Out Loud, I’ve taken threads from Twitter and grouped them into a single article on about eight occasions, believing that they need to be seen by more people. It’s in that spirit I’m highlighting these thoughts here today.

Rich Perez is the author of Mi Casa Uptown; a memoir of his experiences growing up in the inner city of New York and the intersection between faith, family, identity and the significance of place. He’s also the lead pastor of Christ Crucified Fellowship in New York City. The link below takes you to the original thread.

Anna: Going Deep in Three Verses

In the Bible, only 3 verses are dedicated to Anna the prophetess. Because most Christians lack imagination, they’ll miss how deep those 3 verses go….

NIV.Luke.2:36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[*] She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

* Or then had been a widow for eighty-four years.

Something worth noticing about Anna: before she’s the daughter of Phanuel; before she’s known to be of the tribe of Asher, Anna is identified as a prophet.

Being part of a society that disregarded women, esp. an old widow like Anna, God shows us that his world is upside down. Women were identified by the men they were connected to. But God is making a different connection. God’s saying that the most important thing about Anna is not the man she’s connected to but the God that she’s connected to.

Anna also teaches us quite a bit about waiting and aging well. she was 105 years old when she finally saw what she was waiting for: Jesus. Eight-four of those years were alone after her husband died.

I think the real value of these verses is how waiting has the potential to change us.

In my life, waiting has often made me frustrated, hurt and then bitter. Then it’s made me distrusting, hopeless and sometimes, unbelieving.

As young people, we need Anna. she shows us how to grow old well.

God uses Anna to show us that waiting for God isn’t passive, but active. That waiting doesn’t have to mean we grow older and bitter. That waiting doesn’t have to mean we grow stale and skeptical, but waiting can mean we grow to be more present and expectant.

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Anna had many moments where she doubted God’s promise. Many nights where her bitterness got the best of her. Many nights where trusting God may have seemed impossible. But whether it was her doubt, her bitterness or her distrust, it all happened in the temple with God.

“She did not leave the temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayers.”

Waiting, with all of its frustrations and darkness, is welcomed in the presence of God.

Anna shows that her life of waiting— most of it in the dark and alone— is not possible without prayer. Anna discovered a kind of prayer that doesn’t simply speak to God, but more importantly hears from God and is present with God.

One-way prayers assume that what we have to say is of greater importance than what God has to reveal to us.

I can only imagine Anna’s days and nights in the temple with God to be filled with a lot of silence; waiting to hear from God.

More reflections on Anna…

God’s three short verses on her show us the power of names. In just the first verse we get three of them: Anna, Phanuel and Asher.

Anna means “grace from God.”

Phanuel means “the face of God.”

Asher means “good fortune.” And it was to the tribe of Asher that God said: “…May the bolts of your gate be iron and bronze, and your strength last as long as you live.

Throughout the decades of her life; of her waiting – filled with what I imagine were many lonely moments, Anna waited for “the good fortune” of seeing “the face of God,” and at the temple 40 days after Jesus’ birth, by “the grace of God” she did!

Did you know that patience comes from the same Latin root as passion, which means “to suffer”? In other words, patience ain’t easy.

It all makes me wonder how Jesus waited. How did knowing what he came to do shape HOW Jesus waited?

Jesus waited knowing the the end from the beginning. He waited knowing at least part of the outcome of his waiting. Jesus waited knowing that part of waiting involved disappointment. He waited knowing that part of waiting involved his own suffering and his death.

Yet he waited knowing that his waiting would lead to life… quite literally, revival. Not simply for himself but for all who would trust his work and wait for his finally fulfillment.

November 10, 2019

End of Life Revisions

(It’s a play on “end of life decisions.” Makes more sense after you read the article.)

As I said yesterday, Christianity 201 has been blessed over the years to feature Elsie Montgomery who writes at the blog Practical Faith. She is faithful in writing and consistent in terms of the content of what she posts. I’ve broken a rule here and have re-posted some recent things from her blog both yesterday and today. Visit the blog and click the headers for individual articles.

To-do list for old timers (and newcomers too)

Bette Midler once said regarding her body, “After fifty, it’s just maintenance, maintenance, maintenance.” Those in that age bracket will agree. However, I try not to focus on the state of my body since this is too easy the topic of conversation for us seniors. It tends to fill my head with a ‘me’ focus that is not healthy for my spiritual life.

At the end of 2 Peter, this disciple writes about focus as God’s people wait for the end of life and the return of Jesus Christ. He puts the focus on my spiritual state and gives me some practical assignments . . .

Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him . . . You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ . . . . (2 Peter 3:14–18)

Be found by Him without spot or blemish. This isn’t about freckles or pimples but about sin. No one is sinless in this life, but keeping short accounts is possible. That is, God wants me to confess and forsake any sinful and selfish attitudes and actions as soon as I realize they are present. The benefits include continual fellowship with God and His people, having a child-like humility and attitude toward life, and a good night’s sleep!

Be at peace. No worrying. How is that even possible? For me, it means trusting the Lord with everything, and to do that, I must believe in His love and power. He is sovereign over this world and all that is in it. If not, I’d be in a stew about everything because nearly everything seems to be coming unraveled. Trusting the Lord means being able to take my burdens to Him and leave them in His care. I cannot do that without firmly believing He hears me and will answer my prayers. His answers may not be what I expect, but trust isn’t concerned about my thoughts and opinions, only about His loving wisdom.

Count patience as salvation. Peter also said that I’m to consider patience as a huge factor in salvation. Impatience is me trying to run things my way — and that is the essence of sin. Patience is evidence of faith, of knowing God is taking care of things and being okay with that. It is not an anxious ‘wait and see’ but a settled and peaceful yielding to His will.

Don’t get carried away. Spiritual maintenance includes standing firm on what I believe, not carried away by the teaching of those who have no regard for the basic principles of faith. The foundations of trust and obey, of knowing and believing, are the firm places. I don’t need to study error to know it — I only need to study truth.

Grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Last but not least I am to grow by studying Him, spending time with Him. Listening. Following His leading. Seeking His face. Reviewing and remembering His words. Doing whatever is necessary to deepen my relationship with this man who is God — who saved me for all eternity!

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Jesus, this is simple stuff for this old-timer, basic for those who are new to the faith, yet powerful. Doing the will of God is not as challenging as wanting to do the will of God. I must want to abandon the habits and old sinful ways and dictates of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Keep me close as I desire to stay close. I love You and want to bring You glory in this life and in the life to come!

Today’s thankful list . . .

– having basics to keep me growing and in God’s will.
– faith is practical!
– a good workout at the gym.
– motion detector light switches.
– time for a much-needed nap this afternoon.
– chicken tacos and salt-free chips.

 

March 8, 2019

Time: Our Perspective; God’s Perspective

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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While we mostly use writers here who have been featured before, every once in awhile we go ‘fishing’ so to speak, and today I feel like we struck gold. (If that isn’t the best example of a mixed metaphor, I don’t know what would beat it!)

Benjamin Moore is an MK (Missionary Kid) who clearly presents a subject here which confounds even seasoned, veteran Christ followers. Click the title header below to read at source, and then take a few minutes to check out the rest of his site, including articles written in Spanish.

God’s perfect timing

John 7: 6-8
Therefore Jesus told them,“ My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.”

Do you know what the rarest resource is?

Time is our most precious gift. Once it’s gone it’s gone.

Every second that passes is another second you can’t get back no matter what.

We know this and I think that is why we try to hold on to it so tightly and control it.

It’s not ours to control

The reality is that it is God’s time, not ours.

Time belongs to Him. Notice Jesus says “My Time,” twice.

We work on his agenda, not the other way around.

I struggle with this. And I know I am not alone.

Look at Jesus’ Brothers.

Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. – John 7:3 (NIV) 

In other words “Hey, Jesus, we think you need to go now”.

But it wasn’t up to them. It was up to Jesus.

And like His brothers, I am sure you struggle with this as well.

We like to play little gods and be in control of what happens and when it happens.

But that is God’s place.

You don’t have control, He does.

Even your days are numbered

Job 14:5-7 (NLV) A man’s days are numbered. You know the number of his months. He cannot live longer than the time You have set.

God is so in control of time that He has your days numbered.

It shouldn’t cause us stress but instead, it should move us into courage because when it’s your time it’s your time.

This is encouraging because now you don’t have to walk around frightened by the unknown because the unknown to us is laid out before God.

Give up control

Give up control is not what we like to hear. But just because you don’t like something doesn’t change the necessity for you to do it.

Stop trying to be in control of Time. It will only frustrate you. You will always come to the same conclusion. You can’t do anything about it.

You can try.

Turn back the hands on your clock but that doesn’t change anything. That will just make you late for work.

Time slips out of our hands like water and we are helpless to do anything about it.

God’s view of time is different

So as you give up control and as you wait, its good to know how God views time.

2 Peter 3:8 (NIV)  But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

God is not bound by time like we are.

He is not restricted by it.

So He is never in a hurry to do something.

God’s calendar only has one square on it and it’s labeled eternity.

