Christianity 201

May 27, 2023

Delay is not Denial

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Today we have a new author to introduce, Brianna Ngarambe. She writes at Joy-Full, only she likes lower case letters, so joy-full. Clicking the link in the title which comes next will take you to where this first appeared.

at the right time

Lazarus was dead for four days.

Jesus was in the tomb before He rose.

Sometimes a situation has to die for it to be raised again.

In the life of every believer, there was a time where you realized that God is and has been your only hope of restoration and abundant life. You died to yourself, and became alive in Christ.

No one who hopes in You will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause.

Psalm 25:3 NLT

We as believers had faith enough for God to cleanse us from unrighteousness and forgive us of our sins, past, present, and future. God doesn’t want to save you just to save you, He wants you to partake in His love, in His blessings, and also in His suffering as well, with an understanding that it is all doing a good work within us.

But remember– any faithlessness will not allow you to see His hand in the midst of your mourning.

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT

Do you want to miss the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end? If your answer is no, which I pray it is, then understand this:

Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?”

John 11:40 NLT

Don’t just believe that God can do it. Believe that He would do it for you. He is Our Heavenly Father, and He wouldn’t withhold anything good from us (Psalm 84:11). It is time to move from believing to seeing. From believing in His Glory to seeing His glory. To believing in the scope of God’s work, to seeing prayer points fulfilled before your eyes.

When a situation looks dead, when it looks hopeless, my friend, this is the perfect time to look up to where your help comes from (Psalm 121). Our God has resurrecting power. He actually rose with all power (Matthew 28:18)! And it is by this power that He will come through for you at the perfect time.

To you, God may seem late. To Mary and Martha, they just couldn’t understand why Jesus took so long.

 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.

John 11:4 NLT

There are certain situations where the delay is not from God, which is where we fight in the Spirit against every enemy of progress with the full armor of God!! (Eph. 6). But let me tell you, when God delays, it is never a denial. It is not a setback, but an opportunity for your faith to grow and for everyone to see God’s glory and promises come to pass over your life.

Lord, I thank You that all power is in Your hands. You have the power to resurrect every dead situation back to life.
I pray that You give me an understanding of this season that I’m in. Thank You for directing my steps, and I pray for divine alignment for the purposes and plans that You have for me, that will give me a hope and a future. I pray for those even around me who may be going through difficult seasons, walk with them to their victory in Jesus Mighty Name I pray

By the same author: The story about a Lyft driver at the beginning of this devotional will bring you much encouragement. Read When God Interrupts You.

May 15, 2023

Moses’ Mid-life Calling

Today we introduce another new writer to you, Becca Harbert. Her ‘about’ page didn’t really tell us much about her, but it was fun to read! She blogs at weekly (until recently) on a variety of faith-focused topics. Click the title which follows to read this where we first did!

Lord. Please Send Someone Else!

I used to judge Moses for asking God to send someone else. He was being offered the opportunity, not only of a lifetime, or the century, but like, of all of time. Moses, you’re going to stand up to the most powerful man in the world, the Pharaoh. Then you’re going to lead God’s people through the Red Sea on dry ground! You’re going to lead the people in the desert, where God will feed you manna from Heaven and water from a rock. Oh, and did I mention the Promised Land? All you have to do is trust God and do what He says step by step. C’mon Moses. It’s what you were made for, saved from the Nile for, raised in the palace for. Moses! This is your chance!!!

But what did he say?

He said, “Lord. Please send someone else” (Exodus 4:13). Moses was not a young duck. He was forty when the Lord called him through that burning bush. He’d been herding sheep for, what, a decade? Possibly longer? He. Was. Done. He’d given up on that dream of doing anything meaningful or adventurous or that required much faith, a LONG time ago. He was content, living in the desert with his sons and his wife, living the simple life. He’d messed up in his past with a criminal record. He struggled with his stuttering tongue. Yet he’d found a way for himself and his family despite all that. Moses had overcome a lot in his life. But then, the Lord called him to do something else.

I’ve written on this before, but since I’m nearly forty, the age of Moses here, I so relate to the weariness and skepticalness we see from Moses in this meeting with the Lord in the burning bush! He’s just worn out. He doesn’t doubt God. He’s just tired. Maybe he gave up on dreaming. Maybe he gave up on his faith. Maybe he just didn’t want any more adventures in his life. Maybe he’d lost a lot of money in the stock market or the sheep market that year. Maybe he had a trying child that had worn him out. Maybe he’d tried to follow the Lord but just gave it up.

Does any of that sound familiar? Are you a young person in your teens or twenties, eager to change the world? Or are you busy doing just that in your thirties? Or are you in your forties, completely over it? Hardened by the world and the circumstances that have come your way. I hear by the time you’re sixty you’re refreshed and ready to jump into ministry again. But those forty-somethings, are worn out. There’s a reason they call it over the hill! Moses was there! Maybe he literally was in his mid-life crisis, or wondered if running off to Egypt with his family in a new corvette would look like that. I mean, he did have that new magical staff snake thing, right? It’s kind of the same as a corvette. And no, he didn’t have a car, but used a donkey. But hey, the Bible doesn’t say anything about him not painting it red, just saying. JK.

On a more serious note, do you think God makes mistakes? Of course not. But why didn’t God call someone younger, more energetic, more passionate? Or why didn’t God call Moses at a younger age? I wonder such things, but I also greatly appreciate that He called Moses at age 40, in the middle of his life, to pursue something BIG. It give us hope that God has not forgotten us, or those middle aged folk. Most of the disciples were young. Mary and Joseph were young. Noah was old. John’s parents, Elizabeth and Zachariah were old. Abraham and Sarah were old when they had their baby Isaac. God can use anyone at any age. Praise God, right?! Praise Him! He’s used children too. Miriam, Moses’ sister was used as a child to help save his life as a baby! Moses wasn’t young and energetic or old and free. He was middle aged.

Moses’ story shows us just how hard it can be at that age to pick up and start an adventure for the Lord. Many times, Moses returned to the Lord saying, “What were you thinking? How can this be? These people! This mission!” Ultimately, his concerns were always either “I can’t do this,” or “this is impossible,” or “these people don’t want my help!” And every time the Lord delivered. Granted, they did face some discipline along the way, like not actually making it to the promised land until the next generation. But step by step, God led Moses with what to do next. He led Moses day by day.

