Christianity 201

September 24, 2022

Don’t Let Your Mind Go There!

Nearly a decade ago I was speaking with someone who was heading off to a small Bible college in Eastern Canada. I asked him if he needed help with textbooks, and he said that the school tends to write their own curriculum as they have a unique take on how they approach some Bible subjects.

Sometimes this can be a red-flag, so I asked him to give me an example, but it turned out to be something I found challenging and in fact, if you’re a longtime C201 reader, you’re seeing it here today for the third time.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says,

NIV Matt. 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Not all the teaching in this section specifically references the Decalogue, but what if we applied that “Don’t even think about it” standard to all of the other Ten Commandments? He told me that’s exactly what they did in their discussion of this passage.

That got me thinking. Instead of “Thou shalt nots” and I took some liberties with the text here, but at the time, I thought it might look like this:

  1. Don’t even think about putting any other interest, hobby, passion, person, pet, or other god-to-be-worshiped ahead of me (or even on an equal place).
  2. Don’t even think about giving special place to any physical representation of something (existing or in fantasy) that then occupies a central place in your life.
  3. Don’t even think about using God’s name casually or disrespectfully.
  4. Don’t even think about doing some chores or work for pay during the time you know should be set aside for God and for the rest He commands. If it is within your power, don’t compel others to work during this time, either.
  5. Don’t even think about how, given other circumstances, you’d love to kill someone if you thought you’d get away with; or harbor the anger that rises to that level.
  6. Don’t even think about going against the values your parents taught you, or doing something against their wishes. Their values and wishes and the proverbs they taught you will lead to long life.
  7. Don’t even think about having sex with someone who is not your wife; those thoughts will consume you and furthermore, it’s not likely to ever happen, you’re just driving yourself crazy!
  8. Don’t even think about taking something that isn’t yours.
  9. Don’t even think about misrepresenting someone else or putting spin on a story so it makes them look bad.
  10. Don’t even think about comparing yourself to what your neighbor, or co-worker, or extended family member has, or to his or her spouse, and wishing you could have that life or lifestyle.

I realize we’ve spent quite a few days over the past month looking at “God’s Big Ten,” and before we move to the section below, I want to invite you take some paper, or sit at our keyboard and refine what I’ve written, or better yet, start with the list in Exodus 20, and rewrite it in your own personal style or adding things you feel conform to the intention of the text when combined with the application of Matthew 5.

Before we conclude, another thing that struck me as I studied this was how The Voice Bible rendered the “You have heard it said” sections of Matthew 5. These are in italics in this version to indicate that yes, the translators have taken a liberty with the original text in order to provide clarity. What is especially worth noting here is that we generally read these with the inference that Jesus is now introducing something new, but these readings imply that the wider implications of what Jesus taught have been implicit in the text all along, if only we could see it that way.

  • 22 But here is the even harder truth
  • 28 You may think you have abided by this Commandment, walked the straight and narrow…
  • 34 But I tell you this: do not ever swear an oath. What is an oath? You cannot say, “I swear by heaven”—for heaven is not yours to swear by; it is God’s throne. 35 And you cannot say, “I swear by this good earth,” for the earth is not yours to swear by; it is God’s footstool. And you cannot say, “I swear by the holy city Jerusalem,” for it is not yours to swear by; it is the city of God, the capital of the King of kings.

The Voice Bible also breaks down specifically the origin of “You have heard it said…”

  • 21 As you know, long ago God instructed Moses to tell
  • 27 As you know, long ago God forbade His people…
  • 31 And here is something else: you have read in Deuteronomy that
  • 33 You know that…
  • 38 You know that Hebrew Scripture sets this standard…
  • 43 You have been taught…

Jesus’ teaching is clear: Don’t even consider wandering from the path, from God’s default settings, even for a moment!

NIV II Tim. 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.


Click this link for a devotional from last month which, at the bottom, links to other Ten Commandments-related posts here at C201.

September 18, 2022

Our Faithfulness vs. God’s Faithfulness

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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When I ramble on about how we’ve been producing fresh devotional content here every day since April 1st, 2010, it’s humbling to realize that Elsie Montgomery has us beat by over four years! She started in January, 2006. It’s no surprise then that she is one of the longest-running and most-quoted devotional writers here at C201. Her website is Practical Faith.

Speaking of faithfulness, God is faithful to “forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness;” which is her theme today. Click the title which follows to read this at source.

God’s faithfulness

READ Psalm 51–55

Yesterday I discovered a forgotten file while purging my computer. It lists the contrasting behavior of a person filled with the Holy Spirit and a person filled with himself. Anyone who seriously follows the Lord Jesus Christ realizes this is not an either/or but a both/and description. Christians still sin. We are growing in grace and more able to overcome our bad attitudes and actions, but the learning curve remains — and that list was convicting.

King David knew this. He was called “a man after God’s own heart” yet one day stayed home instead of going to war with his army. He was up on his rooftop and saw a beautiful woman bathing on her rooftop. Most of us know the story. He not only took her, made her pregnant, but had her husband killed to cover what he had done. I could say that most Christians would not go that far, but I’d likely be wrong. Besides, sin is sin, regardless of its extent or who it harms.

David was confronted by a prophet and deeply convicted. He pleaded with God for mercy, forgiveness and cleansing:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart . . . . Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me . . . . Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. (Psalm 51:1–13)

Last Sunday our pastor said that one thing that keeps people from fellowship with other Christians is holding the standards higher than the reality. In other words, don’t expect perfection from others when the Bible clearly says God’s people need to keep confessing our sin. Sinless perfection belongs to Jesus Christ and while we are being transformed into His likeness, none of us will get there this side of heaven. In other words, don’t be disappointed at anyone’s imperfections!

As I read that list, whoever wrote it knew another truth and included this in the ‘good’ list: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (51:17)

The contrast on other side of the page said this, condensed yet plainly the opposite:

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good. God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. (53:1–3)

That is, being a person devoted to God, I must be able to see and confess sin in humility and repentance. The following verse from the psalms is another way of saying the same truth in the next verse from the NT. Both are vital to spiritual growth and well-being, and both honor God and His grace and goodness:

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. (55:22)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Sometimes I pop into the selfish side of the list, yet God is faithful. It might take me awhile to ‘get it’ but when that sin is confessed, He is faithful to do His saving work and sustain me as His child. This promise is the wonder of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

 

September 11, 2022

Laser Beam Eyes

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Matthew 6:19-24 NIV:

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Today we have a writer we first featured in June of last year. We again happened upon Jamin Bradley a few days ago, and his writing led us to the excerpt we did from CommonPrayer.net although we made a note to circle back to his own writing. A Free Methodist pastor, he has written eight books, recorded a number of albums, and started three alternative churches. His blog features AI-generated images. Clicking the header which follows will let you read this where we found it.