2 Peter 3:9 (NIV) The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Notice this crazy insight Peter gives us into how God’s sees time. And the Psalmist actually said it before him.

Psalm 90:4 (NIV)  A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.

Based on this we just can’t expect God to see things the way we do.

Can you imagine what God thinks we say things like I running out of time?

God’s time is perfect

Good thing for us God’s timing is always perfect.

We might feel like time is running out but God knows when it will be the best time for His plans to take place.

Just think of Jesus birth and how it was predicted thousands of years before He was born.

When the fullness of the time had come, God sent His Son, made of a woman, made under the law (Gal 4:4).

When the fullness of time = God’s perfect timing.

The Jews were coming under the dominion and taxation of a foreign power. Strangers were beginning to rule over them. They had no longer an independent government of their own. The “due time” had come for the promised Messiah to appear. Augustus taxes “the world,” and at once Christ is born. (J.C. RYLE – John Charles Ryle was an English Evangelical Anglican bishop)

The whole civilized earth was at length governed by one master (Daniel 2:40). (J.C. RYLE)

There was nothing to prevent the preacher of a new faith going from city to city and country to country. (J.C. RYLE)

So if you are in a time of waiting don’t worry because God’s timing is always perfect.

  • He’s never late.
  • He’s always on time.
  • Keep waiting.
  • Keep trusting.

He hasn’t forgotten you.

 

 

 

 

March 5, 2019

Waiting Tests

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
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The golden calf was constructed due to the Israelite’s disobedience in waiting as instructed. In our own lives we need to consider the peril of constructing golden calves when we fail the waiting test.

Today we’re back with Stephen & Brooksyne Weber at Daily Encouragement. They are in full time ministry writing this weekday devotional, and doing chaplaincy ministry in central Pennsylvania.

A Lesson From A Golden Calf

“He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt'” (Exodus 32:4).

“Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides You, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him” (Isaiah 64:4).

… The golden calf is what the people had made when they failed to patiently wait as instructed by Moses. In one way or another it seems we are all waiting for something in life. Realistically much of our waiting is trivial such as waiting for a traffic light to change or waiting in a long line at the grocery store.

But the wait periods of life are often hard. Like waiting for medical test results or news from a loved one we are anxious to hear from. It may be waiting for a specified change of direction in our life, perhaps in our work or ministry. Certainly for all of us it is waiting for the blessed hope. (Titus 2:13)

Obedience in waiting is one of the most important tests we have in life. Prior to going up to Mount Sinai, Moses gave a very specific command to the leaders of the children of Israel. He said to the elders, ‘Wait here for us until we come back to you’ (Exodus 24:14).

But the wait was long and the people grew impatient. Much to their shame they took matters into their own hands. When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow, Moses, who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him’ (Exodus 32:1). Soon they’re worshiping and carousing around a golden calf with Aaron as their leader! They miserably failed the “wait test” and grave consequences followed.

The Bible has many examples of waiting tests such as Abraham for the promised son, Jacob for Rachel, Saul for Samuel and others. Many of them failed the test of obedience in waiting which resulted in long-term, sometimes life-long consequences.

We also have many waiting tests in our lives. Even as you read this you’re likely considering a situation you’re praying about and waiting to see how God brings about His will in the matter. Trusting, praying and obeying during the wait can be very challenging, since we’re tempted to take things into our own hands rather than fully trusting God to work things out according to His will and His timing. In the wait process we may even hit rock bottom. But Tony Evans says that “When we hit rock bottom we discover that Jesus is the Rock at the bottom.”

Here’s a great truth to hide deep in your heart today based upon our second Bible text: God acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. This verse is a real treasure buried in a portion of the Bible not as familiar to many.  Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides You, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. Today may this truth fill your life with peace as you trust in God, who always acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. God grant us grace to obediently wait.

Be encouraged today as we obediently wait on Him.

Daily prayer: Father, many times Scripture that speaks of waiting on You is followed by the directive of being courageous. Indeed it does take courage for me to trust You and not take matters into my own hands since that comes so naturally to my way of thinking and doing things. But as a loving, protecting and omnipotent Father You tenderly care for me as I commit my concerns to You. My unbelief and impatience leads to fearsome worry and unwise behavior. Getting ahead of Your divine plan and perfect timing only leads to more frustration and difficulty. Help me to remember that waiting coupled with prayer brings about growing courage and dependence on You rather than myself. Amen.

 

September 10, 2018

Just As You Is

A few months ago we introduced you to a new source of devotional material. First 15 is designed for the first 15 minutes of your day, and can be delivered direct to your phone or tablet. The devotional’s main partners are: All Shores Wesleyan Church, First Baptist Church Universal City and Mississippi College.

