Christianity 201

June 21, 2022

Calming Words

Between 2012 and 2014, Stephen Altrogge appeared here four times. We decided to look at what he posted more recently at The Blazing Center and found this scripture medley from March of this year. Click the header below to read this where it first appeared.

22 Scriptures About Peace To Calm Your Soul

The world can be a really tough place sometimes. It seems like every day there is another difficult circumstance or trial can send us into a tailspin. It’s also easy to become overwhelmed by the news and all of the bad things happening in the world. But we don’t have to live in fear!

The Bible has many verses about peace that can help us find calm in the midst of chaos. In this blog post, we will explore some of those verses and learn how to apply them to our lives.

Bible Verses For Peace

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

The peace that God gives is supernatural. It transcends the difficult circumstances we are faced with and guards our hearts and minds. God doesn’t want us to be anxious about anything! Instead, we are to lift prayers to him in every situation and we will receive his peace.

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. (Isaiah 12:2)

We can put our trust in God and not be afraid. He is our salvation and our strength! When we are feeling anxious or stressed, we can remember that the Lord is on our side. We don’t have to live in fear when we know that God is with us.

Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. (Isaiah 43:14)

This verse is a beautiful promise from God that he will never leave us or forsake us. He will be with us always, even when we are going through difficult times. We can take comfort in knowing that we are never alone.

Bible Verses For Anxiety and Worry

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

No matter what we are facing in this world, we can rest assured that nothing can separate us from God’s love. Nothing we’re experiencing now and nothing that may come our way in the future. Nothing in the entire creation. Not even death itself can separate us from the love of God.

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

This verse is a reminder that God will provide for us, even when it seems like everything is falling apart. He is a good father who knows our needs and wants to bless us abundantly. We can trust him to take care of us and meet our needs, no matter where we find ourselves.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. (Isaiah 43:16)

In this verse, God promises that he will be with us even when life seems to be trying to drag us under like an angry river. He will be with us even when the flames of trials burn around us on every side.

Verses About Peace In Hard Times

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. (Isaiah 40:29)

God is the giver of strength! When we are feeling weary from life’s journey, he will give us the power to keep going. When we are weak, he will make us strong. When we have no strength, it forces us to rely on him, the only one who can give us strength.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. (Psalm 23:1-3)

This is one of the most well-known verses in the Bible, and for good reason! It is a reminder that when we put our trust in God, he will take care of us, just as a shepherd cares for his sheep. We will lack nothing because he is our shepherd and he knows what we need. He will lead us to green pastures and quiet waters where we can rest and be refreshed.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. (Isaiah 26:16)

If we want to have peace in our lives, we need to keep our minds focused on God. When our minds are stayed on him, we will be able to trust him and have perfect peace, even during a storm.

Comforting Bible Verses About Peace and Strength

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

Jesus himself left us with a gift of peace when he went back to heaven. His peace is different from the kind of peace the world offers. It is a lasting peace that can only come from him. When we have his peace in our hearts, we don’t need to be afraid or anxious about anything.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (I Peter 16)

This verse is a reminder that we can cast all our anxiety on God because he cares for us. We don’t need to try to carry the burden of our worries and fears by ourselves. We can give them to God and trust that he will handle our anxieties, even if we can’t understand how.

Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us. (Isaiah 26:12)

This verse is a reminder that it is God who gives us peace and everything we have accomplished, we have only been able to do because of him. We can’t take credit for any of the good things in our lives, because they all come from him.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

This verse reminds us that no matter where we are in life, God has a plan for us. His plans are always good, even when we can’t see how they could possibly work out. He wants to prosper us and give us hope for the future.

Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

This is an invitation from Jesus to come to him when we are feeling weary. He doesn’t want us to try to carry our burdens by ourselves. He wants to give us rest. We can find a peace in him that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

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. (Psalm 23:17)

Even when we are walking through the darkest times in our lives, God is still with us. He will comfort us and give us the strength to keep going. The only reason we can be free from fear is that we know God is walking alongside us in the dark.

Scriptures To Help You Trust God

The Lord is my light and my salvation–whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life–of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:14)

We don’t need to be afraid of anything because we have the Lord on our side. He is our light and salvation. He is the stronghold of our lives. There is nothing that can come against us that he can’t protect us from.

You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. (Psalm 18:28)

No matter how dark our lives may seem, God can always turn it into light. He is the one who keeps our lamps burning. We can trust him to lead us out of the darkness and into his perfect light.

He will not let your foot slip–he who watches over you will not slumber; (Psalm 121:11)

We can trust God to watch over us and protect us. He is always awake and aware of what is going on in our lives. We can rest assured that he will never let us slip and fall. Even if it feels like we are slipping, God has a firm grip on us.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:14)

When we make God our dwelling place, we can find a peace and rest that can only come from him. He is our refuge and fortress, a shield that cannot be shaken or overpowered. We can trust him to keep us safe and protected from the evils of this world.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34:17)

When we seek the Lord, he will answer us. He will deliver us from our fears and give us the peace that we need. The key is that we need to seek him. We can’t be passive when we experience fear. We must run to him.

God’s Word For Fear

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. (Psalm 46:12)

In the midst of our chaos, we need to remember that God is still on his throne. He is in control and everything is going according to his plan. We can find peace in knowing that he is sovereign and will be exalted in the end.

He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. (Isaiah 40:28)

God is never tired or weary. He knows everything and there is nothing that he doesn’t understand. We can find peace in knowing that we have a God who is all-powerful and all-knowing.

 

June 18, 2022

The Resurrection Convinces Everybody, Right?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:27 pm
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Scene One

Let’s begin in Luke 16:

NLT.Lk.16.19 Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury. 20 At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. 21 As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores.

22 “Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to sit beside Abraham at the heavenly banquet. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and he went to the place of the dead.[f] There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side.

24 “The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.’

25 “But Abraham said to him, ‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there.’

27 “Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. 28 For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’

29 “But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’

30 “The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’

31 “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”

There’s a lot taking place in these 22 verses, and while discussion could go in different directions, it’s the very last verse which is our focus.

“Abraham replied, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the Prophets, they’re not going to be convinced by someone who rises from the dead.’” (The Message)

While we like to think the best weapon in our apologetics arsenal is the resurrection, some remain either unbelieving or unconvinced.

Scene Two

NLT.John.11.1 A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair.[a] Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.”

But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.”

17 When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days.

23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”

25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[e] Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. 26 Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”

34 “Where have you put him?” he asked them.

They told him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Then Jesus wept. 36 The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” 37 But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”

38 Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. 39 “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.

But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.”

40 Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” 41 So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” 43 Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”

It’s interesting that, in light of the first scene, the person in this narrative is also named Lazarus. Or maybe we should turn that around and say that it’s interesting that in the parable, Jesus chooses to name one of the key people in the scene by the same name as his friend, who he will bring back from death.

Scene Three

NIV.John.12.9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well

I wonder how an attempt to kill Lazarus would take place. Would there be a wall of protection around him which would prevent them? Eventually, as with all of us, Lazarus does die. His return from the tomb was different from that Jesus would later experience, inasmuch as Lazarus is resurrected in his earthly body, while the resurrected Jesus is able to walk through walls and transport himself instantly to other locations.

It also begs the question, from a scientific standpoint, why would you take a unique specimen like Lazarus, and want to kill him? But then again, why would you take a unique specimen like Jesus and wish to kill him?

The chief priests were so utterly and completely threatened by Jesus, that they lost all perspective, and were willing to break the sixth commandment (“Do not kill”) to shut down the whole Jesus movement.