Do you feel the Lord calling you or someone you know in the middle of their life to something? Can you encourage them or pray for them to have the faith to simply take steps of obedience trusting God to do His work? If you’re in that position, pray for faith to believe God to do what He can do. Remember, God never answered Moses’ question about who Moses was. He only pointed Moses to who God is (Exodus 3:11-14). It doesn’t matter who we are or if we’re tired or not. It matters that we continue persevering and trusting God by taking the steps of faith He’s leading us toward. I pray you are encouraged by this, my Friend. I have been.

NLT.Ex.3.11 But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?”

12 God answered, “I will be with you. And this is your sign that I am the one who has sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain.”

13 But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?”

14 God replied to Moses, “I am who i am. Say this to the people of Israel: I am has sent me to you.”

Thinking about Moses’ mid-life job assignment reminded me of this picture frame that my wife Ruth was given on the weekend. “Adventure Awaits!” Text: “May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed.” Psalm 20:4

May 14, 2023

Keeping a Personal Storehouse of God’s Word

I tend to read the scriptures for instruction and teaching. I’m looking for passages that engage my intellect and illustrate the inter-connectedness and symmetry of scripture; not to mention scriptures I can share with personal contacts and blog readers.

I wrote about that in a blog post that has actually run twice here, sharing a popular verse of scripture, II Tim 3:16,  in three translations and then ending with my paraphrase:

All scripture has its point of origin in God’s mind, and

  • shows us the path God would have us walk
  • highlights when and where we’ve gotten off the path
  • points the way back to the path
  • gives us the advice we need to keep from wandering off the path in future

But while this list includes four benefits of studying the word, it is not inclusive. The point is that whatever we think of when we think of the Bible, it is always so much more.

For example, in Ps. 23:4 we read:

Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

What is the ‘rod and staff’ spoken of here?  Most translations, including The Message preserve this imagery:

Even when the way goes through
    Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
    when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
    makes me feel secure.  (The Message)

Matthew Henry affirms that this imagery is pertinent to the phrase that precedes it; that the protection of the Lord described here is that needed in the face of death:

It is a comfort to the saints, when they come to die, that God takes cognizance of them (he knows those that are his), that he will rebuke the enemy, that he will guide them with his rod and sustain them with his staff. The gospel is called the rod of Christ’s strength (Ps. 110:2), and there is enough in that to comfort the saints when they come to die, and underneath them are the everlasting arms.

Ultimately, our comfort is God Himself. The Voice version, which tends to add things to the text, simplifies it in this verse:

Even in the unending shadows of death’s darkness,
I am not overcome by fear.
Because You are with me in those dark moments,
near with Your protection and guidance,
I am comforted.  (The Voice)

This theme reverberates throughout the Psalms. In Psalm 46:1

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (KJV)

a verse which in many ways parallels the first verse of Psalm 23:

The Lord is my Shepherd…

It echoes in Psalm 121:2

My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.  (NIV)

This comfort should sustain us at all times; not just as we reach the end of life; though it is often at the end of life that people turn to God.

Now going back to where I started, many times in my day, both here and in my personal Bible study time, I find myself engaging scripture more as an intellectual pursuit than to seek comfort, solace and strength from its pages. My faith is way up in my head somewhere and isn’t penetrating my heart.

Or there is also the “This is really deep stuff; who can I share this with?” mentality that sees the truths about God more as a type of theological email forward to be sent on to ten people who must promise to send it ten others.  “This is so good, I must send it to Bob.”

The result of this is what I am experiencing as I write this: In times of anxiety, stress or fear, I sometimes can feel I have woefully inadequate resources at my immediate internal disposal because I have not “banked” the truths of God’s comfort and life-giving strength. I find myself totally broken because I have studied God’s Word enough to know the comfort of God is there to be taken, but living in the middle of a disconnect, not being able to draw on it as I should.

I don’t need God’s rod or staff to drive away 3rd party oppressors as much as I need to be hit over the head with it as a reminder, “Hey…I am right here; I am the strength you need.”

Do some of you resonate with this? Is it possible you’re attracted here to the “201” nature of this page — perhaps even looking for Christianity 301 or Christianity 401 — but are missing the “Christianity pre-Kindergarten” principle that Jesus loves us?

Yes, we need to search the scriptures and study to know the core doctrines and history that we learn from its pages. But we also need to know how to find comfort from the Word; because in those times, all our Bible knowledge and ability to explain theology will not hold us up. We need to know the reality of  “still waters” spoken of elsewhere in the 23rd Psalm.

I know I do.

Somewhat unrelated bonus item:

This week I attended a seminary convocation where this song was used for the processional.


May 9, 2023

Non-Stop Talk about Sharing in God’s Glory

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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I was once in a young adults meeting where the leader asked, “What do you talk about when it’s your chance to control the conversation?” Opportunities to give credit (honor) to God don’t happen all the time, but we should be taking advantages of them when they do.

This is our third time highlighting the writing of Rev. Taylor Mertins  who blogs at Think and Let Think, has co-authored three books, and hosts the Strangely Warmed Podcast and the Crackers and Grape Juice Podcast.

What Is Jesus Doing In Your Life?

Romans 5.1-2

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

“How is it with your soul?”

That’s a Wesleyan question that we Methodists still throw around occasionally. It comes from John Wesley himself and was the central question for historic Methodist class meetings, these small and intimate gatherings of Christians who were concerned with what it actually meant to be Christian. The question confronts us in our faith such that we must reckon with what God’s grace is doing to us.

And yet, we don’t ask that question, or questions like it, anymore. Sure, in the context of a Bible study or a small group ostensibly gathering in the name of Christ, you might hear a question like it but in our day to day discipleship, it’s nowhere to be found.

The relativization of the faith to the private sphere has resulted in a form of discipleship that is largely divorced from Christ’s call to take up our cross and follow. Put another way, if our faith is merely something we do on Sundays then it doesn’t really have anything to do with the One who makes our faith intelligible.

In Paul’s letter to the church in Rome he confronts the embodied nature of the faith with physical language about “standing in grace” and “boasting in our hope.” Something has been done to us and, as such, we have an assurance that we can live differently because of it. And that something has a name: Jesus.

Frederick Buechner, author/pastor/theologian once said:

“Nice people don’t talk about religion. Or so the thinking goes. That’s why, when I taught at Wheaton College, it was so refreshing. There were people there who talked about it ALL THE TIME. It was almost too much and hard to take. It was as if they had Jesus in their hip pocket, and all they had to do was take him out and he would tell them where to find a parking space. But, on the other hand, they were able to ask, “What is Jesus doing in your life this week?” Marvelous! I believe God is doing something in everyone’s life every moment!

