Christianity 201

March 26, 2020

God’s Got This: When There is a Pandemic and Jesus Says “Do Not Worry”

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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by Clarke Dixon

Is anyone worried yet? If you are not, are you living under a rock? The COVID-19 virus is a big deal, and while cases were once reported in someone else’s backyard, they are now being reported in ours.

So along comes Jesus and says “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear” (Matthew 6:25). We might want to ask;
“Jesus, are you living under a rock?”

Those who first heard Jesus may have asked that also. Many of them would have been living day to day in a society where you were paid daily. Some may have been living meal to meal. Just plain survival was a big deal for many people. Along comes Jesus who says “do not worry . . . ”

We have been looking at the Sermon on the Mount, realizing that Jesus was not giving news rules for us to follow slavishly, but rather was teaching us what kind of people we should become. This line of thinking continues here:

Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:31-33 (NRSV)

We are to be the kind of people who know that God is a good Father. We are to be the kind of people who seek His goodness in our lives. We are to be the kind of people who know, without doubt, that God loves us. Our Heavenly Father knows what we need. Don’t worry, God’s got it.

Since Jesus told us to not worry, does that mean we should never have a concern in the world? The very first Christ followers who were aware they should not worry about food and clothing did not quit working! The apostle Paul did not live as someone who expected money to miraculously fall from the sky. He continued his work as a tentmaker. He encouraged people to work in 2 Thessalonians 3:6–12. There was never the idea that since God loves us, and since we need not worry, that we need not have concern for the things of life and take initiative. Yes, God loves us, so therefore we should not worry, but we still need to take initiative, to show proper concern.

Since Jesus told us to not worry, does that mean we will never face trouble? Jesus went on to say,

So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. Matthew 6:34 (NRSV)

Do not worry, but know there will still be trouble! Being a Christian does not make us immune from trouble. God loves us. That is the way things are. But we will face trouble. That is the way things work.

There is a difference between the way things are and the way things work. The way things are: we live in relationship with a Heavenly Father who will take care of us. The way things work: we live in a broken world where we need to take initiative and where bad things happen. We need, therefore, to make wise decisions, to take proper initiative for the sake of our health and the health of society.

Theologians study the way things are. Scientists study how things work. Theologians and scientists can sometimes say too much about matters in each other’s area of expertise. A theologian can study history, especially with regard to Jesus and point to the reality of God’s love. God has spoken into our world, as we learn in the Old Testament, but ultimately has revealed Himself in Jesus, revealing His love at the cross. Theologians can help us understand that. However, if a religious leader says don’t worry about COVID-19, that God will give you immunity if you just trust Him enough, change the channel. That’s not how things work. Listen to the scientist, who learns through observation how things work. However, if a scientist says there is no God, change the channel. That is not the way things are, and the scientist, with all his or her observation, cannot know that. They cannot observe everything.

We walk by faith and with wisdom. It is not an either/or thing. To show wisdom is not to show a lack of faith. To show faith is not to show a lack of wisdom. It would be foolish to say that God will take care of us, so therefore we do not need to concern ourselves with the evidence with regard to COVID-19. It would also be foolish to say we have evidence on how to deal with the virus, so we don’t need to think of God.

I didn’t plan on this being the week we would land on “don’t worry” in our sermon series. I also didn’t realize how appropriate my one-minute Easter message would be on the radio. It begins,

This is a special time of year for many of us. It is time to get our motors running and head out on the highway. Being a Baptist pastor, I have often been asked if I feel close to God while riding my motorcycle. That sometimes depends on who is pulling out in front of me. Sometimes I have felt a little too close to God.

In life there are many reminders of our mortality. Whether it’s an accident, or the threat of a pandemic, there are many reminders that “dust we are, and to dust we will return.”

That is how things work in this broken world. That is the focus of Lent, a time we remember our mortality. Bad things happen; cars cut in front of motorcycles, people get addicted, a plane falls out of the sky, cancer strikes, infections spread, an innocent man is arrested, beaten and crucified. That is Lent, that is the recognition that death is part of the way things work. But after Lent comes Easter Sunday!

Death is a result of our separation from God. God has dealt with that separation through His grace, His love, His mercy. He is a good and heavenly Father who has gone to extreme lengths to be reconciled to His children. That is the way things are.

For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:19 (NLT)

So a pandemic looms ominously. Don’t worry, God’s got this? Actually, our Heavenly Father has us. But we’ve got this. We can see how this virus works, we can take appropriate steps. We do not worry, knowing that come what may, God loves us and someday we will stand before Him in glory. He’s got us. We do not worry. We do take care, however, and we will want to take care of each other through this difficult time.


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Ontario, Canada. Read more of his ‘shrunk sermons’ at his blog. For a limited time, the full sermon can be heard at https://podpoint.com/calvary-baptist-church-cobourg-podcast)

March 24, 2020

He Does Not Afflict Willingly

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:52 pm
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For He does not afflict willingly,
Nor grieve the children of men.
– Lamentations 3:33 (NKJV)

It is part of the amazing power of the Christian scriptures that passages will simply come to life at times when we need them most. Scripture portions that perhaps we rushed through or more or less ignored take on greater significance at pivotal times in our lives.

Thus was the case this week as I was housecleaning boxes and boxes of old correspondence, and found this selection from Lamentations 3 on a church bulletin. The above verse is NKJV as was the church bulletin, what follows is The Message:

22-24 God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
    his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
    How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
    He’s all I’ve got left.