Each day’s devotional is divided into six parts including a worship music video. The one that follows is kicking off a series for this week on the nearness of God and our awareness of his presence. We’re featuring just the text content, so you’re strongly encouraged to click the title below for the full experience.

God Cares About the Present

Scripture

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:34

Devotional

I used to view my relationship with God as a straight line of spiritual progress. My goal in spending time in the secret place with fellow believers at church and at work was to try and make the movement across this line of spiritual growth as quickly and painlessly as possible. I would get frustrated any time I got hung up on some issue or sin and couldn’t experience freedom quickly enough. My time spent with Jesus was more about how he could change me than how deeply he already loves me.

We unfortunately live in a day and age where speed and progress is everything. We lose our patience as soon as a waiter takes too long to get us our check, a light takes an extra thirty seconds than we want it to, a driver holds us back five minutes from our destination, or a conversation interrupts the jam-packed schedule of our day. And painfully, we have allowed our culture to shape our perspective of God’s heart for us rather than allowing his word and Spirit to reveal how incredibly patient he is.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says, Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Every one of these aspects of love finds its perfect fulfillment in the heart of our Father. Our God is patient and kind. He bears our imperfections with love and grace, believes wholeheartedly in us, is filled with hope over who we are, and joyfully endures our process of sanctification.

You see, our heavenly Father cares deeply about you presently. He isn’t waiting until you get a little holier to pour out the full depths of his love and joy over you. He isn’t holding back the satisfaction he feels in simply living in relationship with you until you finally get over a certain sin. He loves and longs for unveiled communion with you right now.

If we wait until we have it all together to settle into the pace of this life, find peace, and fully enjoy God, we will never experience the wealth of abundant life available to us this side of heaven. Matthew 6:34 says, Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Have patience for yourself and others the way your heavenly Father does. Take time to receive his perfect perspective for today. Give your relationship with him all the energy you have and waste nothing on the frivolous cares of tomorrow.

Take time in guided prayer to allow your Father to overwhelm you with the love he feels for you right now, as you are. Experience today the peace and joy that can only be found when you surrender the entirety of your life, spiritual development, and future plans to your faithful Shepherd and simply follow him to green pastures and still waters. He promises there will be more green pastures tomorrow. He promises to guide you faithfully every day to the fullness of life he died to give you. Your only job as his sheep is to trust him, let him love and care for you, and follow his perfect leadership. May you drink deeply of the living waters of God’s love today as you rest in the presence of your loving Shepherd.

Prayer

1. Meditate on God’s patience and love for you in the present. Allow Scripture to guide you to a desire to encounter God fully and openly just as you are.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:31-34

2. What burden are you carrying that is grounded in the future instead of the present? What are you striving toward that is not found in the green pastures Jesus desires to lead you to today?

You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. James 5:8

3. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into a lifestyle of living presently. Ask him what it looks like to cast off fear over tomorrow and experience the abundant life meant for you in the present. Take time to rest in the presence of God and discover his patience over you.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Psalm 37:7

And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.James 1:4

Go…

Your heavenly Father is most definitely molding and shaping you to look more like Jesus through a process of spiritual development. He has perfect plans for your sanctification that you might have a greater sense of his love at the end of every day. But that process is defined by daily living in the present and engaging with him fully in each moment. Leave the planning and leadership up to him, and simply follow him to green pastures and still waters every day. Seek relationship with him and allow daily, consistent encounters with him to mold and fashion you into a greater reflection of your Good Shepherd. May you find peace, joy, and patience by living in the present today.


Extended Reading: James 1

July 14, 2018

The Purpose of Patience

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

Patience is a Big Part of Your Journey

Endurance and Patience

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

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

Necessary for Salvation

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

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

3 Men Who Demonstrated Patience

Abraham

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

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

Joseph

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

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

David

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

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

Purpose of Patience

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

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

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

 

May 12, 2017

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

We’ve linked to The Christian Examiner at Thinking Out Loud before, but never here at C201. We noted this devotional article and thought we would share it here. Better yet, read this at source — click the title below — and then navigate to their news pages for a Christian perspective on current events. Bookmark the site for frequent reference.

Wait Is a Four-Letter Word

by Elizabeth Laing Thompson

Wait is a four-letter word. Coincidence? I think not.

We’re all waiting on something from God: true love or a baby, a job or a cure. And the period between answers can feel like a place where dreams—and faith—go to die.

I have often thought to myself, The worst part of waiting is the uncertainty. I wish God would just give me a yes or no so I can move on with life.