But the idea of asking that question in certain places with certain people, it’s like the sky would fall in, the house would catch fire, and I would never be asked out again. In other words, people don’t ask about our experiences of grace, but perhaps they should.”

I wonder, therefore, how differently the church would look were we willing to ask that all too important question, “What is Jesus doing in your life this week?” If the faith we proclaim on Sundays is indeed the faith revealed to us in the person of Christ, then there are manifold implications for how Christ is guiding, shaping, and moving in our midst. Particularly since worship isn’t as much about what we do, but more about what we do in response to all that God has done, is doing, and will do.

Basically, it comes down to a matter of agency: Do we believe that God is active in our lives, or do we consider ourselves the primary movers and shakers?

Perhaps asking the question is the way in which we can open our eyes and ears to Christ’s actions in our lives. And maybe, being able to ask the question at all is what makes faith, faith.

And so, what is Jesus doing in your life this week?

May 7, 2023

The Strength Faith Brings

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Today we’re back with Melody at In Pleasant Places and each day combines original thoughts with a significant helping of scripture references. Click the title which follows are read this where it first appeared.

Our Faith – 1 John 5:4

“For this is what love for God is: to keep his commands. And his commands are not a burden, because everyone who has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith. Who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
1 John 5:3-5

A song was playing as I was getting ready yesterday morning, and it referenced our shield of faith. And I believe that’s what brought the verse above to mind, in which the apostle John writes that it is our faith that conquers, or overcomes, the world.

What became so interesting to me is that my mind was then drawn to two other verses that perhaps can further develop our understanding here. Or mine, at least. Because the sense I have generally gotten from 1 John 5:4 has been that with a strong enough faith, the world and its temptations are overcome. If I can just bolster my beliefs and remember to raise that shield of faith and belt of truth, I can perceive that the Lord’s commands are not burdensome but are for my good, and I can overcome.

Let’s look at the 3 passages that seemed to suddenly connect to each other yesterday:

“And his commands are not a burden, because everyone who has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith.” (1 John 5:3b-4)

“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race set before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

“Indeed, an hour is coming, and has come, when each of you will be scattered to his own home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” John 16:32-33

► It is our faith that conquers the world (1 John 5).
► Jesus is the source and perfecter of our faith – beginning it and completing it within us, bringing it faithfully to fullness (Hebrews 12).
► Jesus said to take heart, to be courageous; He has conquered the world (John 16).

The reason we stand in hope that our faith conquers the world isn’t because we’re strong in ourselves, but because the One who begins, holds, and completes our faith is the One who Himself has conquered the world, enduring all temptations, all darkness, and all agony and shame, and sat down in victory on His throne. He is upholding us now.

The phrase “our faith” can be misleading to my perspective. But what is being impressed on me lately is that it is our faith because the Lord has given it to us in love and power, not because we created it or mustered it or sustain it within ourselves. And oh, how that frees us from the weight of trying to carry it on our own, and from the pride that can so easily take hold.

He gives us the faith we need. He gives us the strength – His strength – that we need, as we look to and lean heavily on Him, knowing the strength is not our own. We conquer because Jesus has conquered. We can obey because He has fulfilled the law and has given us (is giving us) all we need for a life of godliness, a life of joy and freedom and abundance as we walk by His strength in the light of His righteousness and truth.

So we can look to Him and walk forward in confidence, knowing He establishes our steps on His path of righteousness and His power and strength are made perfect in our weakness as He faithfully perfects our faith and conquers the world.

“His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. By these he has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.”
2 Peter 1:3-4

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
Hebrews 1:3

May 5, 2023

Don’t Abandon the Prayer Process

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

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

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

Many years ago we previously looked at what that means:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More on today’s topic at C201:

April 23, 2023

The Difficulties are Actually What You Prayed For

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

Be Careful What You Pray For

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 21, 2023

The Realm of Mystery in the Kingdom of God

Some things — perhaps not as many as should be — make me smile, and one of those things is returning to a writer who we featured here a decade ago and find them still faithfully online. Such is the case with Charlie LeHardy, who writes at AnotherThink. Click the title which follows to read this where it first appeared.

Great mysteries and hidden things revealed

At that same time Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and he said, “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way.

“My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

Then when they were alone, he turned to the disciples and said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you have seen. I tell you, many prophets and kings longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it.” —Luke 10:21-24 (NLT)

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is an amazing achievement in science, engineering, and the human quest to unwrap the mysteries of the world we live in. On the engineering side, this gigantic telescope was lifted far into space on a rocket—not such an uncommon thing these days—and once it reached its position in space, it unwrapped and unfolded itself over a period of many weeks, precisely and flawlessly, all without the assistance of human hands.

Now that it is operational, its design allows it to return clear images from deeper into space than we’ve ever seen before, which means, because the universe is so inconceivably vast, that JWST is literally looking back in time to events that happened in the earliest days of the creation of our universe.

Already it has found something unexpected. If the interpretation of recent images is correct, JWST has spotted galaxies that are many times larger and more mature than the current understanding of the Big Bang Theory would allow. These particular galaxies, and perhaps many others not yet spotted, seem to have jumped into being ahead of schedule. It’s a surprise, a mystery, a puzzle to be solved.

There are many, many mysteries in life, aren’t there? From the biggest questions, like, how did the stars in the sky come into existence, to the smallest questions, like, why does my wife love me, we simply don’t know as much as we think we do. We certainly don’t know as much as there is to know.

It’s good that there are still mysteries. Mystery keeps us humble. We think of ourselves as “wise and clever,” as Jesus said, but just when we think we have a good handle on things, a wrench gets thrown into the works and our certainties crumble.

The world just went through one of the most terrible mysterious events of my lifetime, COVID-19. Was it a natural viral mutation or a bioweapon? How was it transmitted and what would slow its rampant spread? Did hand sanitizing work? Social distancing? Vaccines? Masks? Quarantines? Many millions of deaths later, these things are still being debated. What we know for certain about COVID is that it showed us how little we really know about infectious diseases and their treatments, among other things. And, it showed us how quickly modern society can be crippled, even in this age when we have such (apparently unfounded) confidence that we’re firmly in control of our lives.

Jesus says something interesting in this short and mysterious passage. First, he says that we cannot know God unless God chooses to reveal himself to us, and that God has chosen to reveal himself through his son, Jesus. That means that spiritual enlightenment is a dead end unless we begin seeking understanding by looking hard at the life and words and person of Jesus Christ.