25-27 God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
to the woman who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope,
quietly hope for help from God.
It’s a good thing when you’re young
to stick it out through the hard times…

31-33 Why? Because the Master won’t ever
walk out and fail to return.
If he works severely, he also works tenderly.
His stockpiles of loyal love are immense.
He takes no pleasure in making life hard,
in throwing roadblocks in the way

Verse 33 was the one which really jumped out at me. Here it is in some other translations:

■ He definitely doesn’t enjoy affliction, making humans suffer. (CEB)
■ He does not enjoy causing people pain. He does not like to make anyone unhappy. (ERV)
■ He does not willingly bring suffering or grief to anyone (God’s Word)
[I]t is not the desire or way of God’s heart to hurt and grieve the children of men. (The Voice)

This stands in contrast to the theology of some people, that God is angry with us and waiting to pour out his wrath on people.

Some might suggest that this verse goes too far the other way! I compiled the various translations using Bible Gateway, but when you go to Bible Hub, you are always offered parallel passages. Perhaps reading all of these gives better context into the nature of God vis-a-vis his dealings with us in seemingly difficult circumstances:

For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness.
 – Hebrews 12:10 (NLT)

The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power; in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress.
– Job 37:23 (NIV)

My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.
– Psalm 119:71 (NLT)

Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?
– Ezekiel 33:11 (ESV)

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
– 2 Peter 3:9 (NASB)

I’ll leave it there for you to consider. Comments are always welcome.

 

March 23, 2020

Missing Each Other

Yesterday at The Meeting House family of churches in Ontario, Canada, pastor Bruxy Cavey began with this passage in I Thess. 2:

17 Dear brothers and sisters, after we were separated from you for a little while (though our hearts never left you), we tried very hard to come back because of our intense longing to see you again. 18 We wanted very much to come to you, and I, Paul, tried again and again…

In the opening scriptures, they couldn’t resist adding the first part of John 16:32

“A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home…”

I guess it helps to keep a sense of humor.

The verse that follows that one (verse 33) is instructive for us however,

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

In the sermon, Bruxy turned next to Judges 6. Gideon is speaking is verse 13:

“…if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about”

Gideon then references the dramatic deliverance from Egypt. But in the next verse, God replies.

Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!”

God entrusts Gideon and his people to enact a similar deliverance but not with the dramatic intervention Israel experienced from Egypt, but rather, “with the strength you have.”

There was then a reference to Esther 4:14. You know this story. You know this verse. This is Esther’s uncle Mordecai speaking:

If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”

Bruxy said, “When God wants to do something, people are always his ‘Plan A.”

…On a recent podcast, Brant Hansen quoted the full text of The Serenity Prayer which includes these words:

…Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it.
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His will…

Again, “trusting that He will make all things right.”

Brant and co-host Sherri-Lynn also asked the question that needs to be asked of anyone out there who feels they have a belief system or a philosophy of life that is different from ours; that question is, “How does your faith stand up to a pandemic?”

Let’s take that question and make it more personal. Most people reading here at C201 are believers, right? So, how does your faith stand up to a pandemic?

When I met my wife she was a traveling soloist who did music ministry in a variety of churches in various parts of our province. One of the songs she did is by Twila Paris, titled The Warrior is a Child. This song epitomizes the feelings we have as Christ-followers where one minute we are on the mountain, but the next minute we are in the valley; one moment we feel great spiritual triumph and victory, and the next moment we feel great defeat.

Lately I’ve been winning battles left and right
But even winners can get wounded in the fight
People say that I’m amazing
Strong beyond my years
But they don’t see inside of me
I’m hiding all the tears

They don’t know that I go running home when I fall down
They don’t know who picks me up when no one is around
I drop my sword and cry for just a while
‘Cause deep inside this armor
The warrior is a child

Unafraid because His armor is the best
But even soldiers need a quiet place to rest
People say that I’m amazing
Never face retreat
But they don’t see the enemies
That lay me at His feet

They don’t know that I go running home when I fall down…

Sometimes I think we have more fight in us when we together than we are alone. This alone time really shakes us and also causes us to look inside and see our weaknesses; uncover our spiritual vulnerabilities.

Perhaps in times past you’ve been living on Victory Street, but are finding the events of the past few weeks crushing you mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. That happens. Be honest. Confess that to our Father.

We’re separated from one another as local churches. We may not see the Egypt-style dramatic deliverance from this we’d like.

Take the message Gideon received, “Go in the strength you have.”


March 14, 2020

Faith in God in Chaotic Times

Today we’re returning to Devotions by Chris, the blog of Chris Hendrix.  We’ll probably stay on this same theme for a few days, given what’s taking place in our world. Chris shares a short word and then lists five scripture passages from various translations. After the line break in the article are ten more that Chris listed in an article we shared here four years ago.

Trusting God’s Protection

Yesterday I went to a meeting where a person gave a speech on how to protect yourself from cyber criminals. He talked about the importance of longer passwords, paid for antivirus and firewalls. I began to think about all the ways we try to protect ourselves from bad things or people. We have home security systems, gates to our communities, cameras on our property and crash detection in our vehicles. Right now the world is trying to protect itself from the Coronavirus. Everyone is washing their hands, wearing masks and avoiding public gatherings. Are we being driven by fear or being cautious? Fear leads to panic and it is not from God (2 Timothy 1:7).

I’m all for being cautious and for being wise in protecting my belongings and family, but as the guy mentioned at the meeting, nothing can protect you 100%. That’s why we need to put our full trust in the One who can. Jerusalem had walls built around it for protection, yet David trusted God for protection more than the walls. You and I should do the same. God is our refuge and a very present help in time of need (Psalm 46:1). If we’re trusting God, we have nothing to fear. He is more than able to protect us from anything that would come against us. Take your precautions on things, but also pray to ask God for His divine protection and be at peace.

