Christianity 201

June 4, 2021

Vowing not to be Distracted

Earlier today a popular internet web-browser introduced an update which left users confounded and frustrated. Using my phone, I typed some keywords and started thinking about the number of businesses and individuals who couldn’t get work done that they needed to prioritize because of this distraction, and my mind immediately went to our key verse in Nehemiah.

The first time I looked at this passage here, in 2013, I called it “Try Our Signature Dish!” The reason? Restaurants have signature meals, a particular menu item that the place is well known for and with each menu revision, it’s always left intact. Preachers have signature sermon series as well, a particular book of the Bible for which they have great affinity and/or expertise, or if they are academics, a particular commentary that they have authored that stands apart from all their other writing. For Andy Stanley, who introduced me to this passage, the signature dish is the Book of Nehemiah — you can read more in his book Visioneering — and when he preaches it, the key verses are:

Neh 6:2 Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.”

But they were scheming to harm me; 3 so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” 4 Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer. (NIV)

Nehemiah had obtained special permission take what we would call today “a leave of absence” from his duties to the king to return home and rebuild the walls of his city, which had crumbled.

This is a passage about distractions in all areas of life, but especially distractions that can take us away from spending time with God and doing God’s work. In Nehemiah’s case the distraction was relentless. “Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave the same reply.” (v4)

Matthew Henry notes the specifics of those appeals:

  • When they courted him to an interview, with design to do him a mischief, he would not stir (v. 1-4).
  • When they would have made him believe his undertaking was represented as seditious and treasonable, he regarded not the insinuation (v. 5-9).
  • When they hired pretended prophets to advise him to retire into the temple for his own safety, still he kept his ground (v. 10-14).
  • Notwithstanding the secret correspondence that was kept up between them and some false and treacherous Jews, the work was finished in a short time (v. 15-19).

Author Steven J. Cole portrays Nehemiah’s refusals as a story you might get in your news feed:

Nehemiah Says No to Ono

Samaritan officials have disclosed that Nehemiah, governor of Judah, has again turned down the offer of Governor Sanballat of Samaria to meet at one of the villages in Ono, on the Judah-Samaria border. The proposed conference would include the Big Four of the area: Geshem, leader of the Arabs; Tobiah, leader of the Ammonites; Sanballat, and Nehemiah.

Sanballat issued a statement today in which he sharply criticized Nehemiah for his repeated refusals to cooperate. He reports that the purpose of such a meeting would be to work on a formula for lasting peace in the region. The Samaritan leader said with evident frustration, “This is the fourth time Nehemiah has turned down my invitation to meet and discuss our mutual concerns. These repeated refusals mean that the responsibility for increasing tensions and any violence that may result, rests solely upon Jerusalem.” (Adapted from Donald Campbell, Nehemiah: Man in Charge [Victor Books], p. 55.)

(If you want an excellent detailed commentary on this passage, the above link for that one is the one to choose!)

There have been several times in my life I’ve wanted to quote verse 3 to people, “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down;” but I’m not sure they would get the reference.

Blogger Alyson Browning calls this one of three marks of leadership:

…Third mark of leadership – ignore the annoying distractions (chapter 6). In this chapter, we see the enemies of God – Sanballet, Tobiah, and Geshem – attempting to discourage and distract Nehemiah from everything he was doing to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. Nehemiah ignores their plot to distract and harm him. He gives this now famous response, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” (6:3, HCSB). Nehemiah kept his focus on the task God had for his life and ignored those who were trying to distract him.

Christopher Scott notes that we’re getting an inside look in this story:

One of the reasons I love the book of Nehemiah is that it allows the reader to peek inside the heart of Nehemiah because it was written as a memoir from Nehemiah. Most of the books of the Bible tell about events that happened, but rarely do they tell about the thoughts and feelings of the biblical characters. However, because the book of Nehemiah was written as a memoir, we get to take a peek past what has happened and actually read about what Nehemiah was thinking and feeling.

Michael “Sinbad” Creighton writes:

Nehemiah was doing something that could only be blamed on God. He led a group of people in the rebuilding of the wall around the city of Jerusalem and completed it in only 52 DAYS! And all through the process, he had distractors and distractions. Check it out here. And every time he stood firm in what God was leading and equipping him to do.

Notice the first line of the 2nd paragraph (italics added) here from Steven Ruff:

Proponents and opponents: those for and against something. Every leader has both in the circle of influence. Nehemiah was no different. He had received word of the condition of Jerusalem’s walls and his heart was broken. He had prayed, sensing a God-given mission, and approached the king for assistance. He made the long trip to Jerusalem, surveyed the situation first-hand, and gave a reasonable and attainable goal to the people. When Sanballat and Tobiah approached Nehemiah, sounding like children on the playground, a choice had to be made. Does he move forward with his plans or does he come down off the wall and argue with them about the legitimacy of his work? Does he make wise use of his time and strength by carrying out the work or does he waste time, energy, and strength arguing whether it could or could not be accomplished? Nehemiah chose in that pivotal and critical moment to not argue. As the work continued and his opponent’s displeasure became louder, he later made his decision known, loud and clear. He said, “So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” [Nehemiah 6:3]

There is a difference between casting and defending a vision before those you lead and arguing with them about the legitimacy of that vision. There is a difference between answering legitimate questions from the organization and arguing with them about it. The difference : the opponent’s spirit. Nehemiah opponents were not genuinely concerned with his vision. They were not there to understand better the work at hand. They were not there to investigate how they might be involved. Instead, their spirit was one that simply wanted to see the work stopped and the Israelites embarrassed. Period. Leaders must decide where they will spend their precious time, strength, and energy. Will they spend it helping their opponents who genuinely want to better understand their vision and decision? Or, will they spend it arguing with an opponent who only wishes to see the work stop or fail? Nehemiah answers this question for us. Leaders lead confidently and choose not to argue, instead, inform and encourage. Ed Stetzer sums this matter up perfectly. He said, “You do not have to show up to every argument you are invited to.”

Conclusion: This is from Kendra Graham writing at the Billy Graham Training Center website:

When the opposition hears of the work that God is doing, it will raise eyebrows and tempers. Be prepared for opposition when you start doing what God has called you to do…When you do work for God, ill meaning people, but also many well meaning people and noble causes may try to steal your attention. These are not bad things, but are not the things God has called you to. Be on guard. Know what God has called you to and have confidence in that.

Like Andy Stanley, I’ve tried to take ownership of this passage, helped by the fact I’ve heard him refer to it several times. I hope you’ll find the spirit of this principle useful in the days ahead.

From Eugene Peterson, Ephesians 6:

The Message.Eph.6.10-12 And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no weekend war that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

13-18 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

April 13, 2021

Assurance for Unprecedented Times

Yesterday we didn’t have a specific scripture focus, which is really rare here; so today we are more than making up for it! Plus, in finding these verses I knew that there would be those for whom these are needed today more than ever.

Isaiah 54: 17

Weapons made to attack you
won’t be successful;
words spoken against you
won’t hurt at all.