Have you ever thought something like this:
  • If I knew I wasn’t going to find true love, maybe I could get busy building a fulfilling life as a single person.
  • If I knew I wasn’t going to have the career breakthrough I’ve longed for, maybe I could devote my time and energy to other things.

We tell ourselves the problem is the not knowing. Dealing with uncertainty. We tell ourselves we wouldn’t mind waiting so much if God just told us, “You’re going to get what you want in the end, but buckle up for a long ride—it’s going to take awhile.”

But who am I kidding? When I’m waiting, I want more than just a yes or no from God. It’s not enough to know if, I want to know when. I want a timeline. A fat red circle on the calendar.

I’m going to wait two years and nine months before I get pregnant, You say? Okay. I don’t love that timeline, but I can work with it. I’ll do the Pinterest thing and make a cute countdown calendar, and I’ll find a way to be happy the whole time I’m waiting.

But life doesn’t work that way, God doesn’t work that way. It is in the not knowing that God works on our heart, our faith, our character. It is in the not knowing that 2 Peter 1 and James 1 collide:

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:5–8

Christians are meant to grow—to become godlier, more loving, more self-controlled, better at persevering—so we don’t stagnate spiritually. Spiritual growth doesn’t happen automatically, accidentally, or overnight. Spiritual growth is a lifetime process we never outgrow. It takes conscious effort—every effort, in fact. The perfectionist in me finds this both overwhelming and comforting—overwhelming because I want to be done growing (meaning perfect) yesterday; comforting because I realize I’m not supposed to be done growing yet. Character is built slowly: step-by-step, choice by choice, even mistake by mistake, one strength building on another over time. Smack in the middle of this character-building process we find the trait we desperately need when we are waiting: perseverance. Now let’s pair this passage with what James says about perseverance:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:2–4

Did you catch that last phrase—”let perseverance finish its work”—as in it’s up to us to allow that work to happen so we can grow? As in trials produce perseverance, and perseverance can lead to spiritual maturity, but we have to let it happen, not fight the process? If we let Him, God can use our waiting journeys to shape us, to make us into the people He created us to be.

Knowing our weakness, knowing our need, God offers us many stories of godly people who have wrestled with waiting with varying success. People like Sarah, who received a definitive promise from God but then crumbled in the face of bleak fact: seventy-five-year-old women just don’t have babies. The good news for those of us (all of us) who wait imperfectly? Many of our fellow waiters in the Bible got second chances. (Remember Sarah’s miracle baby, Isaac?) And third and fourth and fifth chances, and on and on goes the grace of God.

Waiting seasons aren’t fun, but they are opportunities. Through our waiting seasons—yes, through the not knowing—we can build character one step at a time. Through our waiting seasons, perseverance can gradually “finish” its never-ending work in us. As waiting does its thing, and God does His, we get the chance to become our best selves, the people God designed us to be. So what are we waiting for? Let’s get started.

October 7, 2015

The Wisdom of Margin

Today’s devotional thoughts by Alicia Bruxvoort are actually the second half of a longer piece which appeared at the devotional page of Proverbs 31 Ministries. This was a new website for us, and some of you might want to spend some time there, in which case click the title below to read the full post and then look around.

Those of you who are presently parenting children or have children in your care will especially appreciate this and may wish to read the longer version, and those of you who are past the parenting phase or never had kids will no doubt still understand the analogy.

 clock spiral
“Teach us to number our days so that we may truly live and achieve wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
(The Voice)

…In an attempt to give my kids opportunities to learn and grow, I’d packed our days with good things — art classes and swimming lessons, church programs and playgroups. But lately, even those good things had lost their glimmer. Our schedule was full, but my heart ached with emptiness.

When we arrived at the aquatic center, I settled on the edge of the pool to watch. The instructor stood in the water and beckoned Lizzy to swim to his side.

My daughter took a deep breath, dunked her head and kicked with all her might. At first she moved toward her teacher with impressive speed, but then she began to flail. Her torso sank and she yelped in fear.

The teacher lifted my trembling girl out of the water and held her steady. “Slow down,” he chided as Lizzy gulped for air. “You were moving so fast you forgot to breathe!”

The image of a fuzzy orange caterpillar flashed through my mind, and my stomach lurched with conviction. Though a haze of unsolicited tears blurred my vision, suddenly I could see clearly.

In the midst of all our hurry, I’d forgotten to leave time for our souls to breathe. We had no time for lingering on sidewalks or pausing to help a friend in need. We had no time for delighting in God’s Word or savoring a sunset. And in the words of a frenzied mom, we had no time for miracles!