Accept that or don’t, but it’s the unambiguous and rather bold claim of Jesus, the man who is so often credited uncritically as a somewhat interesting great moral teacher.

After saying that, he directly addresses his disciples and tells them that they are witnesses to a mystery that many prophets and holy people through history have longed to see for themselves. They did not see these things because God hid them, until that moment.

And what did God hide that he has now revealed? The mysterious plan of God, what Jesus calls the kingdom of God. He had hidden his plan to make a way for all of humanity to live with him, to know him, just as the first two people did in the garden at creation.

The mystery that has been revealed is that Jesus Christ is the way to be reconciled with God, to know God, and to enter into a life-saving relationship with God.

Here’s how the Apostle Paul put it in his letter to the church at Colossae:

God wanted everyone, not just Jews, to know this rich and glorious secret inside and out, regardless of their background, regardless of their religious standing. The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message. —Colossians 1:27 (The Message)

Previously, on his “about” page, Charlie shared this same theme:

The apostle Paul once wrote that we view life as if looking in a very tarnished and worn mirror, or “squinting in a fog, peering through a mist” (1 Corinthians 13:12, The Message). But one day, life’s mysteries will be explained. In the meantime, we puzzle and ponder. I hope you enjoy my puzzling, and that it leads you to ask important questions about the purpose of life and the identity of the man who claimed to be God, Jesus Christ.

April 19, 2023

Where is God on Your List of Priorities?

This is our third time with Linda Knight who writes at Fearless Living. She has been going through the Book of Isaiah. The articles are shorter, so we have two of them for you today, a recent one, and then a longer one from before Easter. The headers below will also take there. You’ll also find links where you can listen to each one on Spotify.

What Role Does God Play in Your Life?

I am excited to continue in Isaiah as there is so much yet to be learned and discovered! I pray you will continue with me on this journey. After the 4th and final Song contained in Isaiah containing a vivid description of our Savior, Jesus, Isiah continues in his words of encouragement from God to the people of Isael. God knows that they will need these words as they languish in exile in Babylon. In Isaiah 54 we find words to build up Isarel as God knows they will be feeling discouraged, ashamed and downtrodden when they reflect on their sin and disobedience towards God and the time they spent in Egypt and in Babylon.


Isaiah 54:4-5 “Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.
Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.
You will forget the shame of your youth
and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.
For your Maker is your husband—
the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth.

These verses are filled with truths that are timeless and can be applied to our lives today. The Lord Jesus, our Redeemer, can cover my shame and alleviate the pain that it causes. He can cause me to forget things from my mind so that I will no longer dwell on them. Both of these are priceless promises that can and do help me to live for Him for today and not be stuck in the past. God did not want the Israelites to mourn and be consumed with their past failures but to look forward and let Him carry the past pain. He desires the same for you and me today.

In verse 5 God lists for me the roles He desires to exercise in my life if I will turn to Him and trust Him. He promises to be my Maker or Creator, Husband or loving caretaker, companion, Almighty God who is the all-powerful one in my life and world, Holy One who is pure and spotless, Redeemer, Savior or the one who went to the cross to save me so I can be in a relationship with Father God, and Sovereign God who is above all, in all, completely in charge so that nothing escapes His power and might.

I would echo the words of David from Psalm 89:8 “Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.” God is the one and only God and only He can take care of you perfectly. I love Nahum 1:7 and claim it often, The Lord is good,  a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him,” As you ponder these verses today, may the Lord show you how He is your Creator, Husband, Almighty God, Redeemer and Sovereign Lord.

Jesus is Upholding You, Be Encouraged!

In Chapter 41 of Isaiah we find encouraging passages that would have strengthened and given hope to the Israelites while in captivity in Babylon and that speak to us today with that same strength and hope.

Isaiah 41:9-10 “I took you from the ends of the earth,
from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

The Israelites could identify with these words as they knew God had called them while in Egypt and would call them to return to Jerusalem when their captivity in Babylon was finished. They knew that God would keep the promises He made to their fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God was giving them hope that He would strengthen, help and uphold them.

As we look at these verses thousands of years later, what do they mean to us today? We know God kept His promise to return them to the land of Israel after their captivity in Babylon. He also returned them to their land as a nation in 1948 when the Jews returned to establish and the independent country of Israel. We can also take comfort in God’s promise to be with us, strengthen and help us. When God says he will uphold us with His righteous right hand, God is referring to Jesus. Jesus is known as the one who sits at God’s right hand. We can count on Him to uphold us 24/7. Here are some lessons and truths we can glean from these verses that will give us courage, strength and resolve for living:

** God is sovereign and we are chosen by God to serve Him. God is in control of all things in heaven and on the earth. All believers are chosen by God to serve Him. He delights in having a relationship with us. Acts 4:24 “When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.” Psalm 147:11 “the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”

**God’s presence dispels fear. (God is greater than any fear we might have!) Psalm 34:4 “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”

**Knowing He is my God frees me from discouragement. Nothing or no one can withstand the power of God. Romans 8:31b says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” or Isaiah 49:23b “Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”

**God promises to provide strength and help. This promise is found elsewhere too. Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Isaiah 40:29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Psalm 33:20 “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.” Isaiah 50:9 “It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me. Who will condemn me? They will all wear out like a garment; the moths will eat them up.”

**God promises to uphold me through Jesus, who is His righteous right hand. Mark 16:19After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Acts 5:30-31 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins.” Ephesians 1:19-20  and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father. He told us he would be with us and uphold us until He returns. John 14:3, 16-17 “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

May you be encouraged today by our promise keeping God!



April 16, 2023

Learning to Avoid Shortcuts

One year ago, we reconnected with to Kuya Kevin, who we first knew as an American living in the Philippines. His real name is Kevin Sanders. Today he’s better known as Pastor Kevin Sanders, and he’s now a Texas pastor. On his “about” page, he writes, “The older I get, the more I realize that life is all about the undeserved grace of God.” Click the title which follows to read this where it first appeared.

The Danger of Spiritual Shortcuts

“I know a shortcut!”

We’ve probably all heard this at least once in our lives and regretted following the ill-advised path. The “shortcut” ended up wasting valuable time or even got you completely lost. You would have been much better off just going the way that was certain to get you to your destination.

Shortcuts can present themselves in ways that are less literal but with very real consequences.

We see this in 1st Samuel 24.