My servants, Jerusalem is yours!
I, the Lord, promise
to bless you with victory. (CEV)


“No weapon that is formed against you will prosper;
And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
And their vindication is from Me,” declares the Lord. (NASB)


No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed,
and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord
and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.” (ESV)

God's Got My Back

Time and time again, scripture records instances where forces came against God’s people bent on their destruction, and the odds against them seemed incredible, but God’s people triumphed.
David and Goliath

I Samuel 17: 48-51 NLT: “As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground. So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him. David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword. When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran.

Samson Slays a Thousand Philistines

Judges 15: 14-17 CEB: “When Samson arrived at Lehi, the Philistines met him and came out shouting. The Lord’s spirit rushed over him, the ropes on his arms became like burned-up linen, and the ties melted right off his hands. He found a donkey’s fresh jawbone, picked it up, and used it to attack one thousand men. Samson said,

“With a donkey’s jawbone,
    stacks on stacks!
With a donkey’s jawbone,
    I’ve killed one thousand men.”

When he finished speaking, he tossed away the jawbone. So that place became known as Ramath-lehi

King Hezekiah and 185,000 Assyrians

II Kings 19: 35-37 NLT: “That night the angel of the Lord went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. When the surviving Assyrians woke up the next morning, they found corpses everywhere. Then King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and returned to his own land. He went home to his capital of Nineveh and stayed there. One day while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with their swords. They then escaped to the land of Ararat, and another son, Esarhaddon, became the next king of Assyria.

Mordecai and Haman

Esther 7: 9-10 NKJV: “Now Harbonah, one of the eunuchs, said to the king, “Look! The [a]gallows, fifty cubits high, which Haman made for Mordecai, who spoke good on the king’s behalf, is standing at the house of Haman.” Then the king said, “Hang him on it!” So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king’s wrath subsided.

Elijah

II Kings 1: 9-10 The Message: “The king sent a captain with fifty men to Elijah. Meanwhile Elijah was sitting, big as life, on top of a hill. The captain said, “O Holy Man! King’s orders: Come down!” Elijah answered the captain of the fifty, “If it’s true that I’m a ‘holy man,’ lightning strike you and your fifty men!” Out of the blue lightning struck and incinerated the captain and his fifty.

Ahitophel

II Samuel 17: 21-23 CSB: “After they had gone, Ahimaaz and Jonathan climbed out of the well and went and informed King David. They told him, “Get up and immediately ford the river, for Ahithophel has given this advice against you.” So David and all the people with him got up and crossed the Jordan. By daybreak, there was no one who had not crossed the Jordan. When Ahithophel realized that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey and set out for his house in his hometown. He set his house in order and hanged himself. So he died and was buried in his father’s tomb.

Paul on the Island of Melita

Acts 28: 3-6 NASB: “But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand.  When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they began saying to one another, “Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.” However, Paul shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm Now they were expecting that he was going to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god.

King Saul

I Samuel 31: 1-6 NET: “Now the Philistines were fighting against Israel. The men of Israel fled from the Philistines and many of them fell dead on Mount Gilboa. The Philistines stayed right on the heels of Saul and his sons. They struck down Saul’s sons Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malki-Shua. Saul himself was in the thick of the battle; the archers spotted him and wounded him severely. Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and stab me with it! Otherwise these uncircumcised people will come, stab me, and torture me.” But his armor-bearer refused to do it, because he was very afraid. So Saul took his sword and fell on it. When his armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his own sword and died with him. So Saul, his three sons, his armor-bearer, and all his men died together that day.

Daniel in the Lion’s Den

Daniel 6: 22-24 NLT: My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.” The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God. Then the king gave orders to arrest the men who had maliciously accused Daniel. He had them thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. The lions leaped on them and tore them apart before they even hit the floor of the den.

The Cross at Calvary

Luke 24: 6-8 NIV: “He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’Then they remembered his words.

Be Strong in the Lord

A few years Chris Tomlin wrote the song Whom Shall I Fear but it is also known as God of Angel Armies. This is a faith-building song that is really easy to learn. We are not promised protection from every hard thing a fallen world can bring, but when forces arise to destroy us we have the promise that greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. (I John 4:4)

February 24, 2021

Spiritual Warfare: The Weapon of Lies

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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As we soon approach devotional #4,000, it amazes me how many times a reading is tagged with the words, spiritual warfare. Even on my other more topical blog, Thinking Out Loud, this is a theme which is constantly recurring

This theme appears in so many books. Most authors agree that the battlefield on which the warfare is enacted is our minds. Think of bestsellers such as Battlefield of the Mind or Victory Over the Darkness. Spiritual warfare need not be the province of Charismatic or Pentecostal authors however, and it’s a topic we shouldn’t back away from. The battle is real.

Today at Devotions Daily, there was an excerpt from a forthcoming book, Winning the War in Your Mind, by Oklahoma pastor Craig Groeschel. To read it in full, click the header which follows.

Old Lies, New Truth

…You are constrained by a lie, something that doesn’t exist. The Enemy has arranged enough hurtful circumstances, in key places of your life, in which you got just enough jolt — a bit of a shock, a sting of pain to your heart — that you have decided trying even one more time is just not worth the risk. What makes it worse is that the number of places where you have stopped trying is growing ever larger.

The greatest weapon in Satan’s arsenal is the lie.

Perhaps his only weapon is the lie. The first glimpse we have of the devil in the Bible, we see him deceiving Adam and Eve in the garden. He created doubt in Eve’s mind by asking her,

“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.

“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:1-5

What Satan did in the garden back then is the exact same thing he will attempt to do in your life today.

In 2 Corinthians 11:3, our thoughtology professor Paul said,

I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

Satan will whisper accusing questions and deceptive statements. He schemes to twist your mind, because if he can, he then

  • diverts you from your purpose,
  • distracts you from God’s voice,
  • destroys your potential.

If he can get you to believe a lie, your life will be affected as if that lie were true.

Unfortunately, Satan’s lies are easy to believe. Why? Part of the reason is that because of sin, we have a flawed internal lie detector. God warned us:

  • “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9).
  • There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12).

That’s definitely the problem, so what’s our solution? How do we access God’s power to stop Satan’s lies? How can we demolish his strongholds in our lives?

If Satan’s primary weapon is lies, then our greatest counter-weapon is the truth of God’s Word.

Not just reading the Bible but learning to wield Scripture as a divine weapon. God wants us to view His Word that way. See how Hebrews 4:12 offers a direct solution to the warning of Jeremiah 17:9:

The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.


Excerpts from Zondervan books are used with permission from HarperCollins Christian Publishing. Winning the War in Your Mind by Craig Groeschel, copyright 2021 Craig Groeschel.

January 31, 2021

The Roller Coaster Ride of Ministry and Missions

If you knew me many years ago, there was a period when I would always sign letters

I Corinthians 16-9

In my mind, I was hearing the KJV text from where I first learned it:

For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.

Today, I would probably refer you to a more recent translation, such as the NLT:

There is a wide-open door for a great work here, although many oppose me.

If you think about, this is the format of every missionary, church, or parachurch organization fundraising letter or ministry report you’ve ever received.

