Christianity 201

September 16, 2022

Taking the Bypass Around the Valley of the Shadow

Lately when I’m on YouTube or watching television, I’ve been more aware of references to the Interstate Highway system in the United States. Many of these pass directly through the downtown sections of major cities, and since many drivers will prefer to avoid the congestion, there are also ‘bypass’ routes, sometimes called ‘spurs.’ So with I-75 there might be a I-275, or I-475 offered to you as you approach a metropolitan area. Basically, these help you avoid the pain.

Which brings us to today’s devotional…

NLT II Tim 3: 12 Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

It was one of those big outdoor festivals in the late ’70s. The speaker was an up-and-coming youth evangelist, and for the purpose of making a point that day he was deliberately misquoting scripture:

“Yes, and some who endeavor to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” 

Some?

No, it doesn’t say that. And people started yelling up what it does say from the crowd: “All, all, it says ‘all.’”

We got the message. Or did we?

Years later, I had to be somewhere, but I had a few minutes in the car, and I immediately fell into a familiar pattern, “Lord, I pray for the people suffering under religious oppression right now that you would deliver — “

And then I stopped.

Deliver them? That’s the typical North American or Western European response. Get me the heck out of here.

But when you talk to people who have dealt with religious persecution that can mean torture, imprisonment or death, they never ask that we pray for deliverance, but that God would give them the grace to endure it and the presence of His Holy Spirit in the middle of it.

Psalm 23 talks about going through tough circumstances:

MSG Ps. 23: 4a Even when the way goes through
Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
when you walk at my side.

Our interpretation is often

“Even though I walk around the valley of the shadow of death…” 

To which the crowd should yell out, “Through, through, it says ‘go through.’

How you feel about such things will affect how you pray. I posted some of these thoughts nearly a decade ago, and at the time the title was, “Pray For Them, Yes; But Pray What Specifically?”

We want to pray for the persecuted. We want to pray for the suffering. But do we have a theology of persecution? Have we ever examined ourselves to see what is our personal theology of suffering?

For the record, if I am dealing with physical, mental or emotional suffering, probably every part of me will cry out for you to please pray that I will see relief from it. But should you pray that for me if God is teaching me something through it? Or should you pray that I experience God’s presence in the middle of it and learn the lesson he is teaching me?

That would be a difficult question. Especially if I’m asking you to pray for healing and you say, “Lord, I pray that our brother will learn the lessons you’re teaching him through this illness.” Huh? That isn’t what I asked you.

With persecution it’s more difficult. We want to see the end of political and social regimes that block justice and oppress people. We want them to see relief from it. We want it to end.

On the flip side, we also want to avoid questioning God’s presence in the middle of suffering and persecution; the line of reasoning that asks, ‘Where was God when __________ was happening?’

While you’re pondering that, let’s throw one more spice into the soup.

What about your theology of end times or what’s called eschatology? If you believe in a rapture doctrine, is it consistent with scripture to believe that the church will be removed from the suffering association with the period called ‘the tribulation,’ or is it more consistent to believe that the church will be faced with enduring it?

I’m not saying one way or another right now, I’m just saying that if we begin to understand a theology of suffering and a theology of persecution then we may want to think about our theology of tribulation.


We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies.
– 2 Cor. 4: 8-11 NLT

 

September 13, 2022

Trumpeting vs. Illuminating

“You must understand that God has not sent his Son into the world to pass sentence upon it, but to save it—through him. Any man who believes in him is not judged at all. It is the one who will not believe who stands already condemned, because he will not believe in the character of God’s only Son. This is the judgment—that light has entered the world and men have preferred darkness to light because their deeds are evil. Anybody who does wrong hates the light and keeps away from it, for fear his deeds may be exposed. But anybody who is living by the truth will come to the light to make it plain that all he has done has been done through God.”  John 3: 17-21; J. B. Phillips translation.

The Bible makes a strong case that we’re not to “trumpet” our good works in order to get credit, or draw attention to ourselves. Nor, we are instructed, should we make a spectacle out of prayer, or giving. We are to approach God, and do acts of service with a humble spirit. We’re to take the back seat, though we might be asked to come forward.

But this passage, particularly vs. 21 “whoever lives by the truth comes into the light,” following on the heels of the popular John 3:16 text, tells us that we won’t stay hidden in the darkness such as those who do wrong (evil), but rather we will come into the light, because we are naturally drawn to be people of the light.

  • NASB: But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.
  • NCV: But those who follow the true way come to the light, and it shows that the things they do were done through God
  • The Message: But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.

One verse that comes to my mind in this context is in Acts 26 where Paul is speaking before Agrippa and Festus:

26 For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.

I deliberate chose the KJV for this one because I love the phrasing, “this thing was not done in a corner.”  But most of the translations — even the modern ones — keep this phrasing, with The Message rendering, “You must realize that this wasn’t done behind the scenes.” Just as ‘cream rises to the surface,’ so will the works of God be evident, even in an unbelieving world.

Here’s how the NLT and Amplified Bible render Matthew 5:15-16

NLT 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.

AMP 16 Let your light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven.

I can’t help but also think of the tension in 1 Peter 2:12 here as well. The world may on the one hand criticize and condemn us, but then on the other hand, they recognize the good that the presence of Spirit-filled Christians are doing in the world.

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (NLT)

Therefore:

  • We dwell in the light, not darkness
  • We reflect (or you could say, carry) The Light of God
  • We shine like light and are the light of the world

September 7, 2022

Pay Attention to Small Sins

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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In 2011 and in 2012 we sourced material here from a book that I have in my library, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Enuma Okoro. Recently, a writer I was checking out online referred to commonprayer.net and since it had been awhile, I thought I would share the reading scheduled for today with people who may have joined us in the past 10 years. There is no fixed link for this set of prayers, so the link in the title below also takes you to the site. As you read/pray, consider the interconnectedness of the words which follow.

Daily Prayers for September 7

O Lord, let my soul rise up to meet you

as the day rises to meet the sun.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Come, let us sing to the Lord : let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

Song “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah”

Humble us in your presence, Lord : that we may delight in abundance of peace.

Psalm 37:11-14 (NRSVUE)

11 But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.

12 The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them,
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he sees that their day is coming.

14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to kill those who walk uprightly;

In a little while the wicked shall be no more : you shall search out their place, but they will not be there.

But the lowly shall possess the land : they will delight in abundance of peace.

The wicked plot against the righteous : and gnash at them with their teeth.

The Lord laughs at the wicked : because he sees that their day will come.

Humble us in your presence, Lord : that we may delight in abundance of peace.

CEB.Esther.7.1. When the king and Haman came in for the banquet with Queen Esther, the king said to her, “This is the second day we’ve met for wine. What is your wish, Queen Esther? I’ll give it to you. And what do you want? I’ll do anything—even give you half the kingdom.”

Queen Esther answered, “If I please the king, and if the king wishes, give me my life—that’s my wish—and the lives of my people too. That’s my desire. We have been sold—I and my people—to be wiped out, killed, and destroyed. If we simply had been sold as male and female slaves, I would have said nothing. But no enemy can compensate the king for this kind of damage.”

King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, “Who is this person, and where is he? Who would dare do such a thing?”