Guard Your Eyeball Lightbeams

Up until the 1500s, it was thought that eyes actually emitted or projected something like light or energy. This energy wasn’t as extravagant as an X-Men superpower, but ancient people certainly believed there was a power of sorts in the eyes. Indeed, they believed that you could basically curse someone by casting an “Evil Eye” on them—a glance to which pregnant mothers, newborn babies, and children were especially susceptible. This kind of look was thought to be widespread enough that some Jewish teachers in the early first centuries claimed that, “Out of one hundred persons, ninety-nine die of an Evil Eye.”

Throughout the Bible, there are at least 24 references to the evil eye, with a few of those references coming from Jesus himself. In his famous Sermon on the Mount, he says something that often confuses us: “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is evil, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”

Many modern readers are taken aback by this teaching. How is the eye a lamp? How can eyes be evil? The answer is found in the ancient conception of the eyes, as they were thought to emanate what’s inside of us and project it out, kind of like a lamp or a lighthouse. I know it sounds odd to us, but just as your tongue exclaims the good or evil and blessings or curses that live inside of you, so would ancient people say that your eyes emit the light or darkness inside of you.

While we know that this is not scientifically how eyes work, maybe you can still admit that you’ve fallen under the good or evil glances of another person (or even given such glances yourself). We’ve all noticed throughout the pandemic that we don’t need to see the bottom half of someone’s face to know how they feel about us. We can feel all kinds of good and evil expressions through the eyes of others: kindness, enjoyment, judgment, sensitivity, seduction, rage, and much more. How little we would be able to comprehend someone’s full feelings without their eyes. Though our eyes may only scientifically be receptacles, we must admit that we’ve felt their spiritual-like emissions one way or another.

I’ve had one friend strangely mention several times that I have “kind-Jesus-eyes,” which they sometimes struggle to look at when kindness is not what they think they should receive. But the eyes of Jesus are the exact kind of eyes we Christians are to strive for. For if Jesus was the light of the world, then the kind of light that emanated from his glance is the same kind of light we should pour out on other people—and that’s a teaching that our angry and judgmental world could probably use more of.

So in conclusion: In ancient thinking, your eye is a lamp, so it should naturally pour out the light that is within you, blessing those around you. But if you instead are filled with evil, you will emit darkness instead. Erase the darkness and be like Jesus—be light. You already know that as a Christian you are to guard your tongue—now guard what you say with your eyes as well.


*This devotional was created out of the themes of Matthew 6:19-24 found in today’s reading at CommonPrayer.net. My research on the “Evil Eye” here is taken from John H. Elliot’s book, Beware the Evil Eye: The Evil Eye in the Bible and the Ancient World. Volume 1. “Introduction, Mesopotamia, and Egypt.”

August 19, 2022

Turning (Completely) To God

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:07 pm
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Today we’re back at the blog By Leaps and Bounds which is an outreach of Arise Ministries, which is based in West Virginia. The author of today’s thoughts is Adrianna Lindsey.

Repentance

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and My burden is light.” -Matthew 11:28-30.

This scripture is often discussed in sermons when pastors describe a relationship with Jesus. How do we forfeit our burdens? We repent of our sins, we stop trying to do it all in our own will power.

“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” -II Corinthians 6:14

How is a believer and an unbeliever unequally yoked? An unbeliever is yoked to the world, to idolatry, to sin and unrighteousness. The yoke of sin is heavy. This scripture is referring to a marriage between a believer and an unbeliever but it is also a great way to compare what a life as a believer weighs compared to a life of an unbeliever.

Repentance relieves a heavy yoke. Taking on the yoke of Jesus can only happen if we repent of our old sinful lives. Many times throughout the epistles the disciples describe when people and their households come to believe The Good News they repented of their sins, got water baptized, then received the Holy Spirit. Same with Jesus, minus he was a man with no sin and fulfilled the law, a Yoke that no man could fulfill (Acts 15:10), in its entirety so he did not need to repent of sin. Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and responded to this command that he was doing what was required by the father (Matthew 3:15).

We can’t walk in righteousness and holiness with Jesus without repenting. Jesus literally tells people they will suffer a gruesome way to perish like the Galileans whose blood was mingled with their sacrifices (Luke 13:2-3). He specifically says that their sins were not worse than the sins of other Galileans but they still perished an awful death. When we hold on to unforgiveness, anger, malice, bitterness and so many other sinful ways we are choosing to perish. Jesus says not everyone who says to Me “Lord, Lord” shall enter the kingdom…”and I will declare to them depart from me I never knew you, you who practice lawlessness!” (Luke 7:21-23)

But there is good news! When we repent and turn from our sin, we take upon the Yoke of the Lord! The Lord’s grace is abundant, yes, but that is not an excuse to continue living in sin. Romans 6 specifically says, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!” (Romans 6:1-2). We make that decision to repent and be baptized into Christ Jesus and into His death so we can also be raised from the dead and share that with our King and walk in the newness of life! (Romans 6:1-4). How powerful it is to be united together in the likeness of His death and the likeness of His resurrection (Romans 6:5)!

Don’t be a slave to your sin. Jesus tells his disciples that whoever commits sin is a slave to sin (John 8:34). He also says a slave does not abide in the house forever but a son abides forever and if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. (John 8:35-36) This statement is used often with ministers in deliverance ministry because many times we believe lies that keep us bound in our sin causing us to be a slave to our sin or bound to a demonic stronghold. So repent, let go of that stronghold, because the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

August 5, 2022

We Fall Short; Everyone Falls Short

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Today is our first time at the blog Anthem Seed, written by J.A. Bowens. I encourage you to click that blog link or the one in the title below, and then explore other articles.

What is the Glory of God That Makes us Fall Short?

I was praying when I heard “all have fallen short to the glory of God.” It is an excerpt from Romans 3:23 that preachers use in sermons, but I guess I never really knew what it meant. So after being on my knees for a little while, I researched the Glory of God. The Christian explanation said its hard to define . It can mean beauty however, beauty is hard to describe. Since Paul wrote Romans and Paul was a Jew. I went to the Hebrew explanation.

Shekhina is the first word for the Glory of God. Shekhina means dwell or settle. The glory of God that filled the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34) was as a bright radiance, and the Shekhina is sometimes similarly conceived.

There is also an affinity between the Shekhina and the Holy Spirit, though the two are not identical. Both signify some forms of divine immanence, both are associated with prophecy, and both are connected with the study of the Torah.

Moses had a breathtaking encounter with God. There he met El Hakkavod, the God of Glory. Moses asked God to remain with his people Israel. When God promised to do so, Moses, seeking further reassurance, boldly asked, “now show me your glory.”