→ The good news is: God is working in the lives of people, we are seeing results.
→ The bad news is: We face [financial/staffing/logistical/spiritual-warfare/etc.] challenges.

There’s always a challenge. Today in church, the guest speaker shared this:

The greatest challenge in life is not having a burden to carry.

That’s right, without some mountain to climb or river to cross, our lives would actually be rather boring. Certainly there would be no growth. I discussed that quotation with a friend after the service was over, and he said, “Yes, but that’s we all want. We want it to be easy.”

Matthew Henry writes:

Great success in the work of the gospel commonly creates many enemies. The devil opposes those most, and makes them most trouble, who most heartily and successfully set themselves to destroy his kingdom. There were many adversaries; and therefore the apostle determined to stay.

Some think he alludes in this passage to the custom of the Roman Circus, and the doors of it, at which the charioteers were to enter, as their antagonists did at the opposite doors. True courage is whetted by opposition; and it is no wonder that the Christian courage of the apostle should be animated by the zeal of his adversaries. They were bent to ruin him, and prevent the effect of his ministry at Ephesus; and should he at this time desert his station, and disgrace his character and doctrine?

No, the opposition of adversaries only animated his zeal. He was in nothing daunted by his adversaries; but the more they raged and opposed the more he exerted himself. Should such a man as he flee?

Note, Adversaries and opposition do not break the spirits of faithful and successful ministers, but only kindle their zeal, and inspire them with fresh courage.

I checked out a number of commentaries online for this verse, and ended up pulling out several of my print commentaries. One of the greatest insights came at the bottom of the page of the NIV Study Bible:

many who oppose me. Probably a reference to the pagan craftsman who made the silver shrines of Artemis and to the general populace whom they had stirred up (Acts 19:23-34).

Interesting that what appeared to be spiritual opposition was actually rooted in commerce; people who had a vested financial interest in maintaining commercial interests in a pagan form of worship. Think about Jesus and the money-changers in the temple:

NIV Matt. 21:12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.

I’ll let Eugene Peterson re-phrase the Acts reference above:

23-26 …a huge ruckus occurred over what was now being referred to as “the Way.” A certain silversmith, Demetrius, conducted a brisk trade in the manufacture of shrines to the goddess Artemis, employing a number of artisans in his business. He rounded up his workers and others similarly employed and said, “Men, you well know that we have a good thing going here—and you’ve seen how Paul has barged in and discredited what we’re doing by telling people that there’s no such thing as a god made with hands. A lot of people are going along with him, not only here in Ephesus but all through Asia province.

27 “Not only is our little business in danger of falling apart, but the temple of our famous goddess Artemis will certainly end up a pile of rubble as her glorious reputation fades to nothing. And this is no mere local matter—the whole world worships our Artemis!”

28-31 That set them off in a frenzy. They ran into the street yelling, “Great Artemis of the Ephesians! Great Artemis of the Ephesians!” They put the whole city in an uproar, stampeding into the stadium, and grabbing two of Paul’s associates on the way, the Macedonians Gaius and Aristarchus. Paul wanted to go in, too, but the disciples wouldn’t let him. Prominent religious leaders in the city who had become friendly to Paul concurred: “By no means go near that mob!”

32-34 Some were yelling one thing, some another. Most of them had no idea what was going on or why they were there. As the Jews pushed Alexander to the front to try to gain control, different factions clamored to get him on their side. But he brushed them off and quieted the mob with an impressive sweep of his arms. But the moment he opened his mouth and they knew he was a Jew, they shouted him down: “Great Artemis of the Ephesians! Great Artemis of the Ephesians!”—on and on and on, for over two hours.

Some people believe that finding the heart of many world and regional conflicts is simply a matter of “follow the money.” The point is that we don’t know and we don’t always see why people are so very bent on opposing us in ministry. Not to minimize Matthew Henry’s interpretation, it’s simply too easy to say, ‘It’s the Devil;’ or put things into some general spiritual warfare category. Maybe your devout faith and witness are simply “bad for business” for someone nearby.

…My opinion would be that where ministry is taking place many challenges and overt opposition will occur. If it’s not, maybe you’re doing it wrong.

Greater opportunities = Greater opposition.

But the good news is that most of the time the opposite is also true.

Greater opposition = Greater opportunities.

Romans 5:20b (KJV) says,

But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.

Ministry life involves both: Great opportunities for harvest and life change, and many who would rather keep the status quo.


Earlier today I launched a fundraising page at GoFundMe for an orphanage in Haiti that we’ve come to know over the past seven years. Our oldest son Chris has been on the ground there twice now and participates in their fundraising activities back home in Canada. If God has blessed you and you’d like to make a difference, I invite you to click through to the page and then consider any encouragement you can give through your donation.

December 1, 2020

Enemies of God

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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We return again today to the writing of Bill Muehlenberg at the website Culture Watch. Much of the first two-thirds of this article is simply a scripture medley. Clicking the header below will take you to the article directly where you can further consider these verses and the existence of what he calls “committed enemies of God, the gospel, and therefore of God’s people,” and what our response ought to be.

God’s Enemies

Yes there are those who are at enmity with God:

Some of you might be asking: ‘What, enemies of God? God has enemies? But I thought he loved everybody, so he cannot have enemies. At least he cannot regard anyone as an enemy, even if others see themselves as enemies of God! Isn’t that right?’

Well, no actually. There are indeed enemies of God, and from both sides of the equation sadly. There are of course those who hate God and resist God and see him as their one great enemy, even as so many of them deny his very existence. But I am speaking here of those that God regards as enemies.

The truth is, those who refuse to acknowledge God and his rightful place in their lives are living in enmity against God. Here I will present some of the biblical data on this, and then discuss how we are to respond. Plenty of Old Testament texts can be offered here. These are just some of them:

Exodus 15:6 Your right hand, O Lord, is majestic in power,
Your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.

Judges 5:31 Thus let all Your enemies perish, O Lord;
But let those who love Him be like the rising of the sun in its might.

Psalm 92:9 For, behold, Your enemies, O Lord,
For, behold, Your enemies will perish;
All who do iniquity will be scattered.

Psalm 110:1 The Lord says to my Lord:
    “Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”

Nahum 1:2 A jealous and avenging God is the Lord;
The Lord is avenging and wrathful.
The Lord takes vengeance on His adversaries,
And He reserves wrath for His enemies.

‘Ah, but that is the Old Testament’ you say. ‘Everything is different in the New Testament.’ Well, not quite. We find plenty of passages there which say the same thing. Indeed, it is interesting how often Ps. 110:1 is quoted or referred to in the NT, by Jesus and by others. Here are seven cases of this:

Matthew 22:44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.”’

Mark 12:36 David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.”’

Luke 20:42-43 For David himself says in the Book of Psalms,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
  until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

Acts 2:34-35 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
   until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

1 Corinthians 15:25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

Hebrews 1:13 And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?

Hebrews 10:12-13 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 

And then we have other texts, such as:

Luke 1:70-74 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we should be saved from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us;
to show the mercy promised to our fathers
    and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
   that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,

Acts 13:9- 10 But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?”