Scene Four

NKJV.Luke.24.5-7 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ”

I love Andy Stanley’s line: “Nobody expected no body.” The women didn’t run to the tomb saying, ‘Let’s see if he’s resurrected yet!’ No, they went to anoint his body according to custom. But on that morning we call Easter Sunday, the world was forever changed. For those who follow, our world was forever changed.

Scene Five

NASB.Matthew.27.50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and gave up His spirit. 51 And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. 52 Also the tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many.

Was there one resurrection in the ‘Easter week’ narrative, or many? According to this text, at the moment of death, there is an great earthquake, the curtain of the temple is split, and many walk out of the their tombs and are seen by many in Jerusalem.

There’s no denying all this — Lazarus, the ‘many’ saints, Jesus himself — but for some it’s just not enough. Sadly, we must return to the last verse in scene one which strikes at the heart of much modern day skepticism and disbelief:

NLT.Luke.16.31 “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”

For that reason, I believe our best expression that, to name an old hymn, “He Lives,” has got to the be the resurrection and, or to say it differently, the resurrection plus. It’s not the resurrection itself is insufficient to validate the complete work of Christ on the cross, but Jesus himself is saying it’s insufficient to satisfy the doubts of humankind (not to mention one of his own disciples.)

So for the writer of the aforementioned hymn, it becomes subjective experience: “You ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart.” But it’s also the general revelation of God: “In all the world around me, I see His loving care.”

Or it could be something else.

NIV.Acts.1.3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

 

June 8, 2022

As Sure as Tribulation Arrives, Restoration Will Come

George Whitten is the editor of Worthy Devotions which is part of a multi-media ministry to which we paying a return visit today. Click the title to read this where it first appeared, and then take a few minutes to browse the site.

Seek Him now, and Don’t Forget about the Restoration!

Deut 4:30-31 When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice;(For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.

We’re hearing a lot of talk lately, on the internet and elsewhere, about the “End of Days”. The Hebrew phrase, “acharit hayamim”, often translated, “latter days” refers to the “end of days, or “last days”, mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments, and refers to a critical period late in human history which is characterized by a great “pandemic” crisis and an ensuing panoramic recovery.

First used in Deuteronomy 4:30, quoted above, “acharit hayamim” entails a prophecy of “tribulation” which eventuates in God’s people turning back to seek Him with all their hearts, bringing about their restoration.

This theme of “tribulation” and “restoration” may be the most significant in all of scripture. The above passage, written to the people of Israel, prophetically encompasses their entire history and eventual recovery, salvation, and Kingdom restoration.

At the present moment, we may well be focused on the “tribulation” part of “acharit hayamim”. Yeshua (Jesus) prophesied specifically that famines, pestilences, and earthquakes would precede His coming, and were but the “beginnings of sorrows” [Matthew 24].

At this very moment many of us may be trembling at these developments and the “doom and gloom” which they portend…yet might we miss the significant fact that both testaments predicted exactly what we are seeing? The sovereignty, omniscience, and revelation of the Creator have been downloaded to humanity through the Scriptures, clearly pointing to His existence and redemptive purpose.

There lies our opportunity and blessing. Yeshua, who knows all things from the beginning to the end, revealed all the relevant details of the “acharit hayamim” (Last Days). Why?… so that we might quake in terror as they begin to transpire? But He says, “…likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.” [Matthew 24:33]…the promise of His return!

And, that is where our focus must remain. Our God will restore all things, both for Israel and for us according to the covenants He has made….when He returns! Restoration is the unequivocal promise of Heaven. The “tribulation”, “beginning of sorrows”, famine, pestilence, earthquakes, WHATEVER!…. All these are signs, portents, and even promises, that our God is real, true, and utterly faithful, and we must declare, encourage, and stand in the knowledge of Him. The troubles themselves are a powerful testimony of the Messiah’s identity, His redemption, and His promises. So, if the days are evil, make the most of the time! These are days of tremendous opportunity. Remember His promise of restoration!

June 7, 2022

Eyes on the Problem or Eyes on the Master?

Today it’s a delight to introduce you to Lisa, a mother of four who became a widow far too soon, who has been writing since 2013 at the colorful website I Am Trusting God. Clicking the devotional title which follows next will take you to where these thoughts first appeared.

What if walking on water wasn’t the point of the story… What if it was….

One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”

-Luke 8:22–25, ESV

When I was reading Luke 8:22–25, this morning, two verses stood out:

  1. “They were filling with water and were in danger” (v23).
  2. “Where is your faith” (v25).

It is interesting how you can read the same passage many times, and never notice a particular verse. And then suddenly it will jump out at you, like you’ve never seen it before.

I have read Luke 8:22–25 many times. I have also listened to it preached about, watched a movie depicting it, and sang a song about it. I have also almost, as I talk about below, read a book about it. And yet, I don’t ever remember seeing or hearing the words “they were in danger.”

My impression was always that even though they saw the storm they were never in any real danger because Jesus was in the boat. But it says, “they were filling with water and were in danger.” I don’t know about you, but even thinking about the word sends my heart, and mind racing.

But there’s Jesus sleeping. The exact opposite of what you would think somebody would do when a boat is filling with water.

Why was he doing this? Warren Wiersbe answers this question, before asking another, Jesus certainly knew that the storm was coming, yet He went to sleep in the ship. This fact alone should have encouraged the disciples not to be afraid. What was their problem? [1]

Usually the teachings about this passage focuses on the actions of the disciples. They were afraid. They went to wake Jesus. They didn’t get out of the boat.

But let’s think about what Mr. Wiersbe said, Jesus certainly knew the storm was coming, and he went to sleep in this ship.

Jesus knew the storm was coming and he knew what their response would be, but that did not cause him to lose any sleep.

I remember hearing about a popular book, written about this passage, titled If you want to walk on water you’ve got to get out of the boat. I loved the title, and immediately wanted to buy it. Though somehow, I never got around to it.

In thinking about this passage today I’m starting to wonder if walking on water is the point of the story.

I hear a few intakes of breaths… but just go with me on this.

They were the disciples of Jesus, the one who slept in the face of danger. They were the disciples of Jesus, who himself, said of them, “It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher” (Matthew 10:25).

They were to be like Jesus, but in the face of danger they forgot.

But what if they didn’t?

Just imagine how impactful the story would have been if instead of trying to do something about their problem, they kept their gaze on Jesus? What about if instead of coming to him in a panic, yelling at him, they went to him and stood at his feet and remembered who He was?

Jesus was sleeping and, I contend, so were they. In all their panic they were asleep to the truth of who they were with.

What was their problem? Warren says it is,

The same problem God’s people face today: we know the Word of God, but we do not believe it when we face the tests of life. It is one thing to learn the truth and quite something else to live it. “Where is your faith?” is still the key question. Are we trusting God’s promises, or are we trusting ourselves or our circumstances?[2]

Is this world scary sometimes?

Yes!

Are we in danger of having the waters rise above our heads at times?

Most definitely!

We don’t need to worry that we are going to drown.

But we don’t need to yell at Jesus to wake up.

Neither did the disciples.

I truly believe that if they would have come to Jesus and waited on him, instead of yelling at him, when he did wake, and they finally turned around, they would have seen that the storm, and danger had passed.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed
Hebrews 12:2-3 (The Message)

If you are now facing danger and are yelling at God to wake up and help you

God is saying to you….