The Hebrew word kavod is the 2nd word for glory. The word originally meant “heavy, weighty,” like in reference to armor used in battle. Over time the word be-came linked with wealth, honor, dignity, and power, then eventually came to mean “glory.” All these attributes combine to describe God as El Hakkavod, “the God of Glory.”

Our righteous wallet is always inferior to God’s righteous wealth!

So in Romans 3:23 the passage Paul is saying no matter Jew or Gentile. Whether a person believes in Jesus as the Messiah or not. No one can stand in the presence of God and conclude they are equal because of how vast God’s honor and righteous wealth are compared to humans!! Our righteous wallet is always inferior to God’s righteous wealth! In worship or praise, a person can potentially feel Shekhina or the Holy Spirit. A person’s immediate conviction is how unworthy they are! No matter the habit of practicing steps towards holiness, a person can’t compare to the worthy or the honor of God. They are still in the suit of sin.

A person might ask “do we willfully sin since we can not measure to God’s love” (Romans 6:1-2; 1 John 3:4-10)? That can be answered by the original structure of parental love designed by God. A mother is an example of endless love while a father should be an example of tenacity love. A father’s actions express tenacity love in situations like “I’m coming to save you no matter the condition.” “I’m coming to provide for you no matter the circumstance family.” “I’m going to remain committed to our family no matter the temptation wife.” He can only be an example of tenacity love to his family if he has a relationship with the Creator. Then he is getting endless and tenacious love from God so he can be an example of tenacious love to his family. What does this have to do with sinning despite never measuring to God?

God’s agape love. You are committed to God because God gives you both perseverance and endless love. They work together to spark a believer’s ambition for divine fellowship with the Creator. A person might say “let me read my daily scripture for the renewing of my mind because God’s agape love is inspiring me to do better.” Or “let me fix my eating to respect my body” or “let me change how I’m parenting out of respect for God.” Therefore God’s agape love (which is endless tenacious love) promotes our desire to improve our spiritual consciousness.

God said, “be Holy as your God is Holy” (Leviticus 19:1-2). The Hebrew word for this means one. Be the same at all times as your God is the same. Yet even some occasions being the same is a struggle that takes us back to the awareness we’re not on the same level as God. Since our mark is God, we don’t need to lower the goal to be our neighbor’s performance for self-gratification or gloating. Don’t look to say “I am more holy than that person.” That is not the goal.

Our awareness of how short we always fall to God should make us more humble about our neighbor’s weaknesses.

“Hey man, I don’t measure up to God’s glory either. Don’t be hard on yourself.” Since there is no difference in one person’s sin nature from another, any progress over sin is not praise for the person but praise to the Glory of God. Only the Glory of God can give victory over a sinful habit, lifestyle, or nature.

So if the Glory of God is how we have victory over sin, do we stop learning how to improve our lifestyle? No, because learning promotes thinking. Thinking promotes application. The application of what we learn creates new habits. The body is still mechanical and human willpower is still immaculate! Yet the willpower is from God. And no matter how great a person’s willpower – when they come to Shekhina, they realize the determined will that astonished thousands on earth- is a reflection of God’s power in all of us. The fact any of us has mastered our infinite willpower is a testament to God, whom is perfect. No matter how great a person’s willpower- in the presence of God, they will become convicted in some areas of their life they fall short. At that moment, when they realize despite their greatness amongst humans- they aren’t perfect. God will lift their head and say “I still love you.”

The fact that any of us has mastered our infinite willpower is a testament to the creation of God which is perfect because God is perfect

The endless tenacious love of God (agape) should always inspire us to practice better lifestyles. When we feel the Shekhina of God, we learn we are never on the same level as God’s kavod simply because we can never be completely perfect like God. Yet despite that, God chooses to still Shekhina (dwell) with us.

July 9, 2022

Knowing Christ Intimately

Once gain we’re featuring the writing of Art Toombs at Art Toombs Ministries. Art is ” apermanent member of Theta Kappa Alpha, the National Honor Society for Religious Studies/Theology.”Clicking the title which follows lets you read this where it first appeared and can be encouraging to their ministry.

Truly Knowing Christ

Colossians 2:1-5 For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. (NKJV)

The Apostle Paul continues his letter to the Christians at the church in Colosse. Here he also includes those at the nearby church in Laodicia. He is under house arrest in Rome and has not met any of these believers, since the churches in the area were started by Epaphras.

Paul begins this passage by telling them of his struggle for them. He writes “For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh” (v.1).

The nature of his struggle refers back to the previous two verses in chapter one which is so that they will be presented “perfect in Christ.” He can not be with them and so he worries that they will be misled into false teaching, specifically Gnosticism, which was present in the area.

He continues “that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ,” (v. 2). The literal interpretation of the Greek in verse two is: “that may be comforted the hearts of them, being joined together in love, and to all riches of the full assurance of the understanding, to the full knowledge of the mystery of God and of Father and of Christ.”

Paul wants their hearts to be comforted, joined together in love, and rich in the understanding and knowledge of “the mystery of God.” This mystery was revealed previously (Col. 1:27) as “Christ in you” applies to all who believe, Jews and Gentiles alike.

In other words, he wants them to have the strength and joy that comes from truly knowing Christ. He wants them to know that they have the power of Christ living within them, so that they can draw on His power for discernment.

This power is the Holy Spirit. Paul continues “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (v. 3). The Holy Spirit reveals all wisdom and knowledge to Christians.

Paul writes “Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words.” (v. 4). Christians have the wisdom and knowledge of Christ to keep them from being deceived by “persuasive words”.

Paul completes this passage with a word of encouragement, He writes “For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.” (v. 5).

Paul is “rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness” they are in the faith. Order and steadfastness are military terms. He is commending them in their fight against false teaching.

False teaching has always existed in the church and always will. It is a matter of degree.

As Christians, though, we are given the Holy Spirit who gives us discernment. The Holy Spirit interprets the Bible for us as we read it. He helps us to truly know God, so that we are not misled by false teaching. As we read and study the Bible our ability to discern becomes greater as we understand more of who God is.

For example, if we know the Bible we know that certain behaviors are sin and that God punishes sin. So, we know that if we partake of certain sins we can expect punishment, most often the consequences that we bring upon ourselves.

We also know that sins are chosen behaviors, otherwise a Holy God could not punish us for them. God is not a killjoy. He just knows that certain behaviors will result in unwanted results and so He tries to save us from ourselves.

The Bible also tells us what sin is not. False teachers will come along and try to convince us that certain behaviors are sins that are not.

