Christianity 201

April 21, 2021

Absolutely Convinced

Once again we’re back with our online friends Stephen and Brooksyne Weber who faithfully write devotions at DailyEncouragement.net … click the header below to read this at source.

I Am Persuaded

Listen to this message on your audio player.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35,37-39).

The apostle Paul is expressing his supreme confidence in God’s master plan for his own life and for His Kingdom in our daily Scripture portion. Due to it being a part of the Holy Scriptures we can make it our confidence as well!

He begins the section by asking a vitally important question, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

He then lists a number of adverse situations in life that may seem to separate: Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Romans 8:35).

Now as I prepare this message for April 14, 2021 at 66 years of age I’ve certainly had some heartaches and disappointments in life. Certainly things have not always turned out the way that I had planned or desired so I’ve known distress at times. However, I have not experienced tribulation, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or sword anywhere near like Paul or like many others who have lived for Christ over the 2,000 year history of the church.

Paul responds to his own questions with this glorious verse of assurance: No, in all these things (the adverse conditions described in verse 35) we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

“We are more than conquerors” translates the single Greek word hupernikomen, which is used only here in the entire NT. *

Hupernikomen literally means we are “hyper-overcomers” or “preeminently victorious”.  It is actually a combination of two more familiar words; “huper” from whence we get “hyper” and nikao from whence “Nike” gets its name. I’m most blessed by the rendering in the NASV which states we overwhelmingly conquer. Now let that bless your soul today, fellow overcomer! Note that the basis of this overcoming is through Him who loved us.

The words I am persuaded are a great source of strength and assurance for the believer. Other versions use the word “convinced”. Living in a state of being persuaded and convinced is an essential part of living the God-ordained life of spiritual assurance and abundance. If we are really convinced of God’s love and care we are blessed indeed!

This conviction is an internal, personal appropriation of a constant, unchanging spiritual reality. You see, the reality is that God loves and cares for His own, whether we are persuaded of it or not. The Amplified Version conveys a strong sense of the meaning when it translates: I am persuaded beyond doubt.

We are dealing with many troubling issues in our day leaving tremendous impact on the personal, nationwide, and worldwide levels. Error is not creeping but rather charging into the church in a way that our forefathers could not have imagined. New sources of fear abound. Uncertainty permeates. We shake our heads in wonder as to what this world is coming to?

Therefore we need to be persuaded like Paul, don’t we? “Nothing shall separate us from the love of God.” May I suggest you say this verse aloud throughout the day, or perhaps you’ll want to put it to a musical tune so that you can joyfully remind yourself.   Perhaps you will choose to personalize it by filling in any adverse circumstances you’re presently dealing with that would otherwise lead you to doubt this powerful and reassuring promise from God’s Word.

Be encouraged today.

Daily prayer: Father, I know that doubt and uncertainty impose fear while faith and assurance develops a calm, trusting spirit. I do not look to the unstable world for strength or encouragement but I look to Your unchanging Word where You fully assure me that nothing shall separate me from Your love. It is in Your strength and through Your power that I will remain faithful though tested by adverse circumstances. These come so that my faith is purified, proven genuine, and becomes sweeter than honey from the honeycomb. May my life bring praise, glory and honor to Jesus my Lord and Savior. Amen.


* For Greek Students: I found this comment so edifying as I studied this text. Hupernikomen is in the present active and the prepositional compound intensifies the verb “we are winning a most glorious victory” (from Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament).

* Hapax legomenon is a term used for words that occur only once in a body of literature (in this case the New Testament). In fact it’s so rare that it’s possible that Paul originated the word to express his thought!  I’ve been accused of that on more than one occasion (by my wife) of making up words as I preach!

February 28, 2021

The Name God Gives You

by Ruth Wilkinson

Jesus and his followers arrived in Jerusalem, and He went into the temple complex. He found people had set up shop there, selling oxen, sheep and doves.

He also found money changers sitting there.

So He made a whip out of cords, and began driving everyone out of the temple with their animals and birds.

He dumped the coins of the money changers and flipped their tables.

He told those who were selling doves, “Get these things out of here! Stop turning My Father’s house into a marketplace!”

Then He began to teach them: “You know that it is written, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” But you’ve turned it into a den of thieves!”

When the chief priests and religious leaders heard this, they started looking for a way to bring Him down.

They were afraid of Him, because the whole crowd was astonished by His teaching.

(adapted from Matt 21:10-17, Mark 11:11, Luke 19:45-46, John 2:13-22)

___________________________

There is an old Black Spiritual that goes something like this:

I told Jesus it would be alright if He changed my name
Jesus told me the world would be against me if He changed my name
But I told Jesus it would be alright if He changed my name

__________________

What surprises us the most about the event at the Temple is Jesus’ actions. His behaviour. We shake our heads and say, “He’s such a nice guy! Why would he act that way?”

What most surprised the people who where there that day was not so much what he did, as what he said. In several places, the Scripture’s writers tell us that people were “astonished” by his air of authority.

He taught with authority.

He healed with authority.

He cast out demons with authority.

He forgave with authority.

Because Jesus had–and has–authority.

He is the ref on the ice, saying yes and no.
He is the prof in the classroom, saying true and false.
He is the quarterback on the team, saying go there, don’t go there.
He is the King. He is the Creator.

Jesus is the boss of you. He is the boss of me.

The people who first sang that old Spiritual, and especially the person who wrote it, understood authority. They understood what it was to be under authority. They knew that someone else had all the power.