Esther replied, “A man who hates, an enemy—this wicked Haman!” Haman was overcome with terror in the presence of the king and queen. Furious, the king got up and left the banquet for the palace garden. But Haman stood up to beg Queen Esther for his life. He saw clearly that the king’s mood meant a bad end for him.

The king returned from the palace garden to the banquet room just as Haman was kneeling on the couch where Esther was reclining. “Will you even molest the queen while I am in the house?” the king said. The words had barely left the king’s mouth before covering Haman’s face with dread.[a]

Harbona, one of the eunuchs serving the king, said, “Sir, look! There’s the stake that Haman made for Mordecai, the man who spoke up and did something good for the king. It’s standing at Haman’s house—seventy-five feet high.”

“Impale him on it!” the king ordered. 10 So they impaled Haman on the very pole that he had set up for Mordecai, and the king’s anger went away.


NIV.Matthew5.38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Humble us in your presence, Lord : that we may delight in abundance of peace.

Mechthild of Magdeburg, a thirteenth-century mystic, wrote, “What hinders spiritual – people most of all from complete perfection is that they pay so little attention to small sins. I tell you in truth: when I hold back a smile which would harm no one, or have a sourness in my heart which I tell to no one, or feel some impatience with my own pain, then my soul becomes so dark and my heart so cold that I must weep greatly and lament pitiably and yearn greatly and humbly confess all my lack of virtue.”

Prayers for Others

Our Father

Thank you, Lord, that no sin is too small to bring the conviction of heart that may lead us to repentance and more faithful living. Convict us of our smallest sins so we might learn to delight in your ways. Amen.

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you : wherever he may send you;

may he guide you through the wilderness : protect you through the storm;

may he bring you home rejoicing : at the wonders he has shown you;

may he bring you home rejoicing : once again into our doors.

 

August 30, 2022

Jesus’ Earthly Ministry Worked in Concert with The Father

NIV-John 5:19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

Over a decade ago, I was reading this verse in several different translations and I started thinking of the things that Jesus did do in his earthly ministry here, and what that means in the context of “what he sees his Father doing.”

I’ve always thought of Jesus acting on his own while here on earth in terms of the times he seems to act swiftly and quickly and decisively. And I don’t want to take away from the idea that Jesus possessed all the omniscience and omnipotence of God the Father. But in the trinitarian mystery of the Godhead, there might be a greater complexity at work. It would mean that:

  • When Jesus says to the paralytic, “Rise, take up your bed and walk;” he sees his Father touching and healing the man and helping him to his feet;
  • When Jesus says to the storm, “Peace! Be still!” he sees God the Father already working to calm the wind, stop the rain, and push the clouds away;
  • When Jesus blesses the loaves and the fish, he sees God in heaven making a creative miracle happen so that the the fraction and division of the food causes it to multiply.

The cooperative nature of Christ’s earthly ministry with what God the Father is doing is easy to miss; especially when the gospel narratives don’t mention that aspect of each story.

Gary W. Burge in the NIV Application Commentary for the Gospel of John writes this on page 177 concerning this verse:

The central motif is the relation of a father and son as it would be viewed in this culture through the trade or skill the son was learning.  We can think of Jesus growing up with Joseph in the carpentry shop, obediently learning skills and later imitating them… His activity is never independent or self-initiated but always dependent, deriving its purpose from the father’s will.

In this model we have to remember there is no reciprocal relationship. The father initiates, sends, commands, commissions, grants; the Son responds, obeys, performs his father’s will, receives authority. Moreover, the Son does not simply draw inspiration from the Father, but imitates Him tirelessly.

Matthew Henry writes:

It was the copy of that great original; it was Christ’s faithfulness, as it was Moses’s, that he did all according to the pattern shown him in the mount. This is expressed in the present tense, what he sees the Father do, for the same reason that, when he was here upon earth, it was said, He is in heaven (John 3:13), and is in the bosom of the Father (John 1:18); as he was even then by his divine nature present in heaven, so the things done in heaven were present to his knowledge. What the Father did in his counsels, the Son had ever in his view, and still he had his eye upon it, as David in spirit spoke of him, I have set the Lord always before me

J. B. Phillips translates this verse and the one which follows:

Jesus said to them, “I assure you that the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. What the Son does is always modelled on what the Father does, for the Father loves the Son and shows him everything that he does himself, Yes, and he will show him even greater things than these to fill you with wonder.

What is the application of this passage?

Certainly when we come to God, it’s possible for us to visualize two things:

  • What God is already doing
  • What God is about to do

Not every prayer request is answered, and certainly many are not answered right away, but it can stretch our faith to consider that Jesus did not initiate so much as he harmonized with God the Father already at work. Through the imagination we can see the Father working.

August 24, 2022

Self-Control: The Elusive Character Trait

Today we have another new writer to introduce.  Drew Koch was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, and created the blog-site Truth & Discernment to share enlightenment and encouragement while engaging with people about God’s Word. Remember, clicking article titles like the one below not only lets you read things here where we located them, but you bless the authors with some internet traffic!

A Rare, But Essential Quality

How rare it is today to see self-control on display. It is a discipline that very few ever capture, and more and more it seems as though it’s not even a trait that people aspire to pursue.

However, for those of us who truly yearn to live a life of holiness, self-control is essential. In 1 Peter 1:14, the apostle tells us that we must live as God’s obedient children. We’re commanded not to “slip back into our old ways of living just to satisfy our own desires.” Peter then says, “You didn’t know any better then.”

But Peter then tells us in the next two verses what we must do now that we’re in Christ. “But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16)

To further drive home the importance of the characteristic of self-control, Paul gives us contrasting ways to live in the letter to the Galatians. One way leads to a life of righteousness and the other ends in spiritual darkness.

Several qualities (idolatry, jealousy, drunkenness, envy, lustful pleasures, etc.) are attributed to following the desires of our sinful nature. Other traits (love, joy, patience, kindness, and self-control) are called the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Paul then closes Chapter 5 of Galatians with these beautiful words, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” (Galatians 5:24-25)

What phenomenal counsel from Paul. Rather than permitting your sinful nature to take hold of you, allow the Holy Spirit to guide you toward a life of self-control.


Big decision need big prayers. Here’s a bonus devotional for you from Andrew. Click the title below to read this at Truth & Discernment.

What is God Moving You to Do?

My wife and I recently moved. Not just to a new neighborhood or even a new town, but an entirely different state. While my wife has moved more times than she’d care to count, I’m now over 400 miles removed from everything I’ve ever known.

Now, this wasn’t some haphazard, thoughtless decision. I’ve never been that adventurous. No, this was a calculated, well-thought out plan that both my wife and I put in place some time ago.

But one thing that we did prior to making this change was pray together. I’m not talking about a simple, one-time occasion. This was an intentional act that both she and I participated in on a nightly basis.

We both decided that such a big decision required God’s leading. Were it not for us leaning hard into our faith, I’m not sure I’d be sitting in a small-town coffee shop right now, reminiscing on what brought us here.

There are countless examples throughout Scripture of Jesus rewarding the faith of those He met or admonishing his disciples to have faith. One example that comes to mind is in Matthew’s gospel. After his disciples were unable to heal a demon-possessed boy, his father begged Jesus to cast out the evil spirit.