Romans 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Romans 11:28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.

Philippians 3:18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.

James 4:4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

So the idea that God regards unrepentant sinners as enemies is found throughout all of Scripture. But let me finish by looking at one last passage…

click this link to read Bill’s article in full…

October 19, 2020

Endurance Produces Sanctification

Today we’re introducing a new writer. April who writes at Redeemed in Grace. She describers herself as “a stay-at-home mom in Alabama, raising a son with Autism- this has been such a joy and a challenge. It’s what I like to call the unexpected things in life, an upside down blessing.” Send her some encouragement by clicking the title below and reading this at her site instead of reading it here.

Deeper Love

Adversity is not intended to diminish our hope in God. Adversity is intended to heighten our hope in Him. We are brought to remember that God is all we have, and that He is enough.”                                                                                       -Devotional Psalter (Psalm 71)

This year has been like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Powerless to stop it, we just have to witness the carnage. I can’t imagine going through this without Christ as my anchor. For those who don’t know how the Story ends these must be terribly upsetting times. But in the drama of 2020, God is still here actively at work. This is the truth believers can lean hard into. Even as external circumstances spin out of control or feelings betray us here is what you and I can stand firm in:

Faith is not a feeling. It is holding fast to what is true even when feelings don’t align. Even when it’s not popular (and the Gospel isn’t) or you feel alone in your Biblical convictions. This doesn’t make Truth void.

 

After God used Elijah in the showdown against 450 false prophets of Baal and 400 false prophets of Asherah, Elijah fled to the desert. He said he’d had enough and wanted to die. He was burned out physically and spiritually. He felt alone in worshipping the One True God. Then the Lord ministers to Elijah providing sleep, food and then His Presence. As if this weren’t enough, what our Father says next must have bolstered Elijah’s spirits even more as God tells him that 7,000 people have not bowed the knee to Baal. The Lord had preserved a remnant. Elijah was not alone like he thought.

Satan would love nothing more than for you and I to believe his lies and become discouraged, thinking we are alone in our allegiance to God. He’s not very creative, but the same routine can still be effective. God’s Word says, Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” -1 Peter 5:8-9

One of my favorite quotes is from Corrie Ten Boom, who experienced life in a concentration camp during World War II. Her family attempted to hide Jews in their home from the Nazis. They were eventually caught and arrested. She still found a reason to hope in God while enduring cruel treatment remembering, “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.” Corrie had an understanding of God’s Sovereignty even as wickedness seemed victorious. Like her, we are not alone in our belief that God Almighty is on His Throne. His will, His timing, His justice are perfect. And He loves His sons and daughters.

Anything we endure in this life is for our sanctification. It is for God’s glory and our eternal good. The Scriptures confirm His love is steadfast, sacrificial, unconditional and perfect toward His children. Our Father demonstrated His great love for us by giving up His own innocent Son. Jesus willingly paid my guilt, taking the consequences I deserved on Himself.

The most beautiful action in human history climaxed on the cross that day. Remember the depth of His love for you when you feel forsaken. God’s Word will be your comfort when you feel unloved, unseen, or friendless. His love abounds. Stay faithful. Stand firm in God’s Word. Jesus is the pearl of great price, a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Grace upon grace,

April

Grow deeper: 1 Kings 18-19; 2 Timothy


Bonus item: here’s a short beautiful poem April wrote, Go to God.

September 29, 2020

The Mystery of Unanswered Prayer

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Keep trusting in God. Keep trusting in me.” – John 14:1

Every once in awhile, my mother speaks to me from the grave.

Before you change channels, let me explain.

In her later years — and even some not so later ones — she had a habit of writing fragments of hymn lyrics on scraps of paper. Her thing wasn’t Amazing Grace or How Great Thou Art, but those older, richer hymns that nobody bothers with anymore unless Chris Tomlin ‘discovers’ them.

The green piece of scrap paper read,

Teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.

It’s a line from “Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart” (full lyrics below) and it somewhat captures one of the things I’ve been wrestling with since the pandemic began. I’m convinced that what keeps people from crossing the line of faith, and what causes others to wander from the fold, is not the allegiance of Evangelicals with a particular political party, the injustice of police interactions with people of color, or the tornadoes, floods and brush fires.

I think it’s more personal. I think it’s unanswered prayer. The time they reached out to God and God didn’t appear to come through for them in the desired time-frame. (Click the date-links in each to read in full.)

It’s been a recurring theme here at C201.

In December, 2011, we quoted from Steven Furtick’s book, Sun Stand Still:

…I’ve seen couples who had been labeled infertile give birth to healthy boys and girls. I’ve seen people lose their job, pray, and quickly land a new job that paid twice as much and required a fraction of the travel as the last job.

Sometimes—a lot of times—it goes that way. Faith works. Prayers produce. Praise God. There’s nothing better.

But sometimes—a lot of times, honestly—it goes the other way. Sometimes the sun doesn’t stand still. Sometimes the sun goes down.

Sometimes you pray your best, most honest, heartfelt prayers—and there is no answer. Or the answer is no. Sometimes, even though your motives are pure, your desire is good, and your need is urgent, the breakthrough doesn’t come. The turnaround moment doesn’t occur. The cancer spreads. The finances get tighter. The marriage feels more lonely. The kids grow more distant…

Also in December, 2011, we borrowed from Jon Swanson:

Jairus had a dying daughter. He went to Jesus. Jesus started coming to his house. Jesus was distracted by a different miracle. And then someone says, “never mind, she’s dead. Leave him alone.”

Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid; just believe and she will be healed.” The next thing we read is that Jesus arrives at the house.

Between those sentences, between “she will be healed” and Jesus arriving was a very long walk for Jairus.

…“Just believe” was all that Jesus told Jarius to do. We often turn that into some kind of measure, and we think that if we believe enough amazing things will happen. If they don’t happen, it’s our fault, because we didn’t believe enough. In this case, believing was simple. It just meant walking with Jesus all the way home…

…Jairus walked home with Jesus, ignoring the apparent certainty of her death.

Not every child is raised. But every promise is kept.

In January, 2012, our guest author was Robert Moon:

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

There are many things that hinder answered prayer, one of which is praying prayers we shouldn’t pray. Some prayers involve other people, and we forget that GOD deals with each of us individually, and it is not our place to control other people. There are myriads of reasons for seemingly unanswered prayer, and one of the most difficult one is time, waiting until the time is right in GOD’S eyes and not ours.

It is good to have a scripture in mind with a promise of answered prayer before I pray, and yet the answer is not always apparent. When this happens I never allow this to affect my relationship with the Father for faith in HIM comes far ahead of faith for things. Learn this secret when praying whether successful or not, allow your faith to grow exceedingly in GOD for this is what James 1:3 was talking about “You know that such testing of your faith produces endurance” and that is truly important.

I have heard of mothers who prayed for their children for many years and some have died before their prayer was answered. It would have seemed to have been an ineffective prayer effort but in reality it was victory.