They were slaves, so if someone sold them and someone bought them, that someone had the authority to say, “Your name is Ruth? I don’t like that name. I like Sally better. From now on, if I say, “Sally,” that’s you.” They would have to adapt because somebody had changed their name.

But the person who wrote that song wasn’t just a slave. They were a theologian. They were a thinker. They understood that there are different kinds of names.

There are labels that we give each other. There are sounds that we make to define who we’re talking to. But in the Scriptures, some names are much more than that. Some names are identities. When Moses asked God, “What is your name?” God just said, “I am what I am. Call me that.”

The writer of the song understood that kind of name. They must have been familiar with the verse in Revelation that quotes Jesus as saying,

“Listen… To the one who is victorious… I will also give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name is inscribed that no one knows except the one who receives it.” (2:17)

That name is not a label. It’s an identity.

The songwriter, who was a slave, who didn’t even have ownership of their own name, says to Jesus, “You can change my name.” They trusted him to define their identity. They trusted him to tell them who they were. They trusted Jesus to give them a new name.

Can I trust Jesus to define my identity?
Can I trust Him to tell me who I am?
Can I trust Him to give me a new name?

Is there something about who I am that I need to surrender to him?

_____________

Jesus, change my name from “Slave” to “Son” or “Daughter” –
Make me one who has a home and an inheritance.
Gal 4:7

Jesus, change my name from “Dead” to “Alive” –
Make me one who has a future and purpose.
Eph 2:4-5

Jesus, change my name from “Dry Grass” to “Fruit Bearing Branch” –
Make me one who has something to give.
John 15:5

Jesus, change my name from “Unknown” to “Understood” –
Make me one who has a connection and a friend.
Psalm 139:1

Jesus, change my name from “Guilty” to “Not Condemned” –
Make me one who has freedom, joy, a chance to start again.
Romans 8:1

Jesus, if that’s really who you are,
it’s alright if you change my name.


by the same author:

February 19, 2021

Hope in Psalm 146

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , ,

In 2016 and 2017 we featured the writing of gardener and author Shelley Cramm who writes at Garden in Delight. She is the General Editor of the NIV God’s Word for Gardeners Bible. She lives in Texas — “the same latitude as Israel and the Bible lands” — and while you can read this devotional here, I encourage you to click the header which follows and read the full devotional (with pictures) and thereby send her some warm love at a time when Texas has been through a tough weather period.

Find Garden Hope in Psalm 146

Our journey to find garden hope begins in Psalm 146—in hopeless places. These Words lead us into life’s deepest sorrows, the painful, woeful conditions that rub raw the very knowing of who we are and what we hold onto. Let the Gardener-Lord meet us in somber, despairing depths with the resounding reality that personal traumas are precisely where God brings His blessing of hope.

Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.
He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
The Lord reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord.

Psalm 146:5-10 NIV

Oppressed — those living and working in unjust situations, treated unfairly, given no dignity.

Hungry — desperate to eat, no money for food, no energy to sauté even dandelion greens, cut off from the bounty of the earth, deprivation creating constant, haunting tension.

Prisoner — confined rightfully or not, held on hard surfaces by hardened hearts, dull and dismal.

Blind — without privilege to the great joys in pleasing sights, colors, forms and dimensions, whether found in the environment or found in the heart, for spiritual blindness is the worst.

Fallen — stumbled, staggering, strength stolen, physically faltering; robbed of stamina, taken out of the fight.

Foreigner — surrounded in strangeness, missing clues and connection to culture, disoriented, isolated by the inside jokes of idiom.

Fatherless — missing validation, reassurance, direction, help and belonging to someone as their most precious gem.

Widow — a half with a hole, a stem without its roots, a gardener without a garden, suffering a severance tearing through the heart.

Find Garden Hope

Who can endure downtrodden existence with uplifted spirit? Those who hope in the Lord. How does one endure death and dead-end ways all around them without dying themselves? By the blessing of hope in the Lord.

Our faith in Jesus transfers God’s righteousness to us and he now declares us flawless in his eyes.[a] This means we can now enjoy true and lasting peace[b] with God, all because of what our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, has done for us. Our faith guarantees us permanent access into this marvelous kindness[c] that has given us a perfect relationship with God. What incredible joy bursts forth within us as we keep on celebrating our hope of experiencing God’s glory!
But that’s not all! Even in times of trouble we have a joyful confidence, knowing that our pressures will develop in us patient endurance. And patient endurance will refine our character, and proven character leads us back to hope. And this hope is not a disappointing fantasy,[d] because we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives in us![e]

Romans 5:1-5 TPT

With God, hope flourishes in suffering with perseverance and character, and a growing embrace of God’s love and marvelous kindness, poured out long ago and constantly.

Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.
Psalm 25:5 NIV


Linger in these Hope-Full passages:
Psalm 146:1-10, Psalm 25:1-5, Isaiah 35:1-7 , Romans 5:1-5


NIV denotes Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. http://www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.®
TPT denotes Scripture quotations taken from The Passion Translation®. Copyright © 2017, 2018 by Passion & Fire Ministries, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ThePassionTranslation.com
Footnotes:
a.Romans 5:1 Or “having already been declared righteous.” What bliss! We are declared righteous in the eyes of the Holy God. This is the wonder of grace!
b.Romans 5:1 Or “Let us enjoy peace with God.” The Greek word for peace is eirene and can also mean “to join” (as in a dove-tail joint). We have entered into the union of our lives with God’s peace and enjoy lasting friendship with God. The Hebrew word is shalom, which means abundant peace and well-being.
c.Romans 5:2 Or “grace.”
d.Romans 5:5 Or “This hope does not put one to shame.”
e.Romans 5:5 Or “was given to us.”