Jesus scolded the crowd for their unbelief and then counseled the apostles who privately asked Jesus why they were unable to cast out the demon saying, “…Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”  (Matthew 17:20-21 NIV)

How often we want to do everything on our own, am I right? We are so proud and we want so badly to take the credit. But what I’ve found is that when we are able to humble ourselves before the mighty hand of God, having faith that He knows what we need, we are then able to experience the fullness of His love.

I know I haven’t yet reached the point when I’ve given up all control to Him. No matter how much I may want to, that old nature continues to creep back in. But when I am prayerful and able to put my faith in Him, only then am I able to experience the true joy of everything God offers.

August 16, 2022

Elisabeth Elliot Quotations

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Be patient. Is God not fast enough? Are His answers too tough? A quick sympathy from a friend may suggest that you simply drop out, be good to yourself, get away from it all. Someone else will be sure to say, “You need counsel.” Are you sure? One hour at the foot of the Cross may obviate the necessity of professional counseling (no such thing existed until the twentieth century – what did folks do before then?). – Elisabeth Elliot

It’s been awhile since we presented something in our quotations series and with the news that a previously unpublished manuscript by the late Elisabeth Elliot had been discovered (publishing in September by Dayspring) it seemed to be a good prompting to hear some of what she had to say in her various writings. For those who don’t know, she was the wife of Jim Elliot who was one of five men martyred in South America by the Auca tribe, which is one of the most significant missionary stories in Evangelical Christianity.

Take your time to read these slowly. I’ve tried to group similar themes together. There’s not a particular scripture emphasis today, but we’ll be back to that format tomorrow.  Also, again be reminded each paragraph below is a distinct quotation which had its own context.


God is God. Because he is God, He is worthy of my trust and obedience. I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will that is unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what he is up to.

To be a follower of the Crucified means, sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross. And the cross always entails loss.

All our problems are theological ones, William Temple said. All of them have to do with our relationship to God and his to us, and this is precisely why it makes sense to come to God with them.

The principles of gain through loss, of joy through sorrow, of getting by giving, of fulfillment by laying down, of life out of death is what the Bible teaches, and the people who have believed it enough to live it out in simple, humble, day-by-day practice are people who have found the gain, the joy, the getting, the fulfillment, the life.

Faith need never ask, ‘But what good did this do me?’ Faith already knows that everything that happens fits into a pattern for good to those who love God. An inconvenience is always, whether we see it or not, a blessed inconvenience. We may rest in the promise that God is fitting together a good many more things than are any of our business. We need never see what good it did, or how a given trouble accomplishes anything. It is peace to leave it all with Him, asking only that He do with me anything He wants, anywhere, anytime, that God may be glorified.

The Word of God I think of as a straight edge, which shows up our own crookedness. We can’t really tell how crooked our thinking is until we line it up with the straight edge of Scripture.

The life of faith is lived one day at a time, and it has to be lived – not always looked forward to as though the “real” living were around the next corner. It is today for which we are responsible. God still owns tomorrow.

The disciplined Christian will be very careful what sort of counsel he seeks from others. Counsel that contradicts the written Word is ungodly counsel. Blessed is the man that walks not in that.

I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end, but by His making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able to honestly to pray what He taught His disciples to pray: Thy will be done.

“Is discipline the same as punishment?” a young woman asked me. She was troubled by the idea of God wanting to “get even.” I gave her 1 Corinthians 11:32 (NEB) “When…we do fall under the Lord’s judgment, He is disciplining us, to save us from being condemned with the rest of the world.” God’s “punishment” of His children is never retribution, but rather correction. We know that we are indeed His beloved sons, sharing in the discipline that all sons share – for a high purpose, namely that we may some day share in His holiness, “attain life.”

Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.

Faith does not eliminate questions. But faith knows where to take them.

In space, astronauts experience the misery of having no reference point, no force that draws them to the center. Where there is no “moral gravity” – that is, no force that draws us to the center – there is spiritual weightlessness. We float on feelings that will carry us where we were never meant to go; we bubble with emotional experiences that we often take for spiritual ones; and we are puffed up with pride. Instead of seriousness, there is foolishness. Instead of gravity, flippancy. Sentimentality takes the place of theology. Our reference point will never serve to keep our feet on solid rock. Our reference point, until we answer God’s call, is merely ourselves. We cannot possibly tell which end is up.

It is always possible to be thankful for what is given rather than to complain about what is not given. One or the other becomes a habit of life.

God has promised to supply all our needs. What we don’t have now, we don’t need now.

Do you often feel like parched ground, unable to produce anything worthwhile? I do. When I am in need of refreshment, it isn’t easy to think of the needs of others. But I have found that if, instead of praying for my own comfort and satisfaction, I ask the Lord to enable me to give to others, an amazing thing often happens – I find my own needs wonderfully met. Refreshment comes in ways I would never have thought of, both for others, and then, incidentally, for myself.

For one who has made thanksgiving the habit of his life, the morning prayer will be, ‘Lord, what will you give me today to offer back to you?’

George MacDonald said, ‘If you knew what God knows about death you would clap your listless hands’, but instead I find old people in North America just buying this whole youth obsession. I think growing older is a wonderful privilege. I want to learn to glorify God in every stage of my life.

Heaven is not here, it’s there. If we were given all we wanted here, our hearts would settle for this world rather than the next. God is forever luring us up and away from this one, wooing us to Himself and His still invisible Kingdom, where we will certainly find what we so keenly long for.

 

 


Sources: Quotefancy, Viral Believer, A-Z Quotes (prayer), A-Z Quotes (uncategorized), Grace Quotes, Quote Ambition; see also Good Reads, and Inspiring Quotes. Image: Quotesgram.

August 11, 2022

Rationalizing The Case for a Miracle

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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In both Matthew 8 and Luke 7 there are parallel accounts about Jesus healing the servant of a centurion, that is to say a Roman centurion. Despite the frustration the followers of Jesus are experiencing as a result of the Roman occupation, in Luke’s account, they don’t hesitate to advocate on behalf of the petitioner.

And that’s where it gets weird.

They don’t feel the request is worthy of consideration because (a) there is an urgent need and (b) Jesus has the power to perform the miracle needed; but rather they make a case, a rationalization for why Jesus should do this.

NIV.Luke.7.3 The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”

Peterson translates that quotation as, He deserves this. He loves our people. He even built our meeting place.” Did the centurion clear the necessary permits to get the project through to completion? Or did he, in a more literal sense, underwrite the construction costs himself? If the latter is the case, was he from Rome himself or was he a Jew who had attached himself to the military — the way Matthew, a Jew, had attached himself to the Roman department of internal revenue – and then risen through the ranks?

(That last one is just something I threw in at the last minute. You’re free to borrow it!)

Either way, there is an argument being made here on the basis of merit. Most English translations of verse 4 have it that the centurion either deserves or is worthy of having his petition granted.

Strangely, Jesus doesn’t say, ‘That’s not the way it works.’

NLT.Luke.7.6 So Jesus went with them. But just before they arrived at the house, the officer sent some friends to say, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor. I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.”

Matthew’s account repeats the statement,

NIV.Matt.8.8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

Both accounts quote the centurion making the opposite claim to those who would try to argue on his behalf; make the case for granting the healing request. He says “I am not worthy…” “I don’t deserve…”

Interesting.

