Christianity 201

June 3, 2023

Paul’s Unanswered Prayer | Seeking God’s Will

For our Saturday reading we have two shorter articles.

This is our third time sharing the writing of Pastor Dick Woodward whose writing appears at the blog The Four Spiritual Secrets. He passed away in 2013, however new material continues to be regularly excerpted from a variety of sources of his teaching. Click the titles below to read these at his page.

Pray! Pray! Pray!

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

The Word of God exhorts us to pray when we are in crisis situations. Psalm 46:1 has an alternate reading in the New Standard version, “God is our refuge and strength, abundantly available for help in tight places.”

The Apostle Paul also challenges us to pray: “tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer…” (Philippians 4:6) God delivered Paul from many tight places. We should therefore always pray in a crisis: “When it’s hardest to pray, pray the hardest!” However, from personal experience Paul knew that God doesn’t always take our problems away. Paul had a physical condition he described as a thorn in the flesh.” Three times he asked God to take it away.

Paul saw many people miraculously healed as he ministered the healing power of the Holy Spirit to them. Yet, when he asked God to solve his own health problem, three times God said, “No. No. No.” But God also responded, “My grace is sufficient for you and that is all you need. My strength looks good on weak people.” (2 Corinthians 12)

Paul’s weakness drove him to discover the strength of God. When he did, he not only accepted his condition but eventually thanked God in it so God’s power might be showcased in him.

As Paul accepted the will of God regarding his thorn, he learned that: “The will of God will never lead us where the grace of God cannot keep us.

Paul exhorts us from his personal experience that prayer may deliver us from our problems, or prayer may give us the grace to cope with them. But, in any case, pray. Always pray about everything!

– Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Peace

God’s Will & God’s Word

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Isaiah tells us there is as much difference between the thoughts and ways of God and the way we think and do things as the heavens are high above the earth. He then goes on to describe one of the supernatural functions of the Word of God: it establishes an alignment between our thoughts, ways and wills, and the thoughts, ways and will of God.

I once heard Billy Graham tell of boarding a plane before he was famous. He spoke to an old pastor friend who was sitting in an aisle seat reading his Bible who completely ignored him. When they had been in flight for an hour, the pastor came back to where Billy was seated and greeted him enthusiastically.

He apologized for ignoring Billy earlier. He said, “When I pray, I am talking to God, but when I open God’s Word, He talks to me. He was talking to me when you spoke to me and I could not interrupt God just to talk to Billy Graham.”

Thomas à Kempis opened his Bible every morning with this prayer: “Let all the voices be stopped. Speak to me Lord, Thou alone.” If we sincerely want to know the will of God, we must be in relationship and in conversation with God.

To seek the will of God, we should speak to our loving Heavenly Father in prayer and expect God to speak to us as we open the Word of God.

– Dick Woodward, 25 May 2013

If you caught the name of the blog, you may be wondering about the title and you might be asking, ‘What are the four spiritual secrets?’ His answer takes only 63 words (below) and a link is also provided.

What are the 4 spiritual secrets?

I’m not, but He is.
And I am in Him, and He is in me.

I can’t, but He can.

And I am in Him, and He is in me.

I don’t want to, but He wants to.

And I am in Him, and He is in me.

I didn’t, but He did.
Because I was in Him and He was in me.

May 30, 2023

Praying in Community: The Family

The family that prays together stays together, and if they stay together they will love one another as God has loved each one of them. And works of love are always works of peace. – Mother Teresa


We found today’s devotional at the website Makanji Space and not knowing more about the writer, discerned that it would be a good fit here. Click the title below to read it where it first appeared, and then navigate from there to read other posts as we did.

Divine Threads: Unraveling the Power of Shared Family Prayer

In the words of Venerable Patrick Peyton, the celebrated phrase, “The Family that Prays Together Stays Together,” was given birth, illuminating the profound connection between family unity and collective prayer. Father Peyton, also known as The Rosary Priest, was a fervent advocate of family prayer, particularly the recitation of the rosary. His unwavering conviction was that prayer, especially when done together as a family, had the power to strengthen familial bonds, instill virtues, and bring divine grace into the home.

This spiritual reflection seeks to delve into this aphorism’s depths, exploring why and how shared prayer holds the potential to sustain and nourish family unity. Drawing on biblical texts and interpreting them in the context of family and prayer, the reflection offers insights into the transformative power of shared prayer. It articulates how shared prayer fosters peace, enhances communication, invites divine interventions, instills virtues, provides a shared sense of purpose, and strengthens familial bonds.

“A Family that Prays Together Stays Together” reveals profound insights about prayer and family life. It encapsulates the transformative power of prayer, which is not just an act of uttering sacred words, but an experience that fosters shared peace, enhanced communication, divine intervention and virtuous development as a sense of purpose.

Yet, another perspective deserves our attention: the community aspect of prayer. Acts 2:42 says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer.” Here, prayer is not an isolated practice but integrated into the fabric of vibrant community life. It is in this community life that the family finds its highest expression. The family that prays together forms a small ecclesia, a small church, a spiritual community that lives in communion with God and each other.

The divine communion is beautifully demonstrated in 1 John 4:12: “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” The family that prays together invites God’s love into their hearts, enabling them to love each other more deeply. This divine love transcends human limitations and helps family members to accept and cherish each other in their uniqueness, promoting unity in diversity.

The family that prays together also embodies and perpetuates the faith tradition.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 advises, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home, walk along the road, lie down, and get up.” Prayer becomes an occasion to pass faith values and wisdom to the younger generation, promoting continuity and tradition that strengthens family bonds.

In retrospect, the concept of a family that prays together, staying together transcends the mundane aspect of human interactions. It places the family in the sacred realm of divine love, grace, and wisdom. It acknowledges that family is not just a human institution but a divine blessing, an opportunity to experience and manifest God’s love.

Prayer can therefore be seen as a spiritual thread that weaves the family together, and it is the golden cord that connects the family and God. The family that prays together stays together- not just because they pray, but because they live, love and grow together under the divine umbrella of prayer. They become a spiritual community that embodies the psalmist’s words in Psalm 133:1 “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”

And so, to answer the question as to why the family that prays together stays together, it is not simply the act of prayer that keeps the family together. It is what prayer signifies: a collective surrender to divine guidance, a shared journey into love and understanding, a mutual nurturing of virtues, and a united front facing life’s challenges. It is about communicating with each other and with God. It is about being together in the most intimate way possible, in the quiet moments of reverence, in the shared silence of the divine, and in the unity of purpose that prayer cultivates.

This reflection only scratches the surface of the depth of wisdom encapsulated in the phrase, “The Family that Prays Together Stays Together.” May each family discover the beauty and power of shared prayer, and through this practice, may they grow stronger, closer and more loving.

Mission Statement: Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of Christian blogs and websites representing diverse denominational viewpoints. Sometimes two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading. Your suggestions of articles and websites to consider are always welcome.

Scripture portions from various translations quoted at Christianity 201 are always in green to remind us that the Scriptures have LIFE!

May 20, 2023

Timothy Keller Quotations

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Yesterday the world lost author, apologist, church planter and pastor Tim Keller. Although his many books have been very influential, his first was published only 15 years ago. Someone suggested that before getting involved with publishing, he waited to better express the message he wished to share with the world.

The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.

I asked her what was so scary about unmerited free grace? She replied something like this: “If I was saved by my good works — then there would be a limit to what God could ask of me or put me through. I would be like a taxpayer with rights. I would have done my duty and now I would deserve a certain quality of life. But if it is really true that I am a sinner saved by sheer grace — at God’s infinite cost — then there’s nothing he cannot ask of me.”