August 25, 2020

The One Who Saves the World

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

On the days we introduce you to outside sources here, I sometimes find a blog or website which is so good, and so similar to what we do in terms of depth, article length, daily content, etc.; that I wonder how we never discovered it before! I want to introduce you today to Virginia pastor Chuck Griffin who is the LifeTalk editor of Methodist Life. Click the header below to read today’s devotional. If you decide to read some other recent articles — which is encouraged — use this devotional link and be sure to click the link for the scripture readings as they’re often not showing. Again, I highly recommend this one!

Prayer of Ascent

I try not to dwell on Covid-19 day after day in these devotionals. The pandemic is serious and it is often on our minds, but I hope to keep the message of Jesus Christ ahead of all other messages, regardless of our circumstances.

If you follow the daily lectionary, however, you might notice that the readings for [last] Tuesday and Wednesday use the same psalm reading, Psalm 130. I’m hoping we can join together and pray this psalm over three days as a cry for relief from this disease.

Covid-19 is not as devastating as many plagues and famines experienced through history, but its effects are certainly bad enough, and it is wise to root ourselves in the same prayerful attitude as our spiritual ancestors.

As you read through this psalm, along with a little commentary I’m providing, hold in your hearts a request for a miracle. We seek a powerful, global sign from God as Covid-19 is driven out of our lives globally.

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.

The psalm’s heading places us on a spiritual journey. I know we have work, school, doctors’ appointments and such—even with our world partially shut down, we remain such busy people. But can we adopt the pilgrim mindset for just a few days? Can we make our own ascent toward a holy place, toward a shared memory of Christ on the cross?

All three days, let’s take a few extra moments to settle into a time of quiet, saying to ourselves, “Right now, even if it’s only in my imagination, I’m going up to see the one who saves the world.”

From the depths of despair, O Lord,
    I call for your help.
Hear my cry, O Lord.
    Pay attention to my prayer.

This is a fervent petition, one lifted by a broken people, a people who have seen the troubling effects of their own sins and the broad effects of sin on the world. As we pray, we should be like the Canaanite woman in Sunday’s Gospel reading, desperately persistent, trusting that the tiniest crumbs of grace will make all the difference.

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins,
    who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness,
    that we might learn to fear you.

As Christians, we have a particular understanding of how this forgiveness is granted. See that cross; see the weight of the world’s sins on Christ’s shoulders. The record of our sins is expunged, and we undeservedly are found to be holy and worthy of eternal life with God. The stone is rolled away from the tomb, the resurrection is proof! Sin and death are defeated! Finding ourselves in a renewed relationship with God, we know all kinds of restoration are possible now.

I am counting on the Lord;
    yes, I am counting on him.
    I have put my hope in his word.
I long for the Lord
    more than sentries long for the dawn,
    yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.

Knowing what has been done for us, we should experience a deep longing for the Lord. In his word, recorded in his Scripture, we are able to discern right from wrong, and we simultaneously begin to see a bare outline of what a remarkable experience it must be to live in the full light of God.

Let’s root our longing for healing from Covid-19 in that deeper longing to be in the full presence of the risen Savior. And let us trust that dawn is coming—that the long night will end.

O Israel, hope in the Lord;
    for with the Lord there is unfailing love.
    His redemption overflows.
He himself will redeem Israel
    from every kind of sin.

Lord, Covid-19 is a sign of the world’s brokenness. As you drive it away, may we also see a clear sign of your unfailing love and your desire for our redemption, and may we have the courage to declare what we see. Amen.

August 16, 2020

The Ministry of The Forerunner | Leading with Strength and Courage

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:03 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

NIV.Deut.32.48 On that same day the Lord told Moses, 49 “Go up into the Abarim Range to Mount Nebo in Moab, across from Jericho, and view Canaan, the land I am giving the Israelites as their own possession. 50 There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people. 51 This is because both of you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites. 52 Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel.”

Today we return to Jim Grant at Preach Between the Lines who is currently looking at Deuteronomy. Jim is Executive Director of the Galveston Baptist Association, a conference speaker and contributing writer for the National Revitalization organization called Renovate. This is our fourth time highlighting his writing here, but we encourage you to click the header below to read this at his site.

From Moses to Joshua: Be Strong and Courageous

From Moses to Joshua
Deut. 31, 34 select verses; Joshua 1-2.

In Deut. 31 we read a repeated statement to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous.” This statement is also repeated in Joshua 1 in various ways five times. Obviously taking the reign and reins from Moses would be an overwhelming assignment from God. Moses had served God forty years. He was the Friend of God; He had a closer relationship than any human. Moses was not perfect we know, for even his own disobedience at Merabah with the “smiting the Rock” twice carried a severe consequence in that he would not lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land. Moses was the one who fought with Pharaoh to release the people for Egyptian slavery, he received the LAW on Mount Sinai, it was his leadership over the last forty years in the wilderness that keep the people safe and secure until a generation died. We can think what it must have been like for Moses, this great hero to hear – “You will not lead the people to crossover into the Land.” One act of disobedience? Really? This reinforces the doctrine that NONE are righteous, no not one. God does not bless disobedience. Moses even argues with Good to let him lead the people – finally God tells Moses, No and that it!