Saul had shown himself unworthy to be Israel’s king. The Lord rejected him and chose David to be his successor. Saul decided he was going to prevent this succession by killing David. David escaped Saul’s presence when it became clear that Saul’s mind was set on murder.

David fled from place to place, doing whatever he could to survive. He even pretended to be insane on one occasion (drooling on his beard) in order to get away from another rival king. He collected a ragtag militia along the way—a group of malcontents that thought their life would be better under a new king.

That leads to the scene at hand:

When Saul returned from following the Philistines, he was told, “Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi.” Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel and went to seek David and his men in front of the Wildgoats’ Rocks. And he came to the sheepfolds by the way, where there was a cave, and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave.  And the men of David said to him, “Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you.’”

Then David arose and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.  And afterward David’s heart struck him, because he had cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed.” So David persuaded his men with these words and did not permit them to attack Saul. And Saul rose up and left the cave and went on his way.

1st Samuel 24:1-7

Saul thought he finally had the resources and information available to find and execute his rival. But nature called while he was leading the hunt. Not only did nature call; it called collect. This was the kind of call that required privacy. He went into a cave to “relieve himself.”

The King James Version translates this literally with an ancient euphemism: “Saul went in to cover his feet.” I still remember this from my childhood.

Little did Saul know that he had walked into a trap. David and his men were in this same cave Saul had chosen to use as his port-o-potty. There was Saul, exposed (literally) and in the most vulnerable state imaginable. He was probably too busy trying not to make a mess of things to notice anything else.

This scenario presented David with the perfect opportunity to eliminate Saul (apologies for the pun—you didn’t deserve that).

David had the sword of his most famous rival, Goliath. It must have been an impressive weapon, and one quick strike would have forever ended the conflict with the man who unworthily ruled Israel. Saul would not have known what hit him, and David could have walked out into the daylight as Israel’s new king (just as God had already promised).

Killing Saul was the logical thing to do. Killing him was the most expedient thing to do.

David’s men even argued that it was God’s will.

Speaking of David’s men, David could have been rid of Saul by simply standing back and doing nothing.

Saul, after all, was the reason that these men were hiding in a cave instead of enjoying the perks of being royal soldiers. Any one of them would have been more than happy to exterminate him and end their suffering.

But this wasn’t God’s way, and David knew it.

David symbolically attacked Saul by mutilating his robe (the robe was a status symbol in the ancient world). Even that caused him to feel guilty, and he did not allow anyone else to get near Saul.

David knew it wasn’t his place to take matters into his own hands.

He wanted to become king God’s way and in God’s time. He refused to take any shortcuts.

Therein lies the lesson for us.

You will inevitably encounter a shortcut on our spiritual journey—a way that looks easier than the way you know God has told you to go.

An example or two comes to mind:

A single believer gets tired of looking for a godly match. She chooses to get romantically involved with an unbeliever, figuring she can convince him to follow Jesus.

A man accepts a lucrative new job opportunity even though he knows God has told him to wait for something else.

These are just a couple of examples.

Sometimes the shortcut is blatantly unscriptural or foolish. Other times it is just less than God’s best.

Either way, just one act of disobedience can negatively change the trajectory of our lives.

Lord, forgive me for those times when impatience has turned into disobedience. Grant me the wisdom to stay on the path of Your choosing, even when alternatives routes present themselves.  

March 27, 2023

Delivered from the Guilt of Sin

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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Today we’re thrilled to introduce another new writer to you. Rebecca L. Johnson has returned to her blog — tag line: Notes About Faith and Encouragement — with three posts this month after a nearly four year break. Her education includes Criminology with a dose of Theater, and she has one published book. I hope you find today’s devotional as interesting as we did. Click the title which follows and read this where it first appeared.

Context Matters

Case in Point: Psalm 32:7

Since the advent of commercializing Scripture into bite sized quotables, believers in Jesus have become more and more anesthetized to caring about the context of said Scriptures. I could point to a hundred or more examples, but this is one that I was guilty of extrapolating many years ago. The Lord has recently reminded me that in order to appreciate the sweet, we must often have to endure the ultra-sour. In order to understand the depth of His grace, we sometimes have to face the depths of despair and confront our own desperate need for His rescue.

This was highlighted for me in Psalm 32. My oldest daughter was born into a tempest as her biological father decided that he didn’t want the responsibility of being a father and so I found myself in the midst of a divorce during my pregnancy. I vowed that God would be the Father of my children and that earthly relationships of any intimate nature were a thing of the past. I got on my knees the night that he left us and handed the keys of my life and everything in it back to the Lord – You see I had been trying to control and manage my responses to external events in my own strength for about six years at that time without consulting the Lord, and my life felt like the tail end of a hurricane – I was done fighting. I had no strength left.

I searched the Scriptures for a Word that would bring comfort to myself and to my daughter specifically. I came across Psalm 32:7 “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” This sounds, and is, poetic, beautiful and hopeful. However, we don’t stop to ask ourselves what we are being delivered from. This is the entire text of Psalm 32 from the New International Version of Scripture (the spacing is owing to its poetic form):

Blessed is the one

Whose transgressions are forgiven,

Whose sins are covered.

Blessed is the one

Whose sin the LORD does not count against them

And in whose spirit is no deceit.

When I kept silent,

My bones wasted away

Through my groaning all day long.

For day and night

Your hand was heavy on me;

My strength was sapped

As in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you

And did not cover up my iniquity.

I said, “I will confess

My transgressions to the LORD.”

And you forgave

The guilt of my sin.

Therefore let all the faithful pray to you

While you may be found;

Surely the rising of the mighty waters

Will not reach them.

You are my hiding place;

You will protect me from trouble

And surround me with songs of deliverance.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;

I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.

Do not be like the horse or the mule,

Which have no understanding

But must be controlled by bit and bridle

Or they will not come to you.

Many are the woes of the wicked,

But the LORD’s unfailing love

Surrounds the one who trusts in him.

Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous;

Sing, all you who are upright in heart!

The introduction to this poem sets the stage for blessing then reveals the story. This person was weighed down by sin and struggles and had no strength left. THEN! Don’t you just love those transitional words?! It signals a turning point. “THEN I acknowledged my sin to you…” I came clean. I brought into the light what had been shrouded in darkness. I handed over all my broken pieces and confessed my shame. “AND You forgave…” Wow. The weight is lifted. The relationship is restored. You forgave…Me. I didn’t deserve it. I had nothing to bargain with. There was no good excuse for my waywardness, but You forgave me anyway! THEREFORE!