If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.

To find God we must repent of the things we have done wrong, but if that is all you do you may remain just an elder brother. To truly become Christians we must also repent of the reasons we ever did anything right. Pharisees only repent of their sins, but Christians repent for the very roots of their righteousness, too. We must learn how to repent of the sin under all our other sins and under all our righteousness — the sin of seeking to be our own Savior and Lord. We must admit that we’ve put our ultimate hope and trust in things other than God, and that in both our wrongdoing and right doing we have been seeking to get around God or get control of God in order to get hold of these things.”

God’s grace and forgiveness, while free to the recipient, are always costly for the giver…. From the earliest parts of the Bible, it was understood that God could not forgive without sacrifice. No one who is seriously wronged can “just forgive” the perpetrator…. But when you forgive, that means you absorb the loss and the debt. You bear it yourself. All forgiveness, then, is costly.

To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.

Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.

Christians will not, interestingly, benefit society if they’re just like everybody else in society. We’re not going to benefit a society filled with self-actualizers unless we really are different, unless we do believe Jesus died for us, unless we do believe that we live through the self-sacrifice of the great Jesus Christ, and therefore we’re going to live by self-sacrifice. You see, unless we are shaped deeply by that, then we’re really not going to be of any kind of benefit.

An idol is anything more important to you than God. Anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God. Anything you seek to give you what only God can give. Anything that is so central and essential to your life, that should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.

The secret to freedom from enslaving patterns of sin is worship. You need worship. You need great worship. You need weeping worship. You need glorious worship. You need to sense God’s greatness and to be moved it — moved to tears and moved to laughter — moved by who God is and what he has done for you.

Most of all the psalms, read in light of the entire Bible, bring us to Jesus. The psalms were Jesus’s songbook. The hymn that Jesus  sang at the Passover meal (Matthew  26:30; Mark 14:26) would have been the Great Hallel, Psalms 113–118. Indeed, there is every reason to assume that  Jesus  would have sung all the psalms, constantly, throughout  his life, so that he knew them by heart. It is the book of the Bible that he quotes more than any other. But the psalms were not simply sung by Jesus; they also are about him, as we will see throughout this volume.

God directs his people not simply to worship but to sing his praises “before the nations.” We are called not simply to communicate the gospel to nonbelievers; we must also intentionally celebrate the gospel before them

If a person has grasped the meaning of God’s grace in his heart, he will do justice. If he doesn’t live justly, then he may say with his lips that he is grateful for God’s grace, but in his heart he is far from him. If he doesn’t care about the poor, it reveals that at best he doesn’t understand the grace he has experienced, and at worst he has not really encountered the saving mercy of God. Grace should make you just.

It’s not that you think less of yourself, it’s that you think of yourself less.

When pain and suffering come upon us, we finally see not only that we are not in control of our lives but that we never were.

It is remarkable that in all of his writings Paul’s prayers for his friends contain no appeals for changes in their circumstances.

Human beings are so integral to the fabric of things that when human beings turned from God, the entire warp and woof of the world unraveled …We have lost God’s shalom — physically, spiritually, socially, psychologically, culturally. Things now fall apart.

The irony is that many conservative Christians, most concerned about conserving true and sound doctrine, neglect the importance of prayer and make no effort to experience God, and this can lead to the eventual loss of sound doctrine… Christianity without real experience of God will eventually be no Christianity at all.

Tim Keller on Romans 8:28

Romans 8 is all about living in a suffering world marked by brokenness… Verse 28 says: For those loving him, God works together all things for good. …Earlier in Romans 8, Paul discusses how things fall apart because the world is burdened with evil and sin. Things are subject to decay. Everyone will eventually experience the decay of their bodies; that’s the nature of things. The little grains of sand on the beach used to be a mountain. Everything falls apart; things do not come together.

This verse tells Christians to get rid of the saccharine, sentimental idea that things ought to go right, that things do go right, and that it’s normal for things to go right. Modern, Western people believe that if things go wrong, we should sue, because things ought to go right. But Christians have to discard that idea completely.

Christians have to recognize that if our health remains intact, it is simply because God is holding it up. If people love us, if someone is there to hug us or squeeze our hand, if someone loves us in spite of all our flaws—if someone loves us at all—it’s because God is bringing all things together. God is holding it up. Everything that goes well is a miracle of grace.

Previously at Christianity 201:

sources: Care (UK), Good Reads, Anchored in Christ, Crosswalk, Prayer Coach, Church Leaders, The Blazing Center, and Christianity 201

May 12, 2023

Giving the Things of God to Others

This article is so very, very good!

This is our fourth time featuring Mark Stephenson who writes at Fire and Light who is co-pastor of Horizon Church in Towson, Maryland. There are things here I hadn’t quite considered the way Mark presents this. You might want to bookmark this article to refer to it later, either here, or by clicking the link in the title which follows, and bookmarking the original.

5 Types of Impartation

Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the Lord had commanded Moses.

Deuteronomy 34:9

Impartation isn’t a word that every Christian tradition uses, but every Christian tradition does it in one form or another. To “impart” means “to give, convey, bestow, release, transmit, or confer.” For example, “The teacher imparted knowledge to her students.” Or, “The spices imparted flavor to the dish.”

Impartation carries with it the idea that something of value is being released or transmitted from one thing and given to another thing, or from one person to other people. Within the Body of Christ, there are at least five different kinds of impartation that exist for different purposes. With each of these five we’ll examine the primary mechanism used for impartation, the purpose of that type of impartation, and identify those who do the imparting.

1. Impartation of Truth

Primary mechanism: teaching

Purpose: Upgrade for our mind/thinking

Who does it? Anyone can impart truth, but some are particularly gifted who have the gift of teaching.

The impartation of truth can be seen in nearly every Christian tradition. Teaching and preaching are the primary ways that truth gets imparted either through a sermon, seminar, or bible study setting. The apostle Paul charges his protege Timothy to do just that:

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

2 Timothy 4:2-4

2. Impartation of Wisdom/Character

Primary mechanism: modeling

Purpose: Upgrade for our actions/decisions

Who does it?  Anyone can impart wisdom, but some are particularly gifted with wisdom and are more seasoned with life experience.

The impartation of wisdom and character happens primarily through modeling wise living and wise decisions. It happens by spending time with people who have learned important lessons from life experience. It happens less by instruction and more through conversation and life together. It’s about watching someone live well and imitating what they do. Paul said it this way to the Corinthians:

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

1 Corinthians 11:1

3. Impartation of Life/Courage 

Primary mechanism: encouragement/affirmation

Purpose: Upgrade for our heart/confidence

Who does it?  Anyone can impart life with their words, but some are particularly good at it who have the gift of encouragement.

The impartation of life and courage happens through the spoken word, specifically, words of affirmation and encouragement. Words are often more powerful than we realize. James 3 reminds us that words can build up and tear down. The proverbs remind us that words can impart life or death:

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Proverbs 18:21

4. Impartation of Authority

Primary mechanism: impartation prayer/laying on of hands

Purpose: Upgrade for our responsibility/authority

Who does it? Anyone can impart authority, but it most often has to come from those already in authority who are raising someone else up.

In most Christian traditions this kind of impartation is most clearly seen in the ordination ceremony of new pastors. Often, a group of elders will lay their hands on a young pastor who is being ordained into vocational ministry and will impart or confer their blessing and authority onto the young minister. While most people assume this is just a ceremonial rite of passage, throughout scripture we see the laying on of hands confer a real transference of authority. In other words, this isn’t just for show. Something is really being transferred in the spirit realm. We not only see Moses do this with Joshua (Numbers 27:18-20) but we also see this happen with the deacons in the early church.