Here are some Bible verses on God’s protection.

1. He alone is my safe place; his wrap-around presence always protects me. For he is my champion defender; there’s no risk of failure with God. So why would I let worry paralyze me, even when troubles multiply around me?

Psalms 62:2 TPT

2. Trust in the Lord forever; he will always protect us.

Isaiah 26:4 GNT

3. If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go.

Psalms 91:9-11 NLT

4. Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me. Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.

Psalm 23:4 GNT

5. Lord, you are my secret hiding place, protecting me from these troubles, surrounding me with songs of gladness! Your joyous shouts of rescue release my breakthrough. Pause in his presence.

Psalms 32:7 TPT


Scriptures from the 2016 article,

Refuse To Worry

1. Therefore I tell you, stop being worried or anxious (perpetually uneasy, distracted) about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, as to what you will wear. Is life not more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Matthew 6:25 AMP

2. Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.
Proverbs 12:25 NLT

3. Casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully].
1 Peter 5:7 AMP

4. Don’t give in to worry or anger; it only leads to trouble.
Psalm 37:8 GNT

5. Whenever I am anxious and worried, you comfort me and make me glad.
Psalm 94:19 GNT

6. Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
Philippians 4:6-7 MSG

7. So refuse to worry, and keep your body healthy.
Ecclesiastes 11:10a NLT

8. I am filled with trouble and anxiety, but your commandments bring me joy.
Psalm 119:143 GNT

9. To worry yourself to death with resentment would be a foolish, senseless thing to do.
Job 5:2 GNT

10. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].
Philippians 4:7 AMP


Postscript: If you have time today, take a moment to read Chris’ personal story.

March 11, 2020

Prayer for Peaceful Sleep

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Twice, in 2015 and 2016, we connected with the blog Prayerful Pondering by Pat Luffman Rowland. Although the blog is currently inactive, I was back for a visit yesterday and found this article. With all the turmoil in the world right now I can bet that some of you are not sleeping as soundly as you’d like. I hope this helps.

Peaceful Sleep

For most of us, that time of turning in for the night is when our minds accelerate. We think of the decisions we made that day and whether they were wise, many times wishing we could do them over. We think about things that may happen in the near future, things that may be life changing, problems we face — both big and small. We think about our children and our concerns for them. One thing I think about every night is whether I did anything kind for anyone. It bothers me to think I’ve closed out a day without a single act of kindness.

For some who live alone, there are thoughts about safety. Was everything that needed to be turned off, turned off? Did I lock all the doors? Did I arm the security system? If I fall during the night, will someone know to check on me relatively soon the next day?

In the last year of my mother’s living alone, I prayed a lot about her safety.  I prayed against fire, against a predator realizing that she lived alone, that she wouldn’t fall or get sick or become frightened during the night.

Psalm 4:8 says “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety” (NIV).  I have a friend who prays this every night over family and friends who live alone, calling out each name and asking that they will know God’s protection. What a beautiful gift!

Proverbs 3:24 says “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet” (NIV). Psalm 127:3 reminds us that the one who watches over us never slumbers or sleeps.

I especially love this word from Psalm 3:3-6 (NLT):  “But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high. I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy mountain. I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me. I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies who surround me on every side.”

I love it because it begins with recognizing and praising God, saying to Him that we know He hears us when we call out to Him. Those words of David say that we know God in Heaven sees every threat that might come our way. It encourages us when it says we slept in trust and woke up without any trouble coming upon us through the night. The last sentence rightly gives God praise again, following the Lord’s instruction to begin and end our prayers with praising God. In that final praise, we affirm our confidence that we are protected on every side and from every danger.

Do you have trouble falling to sleep? Do you replay all the day’s woes? Do you angst over children or parents or other loved ones? Maybe one of these verses can help you to let go and sleep peacefully. Or, you can check your Bible’s concordance or “google” for other verses on peaceful sleep. I encourage you to choose a scripture and commit it to memory, then let it be your last thought of the day. And as Proverb 3:4 says, may your sleep be sweet.


Postscript: Continuing the same theme, part of what directed me to this article was the discovery that an article we ran about the phrase a Isaiah — The Chastisement of Our Peace — was being frequently clicked. Again, these are tumultuous times, so I’m not surprised. The article was repeated just 22 months ago, but if you missed it, click here.

March 2, 2020

Breaking the Ten Commandments is all Stealing

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

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

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


It’s all theft.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But anytime we

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s all theft.

February 19, 2020

Waiting Is Not a Passive Act

The website Broken Believers “is all about serving through a message of Christian discipleship and helping Christians with mental illnesses and other issues. Bryan is a pastor who also suffers from clinical depression and now ministers to those in need.”

This is our seventh time with Bryan Lowe. An understanding of the Hebrew word used in a very familiar verse really enhances its meaning. As always, click the header below to read this at source.

Braided Up With God

Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

Isaiah 40:31, NASB

The particular word “wait” is a vital force. It’s definitely not a passive word in the Scriptures. It does not mean to be apathetic or lazy. Sometimes we wait in line at the grocery store or maybe waiting on a phone call. We regularly wait all the time, and usually, we don’t even realize it.

The Hebrew word used in v. 31 is ‘kawvah’ which means, ‘to bind together by twisting.’ It sometimes will mean, ‘to braid.’