Dear Sweet Child of Mine

I see you. and I see the full situation that you are in. I am in control, and I will not let you drown. keep your eyes fixed on me and not your problem. Bring to me all of your concern and your worries. and then look at me, continue to really look at me, and trust that I will be calming the storm around you as you do so. I love you and I will not let you down. You are loved.

Peace be unto you.


[1] Warren W. Wiersbe, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1992), 166.

[2] Ibid.

May 29, 2022

Contentment: The Daily Process of Being Thankful

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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On five previous occasions here we’ve shared devotional material from Floyd McClung, best known as the founder of Youth With A Mission. With his passing exactly one year ago today, his wife, Sally McClung continues to write online at the website they shared. Clicking the header below will take you to where this first appeared.

Day by Day Contentment

During the 5+ years on our unexpected journey, one of the things I felt continually challenged by was to “learn to be content” in whatever situation I was in.  And it was challenging!  Being content while I was sick, while my husband was lying in silence on a hospital bed, while I continually faced financial challenges, and while every way I looked there was so much I needed to deal with……it was not a simple matter to be “content.”  And yet, God helped me to do just that.  His loving grace enabled me to find peace and rest, to find a place of contentment day by day.  I’m so grateful.

I wish that contentment, once achieved, could just become permanent.  But the very challenge to “learn to be content in whatever state I am in” makes it clear that it’s a continual challenge.  I daily face new barriers to contentment.  I find myself coming back to the Lord again and again asking for His fresh help and grace to be content.  He is patient and faithful – He helps me over and over come to a rest, a peace, and yes a true contentment in each situation.

One recent day when I was dealing with some physical issues, I was finding it hard to be “content.”  I wanted change.  I wanted healing.  I read a devotional about a 64 year old lady who had been bedridden for more than 16 years.  She was in constant pain and unable to move.  The only thing she could use was her thumb on her right hand.  But everyone who was with her talked about how joyful and thankful she was.  She used a 2 pronged fork with that thumb to put on her glasses, feed herself, sip tea through a tube, and turn pages of her large Bible.  Everything she did was with the use of that right thumb.  She thanked the Lord continually for the use of that thumb, for His goodness to her, and for His saving grace. (Shared from “Our Daily Bread” May 1993).

Contentment isn’t learned all at once and it’s over with.  It’s a daily process of being thankful for whatever blessings we have.  I’m still on the journey of learning contentment!

“In everything give thanks.”  1 Thessalonians 5:18

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  Philippians 4:11-13

“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment.”  1 Timothy 6:6

“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:10

Each morning as I thank the Lord for a new day, I ask Him to help me have a heart of contentment.  I’m so grateful for His mercy and grace to me.  He is so faithful!

I have been challenged in my pursuit of contentment because it has been a hard week.  One thing after another seems to have “plagued” me.  As I was needing to make some decisions, this verse came to my mind:

“This is what the Lord says, ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’ ”  Jeremiah 6:16

I took time to bring each matter to the Lord and ask Him for the “good way.”  As I’ve waited in His presence and listened, I feel I’m getting some help and clarity.  I’ve also received His peace which brings “rest for my soul.”  Oh how I need that rest – that soul-rest.  I have had to remind myself to bring each thought, each worry, each concern, each need to Him.  I can’t carry them, but He can!  I’m so grateful that for every crossroads that I come to, He can show me the ancient path, the good way.  He is faithful!

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”  Deuteronomy 33:27

“Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.”  Psalm 105:4

“In anguish I cried to the Lord, and He answered by setting me free.”  Psalm 118:5

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.  Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.”  Psalm 143:8

May 25, 2022

What if Our Worship Included Practicing Waiting?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Last year at this time we introduced Worship Pastor Zak Kratzer who writes at Rediscovering Worship (tag line: “Telling the story of God with the community of God.”) Clicking the header which follows will take you to the page where this first appeared.

Have We Forgotten How to Wait?

As I write this, I get to share a house with a wife who is 37-weeks pregnant. While this in itself is a learning experience, the events of this past week have been very revealing to us. We had a near experience with a possible early delivery of our daughter. We found out Friday that we would not be going to the hospital to get induced after-all. But we are still, at the most, just a few short weeks away. When we talked about it, we realized that we had both mentally prepared for a controlled birth-date and getting on with this delivery. But now we have to wait knowing it could be anytime.

We have little control over how a baby will grow and develop, you can’t just speed up the process like you can with a microwaved meal or a class lecture video on 2X speed (admit it, you’ve done it). There are so many mechanisms in our culture that we use to try and increase efficiency and especially reduce that pesky wait-time. But recently I have asked myself if we lose something when church falls right in-line with a fast and impatient world.

but they who wait
for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31 (ESV)

“Strength will rise as we WAIT upon the Lord” – This is the opening line from a classic Chris Tomlin song based on Isaiah 40:31. I have heard this verse shared in worship many times, but always with the emphasis on the renewal part or the strength part, almost never the waiting. In church we often don’t realize how what we do communicates our values. Patience, stillness and anticipation are so often drowned out by noise even in small things. Even when the congregation is entering or leaving the worship space, most churches have canned music going, along with lights and scrolling announcements. These things are not wrong, but I can’t help but think it reflects our current culture’s need to control the flow of time, reducing the awkwardness of just waiting.

The Authors of a book and founders of a movement called Slow Church, call this “McDonaldization” and it feeds our desires for instant gratification. But the church was always meant to develop the spiritual gift of patience.* God’s kingdom is made up of humans, learning to abide in Him. and as such, we are not machines that can be manipulated for reliable and efficient output. We are more like plants, we require patient work, watering and sun. We require different amounts of these things for different days and seasons. We have productive and fallow seasons. And for all of this, our father is patient with us. He patiently calls us to redemption as we wait for the day of his coming (2 Peter 3).

What would it look like for us to practice waiting together in community and in worship?

I’m not sure if I have all the answers. But I do know that the small things communicate much. What if there were intentional times of silence built in for our community to wait on the Lord? Of course some things you can do to increase the fruit of patience can happen outside of the corporate worship time as well. A church that I used to attend, kept up a community garden at a local elementary school. And we would give the produce away to anyone in need. We had work days every so-often where people could get a taste for gardening and then weeks and weeks later, someone would come share samples of salsa and other products.

Getting connected to the soil reminds us of that many of the things God does, He slowly and patiently. When you think about it, our impatience is a denial of reality. We think that we can triumph over waiting and be filled at our convenience. But this is not how the kingdom of God works. If our waiting for the return of Christ teaches us anything, it’s that things happen on God’s timeline and not ours.

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

James 5:7-8 (ESV)

I would challenge us to think through all the ways, our worship is encouraging instant-gratification and convenience and to think through these things and ask if there are ways to cultivate more patience in our community. And as God’s community on earth, how should we be recognizing the slowness of the kingdom as we anticipate the second coming? Like a delivery, it can happen anytime, and yet we patiently and eagerly away it.


*Smith Christopher C. & John Pattison. Slow Church. InterVarsity Press, 2014. pg. 79-80


May 12, 2022

When Fear of Life After Death Scares the Life Out of a Christian

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Thinking Through John 10:22-30

by Clarke Dixon

Does the fear of death scare the life out of you? Or perhaps the question is, does the fear of life after death scare the life out of you?

There is plenty to worry about in our day, but this nagging worry about the afterlife has plagued people across generations and societies. Will we be okay when we die?

Some say there is no God, and so therefore no afterlife, so don’t worry about it. Indeed there are those who have embraced that line of thinking and have come to peace with the idea of not existing forever. Others who think death is the final end fight it tooth and nail.

