Christianity 201

August 4, 2017

When Worship Feels Counterintuitive

Christian author and television personality Sheila Walsh writes a weekly devotional at SheilaWalsh.com. Here’s a sample of what subscribers are getting…just click the title below to read at source and sign up.

Worship Your Way Through Your Storm

by Sheila Walsh

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment.” Romans 5:4-5 (NLT)

I’ll never forget the sight of my son the first time he was fully suited up for Friday night football. The shoulder pads alone made him look like someone from a Marvel comic book. His instructions to me before the game began were crystal clear,

“No matter what happens out there mom, do not come on the field!”
Seemed simple enough.

That was until Christian was tackled, legitimately, from behind and as he lay face down on the field another boy from the opposing team intentionally stomped on the back of his left knee. It took both hands on the tail of my jacket for my husband to keep me in my seat!

His injury led to knee surgery and after one more bad fall, a second surgery. At that point the surgeon told him his football days were over. Christian was disappointed but he rebounded and threw himself into many other interests.

Some disappointments are not like that though.

Some are devastating and life altering.

I think of the mom who challenged me after I’d spoken in her city.
“You said something on stage tonight that can’t be true,” she said.
“What was that?” I asked.
“You said that God is all powerful and that God is all loving.” She replied.
“I believe He is both,” I said. “Why do you question that?”
Her answer was heartbreaking.
“I’ve buried two sons so you’ll have to pick one!”
She continued, “If He was powerful enough to stop their deaths, then He can’t be loving because He didn’t.”
I held her as tears ran down her face in rivers.

That’s one of the greatest challenges to our faith. Will we still love and worship a God we don’t always understand? Will we still love Him when our marriage is not healed? Will we still worship when we didn’t get that job we so badly needed?
In moments of profound disappointment and pain the enemy loves to make us question God’s love for us.

Her husband came back but yours didn’t!
God doesn’t love you as much as he loves her!
Why bother praying, no one is listening!

In the midst of storms like these we need to remember two things:
1 — The enemy is a thief and a liar.
2 — God is for you. He promised to never leave or forsake you. He held nothing back in saving you, not even the life of His own son.

The hope that Paul speaks about in his letter to the Church in Rome is different than anything this world has to offer. This hope is not wishful thinking. On the contrary, it’s the stuff you can stake your life on!

Until we see Jesus face to face we will endure storms. Some will blow over quickly while others will seem to last longer than we can bear.

It used to be that if I were walking through a hard season I would be confident that God would get me through, and when He did, I would worship and thank Him. But what I’m learning in this season of my life is to worship Him in the middle of the storm, before there’s even a hint of dawn breaking, because He is worth it!

I want to encourage you today. If you are facing some rough seas — lift up your head, your heart, and your hands to the Lord and worship your way through the storm. He will hold you as you do.

“Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.” James 1:24-25 (NLT)

REMEMBER: God is for you and He loves you.

 

January 6, 2016

Blustery Winds and the Prevailing Will of God

•••by Clarke Dixon

To read this at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon, click this link.

Only twice in my life have I capsized a sailboat. The second time my future wife was onboard, until the boat ended upside down by which time no one was onboard. Long story, but it wasn’t even windy that day. The first capsize, however, was the result of a very unpredictable wind and my failure to see a major gust until it was too late. In sailing sometimes the breeze can be nice and steady, on other days it can be very shifty. Life may feel like that for us. Things may seem nice and steady one day, wild and unpredictable the next. We may even feel we are under the threat of a capsize.

An old expression goes, “It’s an ill wind blows no one any good.” There was an ill wind blowing hard on the heals of Christmas. The Magi had come to worship the newly born king of the Jews and so made inquiries to king Herod. This Herod had no right to be the current “king of the Jews” apart from the fact Rome said he could. This Herod was also in the habit of murdering anyone who threatened his power, and by anyone we include even infants:

16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more. (Matthew 2:16-18)

Herod’s was not the only ill in the ill wind that blew in those days. Satan himself was in on the attempt to destroy Jesus:

Then another portent appeared in heaven:a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born. 5 And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. (Revelation 12:3-5)

Despite the ill and blustery winds that blew in those days we see the hand of God involved in keeping the child safe. As we read Matthew 2 we find that God used dreams four times to warn and direct, ensuring the safety of the child. Despite the ill and blustery winds, this ship would keep sailing in the course God had chosen.