If we know the Bible and we are tuned into the Holy Spirit we will, again, be able to discern the truth. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin in our lives. If a certain behavior is not listed in the Bible as a sin and if we are not under the conviction of the Holy Spirit., it is not a sin.

Christians should always be discerning of any teaching. Some teaching is too liberal and some teaching is legalistic. We see both in the world today.

We have everything we need if we have a Bible and the Holy Spirit. All we need to do is to spend time in reading that Bible. Then we will truly know Christ.

June 24, 2022

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

I often wonder, when the New Testament uses the word mirror how sophisticated the manufacturing process was in Bible times. Did those mirrors create a high resolution picture or were their pigments, irregular surfaces, or curvatures which forced a distorted image? We might be surprised at how clear the image was.

What verse comes to mind for you? Perhaps it’s from James:

NIV.Jas.1.23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Could a person look into a mirror and honestly forget what they look like? It’s hard to imagine in a selfie-infatuated world, but remember that in Bible times people didn’t have photo albums. Even a few centuries ago, if you were wealthy, you might have an artist do your portrait, but the degree to which it looked like you would depend on the skill of the painter.

James compares looking in a mirror to looking into the law and forgetting what you’ve heard. It’s part of his overall theme in this section which begins earlier in verse 22: Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 

But a more creative preacher might argue that the law itself is a mirror. We hold ourselves up to the law to see how we compare. 2 Corinthians 13:5 tells us to “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (ESV) Romans 5:13 explains that, “Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. (NLT) The law sets the standard, we see ourselves as we look into it.

Another type of mirror in scripture is found in 1 Corinthians 3:12

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known. (CSB)

This is the passage which, in the KJV talks about ‘seeing through a glass darkly.’ When teaching this years ago, I compared it to waking up in the morning and discovering someone has rubbed something greasy all over your glasses. But again, we have to think about the quality of mirrors they might have had when Paul wrote this verse. The CEV speaks of a “cloudy reflection in a mirror,” which suggests a mirror of inferior quality.  (The ISB uses “indistinct image.”) But other renderings of this verse leave me thinking the contrast is between “reflection” and ‘reality.’ That even the best mirror is not the real thing. (If you’ve studied it, Plato’s “Analogy of the Cave” might come to mind.)

Our best representation is really a shadow of what awaits us in the future. 2 Corinthians 2:9 reminds us that

9 But as it is written:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (NKJV)

Before we move on, let me reiterate the verse from the NLT:

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

A third use of mirror is also from Corinthians, this time from 2 Corinthians 3:18

But we all, with unveiled faces, looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (NASB)

There’s a lot going on in this verse, so let’s get Eugene Peterson to flesh it out for us a bit more:

Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.

Just as Moses reflected (a mirror-word if ever there was one) God’s glory, we all, looking at God indirectly, cannot help but be changed, and cannot help but copy or duplicate (or mirror!) his glory.

Think about these three mirrors next time you look at one. Allow it to serve as a reminder.


What about that last phrase, “changed from glory to glory?” We looked at that here in this September devotional.

June 23, 2022

I Am the Lost Child Who Needs to Come Home

Today, a beautifully written devotional from a writer appearing here for the second time, Victoria Moll who writes at Notes About Glory. On her “about” page she states that,

“I think the most exciting thing that could ever happen to a person is feeling the rush of the Holy Spirit. Its my favorite thing and I cant help but talk about it.”

Clicking the header below takes you to where this first appeared.

The Prodigal Son

I Am The Prodigal Son, weighed with the burden of a sinful heart and a rebellious nature. In the words of Paul,

“For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” (Romans 7:20-21).

This is the burden of the believer, one that hurts the soul, yet the same burden that Christ died to kill in us. I am the prodigal son. I want to go crazy and leave everything I’ve ever known behind, not believing that there are consequences to my actions. I want to be wild because my sinful nature tells me that although I know it will tear me apart, it will be fun. That I can get away with it because I can, with my dying breaths, ask for forgiveness from the Lord and let that be good enough.

But then I remember that my soul’s only purpose is to serve the Lord. That without Him and His glory, I am nothing. I remember the call from Romans 6:

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. (V 1-7)

Its passages like this that remind me that I’m the prodigal child that has to come home every day, actually. As I sit here and write about my sinful nature, the Holy Spirit in me is walking me home. He is walking me home, reminding me of the grace and mercy of my God; about the fact that there is nothing that He can’t heal.

He’s asking me to have more faith, to lean in and listen, and to sit with Him. He’s telling me that He can kill the devil in me, but I have to let Him. He’s telling me that he can sanctify me, but that I have to start doing the work, that I have to work out my salvation with fear and trembling. It’s two-way street.

He wants my obedience for the sake of His glory in my transformation. He’s asking for more because there is more, and He would know because He set it before me. He wants to put me in my limits so that I can experience a true freedom that doesn’t choke the life out of me, but rather allows me to flourish as He designed me. He wants me to grow good fruit, I just have to remain on the vine.

He loves me. 

He invites me to wrestle, but He compiles me to bow. He is my friend, but He is also my Lord, and His name WILL be honored at the end of the day. He’s in the business of conforming me, making me into the likeness of his son, who is called Holy above all things.

Its times like these when I understand the Psalms. A steady stream of lament from the flesh, then a push from the Holy Spirit, gentle like a whisper, moving me in the direction of the cross- pushing me down to the feet of the Father, compelling me to give Him glory because it’s the only thing that I know to do.

I didn’t mean for this to end up being a glorifying prose, but more of an expression of the rebellion in my heart. But in this process, I see that I, who am in union with Christ, am eternally entangled with Him for the purposes of His Glory. I can never be removed from Him, and that there is no distance that I put between me and my God that He won’t cross to steal the affections of my heart.

June 1, 2022

The Holy Spirit Makes My Sin Apparent to Me

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Has it been a year already? Today we’re back with writer, speaker, entrepreneur and marketing consultant Bill Hood, who writes at Brothers of the Book. This one is fairly representative of Bill’s devotionals, but in preparing this, I looked at five different ones and they were all great!

Clicking the header below takes you to read this where it first appeared a few weeks ago.

Acknowledge You Have A Problem

Psalms 32, 51, 86, 122

The first step in recovery either as an alcoholic or a sinner, is to acknowledge that you have a problem. Have you admitted you have a problem?

They say that the first step an alcoholic must take toward sobriety is acknowledging that he has a problem. Can a drunk be cured of his addiction if he doesn’t believe he has an addiction? A drunk won’t make a commitment to the radical life style change needed to become, and stay, sober if he doesn’t think he has a problem. A drunk must come to the end of himself, he must be broken, he must hit bottom, before he can begin his climb up out of the pit.