“…choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

Acts 6:3-6

5. Impartation of Anointing/Spiritual Gifts

Primary mechanism: impartation prayer/laying on of hands

Purpose: Upgrade for our spiritual gifting/anointing

Who does it?  Anyone can pray to impart increased anointing and spiritual gifts because, ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit doing it, but some are particularly gifted who have the gift of impartation.

While most Christian traditions understand the reality and importance of the first four types of impartation, only a few actually understand and practice this kind of impartation. I have personally been on the giving and receiving end of this kind of impartation (mostly the receiving end) and it is very real and very powerful. With this kind of impartation, there is a transference of anointing, power, or spiritual gifts when one person lays hands on another (sometimes a transference of all three!). We see this kind of impartation happen both in the Old and New Testaments and we need more of it in the Church today. Here are some samples of it happening in scripture:

Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. 

Deuteronomy 34:9

The Lord said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.”

So Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the tent. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied—but did not do so again.

Numbers 11:16-17, 24-25

Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

1 Timothy 4:14

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.

2 Timothy 1:6

Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. These two went down and prayed for them so that they would receive the Holy Spirit.  (For the Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then Peter and John placed their hands on the Samaritans, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Acts 8:14-17

Just as some people are particularly gifted with teaching or wisdom or encouragement, the same applies here. Some people in the Body of Christ are particularly gifted with impartation. What it means to operate in any spiritual gift is that the Spirit seems to move more powerfully when a person is operating in a gift than when they are not. Again, we see this truth play out with teaching and leadership and other spiritual gifts.

But the same applies to those who are gifted with impartation gifts. When a person who is gifted in this way prays for the impartation of anointing to happen or the impartation of gifts to happen, the sheer volume of impartation that happens in the room is more. This is why, if we want powerful teaching, we need to sit under a person gifted with teaching gifts. And if we want wisdom, we need to be around people gifted with spiritual wisdom. Likewise, if we want to receive an upgrade in our spiritual gifts, power, or anointing, it is helpful to receive prayer from a person gifted with impartation.

There may be more than these five types of impartation, but these five are extremely important for the Church today. If we want to raise up the next generation to live like Jesus, it’s going to take a Church that is able to impart all of these things in all of these ways.

May 11, 2023

Devotional Trifecta


NIV.Psalm.37.7 Be still before the Lord
    and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
    when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For those who are evil will be destroyed,
but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

The “Be still” passage from Psalms which we’re most familiar with comes from Psalm 46, not Psalm 37. In either case we might use the verse (such as verse 7 above) as a calming voice when we face anxiety and fear, but the entire Psalm is all about the laws of justice, whereby the wicked eventually get what they deserve, unless they cry out for mercy.

In a world of conspiracy theories, factions and all manner of economic and political unrest, there are certain laws of reciprocity in place that govern ultimate outcomes. The Psalm is also clearly a statement of the triumph of God’s sovereignty in the middle of situations where evil appears to be ruling.

Later, in Psalm 46, we see the more familiar passage, which is somewhat similar but looking at the macro picture; a picture of everything from earthquakes to powerful nations.

NIV. Ps.46.9 He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

The exhortation to seek stillness is still valid, but for verses wherein the context is clearer, a word study on peace is more appropriate. Two that I’ve found particular helpful are You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you (Isaiah 26:3) and …the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

In moments of stress, or even times my thoughts are keeping me from sleep I will repeat the phrase, “perfect peace, perfect peace;” and the phrase “peace that passes understanding.” (You can say exceeds understanding or beyond understanding.)

By all means be still, but seek peace, seek the places of peace, seek the author of peace.

I’ve mentioned before that sometimes I will gain greater understanding of a passage by re-stating it in my own words. Because my version isn’t the version, sometimes the ‘text’ of what I come up with will drift over time. Recently I reconsidered The Lord’s Prayer afresh.

Father God,
Who dwells in eternity
Your name is holy.
Build your Kingdom
Carry out your plans and desires
Here, as there.
Help us in the provision of our necessities,
And steer us away from the world’s lures,
And free us from the desires temptation exploits.
All of the Kingdom, its authority and splendor are yours.

As a side note, in the commonly-repeated version of the prayer, most say “Thy Kingdom Come,” and add “For thine is the Kingdom” at the end. It’s interesting that Kingdom is one of two repeated words.

The other double occurrence of a word is “who art in Heaven;” and “earth as it is in Heaven.” Heaven.

Among many other things, the prayer is about God’s Kingdom seen from Heaven’s perspective.

NIV.Rom.12.18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (italics added)

I would say the italicized phrase might be rendered, “doing everything that you can on your end.”

This morning I engaged in some relationship-building. From my perspective, I was the one who had been injured, but an apology had been received — twice in fact — and I felt it was time to move on to the next level of restoration.

I showed up unannounced at the person’s workplace — they were about to go into a meeting, which did keep some others waiting — but for nearly half an hour we sorted out some things that had led to the disruption of our relationship.

It needed to happen. We both needed to take next steps.

Matthew 5:23-24 is helpful here:

So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. (NLT)

Notice it’s not that ‘you have something against someone,’ but that they have something against you. (The Message Bible reads, “you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you.”)

In other words, a relationship that is in need of repair.

The child in us wants to cry out, ‘But it was him who hit me,’ but every single English translation quotes Jesus as saying that even if you are the injured party, you become one of the peacemakers mentioned in “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

And the meeting went well.




May 5, 2023

Don’t Abandon the Prayer Process

If you are past a certain age and grew up in church, this KJV verse from the Sermon on the Mount is quite ingrained:

Matt. 7:7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

However, we’ve all heard sermons where preachers have stressed that this is a continuous imperative.

Many years ago we previously looked at what that means:

Our pastor used the example of running a race or two versus being in regular training for running races that earn podium positions at the end. The example I’ve always used is a little simpler. Consider these two sentences:

  • “Shut the door.”
  • “Answer the phone.”

The first one is easy. Once you shut the door, it’s shut. Work done. But the second one has an implication that’s deeper; it really means:

  • “Answer the phone if it rings and take a message; and then, if it rings again, answer it and take a message; and then if it rings again, answer it…”

While translators are certainly aware of this, most of the newer ones seem inclined to continue to keep the verse in its more familiar form. (That seems to be part of a pattern concerning the translation of ‘iconic’ verses.) But a few venture out to give us more of the sense of the original meaning:

7 “Keep asking, and it will be given to you; keep seeking, and you will find; keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. (CJB – Complete Jewish Bible)

7 “Be asking, and it will be given to you; be seeking, and you will find; be knocking, and it will be opened to you. (DNLT – Disciples Literal New Testament)

7 Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you. (AMP – Amplified Bible; NLT is similar)

7 “Continue to ask, and God will give to you. Continue to search, and you will find. Continue to knock, and the door will open for you. (ERV – Everyday Reading Version)

7 Just ask and it will be given to you; seek after it and you will find. Continue to knock and the door will be opened for you. (The Voice)

The reason for examining this topic is that I have to confess that like many, I came to realize that my whole perspective on this verse has had to do with tenacity in prayer over a specific request. In other words, I’ve always felt the verse is telling us that if you’re in a situation, even if you don’t see the answer, keep bringing it before God.

While I think that’s a perfectly acceptable way of looking at things, I believe the verse offers us even more. I would suggest looking at it:

If you’re consistently in prayer over (a), (b), and (c) and not seeing results, and then situations (d) and (e) arise, don’t let this discourage you from bringing (d) and (e) before God.