It’s an interesting word picture, isn’t it? Sometimes we only take the English idea of waiting and turn it turns into a frustrating delay. Often this is why we lose out on what ‘wait’ is really about. I have to believe the Holy Spirit wants to teach this idea of becoming ‘braided up with God.’ All too often we are limited by our definitions and not God’s Word.

For those of us who are ill— physically or mentally, just to be told simply, “wait on the Lord” is a real challenge. Often, we will end up resenting this counsel (and the counselor) because we misunderstand what it means to really ‘wait.’

Yet when I truly wait on God, I’m actually weaving myself into Him. He becomes my strength; He is now the strong cord I am braided into. (Perhaps this is how He imparts strength and might to His people?) We desperately need this and the Lord is eager to lead us into this new intimacy.

The promise in Isaiah 40:31 tells us about new strength, the eagle’s wings, and holy stamina. This verse is relevant to us today, and we need this kind of strength now. I only want to encourage you in your own prayer time, to see yourself intertwined to the Lord, and to recognize the good gift of the Holy Spirit freely given.

“Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!”

Psalm 27:14



Mission Statement: Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of Christian blogs and websites. Sometimes two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading. Your suggestions of articles and websites to consider are always welcome.

Scripture portions from various translations quoted at Christianity 201 are always in green to remind us that the Scriptures have LIFE!

February 12, 2020

Walking with Integrity

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
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Today we’re back at the the blog My Morning Meal, written by Peter Corak. You can encourage the writers here by reading the various posts at their sites.

My Integrity, Your Faithfulness

Don’t know what was happening in the songwriter’s life when he composed the twenty-sixth psalm, but whatever it was, he cries out to Jehovah for vindication. Sounds like there were some accusations made that weren’t true. Rumors being spread that were false. A smear campaign being conducted about the sorts of people the songwriter hung with and the kind of company he kept. A “he said, they said” sort of situation. And so, he prays for God to insert Himself as judge and preside over the proceedings. To investigate the accusations. To render a decision.

The evidence presented? The songwriter’s walk. His manner of life. His motivation and mission.

And the witnesses presented to the Judge of all the earth? “My integrity,” he says, and “Your faithfulness.”

Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering. Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind. For Your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in Your faithfulness.
(Psalm 26:1-3 ESV)

They said that he hung with men who were liars and ran with those who were hypocrites. That he gathered with those bent on wickedness and evil (26:4-5). To which he responds, “I have walked in my integrity.”

While not pleading perfection, the songwriter does present the evidence of his intent. That structurally, his motivational ambition has been sound and pure. That though he may have stumbled along the way in step, he had not wavered inside as to desire. That he has sought to conduct himself throughout his life in a manner consistent with trusting the One who had given Him life.

And so he invites the Judge of all the earth to examine evidence that only an all-knowing Judge can examine. To test the inner-workings of his heart. To review the unspoken thoughts of his mind. To prove the completeness and fullness of his longing to trust in the Lord.

For I have walked in my integrity.

But integrity, consistency of purpose, and undivided desire is of little value if it’s consistently pursuing the wrong thing. If it’s aligned to an errant purpose or set on a corrupt prize. And so, while the songwriter could say with clear conscience, “I have walked in my integrity,” the judiciary weight of such evidence is that he walked in the Lord’s faithfulness.

Having trusted in the Lord, he would follow the Lord. Wanting to walk in a straight path, he wouldn’t rely on his own internal GPS, the way seeming right in his own eyes. Instead, we would seek the way of the One who had already brought him safe thus far, having already shown His steadfast love toward him.

And so, with singleness of mind, He would continue to trust that His God really was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He would walk in his integrity and He would walk in Jehovah’s faithfulness.

But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me. My foot stands on level ground; in the great assembly I will bless the LORD.
(Psalm 26:11-12 ESV)

But as for me, too. I have walked, and I shall walk in my integrity.

And, I walk in Your faithfulness.

By Your grace. For Your glory.

January 28, 2020

Character Surgery

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Today we return to the writing of Gary Henry at WordPoints. Click the individual titles below to forward these devotions to a friend.

The Great Physician

“When Jesus heard it, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance’” (Mark 2:17).

OUR MOST SERIOUS AILMENTS ARE NOT PHYSICAL BUT SPIRITUAL.

We are hurt far more by the malignancies in our character than by the illnesses in our body. And it is the removal of these sins in the heart that God is concerned with. The Great Physician desires to restore our spiritual health and wholeness.

If we want to improve, we must be honest and open to the truth about our character right now. Not even the Great Physician can help us if we’re not willing to be examined. Trying to hide our symptoms and pretending that nothing very serious is wrong will only result in our getting worse. An accurate diagnosis will be humbling, to be sure, but we should still want to know the whole truth. David’s prayer is that of an honest man: “Search me, O God, and know my heart . . . see if there is any wicked way in me” (Psalm 139:23,24). We must desire to see ourselves as God sees us.

But more than that, we must cultivate confidence that God knows what He’s doing. Whether we understand the wisdom of His plan or not, we must trust both the accuracy of His diagnosis and the effectiveness of His treatment. We must also have the courage to submit to the healing process that He prescribes. The cancer cannot be cut away from our character without radical surgery. Because sin is so entangled in our thinking, the purging operation is always painful and often lengthy. But as with physical disease, if we’re not willing to endure momentary pain in order to become healthy later on, our only option is to get sicker and sicker. We can stay in our sickly “comfort” zone or we can move toward greater health, but not both at the same time. “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

How much commitment do we have to the truth about ourselves? For all our talk about loving the truth, do we really desire to see all that God sees when He examines our hearts? There will be no redemption for those unwilling to face reality.