I have learned that in pastoral ministry I may want to lead the church to achieve memorable and monumental heights; but I was not the person, but I was preparing the people for the person who was coming behind me This is remarkably similar to John the Baptist and Jesus. While this can and does have a disappointing effect, I have to remember that this is not about my GLORY but God’s and HIS Kingdom. I like Moses and many pastors have been allowed to share some of God’s Glory in the work of the ministry.

Moses and we have to remember this is the WORK OF GOD not man. So, Moses is told he is not going across the Jordan, but God does tell him I will let you see the LAND that I and giving to the people. In Deut. 32:48-52 is the recounting of the “Last Mountain” Moses would climb. Moses was the last of his generation to die before Israel went into the LAND. But he had one more mountain to climb. Moses is a leader and a servant of God; great is his testimony – but even though he was an icon in Israel; Israel had to move forward without him.

Now, think about all this and you Joshua have been anointed with the laying on of hands to succeed Moses. Okay, can you see the admonishment to Joshua to “Be Strong and Courageous?” Big shoes to fill right? No Joshua had his own shoes to fill. Just as God had trained Moses for his task, Joshua was also trained for his task. We know that Joshua was a great warrior and how he fought many battles in the Wilderness. This prepared him for what was ahead in the Promised Land. I am sure there have been many a preacher that took over from a long tenured pastor, and probably did so with fear and trepidation.

The wonderful word “As I was with Moses so will I be with you.” What a message! Joshua would go forth in a commanding leadership that was distinguished by a Conquering and Courageous Faith. Just as Joshua prepared the people to cross over; He had already put fear in the people in Jericho. Imagine that for 40 years, the Canaanite people lived in fear of the conquering people led by the Strong arm of God; and Israel never came to conquer for 40 years. This also speaks of the patience and mercy of God for the tribes – they had a choice to get out or be annihilated. Rahab’s story tells us of the fear that gripped the people. “We knew that your God was God.” Josh 2:8-10. Makes me wonder how many lands has God prepared for the Gospel to conquer, yet He cannot get His people to get out of the Wilderness and into the Promised Land?

I like Joshua, he had the mentality of a military general “Lead, follow or get out of the way!” Joshua did not have a business meeting to find out what the people wanted to do – He was commissioned to OBEY God not the people. This brings a great question to the surface – should we have business meetings? I know it is important to listen, but shouldn’t the command of God negate the wishes of the people. The Church was meant to go forth with the Gospel, not debate whether it is right or not. Joshua gave the people 3 days – get ready for we are going across the river into the Promised Land and leave this Wilderness behind! Oh, Joshua was 80 years old. Point You are not done until God says you are done.

In our day of 2020, I had so many grand expectations; I have not abandoned that vision. I do not know what lies ahead, but then neither did Joshua. Let us press forward to the high calling in Jesus. Most of all “LET US GET OUT OF THE WILDERNESS! Be strong and Courageous!

November 8, 2016

Praying for America

Today we’re paying a return visit to Carol Hatcher whose site has the name Sheep to the Right. Honestly, I don’t know how many people will read this today, as the U.S. (and the entire world) are preoccupied with something else, which was also the starting point for Carol’s writing. We’re joining this devotional already in process, so if you want to read it in full, click the title below.

Note to Regular Readers
To facilitate faster loading times for both PC and mobile readers, all the links in “Index of Worship Songs Here at C201” have been removed from the sidebar and are now accessible through a page, “Worship Songs Posted at C201” linked halfway down the sidebar; and the archives here, instead of showing each of the individual months, are now accessed through a drop-down menu. Also, moving forward, if I can remember to do it each time, we’re going to start linking authors’ Twitter account names in the introductions.

What if America Really is Going to Hell in a Hand Basket?

…This morning I was praying for America – begging God to heal our broken nation. I asked Him to help both Hillary and Trump to recognize Truth and be changed by it. And as I prayed, a story from the Bible came to mind. You can call it what you will – but I know the Lord placed it there.

It was the story of Jesus predicting His death to His disciples. He laid out the entire event before it happened. Jesus told them He would go Jerusalem, and once there, He would suffer at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law. Then Christ explained He would be killed but would come back to life on the third day.

Imagine your close friend, your mentor, just told you something like that. How would you respond? I’m sure I would’ve responded the same way Peter did.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Matthew 16:22 NIV

Jesus didn’t say, “It’s okay buddy. God has a plan in all of this.” No. He reply was much stronger!

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Matthew 16:23 NIV

That’s pretty harsh. But, you see, Christ’s death and resurrection was God’s greatest gift to humanity. Through that death and new life, we – you and me – can have eternal life. So, when Peter suggested to Jesus that it wasn’t going to happen, Jesus wasn’t having any part of that. He was saying, “You are just concerned about yourself. This is a God thing. Don’t get in my way.”

So as I was praying for America today, God brought this story to mind and how it relates to our situation. You see, if the worst happens – if Hillary gets in office and inadvertently shares state secrets and continues the gut-wrenching horror of late term abortions – or if Trump gets into office and mouths off to Vladimir Putin and causes Russia to drop an atomic bomb – the end result is people will be looking for hope. And the only Hope to be found is in Christ. You see, our only purpose here is to bring Christ glory. So if it takes the world getting more wicked and vile to make people turn to God, then that is what He will allow.

If that seems cruel to you, remember He allowed His only Son to die for the same reason – to bring you life. God desperately wants this world to know Him and experience His saving grace. So while I’ve been praying for things to get better when the election is over – for the newly elected president to make positive change – things are going to get worse. There may be some positive change. I’m not trying to be doom and gloom. But God is pointing out that things have to get bad, really bad, for people to turn from their wicked ways and come to know Him.