Some say there may be a God or spiritual realities we know nothing about, but who knows? Many would say that not only do they not know, but that they believe no one can really know. So as for the afterlife, don’t worry about it, because who can know anything about it? Some are at peace with not knowing, some are scared to death of the great unknown.

Now we come to the Christian who of course believes there is a God, and the best way to know God is through Jesus and the Bible. So no Christian fears death, right? Actually, many do. Many Christians have a nagging worry about not being okay when they die. It is tragic that many atheists and agnostics worry less about death and life after death than many Christians.

The nagging worry that we will not be okay when we die often comes down to one of three thoughts:

  • I’m worried I don’t have enough faith.
    • “The person on the other end of the pew is a shining example of faith, while I struggle with doubts.”
    • “Sometimes I think I trust what scientists tell me more than what Bible teachers tell me.”
  • I’m worried I don’t know enough.
    • “I don’t have God and the Bible all figured out.”
    • “Some people know so much about God and the Bible, and I don’t. They are so much more deserving of a place in heaven than I am.”
  • I’m worried I’m not good enough.
    • “Some people are so such better than me. God will be pleased with them, but not me.”
    • “I’ve tried, and failed, at being better in this one area of my life. God must be greatly disappointed with me.”

There is a problem with each of these lines of thought, a problem easy to miss. In each case the focus is on ourselves, our our faith, our knowledge, our goodness, or rather our lack of each.

Worry takes centre stage when we take centre stage.

The solution, of course, is to get out of the spotlight. Instead of being focused on ourselves, and ourselves in relation to others, let’s focus on God and where we stand in relation to God, according to God:

My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one will snatch them from my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can snatch them from my Fatherʼs hand. The Father and I are one.”

John 10:27-30 (NET emphasis added)

Notice where we are; in the hand of Jesus, secure in the hand of God.

Okay, but how do we know if we are one of the “sheep” secure in God’s hand? Jesus said “My sheep listen to my voice, I know them, and they follow me.” Jesus did not say “My sheep have superlative faith, deep knowledge, and are shining examples of perfect people.” We can listen to the voice of Jesus, follow him, yet still have doubts, gaps in our knowledge, and messy flaws.

Jesus also said,

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven

Matthew 18:3 (NRSV)

A young child is dependent on someone loving them. The Christian knows their dependence on God loving them.

We can become stuck in thinking of God as loving us, but not really loving us. We can paint the picture of God being totally disgusted with us, of harboring a disdain for us. Then even when we talk about God’s forgiveness of us, we think of God as merely tolerating us. We know God loves us but we can not bring ourselves to think that God might actually like us.

The law court may be our go to image of our relationship with God. We are on trial, guilty, while God is the judge. The good news is that the judge grants a pardon, that Jesus paid the debt. The difficulty is that we have trouble thinking that the judge will want to have anything to do with the accused following the trial. Sure, I might be forgiven, but given my doubt, my gaps in knowledge, and how imperfect I am, surely I am on the fringes of the Kingdom, kept at a distance from the King. The good news is better than that. Jesus challenged us to think of God as our Heavenly Father. We can think of God as loving us so much that he has us in his hand, and wants us there!

You can be in the hand of God and still have doubts. Doubt may not always be a lack of faith, but of faith seeking understanding. In fact sometimes our doubts may not be a lack of faith in God, but a lack of faith in those who tell us about God. That is not always a bad thing. No Bible teacher or preacher is perfect, including me of course.

You can be in the hand of God and still have much to learn. While Christianity is not anti-intellectual, it is also not about our ability to figure it all out. It is simply about trust. When we were young, too young to know much at all about anything, all we could do is trust our parents or those who took a parental role in our lives to make sure we were okay. In Christ we trust God.

You can be in the hand of God and still have room for growth in character, thinking, and behaviour. A common theme for those of us who are motorcyclists is that it is not about the destination, but the journey. To make Christianity about the destination of heaven and how you get there is missing the point. The Christian life is a journey of growing as a Kingdom person, all the while being secure in the hand of God.

Are you a Christian but you have a nagging worry that you won’t be okay when you die? If you focus on yourself and how good you are, especially in where you stack up against other Christians, your worry may continue. If you focus on God and where you stand with God in Christ, then no worries! In Christ you are in the hand of God, and will be. Instead of stressing about life after death, let’s concern ourselves with life, with our next best step in our relationship with God right here, right now.


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Cobourg, about one hour east of Toronto. Read more at Thinking Through Scripture.

April 28, 2022

Has Fear or Fighting Stolen Your Peace?

Thinking Through John 20:19-23

by Clarke Dixon

Has either fear or fighting stolen your peace? You might wonder how you could have peace right now with this scary situation, or that horrible relationship. It might be a nasty virus or a nasty war that is stealing your peace. Jesus speaks to themes of fear, fighting, and peace.

Let us begin with how fear steals our peace

That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said.

John 20:19 (NLT)

The disciples knew all about fear. They were holed up in a room with the doors locked out of the fear that they would end up crucified and dead like their leader. They knew they had targets on their backs, so locked doors it was. Until Jesus showed up.

Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”

John 20:21 (NLT)

While there was rejoicing over seeing Jesus alive, the fear was still real, if not heightened by what Jesus had just said. No more hiding behind locked doors, go out into that scary world where you may well get killed! According to tradition, most of them were.

Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

John 20:22 (NLT)

Breathing on the disciples might seem odd, but as often happens the odd things in the Bible are a clue that something symbolic is happening. Here the breathing on the disciples points back to Genesis:

Then the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.

Genesis 2:7 (NLT)

God breathed life into humanity at Creation. Now here in Jesus God was doing it again. The Giver of life is with you, even in the face of death. Even though the fear of death was real for the disciples, their peace about life, death, and life after death could be real also.

Our fears can be legitimate. We may well end up wounded, emotionally from relationships, or physically from disease. We will likely face death at some point. Fear helps us seek wisdom, on how to stay alive and healthy. Fear is not all bad. But while fear may be helpful, even necessary at times, fear need not steal our peace. While the worst thing that we imagine might happen, could happen, in Christ the best thing that could happen, even beyond our imagination, shall definitely happen.

Let us continue with how fighting steals our peace

When Jesus says “peace be with you,” it is important that we recognize the word used for peace. Jesus would have spoken mostly in Aramaic and used a word related to the Hebrew word for peace; shalom. While our word peace may be used to describe situations where there is no fighting, the word shalom goes deeper to describe a situation where there is harmony. Two nations may be said to be at peace if they are not lobbing bombs as each other, but they may not be experiencing shalom if the relationship is not good. Likewise, you may experience peace in your relationships, but not shalom.

When Jesus told the disciples he was sending them out, he was sending them out among people with whom they did not have shalom. Their enemies were real, the enmity was real.

Jesus said, “as the Father has sent me, so I send you.” How did the Father send Jesus?

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:16-17 (NLT)

The Father sent the son with the agenda of offering forgiveness, of bringing love in the face of hatred. The disciples were to go out among their enemies with the intention of bringing love in the face of hatred.

As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side.

John 20:20 (NLT)

When Jesus showed the disciples his wounds he could have said “where were you when this happened? Why didn’t you stand by me?” But instead he said “Peace be with you.” Jesus showed them his wounds, not as evidence of their wrongdoing, or anyone else’s wrongdoing, but as a sign that he was real, and that his love for them and his forgiveness of them was real. Having experienced that love, they were now sent out to live it. So are we.

If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.