Jesus spoke to the wind and the waves, and he pressed mud into the eyes of the blind man, and he noticed the touch of a woman with internal hemorrhaging, but the centurion argues that Jesus can complete the healing act by remote control.

How complete the centurion’s theology was is not known to us, but we know that God simply spoke the worlds into existence, so to just “say the word” is all that is needed here.

And the servant is healed. And the gospel writers describe Jesus as showing genuine amazement.

NLT.Luke.7.9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, “I tell you, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!” 10 And when the officer’s friends returned to his house, they found the slave completely healed.

NIV.Matt.8.10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith…” 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

The servant is healed not because of any case argued by anyone on the centurion’s behalf but because of the centurion’s faith.

 

August 1, 2022

No Prayer Request Too Small | Valuing God

Where I live today is a holiday Monday, and so we’re offering two shorter devotions today. We’re returning to an author we introduced eleven months ago, Pastor John Jakes who writes at Calvary Baptist Church in Indianola, Iowa. Clicking the two headers which follow will take you to the source of both articles.

Both of these writings are two sides of the same coin. The first is about how God values us; that we can bring even the smallest request to him. The second is about how we value God, our passion and excitement at his presence.

God Loves Us More Than We Understand

I have a bad habit in my prayer life. It isn’t that I don’t bring my requests to God. It isn’t that I don’t believe that God can answer my prayers. My habit is that I routinely decide which needs are too small to bring to God.

1 Peter 5:6 — 7  Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

This encouragement from Peter always catches me. It doesn’t catch me because of the call to humility. Anyone who has heard the teachings of Jesus knows His opinion on pride. However, here in 1 Peter he connects it to how we pray in a profound way. In the midst of talking about prayer and exaltation, Peter urges us to cast all our anxiety upon God. He doesn’t tell us to bring God just the big stuff. He doesn’t say to take to God just the “spiritual” stuff. Peter tells us to bring all our anxiety to Him – every single thing.

I know the usual response. It usually goes something like this: “I pray for others. I pray for the needs of my church and community. I pray for my family. But, I don’t pray for myself much because my needs are little compared to others. God needs to take care of those bigger needs. I can manage these small things.” I don’t want to be too hard on us for trying to be humble in our prayers, however I think we have missed the point. We have missed that we aren’t actually expressing humility when we say such things. We are making the love and expansiveness of God smaller. We are missing that He loves us so much that He wants to know what is on our heart. We are losing sight of what it means for God to be omnipotent = He is so powerful that He can work in the smallest of our problems!

So, instead of shielding God from our little needs I propose we do something truly humble – bring Him every single one of them! Let’s acknowledge our complete dependency upon Him. Let’s embrace a love that wants to know every need of our heart. Let’s marvel in a God like Him. He is so great that He loves you and me. He loves us in our smallness. He loves us in our brokenness. He is always faithful. So, when you think of humility don’t try to make yourself smaller. Make Him bigger. Make Him your everything. Make Him your strength. Make Him your confidence. Make Him your answer. He is big enough for even the little things.

God’s Value to Us

There are a couple of ways to measure what we value. The first way to measure what we value is what we are willing to pay or sacrifice to get it. The other way is how does what we value stack up to other similar items. Consider those that love Apple devices. The average iPad is between 200-300 dollars. The similar Android device is half that price. The new iPhone 13 is just under 1000 dollars. The comparable Android device is a third of the price. Now, ask that Apple user if they are willing to pay that amount. The answer will be yes. Then ask them if they would take a free Android device. Can you guess the answer? It will probably be a snarky, “Yeah, I can use it as a brick to lift up the corner of my bed – it’s a little low.” That’s value. They love their device. They will pay the price and they won’t give it up.

Psalm 84:10 For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside.
I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

That’s God to us. The Psalmist declares that He would be willing to be a door keeper at God’s house than dwell in the tents of wickedness. That’s quite a cost – stand outside the house of God as a ceremonial guard rather than enjoy the party! Wow. What value! He also says that he would rather spend one day in God’s courts than a thousand outside. No exchanges. Nothing else is acceptable. When compared with all other opportunities, God is worth more. That is value.

God’s people are clear in their declaration: God is worth it. He is worth any sacrifice. He is worth giving our heart solely to. Because of that worth, giving and sacrificing for Him is joy. It is the joy of value. We get to be with Him. We get to walk with Him. We get to follow Him. He makes it joy. Do you know this joy? Do you know His value? How do you show it? He is worth it.

July 21, 2022

E. M. Bounds Quotations

“I think Christians fail so often to get answers to their prayers because they do not wait long enough on God. They just drop down and say a few words, and then jump up and forget it and expect God to answer them. Such praying always reminds me of the small boy ringing his neighbor’s door-bell, and then running away as fast as he can go.” – E.M. Bounds

Unlike other entries in our quotations series, this one had a different beginning. Stu Mack blogs at Stuart Writing and wrote a reflection titled What an Old Bloke Taught Me about Prayer. He describes going into a Christian bookstore and asking for recommendations. The clerk mentioned four different authors.

…I was drawn to Bounds because her face lit up when she talked about him. She claimed that Bounds knew more about prayer than any other person living or dead, besides Jesus himself. I left the store with “The Necessity of Prayer” by E M Bounds.

The next day I sat on my shoreline rock, the waves frothing and the sun shining on my back, and I opened the book. Reading that day, I thought I’d slipped from time into eternity: time flew past with the turn of every page, but I did not notice. As I read Bounds’ words I became convinced that he was a man who not only wrote a lot about prayer, but who also was a devoted man of prayer.

Bounds entered ministry when he was in his twenties. He was a lawyer before that and he had a keen mind for information. His passion for truth led him into a deep relationship with the Bible. He was convinced that scripture held all the answers we need, a conviction which shows in his writings about prayer.

Bounds based his writings upon years of Bible meditation and reflection and prayer. One of the reasons I liked Bounds from the first meeting (reading his book) was that he loved the Bible and wrote about the Bible. Jesus is at the heart of his writings! I learned from Bounds that if I wanted to know Jesus more, I had to come by the path of prayer, and that if I wanted to learn to pray more fruitfully, I needed to be walking closer to Jesus.

There was one point that Bounds made that transformed my own prayer life. Before Bounds I struggled with prayer (actually, at times I still do). I came to a chapter called “Prayer and Desire”, and in it he wrote, “If you have no, or little, desire to pray, then pray for the desire to pray.”

I really liked that and I began to do it. I saw my desire for praying grow fast. I previously felt I had to pray, but now I was finding that I WANTED to pray; I WANTED to get to know God in the way that Bounds seemed to know God…

Stu recommends reading the biography of Bounds on Wikipedia which he describes as “pretty accurate.” Bounds lived from 1835 to 1913.

Now on to our quotations…

On Prayer

“The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on their knees. He who fritters away the early morning, its opportunity and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking Him the rest of the day. If God is not first in our thoughts and efforts in the morning, He will be in the last place the remainder of the day.”

“That man cannot possibly be called a Christian, who does not pray.”

“God’s revelation does not need the light of human genius, the polish and strength of human culture, the brilliancy of human thought, the force of human brains to adorn or enforce it; but it does demand the simplicity, the docility, humility, and faith of a child’s heart.”