In other words, I believe that God is telling us through this text, don’t lose heart and give up on the prayer process over what you see as a lack of past results. I know that’s something that I need to be reminded of. It’s easy to fall into pessimism, or to ask, but with what James 1:6 calls wavering.

Some of us grew up with a plaque in our homes that simply said, “Prayer Changes Things,” but then as we grew older we heard teaching that as we draw close to God the key thing about being in his presence is that prayer changes us. That is true, 100% of the time.

But I think we also need to have the perspective that God is positive disposed and favorably inclined to intervene in the affairs of his children, if he deems that best. He can and does step into the scene to orchestrate “great and incomprehensible things you do not know.” (Jer. 33:3 CSB)

So today’s conclusion is don’t give up praying in whatever situation you find yourself, but also don’t give up on prayer.

If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. – Jeremiah 29:11 NLT

More on today’s topic at C201:

May 3, 2023

Don’t Stop Praying

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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Today we’re back again at the daily devotional page at Magnficent Life Ministries, a ministry based near Riverside, California.

This was a two-part devotional, and as we post this, there may be more, so you’re encouraged to click the headers which follow and then click on the home page to see new material. Also at the bottom of each of the linked pages you can connect to related devotionals on the subject of prayer.

(These devotions use the King James text. If you’re new at all this and struggle with understanding, use the references to look up verses in your personal Bible.)

Continue in Prayer! Part One

“Continue in prayer, and watch in it with thanksgiving.” Colossians 4.2

Yes, the Bible, especially the epistles, is a book that teaches believers about all that Christ has done. It tells of His redemptive work. It explains in detail all that happened from the cross to the throne. Yet in it are instructions for the New Testament believer. As it speaks of who we are, it also speaks of what we can do because of who we are. We derive our identity and our conduct from the same. A mere purview of Paul’s letter, for instance, shows you the manner in which the apostles wrote.

They wrote the first part of the letter to tell of all Christ has done for you, who you are in Him, and what you have because of Him, and now ends with instructions on how to live the Christian life. One of those many instructions in the scriptures is the instruction to pray. Prayer is so evidently taught in the scriptures; it will take sheer disobedience not to do the same. Some places where they instructed prayers include Matthew 9.38 “Pray you, therefore, the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.”

Matthew 26.41 says, “Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Romans 15:30-31 also said, “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints.” It is evident that prayer is emphatically taught in the scriptures. We had not even cited an example from Jesus’ prayer life or how they prayed in the book of Acts. You will also clearly note the object of prayers in the epistle. Prayer for things was almost not mentioned.

They basically prayed for a revelation of the Spirit of knowledge, strength, utterances, and boldness for the preacher of the gospel; and their deliverance. But much, note that prayer was continuous. It was what was done night and day. It was instructed to be done at all times. There are treasures in the place of prayer that a believer is yet to unlock, a depth of fellowship with the Father, wisdom to be gleaned from Him, revelation, and insight to be received as we pray. Let us cultivate the habit of praying continuously; it is not because we need to pray but a commandment from above. Romans 12:12 says, “Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.”

Father Lord, please give me the grace to be persistent in prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Continue with Prayer! Part Two

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” James 1:5

If we are to take 1 Thessalonians 5:17 seriously, then prayer is not just an occasional indulgence but a way of life. It is how we communicate with God and should be as practical and consistent as our daily routine. However, it’s not always easy to keep up with this commandment, especially when faced with the challenges and distractions of everyday life.

In evaluating our prayer lives, we must ask ourselves how practical and consistent they are. For example, are we only praying when things go wrong, or do we make time for prayer even in times of peace? Do we pray just for ourselves, or do we also intercede for others? How much effort do we put into our prayers – is it just a casual mention, or do we really pour out our hearts to God? Whatever you do, I want you to choose a person in your local church or Pastor to pray for today, using the examples of prayer focus in part one of the daily devotion.

Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.”

As Christians, our faith in God is the cornerstone of our lives. We turn to Him in times of joy and in times of sorrow. However, it’s important to remember that we don’t need to wait for a special season or occasion to pray. Our prayers should be constant and unwavering, just as God’s love for us is. Prayer should not be seen as a religious obligation but rather as an intimate conversation between us and our Creator. Maintaining consistency in our prayer life makes it easier to hear from God and understand His will for our lives.

In James 1:5-8, we’re reminded that if we lack wisdom, all we need to do is ask God, and He will give it to us generously without finding fault. But this request must be made with faith and without a doubt because those who doubt are like waves on the sea tossed by the wind. Therefore, when we make our requests known to God through prayer, let’s do so confidently, knowing He hears us and will answer according to His will. John 14:13-14 says, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” Amen.

1. Oh Lord Jesus, thank you for your mercy and grace.
2. Holy Spirit, help me to be consistent in the spiritual realm of prayer with God through Christ Jesus. Amen.

April 27, 2023

Can We Depend on God to Take Our Side?

Thinking Through Luke 18:1-14

by Clarke Dixon

Can we depend on God to take our side? We have been wronged. Someone or some people are against us. We turn to God in prayer with a plea for justice. Can we depend on God to hear us? Jesus told a parable with a clear answer:

One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’”

Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”

Luke 18:1-8 (NLT)

The answer is a resounding yes. Crying out to God in prayer is not futile when we face injustice. The main point of the parable is that if the widow could count on an unjust judge to do the right thing, we can count on God, who is just, to do the right thing. The justice of God shows up a lot in the Bible. Also, when we read about the righteousness of God in the Bible, that does not just mean that God is sinless, but also that God does the right thing with regards to justice. So yes, we can depend on God to grant justice when people are against us. If you are human being, you will face such moments in life.

This was great news for anyone feeling oppressed in the day Jesus said it. The obvious oppressor that would pass through people’s minds was Rome. The obvious lesson here was “keep praying to God about the Roman problem, God will come through and provide justice. We, God’s people, will be on top in the end. We can depend on God to do the right thing as we cry out to him.”

And yet, Jerusalem fell to Rome within a generation of Jesus’ speaking this parable.

Maybe the obvious lesson was not the full lesson. In fact the next parable from Jesus challenged such assumptions:

Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Luke 18:9-14 (NLT)

The lesson is again obvious; be humble, like the tax collector, and not proud, like the religious leaders.

We often think of these two parables alone, each teaching a different lesson. Noticing that they both speak of prayer, and of justice, or being justified, let’s think of them together. The religious leaders who were keen on crying out to God for justice in the face of Roman oppression were the very same ones who engineered the greatest example of injustice in history, and had Jesus killed. They were proud, too proud to let go of their assumptions about Jesus, about God, in the face of Jesus.

Holding both parables in our minds together, we see that the religious leaders were the oppressors, the proud ones, Jesus was the oppressed one, the humble one. Who ended up being “justified,” or vindicated? On whose side was God?

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11 (NRSV)

Jesus was vindicated. Jerusalem was destroyed. The lesson here goes beyond persistence in prayer for help when we are oppressed. It includes a commitment to never being the oppressor.

The connection point between these two parables is found in verse 8:

And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Luke 18:8 (NRSV)

We often think of faith here as meaning trust, but in the context it might be better to think of it as faithfulness. The religious leaders, crying out to God for justice in the face of Roman oppressors were not themselves faithful to God. They had become the oppressors.

Does God find us being faithful? Are we like Jesus? Or are we like the religious leaders; crying out for justice, yet also being the reason why others cry out for justice? Do we expect God to take our side when we side with oppression? Perhaps we might be like the Pharisees and not even realize when we do.