I have been remarried to an amazing man for over eighteen years now because God knew that I needed a running mate in this crazy life race, and my husband (the preacher and professor) likes to say “Always see what the ‘therefore’ is there for.” “THEREFORE” – in light of this information, because of what comes before this word – “Let the faithful pray to you while you may be found…”

The rising waters will not reach them – the faithful, those who have turned from their sin, confessed, and are no longer following their own desolate path. Those who are faithful to the LORD…They will be protected from drowning and surrounded with songs of deliverance. They will find the strength in God to fill their lungs with the breath supplied by the LORD and join Him in song!

To those of you who feel like you are being led around like cattle, or blown and tossed by the wind…To those who are still trying to go your own way, follow your own heart, or find your own path…The Bible doesn’t teach you that those things will lead to life or deliverance or truth or rest for your weary soul! The Bible teaches you to turn from all those cultural cliches and to obey what the LORD is telling you to do because He loves you and knows what is best for you… what will make you thrive and excel…what will bring you joy and peace…what will protect you and preserve you when everything else around you is falling apart.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NIV). Believe in the One who saves – His name is Jesus. Confess where you have tried to do things your own way instead of His way. Be forgiven. Then you are protected. Then you can sing!

March 26, 2023

How Did I Miss this Verse?

The last 12 months has brought three lifetime friendships to a close. As people with whom I journeyed for years have turned down pathways different than mine, I have had to cut off one particular individual in particular. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe he could hold some views different than my own on a few topics; rather, it seemed to be the totality of everything he posted on social media.

The commonality that we once enjoyed in Christ was overshadowed by the issues of the day.

No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in the concerns of civilian life; he seeks to please the commanding officer. – 2 Timothy 2:4 CSB

As others have used social media as their personal platform to “discern” and then “correct” the actions of others, I have had to cut off another particular individual who had become a self-appointed judge over everything I was reading, listening to, or even mentioning in passing. I knew that moving forward, I could never send him another book or video recommendation without him then immersing himself in deep analysis of everything.

The commonality that we once enjoyed in Christ was overshadowed by his compulsion to judge everyone and then “report” to them in essays that were pages long, or personal video statements that were an hour long.

Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. – Romans 14:4 NIV

As others have used social media and email to be over-sensitive, reactionary, and impulsive, I had to cut off one person in particular who was upset that I didn’t wish to spend an hour listening to a sermon from someone whose broader theology I fundamentally disagree with.

The commonality that we once enjoyed in Christ was overshadowed by his short fuse when it came to how I wanted to spend my discretionary time listening to Christian podcasts and teachings.

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters! Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. – James 1:19 NET

So that’s three different people.

At a wider level, there have been the people in my life — and yours — who have bought into every conspiracy theory that is floated on social media or mass media. In my life it was the woman whose pandemic vaccine contained metal particles; the man who said we were asked to stay six feet apart not to avoid spreading the virus but so the satellites could track us; the woman who told me that we are approaching an electromagnetic pulse which is going to erase our internet files; or the woman who claims that there are forces at work whose goal is to de-populate the earth.

Many conspiracy theories about everything from “big pharma” to heads of state of been widely accepted by Christian people. We seem to be especially susceptible.

The last three years have been years of great distraction.

Which brings me to a verse of scripture I’d simply not heard discussed:

“Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them.”– Isaiah 8:12


No specific conspiracies are mentioned, but human nature has always tried to explain difficult circumstances in overly simple terms. Sometimes those explanations have no basis in what is real. Conspiracies usually involve assigning secret motives to those in power. They can also be suggestions that those who seem powerless are secretly in control of everything behind the scenes. When such conspiracies take root among a people, they can cause immense panic and damage. The priority of knowing what is true gets lost as people get caught up in fear.

One result of buying into conspiracies is to stop trusting in the Lord and His control over all things. Instead, those who believe such lies live in fear and dread of forces they cannot control and believe are set against them. Such fear is not from God.


Isaiah said they were worried about the wrong things. Instead of fearing their enemies, they should have been thinking about the Lord. The Lord promised that He would be a sanctuary for those who put their trust in Him. But to those who rejected His offer, He would be “a stone of stumbling” and a hunter’s snare.

According to the notes in The NET Bible:

The background of this command is uncertain. Perhaps the “conspiracy” in view is the alliance between Israel and Syria. Some of the people may have even thought that individuals in Judah were plotting with Israel and Syria to overthrow the king.

(It’s amazing how the more things change, the more they stay the same!)

I believe the key to this verse is in the second part, “you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it; (NASB) or “don’t be afraid of something, just because they are.” (CEV) Fear will paralyze us all.

The last three years in particular have been years of great distraction. As I’ve indicated with my own stories, these years have also greatly contributed to great disunity among believers including the fracturing of lifelong friendships. And if I may say it, the years have brought great deceit as the contagion of false information is spread at alarming rates.

Don’t be a conspiracy-monger. Don’t look for conspiracies where they don’t exist. Don’t allow yourself to be overcome by fear.

Here’s Philippians 4:8 in both The Amplified Bible and The Message:

Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart].

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.




March 25, 2023

Don’t Quench the Spirit’s Candle

Today we’re featuring a website for the first time. It’s title is GazeUp Arts: Messages of Hope. According to their About page, “Gaze up arts is a prophetic arts ministry focused on speaking the heart of God through artistic creations to encourage and guide people around the world.” Encourage the authors by clicking the titles which follow to read these devotionals where they first appeared.

Do not quench the Spirit

Prov.20.27 – The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly.

We are reminded that we all have a “candle” (our spirit man) that we carry around with us. That candle is the potential we have in us to receive the light and warmth of the Lord. It carries our faith and our hope. When we stay in faith, we allow ourselves to experience the Lord’s light: His guidance and His joy. In times like this, we keep aware that the Lord is there to be our teacher, to enlighten us.

The image of God gives us confidence. On this battlefield of life, we serve under a brilliant Military Strategist who does not see us as expendable but who wants to keep us protected. Meanwhile, He is helping us to advance, to move forward.

We remain confident in God for His directions towards the path to His Light.

We mustn’t keep our faith and hope in God to ourselves but rather we must share with those whose “candles” (spirits) have been put off by the kingdom of darkness. That is, these people’s spirits have no flame on them.

For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”~Matt.18.20

We are edified when we move in the company of Spirit-filled people.

The Word of God gives life to man and causes us to see and deal properly with those dark areas of our hearts.