In March, 2012, some powerful thoughts from an anonymous writer:

“I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (Philippians 3:13, NKJV)

We all go through disappointments, setbacks and things that we don’t understand. Maybe you prayed for a loved one, but they didn’t get well. Or maybe you worked hard for a promotion, but you didn’t get it. You stood in faith for a relationship, but it didn’t work out. One of the best things you can do is release it. Let it go. Don’t dwell on it anymore. If you go around wondering why things didn’t work out, all that’s going to do is lead to bitterness, resentment and self-pity. Before long, you’ll be blaming others, blaming yourself, or even God. You may not have understood what happened. It may not have been fair. But when you release it, it’s an act of your faith. You’re saying, “God, I trust You. I know You’re in control. And even though it didn’t work out my way, You said, ‘All things are going to work together for my good.’ So I believe You still have something good in my future.”

Finally (for today) from August, 2012 from Kevin White:

…God can seem alien to us at times, even cruel. His understanding exceeds our own far more than a human father’s exceeds that of the youngest child. His ways are infinitely more unsearchable than that of a dad who holds his kid down to receive a shot. Indeed, we would know hardly a thing about God unless he revealed it to us.

So sometimes, it is hard to see the goodness in what Cowper described as “a frowning Providence.” And yet, a key part of God’s self-revelation is that he watches his people, neither slumbering nor sleeping. Like a nesting hen, sheltering the hatchlings. He is a loving Father who gives good gifts. And yet the world is full of snakes.

This difficulty is made worse when we just don’t understand what is happening. When friends and family suffer. When natural goods, rightly desired, are placed out of reach. When we see that one of the greatest impediments to our flourishing is staring at us in the mirror. It is hard to see how a loving Father can be watching over all of that.

Instead, it is easy to covet, easy to resent. It is easy to say that it is all wrong, and should not be happening. Not in the sense of, “it is a fallen world and I long for paradise,” but in the sense of “what kind of God could allow this?” Or to wonder if our concerns are too small for God to notice. For the Christian, that attitude is doubly false, since Jesus Christ himself, “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” says that God pays mind even to the fall of a sparrow.

And yet, there is an odd thing about invoking God’s providence in difficult times. It is a classic piece of bad comforting to simply tell someone, “God is in control.” Even so, recognizing, resting in, and/or wrestling with God’s control over circumstances can be a powerful form of reassurance. Why the disconnect?

I think it is because the trite statement is a shortcut. In some ways, it merely restates part of the presenting problem. How is this bread and not a stone? Too easily, it skips all the messy business of “rejoice with those who are rejoicing, mourn with those who are mourning.” It skips straight to the pithy takeaway and moves on.

Part of the answer is that we live in a sinful and fallen world. The restoration of all things is not here yet. All accounts will be settled, but we have at best a foretaste of that reality. Some of our suffering comes from our own bad decisions, or from our own weakness and limitation. And much more comes with living in a world that is systemically corrupted and distorted by sin and the curse that it brought…


Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
Wean it from earth; through all its pulses move.
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art,
And make me love Thee as I ought to love.

Hast Thou not bid me love Thee, God and King?
All, all Thine own, soul, heart and strength and mind.
I see Thy cross; there teach my heart to cling:
Oh, let me seek Thee, and, oh, let me find!

Teach me to feel that Thou art always nigh;
Teach me the struggles of the soul to bear,
To check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh;
Teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.

Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love,
One holy passion filling all my frame;
The kindling of the heav’n-descended Dove,
My heart an altar, and Thy love the flame.

September 16, 2020

We Fail; He Helps us Back Up… Each and Every Time

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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One writer in our frequent-flyer club here at C201 is Elsie Montgomery who has appeared here more than 20 times.  This very personal reflection appeared yesterday at her blog, Practical Faith. Click the header below to read and find more great devotionals like this one.

One Prayer God Quickly Answers…

2 Samuel 11; Psalms 62–63; Ezekiel 18; 2 Corinthians 4

Reading the familiar story of David and Bathsheba reminds me again of one hard truth: strong desires blind my eyes to reality and truth. David wanted this woman and went against all that he knew was right. He seduced her, used his power to manipulate the death of her husband and tried to cover up his sinfulness with lies.

His actions beg the question: How can a person overcome strong desires? These include lust, desire for power, popularity and fame, even the desire to eat too much or drink too much alcohol. The list is long. David loved the Lord but his desire for a woman ruined his desire for doing the will of God. I don’t want that.

The Apostle Paul was also a man who loved the Lord. He lived with a strong determination to turn away from sin and live a godly life. What made the difference? These verses explain:

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:1–6)

Paul knew that blindness caused by sin is also blindness from the evil one whose goal is to keep people from seeing the glory of God in Jesus Christ. It is in knowing who Jesus is that changes everything. Paul was given that vision while on his way to persecute and destroy Christians. When he saw the risen Christ, he called that amazing experience “light shining out of darkness” and from that moment on, his life changed.

I understand Paul’s experience. Mine was similar. I read the Bible for nearly two decades but it was darkness to me; I didn’t understand any of it. Then one fall day, while reading another book that had a Scripture verse in it, Jesus shone into my life. I instantly knew that He was God in human flesh and that He came to save me from my sin. He shone in my heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

The biggest difference is that my life didn’t change as rapidly as Paul’s life! He was zealous for God before that great event, but I was zealous for me, with many strong desires for what I wanted. God keeps shining light into my life and is amazingly patient with me yet I am slow and forgetful, stubborn and selfish.

However, the Lord does give me an understanding of how Satan works. I know that I can be in the dark with those I-wants and that all of them must be yielded to Him. The more I give up the more I gain. That is, when I refuse to act in disgraceful or underhanded ways, or to be cunning or try to mess with what the Bible says or run my own life, then seeing the glory of God is easier and desirable. This battle against sin is won by losing.

APPLY: Every day I need to ask Jesus what the psalmist asked: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23–24) This is one prayer that God is so faithful to answer quickly that I’ve often said if you pray it, you better duck!

Later: This application is proven once again. Today God gave me a test . . . which I flunked! It happened a very short time after writing the above words. Again, if you pray those verses and mean it, He will answer quickly.

August 4, 2020

The Enemy’s Lies Often Sound Quite Practical

NIV.Matt.4.1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[c]

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’[e]

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

When I go looking for new authors to introduce here, I often end up with a short list of three or four. Then in choosing which article to run, I’ll again narrow it down to two or three. But this time, I took one look at this and said, ‘That’s the one.’

Willie Riggs describes himself as an artist, writer, and entrepreneur. And a Christian. Some of the things on his site are done as short stories and others are more devotional, like the one below. Again, don’t just read the articles here, but click through and enjoy them at their source. Click the header which follows.

The Promises of Satan

Remember when Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness? The story is usually portrayed as a great battle; as two sworn enemies locked in cosmic combat. Except, from the casual observer’s standpoint at least, Satan didn’t come at Jesus hurling attacks. He came at Jesus with… solutions.

Jesus was hungry. Why not turn these stones to bread?

Jesus was going to face danger. Why not test the limits of God’s protection now?

Jesus came to save the world. I will give the world to you, and you can bypass the suffering of the cross entirely.