Clarke Dixon is a pastor in the Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec denomination. Previous sermon summaries can all be found at Thinking Through Scripture.

April 23, 2023

The Difficulties are Actually What You Prayed For

After a break of several years, this is our seventh time highlighting Lori Thomason at Pure Devotion. Click the header below to read where it first appeared and click here to read her story.

Be Careful What You Pray For

James 2:1-3 (TPT) My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties, see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can! For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up in you the power of endurance.

“If it’s odd – it’s God!” I honestly do not remember where I read this but it has been such a great reminder. There are times when despite our best efforts and endless attempts at normality that life becomes out of control. There really is no such thing as a normal life. There is no set standard of perfection of humanity that everyone must strive for – no there is none righteous no not one. But I wonder if there might be some encouragement in understanding that rather summarizing these as random events, perhaps it’s God answering the innermost cry of our heart to know Him, see Him or experience Him.

“When it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties…” Are you facing endless trials? Day after day, it seems you cannot catch a break. The darkness of the world seems to be snuffing out the Light within you. Mistaken. Misunderstood. Alone. There are so many definitions of “difficulties” as unique to each human being. How does one “see it as an invaluable opportunity?” Well let me ask you – have you asked the Lord to stir you up recently? To fan the flame of His Spirit in you? To know Him more? To experience His Great Power? To have authentic faith? Well then my sweet friend, you prayed for this opportunity labeled as “difficulties”.

“For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up in you the power of endurance.” Many have been fasting this month, while others set fitness as a high priority embarking on a wellness journey including diet and exercise. It’s mid-January – how’s that going? Change is hard for humans especially unexpected change. However, the transformation process is nothing but change. This process in Jesus is even more challenging sometimes because He is perfect meaning the Lord isn’t going to stop halfway. He wants to give you the greatest joy possible. He is stretching and reshaping you to fill you with more. It is uncomfortable and messing but it is important to yield our former self and allow the Lord to do what He does best and make ALL things new!

2 Timothy 1:6-7 (TPT) I’m writing to encourage you to fan into a flame and rekindle the fire of the spiritual gift God imparted to you when I laid my hands upon you. For God will never give you the spirit of fear, but the Holy Spirit who gives you mighty power, love, and self-control.

I encourage you also to fan the flame and rekindle the fire of the spiritual gifts God has imparted to you! If you know Jesus – He wants to set you on fire with His Love and watch you spread His Love to everyone you come in contact with. The great thing about this divine set up is that He also gives you His Strength to endure to the end of each test, trial and temptation to give way to fresh faith. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. It is a must have for eternity. The Lord has given us His Spirit who gives us mighty power, love and that other thing called – self-control. When life spins out of control – you can be confident that God is in control. When everything falls apart – you know exactly where to carry all the pieces.

If you are struggling today with some difficulties, think about what you have been praying for. Prayers are not just accomplished with our head bowed and eyes closed. Prayers are every single declaration of our heart and lips before God.

Are you singing songs that ask for more of Him? Are you talking about the Lord and your desire for more? Are you crying oceans of tears in deep sorrow or regret? All these things quicken the heart of God to move on our behalf. Every whisper He hears. These kinds of outcries summon His Promises. Jesus is so in love with us! He waits for us to call out to Him! And in that very moment, He sends His Spirit and commissions a legion of angels on our behalf. So I ask you – what have you been praying for? Could this be the very thing you are asking for? If so, perhaps such a revelation will produce a tiny bit of joy that will burst into joy unspeakable just to know He hears and is doing what we asked!

This is not a warning not to pray for these things. Oh no friends, there is no greater joy than what awaits us in Jesus. But rather a reminder to endure such things because Jesus is at work in us! Be careful, mindful and aware of what you pray for because that is called expectancy and the Lord is faithful to all who call upon His Name!

I Peter 1:8 (TPT) You love him passionately although you have not seen him, but through believing in him you are saturated with an ecstatic joy, indescribably sublime and immersed in glory.

April 14, 2023

Praying Prodigals Home

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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The phrase, “Praying prodigals home” was actually the title of a 2000 book by Quin Sherrer and Ruthanne Garlock; and while they are not the authors of today’s material, it’s a phrase that I think accurately describes where many people are today with lost children, grandchildren, siblings, or even spouses…

…Today we’re back for the tenth time with Jack Wellman at the site Rhetorical Jesus. Jack is one of the most outreach-friendly writers I’m aware of, as each of his articles contains a graphic image you can use to invite your friends on Pinterest or Facebook to read the devotional. But to see those, you need to click the title which follows.

What would you say to your prodigal children or grandchildren?

Isaiah 43:5-6

Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west. I will gather you, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth.

Never Give Up

You may not even be able to say anything to your prodigals right now. Perhaps your prodigal son, daughter, or grandchild won’t even talk to you anymore. Perhaps it’s because they are under conviction that the life they are living is wrong. Maybe you’ve pressured them too much. Whatever their state, never give up on them and continually pray for them. I realize that Isaiah 43 is about Israel returning to God, but surely this could be said about God’s desire that our prodigals would return to Him, too. It is God Who does the saving in the first place (Acts 2:47), but we can never faint or waver in our prayers for them (Luke 18:1) because love never, ever fails (1 Cor 13:8).

Tell Them You Love Them

Even if all you can tell them is that you love them, don’t fail to tell them that just because they haven’t returned to you or to the Lord. God is patient and long-suffering, and He doesn’t want any of them to perish (2 Pet 3:9). The word used for long-suffering means to be extraordinarily patient, almost supernaturally patient, and since that is what God is toward us, we must also be that toward our prodigals. The Greek word used for the word long-suffering (some translations say patient) is “makrothymeō,” and it means “to be of a long spirit, to not lose heart, to persevere patiently and bravely,” so that is what the prodigals’ parents and grandparents must do. Never let them see you lose your patience over them being a prodigal because that might make them more resistant to coming back to you. The more loving and patient you remain, the easier it will be for them if they decide to come back. The last thing we want to do is make it harder for them to come back to us.

Keep the Lines Open

Just imagine your prodigals as being on the other end of a phone line. If you say the wrong thing in anger or frustration, they might just hang up. By all means, keep that line of communication open because God might send His Spirit to convict them of where they are (Ezk 11:19-20). You can still send those Christmas cards, birthday cards, and even a greeting card for no particular occasion. Let them hit rock bottom if that’s what it takes. The last thing you want to do is keep sending them money because you might be getting between the rock (the bottom) and the hammer (God’s working in their lives). If you keep sending them money, you might just be enabling them to continue to stay away.

A Closing Prayer

Great God in heaven, we all at one time were prodigals. I myself ran from You, oh God, for so many years, but I know according to the Bible that you sent the hounds of heaven to pursue me with a holy, passionate love that never gave up on me. Thank You, Lord, for never giving up on me when others would have and should have long ago. I pray these things in Jesus’ precious name. Amen.

March 18, 2023

Repeatedly Considering a God-Inspired Vision

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Today we return to Practical Theology Today with writer Curt Hinkle. Click the header below to read this where it first appeared, with a longer ending where Curt describes a time where he applied this principle to a ministry situation he was facing.

What Might it Take?

If you have never read the book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament, you should. If you have read it, you might want to read it again, because it is a most amazing story. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah are paired together, following the historical books of Kings and Chronicles.  In the Hebrew Bible, Ezra and Nehemiah are one book entitled Ezra-Nehemiah, but the Christian canon separates them into two different books.