“Prayer is the helpless and needy child crying to the compassion of the Father’s heart and the bounty and power of a Father’s hand.”

“He who is too busy to pray will be too busy to live a holy life. Satan had rather we let the grass grow on the path to our prayer chamber than anything else.”

“Paul, Luther, Wesley —what would these chosen ones of God be without the distinguishing and controlling element of prayer? They were leaders for God because mighty in prayer. They were not leaders because of brilliancy in thought, because exhaustless in resources, because of their magnificent culture or native endowment, but leaders because by the power of prayer they could command the power of God.”

“Prayers outlive the lives of those who uttered them; outlive a generation, outlive an age, outlive a world.”

“Prayer honors God, acknowledges His being, exalts His power, adores His providence, secures His aid.”

“I would rather have prayer without words then words without prayer.”

“The prayers of God’s saints are the capital stock in heaven by which Christ carries on His great work upon earth.”

“There is neither encouragement nor room in Bible religion for feeble desires, listless efforts, lazy attitudes; all must be strenuous, urgent, ardent. Inflamed desires, impassioned, unwearied insistence delight heaven. God would have His children incorrigibly in earnest and persistently bold in their efforts. Heaven is too busy to listen to half-hearted prayers or to respond to pop-calls. Our whole being must be in our praying.”

“A consecrated life is both a prayer life and a thanksgiving life.”

On leadership:

“We are constantly on a stretch, if not on a strain, to devise new methods, new plans, new organizations to advance the Church and secure enlargement and efficiency for the gospel. This trend of the day has a tendency to lose sight of the man or sink the man in the plan or organization. God’s plan is to make much of the man, far more of him than of anything else. Men are God’s method. The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men.”

“We are in danger of substituting churchly work and a ceaseless round of showy activities for prayer and holy living. A holy life does not live in the [prayer] closet, but it cannot live without the closet.”

“What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use, men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men, men of prayer.”


Sources: AZ Quotes, Good Reads, Anchored in Christ, Prayer Coach, Grace Quotes, Viral Believer, E.M.Bounds Online

Image: E.M.Bounds Online

July 8, 2022

Praying on a Moment’s Notice

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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A year ago we introduced you to Dave Lowe who writes at The Lowedown where his articles are called  DAVEotionals! He is in ministry with Cru, formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ. Clicking the header (title) which follows will take you to where this one first appeared.

The Shortest (Non) Prayer in the Bible

Nehemiah 2

1Early the following spring, during the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was serving the king his wine. I had never appeared sad in his presence before this time. 2So the king asked me, “Why are you so sad? You aren’t sick, are you? You look like a man with deep troubles.”

Then I was badly frightened, 3but I replied, “Long live the king! Why shouldn’t I be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been burned down.”

4The king asked, “Well, how can I help you?”

With a prayer to the God of heaven, 5I replied, “If it please Your Majesty and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.”

6The king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked, “How long will you be gone? When will you return?” So the king agreed, and I set a date for my departure. (Nehemiah 2:1-6, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

The book of Nehemiah is a classic study on effective leadership.

Nehemiah is a Jew in exile who happens to be the cupbearer to the King. When Nehemiah gets word that the wall in the city of Jerusalem is in ruins he’s understandably distraught. The king notices Nehemiah’s sullen demeanor, which could have been disastrous for Nehemiah given his position, but fortunately, the king is compassionate and inquires about the nature of Nehemiah’s anguish.

Nehemiah shares about the news he received concerning Jerusalem and to Nehemiah’s surprise, the king asks, “well, how can I help you?”

What comes next in the text is what I find most interesting. It says, “With a prayer to the God of heaven, I replied…”

Nehemiah prayed to God before making his request to the king, a request which was certainly bold in nature.

It might be easy to overlook the significance of this verse. After all, it seems quite reasonable that Nehemiah would pray before making such a bold request of the king.

But think about it for just a moment. Did Nehemiah really pray? It’s not likely he had the time to pause, kneel, close his eyes and pray to the Lord, at least not as we tend to think about prayer.

This “prayer” was made in the middle of a back-and-forth conversation with the king. Nehemiah did not have the time to beseech the Lord in the traditional way we think of prayer. It would not have even been appropriate for Nehemiah to make a traditional prayer in the king’s presence while he awaited a response from Nehemiah to his question.

So if Nehemiah didn’t actually pray, how is it that the text can say Nehemiah prayed?

I think the key is the phrase “with a prayer to the God of heaven, I replied…”

Nehemiah didn’t stop to pray as we think about it. Instead, he prayed AS he replied to the king. In other words, at the same time he was engaging the king, he was inviting the God of heaven to give him wisdom, to give him favor in the eyes of the king and to grant the request he was about to make.

This may be a paradigm shift in how you think about prayer. Prayer is not JUST a focused time where we lift our requests up to God. Prayer is not JUST a dedicated time of solitude where we pause, reflect and lift up our praises and requests to God. Instead, prayer is an attitude of dependence and reliance on God that we can practice at all times. Prayer, essentially, is directing our thoughts towards God, whether it is audible or not, visible or invisible.

In Nehemiah’s case, he obviously didn’t stop, pause and lift up an audible prayer to God. Nehemiah’s prayer was in reality more of a heart attitude toward God in which he, in that moment, was acknowledging his dependence on God and exercising faith that God would speak through him and grant him favor in the king’s eyes.

And God honored Nehemiah’s prayer and granted his request before the king.

You may not be able to set aside hours each day for dedicated prayer. You may not be able to set aside even 30 minutes, though this discipline can have many benefits. But no matter how much time you may have to set aside for uninterrupted prayer, Nehemiah’s example demonstrates that we can pray at any moment and dedicated, focused time in prayer is not requisite in order to connect with the God of heaven!

Reflection

What has been your practice and discipline with prayer in the past?

How have you thought of prayer in the past? How have you defined and understood the nature and practice of prayer?

In what ways does Nehemiah’s example challenge your view and understanding of prayer?

In what ways can you implement Nehemiah’s example and make prayer more of an ongoing connection with God in which you are constantly directing your thoughts towards Him?


Bonus link: Here’s another recent study from Dave’s site, click to read The Mark of Immaturity.

July 1, 2022

The Important Caveat of Faith-Filled Prayer

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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In yesterday’s devotional, we were encouraged to entertain the idea of praying more boldly, praying specifically, and of exercising greater faith as we pray. We were told to be on the lookout for doubt, which can compromise our prayer life.

However, there are times when our audacious prayers seem to, as one described it, “bounce off the ceiling.” (That is as if to say, never reach the ears of God.) Are there some details we’re missing? Perhaps.

Bruce Cooper writes from Halifax, Canada where he lives right on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean; he served 35 years with the Canadian military; and these days on his blog, Reasoned Cases for Christ, focuses on the study of Christian apologetics. Clicking the title which follows will link you to where this first appeared, which is encouraged.

A Fig Tree

I was reading a post by Andy Brown this morning, where Jesus curses a fig tree, as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, which you can view here.

These are the Scripture verses that Andy quoted in Matthew 21:18-22 NASB which read as follows: ”

Now in the early morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry. And seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves alone; and He said to it, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” And at once the fig tree withered.

Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, “How did the fig tree wither all at once?”And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive it all.”