Satan promised Jesus the entire world if Jesus would just bow down and worship him. It wasn’t the first time Satan made a promise. Remember Adam and Eve in the garden? “If you eat this fruit, you will not die! You will be like God!

Satan Makes Us Promises Every Day

We hear a lot of sermons about the promises of God, but it isn’t just God who makes promises. Satan makes us promises every day.

If you only do it once or twice, it won’t really affect you.

If you want it, it’s up to you to make it happen. You can’t just rely on God.

If you vote the right way, the government can keep you safe and secure.

If you worry enough, eventually you will figure it out.

If you compromise your beliefs, you’ll achieve your goals. This is a special circumstance.

If you want to, you should be able to. You deserve this.

If you put on a facade, everyone will like you more.

If you don’t do it today it’s no big deal. You’ll have plenty of time tomorrow.

The Difference Between God and Satan’s Promises

On the surface, the promises of Satan don’t seem all that dangerous. The things Satan promises make sense to us. The way Satan goes about doing things feels natural to us, at least in the beginning. His promises produce quick, often instantaneous, perceivable results.

In contrast, the promises of God often go against common sense. They make no sense to us whatsoever. Nor do they seek to appeal to our natural inclinations. How is giving away money supposed to increase our wealth? How is focusing on the needs of others supposed to make our lives fulfilling? God’s promises challenge our assumptions about life at every level. They go against everything we see and believe to be true. They require faith to pursue. And unlike Satan’s promises for instant gratification, God’s promises often require long periods of faithfulness and consistency before they are shown to be true. Some will never be proven true this side of heaven.

But probably the most significant difference between the promises of God and the promises of Satan is that every single promise of God is true, while every single promise of Satan is a lie.

The Truth about Satan’s Promises

Satan promises that dabbling in drugs and alcohol will bring you happiness. It won’t. He promises that watching porn together will improve your marriage. It won’t. He promises that if you find the right person, make enough money, or enjoy enough of life’s pleasures, you will feel fulfilled. But you won’t. And perhaps Satan’s biggest promise of all, the promise he makes to each and every one of us, is that even though every other person in the history of the world has been destroyed by following his path, that we are the exception. We will be the one that finally makes it work. We will come out the other side unscathed.

Only we won’t.

All of us are faced with decisions each and every day. Promises come at us from every direction. Some will make sense, and others will go against everything our senses are screaming at us. But when it comes down to it, you really only have one decision you have to make.

Who are you going to believe?


  1. The Greek for tempted can also mean tested.
  2. Deut. 8:3
  3. Psalm 91:11,12
  4. Deut. 6:16
  5. Deut. 6:13

June 20, 2020

When Things Feel Hopeless

I’m currently reading The Gospel According to Satan: Eight Lies About God That Sound Like the Truth by Jared C. Wilson (Nelson books). For a formal review I’ve written, click this link.

The book is centered around eight statements which each of us at some time have heard voiced by people with a loose connection to Christianity. Perhaps you’ve even caught yourself echoing one of these yourself, hopefully at an earlier stage of your Christian pilgrimage vis-a-vis where you are today.

  • “God just wants you to be happy”
  • “You only live once”
  • “You need to live your truth”
  • “Your feelings are reality”
  • “Your life is what you make it”
  • “Let go and let God”
  • “The cross is not about wrath”
  • “God helps those who help themselves.”

This is an excerpt from chapter five which looks extensively at the Book of Job and the subject of hope, and how people are sometimes ruled by the apparent reality of what is actually subjective feelings. The link in the title below takes you to a page at the publisher’s website.

Your Feelings are Reality

In my days as a pastor, I would often find myself sitting across from people overcome with hurt. The most common question they all wanted answered was “Why?

“Why had God allowed this? Why is God doing this to me?”

As the designated religious professional, it was expected I might have an answer to that question. As it pertains to people’s specific trials and tribulations, I did not. But I would ask a question of my own, and it usually went something like this: “If you weren’t going through this would you be as close to God as you are right now?”

In all my years of asking that question, I never heard anyone say, “Yes.”…

…Christians don’t hope as the world hopes. When the world hopes, they are engaging in wishful thinking. “I hope this or that happens,” they think. They think that when a man dies, as Job says, he just fades away; he breathes his last. “You only live once.” That’s it. That’s all they can see.

But Christian hope is not like that. It defies what we can see and it is ripe with the promise of what cannot be seen.

  • We do not grieve as those who have no hope.“–1Thessalonians 4:13
  • And our hope for you is firm, because we know that as you share in the sufferings, so you will also share in the comfort.“–2Corinthians 1:7
  • There is hope reserved for you in heaven.“–Colossians 1:5
  • Christ in you, the hope of glory.“–Colossians 1:27
  • Christ Jesus is our hope.“–1 Timothy 1:1 (emphasis added)
  • We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure…“–Hebrews 6:19
  • Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.“–Hebrews 11:1 (emphasis added)

See, the world’s hope is hollow. The believer’s hope is firm. Because the believer’s hope is Jesus! And just because you can’t see him doesn’t mean he’s not real. Just because you don’t see him now, doesn’t mean you won’t see him then.

Satan wants you to believe that you are all alone, that when you are stripped down to your essence and left with only pain, that’s all you have. He does not want you to see the reality that Jesus will never leave you or abandon you (Heb. 13:5), that he will be with us all the way to the end (Matt. 28:20)…

…Everything may look bleak, our reality may be that we feel that all is lost, but if we have Christ, we defy what is visible. And we cling to hope, which demands what is invisible.


Taken from The Gospel According to Satan: Eight Lies about God that Sound Like Truth by: Jared C. Wilson Copyright © 2020 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. http://www.thomasnelson.com.

June 15, 2020

We Only Stop Sin by the Power of the Holy Spirit

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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NLT.Rom.8v9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) 10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life[a] because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters,[b] you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature,[c] you will live.

Today we’re back again at the site Discovering the Bible, written by Deborah, a retired doctor in Wales. Click the article title which follows to read at source.

Working with the Spirit

The Holy Spirit’s presence is the hallmark of a true believer; His absence should call someone’s Christian profession into question (see Acts 19:2). Christianity without the Holy Spirit is simply unimaginable; without Him there is no sanctification, and there will be no resurrection. For although our physical bodies remain mortal, and will eventually die, there is another part of us that belongs to the Holy Spirit and is suffused with His life. His supernatural power is transforming our spirits, and will eventually transform our bodies as well.

Luther said that a Christian is “both righteous and sinful at one and the same time.” We are righteous (in that we stand in a right relationship with God) but still sinful (in that sin has yet to be completely eradicated from our nature). The decisive victory over sin was won at our conversion, but there are still extensive ‘mopping-up operations’ to be done in order to overcome pockets of resistance. And this is our responsibility: we’re not passive recipients of our sanctification, but active participants in it. With the Holy Spirit inside us, we have the authority to overcome sin; but we must make the effort to exercise that authority! For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.(verse 13) We owe the flesh nothing; it is our enemy. And yet we are so accustomed to obeying it that we will continue to do so, out of sheer habit, unless we make a conscious decision to break away. We have to remind ourselves that we have received God’s gifts of the Holy Spirit and eternal life – so we have no right to carry on living according to the dictates of the flesh.