“When we go to our meeting with God, we should go like a patient to his doctor, first to be thoroughly examined and afterwards to be treated for our ailment. Then something will happen when you pray” (O. Hallesby).


Gary often posts more than one article per day. So as we did last time, here’s a bonus item for you.


Child-Like Wonder

“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

IT IS EASY FOR A CHILD TO LOVE THE THINGS THAT GOD HAS MADE AND TO BE DRAWN BY THESE THINGS TO LOVE GOD HIMSELF.

Innocent and free, a child responds very naturally to goodness and beauty; he or she takes genuine delight in the multifaceted mysteries of creation. A cloud . . . a tree . . . a squirrel. There is nothing that is not of interest, nothing that does not make the heart throb with wonder and longing for something (or Someone) beyond.

A time comes, however, if the child lives long enough, when these things begin to lose their interest. And the reason? Sin has entered the heart, throwing everything into disarray. There is now delusion and falsehood. Values have been turned upside down. Cynicism has set in. The child, now no longer a child, is busy, not enjoying the creation, but trying to own it and manipulate it to selfish advantage. Now, if he ever notices a cloud, a tree, or a squirrel, he goes to one of two extremes: either he

(1) disregards them completely, or
(2) worships them rather than their Creator.

All of this is profoundly sad. Yet it would be far sadder if it were not for the gospel of Jesus Christ, through which it is possible to be forgiven and to recover the child-like wonder and honest humility with which we used to respond to God’s goodness. The child that we used to be is not gone forever but simply buried under layers of adult pride and busyness. We should be encouraged to know that there are choices we’re capable of making that will open our hearts back up to the powerful pull of truth and joy.

We need to make these choices and go back to our younger hearts. “Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus said. In the kingdom, there are many new things to be learned. But before we can learn them, there is a good deal of grown-up “stuff” that needs to be unlearned, especially our desire for counterfeit pleasures rather than the real ones that God has provided.

“I was a little stranger who was surrounded by innumerable joys when I arrived here . . . I knew nothing of sickness or death. In the absence of these I was entertained like an angel with the works of God. Heaven and earth sang my Creator’s praise” (Thomas Traherne).


Learn more about Gary’s approach to devotional writing at this link.

January 25, 2020

Not in Valleys, Not on Mountaintops: Formation in the Middle

… Therefore we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, yet our inner self is being renewed day by day. For our light and temporary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that far outweighs our troubles. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.… I Cor 4:16-18 Berean Study Bible

A year ago our sister blog linked to the writing of Phylicia Masonheimer. I decided this week to look back and she what she was writing more recently and came across a piece I thought would be useful to readers here. Click the header below to read this on her site and then from there, look around at other articles.

Ten Years with God

Ten years passed in a blink and I almost missed it.

I didn’t realize it was a turning of the page, a gentle leaning into a new decade, until an Instagram post stopped me mid-scroll. Ten years. In 2010, I was turning twenty years old, just returned home from residential college and a stint in New Mexico, unsure what the future held. I was particularly annoyed at my lack of romantic prospects. The ripe old age of twenty was pressing heavy on my mind.

I believed God was taking me somewhere, but my twentieth year seemed like a regression. I went away; I came back. I had a boyfriend; I had one no longer. I didn’t even know what job to take next, so I worked two, back in my childhood bedroom like a baby bird kerplunked back in its nest. It was a new season, but it felt so much like the old one.

It was mornings at one job and evenings at the other.

It was letters to old friends and awkward attempts at making new ones.

It was tiny raises and job transitions, wearing scrubs instead of heels and sorting medical files in the office basement.

It was phone call interviews on my lunch break.

It was the catch-and-release of an almost romance.

And then it was over. A little less than two years later, I moved away again. The season ended, with all of the hard and good it held, over before I had fully embraced it.

That’s how seasons tend to go. We fight them for so long, wishing they were different, thinking it will be better when they’re over – then they are. We stand there between what was and what is about to be, unsure how to make the most of waning things. There’s a frantic urgency to fully live now that the end is in sight. But what if we did it in the middle?

Ten years with God have taught me that the middle is what He’s most interested in. I am sure He loves the mountaintop moments, but we are formed in the valleys. We are formed in the dirt, made from dust and getting rather dusty in the making. I think there’s significance in the richness of valley soil, too, because fields don’t grow on mountaintops. Harvests aren’t taken from rocks and crags.

No, it’s in the valleys we are planted and grown and harvested. It’s in the middle seasons of commute, long winters, singleness, on-call hours, and schoolwork that God does His shaping work. In the seasons that feel old and rote, the jobs that are uninspiring, the singleness that seems perpetual God invites us to stop waiting around for the ending and start living from the middle.

Those two years of “not my plan” tumbled into everything for which I’d hoped. I met a man. We married. I finished my degree. We made a home, I became a writer, we had two beautiful babies, we moved to a farm in Michigan. But those were the mountaintop moments. Those were the grace everyone else could see, the monuments built on months of slowly trusting, days of “long obedience” with no particular end in sight.

Ten years with God took me from a light and momentary existence to considering hardship a “light momentary affliction” (2 Cor. 4:17).

Loss of friends, jobs, money, and health were as much a part of my ten years with God as were His blessings, and in both I have learned that strong faith lives from the middle. The more I know Christ, the more I understand deliverance; the more I understand that the presence of the Deliverer is sufficient while we wait.

Ten years with God took me from wondering if He was good because I didn’t have what I wanted… to knowing He is good whether I get what I want or not.