In the fifth century B.C., the Israelites continued to emerge from their exile in the Persian Empire. They were invaded and conquered by the Babylonians in 586 B.C., with Jerusalem and its temple destroyed in the process. God’s chosen people found themselves scattered throughout the Babylonian Empire and eventually witnessed Babylonian’s own fall to Persia.

With the Persian overthrow of Babylon, the Israelites found themselves living under a regime that was more accepting of God’s people and willing to let them return home to rebuild their nation. God raised up a series of leaders to take charge of that homegoing. Two of these were Ezra, the priest, and Nehemiah who became the governor of Judah.

The Book of Nehemiah is basically a memoir, written by Nehemiah himself and preserved and edited by later Jewish scribes. His story picks up around 445 B.C. when he was the cup-bearer and presumably trusted advisor to the Persian king, Artaxerxes I. Though the entire memoir of Nehemiah is a worthy read, I want to focus our attention on the beginning of the story…

In the month of Kislev (Autumn), Nehemiah learned that his countrymen were in trouble and that Jerusalem’s walls and gates were still in ruins. Nehemiah’s response? In his words:

As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. (Nehemiah 1:4, ESV)

His prayer, captured in verses 5-11, reads like any number of Psalms. Starting by appealing to God’s covenant loyalty (see Hesed and Emet), Nehemiah called on him to “let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants” (verse 6). Continuing in a typical psalmist motif, he confesses the sins of the Israelites, employing the inclusive “we.” He closed his prayer with a specific request that, as the cup-bearer, God would grant him favor with the king.

In Chapter 2, the story picks up in the month of Nisan (March-Aprilish), 4-5 months after Nehemiah received and prayed about Jerusalem’s condition. God granted Nehemiah favor with the king, possibly surpassing his own hopes. (I think of the Apostle Paul’s prayer “to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…” [Ephesians 3:20]). The story in a nutshell…

The king noticed Nehemiah’s melancholy countenance and asked what was troubling him. In fear, he shared with the king his lamentation over the fact that Jerusalem lay in rubble. The king asked, “What are you requesting?” Nehemiah’s response to this most favorable question:

So I prayed to the God of heaven.  And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it. (Nehemiah 2:4-5, ESV)

Nehemiah then proceeded to lay out a time frame as well as a plan to rebuild the city, starting with the walls and gates. He audaciously asked Artaxerxes that the provincial governors ensure his safe travel. He also asked for kingdom resources, like timbers for beams to rebuild the gates. The king granted Nehemiah’s requests and topped it off with an army escort back to Jerusalem.

So I prayed…and I said

This is where I want to park for a bit. I have heard many a sermon suggest that Nehemiah prayed and God, in that moment, gave him the exact words to say along with the plans. There is certainly something to that, but I fear it’s too simplistic and doesn’t do justice to the God/human relationship we see throughout the biblical narrative.

Consider this: Nehemiah had 4+ months to ponder the situation back in Jerusalem. I can imagine him repeatedly asking the question, “What might it take?” as he pondered his God-inspired vision to repair the walls and reinvigorate the city. I think Dallas Willard’s description of prayer (Talking with God about what we are doing together) is apropos. Though rhetorical in nature, “What might it take?” could have been the ongoing prayer as Nehemiah talked with God about his vision.

I suspect Nehemiah’s response to the king’s question “What are you requesting?” was a natural outcome of months of pondering, talking with God, and asking “What might it take?”

March 8, 2023

When Things are Better, but Not Best

Today we’re thrilled to have another new writer to introduce to you. Melissa Tsingano lives near Sydney, Australia and writes at Heavenly Whispers. Have you ever prayed and received an answer, but wondered if it was the fullest answer? Or wondered if it would be wrong to ask God again about the same thing? That’s the theme of today’s devotional. Click the title which follows to read it on her blog.


As Christians we are not only to live with a self-consciousness, but we are also to be God conscious.  In order for us to be able to do that, we first need to be able to see. It’s one thing to read the Bible and know that you have areas that need Jesus, it’s another to see it and acknowledge it.

There was a time when I was living beneath the life that God had planned for me. I knew what the Bible said, I could quote some scriptures for you but I was not fully seeing myself in them. I went to watch the movie Noah. While watching that movie, instead of seeing the rebellious people as characters in a movie, God opened my eyes, and I could see myself in them. I could see me. I could see where I had hurt God and people and where I had gone wrong. My eyes were open.

From that moment in the movie theatre I went home, I prayed, and my life has not been the same since. Step by step, day by day God brought my life back on track. We cannot underestimate the value of seeing.

Mark 8:22:25 When they arrived at Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man to Jesus, begging him to touch him and heal him. So Jesus led him, as his sighted guide, outside the village. He placed his saliva on the man’s eyes and covered them with his hands.  Then he asked him, “Now do you see anything?” “Yes,” he said. “My sight is coming back! I’m beginning to see people, but they look like trees—walking trees.” Jesus put his hands over the man’s eyes a second time and made him look up. The man opened his eyes wide and he could see everything perfectly. His eyesight was completely restored!

When we first come to Jesus, we are like the blind man. We know we need help. We know we need Jesus. Then we get saved. We are not as blind as we were before, but we don’t see fully either. Some people are content to live that way. In fact, most people settle there. They are better than they were before, and they did have an encounter with Jesus so seeing men as trees must be as good as it gets. But no. Salvation is only the beginning.

We cannot be too timid to approach God and ask Him to touch us again. We cannot “hide” our condition from God. He knows our condition, but He waits for us to realize that something is not right. For as long as we are comfortable seeing men as trees, living life beneath what God has for us, we won’t recognize our need for God and if we don’t recognize our need for God, we don’t get to experience all that God has for us. The blind man after the first touch when Jesus asked, “do you see anything” could have said, “Yes, my sight is back.” And left it there. Went home, better but not quite where he was meant to be.

Instead, he was honest with God. He didn’t give up or settle thinking, “this is as good as it gets.” No. He said to Jesus in effect, I am better than I was, but I know I am not where I should be.

That’s where a lot of us are. Better than we were but not where we should be. Being able to see means you see your condition as it is, not as you want it to be. It means being sensitive to the Holy Spirit when He says, “Perhaps you should not have said that to that person,” and recognizing that He’s right. There’s room for growth in us. There is room for growth in me.

Second Helping: Here’s another post from the same author. We all want to avoid pain, but confronting things that need to change is needed for inward transformation. And it can help us avoid the pain of the path we may be taking. Click here to Read Come On In.

March 1, 2023

People Crave Freedom from Anxiety

Today we’re back for a second visit to the blog It’s a God Thing, subtitle “Unpacking the baggage of life, love and spirituality.” Click the link in the title which follows to read this in full because you’re only seeing about half of the full article and it’s all helpful.

Freedom from Anxiety

What do you think is the most highlighted verse of the Bible?

According to Kindle, it’s this:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.(Philippians 4:6-7)

Why do you think that is?

Why would these be the verses people most want to remember?

To me, it says a lot about our craving for peace.

Our longing to be free from worry.

And this verse gives us a clear instruction not to be anxious about anything but to pray.

To ask God for the things we need.

And what will happen when we do this?

We’ll be guarded by the peace of God. A peace that no one can truly understand. Yet we know it’s a peace that can only come from Jesus.

I can see why people highlight this!

Everywhere we go, people are worried.

People crave freedom from anxiety.

We all want peace.

And we’re not just worried.

We’re worried about being worried.

Anxiety itself is often scarier than the problem we’re worried about.

No one likes to feel out of control.

No one likes to feel afraid for the future.