So, fellow Christian, the time is now. First, we have to stop getting so distracted over things that divide us – political parties, movements, the need to weigh in on things where we need to keep our mouths shut. Satan is using those things to destroy us.

We also need to be plugged in to God’s Word, and then let the power of the Holy Spirit that fills us change those around us. In other words, stop being so shy about sharing your faith. Let Christ empower you.

For those of you who don’t know God, or you know of Him but you don’t talk to Him and you really aren’t sure where you are going when you die, the time is now. The same God who created this entire universe is all knowing and all-powerful. He has the power to save you if you just admit you are a sinner who desperately needs Him. Ask Him to save you. He will fill you with hope you never thought possible.

So friends, America may get worse before it gets better. But do not fear. You may weep and wail. You will see things you never thought would happen. But don’t lose hope – Jesus will return. So if our worst fears come to reality, have hope and know that God is and forever will be on the throne.

Psalm 47

1 Clap your hands, all you nations;
shout to God with cries of joy.

2 For the Lord Most High is awesome,
the great King over all the earth.
3 He subdued nations under us,
peoples under our feet.
4 He chose our inheritance for us,
the pride of Jacob, whom he loved.

5 God has ascended amid shouts of joy,
the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.
7 For God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.

8 God reigns over the nations;
God is seated on his holy throne.
9 The nobles of the nations assemble
as the people of the God of Abraham,
for the kings of the earth belong to God;
he is greatly exalted.

May 13, 2016

There is No Such Thing as “Blind Faith” in Scripture

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Luke 7:20 When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’ ”

21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22 So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.

Recently at the apologetics blog The 3rd Choice (The3rdChoice.org) a reader asked about the idea of accepting Christianity on “blind faith.”  Part of the question reads, ” Why make something that needs to be discovered, found or believed in when you can just be there?”

Jim Walton replies,

Jesus never said faith is blind, and the Bible doesn’t imply that faith is blind. In the Bible, faith is evidentiary. I define Biblical faith as “making an assumption of truth based on enough evidence to make that assumption reasonable.” In my opinion, belief is always a choice, and is always based on evidence. When you sit down in a chair, you didn’t think twice about sitting down. You believe that the chair will hold you. Faith? Yes. You’ve sat in chairs hundreds of times, but you can’t be absolutely sure it will hold you this time. Things do break on occasion. But you make an assumption of truth based on enough evidence to make it reasonable for you to make that assumption, and you sit down. That’s faith, and it was a conscious choice.

Almost all of life works this way because we can never know what lies ahead. Every time you turn a door knob you are expressing faith. Because 10,000 times you’ve turned a door knob, and it opened the door. So you turn the knob and move forward. Does it always work that way? No. Sometimes you turn the knob and the door doesn’t open. But you make an assumption of truth based on enough evidence to make it reasonable for you to make that assumption.

We know chairs hold people. That’s past experience and learning. We know turning door knobs open doors. We know that when we turn a key a car starts. But every time we turn a car key, we do it because we believe it will start. The evidence is compelling, and it was a conscious choice. We don’t know for sure that the car will start, and unfortunately sometimes it doesn’t. Then we use our knowledge to try to figure out what to do about it. We dial our phone (as an act of faith, assuming it will work and help us reach another person), and try to get help.

You’ll notice in the Bible that evidence precedes faith. There is no “dumping on a random doorstep” and good luck to ya! God appears to Moses in a burning bush before he expect him to believe. He gave signs to take back to Pharaoh and the Israelite people, so they could see the signs before they were expected to believe. So also through the whole OT. In the NT, Jesus started off with turning water into wine, healing some people, casting out demons, and then he taught them about faith. And they couldn’t possibly understand the resurrection until there was some evidence to go on. The whole Bible is God revealing himself to us all—and I mean *actually*, not through some exercise of faith.

My faith in God is a conscious choice because I find the evidence compelling. It’s an assumption of truth based on enough evidence to make it reasonable for me to make that assumption. When you read the Bible, people came to Jesus to be healed because they had heard about other people who had been healed. They had seen other people whom Jesus had healed. People had heard him teach. Their faith was based on evidence. Jesus kept giving them new information, and they gained new knowledge from it. Based on that knowledge, they acted with more faith. People came to him to make requests. See how it works? My belief in God is based on my knowledge of the credibility of those writings, the logic of the teaching, and the historical evidence behind it all. The resurrection, for instance, has evidences that give it credibility that motivate me to believe in it. My faith in the resurrection is an assumption of truth based on enough evidence that makes it reasonable to hold that assumption. The same is true for my belief in the existence of God, my belief that the Bible is God’s word, and my understanding of how life works.

I would contend that faith is never blind.

 

February 9, 2015

When Your World Collapses

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

You may have noticed that we tend not to use devotional material here that begins in personal anecdotes and stories. We tend to go straight to the hardcover exposition of the day’s passage or theme. But in this devotion, writer Katherine Harms interweaves her journey with Psalm 62 in a way that helps us relate to what the Psalmist is writing. Click the title below to read at her blog, Living on Tilt.

Stop and Think About the Bible

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.
Psalm 62:8

One day at 4:30PM my supervisor asked me to join her in her office. I sat down expecting an extra work assignment, because two days before she had told me my productivity statistics were the highest on the team. On this day, however, she laid me off. She held me in the office till all the other employees had left. Then she told me to clean out my desk and take my belongings home. Budget cuts. I was a great employee. Blah Blah. There are rules. Blah Blah. Last in, first out. I could not verbalize my need with the eloquence of the psalmist, but I knew what he meant.