Through salvation, the Life and Light of Christ flood our hearts by grace, through our faith in Him, we become His hands to help, His feet to go, His heart to love, and His Light to shine forth His Life in our human frame.

Job.32.8 – But there is a spirit in man, And the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding.

Beloved, let your spirit be lit up with the Flame (The Holy Spirit) of the Lord.

Ps.18.28 – For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.

Your spirit has no flame to keep it burning until you’ve received the Holy Spirit.

In all you do, as long as you live, let the Spirit of God be the flame of your spirit.

No matter the number of trials and tribulations you face, let the Holy Spirit be your spirit’s flame.

Of course, the devil will want to mess with you, but never blow out the Flame of your spirit with your words or actions.

The Bible says, “Quench not the Spirit”. 1Thess.5.19

Just like a candle stick, till you take your last breath, let the Spirit of God be your Flame!

Second Helping: From the same website… You may have noticed that using a visual arts perspective, the image of quenching a candle fits perfectly the closing verse from 1 Thessalonians. In today’s bonus link, the writers visualize trusting God as taking hold of his hand. There are illustrations that go with these two articles so make sure you click through.

Why you need to take hold of God’s hands


As a child of God and the apple of His eyes, You need to know that you’re not alone in that ”storm”.

Jesus has been with you from the start but you’ve never noticed.

You’re not at peace with yourself because you think you can conquer that battle all by yourself with your feeble strength.

He’s waiting patiently for you to take hold of His outstretched hands.

Take hold of His hand and with His divine leadership, you will get to the other side as a conqueror.

In Romans 12:12, the apostle Paul describes ways of living above our circumstances, no matter what we may be facing. He says: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

As followers of Christ, we are never without hope. We know that even if our circumstances seem negative now, brighter days are up ahead for us. Why? Because God is a good God, and His love for us is everlasting and unfailing.

The psalmist wrote: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:11). When our hope is in the Lord and His goodness, we will experience the supernatural joy that is our inheritance in Christ.

Take hold of God’s hand.

Let Him order your steps to the destination He had planned for you.

Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps and makes them sure”.

Proverbs 20:24 says, “Man’s steps are ordered by the Lord. How then can a man understand his way?”

When God directs your paths, He sometimes leads you in ways that don’t make sense to you so you’re not always going to understand everything.

If you try to reason out everything, you will experience struggle, confusion, and misery—but there is a better way.

“Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind, and do not rely on your insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths “.(Proverbs 3:5-6)

This sounds so simple, yet too many people make the mistake of trying to figure everything out themselves. You may have spent all your life trying to take care of yourself, but when you accept Christ as your Savior, you must learn to entrust your life to His care. When you do, you can say with the psalmist, …I trusted in, relied on, and was confident in You, O Lord; I said, You are my God. My times are in Your hands…(Psalm 31:14-15).

Beloved, the Lord wants you to take hold of His outstretched hands and let Him lead you to where you need to be in your life.

Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)


March 16, 2023

More Thoughts for 3:16 Day

Last year at this time we noted that many Christians were observing “3:16 Day” on social media, in recognition of one of the Bible’s most familiar verses. We took the time to see what various online commentaries had to offer with respect to John 3:16. Today I want to continue that with a closer look at the verse itself.

First of all, if you have a red-letter Bible, is this verse in red? I believe it is more likely that at some earlier point in the chapter the apostle John stops quoting the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus and is offering a summary statement. Speaking of himself, Jesus tended to use the “Son of Man” nomenclature.

However, that is exactly what’s happening in verses 14 and 15.

“…Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” (NIV)

The quotation marks in the NIV begin in verse 11, but note that they end with this passage. But only in the NIV. The NLT, NASB and ESV have the familiar passage (v16) as a quotation, and one that runs to the end of verse 21.

You can decide.

What we all must agree on here is the comparison that’s being made to the passage in Numbers where Moses is instructed to make a bronze snake and mount it on a pole, and that by just looking at that (or to that) the people would be healed.

Numbers 21:7-9


7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

8 The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

So I need to make a digression here for a moment. The imagery of what happens in Numbers and what happens at Calvary is similar. It’s very, very similar. But we can’t read backwards from this and assume that Jesus was crucified on a pole (or stake) when we know that Roman crucifixion involved something more cross-shaped. So I don’t know where the Jehovah’s Witnesses get that idea, nor why they allow an obsession with it to obscure what’s actually happening on Calvary, the purchase of our atonement.

End of digression.

In August of 2015, I wrote about the “invisible transaction” that takes place when today, a sinner turns to look to the cross. At the time, I contended — and still believe — that any Christ-follower who wants a full and complete picture of what’s happening on the cross needs to have some familiarity with that particular piece of Old Testament imagery.

It’s important because both narratives involve not having to actually do anything. One need simply look. The concept of the invisible transaction was once entrenched through a hymn written by William Ogden in 1887 that was popular in some circles, the chorus inviting you to…

“Look and live,” my brother, live,
Look to Jesus now, and live;
’Tis recorded in His word, hallelujah!
It is only that you “look and live.”

It is entirely not works-based. It is given freely, but one need only (but must) turn toward it. When it comes to salvation, there is currently no closing date on God’s offer. True, a day will come when that will change. Also true, you don’t know long you have to take advantage. But it’s a free offer. As long as we’re quoting old hymn lyrics, here’s one that’s perhaps more familiar to some (italics added):

Mercy there was great and grace was free
Pardon there was multiplied to me
There my burdened soul found liberty
At Calvary

Reading this right now however, there are some who (rightly) cringe at the idea of salvation as just transaction. I don’t usually repeat material which appeared here from secondary sources, but this analysis from Ken Keathley which appeared here in February, 2014 is so very appropriate:

…Most evangelistic methods present salvation as a commodity that Jesus purchased and now offers.  Christ is presented as having bought salvation by His death on the Cross, and if you ask Him then He will give it to you.  Salvation, redemption, and forgiveness are understood entirely as a purchase, a business deal, or a transaction.  Salvation is reduced to the offer of a “Get Out of Hell Free” card.

But one can do business with someone he really doesn’t care for.  In fact, one can receive a gift from someone he positively dislikes (just think of how much foreign aid has gone to countries that don’t like the USA).  Here’s the important point: salvation is not something Jesus gives; salvation is something He is.  One does not receive salvation from Jesus.  You and I receive Him–the Lord Jesus Christ–for Who He is, and in receiving Him we receive salvation, redemption, and eternal life.  We are not simply being offered a really great bargain; we are called to enter into a covenant relationship with Christ.