David was known as a “man after God’s own heart”. We have seen in our time reading about him that he was typically in right relationship with God. Yesterday we read of David’s sin with Bathsheba. David didn’t seem to be too concerned about his sin until Nathan came and made clear that he had a problem. Before I go on about this, let me share my astonishment. David had a right relationship with God. He knew what was right and wrong. He knew how much God had blessed him, and yet he, seemingly out of know where, sinned in spectacular fashion. How could he do such a thing?

I submitted my life to Christ. I have sinned after that life changing moment. How can that be? I’m supposed to be a new person; the old is gone. I have the Holy Spirit residing within me, so how is it possible for me to sin once more? You know a recovering alcoholic never says he is cured. He is forever a recovering alcoholic. He knows that he is always just one thought, just one sip, away from relapse. If he truly accepted that he had a problem, and that he wanted to get better, then he accepted the fact that he would forever more need to be on his guard.

This was true for David, it is true for me, and it is true for you. I love God, and His will is what I desire most in my life. The old dead self, every once in a while, rears its ugly head, and I must be ever vigilant to keep from slipping over the precipice back into the hole. If, like David, I fail in that task, I will suffer the consequences of my relapse. What about the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is my Nathan. The Holy Spirit makes my sin apparent to me and causes my heart to break for my faithlessness. It is the Holy Spirit that helps me to acknowledge my sin, to seek forgiveness, and to get back on the straight and narrow wagon again.

Once Nathan helped David to see his sin and his need for forgiveness, David started on the path to recovery. He would still need to suffer consequences for his sin, but God’s forgiveness would mean that he wouldn’t suffer the ultimate penalty for sin – death. Psalm 51, written by David, shows us how he approached God following his interview with Nathan.

Psalm 51:3-6 ESV
“For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.”

David acknowledged his sin to God and himself. Coming face to face with his wretchedness before a Holy God brought him to a place of brokenness. It was in this state that he could find forgiveness and be brought back into right relationship with God.

Psalm 51:16-17 ESV
“For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

Brothers, every day we should become more like Christ as we discover the new creature we became the day we submitted to His authority. As we mature in Christ we should have fewer stumbles along the way and every stumble will hurt like the dickens. At the moment of every stumble, let us get on our knees, acknowledge that we have a problem, confess our sin to God with a truly broken and contrite heart, and then let us get up, go, and sin no more.

Vivere Victorem! (Live Victorious!)

Your brother and servant in Christ,
Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

May 14, 2022

Healing as the Reversal of Sickness

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Is it “health and wealth gospel” or “prosperity gospel” to believe that God never wants you to be sick, even for a day? How you answer that question says as much about your belief about God than it does about your take on particular doctrines. I am well aware that the realities of life come crowding in on us constantly, but I also find it helpful, hopeful and inspiring to be reminded of the spiritual realities of various infirmities, and the way scripture views sickness in an overall, general sense.

So while this may be a bit too Charismatic for some of you, I hope you’ll take the time to let it speak to you. Oshea Davis is today’s writer, and clicking the header which follows will take you to where it first appeared.

Think On These Things: Think on Healing & Miracles

“Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are right, whatever things are pure, whatever things are pleasing, whatever things are commendable, if there is any excellence of character and if anything, praiseworthy, think about these things. And the things which you have learned and received and heard about and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you,”
Philippians 4:8-9 LEB.

Thoughts of sickness are a lie against the promise of God; thoughts of sickness are not honorable, not right and they are not pure of heart. Thoughts of sickness are not pleasing, and not commendable. They are not excellence of character and or praiseworthy.

Thoughts of Healing are an agreement that the promises of God are true. They are honorable. Thoughts of healing are right, are pure and pleasing. Thoughts of healing are commendable, and they are excellence of character. Thoughts of healing are praiseworthy.

Does this sound strange to you? If it does you are out of touch with reality; you do not know God, the gospel or scripture.

Healing is part of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, (Isaiah 53:4, Matthew 8:17); it is by biblical definition part of the gospel. The gospel is good, it is trustworthy, praiseworthy, excellent, and so forth.

Sin is not good, not praiseworthy, not excellent and so forth. For a Christian forgiveness of all their sins by Jesus’ finished work is a stepping stone; a doorway into the next life. To stay at this doorway, means you do not believe you are forgiven, which is why you never enter into or believe the gospel. The only correct way for a Christian to think of sin, is being already judged and buried in Jesus’ death. Sin, death and judgment are behind the Christian. Value, unmerited favor and joy is before the Christian.

Hebrews 10:2-3 says that the Old Testament yearly sacrifices reminded the minds and thoughts of the practitioners of their sin. The writer of Hebrews says this was not a good thing for the mind to be reminded of our sins. To be reminded of ones sins, if you are indeed forgiven, is not excellent or praiseworthy. They were reminded of their sins, because Christ had not yet come. Hebrews later states that Jesus once and for all removes our sins from us. The pragmatic implication is that our minds and thoughts are not reminded about or sins; rather, we are reminded of our new identity in Christ.

We are the righteousness of God and co-heirs with Jesus. By His great love we are children of God.  Thus, it is not a good thing to be mindful and dwell on your sins. You are to be renewed by thinking about Jesus, and who are “presently” in Him. This is praiseworthy and excellent.

Paul says in Romans 6 we are to assent that we were buried in Jesus’ death. Our sin, by His atonement, was dealt with and buried. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5, that we at one time knew Jesus from a human point of view, but we do NOT know Him this way any longer.  He is on the throne, ruling and pouring out the baptism of the Spirit. Our thoughts are to be on this present reality of Jesus. Paul extends this to us. The old man is gone, with all our sin and judgment for that sin. Our new creation is our present reality, and this is where our thoughts ought to be. Thus to “think on these things,” is not thinking about our sin, but how righteous God sees us as. God interacts with us, as the righteousness of God.

The pragmatic application is if your circumstances or Satan tries to remind you of your sins, you are not indulge this temptation by thinking about your sins; rather, you are put off this old-man way of thinking, and put on the new-man, who thinks about how completely forgiven he is and how boldly he can march into the throne room of God and ask and receive.

The same is true for healing and sickness. Sickness is part of curses of Adam and of the Law (Deut. 28). Jesus, by substitutionary atonement, became our curses. Jesus was nailed to our curses of sickness. Even when leapers who needed to be healed, under the Law, a blood sacrifice was given. Healing is shown under the Law, that a substitutionary sacrifice is needed. Jesus was our substitutionary sacrifice to redeem us from all sickness.  Isaiah 53:4 says Jesus “bore” (same word for the substitution atonement for the escape goat in Lev. 16) sickness and pains.[1]

Curses are not honorable, excellence, praiseworthy, etc. And yet, sickness is a curse.