Today’s key verse reminds us that life is a gift to use wisely. We’ve been created for more than just counting our days. We’ve been created to make our days count.

To merely tally time doesn’t require much forethought, but to truly live requires Spirit-inspired wisdom. Maybe that’s why the psalmist approaches God with a humble heart and implores, “Teach us to number our days …”

While the Bible doesn’t contain a template for perfect time management, this simple prayer reminds us that God alone knows the best rhythm for our lives. He knows how to direct our time without draining our souls. He knows how to establish our pace without hurting our hearts.

If we want to truly live, we must seek His vision as we set our schedules.

As we learn to number our days, we’ll have a margin for miracles … because you never know when you might stumble upon a fuzzy orange caterpillar just waiting to turn into a butterfly!

Dear Lord, teach me how to use my time so I can truly live! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Isaiah 52:12, “Go in confidence and grace — no rushing, no frantic escape. There’s no need to be anxious — the Eternal One goes before and behind you. The God of Israel paves the way with assurance and strength. He watches your back.” (The Voice)

Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all these things will be given to you too.” (The Voice)

RELATED RESOURCES:
If your schedule leaves no room for lingering over caterpillars, you might enjoy Taming the To-Do List: How to Choose Your Best Work Every Day. In it, author Glynnis Whitwer helps you manage an overloaded schedule, so you have time for what matters most.

Visit Alicia Bruxvoort’s blog for more encouragement.

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Identify someone whose heart is hurting from hurry. Do something this week to lighten her load.

Have an honest conversation with the Lord about your schedule. Ask Him to help you align your agenda with His heart.

March 30, 2013

Stuck In Saturday

 

This is based on a section of the book Plan B by Pete Wilson and appeared on his blog a couple of years ago and also at Relevant Magazine.  You can click here to read it at source.

The other day I stood in line at my local coffee house. I was in a curious mood and just watched the four or five people in front of me as we stood in this unusually slow line.  Their body language and facial expressions said it all. There were hands on the hips expressing disgust at the current inconvenience, some were rolling their eyes as they glanced up momentarily from texting on their cell phone here was the predictable looking at the watch and then looking at the line and then looking back at the watch.

Most of us do not like waiting for anything.  We live in a day of fast everything and waiting for anything seems like a major inconvenience.  I must confess I don’t like waiting either.  I don’t like standing in line for my favorite cup of coffee, flipping though magazines in the waiting room of the doctor’s office and I sure don’t like waiting in traffic.  And if I can just be honest with you, I don’t like waiting on God either.

Lewis Smedes described waiting like this: “Waiting is our destiny. As creatures who cannot by themselves bring about what they hope for, we wait in the darkness for a flame we cannot light.  We wait in fear for a happy ending that we cannot write. We wait for a ‘not yet’ that feels like a ‘not ever.’”

This is what we often see in the anatomy of hope. There is an event that takes place that sucks the life out of you.  Something goes horribly wrong:

A dream dies.
A relationship ends.
A job dissipates.
A desire is crushed.

You’re left there standing, waiting, paralyzed by hopelessness.    You start to wonder…

Did God forget his promises?
Does God know?
Does God care?

Luke 23:44-49

44 It was about noon, and the whole land became dark until three o’clock in the afternoon, 45 because the sun did not shine. The curtain in the Temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, I give you my life.” After Jesus said this, he died.

47 When the army officer there saw what happened, he praised God, saying, “Surely this was a good man!”

48 When all the people who had gathered there to watch saw what happened, they returned home, beating their chests because they were so sad. 49 But those who were close friends of Jesus, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance and watched.

Notice how Jesus’ closest followers react.  The gospel account says they “stood at a distance and watched.”

Have you ever been so hopeless you couldn’t do a thing?  You couldn’t get mad or fight or even cry?  Have you ever felt so hopeless you didn’t have the energy or passion to even get ticked off?

I believe this is the emotional state of Jesus’ followers.  Nothing seems to be happening.  They feel hopeless, as if they’re completely alone.

Now, we know the end of this story.  We know that God was in fact doing his best work yet.  But there would be a waiting period.

It was Friday, remember, when Jesus was crucified.  But the paralyzing hopelessness the disciples experienced continued to intensify as they moved into Saturday.

I think it’s interesting that we don’t talk a lot about Saturday in the church.  We spend a lot of time talking about Good Friday, which of course we should.  This is the day redemption happened through the shedding of Christ’s blood.  It’s a very important day.

Nobody would argue that Easter Sunday is a day of celebration.  We celebrate that Jesus conquered death so that we can have life.  It doesn’t get any better than Easter Sunday.