John 20:23 (NLT)

We might automatically think Jesus is speaking of the forgiveness from God that leads to eternal life here. We might therefore smell power, our power. But is that necessary? I like Eugene Peterson’s take on what Jesus said:

If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?

John 20:23 (MSG)

Good question! If we don’t forgive people’s sins against us, we will let those sins fester in our lives and in our relationships. We will let them steal our peace, our shalom.

Jesus is speaking here about the opportunity of experiencing peace in our relationships, and of bringing shalom to others. In breathing on the disciples, Jesus breathed a breath of fresh air into their relationship with him. Gone was any thought of experiencing judgement and condemnation. We can breathe new life into our relationships through forgiveness.

We enjoy shalom with God because God in Jesus has taken the path of the cross with us. Jesus said “As the father has sent me, I’m sending you,” meaning we are now sent on that same path of the cross, of love and forgiveness.

In Conclusion

Has fear stolen your peace? Jesus stands before us today and says “peace be with you.” Our fears may be real, but they need not steal our peace.

Has fighting stolen your peace? Jesus stands before us today and says “as the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Fighting can end in peace and enmity in friendship when we follow Jesus in the way of the cross.

“Peace be with you.”


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Cobourg, Ontario and appears here most Thursdays.

April 24, 2022

Waiting on God; Hoping on God

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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I had bookmarked the site Welcome to the Brightside in my computer, and when I returned today, the about page and contact page had been scrubbed clean, so I couldn’t see who the writer was beyond a single name, Katie. But I decided to be true to my original impulse when I bookmarked the site, and run this devotional from June ’21 anyway.

The devotional is short, but links to another at First 15 by Grace Fox, some of which we’ve included. If you’re looking for more today, consider that a second helping.

Clicking the title gets you to read this where we sourced it.

What is the World Coming To?

In a time where it feels as if everything is crumbling around us and making us question everything, one thing I know for sure remains true: Jesus.

The Holy Spirit. God. The Universe. All that is Holy. It’s true. I rest in this space. It tests my limits – making me feel uncomfortable at times – but the discomfort is one of my own. It is a lesson being offered to me on a silver platter. I choose to work on these and iron them out in my sacred time.

This morning I read on the First 5 App a beautifully written article on Hebrews 6:13-20.

Hebrews 6:19 (ESV) “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain…” 

An anchor’s purpose is to hold a boat in place. Set in mud, sand or silt, it prevents the vessel from drifting. Just as mariners need a physical anchor properly set in the right foundation to secure their ships, so all humans need a spiritual anchor properly set to secure their souls.

The author of Hebrews reminds us of Abraham’s faith in God. God’s promises provided a spiritual anchor for Abraham. (Hebrews 6:13-14) This anchor gave him the courage to obey when God told him to leave his country and follow Him to an undisclosed land where He would make Abraham a great nation and a blessing. (Genesis 12:1-3) It gave him the power to trust God for a son even though the thought seemed ludicrous. After all, he was an old man. His wife was beyond childbearing years and barren. (Genesis 17:1;  Genesis 18:11;  Genesis 21:1-7) Abraham’s faith also gave him the patience to wait nearly 25 years to see the promise of a son fulfilled. (Hebrews 6:15)

Abraham’s hope was securely grounded in God’s inability to lie and in the covenant He made with him. (Hebrews 6:13-18;  Numbers 23:19;  Genesis 15:9-20) Traditionally, someone who swears by an oath calls on a person with greater authority to hold him to his word, but God swore by His own name because He is the ultimate authority on Earth and in heaven. (Exodus 32:13;  Isaiah 45:23) There is no name higher than His. (Psalm 138:2) The oath is like an extra layer of reliability that He will do what He says He will do.

Abraham’s faith kept him from drifting into despair through years of waiting for the impossible to happen. Most importantly, it made him right with God. (Romans 4:1-5) We, too, are made right with God when we take refuge in Him through faith in Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 6:18;  John 3:16;  1 John 1:9)…

[…to read the full devotional, including the above cited passage with links to the scripture verses, click this link…]

The biggest takeaway for me this morning: Jesus is the hope that anchors our souls.

Jesus is the anchor when our souls have lost hope.

So I flip open my Bible to connect deeper and I stumble upon this page in Matthew 26:55.

NLT.Heb.26.55 Then Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I some dangerous revolutionary, that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there teaching every day.

It could do us all a lot of good to reflect. Think about it – if God waited 700 years before bringing Jesus to us – why do we constantly think we need to slay the enemy right now? Instead of focusing on defending what we believe to be ours… focus small. Otherwise we fall victim into the enemy’s plan.

Stay focused.


April 22, 2022

The Unspoken Lie of Genesis 3

For those of you who became subscribers of C201 because of previous contact with my other blog, Thinking Out Loud, you may remember that we occasionally linked to Kuya Kevin, an American living in the Philippines. His real name is Kevin Sanders. We somewhat lost contact with him (my fault, not his) here after running three of his articles here at C201, but this week he landed back on my radar.

His blog is simply titled Pastor Kevin Sanders, and he’s been a pastor in El Paso, Texas (for our Brit friends, it’s right on the border with Mexico) for over 15 years and recently completed his DMin from Gateway Seminary. Clicking the header which follows will take you to his site to read this, which is encouraged.

The Lie Beneath the Lie

Most of us are familiar with the Genesis account of sin entering into the world. The serpent approached Eve and convinced her that the forbidden fruit was the key to realizing her own divine potential:

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Genesis 3:4-5

We know that was a lie: the act of disobedience brought death, not divinity.

But it seems to me there was a lie underneath that lie. It was just as subtle as the serpent that delivered it. This is a lie that assaults the very character of God. Here it is:

“God is holding out on you.”

Believing this lie can lead to at least two terrible outcomes.

The first is outright disobedience. Eve, then Adam took this route. They instantaneously learned a harsh lesson: God’s prohibitions are ultimately for our protection. They exchanged fruit for thorns, paradise for pain, life for death, and glory for dust. Consequence is a cruel teacher for those who disobey God.

The second is bitterness. This may not be outright, external rebellion against God, but it’s just as toxic for the soul. Perhaps the inward, hidden nature of bitterness makes it even worse (or at least harder to recognize) than outward rebellion. The older son’s heart, after all, seemed just as far from his father as those swine his prodigal brother had fed (Luke 15:11-32). Grace and bitterness do not tend to peacefully coexist in the same heart.

I feel I should expound on this second outcome because it is one I am more familiar with than I care to admit. There have been times I have entertained the lie beneath the lie and experienced the bitterness that follows.

Life disappoints us all at some point. Here are just a few examples that come to mind:

  • That attractive man or woman that won’t pay any attention to you.
  • That job or job promotion which should have been yours.
  • That narcissist who has been blessed with so much talent and/or treasure (you, of course, would have used it all selflessly).
  • That hardship or tragedy that your neighbor deserved more than you.

Sometimes we choose to interpret some of these disappointments as God holding out on us. We often look back and see how silly we were to think this way. We realize that God was, indeed, working for our good (Romans 8:28).

We should know better. I should know better–especially when I consider that God “did not spare His own Son” for my sake (Romans 8:32).

Lord, you have loved me perfectly and blessed me more than I will ever deserve. Forgive me for those times I have failed to trust You. May I always guard my heart against lies and bitterness.


Second Helping: By the same author, The Advance of the Gospel in an Evil World

March 30, 2022

Do We Really Want to Change?