We want peace.

Yet this world feels anything but peaceful most of the time.

We’ve all suffered through life-changing events in the last few years.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a nightmare.

We’ve also seen many natural disasters such as bushfires, droughts, cyclones, storms, heat extremes and floods. Not to mention the Ukraine war further afield.

The past few years have seen people experience:

  • Job losses
  • Isolation & severe loneliness
  • Illness
  • Changing rules
  • Changing relationships
  • And general worldwide uncertainty.

All these things have increased the rates of anxiety and depression.

In the last Budget, the Australian Government said it would allocate $2.3 billion towards a National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan.

That’s how big an issue mental illness is right now.

It’s normal to experience a range of reactions following a disaster.

Sadness, anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, irritability or even anger.

And while many of us can recover from one trauma, many disasters take their toll on us.

When there’s one thing after another after another… we feel less secure. Less safe. Less hopeful.

The past couple of years have had a negative impact on our mental health.

It feels like a unique time for our world.

But suffering is not new.

Here in the Bible, in the most highlighted verses – Philippians 4:6-7 – we are told to present our requests to God in every situation.

Why does Paul, the writer of this passage, say this?

When Paul wrote Philippians he was speaking these words into a time of great uncertainty.

Paul is writing this letter from prison. He has been treated badly for sharing the news of Jesus.

And his Christian friends back home are suffering for being Christians too.

He tells the church in Philippi that even though they face persecution and danger, their lives as Christians should be focused on Jesus and not their fear.

He reminds them of when they first became Christians. When their faith was strong.

He tells them not to be discouraged by the hard things that are happening.

In this passage, Paul contrasts anxiety and prayer.

He says God’s kids shouldn’t be anxious about anything.

He is not meaning we shouldn’t be concerned about anything.

He’s not saying we shouldn’t care when bad things happen.

He’s saying that people who love Jesus, people whose true home is heaven, should not be fearful or paranoid.


Because we can talk directly with God, the maker of heaven and earth.

God has all power and authority.

He is in total control of every situation.

Instead of choosing anxiety, we are invited to approach God with whatever is on our minds.

We are told to thank God for what He has done as well as ask for help.

This does not mean we will live a worry-free life.

It doesn’t mean we’ll never need help from others.

But it is saying that when we have a problem, we need to always start with prayer.

There is another verse in the Bible that talks about what to do when anxiety strikes us:

1 Peter 5:7 says:

Cast all your cares on him because he cares for you.

This reminds us that only God can truly give us rest.

If you are weighed down with cares, cast them on God!

Cast all your care on God — not just some of your care.

God wants it all.

And in exchange, He’ll provide you with the peace that passes all understanding.

So when the Bible talks about our “cares” what does it mean?

A care is another way of saying a burden.

Something that occupies our attention.

It might be fear, stress, anger, or grief.

It might be family. Work. Unwanted desires.

Cares aren’t necessarily negative. They are just the things we dwell on a lot.

What do you care most about in life outside of your faith? These are your cares.

Here are some more specific examples:

  • You think a lot about your children. You worry about their future. You might have kids or nieces and nephews who are going through bullying. Or maybe your children are older and have gone through a marriage breakdown. This burdens you. It breaks your heart.
  • Or you might think a lot about money. Worries over your financial future whirl around in your head. Your biggest fear is ending up without a home.
  • Perhaps it’s relationships you worry about. You’re scared of rejection, so you make poor choices in friendships, work relationships or romantic relationships because of this fear.

There are so many burdens we carry.

What things are you most terrified of losing?

  • Your marriage?
  • Your kids
  • Your money?
  • Your home?
  • Your friendships?

The things that occupy our minds are our cares.

They are the things we consider most important.

And God wants us to share each of these cares with him. To cast them on his shoulders like a backpack that’s been weighing us down.

We cast our cares on him because we want to keep a God-centred focus on things.

Without a focus on God, we start to worship other things.

We give more time and attention to

  • Our families
  • Our romantic relationships
  • Our work
  • We worry about what people think of us
  • Or what will happen in the future.

I’m not saying these things shouldn’t take up any of our thinking. But when they take up most of our thinking it’s a sign we’ve drifted from God.

We might value being paid more than we value serving others.

We might allow fear to run our lives instead of our faith.

What we care about in life changes with time.

Children have different cares than young adults.

Young adults care differently than older people.

Whatever stage of life we find ourselves in, the process for casting our cares is the same.

We humble ourselves before God and admit our need for Him.

The best way to cast our cares upon God is to pray.

When we pray it’s like talking to a trusted friend about something that’s on our heart.

The relief that comes from that is wonderful isn’t it?

But with God it’s even better than talking to our favourite sister, brother, parent or best friend.

He’s your Creator. He made you.

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February 20, 2023

Can God Himself Become an Idol?

Today’s featured writer came recommended. Author Tim Ferrara has grown up in the church and is currently the Executive Pastor at LifePoint Church in Arizona. His website is called Discerning Dad. To read this where it first appeared, click the title below.

When God Becomes an Idol

It seems that the constant struggle of idolatry in the Old Testament is a concept that is lost on modern society. A modern culture that has advanced so much in knowledge and technology that the idea of bowing down to a graven image made of wood or stone seems impractical and foolish.

We even see righteous men and women of the Bible struggling with idols. Rachel stole the idols of Laban (Gen 31:32). Gideon had to destroy the family idols (Judges 6:25). Michal used an idol to help David escape (1 Samuel 19:13). Not to mention the countless times Israel got in trouble with turning to idols instead of the living God! It is no wonder that the first two commandments God gave Israel was to have no other gods before Him and to not make any idols to be worshipped.

Also, in the New Testament idols are addressed including the very direct command “flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10:14). Most of us know that today an idol is anything we place above God in our hearts. Idols can be anything from family, marriages, jobs, celebrities, hobbies, mentors, government officials, food, entertainment, and much more.

The purpose of this blog is not to discuss the forms of current idolatry, but to examine what happens to the Christian who treats God Almighty as an idol. What does that even mean to do so?

Let’s look at 1 Samuel 4…

The Israelites faced a defeat from the Philistines in battle. When they returned to battle the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the Lord bring defeat on us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant to Shiloh, so that he may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies” (v3). The Philistines were terrified! Here was the ark, representing God who had defeated their ancestors and defeated the Egyptians. The Philistines fought anyway and captured the ark! 30,000 Israelites died including the Priest Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas.

What gives? Why didn’t this symbol of God’s power work in battle? This worked for Joshua. How could God allow the Israelites to experience a staggering defeat at the hands of their enemy?

Previous chapters give us a glimpse into the spiritual state of Israel at the time. Eli, the high priest, did not properly control the actions of his sons who defiled sacrifices and blasphemed God. This was the first prophecy that Samuel received from God, forecasting their destruction. The death of Eli’s sons, and the death of Eli upon hearing the news, was a direct result of their lack of reverence for God and abandonment of their holy responsibility as priests.

Eli and his sons were going through the motions though, they didn’t completely abandon their faith. They did perform sacrifices and maintained the semblance of holiness up until the point of their deaths. They tried to copy previous generations’ faith and holiness without having any of their own.

Contrast the example from a previous generation found in Judges 20:26-28 (NIV)

Then all the Israelites, the whole army, went up to Bethel, and there they sat weeping before the LORD. They fasted that day until evening and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the LORD.  And the Israelites inquired of the LORD. (In those days the ark of the covenant of God was there, with Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, ministering before it.) They asked, “Shall we go up again to fight against the Benjamites, our fellow Israelites, or not?” The LORD responded, “Go, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands.”