Sickness is a curse; it is not excellent.
Sickness is a curse; it is not praiseworthy.
Sickness is a curse; it is not honorable.
Sickness is a curse; it is not “true” regarding what God has promised.

When tempted by circumstances and the devil to keep rehearsing your sickness over and over in your mind, do not sin by doing this; rather, be obedient and put on the new-man who thinks on the finished work of Jesus who bore all your sickness and pains, who was nailed to your sickness and how these died with Him, on His body, so that you are freed and released from all of them. God is for your body, so much so, He made it part of the gospel. He is the God who heals you.

To indulge on thoughts of your sins or sickness is in direct disobedience of the Scripture commanding us to “think on these things.” Rejoice! You are commanded to think on righteousness, healing, blessings, miracles, peace with God, Joy and unending unmerited favor upon you.  Rejoice.


[1] For more see, Christ our Healer. FF Bosworth.

May 11, 2022

Hate What is Evil, Hold Tightly The Good

We are — once again — breaking the six-month rule to share an extra devotion with you from our online friends at DailyEncouragement.net. I would hold up Stephen and Brooksyne Weber as an example to anyone who wants to create a devotional/Bible-study blog. Click the header below to read this where it first appeared.

Calling Good An Abomination

Listen to this message on your audio player.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20).

“But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

Today’s message is written concerning current events here in the USA but the teaching is applicable wherever you may live.

For nearly 50 years among the most contested cultural and moral issues here in America has been the legalization of abortion, more specifically the killing of innocent life. In 1973 the Supreme Court decision asserted that abortion is a “constitutional right”. Two days ago a leaked report indicated that this decision may be overturned which has reignited simmering coals to a blazing hot fire in what has been called the culture war.

The report resulted in an emotionally strong reaction from both sides reinforcing the reality that there is a deep, deep division on this subject matter. But I was especially struck each time a statement played over and over on the news made by a prominent senator. He used a word from the Bible that describes what God strongly hates and abhors when he asserted that the decision to overturn Roe V. Wade would be “an abomination” (see here).

That immediately caught my attention since one of the abominations mentioned in the Bible is child sacrifice. “They built the high places of Baal that are in the Valley of Ben-hinnom to make their sons and their daughters pass through the fire to Molech, which I had not commanded them, nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination, to mislead Judah to sin” (Jeremiah 32:35). Essentially he was calling an abomination the opposite of what God calls an abomination!

“An abomination is something that causes hate or disgust. In biblical usage, an abomination is something that God loathes or hates because it is offensive to Him and His character.”(gotquestions.com)

Today let us examine timeless truths from the Holy Scriptures that address this matter as we seek insight and needed discernment.

We have used the first daily text many times in the course of writing these messages over the last 25 years, especially the first part, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil”. Evil is increasingly called good and good is increasingly called evil. Evil has existed during every generation after the fall but there are certain periods of time it increases and other periods, such as revival, when it’s tamped down a bit. You can see this in Israel’s history during the period of the Judges with the ebb and flow of good kings and evil kings.

In the 1960’s the church, whether liberal or conservative branches, was practically unanimous in its understanding of life, marriage, family and sexuality:

1) Life begins at conception.
2) Marriage is a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman.
3) The family is the fundamental unit in society.
4) The moral understanding that sexual relations were reserved for marriage.
5) God created male and female.

For that matter even society at large had these moral underpinnings. Hollywood used to have Biblical standards which was reflected in the Hays Code in the 1930’s regarding the movies they produced to be viewed by the public!

But throughout my lifetime there’s been a steady erosion of morality and subsequently so much “calling evil good”. This has brought about the inevitable corollary; good is called evil, even abominable. And with a deep fog of spiritual blindness enveloping our country (and many other countries) people are frustrated and confused. There seems to be a huge lack of discernment.

Several years ago a nationally known preacher made a statement concerning our present moral condition that is imminently Biblical and sensible regarding the obvious consequences to children being raised without a father’s influence. He was excoriated by the national media with the typical charges of being intolerant, narrow-minded and of course hateful.

Among the signs of our culture’s moral downfall is the failure to uphold the Creator’s standards, which has led to great confusion as to what even constitutes evil.

What a powerful message in our first daily text. “Woe” is a literal transliteration of the Hebrew. In other words it’s an expression that sounds the same in Hebrew, English or any language (similar to the word, “hallelujah”). Woe is also an onomatopoeia, which is when the formation of a word imitates the natural sound associated with the object or action involved. Consider the sounds of deep, painful wailing. Isaiah’s “woe” is timeless.

“Woe” is an exclamation of pain and grief. As our culture drifts farther and farther from its Biblical moorings we see the truth of Isaiah’s proclamation. Do we also feel his exclamation of woe as well?

What is the subject of this woe? Three are listed in the daily text.

Those:

1) who call evil good and good evil,
2) who put darkness for light and light for darkness,
3) who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.

Biblical morality is being turned on its head, not only in Isaiah’s cultural setting but also in our own lifetime. Sometimes I am stunned by that which is so contrary to the right and wrong I was taught as a child now being accepted by non-believers and sadly even some professed believers. Today much of what is evil is called good and what is good is called evil.

The second daily text is a zinger of truth that we all need to hearken: “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

Today let us remain faithful to the perspective that God gives us through the inspiration of Scripture. As unpopular, “intolerant”, socially insensitive, and politically incorrect as it may be described, let us continue to call evil “evil” and to call good “good”. For sure, let us not call a good decision an abomination!

As God’s children let us hear the words of the apostle Paul and “hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9).

 

May 7, 2022

Eliminating Hinderances

I’m breaking our six month rule here, because I was already committed to introducing a new author here, only to be reminded we did this in January. However, that post was one that Pastor Will wrote in October of last year, and this one is from May, so in my convoluted logic, it does represent a gap of more than six months.

Besides, I think someone needs this today. He’s in a series in Hebrews and if you want more just click: Today’s Scripture. If you check the sidebar, you’ll discover that he’s been writing online longer than we’ve been here. Clicking the header below takes you today’s reading.

When We Listen

Hebrews 12:1-3 (HCSB)
Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart.

The greatest danger that the Jewish Christians faced was giving up in the midst of the struggles they were going through and in the face of the disapproval of their family, and turning away from Jesus and back to the rituals of Judaism. The writer of Hebrews had already pointed out the mortal dangers of such turning back (3:12-19; 6:4-8; 10:26-39). And in the Hall of Faith, he gave us a long list of those who did not turn back, but who persevered even when their goal was far off and seeming unattainable.

Now the writer encourages his readers to use those examples as models for their own lives, to persevere and stay faithful and thus stay on the path that leads to the promised reward. This perseverance includes two negative actions, things to be eliminated, and two positive actions, things to be done and embraced.