In 2010, at the end of a prayer journal, I wrote:

Everyone lives for something… I’ve been living for my dreams, plans, and pursuits. But no more. I place You on the throne of my life… You are the guide of my journey…That which I do not have, I do not seek… my heart is lost to You.

I asked for what I didn’t understand. I committed to what I couldn’t handle. The grace of God carries us forward in that kind of weakness, and how grateful we should be for it! I didn’t know what ten years would hold, or how hard-won those sweet blessings would be. But I have seen the goodness of God in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13). I have seen the goodness of God in middle places, in the valleys and the dirtiness of an average day.

And I can say, after ten more years with God, “How abundant are the good things 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.” (Psalm 31:19)

 

January 6, 2020

The Word of Knowledge in Action

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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The situation described in the story below is probably beyond the experience of many readers here. But because Christianity 201 describes itself as a “melting pot” or a “potpourri” of the various expressions of Christian faith, I wanted you to have exposure to this one. For those who are new, cessationism is a belief in Protestant theology that the supernatural gifts (such as described in I Cor. with speaking in tongues receiving most frequent mention) ceased when the original apostles died off. It’s opposite is continuationism which believes that those gifts are still operative today. Today’s article would be written from the latter perspective.

Tim Halverson blogs at The Lion’s Head Café. Click the header below to read this there.

No Risk, No Reward

“For to one is given . . . the word of knowledge by the same Spirit” (I Cor. 12:8).

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are found in the Bible in I Corinthians 12: 4-11. They are the super-natural work of the Holy Spirit through the Body of Christ. These nine gifts could be classified in three groupings of three gifts each: 1) The Word Gifts: prophecy, tongues, interpretation of tongues. 2) The Revelation Gifts: the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, the discernment of spirits. 3) The Power Gifts: faith, healings, the working of miracles. Remember this factor: faith is spelled r-i-s-k.

It is my observation that to flow or operate in the gifts of the Holy Spirit will involve risk-taking. I’ve been sputtering and misfiring (to use an auto mechanic’s terms, which I are one) with these for decades now but am seeing a big increase in my function in them lately. This seems to be chiefly due to watching on-line since February Catch the Fire – Toronto, where the revival went through my screen and into me somehow. I want to relate a short story to tell you what I’m learning, and that is about risk.

Last night I attended a Bible study with about ten people. Before it even began I had a feeling that God was up to something more than just the study of Acts 14, which is sufficient for me in itself. At the end we prayed about some things. I was sitting in the back and couldn’t really see many faces. As we prayed I really tuned in to God and he showed me in a word of knowledge something only he could know. This impression took several minutes, a basic thought that grew as I considered it. It was this:

“There is someone here who is still suffering because of persecution that happened to them when they were testifying of Christ (I know this is vague but it’s none of my business to know the details of what happened in this case). The devil took advantage of you in this vulnerable moment to say, If you ever speak of Jesus again something worse is going to happen. Plus, we all know you don’t have the courage to do it anyway. The person feels whipped, condemned, and stuck.”

It was a risk to say it but somehow I did. And after I said that with trembling, there came some more to the message:

“But Jesus is healing you right now of that awful experience, the Holy Spirit is upon you here and now, and from this moment on I am making you Lion-hearted. Take courage!”

There was a sort of hubbub for a moment that happened but I couldn’t see anything, and then the prayers went on. A minute later I was wondering if I had missed the Lord in this, so I determined to get to the bottom of the matter, and said, Excuse me, but could we re-visit that word I just had? Is that person even here? A short pause happened, and then a lady in front of me turned around and said, “You were describing me exactly, and God is working on me right now.” She was all red in the face, tears still streaming down, Kleenex in hand and radiant with joy as could be! I was ecstatic to put it mildly, though I covered it up pretty well by trying to blend into the curtains behind me, not wanting to be a spectacle. Too late. What a privilege to work with God. And yet I could have said no to the whole thing. But I took the risk instead which freed a woman of something she felt too embarrassed to talk about. Praise God.

January 4, 2020

Living in a New A Year One Day at a Time

As I mentioned a year ago, it’s rare that I get to use the writing of people who I know personally. Eric Wright is the author of both fiction and non-fiction Christian books, and is also a former missionary to Pakistan and former local church pastor. This appeared on his blog Country Inspiration. Learn more about his books at this link. Click the header below to read at source. (You’ll see a reference to this being part two of another article which I was unable to locate.)

Rediscovering God’s Love and Grace

How can we learn to live joyfully, one day at a time without worry about tomorrow? Moses has some advice for us. Yes, that Moses who led Israel from Egypt through 40 years of wilderness wandering and rebellion. Can we imagine a more worrying job?

In ten verses of Psalm 90, he relates some of the hard facts of life. We came from dust and are destined to return to dust. Between these two extremes, our lives are full of trouble and sorrow, much of it caused by our own secret sins. [See Psalm 90:3-11.] He sounds very pessimistic! Moses would not have been invited to host a motivational show.

But then he tells us his secret. “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:14). What a way to beat pessimism!

He urges us to pray that the LORD might help us to begin our days with a settled sense of His unfailing love. That we KNOW with certainty that whatever a day may bring, the love God has for us will not disappear or change. If we have been saved by God’s grace through Christ, we can know God’s love will surround us today.

How much love does God have for us? Paul prays that the Ephesians, and all Christians, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being…being rooted and established in love, …may grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (See Eph. 3:16-19). In other words we need to let the sense of God’s indescribable, unfathomable, infinite love permeate our souls.

