Christianity 201

September 27, 2022

You Will Get Through It

“No weapon that is formed against you will succeed; And you will condemn every tongue that accuses you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their vindication is from Me,” declares the LORD. – Isaiah 54:17 NASB

I loved the devotion we’re presenting you today from the very first sentence. We’re introducing another writer here for the first time. Shubricca L Bell (or just Bricca) was a Chef du Cuisne, managed two restaurants, changed careers and became a voice-over artist, has written four books, and hosts a podcast. Clicking the title which follows below will take you to where this appeared earlier today on her blog.

God will give you the strength to endure it, and the grace to come out of it

Oh, the weapons WILL form, but they WILL NOT prosper…

You know what I love. I love when when things that were supposed to take us out, actually makes us better. There’s no doubt that going through the unfortunates of life is wearisome, and we don’t understand it when we are going through, but if we could look through our spiritual lenses, we will see that it’s a set up for something GREATER!

Greater is coming…

You see, what was sent to take you out, God used it as ammunition to make you better. The Word of God says in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “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.”

God will give you the STRENGTH to not only ENDURE the pain/test/trial, but He will give you the GRACE to COME OUT of it!

That’s right, you may be stuck between a rock and a hard place, but you’re coming out. On the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand!

The Word of God says in Psalm 118:22, “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.” This scripture is referring to Jesus, but guess what? You are in Christ Jesus, so I’m talking to you!

You may be overlooked, rejected, talked about, done wrong, betrayed, laughed at, mocked, spit on, abused, misused, misled, manipulated, kicked when you were down, frowned upon, shunned, I could go on and on… BUT GOD!

This is a reminder that YOU WILL, get through it! God didn’t promise us an easy life. Jesus didn’t have it easy, so what makes you think we will.

It’s all about our focus. Stay true to what God has called you to do in THIS SEASON. It may not make sense, but be obedient. Walk by faith, not by sight and not in fear.

You may feel like giving up, but God is saying keep going. You may not know where the heck you’re going, but keep going. You may not think you have the strength, but keep going. You may get sick, but keep going. You may be alone, but keep going. You may not know how you’re going to do it, when it’s going to happen, where it’s going to happen, what is going to happen, but you can be certain of who it’s going to happen to- you, and why it’s going to happen- God!

The favor of God is on your life! You shall live and NOT die! You will see the goodness of the Lord IN the land of the LIVING.

Your dreams will not die with you, but they will manifest through you, in THIS LIFE!

So, when you can’t do anything else, keep going. God will give you strength for the journey.

September 17, 2022

Anger: It’s What You Do With It

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Two years ago we introduced you to last year, Wattsup with Kids (tag line: Kids, Coffee and Christ Every Day) written by Tracy Watts. Looking at her writing again, it’s clear she holds scripture in high regard, and while this topic may not land perfectly with your situation today, make note of the value placed on God’s word to establish each of the teaching points. Click the title below to read this recent article at her site.

Anger

Mr. Rogers poses an excellent question in his song “What do you do with the mad that you feel?”

This was of course, a question aimed at children, but I think it is something adults struggle with too. Perhaps we explode verbally or physically. Perhaps we take it out on those around, snapping short temperedly. Perhaps, we hold tightly to it and it festers inside our hearts, turning to bitterness and resentment.

None of these are good options. What then, can we learn from God’s word about anger?

Anger itself is not wrong

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger ~ Ephesians 4:26

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. ~ Mark 3:1-6

Even Jesus got angry (though it is helpful to note the things that make Jesus angry – and perhaps the less eternally important things that irk us!)

Either we control our anger or our anger controls us

A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. ~ Proverbs 29:11

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. ~ Proverbs 16:32

Man’s anger does not produce good things

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. ~ Psalm 37:8

For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. ~ James 1:20

So… as Mr. Rogers so poignantly asks, what do we do with the mad that we feel?

We can place it in God’s hands

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” ~ Romans 12:19

We can pause before speaking in anger

Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah ~ Psalm 4:4

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. ~ Proverbs 15:1

We can replace the anger with something good

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. ~ Galatians 5:19-21

We can exercise self control

A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. ~ Proverbs 29:11

It’s comforting to me that the wise man does feel strongly, he does have a passionate spirit and does feel emotions. He just does not allow “full vent” to them. He does not explode in verbal vomit. He does not erupt with his emotions and spatter them across the unfortunate people nearby.

Instead, he “quietly holds it back.” What does that look like? A person who has learned the beautiful art of self-control. It’s not that he somehow magically got rid of ever feeling anger or frustration. It’s that he has learned to respond instead of merely reacting. He grapples inwardly to not explode outwardly.

Of course, this is a process, a learning of how to channel our anger (and our other emotions) and ultimately to be more like Him.

And indeed, we can agree with Solomon’s wisdom:

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. ~ Proverbs 16:32

May we each learn to control our spirits better, with the help of Him who made us.