But we don’t hear a lot about Saturday do we?   Saturday seems like a day when nothing is happening.  In reality, it’s a day of a whole lot questioning, doubting, wondering, and definitely waiting— a day of helplessness and hopelessness.  It’s a day when we begin to wonder if God is asleep at the wheel or simply powerless to do anything our about our current problems.

While we don’t spend a lot of time talking about Saturday, I think so much of our life here on this earth is lived out feeling somewhat trapped in “Saturday.”  I’m trying to get to a place in my life where I can embrace “Saturday.”  I’m trying to get to a place where I can view it as a type of preparation for what I believe God might be doing in my life.

You may currently be in the midst of a horrible, out-of-control situation.  You feel as if God is not there, that there’s nothing that can be done.

But here is the message of the gospel for you while you’re stuck in your helpless, hopeless Saturday life: God does his best work in hopeless situations.

We worship a God who specializes in resurrections.  He specializes in hopeless situations.  After all, at Easter, we celebrate the fact that he conquered death— the ultimate hopeless situation— so you could have life.

His followers were dejected and dismal and hopeless— and then Jesus rose from the dead.  God did the impossible and in a matter of hours the disciples journeyed from hopeless to hope-filled; from powerless to powerful.  They saw him risen and everything changed.  The story of our salvation was born out of extraordinary uncertainty.  But that’s the way hope works.

And no, that doesn’t take away your cancer.
That doesn’t erase the bankruptcy you’re in the midst of.
That doesn’t heal your broken relationship.
That doesn’t replace your shattered dream.

But it can remind you that while life is uncertain, God is not. While our power is limited, God is limitless.  While our hope is fragile, God himself is hope.

Your world may feel chaotic, especially when you’re stuck in a Saturday struggling hopelessly and waiting desperately.

But no doubt about it, God is still in control. And one way or another, Sunday will dawn.

July 21, 2012

Don’t Hair-Trigger Respond to Your Critics

God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.  Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.  ~ Matt 5: 11, 12 (NLT)

James MacDonald wrote the following for pastor and church leaders, but it really applies to anyone who dares to step out in a visible role in public ministry, which includes sharing a verbal witness with your co-worker or next-door neighbor.  In typical James MacD. fashion, he titled this: You — Shut Your Mouth!  Click the link to read on the Vertical Church blog.

“A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” (Proverbs 29:11)

A complex issue for ministry leaders is how to process the incredible amount of feedback that comes from so many sources, both in and outside the church. It falls into some basic levels, regardless of the source:

  • General input (random and one time)
  • Persistent input (continuous on many topics, not always negative)
  • Irreconcilable disagreement without sin (Paul and Barnabas)
  • Constructive criticism (always negative, but goal is helping)
  • Destructive criticism (always negative, with goal to wound)
  • Harsh unjust criticism (intended to tear down)
  • Personal attack and character assassination (intended to destroy)

The further what you’re facing is down that list, the more this article is intended to guide you. Part of the puzzle in processing feedback requires evaluation of the person who brings it (let’s save that for another post). A.W. Tozer and many other men of God have had, throughout their ministries, a policy of ‘no attack, no defense’ when the opposition involved unjust or untrue statements from those outside of their own churches. Instead they chose silence, and I believe we should do the same.

1: When Answering Would Cause You To Sin
Every question does not need an answer. For those outside the information flow, the interrogative can be more appealing than the prerogative of love, as the former expands the ego while the latter deconstructs it. Knowing the whole story is a burden that leaders must bear in plurality, so the company or the congregation or the country does not have to carry the weight of full disclosure. In a culture where journalists dictate the information flow, we start to think getting the full scoop is the ultimate good. But seeing firsthand the failings of others without becoming disillusioned is what leaders are called to carry for the sake of all. To keep serving and loving and giving while knowing every detail of every disappointment with yourself and others is a deterrent to sanctification, not an accelerant. Parents, pastors, and all in authority learn that those they lead are better at asking questions than they are at living with the answers they often demand. If the questions are misplaced, badly motivated or beyond the petitioner’s need to know, the wisest thing to do is remain silent. If the answers requested require betrayal or gossip or casting pearls or dignifying someone’s disdain, it’s better to bite your tongue.

“[Herod] plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer.” (Luke 23:9)

2: When Refusal Turns to Reviling
When the answers don’t come in the right amount at the right time to those who demand explanation, they will sometimes become caustic. Your child will attack your withholding of explanation, your employee will question your loyalty, your friend at church will question your fidelity. Can you continue to keep your mouth shut when your heart wants so badly to set the record straight? Can you wait on God for vindication when you have the information that would silence the scoffers in a second? Can you remain quiet when the incensed strike you in anger for your silence? Can you bear the reproach rather than return fire to injure those whose words are wounding you? Jesus did.