They inquired of the Lord. They wept, fasted, gave sacrifices before the Lord and He answered with victory. A stark difference to Eli’s sons who did not inquire of the Lord. The elders of Israel thought it sounded like a good idea to bring the ark to battle. They simply brought the ark of the covenant along for the ride. It was used as a trinket, as a good luck charm, as an idol. As a result, the ark was in captivity and then displaced for years until David finally brought it to Jerusalem.

I like this definition of an idol from Webster, “a mere image or semblance of something, visible but without substance, as a phantom.”

The ark was visible to the enemy that day that Israel lost in battle. The enemy knew to fear God, knew of His past victories, but there was no power. No blessing. No anointing. The enemy was just as surprised as Israel that they won.

God won’t be dragged into our battles that He never told us to fight. God won’t bow to our will when we need Him when we’ve spent the rest of our lives giving Him lip service and blaspheming Him. What worked in the past may not work in the future because God is not a formula, He’s not a riddle to solve, He’s not a means to an end.

Again, I like the definition of idol as a semblance of something without substance. Too many Christians today have a semblance of faith but there is little if any substance, no personal relationship with Jesus, no commitment to holiness at the expense of personal wants.

I’m afraid many have made God an idol in their life.

Now these Christians don’t blatantly curse God and leave the faith. They still go through the motions. They show up on Sunday, well not every Sunday. They aren’t in community with other Christians. They rarely read their Bible or when they do it’s because they are looking for answers to an urgent problem. They may wear a Christian t-shirt or have a fish on their car. They may say they are a Christian on their social media profiles and vigorously “defend” God in Facebook comments. Yet they rarely pray except when they need something. And they wonder where the God of their ancestors is, why they are losing battles, why life is SO hard.

If you read that and thought “oh good that’s not me,” be careful friend. God can be considered an idol on many more levels than I can state in this article. You may work full time in ministry but have no relationship personally with Jesus like you used to, you’re just too busy serving Him. You are burning out, giving in to anger, rage, lust, or a litany of sins and vices. But you would NEVER abandon God, you just don’t inquire of Him anymore. Your heart of flesh has turned to stone. You don’t even weep over the lost or the broken, deep down you find them a nuisance. The Holy Spirit doesn’t move you to tears in His presence anymore. You are the walking dead- a Christian in name only.

The sons of Sceva in Acts 19:14 tried this as well. They thought God was a formula and tried to cast out demons much to their shock when the demons wouldn’t obey and beat them up. Simon in Acts 8:18 tried to buy the Holy Spirit with money.

God can’t be copied, He can’t be bought, He must be worshipped as Lord and a relationship with Him cultivated. Imagine if you, a newlywed, saw a couple who were married 50 years and still in love and you determined to have that type of deep, intimate relationship tomorrow! You might get some wisdom from them and learn some lessons, but to have that level of intimacy with one person requires the same daily commitment over time… day after day after day. Through the struggles, through the loss and grief, joy, triumph, and dedication, that couple knows of a mature love that one cannot rush into finding. The same is true of our relationship with Jesus.

Jesus is not a trinket to be found, as if once we “have” Him, we put Him away until we need Him. He isn’t a good luck charm that we can now identify with when it becomes beneficial to our social status. He is not a “get out of hell free card.” We are talking about the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. We bow to His will, not the other way around.

Let’s not forget Ephesians 6. We are in a spiritual battle. We are called to put on the armor of God daily. It might feel like we lose a battle once in a while, that life hits us hard, but the difference is that God will never leave you or forsake you and He sticks closer than a brother.

We can make our plans and ask God to bless them but that is backwards. “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps” Proverbs 16:9. We need God daily, we need Him intimately. We are satisfied but always hungry when we meet with Him because we know there’s more. We should never get to the point where we’ve stopped pursuing more. Some Christians need to move from head knowledge further down to their heart.

He is worth pursuing. Your heart longs for more of Jesus. Don’t sit by and make your plans and ask God to bless them. Dive into the Word daily. Pray like you never have before. Don’t fill the need of your soul with frivolous activities with no eternal significance. Let your heart be softened and tenderized by your Heavenly Father, the desire of the nations, the only hope for this world. Amen.

January 20, 2023

Models for Prayer

In the same way, the Spirit comes to help our weakness. We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans. – Romans 8:26 CEB

But whenever you pray, go into your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you. When you pray, do not babble repetitiously like the Gentiles, because they think that by their many words they will be heard. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him – Matthew 6:6-8 NET

Different people have different mental images when shopping for books in the “Prayer” category. For some it means books of prayers; the prayers of our spiritual forebears, the great prayers of the Bible, and occasionally, prayers shared by Christian authors and leaders still living. For others, it means books about prayer; teaching as to the how and when and where of our communication with our heavenly Father.

In my tribe, I was more exposed to the latter. I had great difficulty understanding why someone would want to pray a prayer that was written by someone else. To someone in a more liturgical tradition, it can still be, after many years, still difficult to form their own words and speak to God as one would speak to a friend at the coffee shop.

Today we look at three model prayers. The one which we did have a link for no longer connects to anything, so I can’t speak to the origins of these, but I know when I first found them, they struck me as worthy to share here. Two are simply variations of the model prayer Jesus teaches his disciples.

Becoming Like the One We Worship

This prayer is found in the book by G.K. Beale, We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry, page 311.

Father, we thank you for your Word,
which is sober but not without hope.
Jesus has reformed his true people into his own image
on the basis of his own person, death, resurrection, and sending of the Spirit,
and he wants us to trust him and not be idol worshippers.

And so Lord,
cause us to revere you so we resemble you
and are blessed and restored to you,
and not ruined.
Give us eyes to see and ears to hear your truth
and give “us understanding so that we might know him who is true”
and to abide “in him who is true,
in his Son Jesus Christ.
This is the true God and eternal life.”

Give us grace to guard ourselves from idols.
Be with us to this end for your glory.

In Christ’s name,

The Lord’s Prayer as You’ve Never Heard It

This appeared in 2010 at Thinking Out Loud. It is a version of what is commonly known as ‘The Lord’s Prayer.’ However this version is one translated from Aramaic, rather than Greek.

Oh Thou, from whom the breath of life comes,
who fills all realms of sound, light and vibration.
May Your light be experienced in my utmost holiest.
Your Heavenly Domain approaches.

Let Your will come true
in the universe
just as on earth.

Give us wisdom for our daily need,
detach the fetters of faults that bind us,
like we let go the guilt of others.

Let us not be lost in superficial things,
but let us be freed from that what keeps us off from our true purpose.

From You comes the all-working will,
the lively strength to act,
the song that beautifies all and renews itself from age to age.

Sealed in trust, faith and truth.
(I confirm with my entire being)

The Sibling’s Prayer

I have no idea how this got its name. It appeared in the early years of my other blog, Thinking Out Loud. It is credited to Dave Aldrich. It is also based on The Lord’s Prayer.

Dear Father,

We, Your children in Jesus, who live throughout the world, who love and revere You and await your perfect Kingdom…

Together we pray that Your will be done here on earth, in all our lives, as it is always fulfilled in Heaven.

We pray for one another, asking You to take care of our needs. We ask You to forgive all that divides us from You and from one other. And to lead us away from the temptation of trying to control our lives or the lives of others.

Keep that enemy of ours from distracting our focus upon You. We depend upon Your strength for we are but weak vessels.

This is Your Kingdom at stake, Your power and glory. Help us to put aside our differences and remember all that You’ve done for us and how much You love us. We love You.


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