The negative actions are first to throw off everything that could hinder us in our spiritual journey. This is not talking about sin, which is next on the list. Instead, the focus of this negative action is on things that could pull us away from single-hearted devotion to God and single-minded pursuit of His calling and mission. This includes associations and partnerships that weaken our resolve or our faith, distractions that draw our minds and hearts away from God and His priorities, and any other focuses that take time and energy away from us becoming the person God has called each of us to become and from the job that He has called each of us to do.

The second negative action is to eliminate from our life sin. To many this has been deemed impossible, unattainable by human effort, and it is. However, through the presence and power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, reshaping and transforming our hearts, it is possible and essential for the man or woman of God to live without being entangled in sin which saps our spiritual vitality, and which cuts us off from God’s power to do through us all that He has called us to do. But to get to that place of victory requires acceptance of both the need to eliminate sin from our lives and faith in God’s ability to do it. It then requires focused effort on our part to ruthlessly eliminate from our lives everything that drags us down into sin, and to conscientiously avoid those situations in which we tend to compromise.

The two positive actions we are encouraged to take are both closely related. The first is to persevere in running the race, to not give up, to not allow ourselves to be sidelined by troubles, trials and persecutions, but to keep pressing forward toward the goal. In doing this, we must do the second positive action and keep our focus, not on the trials, but on Jesus, who is both our model, and our goal. Jesus Himself endured great suffering for us, and He stayed on track by keeping His focus on the goal at all times, on the prize of salvation for all humanity, and on His ultimate goal of returning to God’s side and the glory He had had with the Father when everything was accomplished.

Father, it does seem a bit strange how so many of us think about our walk with You. We believe that since You love us, we can simply breeze through our days compromising, sinning, and not giving Your agenda any but the most casual attention, and that it will all work out in the end. But the writer of Hebrews shows that for the lie that it is. You are passionate about Your agenda to save not just us, but all humanity. And our calling is not simply to get to heaven, but to live out the mission of Jesus and to pursue You agenda every waking moment with the help of the Holy Spirit and in His power. It is only as we actively pursue Your agenda that we can be empowered to run the course successfully. And it is only as we keep our focus on the goal, and on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, that we will be able to shed the distractions that cluster around us and the sins that try to weigh us down and entangle us, and to live victoriously all the way to the finish line. Thank you, Lord, for helping me to see this all so clearly. Amen.

May 1, 2022

Sin is Waiting for You

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Rebecca Brand is from New Zealand and has blogged for years at RebeccaBrand.org, in addition to speaking nationally and internationally and writing the book, Life’s Greatest Battles. Last year when we shared her writing here, we presented two different blog posts. The one today is connected to three different ones from Genesis (and a larger series from Genesis) which I’m going to link first this time. To read today’s click the large header which follows below.

Preceding articles:

Is Sin Crouching?

Watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. – Gen. 4:7

Our Motives

Yesterday, we talked through how Cain and Abel knew how they were to worship the Father and that ultimately, in our fallen state, God still wants a relationship with us

I also mentioned that the Bible does not say why God rejected Cain’s sacrifice, but perhaps it was Cain’s attitude or perhaps his offering wasn’t what God desired from him

If we think of Proverbs 21:27, it says:

The sacrifice of the wicked is detestable / how much more so when brought with evil intent

God always sees our motives and why we offer what we do to Him. This is because He sees our hearts behind everything, and when we give to God and others, we should not worry about how much we need to give up, but instead, joyfully give to God our best in things like time, money, possessions, and talents

How Do We React?

When someone suggests that we have done something wrong, how do we react?

Do we correct the mistake or deny that we need to correct anything?

After Cain’s sacrifice was rejected, God gave Him the chance to right His wrong and try again – God even went one step further and encouraged him to do this! Yet, Cain refused, and the rest of his life is a startling example of what happens to those of us who refuse to admit their mistakes

Friends, the next time someone suggests that we are wrong (especially when it is God) take an honest look at yourself and choose God’s way instead of what Cain did!

Giving Up Footholds

How incredible was it that God tried to make Cain see sense before he not only became the first human to be born but then the one to commit murder?

For Cain to master the sin that was lurking, he would have to give up his jealous anger so that sin would not have had a foothold in his life

Just like Cain, sin is lurking, and we become victims of it if we do not master it. Of course, sin cannot be conquered by our own strength, and therefore, let us turn to God to receive faith for not only ourselves but the faith and strength from others to help support us

Sin is a lifelong battle, but by walking with the Holy Spirit daily, this daily battle will not be over until Christ returns, and so, even though we might not win every battle in our lives, when we are face-to-face with Christ, He will show us exactly how He won the victory

“Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected. “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

Genesis 4:4-7


Second Helping:

This is unrelated, but something I heard in a sermon this morning that seems timely.

“When God wants to sort out the world, as the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount make clear, he doesn’t send in the tanks. He sends in the meek, the broken, the justice hungry, the peacemakers, the pure-hearted and so on.”
~ NT Wright

April 28, 2022

Has Fear or Fighting Stolen Your Peace?

Thinking Through John 20:19-23

by Clarke Dixon

Has either fear or fighting stolen your peace? You might wonder how you could have peace right now with this scary situation, or that horrible relationship. It might be a nasty virus or a nasty war that is stealing your peace. Jesus speaks to themes of fear, fighting, and peace.

Let us begin with how fear steals our peace

That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said.

John 20:19 (NLT)

The disciples knew all about fear. They were holed up in a room with the doors locked out of the fear that they would end up crucified and dead like their leader. They knew they had targets on their backs, so locked doors it was. Until Jesus showed up.

Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”

John 20:21 (NLT)

While there was rejoicing over seeing Jesus alive, the fear was still real, if not heightened by what Jesus had just said. No more hiding behind locked doors, go out into that scary world where you may well get killed! According to tradition, most of them were.

Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

John 20:22 (NLT)

Breathing on the disciples might seem odd, but as often happens the odd things in the Bible are a clue that something symbolic is happening. Here the breathing on the disciples points back to Genesis:

Then the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.

Genesis 2:7 (NLT)

God breathed life into humanity at Creation. Now here in Jesus God was doing it again. The Giver of life is with you, even in the face of death. Even though the fear of death was real for the disciples, their peace about life, death, and life after death could be real also.

Our fears can be legitimate. We may well end up wounded, emotionally from relationships, or physically from disease. We will likely face death at some point. Fear helps us seek wisdom, on how to stay alive and healthy. Fear is not all bad. But while fear may be helpful, even necessary at times, fear need not steal our peace. While the worst thing that we imagine might happen, could happen, in Christ the best thing that could happen, even beyond our imagination, shall definitely happen.