Have you ever felt as if your heart were pouring out through deep wounds inflicted by unexpected disaster? Have you ever felt that you were melting away in fear of the future? What did you do? How does the psalmist face his debacle?

Before the psalmist reached this depth, he knew that anything was possible. Life threw him curve balls, just like my experience. He got ready ahead of time:

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
Psalm 62:5

How can the psalmist be so sure he can expect God in his hour of need?

He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
Psalm 62:6-7

I would have felt pretty sure of things before my supervisor spoke with me. I would have said that God is my rock, but when the bottom fell out of my world, I felt shaken, not like being on a rock at all. How does the psalmist remind me that I can still trust the Lord?

I have returned to the starting point. When trouble shakes our foundations, we may feel as if we are in a swirling storm. We need to go back to the sure rock, the refuge, the place where we can hide and heal.

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.
Psalm 62:8

What will you do when you feel that your very roots are being pulled up by disaster? What will you do when the air you breathe is being sucked out of you by the vacuum you feel in your future?

My network was failing me. I even failed myself. I had believed that it was enough to give quality and quantity to my work. I could assure my own future. It was all in my own hands.

I turned to friends, but there was no help for me. I had built a career and earned every penny of my wages. Last in. First out.

Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath. Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them.
Psalm 62:9-10

When my world turned upside down and dumped me on the street, I had nothing. Unemployment in my county was 18%. All the sure things in my life were falling apart. I had only one assurance.

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.
Psalm 62:8

Have you experienced complete collapse? Have you watched all the supports fall apart? What did you do? What will you do?

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.
Psalm 62:8

February 5, 2013

Meditating on God’s Divine Providence and Love: Psalm 31

A completely different format today that I hope you will fully engage with. It certainly fits our situation, and I suspect it does for many of you. This was found at the blog of Tim Chester where, as always, you’re encouraged to read it at source.


In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
2 Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,

a strong fortress to save me.
3 Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
4 Free me from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hands I commit my spirit;
redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth.

  • From what do you need ‘rescue’ and ‘refuge’?
  • What’s the ‘trap’ in which you could fall? In other words, what temptation comes with your circumstances?
  • Highlight each time the Psalmist says ‘refuge’, ‘rock’ and ‘fortress’. How is God a refuge for you in the midst of your current problems?

6 I hate those who cling to worthless idols;
I trust in the LORD.
7 I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
for you saw my affliction
and knew the anguish of my soul.
8 You have not handed me over to the enemy
but have set my feet in a spacious place.

  • What makes the Psalmist glad? How might these truths comfort you?
  • What does it mean for God to put you in a ‘spacious place’ in the midst of your current problems?

9. Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and my body with grief.
10 My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak …

  • How do your current problems make you feel?
  • Do you find it helpful to express those emotions before God?

14 But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies;
from those who pursue me.
16 Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your unfailing love.
17 Let me not be put to shame, O LORD,
for I have cried out to you …

  • ‘My times are in your hands.’ ‘Had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.’ (Charles Spurgeon) Do you believe this? How does it comfort you?
  • How does God’s face shine on you in the midst of your problems? In other words, how is God being good to you?

19. How great is your goodness,
that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all
on those who take refuge in you.
20 In the shelter of your presence you hide them
from all human intrigues;
you keep them safe in your dwelling
from accusing tongues.

  • God has great goodness stored up for you. Compare the hope you have in Christ with what you think you lack in life.
  • How do you think of God ‘sheltering you’ and ‘hiding you’?

21 Praise be to the LORD,
for he showed his wonderful love to me
when I was in a city under siege.
22 In my alarm I said,
“I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
when I called to you for help.
23 Love the LORD, all his saints!
The LORD preserves those who are true to him,
but the proud he pays back in full.
24 Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the LORD.

  • What comfort has the Psalmist given to those who feel abandoned by God?
  • Who could you tell how God has helped you? Who could you encourage to be strong, take heart and hope in the LORD?

Making Psalm 31 Your Own

O LORD, I take refuge in you from ____________.
Don’t let me be ashamed by my problems.
Be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.
Free me from the temptation to ___________.
I put myself in your hands for you are my refuge.

I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
for you see my  ___________.
and you know the anguish of my soul.
When I feel trapped by my circumstances
lead me into a spacious place.

Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am in distress.
Both my body and soul feel weak with sorrow.
But I trust in you for you are my Father.
My times are in your hands.
My problem ___________ is in your hands.
Let your face shine on me.

How great is the goodness you have stored up for me.
It’s much greater than  ___________.
In the shelter of your presence
you keep me safe me from  ___________.

Praise the LORD, for he shows his wonderful love to me
when I am besieged by  ___________.
In my alarm I said, “God has abandoned me.”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy.

Love the LORD for he protects his people.
Be strong, take heart, hope in the LORD.

December 12, 2012

Anxiety, Depression and the Hope of Christmas

Fear, worry and anxiety are strongly linked to depression; and at this time of year, when everybody else is celebrating, depression seems to get larger, not smaller, for some people. Today is a double-post from Ben Nelson at the blog Another Red Letter Day.  I thought it significant that he dealt with both of these issues a few days apart. Links to the individual articles are in the titles, and you’re encouraged to read these there, leave comments, and browse other articles.

The Catch

Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’ For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. (Matthew 6:31-34 NASB)

In Monday’s post [Much More] I told you that God provision was not a principal or a promise, but more of a forgone conclusion.