Sin is not a trivial matter. We must declare war against it – which entails repudiating everything in our lives that is incompatible with the life of the Spirit. There is no room for compromise, no space for negotiation; we must be utterly ruthless. For nothing less than our eternal destiny is at stake: if we don’t kill the flesh, it will kill us! A ‘Christian’ who does not engage in this struggle is at risk of spiritual death!

How do we put to death ‘the misdeeds of the body’? Willpower doesn’t work (not in the long term, anyway); we have to deal with sin at its source, in the mindset that is hostile towards God. In metaphorical terms, we need to cut off its blood supply, or dig it up by the roots. We can’t do this by our own unaided efforts, but only with the help of the Holy Spirit – who gives us the desire, the courage, the confidence and the resources to overcome our selfish desires and conform our lives more closely to God’s will.

Supporting Christianity 201 Financially

This is the first time we’ve ever mentioned this. You may have wondered how you are able to receive this free with no subscription fee or no pressure to donate to a Patreon account or something similar.

The answer is that there isn’t a way to give and there never will be. Given the number of articles we ‘borrow’ from other writers, accepting payment for this site would create a huge ethical quagmire. We’d be taking money for work we didn’t do. We’ve freely received, so we’re freely giving.

In return all I ask is that you enjoy the readings and feel free to share them with others. If an article particularly blesses you and it’s not by myself or Ruth, please share the material from the original source site, and follow any guidelines there for citation.


Text Footnotes:

  1. 8:10 Or your spirit is alive.
  2. 8:12 Greek brothers; also in 8:29.
  3. 8:13 Greek deeds of the body.

May 23, 2020

Darkness is Everywhere

This is our first time here sharing with you the writing of popular Christian author Christine Caine with an excerpt from her book Undaunted: Daring to Do What God Calls You to Do, which recently released in a revised and updated edition. Learn more about the book at this link.

Combat the Darkness

Darkness is everywhere. We live in a world full of fear and in desperate need of light.

But Jesus said,

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven. — Matthew 5:14-16

The light overtakes the darkness and the fear. It makes it all disappear. It eradicates its power. It eliminates its strength. Just as sure as morning follows night, the light of Christ is always coming — through us. As His hands and feet, we are the force that conquers the darkness. We. The undaunted ones.

The prophet Isaiah said,

Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. — Isaiah 60:1-2 NKJV

God’s glory is upon us, and His light can break through the darkest night. That’s why He wants us to partner with Him in bringing light into the dark places where oppressors try their best to shut people away.

I understand that we can get worn down by the needs in this world and wearied by them. We need sleep, rest, restoration, recuperation. That’s why God gives us the end of a day, and He doesn’t begrudge us our rest.. Isn’t this is what God meant when he asked in Isaiah 1:12,

Why this frenzy of sacrifices? — MSG

Working ourselves into a frenzy or tormenting others by working them to death is not freedom. It is enslavement.

But we are not slaves. We are free. And we have been freed for a purpose: to share what we’ve been given. The Bible tells us,

He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? — Micah 6:8 NKJV

We do justly and love mercy and walk humbly with our God when we rise ready, when we get up and go out with God to partner with Him in his purposes on the earth…

…I thought of King Xerxes in the Bible, who was persuaded by an adviser to issue an edict condemning all the nation’s Jews to death. Esther, a Jew but chosen by King Xerxes as his queen, seemed uniquely positioned to persuade the king to withdraw the edict and was urged to do so by her cousin Mordecai, who said,

Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this? — Esther 4:14

I felt much the same. Who could say that I had not been born into a reasonably affluent and free society for such a time as this? For a time when I could see the injustice and crying need so common throughout the world and stand up to combat it?

Won’t you join me? At the very least, pursue what God is calling you to do? You and I have opportunities every day to combat the darkness, the evil, that surrounds us in every country, every corner of the world. The opportunities are countless, and the needs are desperate…


Taken from Undaunted (Revised and Updated) by: Christine Caine Copyright © 2012, 2019 by Zondervan, Inc. Used by permission of Zondervan. https://www.zondervan.com

May 3, 2020

Don’t Let Them Stop You

A year ago we first introduced you to Mark Stephenson who co-pastors Horizon Church of Towson, Maryland and writes at Fire and Light. This article was posted this very morning, and is one of several great devotionals at his blog. As you are able, click the link above (or the header below) and explore more scriptures discussed at Fire and Light. (Also if the theme today sounds familiar, remember that Ezra and Nehemiah are interconnected books covering a particular time in Israel’s history.)

Opposition

When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the Lord, the God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, “Let us help you build…” 

Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. They bribed officials to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia. At the beginning of the reign of Xerxes, they lodged an accusation against the people of Judah and Jerusalem.

Ezra 4:1-2, 4-6

A large group of the people of God returned from exile to Jerusalem in order to rebuild the Temple. They were released to do so by an order from the king of Persia, King Cyrus. This was all orchestrated by the Lord.

…in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia…

Ezra 1:1

But once they started making sacrifices to the Lord and rebuilding the Temple, opposition came. Whenever we are called by God to accomplish His plans, there will be opposition. This is especially true when we are building something new or rebuilding something that should have always been. And notice the strategies of the opposition. Opposition to the Lord’s work usually goes through these same stages.

First, there’s the attempt to join the work in order to derail the work. This “friendly” and soft approach is often how opposition first arrives on the scene. If we invite the wrong people to give their input into the work we know we are called to do, it will get side-tracked, watered down, and compromised.

Secondly, there is an attempt to discourage through fear. This next wave of opposition is a series of people who are “concerned” about where this might lead. Fear is the main theme. Worst case scenario after worst case scenario gets listed as reasons why the work should stop. The attempt is to spread fear in such a way that people start getting discouraged and want to bail out.

If those two tactics don’t work, the next strategy of opposition intensifies into manipulation and accusation. The opposition starts recruiting people to their side with various forms of emotional bribery, manipulation, and false accusations about the ones leading the work of the Lord. (We read about how Absalom did this to King David in 2 Samuel 15:1-12). Lies about the leaders and character assassinations are the bread and butter of this stage of opposition.

Finally, if none of this stops the work of the Lord, the next move is making threats, including the threat of physical violence (see Nehemiah 4:11). While these threats are often empty, they can still cause a lot of pain and a lot of division.

For those who are called to step out in faith to accomplish a work of God, opposition will come. And the enemy isn’t creative enough to change his tactics. It usually looks something like the above strategies. The hard part is that many times this kind of opposition will come from people close to us. So it’s important that we face this opposition with love and grace for those who come against what God is doing. They think they are being helpful and wise even as they fight against what God is clearly doing.

I am reminded of times where I was the one pushing against and opposing a work of God. I thought I was being righteous and theologically sound. I thought I was in the right. I thought I was doing the right thing and warning against disaster. I didn’t realize until years later that I was actually fighting a work of the Lord. I didn’t realize until years later that I was the opposition; I was a puppet of the enemy. And when I came to realize my folly, I spent months in repentance for it. It was painful to realize how wrong I was. It was painful to come to an awareness of my own false accusations against those leaders God was using to lead a work of the Lord.