“And while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats…” (1 Peter 2:23)

3: When the Weight Seems Too Heavy
As you wait for God’s vindication you may begin to fear that you will be crushed by this burden. Is that so bad? Maybe crushing is just what the Lord has in mind for the pride that insulates our souls from greater grace. God’s sovereignty is so awesome and all-encompassing that He can capture what others meant for evil and use it for your good (Genesis 50:20). God can utilize the misplaced zeal of the ignorant and the well-intentioned crusade of the uninformed as the crushing that increases your Christlikeness. Often what we think is the worst season to endure will become the best season of our lives, if we handle it God’s way.

“Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him…” (Isaiah 53:10)

4: But Jesus Was Silent and Innocent
The obvious difference is that Jesus was silent while 100% without guilt, and we never are. Jesus could give it over to the Father, knowing that His complete innocence would eventually come to light. However, only by self-deception can we view ourselves as innocent. It’s so tempting to run to the part someone else is getting wrong, or camp on the corner of a third party’s misperception—but is all the opposition without merit? Isn’t it better to find the truth that exists in almost all criticism and embrace your own responsibility? Don’t make the mistake of hiding behind the parts of the problem that flow from the faults of others. Get a mirror and focus, with the help of those you trust, upon the portion of the reviling that is legitimate. Covenant with God and those around you that collective regrets will turn out for better service to God and others in the future. A continued focus on learning what you can from your own mistakes will help suppress your desire to retaliate and keep you focused on the one person you can change, yourself.

“Do not be wise in your own eyes.” Proverbs 3:7

5: But My Silence is Making Matters Worse
Can you sit quietly even when you see people you care about get picked off in the crossfire? Shouldn’t you stand up for the innocent who get drawn into the campaign to criticize by telling the ‘whole story’? Don’t allow yourself the rationalization that you are breaking your silence so the sheep don’t get scattered. Yes, any leader should be grieved deeply to see a formerly supportive participant become disgruntled or disillusioned. As hard as it may be, though, we must look to a purpose beyond helping those who know better than to listen to self-appointed arbiters of orthodoxy, who do little more than guess and gossip. Your choice to be silent when reviled is not about the 10 that are caustic or the 100 that are curious—it’s about the 1000 that are calling out for a space and time example of how to handle injustice. Scan the horizon of our world and see how seldom those that are falsely accused hold their tongues. Hear the hurting pleas of the men in loveless marriages or the women who keep serving in humility when affection and appreciation are not forthcoming. See the overlooked, underappreciated and often maligned all around us who truly want to handle injustice as God has commanded. Those who think silence means there isn’t a good answer are naïve. Maybe something much bigger is at stake. Maybe it’s not about you or your detractors at all—maybe it is about those who are watching.

“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to what is honorable in the sight of all.” (Romans 12:17)

6: Give it Some Time
The most important partner you have in a season of injustice is time. The season will end, the false criticism will be eclipsed by your growth in grace, the loyalty of those with all the facts and the love of those that know you best. The problem with most of us is that we want the issue settled, handled, inventoried with all blame assigned and everything back in the place it belongs for our own peace of mind. Yet Scripture exhorts, “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God” (1 Corinthians 4:5). And while you await your appointment before God’s throne, be sure you are preparing for shock at the things you were wrong about, with a vigor at least equal to your anticipation of vindication. Sit back, listen to those closest, keep silent, and wait for the Lord.

“Avoid foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.” (2 Timothy 2:23)

7: Can I Ever Say Anything?
I have written a post about when to answer a fool and when not to, but the key is to answer only once and then remain silent. Silence may enrage the foolish, but it will model something important for those you are called to lead. If a fuller defense becomes essential, as in Paul’s ministry at Corinth, let others do as much of that talking as possible—you are not Paul, none of us are apostles. Beyond that, your silence helps you turn down the volume on fixing others and focus in on what God is trying to teach you. When I have gotten this wrong I have deeply regretted it, and purposed afresh to keep my focus on what God is teaching me. I am in the midst of a month largely without email or twitter or much of the internet at all. I am following no one and keeping up with nothing, except my relationship with Jesus, my family, and the wonderful leaders of our church. It has been incredibly refreshing to my soul, and the silence has given me a much clearer picture of what God is growing in me.

“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:25-26)

~James MacDonald

scriptures: ESV

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