Let us continue with how fighting steals our peace

When Jesus says “peace be with you,” it is important that we recognize the word used for peace. Jesus would have spoken mostly in Aramaic and used a word related to the Hebrew word for peace; shalom. While our word peace may be used to describe situations where there is no fighting, the word shalom goes deeper to describe a situation where there is harmony. Two nations may be said to be at peace if they are not lobbing bombs as each other, but they may not be experiencing shalom if the relationship is not good. Likewise, you may experience peace in your relationships, but not shalom.

When Jesus told the disciples he was sending them out, he was sending them out among people with whom they did not have shalom. Their enemies were real, the enmity was real.

Jesus said, “as the Father has sent me, so I send you.” How did the Father send Jesus?

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:16-17 (NLT)

The Father sent the son with the agenda of offering forgiveness, of bringing love in the face of hatred. The disciples were to go out among their enemies with the intention of bringing love in the face of hatred.

As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side.

John 20:20 (NLT)

When Jesus showed the disciples his wounds he could have said “where were you when this happened? Why didn’t you stand by me?” But instead he said “Peace be with you.” Jesus showed them his wounds, not as evidence of their wrongdoing, or anyone else’s wrongdoing, but as a sign that he was real, and that his love for them and his forgiveness of them was real. Having experienced that love, they were now sent out to live it. So are we.

If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.

John 20:23 (NLT)

We might automatically think Jesus is speaking of the forgiveness from God that leads to eternal life here. We might therefore smell power, our power. But is that necessary? I like Eugene Peterson’s take on what Jesus said:

If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?

John 20:23 (MSG)

Good question! If we don’t forgive people’s sins against us, we will let those sins fester in our lives and in our relationships. We will let them steal our peace, our shalom.

Jesus is speaking here about the opportunity of experiencing peace in our relationships, and of bringing shalom to others. In breathing on the disciples, Jesus breathed a breath of fresh air into their relationship with him. Gone was any thought of experiencing judgement and condemnation. We can breathe new life into our relationships through forgiveness.

We enjoy shalom with God because God in Jesus has taken the path of the cross with us. Jesus said “As the father has sent me, I’m sending you,” meaning we are now sent on that same path of the cross, of love and forgiveness.

In Conclusion

Has fear stolen your peace? Jesus stands before us today and says “peace be with you.” Our fears may be real, but they need not steal our peace.

Has fighting stolen your peace? Jesus stands before us today and says “as the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Fighting can end in peace and enmity in friendship when we follow Jesus in the way of the cross.

“Peace be with you.”


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Cobourg, Ontario and appears here most Thursdays.

April 23, 2022

Misplaced Blame

The Message, Job 40:3-5 Job answered:

“I’m speechless, in awe—words fail me.
    I should never have opened my mouth!
I’ve talked too much, way too much.
    I’m ready to shut up and listen.”

We’re back for a fourth time with Matt Tullos who has been writing dramatic, devotionals, sermons, videos, poems and humor since 1985. Click the link in the header which follows to read this online, and to discover more.

I put my hand over my mouth

It’s something in the core of most people: a desire to find out what or who causes messes. And no one likes to get the blame for a mess. As children we blamed our brother or sister for the broken vase and when we’re older we blame our self-sworn enemies for the broken world. And it is broken. The world is a mess and many just can’t do mess.

Cal Jarrett, the father in the 1981 movie, “Ordinary People” said to his emotionally distant wife:

“We would have been alright, if there hadn’t been any mess. But you can’t handle mess. You need everything neat and easy. I don’t know. Maybe you can’t love anybody. It was so much Buck. When Buck died, it was as if you buried all your love with him, and I don’t understand that, I just don’t know, I don’t… maybe it wasn’t even Buck; maybe it was just you. Maybe, finally, it was the best of you that you buried. But, whatever it was… I don’t know who you are.”

I’ve heard many explanations at the graveside, where people tried to explain or theologize accidents, cancer, or covid. These philosophical expeditions are fool’s errands. Others don’t blame, they just disconnect.

We’ve lived through a season of blame. Some blame the mandates, immune systems, fake news, Facebook, critical race theory, politicians, presidents, doctors, the masked, the unmasked, antifa, news outlets, millennials, boomers, China, political parties, and mandates. Blaming is what we do to make ourselves feel better. We feel more in control when we have an enemy we can attach to the post office walls of our souls. But that feeling becomes eventually void, brief and ephemeral. We dig into our own feeble logic and construct belief systems that tie neat little bows over our limited and inadequate world view. Our nature is to forward blame to others so that we can feel better about ourselves and rationalize the root of anger that grows beyond the borders of our personal lives. This is Springsteen’s darkness on the edge of town. We live in the shadows and snipe at our enemies from Twitter accounts and snarky memes.

One thing is certain: Blame keeps us in safe little bubbles where we don’t have to engage. It works until we realize that the bubble is an eternally dangerous place to be. That bubble of isolation and stagnation leads to an insidious rot of the soul.

I’ve witnessed the birthing process. It’s messy. There’s pain, blood, sweat, snot, cries, and danger. I’ve also experienced graveyards. There’s organization, specific dates, symmetry, and nice, tidy rows. But, I’d rather be in the labor room. You learn so much more.

Throughout the book of Job, we see men doing postmortems of tragedies that come in bunches. We’ve all had cascades of crises which appear together out of nowhere. The baby is sick, the car blows up and we get passed over for the promotion- all in one day. It’s easy to ask the wrong questions when life gets dark and messy. The default is often, “Why?” “What did I do?”  Or, perhaps, an even more insidious question, “Why is God doing this to me?” More often than not, these questions are pointless.

The meaning of the book of Job is found late in the fourth quarter after all the armchair quarterbacking is completed. God finally speaks. A lot. Finally. God asks him forty-six answerless questions about the mysteries of His purpose. Forty-six! How would you like that divine interrogation? I can relate to Job’s response: “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth.”

When God speaks all I can do is put my hand over my mouth.

When God speaks I get tired of my own opinions.

When God speaks I realize that maybe I should shut up about my theories for once.

When God speaks I realize that I’ll never understand the world on this side of eternity.

I say like Job: I have spoken once, but I have no answer— twice, but I have nothing to add.”

It brings Job to a majestic response: Only God knows. His plans are much higher than my mind can fathom.

There’s a joy in not having to explain God, and simply trusting Him when troubles come in bunches. There’s serenity when you hand the gavel over to the Almighty Judge of the universe. You don’t understand? Well, guess what. You aren’t God. How can I add anything to what God has already decreed and ordered in the timeline of His sovereign grace?  I ask about injustice and He replies, “Go look at the elephant. I made that.” I worry about the future, and He tells me to look at the birds.

I give up.

I put my hand over my mouth.

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