However, Satan’s ill winds would keep blowing in continued attempts to blow Jesus off course. There was the temptation in the wilderness at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry which we can read about in Matthew 4. The promise of kingdoms and power in exchange for devil worship was an attempt to steer Jesus away from the journey to the cross. Likewise, we hear of another attempt when Peter declares that Jesus must not die.

21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things. (Matthew 16:21-23)

And finally in the Garden of Gethsemane, though we are not told that Satan was present, we do know the same temptation to steer clear of the cross was:

And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want. (Matthew 26:39)

As Jesus prays in the Garden we might wonder if the prayers he taught his disciples were reflected in his own prayers in those moments: “Thy Kingdom come, they will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” which is easier prayed than done when the doing requires a cross. “And lead us not into testing, but deliver us from the evil one,” which would require Jesus suffering the worst that evil could deliver, so that God’s people could be delivered from evil. Ironically, when the ill winds of Satan blew in the direction of Jesus, they were an attempt to kill him as a child but to keep him from being killed as a man. God the Father protects Jesus from death in Matthew 2, but the cross looms in the future. The rescue of this one baby was to ensure the rescue of all God’s children. His will was, and is, being done.

These are things we can keep in mind when the ill winds are blowing hard and blustery in our own lives, when they seem so unpredictable we feel a capsize might be imminent. Whatever the winds are, the will of our Lord is the prevailing will. His will is steady and predictable. Whatever gusts threaten us for the moment, keep on the course the Lord has set. The good sailor adapts to the winds moment by moment, trimming the sails, planning an unexpected tack to keep course for the chosen destination. Just as Joseph and Mary adapted to the changing conditions, becoming refugees in Egypt for a time, so too we adapt to the ill winds even as we look to God for protection, direction, and for his prevailing will to be done. Though sometimes the winds are wild, we could not ask for a better journey. Or a better destination.

May 20, 2013

Keeping an Eternal Perspective

It’s hard for me to believe it’s been more than a year since we last visited the blog Digging The Word. It is a great Bible study and devotional resource. This post appeared in April under the title Living with Eternity in Sight, and as always, you’re encouraged to click through.



1 Peter 5:6-11  So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honor.

7  Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you. 8  Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9  Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.

10 In His kindness God called you to share in His eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, He will restore, support, and strengthen you, and He will place you on a firm foundation. 11  All power to Him forever! Amen.


As Peter comes to the close of his letter to the churches in Asia Minor he gives them a summary of how to live and what their attitude should be as they wait for Christ return. It is a message that is just as relevant to us today.

Humility

One of the biggest struggles that we have is with humility, God knew that we would have a challenge in this area, so the importance of humility is taught throughout the Bible. Humility is required for salvation, we need it in order to see ourselves the way that God sees us, without humility we will not turn to God and ask for help. From that point on our lives should be known for humility, once we see ourselves the way that God sees us, we should find it difficult to view ourselves as much without him.

Isaiah 57:15  The high and lofty One who lives in eternity, the Holy One, says this: “I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.

It can be difficult to yield to God’s plan and humbly allow his power to work in your life, he may bring calamity and difficulty for a season in order to bring glory to himself or the hard times may be there for your spiritual growth, sometimes it might look easier to take the controls and do things our way.

Here is a statement that I found in a commentary on these verses: “If we do not humble ourselves under God’s grace then he will humble us under his judgments.” Either we will humble ourselves voluntarily or the day will come when we will be humbled by God.

Trust

It is difficult to trust in this world that is full of selfishness and pride, we all try and get our way and look out for ourselves but there is a place and a person that you can put your trust, a place where we can unload without fear. We can go to the cross where we are completely accepted by God and we can trust him to lighten our load.

Psalms 55:22  Give your burdens to the LORD, and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.

What more can anyone wish for than to know that the great and merciful God of the universe thinks about you? Not only does he think about you but he also cares! Amazing thought isn’t it?