How much am I loved? A hymn writer exults,

The love of God is greater far,
Than tongue or pen can ever tell.
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell.…

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;

To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

But what if we fail, which we will? What if we sin? What if the day is a mess? What if, like Moses, we are vilified or deserted or stretched beyond our capacity to endure? Will God love us still? Will his arms surround us? Will he still be our rock?

I’ve recently concluded that our temperaments are so attuned to try and please God by our works, that we need to relearn grace almost every day. We keep thinking we have to earn His love. We have our jobs…until we retire. If we do a good, honest job, won’t God be pleased? Yes, but His love will not increase or diminish depending on what we do.

After retirement, we have our to-do-lists. If we complete our daily devotions won’t God be pleased? If we call on the sick, or attend church or pray, won’t God be pleased? Probably, but His love will not increase or decrease depending on our accomplishments or lack of them. His love is showered upon us as an act of divine grace—His undeserved, unearned loving forgiveness for our sins and reception of us as His children does not vary. “It is by grace you are saved and that not of yourselves.” And it is by grace that we are kept.

Moses tells us that the more we are satisfied in the morning with God’s love the more we will sing for joy and be glad all our days. But our emotions fluctuate from cheerfulness to discouragement and outright despair depending on the circumstances of our day. Reading Moses’ history, I doubt if he sang through every day. Some days he was angry and in despair over Israel. Probably, living a joyful life uplifted by a focus on God’s love is a work in progress. Something we must grow into. However we feel, we can know that God’s love for us does not change with the weather.

Wade Robinson writes, “Loved with everlasting love, led by grace that love to know. Spirit breathing from above. Thou hast taught me it is so!…In a love which cannot cease, I am His and He is mine.”

January 2, 2020

2019 Bible Verse of the Year

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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by Clarke Dixon

With 35 billion chapters of the Bible read using their Bible apps in 2019, the people who bring us YouVersion have some impressive statistics to back up their announcement of the “verse of the year.” It is the most looked up, most highlighted, and most shared verse in the YouVersion community. So what is it?

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 (NRSV)

This speaks to the fear and anxiety in today’s society, and since the app is used across the globe, the anxieties felt around the world. This verse was written by someone who had great reason for anxiety and worry, for people who had great reason for anxiety and worry. It is in a letter written by the apostle Paul from prison, always a place of uncertainty in that time and place, to the Christians in Philippi who were facing persecution. So what does Paul say? Let’s consider what the Bible says about worry here, beginning with verse 4:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Philippians 4:4 (NRSV)

We rejoice, even though we may feel scared, mad, or sad. That might seem like an impossible thing to do, since we cannot normally choose our emotions. However, “rejoice” here is an imperative verb, it is an action rather than a feeling. According to Greek experts it is the activity of being glad or taking delight. It is possible to feel sad, and be glad at the same time. Paul is not contradicting himself when he says “we are saddened, but we rejoice” in 2nd Corinthians 6:10.

To give an example, I might be sorrowful that we are now in a Canadian winter and I cannot ride a motorcycle. But at the same time I can be glad that I have enjoyed motorcycling every year since 1991, and look forward to another season of riding in the spring. For another example, I am unhappy about my Mum having Alzheimer’s disease, and feeling distraught that she is now living in a nursing home. However, I am glad she is safe, and with our shared hope in Christ, I take delight in the fact that her best days are still ahead. My emotions have not changed, I am still feeling the emotions brought by grief, but I can focus my mind on things to take delight in. I don’t try to change my emotions from feeling sad to happy, but rather refocus my mind, engaging in the activity of rejoicing even while unhappy.

This is part of what happens in worship and praise at church gatherings. Whatever our emotions resulting from a difficult week, or a difficult season of life, in worship we focus on the big picture, the reality that is ours in God. There can be awful stuff happening in our lives which will result in negative emotions, but in worship all the awful stuff takes the background. The reality of God takes the forefront of our hearts and minds. We cannot change our emotions, but we can change our focus. We are told to “Rejoice in the Lord!” We focus on God. We focus on the big picture God paints for us which takes the focus off the limited perspective of our own field of vision.

Next:

Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Philippians 4:5 (NRSV)

We keep our cool, even though we may be mad enough to blow our tops. If our emotions take the forefront, then our relationships will be affected. When we allow the worries of life to take the foreground of our hearts and minds, we can easily hurt others. We can “kick the dog” so to speak. The Greek word for ‘gentleness’ has the idea of fitting, appropriate, or fair. Our response to the troubles of life can make our family and friends suffer unfairly, not to mention the poor dog. It is much better when we relate to people with the reality of God in the foreground. We relate to people, not as wounded people flailing away with swords, but as healed and healing people, experiencing grace and love from God, seeking grace and love in the lives of others.

And now for the verse of the year:

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 (NRSV)

We can pray, even though worry seems like the best, or only, thing to do. When we rejoice, we put the big picture in the forefront. In prayer, we have the opportunity to get our concerns and frustrations back to the forefront. Our frustrations and concerns are important, so should not merely be hidden away as if they do no matter. However, we do not put them forward so they can consume us. We focus on them in order to name them and hand them over to God. What is the result?