NLT.John.5.1. Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches. One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?”   [click here to read the full account]

Today’s featured writer was recommended to us by a writer who has already appeared here a few times. The blog is called It’s a God Thing. Clicking the header below will take you to where we sourced it. There are also a number of other recent articles you might want to explore.

Will you take up your mat and walk?

I love this re-telling of Jesus healing the paralytic in John 5. It is by author John Eldredge, and appears in his book Desire:

“The shriveled figure lay in the sun like a pile of rags dumped there by accident. It hardly appeared to be human. But those who used the gate to go in and out of Jerusalem recognized him. He was disabled, dropped off there every morning by someone in his family, and picked up again at the end of the day.

A rumor was going around that sometimes (no one really knew when) an angel would stir the waters, and the first one in would be healed. Sort of a lottery, if you will. And as with every lottery, the desperate gathered round, hoping for a miracle. It had been so long since anyone had actually spoken to him, he thought the question was meant for someone else.

Squinting upward into the sun, he didn’t recognize the figure standing above him. The misshapen man asked the fellow to repeat himself; perhaps he had misheard. Although the voice was kind, the question felt harsh, even cruel. “Do you want to get well?”

He sat speechless, blinking into the sun. Slowly, the words seeped into his consciousness, like a voice calling him out of a dream. Do I want to get well? Slowly, like a wheel long rusted, his mind began to turn over. What kind of question is that? Why else would I be lying here? Why else would I have spent every day for the past thirty-eight seasons lying here? He is mocking me.

But now that his vision had adjusted to the glare, he could see the inquisitor’s face, his eyes. The face was as kind as the voice he heard. Apparently, the man meant what he said, and he was waiting for an answer. “Do you want to get well? What is it that you want?”

It was Jesus who posed the question, so there must be something we’re missing here. He is love incarnate. Why did he ask the paraplegic such an embarrassing question?”


And it does seem an obvious, strange question. But I think what Jesus is doing here, as John Eldredge draws out in the book – is asking the man to take ownership. Does he want to get well… or does he want to stay as he is?

You might say, ‘Of course he wants to get well!’ But sometimes we are so accustomed to living a certain way that we become set in our ways. We take on the identity of a self-sacrificial mum or a wounded soldier or a perpetual procrastinator… We become comfortable in our jail cell, so to speak. We talk so much about our struggles that they almost become who we are. Instead of seeking change or growth, or following our dreams… we maintain the status quo.

Do I want to get ‘well’? What areas in my life do I really want Jesus to help me with? May I never stop asking him for his leading in my life, his shaping of my plans. He is more than able to heal (while he may not choose to in the way we might think). He is also able to change, to guide, and transform, no matter how old or whatever life situation we are in… We are always part of his plan. But he does want us to ask. To be participators in the process.

After Jesus asks the paralyzed man if he wants to get well, he offers excuses and complaints about his life. But Jesus simply says to him: “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” He was cured straight away, and he did – he picked up his mat and walked. And later, he told other people about what Jesus had done.

Perhaps all God asks of me right now is willingness. Willingness to trust him with what I have, and follow. To be open to his calling, even if it’s different to what I had in mind. His plans. His promises. His joy and peace! To simply pick up my mat and walk.


There’s another article by the same writer that I think some of you might appreciate. It’s not a Bible study per se, but if the title intrigues you, check out The Morning I Became a World Changer, an essay on human trafficking.


Here at Christianity 201, Friday marks our 12th Birthday! That’s 12 years of providing a daily devotional, 7 days a week, 12 months of the year. I don’t get a lot of feedback, and can only trust that these are beneficial for those of you who continue to subscribe and those who drop by periodically to see what we’ve been up to!


If you need some lighter reading, feel free to check out page one of Ruth’s advanced essay in theological graduate studies, Cats in the Bible.

March 18, 2022

When You’re in the Middle of the Mess

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Last year at this time we introduced you to Melissa Neeb who lives in Minnesota in the U.S. and has written for a variety of publications and has also done wildlife photography. Her blog is Faith in the Mess. You’re encouraged to read more of her writing by clicking the header below to read this one, and then looking around when you’re done.

Who Am I in the Mess?

When things get messy, as they so very often do, who am I?

What are my defense mechanisms?

What do I tend to do?

Ask yourself these questions and answer honestly.

Do I yell or swear? Cry? Run? Avoid? Shut down? Lash out? Dive into a bad habit such as drinking more or over-eating? Spend money recklessly? Sleep all day?

Do I take it out on those around me?

Recognizing these tendencies is the path to growth. The path to change. The path to healing.

My response to stress, confrontation, or pain is flight. I will try to get away from it as fast as I can. I will avoid and hide.

Knowing this about myself doesn’t make it easier to make a different choice in those difficult life situations. It is hard, brutally so, to swim against my natural current and face the situation head on.

It is a weakness of mine.

It doesn’t matter what your defense mechanism is–what negative response you have.

We have a God who says that His power is made perfect in our weakness.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthian 9-10

So who are you in the mess?

When a loved one dies.

When you’re in a decades-long argument with your spouse.

When your child needs a mental health diagnosis.

When a pet gets sick.

When you are waiting for test results.

When you lose a job.

When you’re flat broke and don’t know where the next mortgage payment is going to come from.

When your best friend moves away.

When someone lies about you to others.

When a pandemic hits.

When you are having a panic attack.

When the dishwasher breaks.

When your car won’t start.

When your heart is broken.

When you are in severe emotional or physical pain.

Who are you?

We all have things–moments, heartache, crises–that bring us to our knees. To be human is to suffer. We cannot escape it, no matter how hard we try. But we have a way through.

God’s powerful, life-changing comfort is waiting. His arms are wide open.

He says that His power is made perfect in our weakness.

He turns us around. He changes our hearts and moves mountains in our minds.

Our weakness doesn’t limit God. It proves His might and His perfect timing!

God is doing a thing in you. Let Him work.

Let Him soften your anger and flood you with His forgiveness, so that you can be a vessel of those things for someone else.

In the middle of the mess, little or big, we need to go to Him.

His grace is sufficient for me.

And it is deep and long and wide enough to cover you, too.

March 4, 2022

Don’t Opt for Power When You Can Choose Wisdom

This is our second time at the devotional page of Magnificent Life Ministries, a non-profit ministry in California, USA. Again, we’re presenting both parts of two related readings. Clicking the titles below will take you where these appeared earlier this week, and with the first part, there is an audio reading of the content from YouTube.

Power is Deceptive; Wisdom Brings Salvation!

Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and to insight, “You are my relative.” That they may keep you from the adulteress, from the stranger with seductive words.”` Proverbs 7:5

In life, power is often seen as a desirable thing. It can make people appear strong, important, and in control. However, this is a false sense of power. True power comes from wisdom, which brings salvation. Wisdom allows people to see the world for what it truly is and makes them understand the consequences of their actions. With wisdom, people can make decisions that will benefit themselves and others. Remember, “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding comes with long life.” Job 12:12

From today’s Bible verse, the Holy Spirit led the author of this chapter to give us advice, especially to the young men who might be at risk of being enticed by the allure of a promiscuous woman amid moral decay. However, when the heart is filled with the love of God, the word of God, and what is good, it will be armed against the seductions of evil pleasure or whatever may entice the soul away from God. That’s why wisdom is represented as the word of God and should therefore be considered with great delight in one’s heart.

Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!”