This is one of the quotes from Jesus that I acknowledge I do not always thoroughly understand, as it applies to practical application and anticipated results and I would imagine that I am not alone.

Taken at it’s face value, the teaching that Jesus gave us is relatively clear. We are to act on our expressed faith and believe (not doubt) that we have received what we have asked for, and by doing so, we will indeed receive it.

The thing is, Jesus is a lot smarter than I am, and that being a given, He obviously knew that these words of His could be and would be, misunderstood, yet He said them anyway. And not only did He say them, but He preceded them by stating “Truly I say to you” or as the Kings James words it, “Verily I say to you”. Those preceding words are always a red flag to His revealing of an important truth that Jesus wants us to grasp. So this “truth” that Jesus is explaining to us, is of strong importance. This “flag” on this vital truth, should instill in all of us, a need to comprehend what is being taught and how it applies.

And just to further expand on this teaching Jesus gives us, He includes the metaphor of attributing a mountain to be moved, which can easily represent a major difficulty that we might be encountering. Adding that particular metaphor could easily open up this teaching to additional instances of misunderstanding. Yet, once again, knowing that this was a possibility, Jesus went ahead and said it anyway. And considering that Jesus tells us that He never speaks on His own but only gives us the words that His Father gives Him to speak, this instance of teaching, according to other Scriptures, could and should be taken as coming directly from God the Father.

This would be one of those “name it and claim it” verses in Scripture that we so often run into. And if we take these verses of Scripture in isolation, it would be difficult to discern any other teaching from these Scriptures, other than the face value directive Jesus gives us, that I have previously indicated.

The key words in the preceding paragraph are “in isolation“, because in Scripture, there is always a possibility and a danger of misunderstanding what we are being given, when we ignore or disregard other Scriptures that gives additional guidance on a given subject that we are looking at. That is why it is vitally important to search the Scriptures and form our understanding on a given subject via “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” as indicated in Isaiah 28:7-13.

The “kicker” in this instance of teaching, is that what we ask God to do, in order to be granted, must be in accordance with the will of God. How do I know that you ask? Because God’s Holy Word tells me so as recorded in 1 John 5:14-15 NASB which reads as follows: “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” Emphasis is mine.

You will note that in Matthew 21:22 Jesus is indeed linking this teaching with us asking God in prayer to do something, as is John, so we are dealing with the exact same subject.

And this is the part that I do not always understand, whether what I am asking for, is in accordance with the will of God. God is sovereign when it comes to His will. That means it is His decision and will that takes precedence, not mine. And God’s will encompasses His purposes, not mine, and His glory, not mine. Our Father indeed, does know best.

And therein lies the dilemma, at least for me, because I sometimes do not know the will of God on a request that I am making to God.

My wife has dementia and in spite of many prayers asking for her healing, her situation is not getting better, so this is how I pray.

I ask God to heal her, if it is His will, and if it is not His will, for reasons that I do not personally understand, then I ask God to be with both of us, as we walk through this difficulty that He is allowing, and that in the end, whatever it might be, according to His purposes, that He be glorified. I do ask for and obtain God’s grace, when it comes to being patient with her and with regard to loving her. And God’s grace is given new every day, day by day. And no, it is not easy, in fact, some days it is very hard, but God has and does, sustain both of us, and this I do know, that it is His will to sustain us, and He does.

Not every one gets physically healed now. Not every mountain is moved. Not every request is responded to as we ask. And there can be many reasons why this is so. As the Scriptures tell us, sometimes it is because we don’t ask (James 4:2), sometimes we ask for the wrong reasons (James 4:3), and sometimes what we ask for is not in accordance with what God has determined for us (His will) (1 John 5:14-15). This is why it is so vitally important to seek the whole counsel of God’s Holy Word on a given subject and not build a theology on just isolated portions of Scripture. All of what we are given has to be considered, not just those portions that we build a stance on, at the expense and exclusion of others.

But if it is God’s will, there will be a physical healing now, that mountain will be moved and that request will be answered. But even there, where our request is answered, it is answered in accordance with God’s sovereign timing, and not ours. And ultimately, when we leave this world, all will be healed, all will have our desires met and we all will be satisfied. How do I know this? God’s Word tells us so in Psalm 17:15 NASB, which reads:

As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness;
I shall be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake.

June 30, 2022

Pray More, Pray Bolder

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Today is our first time sharing the writing of Andy Brown, who lives in the east of England in the UK, and has been a lay preacher at a church there for ten years. You’re encouraged to read this on his blog, at andy-brown.org by clicking the link in the title below. (Note WEB refers to the World English Bible which is included at Bible Gateway.)

Anything

This passage from the Gospel of Matthew has been on my heart of late. Well, particularly verse 22.

In the morning he went back to the city. On the way he was hungry.

19 Along the road he saw a fig tree. He went to the tree. There was no fruit on it, only leaves. He said to the tree, `No fruit will ever grow on you again!’ Right away the tree died.

20 The disciples saw it and were surprised. They said, `So soon the fig tree has died!’

21 Jesus said to them, `I tell you the truth. Believe God. Do not doubt him. Then you can do what I did to this fig tree. But that is not all. You can even say to this hill, “Go and jump into the sea” and it will be done.

22 When you ask God for anything, believe that you will have it. Then you will have it.’

The “He” in verse 18 refers to Jesus, in case it wasn’t clear. As Jesus passes by this fig tree, which apparently offers the promise of fruit, He finds only leaves on it. He then curses it, causing it to wither. Many feel sorry for this poor little fig tree, but in context, we realise it is an allusion to the Pharisees and teachers of the Laws aka the religious leaders of the day. They, like the fig tree, promised fruit but instead delivered nothing.

But the fig tree really did wither. It was not just a clever analogy for the religious leaders. There was a real tree, and Jesus spoke to it, and it died. We ought not to miss that simple truth.

Like Moses when he struck the rock twice, and God punished him for it. This was a serious problem because the rock symbolized Christ who would only be struck the once. Yet, irrespective of the symbol, there was a real piece of stone and Moses, in his anger, actually hit it twice with his staff (see Numbers 20). Symbolic or not, it was a real event.

Verse 20 of Matthew 21 shows us that the disciples were surprised at the withering of the tree. They perhaps did not fully understand the power of Christ’s words.

Jesus answers their astonishment with verses 21 and 22, and I restate them here because they are so utterly amazing.

21 Jesus said to them, `I tell you the truth. Believe God. Do not doubt him. Then you can do what I did to this fig tree. But that is not all. You can even say to this hill, “Go and jump into the sea” and it will be done.

22 When you ask God for anything, believe that you will have it. Then you will have it.’

Matthew 21:21-22 WEB

Believe God. Do not doubt. Then you can do what I did to the fig tree, and not just that, but tell the hill to go jump into the sea, and it will be done. Let that sink in!

And likewise, the next verse, the Lord says, when you ask God for anything, believe that you have it and you will have it. It sounds so matter of fact, and yet is seemingly beyond the realms of our prayers.

Ask God for anything – anything! No limits, no boundaries! Although I hasten to add that there are those who would take this Scripture on its own, ignoring all others, and claim whatever their flesh desires. Within the confines of the Bible and the will of God, we can ask for absolutely anything! Yet, I so often pray like I’m bothering God or that He is a miserly, stingy Father unwilling to part with anything. Not so! God knows how to give good gifts to His children.