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 (NRSV)

We may be uncertain about many things, but in Christ we can be certain God is our Heavenly Father who works out all things together for good (see Romans 8:28). One very literal translation puts it this way: “The peace of God, the one surpassing in value all reasoning, will watch over your inner selves and your thoughts” (from Scripture Direct Interlinear Greek Bible). While many understand this verse to mean something like “the peace of God is beyond understanding,” another possibility is; “having the peace of God is better than having understanding.” In other words, it is better to experience the peace of God, than have everything figured out. That is often our trouble, we want to have everything figured out, we worry and fret when we don’t. We don’t need it all figured out! Give it to God, Who already has it all figured out, Who has the power to do something about it, Who has the love to do something good about it, even if we can’t see it or understand it. Once we have given our concerns over to God, we can then refocus the mind again:

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8 (NRSV)

We have something far greater than knowing every detail of the future, and the ability to control that future. We have a relationship with the One who holds the future. Instead of worrying, let us go to God, rejoicing in our reality in Christ, relating to others with that reality in mind, giving our concerns over to God, then refocusing on all that is good. Whatever emotions you may experience in 2020, may you know peace, especially the peace of God.


Clarke Dixon appears here most Thursdays and is the pastor of a church in Cobourg, Ontario about an hour east of Toronto. Click here for his WordPress blog.

 

December 30, 2019

Fearing Man More Than Fearing God

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Over a year ago, I discovered a set of small gift/devotional hardcover books, Ten Minutes in the Word. There is one each for Psalms, Proverbs and John. Back in October, this one was sent to me by email. The link in the header below takes you to the publisher page where you may purchase the book.

Whom Shall I Fear?

This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him

Fear the Lord, you His holy people, for those who fear Him lack nothing
– Psalm 34: 6-9, 11

Read Psalms 34-37

Doesn’t it seem as if being encouraged to fear God must be some sort of a typo? If God loves us and wants good things for us, then why should we fear Him? While the “fear of God” actually does suggest an apprehension of divine punishment, the fear of the Lord we are generally called to consider is a specific sense of respect, awe, and submission to God.

When we look at David’s backstory, we don’t really see this full sense of respect, awe, and submission to God. There was a time when Saul sent men to apprehend and kill David at his home. David fled through a window and Michal, David’s wife, took an idol and laid it on the bed as a decoy. When Saul’s men came for him, she said he was ill so that David might get away with a good head start.

Another time, David was expected to sit at Saul’s table for a feast, but he asked his friend Jonathan to lie to his father about David’s absence. Imprisoned, he faked insanity to gain release. David once fled from Saul to a city called Nob and lied to a priest named Ahimelech, saying Saul had commissioned him to carry out an urgent task. David requested provisions and a weapon. Ahimelech gave him some of the consecrated bread and the sword David had taken from Goliath. When Saul heard of the favor David had received in Nob, he commanded that eighty-four priests, including Ahimelech, be executed. Not only the priests, but also every man, woman, and child. David later acknowledged his deception was indeed costly, as he was morally responsible for the massacre at Nob.

During this time, David approached all his problems in a down-to-earth and practical way, and deception and violence became his way of dealing with his fear. It seemed acceptable and made perfect sense if it was done to preserve his life and help make him feel safe and secure.

However, in Psalm 34 we see David recognizing that his biggest problem was that he feared man in these situations more than he feared God. In other psalms of David, we see him encourage us not to fret about the prosperity of the wicked, but to remember their soon and sure destruction. And he calls us to focus on all the good and victory God has in store for those who trust Him.

You might not resort to deception and violence, but do you often find yourself focusing on what others have done or might do to you or what might happen? Do you try your best to run or hide, but continue to worry and fret? If so, you might not be living with a full sense of respect, awe, and submission to God. Endeavor to remain loyal and patiently leave the situation with God.

Lord, search my heart and show me all the ways I fear others and fear my circumstances more than I trust in You Remind me again and again how big You are and how small and weak my afflictions are in comparison to Your power and strength Teach me to diligently follow Your ways and believe You when You say You will come to my rescue every single time.

No matter how bleak it may look right now, trust it will all be well for those who fear the Lord.


 

November 20, 2019

It’s Safer on the Ground, but the View from the Mountain is Awesome

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:29 pm
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Today we’re highlighting the thoughts of a writer who is new to us. Wes Barry is the pastor of Waypoint in North Carolina, a church he planted six years ago. Clicking the header below will take to this article at its source, which you’re encouraged to do.

Enduring a Mediocre Life

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:1-3

It was a stupid idea to climb a 14,000 foot mountain with my wife. But the guidebook had called it a “distinctively charming route except the final 500 feet of loose scree.” So here I was frozen in fear clinging to the loose rock a few hundred feet from the summit. I wanted to give up and head back down. My wife, however, knew that the route down would take longer than summiting and then coming down. So she cajoled me forward. In the end, we summited the mountain and enjoyed the view.

Had we retreated, the end result would have been a mediocre adventure, and possibly a mediocre marriage and mediocre life.

Mediocre literally means “mid-mountain.”

The truth is that most of our lives are mediocre. We find ourselves grasping to the loose scree of life desperately trying to hold on. Though we may have spent years climbing and persevering, once the distinctively charming life gets hard, we freeze. We look for an escape route.

Our motivation wanes. We want the easy way out.

The way to transform mediocrity is not by motivation but through perseverance. At that moment, I had to throw off all the anxious thoughts that were holding me back. I had to overlook the disappointment and accept the reality that didn’t meet my expectations. It is at this point that we have to remember our commitment.

On that mountain, my wife made me recall that commitment. She told me I was not going to be satisfied if we turned back now. Then she just scampered on ahead, and as I watched her persevere I knew I had to finish the task that lay before me. I nervously fixed my eyes upon the trail she had laid through the scree field so I could follow it up. She endured so I could too.

What parts of your life are mid-mountain? How can you push forward in your marriage, your career, your parenting?

Consider how Jesus endured all things for you, and may you take heart to finish the race.


By the same author: This article has no specific scripture reference, but contains some great ideas to consider. Check out I Am Done Praying With You.

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