Nothing has a greater tendency to keep us from all sins, from all fleshy lists, from the sin of uncleanness, and unnecessary errors of this age than Christ and his gospel. So an intimate acquaintance with them and retention of them will surely deliver you from all trouble. Therefore, not only are we to keep them or listen to them, but we are also to live by them as a code of conduct. That’s why Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Therefore, true power comes from wisdom, and applying that wisdom allows people to make wise decisions. It is only through Wisdom in Christ that people can find salvation. We must all work to obtain wisdom to become powerful people who can make a real difference in this world. Therefore, I encourage you, don’t be tempted and be carried away by the pleasures of this world. It is natural for people to be drawn to the things that will bring them little fun and forget the eternal damnation. However, there is Wisdom in Christ that can prevent us from making such mistakes in Jesus’ name. Amen. 2 Timothy 2:22 says, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”

Prayer
1. Holy Spirit, please help me not succumb to sinful temptations before realizing the consequences.
2. Dear Jesus, please saturate my heart with your love and wisdom.
3. Proverbs 3:13: Remain blessed as you find wisdom and understanding in Christ Jesus. Amen

Power is Deceptive; Wisdom Brings Salvation! Part 2

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Proverbs 9:10

Power is deceptive. It can make you think you’re invincible when in reality, it’s just a tool. Likewise, it can make people do things they would never consider doing otherwise. In the hands of the wrong person, it can be deadly. But wisdom brings salvation. With wisdom, people can use their power for good instead of evil. Wisdom allows them to see the real consequences of their actions and make the right decisions. That’s why Proverbs 14:8 says, “The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools deceives them.”

It is the wisdom of God that allows us to overcome the power of sin and death. The wisdom of God is greater than the wisdom of humankind. In the beginning, God created man and woman. He created them in His image (Genesis 1:26). However, when He realized that man and woman He created can abuse each other, God gave us the Ten Commandments. They are his way of protecting us from ourselves. In them, he forbids us to worship false gods, lie and steal, commit adultery and murder because He wants us to be peaceful with each other and not violent.

Romans 11:33 says, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”

That’s why God loves those who ask for wisdom instead of Power because God loves wisdom above power. He knows wisdom brings salvation, while power alone can lead to destruction. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” When we don’t have a wise heart, the devil can take advantage of us. Therefore, ask God to give you more wisdom instead of power. “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 2:6

The application of God’s wisdom help reduce evil. We can find peace and joy through God’s wisdom in our lives. It is a great blessing when we apply the wisdom of God in our lives instead of applying forces. Remember, power is deceptive. It often promises much but delivers little. Wisdom, on the other hand, is a great blessing. When we apply the wisdom of God in our lives instead of applying forces, we find true happiness and peace in Jesus’ name. Amen. Proverbs 16:16 says, How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.”

Prayer:
1. Oh Lord, grant me wisdom from above so that my heart can discern your will in Jesus’ name.
2. O Lord, arise and deliver me from this prison of ignorance now in Jesus’ name. Amen.
3. Luke 21:15: I pray, may the Lord give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict in Jesus’ name. Amen.


If you know someone who struggles with reading and would benefit from the YouTube podcasts from Magnificent Life Ministries, there is a wealth of choices on their MagLife’s Daily Devotional YouTube channel. They also produce content for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp.

 

March 2, 2022

God Will Sort Out Our Enemies

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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This is our fourth visit with Rev. Tonia Slimm who has been writing very faithfully at blog Growing with God . A blogger after my own heart, there has been a fresh post on that site every day since September, 2015; and we’re talking original devotional studies; not the beg-borrow-and-steal approach that we take!

Clicking the header below will take you there, where a bonus music video awaits you.

God Deals with our Enemies – Isaiah 51:23

Isaiah 51:23 (NIV)

“I will put it into the hands of your tormentors, who said to you, ‘Fall prostrate that we may walk on you.’ And you made your back like the ground, like a street to be walked on.”

Isaiah 51:23 (MSG)

“I’ve passed it over to your abusers to drink, those who ordered you, ‘Down on the ground so we can walk all over you!’ And you had to do it. Flat on the ground, you were the dirt under their feet.”

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“I will put it into the hands of your tormentors, who have said to you, ‘Lie down so that we may walk over you.’ You have even made your back like the ground and like the street for those who walk over it.” -AMPLIFIED

“This strong drink is now to be taken from Judah and given to Babylon, so that it will stagger and fall. God is going to destroy Babylon as he destroyed Judah.” ~Bridgeway Bible Commentary

In yesterday’s text, we found God reminding Israel that their suffering was only for a time. Soon He would remove the cup of anger that He had given to them, and they had drunk deeply from.

“Your children have fainted and lie fallen in the streets, like a gazelle caught in a net.
Yahweh’s anger, the rebuke of your God, has overwhelmed them. So listen, you who are weak and wounded, who are intoxicated not with wine but with God’s anger. This is what your sovereign ruler,
Lord Yahweh, your God, the Mighty Defender of his people, says: “Look! I have removed from your hand the intoxicating cup that made you stagger. You will no longer drink from the bowl of my anger.”
-Isaiah 51:20-22 (The Passion Translation)

In today’s passage, God tells Israel He is about to pass that cup of anger on to their oppressors.

“And I will give that drink to those who abused and oppressed you—who ordered you, “Get down so we can walk all over you.” And your backs became the ground they walked on, the streets they passed by.” -(VOICE)

Adonai–Tzva’ot, God Almighty, the God who does the impossible, is able to humble the enemy. Consider how many times had God told Israel in the past that all they need do is be still, and allow Him to fight their battles? Case in point, Moses speaking to the Israelites:

“So I told you, “Don’t be scared! Don’t be afraid of them! You won’t have to fight this battle yourselves; the Eternal your God, who always goes ahead of you, will fight for you just as He did in Egypt—you saw Him do it! And here in this wilderness, all along the route you’ve traveled until you reached this place, haven’t you seen the Eternal, your True God, carrying you the way a parent carries a child? But you still don’t trust the Eternal your God, even though He always goes ahead of you as you travel and finds places for you to camp. In a pillar of fire by night and in a cloud by day, He always shows you the right way to go.” -Deuteronomy 1:29-33 (VOICE)

Guaranteed, this was not always the case, but once again, we do find God defending Israel in our text. Adonai–Tzva’ot, God Almighty, tells Israel that He will take remove this cup from their hands, and place it in the hands of their tormentors. The tables will be turned now, what Babylon had done to Israel, tormenting them, and abusing them, will now be done to them.

If you wondered about the truth of the abuse that is mentioned in Isaiah, wonder no more. Grogan tells us that this practice of Babylon, having people lie on the ground and walking across on their backs, is well documented.

“This “barbaric practice…is well documented in the ancient Near East, featured especially, but not exclusively, in Assyrian inscriptions” ~Geoffrey Grogan

This was a form of abuse that was intended to humiliate and bring suffering and affliction to people. Babylon had done this very thing to Israel, now God says it will happen to the Babylonians.

The time of Israel’s redemption has come. And the time for Babylon’s punishment is about to begin. If you wondered why God would punish Babylon for doing what He intended for them to do, it is because they carried out their assignment with the wrong attitude. They used and abused Israel. They took all the glory in their conquering of other nations, and never gave any of the glory to God.