I want to start praying Matthew 21:22 prayers. I want to ask God for what is on my heart. I don’t wish to be greedy, but I do want to recognize who He is and the kind of Father I worship. He is generous, and kind, and more powerful than anything we can imagine. I want my prayers to reflect that.

More than just asking though, I also need to believe. There is little point asking God for something, and then saying to my family, “That’ll never work!”

Nothing pours cold water on the fire of faith than words of doubt.

Nothing is too big for our God to handle. There is no request we can make which will dim the lights in heaven because it uses so much power. God is more than able to respond to our needs and our prayers. Let each of us step more boldly into prayer, being specific, recording what we ask for and praising Him when the answer comes.

Those points are important. If we cannot be specific, then we cannot know for sure if God answered or not. If we do not record what we pray (in a journal or note of some kind), then there is a good chance we will forget what we have asked for and so, when it comes to pass, may not give proper thanks.

My prayer life can be sporadic at times, but I want to press into it more and more. Not every prayer I utter may be answered the way I expect, but if I do not pray at all, it certainly won’t! I want to partner with God, praying His will and seeing the answer come. The point of my post today is to do no more than encourage you to pray; pray more and pray bolder.

What will you ask for today? Whose life will change for the better because you prayed for them? For what will you give thanks to God for when you see Him moving?

Thanks be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ – to whom we can ask anything in His Name!


After reading the devotional you just finished, another blogger in the UK wrote a response. We’ll share that one with you tomorrow.

June 14, 2022

Mothers Prayers

Today something a bit different, as we look at mothers interceding for their children, both in scripture, and with contemporary examples.

Last week I met Canadian pastor Rev. Bruce Pero for the first time, who has just written Teachings from God’s Word. You can learn more about the book by clicking this link. Bruce graciously supplied us with a devotional to share with you today.

Mothers Prayers

So many times, down through the ages, we have heard it said there is nothing like a mother’s prayer. That is so true, even today. Let’s take a look at situations where mothers’ prayers prevailed. We are going to talk about a number of mothers.

The first is Moses’ mother found in,

NIV.Exodus.2.1 Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.

Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”

“Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”

Can you just imagine the prayers that went up from Moses’ mother. The joy she felt as God took care of her son; not to mention, the plan God had for Moses in leading the children of Israel out of bondage.

A comparative example for today is John Hagee who also had a wonderful praying mother. For years John’s mother, a God-fearing, praying lady, had asked God for a minister among one of her sons, and she believed John was the one. So many times, as John would sneak in, after a late-night out with his friends, he would go past his mother’s bedroom door and hear her crying out to God for him; that God would watch over her son and make him the preacher, she knew, God wanted him to be.

John would often say to his mother, “If you are praying for me, stop because when I turn eighteen, all you will see is the dust from my feet, going down the street.” But when we have a praying mother and she will not quit, God has another plan. Just one week before John was to register at West Point, God, through his mother’s prayers, radically changed his direction, and just a short time later, he registered at Oral Roberts University.

That was over fifty years ago; all because of the prayers of a righteous mother.

Today, we know John as John Hagee Ministries from San Antonio Texas, one of the biggest ministries in the United States. John is the forty-seventh member of his family to be in ministry.

Another righteous mother we can think of is found in 1 Samuel.

NIV.1Samuel.1.20 So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.”

21 When her husband Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfill his vow, 22 Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the Lord, and he will live there always.”

23 “Do what seems best to you,” her husband Elkanah told her. “Stay here until you have weaned him; only may the Lord make good his word.” So the woman stayed at home and nursed her son until she had weaned him.

24 After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. 25 When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, 26 and she said to him, “Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. 27 I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. 28 So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there.

Another amazing and righteous lady that we can think of today, to compare to Samuel’s mother, is often referred to as Sister Hannah.

When some of you hear this name, you will know who I am referring to. But in her son’s own words, “Sister Hannah?…God’s gift to me.” Chuck Price told his story.

After dad died, I was sixteen and rebellious, so off I went and joined the CNR, working on a gang crew. We were stationed about three and one-half hours west of Toronto. I had not told a soul where I was going, but no worries, Mom prayed, and the Holy Spirit said, “Go.” directing her miraculously to the very street where we were clubbing it up. Long story short; she parked her car one block from the bar I walked out of. During that part of my life, Mom’s prayers protected me until I could run no further.

In ministry, she would call late Sunday evenings… “I knew you were up Chuck still wrestling through the preached word and lack of response. You know Chuck, when you preach, there is not always an immediate result. Let me pray with you and then, get some sleep.”

Even in death, Dec. 2009 Mom had dementia and could not always remember everything, but she could still pray. So thank God for a praying mom.

– Pastor Chuck Price

The fifth and final man that we will look at, with an amazing, fearless, praying mother and father, was a very gifted and talented singer.

He was also a very good athlete, excelling in baseball. When he was young, the Lord revealed the call that He had on his life. Like all God-fearing, praying mothers, his mom got a hold of this; like a dog with a bone, determined not to let go. When this young man was old enough, he left home to make his way with a music career. Just when he was about to sign a major recording contract, he became extremely ill. He returned home, where he spent some time in bed.

Quite often he would hear his mother praying for him. Then one evening as his dad entered the room to say goodnight, as he always did, his father had a vision from the Lord. God revealed to him that his son was to enter the ministry, and he saw hundreds of thousands of people being ministered to and giving their lives to Christ and many more getting healed.

Oral Roberts shared this with his son. Shortly thereafter, Richard Roberts signed up at Oral Roberts University, starting one of the largest ministries going today. Since this happened, Richard’s mother and father have passed, but until his mom died, she never stopped praying for her son, Richard Roberts. He took over his dad’s ministry with a double anointing on his life, and it all began with his mother’s prayers.

For those who may not understand what the anointing is, it is the power and wisdom that God put on our being through the Holy Spirit so we can accomplish The work we are to do. So a double anointing would give us twice the power to accomplish our work. So you see, through the ages, the strength of a mother’s prayers, your prayers, have been proven over and over again to defeat any situation that comes along.

I am sure, that every time a mother gets down on her knees for her children or any situation, the Devil is cringing in his boots because nothing can win over against a mother’s prayers.

I even asked my mother if she ever thought, when we were growing up, she would have any of her children in ministry; not to mention, by this June, in 2011, she will have five in the ministry. She said she, “had always prayed for one to make it but never dreamed five would make it.”

So mothers, don’t ever give up praying for your children, grandchildren, husbands, or anything you need in your life. God will not let your prayers return to you void. Amen.

 

May 22, 2022

Do You Have a Teachable Spirit?

Today we’re returning to the daily devotional page at Magnficent Life Ministries where fresh devotional studies are posted (wait for it) daily! This one was a two-part topic. If you click through to their page — the headers below are links — you’ll also find the same content available on video.

Are You Open to God’s Correction?

“For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11

Since the dawn of time, humans have been plagued by the fear that something terrible will happen to them. For some, this manifests as extreme worry and an inability to enjoy life; for others, it manifests as a crippling belief that they are not good enough. Regardless of its severity, this fear is too common and often results in destructive behaviors. Remember, Proverbs 29:25 says, The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”

But what if there were a different way of looking at circumstances or mishaps around us? What if some setback were simply an opportunity to learn and grow? This is not to say that bad things never happen to good people or that enemies don’t play tricks, but we can always find something positive even in the worst situations. When something bad happens, it can be tempting to see it as a sign of punishment from God because we are not expecting God’s correction of our actions.