Today there is actually another shoe about to drop.

There is a condition – a catch – one itty-bitty proviso.

And that goes back to the last paragraph – Who’s your master?

Here is the thing – If Jesus is your master, you have nothing to worry about – really –nothing.

Worry is a total waste of ‘redeemed time.’

The time you have is a gift of God. He gave it to you with a plan and a purpose.

Worry is a waste of that precious commodity.

Remember this guy?

And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. (Luke 15:13 NASB)

We call him the prodigal son. Do you know why we call this young man prodigal? (yes it is an adjective) Prodigal means wasteful.

So are you a prodigal when it come to your time – wasting it on worry? 

I pray today you would come to your senses like the prodigal son, and run home to Papa who is more than willing to take care of ‘what you will eat’ and ‘what you will drink’ and ‘how you will clothe yourself.’ And He has your tomorrow well in hand.

So get yourself comfortable in the role of servant, and our Wonderful Lord and Master will sweat the details.


Got Gloom?
Check this out

We all know this Christmas verse thanks to GF Handel:

The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them. (Isaiah 9:2 NASB)

But look what comes right before it:

But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. (Isaiah 9:1 NASB)

I love this – Jesus growing up in Galilee of the Gentiles making it glorious – but check the beginning

No more gloom for her who was in anguish.

Are you in anguish?

Are you living in gloom?

Are you stuck in a dark land – a dark place?

Christmas is here to break the gloom – break the anguish.

Ok – that was a bit mushy – how ’bout this:

Jesus was born, lived, and died a cruel death to break the gloom with an astonishing light

~ Ben Nelson

After posting this I discovered we had already borrowed an article from Ben just a few months ago, which I try not to do. But obviously this is a great source of devotional thoughts  which you might want to bookmark.

October 19, 2011

The Lord Giveth, The Lord Taketh Away, Right?

The book of Job is complicated.

Several years ago a manufacturer of Christian giftware created an entire themed line (or range as the British say) for men based on Job 1:10–

“Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.

There were work gloves, and a measuring tape, and other items all inscribed with

You have blessed the work of his hands

And everything was going fine until my wife pointed out that the speaker in this passage wasn’t God, wasn’t Job, wasn’t Job’s friends; it was the devil.  They were selling merchandise with a quote from the devil.  I mean, it’s possible for Satan to speak the truth in a situation, but it is rather unsettling.

I mention that because on the weekend, we had a discussion about the popular worship song, Blessed Be The Name (of the Lord).  The line that came up was,

You give and take away

and the individual pointed out that God allows things to happen, but doesn’t specifically cause things to happen.

The song lyric is based on Job, but this time we can’t blame the devil.  Chapter one, verse 20 and 21 reads:

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” (NIV)

The statement reflects Job’s understanding of how things work, but it’s a limited understanding; this being chapter one and all.

We do however see similar themes; such as I Samuel 2: 7,8

The LORD makes poor and rich;
He brings low, He also exalts. (NASB)

and Psalm 75: 6,7

For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another. (KJV)

But the causality appears slightly different in the NLT

For no one on earth—from east or west,
      or even from the wilderness—
      should raise a defiant fist.
 7 It is God alone who judges;
      he decides who will rise and who will fall

and is closer to the idea of God allowing but not actually doing.  And certainly, to believe in the sovereignty of God is to believe that nothing that takes place happens without his rubber stamp on it.

So what do you think?  Can you stand and sing that line of Blessed Be The Name with confidence?  Or do you shy away from it?

I think it’s important that our overarching belief is that God working to bring all things toward the good.  As Romans 8:28 reminds us:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who arecalled according to His purpose. (NASB)

He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.  (w/ vs. 27; The Message)

And furthermore, we can adopt an unconditional allegiance to God regardless of the circumstances or even regardless of their source.  Job reaches this point twelve chapters later, in 13:15:

Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him…(KJV)

September 6, 2011

God’s In Charge

Ula Gillion lives in South Africa and blogs at Jesus Carries Me.  She called this post, Smooth Sailing Results in Limited Understanding.

Suggested Reading: Matthew 8:23-27

The disciples didn’t always know exactly what Jesus’ next move was going to be or what He had planned ahead, but they followed Him nevertheless.  “He got into the boat and His disciples followed Him.” They didn’t get very far with Jesus when a sudden storm came up. These were seasoned fishermen. They were well acquainted with the weather patterns and recognized the signs of an impending storm, but this “furious” storm caught them off-guard, nonetheless. The Greek word used to describe the intensity of the storm is the word seismos, a word related to the word we use to measure the intensity of an earthquake (seismic activity). The storm was so severe that it caused a shaking similar to that of an earthquake, and in no time the waves were sweeping over the boat.

But, amazingly, throughout the shaking and the strong gale force winds and the water sweeping into the boat, “Jesus was sleeping…” I suppose it is easy to take a nap in the middle of a storm if you know you are in control of things. Jesus could sleep because He knew He was in control of the winds and waves. The problem, however, was the disciples didn’t know that He was aware of the storm. They did however believe He could do something about it and filled with fear, they decided to wake Him up. “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” Although they have at this point not yet fully grasped who Jesus was, they nevertheless knew that they could call to Him for help. It does appear that they thought the storm will take Jesus by surprise. They were about to discover that not only was He fully aware of the storm, but with a simple word nature’s power will bow down to His. At that moment  they called for Him to help, I wonder what it is precisely they thought He would do about the storm. One thing is certain; they did not expect Him to settle the problem with a single word. He spoke and it grew “completely” calm. Not a little calmer or considerably calmer. It grew completely calm through a word out of our Lord’s mouth.