“But I will put that terrible cup into the hands of those who tormented you and trampled your souls to the dust and walked upon your backs.” -(TLB)

“There will be a reversal of circumstances for them when He gives the cup of stupor of bowl of wrath into the very hands of those who dished it out, so that what they did to others now happens to them. What the King of Assyria and his people did to the people of God is now done to them.” ~Avraham Gileadi 

In the book of Exodus, God told Israel that if they would obey Him, then He would be an enemy to their enemies. God said:

“If you are obedient to his voice and follow all of My instructions, then I will be an enemy to all of those who are against you, and I will oppose all those who oppose you. When My messenger moves ahead of you and leads you to the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, and Jebusites—I will annihilate them.” -Exodus 23:22-23 (VOICE)

Throughout Scripture God reminds us that He will deal with our enemies. He promised that He would avenge us. Take a look at what Paul wrote to the Romans:

“Do not retaliate with evil, regardless of the evil brought against you. Try to do what is good and right and honorable as agreed upon by all people. If it is within your power, make peace with all people. Again, my loved ones, do not seek revenge; instead, allow God’s wrath to make sure justice is served. Turn it over to Him. For the Scriptures say, “Revenge is Mine. I will settle all scores.” -Romans 12:17-19 (VOICE)

We would do well to learn this lesson that Solomon tried to teach his son:

“Do not rejoice and gloat when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad [in self-righteousness] when he stumbles, or the Lord will see your gloating and be displeased, and turn His anger away from your enemy.” -Proverbs 24:17-18 (AMP)

Let us take into consideration something that God said to Jeremiah:

Eternal One (to Jeremiah): Hear me, Jeremiah: I will make you strong in these trying times to accomplish My good. I will make it so your enemies ask you to pray for them in times of disaster and suffering.” -Jeremiah 15:11 (VOICE)

Our job is to pray for our enemies, and let God avenge us. Finally, consider what Jesus told His followers to do when it came to how they should treat their enemies. Jesus said:

“If you’re listening, here’s My message: Keep loving your enemies no matter what they do. Keep doing good to those who hate you. Keep speaking blessings on those who curse you. Keep praying for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, offer the other cheek too. If someone steals your coat, offer him your shirt too. If someone begs from you, give to him. If someone robs you of your valuables, don’t demand them back. Think of the kindness you wish others would show you; do the same for them. Listen, what’s the big deal if you love people who already love you? Even scoundrels do that much! So what if you do good to those who do good to you? Even scoundrels do that much! So what if you lend to people who are likely to repay you? Even scoundrels lend to scoundrels if they think they’ll be fully repaid. If you want to be extraordinary—love your enemies! Do good without restraint! Lend with abandon! Don’t expect anything in return! Then you’ll receive the truly great reward—you will be children of the Most High—for God is kind to the ungrateful and those who are wicked. So imitate God and be truly compassionate, the way your Father is.” -Luke 6:27-36 (VOICE)

“We may not be able to prevent other people from being our enemies, but we can prevent ourselves from being enemies toward others.” ~Warren Wiersbe

My friend, let us be careful of how we are treating those who call themselves our enemies. Our job is to pray for them, and allow God to deal with them, and their sins against us. Vengeance belongs to the Lord. Your job is to follow the example of Jesus, and love your enemies. By doing so, you are heap burning coals on their heads, and the LORD will reward you for doing the right thing.

“Prayer is the great engine to overthrow and rout my spiritual enemies, the great means to procure the graces of which I stand in hourly need.” ~John Newton

My Prayer:

Adonai–Tzva’ot, God Almighty, help me to love my enemies, just as you have loved me. When they strike out, intentionally hurting me, remind me that vengeance is yours, not mine. Help me to do what is right, according to your Word. Help me to follow the example of my Savior, who did not retaliate, but He was kind and compassionate towards those who hurt Him. I lift these hurting souls up to you, Lord, and ask that you reveal yourself to them. Help them to see their need for you in their lives. Heal their hurting hearts, Lord. Let them come to an understanding of their deep-seated need for a Savior. Amen.

February 27, 2022

Living the Life of Job

Given the choice, many of us would prefer to be “living the life of Riley.” Who is Riley and where did that expression come from? The website grammarist.com states,

Living the life of Riley means living the easy life, an existence marked by luxury and a carefree attitude. The term living the life of Riley is an American phrase, it first appeared in the early 1900s. There is some suggestion that the idea of a gentleman named Mr. Riley enjoying a luxurious, easy life is suggested in several earlier vaudeville songs, though the phrase living the life of Riley appears slightly later.

It’s not the only explanation online, but again, given the choice, nobody would want to be “living the life of Job.”

The story of Job is referenced in James 5, where verse 7 turned up in this week’s Verse-of-the-Day on the NIV Bible app. Here’s the full context.

NLT.James.5.7 Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen…

10 For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.

In church this morning, the pastor referenced a cartoon panel with a large sign saying “2022” and two doors marked “exit” and “entrance.” The Covid-19 pandemic is making an exit but the war in Ukraine is coming through the entrance.

In Act IV of Hamlet, there is what some call the Shakespearean definition of tragedy. Shakespeare has Claudius say, “When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions”. It’s often shortened to “When sorrows come, they come in battalions.” Or as we would say today, “everything is happening at once.”

Sometimes we feel like everything is too much; so overwhelming. My children are now adults, but for those of you with kids in their late single-digits or teens, I would imagine that they are trying to process the stress of world events; first with Coronavirus, and now with war in Europe.

Job certainly had to deal with everything happening at once. If Murphy’s Law is, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong;” then Job’s situation moves it from future tense to past tense, “Everything that can go wrong has gone wrong.”

The overarching purpose of James’ reference is the subject of patience, and as we learned in the last two years, much is needed. A worldwide disruption that some thought would last weeks became months. Then the months became two years. People compared it to the times of world war, and as I type this, that is on our doorstep.

The IVP Bible Commentary (click commentaries in the right menu) states:

Here James’s focus is on three elements that make up the portrait of patience at work in the believer’s life: suffering, perseverance and blessing. James wants his readers to understand that these three develop in succession and that their outcome is as definite as the character of God. Suffering enters the believer’s life; perseverance is the believer’s response; blessing comes from the Lord, who is full of compassion and mercy.

Most of us would choose to avoid suffering altogether. It is the only the most mature believer who welcomes suffering; who as James says earlier in his epistle, “Count it as pure joy…” (1:2)

The website BibleRef.com notes:

The goal of worldliness is to avoid suffering. It’s the quest to get everything you want in life, no matter what it costs, no matter who it hurts. James makes it clear that the goal for Christians is different. We consider faithfulness to God despite suffering a mark of success. James uses the Greek word makarizomen, which literally means “to count as blessed, or happy, or successful.” This praise is given to those who continue to demonstrate their trust in God by obedience and service to others.

Matthew Henry adds,

In the case of Job you have an instance of a variety of miseries, and of such as were very grievous, but under all he could bless God, and, as to the general bent of his spirit, he was patient and humble: and what came to him in the end? Why, truly, God accomplished and brought about those things for him which plainly prove that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. The best way to bear afflictions is to look to the end of them; and the pity of God is such that he will not delay the bringing of them to an end when his purposes are once answered; and the tender mercy of God is such that he will make his people an abundant amends for all their sufferings and afflictions.

Finally, again, the IVP Bible Commentary:

This is the message of grace. God gives good gifts because he is full of compassion and mercy. Grace is the element in God’s character which James wants his readers to know with absolute confidence. The Christian can be patient in suffering and consider trials pure joy because of the assurance that God will give wonderfully good gifts even through the hardships.

Fundamental for Christian practice is Christian belief. What is the truth about God? Is he this God of grace or not?


Here’s an appropriate song which is often on repeat at our house; Josh Garrels’ radical remake of the old hymn Farther Along.

If this version is new to you, click here to hear Garrels’ original version.

 

 

 

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