Stay Alert and Stand Firm

Watch out! Satan will try to use any opportunity to make our lives useless for God. Initially he is out to destroy you by making you a prisoner to death but once you are a child of God and you are no longer under the curse of death his next plan is to make you useless for God.

James 4:7-8  So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  8  Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.

Satan will try to make you fearful and ineffective but we can stand our ground if we stay alert to his schemes. Our best defense against that “roaring lion” is to stay close to God. It seems to me that the devil must hate God and be repulsed by him and the last thing that he wants to do is hangout close to him. So if I am staying close to God then the devil won’t want to come close to me.

Perspective

It is best to live with your long term goal in site. Do you have a long term goal? Every child of God has one but too often the stuff of this world will try and take our focus from the eternal glory that we will share with Jesus and get our focus on the short term problems around us.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18  For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!  18  So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

God has called me to greater things than I can imagine! God will take care of every need for this life and he will provide for my eternal destination. The devil will use the pain and trouble of this world to try and get me off track but I will choose to “fix my gaze on things that cannot be seen.”

Thank you Lord for teaching me how to get through this world, thank you for loving me and giving me a new perspective on how to live, help me to keep my eyes on the eternal.

January 31, 2013

Coming Forth As Gold

This was sent me for reasons that are entirely personal and not for the blog. So if the sender sees it here, I want to be clear that I wasn’t missing the point. But now I want to share it with everyone here. It’s from The Presbyterian Church in Canada’s daily devotional website, where it appeared as Lost.

Job 23:10-11 – But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to His way without turning aside. (NIV)

Fog! Thick, swirling, engulfing fog! And I was hopelessly lost. I had decided to take a shortcut home to save time, but now I had absolutely no idea where I was. My GPS was in a drawer somewhere in my house, and I no longer carried maps because I had a GPS. How ironic!

I crawled along slowly, for fear of running off the road or meeting another car in the middle of the road. As I squinted through the ghostly tendrils curling across my window, I noticed a cross-road ahead, but I couldn’t make out any signs. Feeling a sense of panic beginning to build up, I decided to pull off onto the shoulder, and putting on my flashers, I did the only thing I could under the circumstances: I began to pray.

Suddenly, a verse from the Bible popped into my mind:

Isaiah 30:21 – Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (NIV)

For a moment, I was stunned. Was that God telling me that I should follow this side road? Which way? Now I was really confused and more than a little scared.

Suddenly, out of the fog, a whirling red light appeared behind me, its rays wavering through my back window, and I heard a muffled voice on a loud hailer: “You there, in the car. Are you all right?”

The next thing I knew, there was a person standing beside my window, shining a light on his police badge. I let out a relieved sigh of gratitude. It was probably the only time in my life when I would be so happy to see a flashing red light shining through my back window!

As I began rapidly pouring out my predicament, the officer kept patiently nodding his head. I didn’t realize how uptight I had been, and I could feel the tears of relief threatening to spill out. The officer evidently saw my reaction, and he quietly asked me where I was headed.

When I told him where I lived, he said that he would drive ahead of me, and when he honked his horn, I was to turn left at the traffic lights. Then I would be on familiar ground and soon be home. It happened exactly as he had promised, and as I pulled into my driveway, I quietly bowed my head in a prayer of thanksgiving to the One who had promised so often to direct our paths.

Sometimes, when we are faced with difficult situations, we may feel that our minds are in a kind of thick fog, a state of utter confusion, possibly even to the point of panic. We know that we must make some important decisions that will affect our lives, but how do we begin? It is then that we need to stop and “pull off the road”, as it were, and be still in God’s presence, in order to calm down and hear His voice. We must turn the entire matter over to the One who has promised to guide us in the way we should go, because He knows the way.

When we follow His leading, it won’t be long until we can see clearly what we are to do, and we can move confidently in the right direction towards the goal.

Prayer: Lord, help us to rely on You every day to guide us in the way that You have planned for us. Teach us not to lean on our own understanding, but in all our ways to acknowledge You, knowing that You will direct our paths. Amen.

Sharon Greer