Proverbs 3:11-12 says, “My child, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”

However, if we look at the situation objectively, we will see that God does not punish us but rather redirect us toward the right plan. It can be helpful if we think of that issue or setback as a kind of tuning. Revelation 3:19 says, “Those I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” Just as the violinist screws up the key till the tense cord sounds the concert pitch, it is not to break it but to use it tunefully. So likewise, God needs to adjust His children when they go out of tune; Because sometimes we need to go through tuning experiences to correct our life course.

This is an act of God’s correction, tuning his people so that they may be used in his service. God is constantly stretching us and tuning us so that we will produce the beautiful music of His kingdom. Sometimes people think God is punishing them because he is tuning them. But He is always working for our good. As long as we remain pliable under His hand, He will continue to tune us until we reach the perfect pitch for His kingdom. Amen. Proverbs 12:1 says, “Whoso loves instruction loves knowledge: but he that hate reproof is brutish.”

Prayer:
1. Thank you, Jesus, for your guidance and help. Thank you, Jesus, for being my guide through life, guiding me through all the storms of life.
2. Psalm 6:1 Oh LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.

Are You Open to God’s Correction? Part Two

“Blessed indeed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.” Job 5:17

How do you know if you’re open to God’s correction? There are a few ways to know if you’re open to God’s correction. The first way to know is if you’re living a life of repentance. If you’re living a life of repentance, then you’re open to God’s correction because you’re living a life of obedience. The second way to know if you’re open to God’s correction is if you’re living in submission to Him. If you’re living in submission to Him, then you’re open to His correction because you’re living in obedience to Him.

The third way to know if you’re open to God’s correction is if you’re living a life of prayer. If you’re living a life of prayer, then you’re open to God’s correction because you’re seeking Him and His will for your life. The fourth way to know if you’re open to God’s correction is if you’re living a life of fellowship. If you’re living a life of fellowship, then you’re open to God’s correction because you’re living a life of obedience to Him. And the obedience you have for God is what makes you free from sin.

Romans 15:4 says, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that we might have hope through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures.”

The bottom line is that if you want to know if you’re open to God’s correction, then you need to look at your life and see if you’re living in repentance, submission, prayer, fellowship, and obedience. If you’re not living in any of these areas, then you’re not open to God’s correction, and you need to start living in obedience to Him. Remember, the Bible is full of wisdom, and Job 5:17 is one example. This verse says that God blesses anyone willing to be corrected by Him. God is the giver of wisdom, and He will give it to us if we are willing to receive it.

It’s important to remember that God loves us and wants what is best for us. He knows what is best for us, and He isn’t afraid to correct our plans if they are not in line with His will. We need to trust Him and be willing to follow His direction, even if it is not what we originally planned. When God corrects us, it is out of His love for us. He wants us to be successful and live according to His plan for our lives. We can be assured that if we follow God’s correction, it will lead to blessing and success. Amen. Revelation 3:19 says, “Those I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.”

Prayer:
1. Oh Lord, help me know the truth about your ways that I should not sin against you.
2. I am open to God’s correction; therefore, Holy Spirit comes into my heart and shows me how to walk in the way of righteousness in Jesus’ name. Amen.

May 15, 2022

Approaching God: Awe, Obedience, Reverence, Fear, Caution

One of the most frequently appearing writers here is Elsie Montgomery who writes at Practical Faith. For this year, she is following readings in a book called Daily Treasures from the Word of God by Leona and Nicolas Venditti, published in 2012. She says, “I will read what they have to say listening to what the Lord is saying to me, write my thoughts here, and pray for His enabling to apply them to my life.”

To read this where it first appeared, click the header which follows.

Power of Reverence

READ Hebrews 5–8

Experience and the Word of God tells me that answered prayer is not a simple matter. It rarely happens unless I keep my communion with Him clear through confessing known sins. It never happens when I pray selfishly or plainly outside of His will. Today’s reading offers another thought; God hears the prayers of those who deeply reverence Him . . .

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. (Hebrews 5:7)

Bible dictionaries say that the words translated reverence mean “a feeling of profound respect” yet also a “certain element of awe, which may be interpreted in some instances as implying even fear.” The implication of such reverent fear or awe is, of course, obedience. Some scholars prefer to interpret these terms as ‘to obey.’ One dictionary says this word is properly understood as “caution” with religiously reverence or piety yet implying dread or fear. An English dictionary says reverence is profound respect and love and a reverent attitude toward God means honoring Him, expressing gratitude to Him, and obeying His commandments.

Another says common synonyms of reverence are adore, revere, venerate, and worship. While all these words mean “to honor and admire profoundly and respectfully,” reverence presupposes an intrinsic merit and sacredness in the one honored with a similar depth of feeling in the one honoring.

In other words, reverence is about my response but it is more about God. The idea of fear comes with the realization that I do not pull God’s strings. He IS in charge and every breath that I take is by His grace. Knowing His power and other qualities should produce in me total cessation of ‘doing my own thing’ and a deep desire to fit in with His plans. Jesus did that. He knew the Father could save Him from death and knew He heard His cries, yet said, “Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.” Prayer is not about getting my own way but yielding to God’s way, sometimes in holy fear. This is being like Jesus.

The New Testament also talks about patience being the mark of maturity or being like Jesus. He was always emotionally calm in the face of provocation or misfortune and without complaint or irritation. It comes to us through trials and is also a huge part of reverence. Respecting God and not taking matters into my own hands requires patience and total faith. Hebrews 6:12 & 15 says it is “through faith and patience” that God’s people inherit God’s promises.

Maturity also involves discernment. This reading speaks of having my senses trained to rightly understand the visible realm of reality and the equally real realm of the unseen. God gives Scripture and the Holy Spirit so I can sense the unseen and not be swayed by the constant pull of the world and evil forces to pull me away from following Jesus and instead resorting to sinful self-effort.

Discernment also combats false doctrine and gives an accurate perception of what is really from God and what is not. Scripture warns believers about the devil appearing to be an angel of light. I need to discern fully the powers of darkness and realize how patience and discernment are both tied to spiritual maturity. Both have a strong relationship to effective prayer and to “holding fast to the hope set before us.” (Hebrews 6:18)

The marvel is that even if I pray incorrectly or fail to pray at all, Jesus still “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25) Jesus prays for me, protecting me from the evil one and from destruction. He is my Savior; I am not.

Another beautiful thought from this reading is the power of the gospel that begins a life of knowing God and growing in that patience that marks maturity and that ensures God’s ear to our prayers:

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:10–12)

The bottom line for all this is three-fold. Discernment is a gift that enables me to know the Christ of Scripture and not be distracted from Him as my source of all that is godly. Being like Him means reverence, not mere ‘joyful worship’ but the awe that is mixed with fear and obedience that considers His power and ownership of all that concerns me. If my prayers are to be heard and answered, then I must discern all that distracts me from Christ and know all He desires from me so I can yield all of my life to this amazing God of glory.

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