Evidence that they did not expect this result is in the stunned silence that followed.  Their jaws dropped to their feet and they exclaimed, “What kind of man is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!” That is why He asked them why they had so little faith. They didn’t yet understand that this Man with them in the boat is the Lord of all the earth. They did not yet understand that He is the One through whom all things have been created and that all things will therefore obey Him. They did not yet understand that God placed all things under His feet –that with them in the boat was the One called Immanuel –God with us. God Himself was with them in that boat.

Do we really grasp the One who is with us in the boat when we go through the storms of life? Do we really understand that He only needs to speak one word and then everything will grow completely calm? Do we know that He can do with one word what we have been struggling for years to achieve? We need only to call on that name –the Name of Jesus, and all the powers of the universe will have to obey His command. He will never allow His own to be destroyed. He promised never to leave us nor forsake us.

Whatever storms we face will only be allowed to develop us and never to destroy us. Because of this storm His followers gained a greater understanding of who Jesus was. Had it not been for the storm, they may have continued for a while longer with their limited perception of Jesus. The storm revealed another aspect of His glory. The storm looked big and monstrous, but only until Jesus spoke. When He speaks our storms will appear minute in comparison to His power. Just as it happened for the disciples, our storms may give us deeper insight into the glorious power of our Lord. Without the storms, we may still continue limiting Him in our minds. Smooth sailing results in limited understanding of God, so let us praise Him in the storm!

 

August 23, 2011

Gimme, Gimme, Gimme

Today’s piece is from Arkansas pastor Rusty Blann’s blog,  S.O.A.P. For Today — it makes more sense when you note the outline below — where it appeared under the title…

“Manna, Manna, Manna or Holy, Holy, Holy?”

Scripture:

Numbers 11:1-6 The people fell to grumbling over their hard life. GOD heard. When he heard his anger flared; then fire blazed up and burned the outer boundaries of the camp. (2) The people cried out for help to Moses; Moses prayed to GOD and the fire died down. (3) They named the place Taberah (Blaze) because fire from GOD had blazed up against them. (4) The riff-raff among the people had a craving and soon they had the People of Israel whining, “Why can’t we have meat? (5) We ate fish in Egypt–and got it free!–to say nothing of the cucumbers and melons, the leeks and onions and garlic. (6) But nothing tastes good out here; all we get is manna, manna, manna.”

Observation:

The Israelites complained, and then Moses complained. But God responded positively to Moses and negatively to the rest of the people. Why? The people complained to one another, and nothing was accomplished. Moses took his complaint to God, who could solve any problem. Many of us are good at complaining to each other. We need to learn to take our problems to the One who can do something about them.

Every morning the Israelites drew back their tent doors and witnessed a miracle. Covering the ground was pale yellow, fluffy manna-food from heaven. But soon that wasn’t enough. Feeling it was their right to have more, they forgot what they already had. They didn’t ask God to fill their need; instead, they demanded meat, and they stopped trusting God to care for them. “Give us meat to eat!” (Numbers 11:13) they complained to Moses as they reminisced about the good food they had in Egypt. God gave them what they asked for, but they paid dearly for it when a plague struck the camp (Numbers 11:18-20; Numbers 11:31-34).

When you ask God for something, he may grant your request. But if you approach him with a sinful attitude, getting what you want may prove costly.

Application:

How does this apply to me?

Dissatisfaction comes when our attention shifts from what we have to what we don’t have. The people of Israel didn’t seem to notice what God was doing for them: setting them free, making them a nation, giving them a new land. They were so wrapped up in what God wasn’t doing for them. They could think of nothing but the delicious Egyptian food they had left behind. Somehow they forgot that the brutal whip of Egyptian slavery was the cost of eating that food.

Before we judge the Israelites too harshly, it’s helpful to think about what occupies our attention most of the time. Are we grateful for what God has given us, or are we always thinking about what we would like to have? We should not allow our unfulfilled desires to cause us to forget God’s gifts of life, food, health, work, and friends.

The Children of Israel did just that however. They found themselves complaining about the “blessings of God.” Every morning God would literally pour out blessings from heaven. They would look around and Manna from heaven was all around them. They became so accustomed to God caring for their needs, that their daily thanksgiving and praise slowly, and subtly turned to complaining. Then the words from their mouth and the meditation from their hearts were…”Manna, Manna, Manna.”

How often does my attitude reflect the same disregard for the loving care of provision of God? “Manna, Manna, Manna” I may say in disgust, instead of what should flow from my mouth when I think of my awesome God… “Holy, Holy, Holy.”

Prayer:

“Lord, I am so guilty of waking up in the morning and focusing immediately on the problems of the day instead of the potential. Focusing on the storm of the day instead of the peace. Focusing on the sickness of the day instead of the Healer. Focusing on the need of the day instead of the provider. Focusing on the battle for the day instead of the King of Kings. Focusing on the lack of today instead of the Lord for this day. I ask you to forgive me, for I truly repent of that kind of attitude. Every single day you bless me in ways that I often overlook. I find my attitude the same as the Children of Israel, and even though my words may not, my actions declare, “Manna, manna, manna.” I choose today to be thankful. For I am a blessed man, who serves an awesome, loving, providing God. You are creative in the ways that you bless me and my family. I love you Lord, and thank you for this day. I will rejoice and be glad in it…and thankful! In Jesus’ name, amen.”

~Rusty L. Blann