We affirm the penal substitution of Christ upon the Cross, and gladly use the language of “purchase,” “redemption,” and even “transaction.”  But to see salvation only in those terms runs the danger of viewing salvation merely as a commercial contract.  A saving relationship with Jesus Christ is more than just a contractual agreement–it’s a covenantal relationship.  Scripture describes a saving relationship with Christ in terms of marriage (Eph 5:23-27). Marriage is indeed a contract (as least, as far as the state is concerned), but it’s not merely that.  Who wants a relationship with his or her spouse that is entirely or only legal in nature? Marriage is a rich and effective metaphor for describing our salvation because it teaches us, that above all else, salvation is a proper relationship between the Lord Jesus Christ and us.

I suspect that we tend to emphasize only the transactional aspects of redemption because such an objective understanding seemingly provides certainty.  Relationships, in contrast, are subjective by their very nature, and therefore more complicated, maybe even messy.  Yet you and I are called to be in vital union with Christ, and it is in this relationship we are saved.  “He who has the Son, has life.” – 1 John 5:12

With that in mind, others might ask, if Jesus was “the lamb of God* that was slain,” why in the comparative passage is he then represented by a serpent, given the previous serpent imagery in scripture? The answer is simply that it is an analogy and analogies can only go so far. To read more on that, check out this post here from April, 2017.

Or, another way to approach this is to think in terms of it being our sin which was crucified on that cross. The one who knew no sin was made sin on our behalf. (2 Corinthians 5:21) There’s more on that at this article here from August, 2018.

So…all this to say that verse 14 and 15 form a vital backdrop to John 3:16, and if asked for further clarification, it’s helpful to have a familiarity with this background that you can use in conversation.

For the lamb imagery, see Revelation 5, Isaiah 53 and John 1 (the baptism of Jesus), all summarized at this link.

For an interesting graphic depiction of the invisible transaction, check out the image at the end of this post from February, 2014.

March 13, 2023

If it Wasn’t Attainable, He Wouldn’t Have Taught Us That It Was

On the occasions that I repeat an article here, I am increasingly trying to resist the temptation to simply push a button (so to speak) and have the copy pasted under a fresh date. This one from January, 2015 was worth appearing a second time, but I thought it deserved an introduction that made two things clear.

The first thing is to make certain that while the passage is eschatological in nature — and a key passage on the end times at that — it isn’t that aspect of the passage that I’m focused on.

The second thing is to remind people that the phrasing of the KJV text is not always as true to the original manuscripts as we would demand today. As a result, certain passages get stuck in our minds, and someone has said that entire denominations have sprung up around verses where the translation doesn’t really work for the way we communicate in the 21st century, let alone reflect how the audience would understand it when first written. This devotional, and the excerpt from Matthew Henry which it contains is based on such a KJV reading, but again, I felt it makes a point about scripture in general, and about Jesus, that is worth repeating…

CEB John 14:1 “Don’t be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me. My Father’s house has room to spare. If that weren’t the case, would I have told you that I’m going to prepare a place for you? When I go to prepare a place for you, I will return and take you to be with me so that where I am you will be too. You know the way to the place I’m going.”

Thomas asked, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you have really known me, you will also know the Father. From now on you know him and have seen him.

John’s quotation from Jesus in John 14: 1-6 begins with four statements, the fourth seeming a bit uncharacteristic:

  1. Don’t be afraid
  2. Trust Me
  3. God’s house contains many ‘mansions’
  4. I would have told you if anything were different

In many translations this last comment is more accurately bundled into the phrase which followed or even appears as a unified question, “If that were not true, would I have told you that I’m going to prepare a place for you?”

Of course, there is a lot of mystery about what awaits beyond this life about which Jesus has not told us. But this passage is seen as the clearest promise of the second coming. The NIV Application commentary states:

The KJV “mansions” (for Gk. monai, “rooms”) was a seventeenth-century expression for modest dwellings; thus, 14:2 should not build a picture for us of heavenly palatial residences. This is not Jesus’ point. God’s “house” refers not to the church but to the heavenly dwelling where he lives (cf. Heb. 12:22; Rev. 21:9–22:5), and a mone is a place of residence there with him. This word is related to the common Johannine verb meno, to remain or abide. To “remain” with Jesus is the highest virtue in John’s Gospel (15:4–10), and he is promising

Matthew Henry sees the “I would have told you” as a direct comment to The Twelve:

If you had deceived yourselves, when you quit your livelihoods, and ventured your lives for me, in prospect of a happiness future and unseen, I would soon have undeceived you.” The assurance is built, [1.] Upon the veracity of his word. It is implied, “If there were not such a happiness, valuable and attainable, I would not have told you that there was.” [2.] Upon the sincerity of his affection to them. As he is true, and would not impose upon them himself, so he is kind, and would not suffer them to be imposed upon. If either there were no such mansions, or none designed for them, who had left all to follow him, he would have given them timely notice of the mistake, that they might have made an honourable retreat to the world again, and have made the best they could of it. Note, Christ’s good-will to us is a great encouragement to our hope in him. He loves us too well, and means us too well, to disappoint the expectations of his own raising, or to leave those to be of all men most miserable who have been of him most observant.

It’s interesting that this would seem to affirm their confidence in him and his teachings and ministry, but next he is going to quiz them as to where he is going.  The IVP NT Commentary notes:

After speaking of himself as the agent of their future access to the presence of God, he throws out a statement that steers them toward the next stage of his revelation: You know the way to the place where I am going (v. 4). This could be taken as a question: “Do you know the way to the place where I am going?” Whether or not he is asking a question, Jesus seems to be alluding to his earlier teaching about being the gate through whom the sheep “will come in and go out, and find pasture” (10:9; cf. Talbert 1992:204). If he is alluding to this, the disciples miss it. Indeed, all of Jesus’ teaching in these chapters is mystifying to the disciples (cf. 16:25). But he is walking them through it so the Spirit will be able to unpack it for them later (14:26). This statement (or question) triggers the next question by a disciple, which leads Jesus to further develop the thoughts he has already expressed in very condensed fashion.

The point is that they knew in part and saw only in part.  But pieces of the puzzle were not doubt starting to come together.  I like to think that in these moments they were also struck by an increase in his passion as he imparted these truths to them for what would be the final time.

The statement, “If it were not so…” really relates to the second, above, which we’ve rendered as “trust me” or better, “Do you trust me?”

The life Christ offers is attainable.

In the future, and starting today.



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