So when we do face opposition, we need to show grace. We need to show love. But we shouldn’t let opposition discourage us or stop us from what we’ve been called to do. God has called us to accomplish His work. It’s not our plan; it’s His plan. And we shouldn’t stop for any reason.

March 21, 2020

You Can Choose What You Think

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
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In a most timely matter, given all that is happening in our world right now, one of the devotionals this week at Devotions Daily at FaithGateway.com was an excerpt from Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado. Although it was too long to run here, I want to include a couple of excerpts from the excerpt!

You can choose what you think about

…For that reason the wise man urges,

Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.
— Proverbs 4:23 NCV

Do you want to be happy tomorrow? Then sow seeds of happiness today. (Count blessings. Memorize Bible verses. Pray. Sing hymns. Spend time with encouraging people.) Do you want to guarantee tomorrow’s misery? Then wallow in a mental mud pit of self-pity or guilt or anxiety today. (Assume the worst. Beat yourself up. Rehearse your regrets. Complain to complainers.) Thoughts have consequences.

Healing from anxiety requires healthy thinking. Your challenge is not your challenge. Your challenge is the way you think about your challenge. Your problem is not your problem; it is the way you look at it.

Satan knows this. The devil is always messing with our minds.

He comes as a thief

with the sole intention of stealing and killing and destroying.
— John 10:10 Phillips

He brings only gloom and doom. By the time he was finished with Job, the man was sick and alone. By the time he had done his work in Judas, the disciple had given up on life. The devil is to hope what termites are to an oak; he’ll chew you up from the inside.

He will lead you to a sunless place and leave you there. He seeks to convince you this world has no window, no possibility of light. Exaggerated, overstated, inflated, irrational thoughts are the devil’s specialty.

No one will ever love me. It’s all over for me. Everyone is against me. I’ll never lose weight, get out of debt, or have friends.

What lugubrious, monstrous lies!

No problem is unsolvable. No life is irredeemable. No one’s fate is sealed. No one is unloved or unlovable.

Your challenge is the way you think about your challenge. 

But Satan wants us to think we are. He wants to leave us in a swarm of anxious, negative thoughts.

Satan is the master of deceit. But he is not the master of your mind. You have a power he cannot defeat. You have God on your side.

So

fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
— Philippians 4:8 NLT

The transliteration of the Greek word, here rendered as fix, is logizomai. Do you see the root of an English word in the Greek one? Yes, logic. Paul’s point is simple: anxiety is best faced with clearheaded, logical thinking.

Turns out that our most valuable weapon against anxiety weighs less than three pounds and sits between our ears. Think about what you think about!

Here is how it works. You receive a call from the doctor’s office. The message is simple and unwelcome. “The doctor has reviewed your tests and would like you to come into the office for a consultation.”

As quickly as you can say “uh-oh,” you have a choice: anxiety or trust.

Anxiety says…

“I’m in trouble. Why does God let bad things happen to me? Am I being punished? I must have done something wrong.”

“These things never turn out right. My family has a history of tragedy. It’s my turn. I probably have cancer, arthritis, jaundice. Am I going blind? My eyes have been blurry lately. Is this a brain tumor?”

“Who will raise the kids? Who will pay the medical bills? I’m going to die broke and lonely. I’m too young for this tragedy! No one can understand me or help me.”

If you aren’t already sick, you will be by the time you go to the doctor’s office.

Anxiety weighs down the human heart.
— Proverbs 12:25 NRSV

But there is a better way.

Before you call your mom, spouse, neighbor, or friend, call on God. Invite him to speak to the problem.

Capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ.
— 2 Corinthians 10:5 NCV

Slap handcuffs on the culprit, and march it before the One who has all authority: Jesus Christ.

Jesus, this anxious, negative thought just wormed its way into my mind. Is it from You?

Jesus, who speaks nothing but the truth, says, “No, get away from here, Satan.” And as the discerning, sober-minded air traffic controller of your mind, you refuse to let the thought have the time of day.

Lay claim to every biblical promise you can remember, and set out to learn a few more. Grip them for the life preservers they are. Give Satan no quarter. Give his lies no welcome.

Fasten the belt of truth around your waist.
— Ephesians 6:14 NRSV

Resist the urge to exaggerate, overstate, or amplify. Focus on the facts, nothing more…

-Max Lucado

March 2, 2020

Breaking the Ten Commandments is all Stealing

“You must not steal.” – Exodus 20:15 NLT

“Will a man rob God?…” – Malachi 3:8a NASB

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen. – Romans 1:25 NIV


It’s all theft.

That was the message from a graphic that a friend posted on Facebook earlier today, originating with Bay Community Church in Comox, British Columbia, Canada.

One has to be living under a rock to not realize that the Christian is engaged in spiritual warfare. Still, I think that many “sign up” for the Christian faith without realizing the nature of the family/body/group they are joining themselves to. Consider this:

  • Imagine you are one of the people being sworn in as a new citizen
  • You correctly answer all the questions about George Washington if you’re in the U.S. or Sir John A. MacDonald if you’re in Canada
  • You attend a ceremony where you are officially welcomed as a citizen
  • You’re then told the country is at war and you are needed to serve
  • You’ve been drafted, and you truly didn’t see that coming!

In a way, that’s what happens when someone decides to live their life as a Christ-follower.  When we think of “spiritual warfare” we tend to think that

  • this is something involving angels and demons
  • this is something Pentecostal and Charismatic people talk about
  • this is the stuff of fringe Christian TV channels
  • this references stories of spiritual conflict in places like central Africa or S. America

However, if we go the other extreme, and totally discount the concept of spiritual warfare, we become hard pressed to explain much of what is taking place in our world.

The warfare model proves true.   There are spiritual forces behind a lot of things we take for granted:

Eph 6:12 For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.

But anytime we

  • see the headlines in the newspaper
  • check out the news feeds on social media
  • watch the evening news

we clearly see a conflict of ideologies; where the ideals of Christian people come into conflict with the larger world.  We enter into a situation where up is down, black is white, etc.; and everything else is turned upside down.

So it should be no surprise that the enemy of our souls wants to take the basic Judeo-Christian framework for ethical behaviour — The Ten Commandments — and see us live lives which turn those commands on their head.

I thought it interesting that the same person who posted the above graphic on Facebook had also posted this one just hours earlier, showing how the “voices” both inside and outside us can easily be identified by the type of actions they propel us to.

Truly, the person who doesn’t realize they’ve signed up for a standing army is going to be shocked when the battle comes to their front door and the persecution gets personal.

2Ti 3:12  Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

Unless we hide our personal convictions, or don’t stand up for what we’ve been taught in Church or taught from the Bible, there will come a time when our views will be in conflict with what it seems the larger society believes and practices.

Sometimes the persecution has been subtle, but in North America and Western Europe it is becoming more overt. Our values are being undermined.

It’s all theft.

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