Second Helping

Two other recent articles from Tracy:

August 24, 2022

Self-Control: The Elusive Character Trait

Today we have another new writer to introduce.  Drew Koch was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, and created the blog-site Truth & Discernment to share enlightenment and encouragement while engaging with people about God’s Word. Remember, clicking article titles like the one below not only lets you read things here where we located them, but you bless the authors with some internet traffic!

A Rare, But Essential Quality

How rare it is today to see self-control on display. It is a discipline that very few ever capture, and more and more it seems as though it’s not even a trait that people aspire to pursue.

However, for those of us who truly yearn to live a life of holiness, self-control is essential. In 1 Peter 1:14, the apostle tells us that we must live as God’s obedient children. We’re commanded not to “slip back into our old ways of living just to satisfy our own desires.” Peter then says, “You didn’t know any better then.”

But Peter then tells us in the next two verses what we must do now that we’re in Christ. “But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16)

To further drive home the importance of the characteristic of self-control, Paul gives us contrasting ways to live in the letter to the Galatians. One way leads to a life of righteousness and the other ends in spiritual darkness.

Several qualities (idolatry, jealousy, drunkenness, envy, lustful pleasures, etc.) are attributed to following the desires of our sinful nature. Other traits (love, joy, patience, kindness, and self-control) are called the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Paul then closes Chapter 5 of Galatians with these beautiful words, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” (Galatians 5:24-25)

What phenomenal counsel from Paul. Rather than permitting your sinful nature to take hold of you, allow the Holy Spirit to guide you toward a life of self-control.


Big decision need big prayers. Here’s a bonus devotional for you from Andrew. Click the title below to read this at Truth & Discernment.

What is God Moving You to Do?

My wife and I recently moved. Not just to a new neighborhood or even a new town, but an entirely different state. While my wife has moved more times than she’d care to count, I’m now over 400 miles removed from everything I’ve ever known.

Now, this wasn’t some haphazard, thoughtless decision. I’ve never been that adventurous. No, this was a calculated, well-thought out plan that both my wife and I put in place some time ago.

But one thing that we did prior to making this change was pray together. I’m not talking about a simple, one-time occasion. This was an intentional act that both she and I participated in on a nightly basis.

We both decided that such a big decision required God’s leading. Were it not for us leaning hard into our faith, I’m not sure I’d be sitting in a small-town coffee shop right now, reminiscing on what brought us here.

There are countless examples throughout Scripture of Jesus rewarding the faith of those He met or admonishing his disciples to have faith. One example that comes to mind is in Matthew’s gospel. After his disciples were unable to heal a demon-possessed boy, his father begged Jesus to cast out the evil spirit.

Jesus scolded the crowd for their unbelief and then counseled the apostles who privately asked Jesus why they were unable to cast out the demon saying, “…Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”  (Matthew 17:20-21 NIV)

How often we want to do everything on our own, am I right? We are so proud and we want so badly to take the credit. But what I’ve found is that when we are able to humble ourselves before the mighty hand of God, having faith that He knows what we need, we are then able to experience the fullness of His love.

I know I haven’t yet reached the point when I’ve given up all control to Him. No matter how much I may want to, that old nature continues to creep back in. But when I am prayerful and able to put my faith in Him, only then am I able to experience the true joy of everything God offers.

August 2, 2022

The Love of Our Guide, Protector and Provider

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Today we’re back again with Devotions by Chris by Chris Hendrix and two shorter devotionals which he presented in the opposite order to the one which I decided we’re going to read them today. Click each of the title headers below to read these where they first appeared.

A Foundation Of Love

I was at a celebration of my aunt and uncle when a lady walked up to me. She said, “You don’t know me, but I know you. I grew up in your grandfather’s church.” She shared some stories with me about him, and then she said, “He gave that church a foundation of love.” That phrase resonated with me for many reasons. I couldn’t help but think of how you and I are the Church. It’s important that we build our faith and our lives on a foundation of God’s love. If we don’t do that, our lives can become full of meaningless rituals or a cold relationship with God. When that happens we must return to our first love.

In Luke 7:36-47, Jesus was dining at a Pharisee’s house. A lady who was a prostitute came in, bowed at Jesus’ feet, cried tears on His feet, then dried them with her hair and poured perfume on them. The Pharisee was stunned that Jesus allowed this to happen. Jesus told him a parable of two men who owed a debt to someone. One owed a little and the other a lot. The creditor forgave them both. Jesus then asked the Pharisee which person loved the creditor more. He replied that the one who was forgiven more. Jesus agreed. He then looked down at the lady and told the Pharisee that her many sins had been forgiven and this was a display of her love.

In Ephesians 3:19 Paul concluded a prayer by saying,

And [that you may come] to know [practically, through personal experience] the love of Christ which far surpasses [mere] knowledge [without experience], that you may be filled up [throughout your being] to all the fullness of God [so that you may have the richest experience of God’s presence in your lives, completely filled and flooded with God Himself]” (AMP).

You and I can’t just have a head knowledge of God. We must experience His love and forgiveness in our lives. When we do that, we will experience God’s presence and be filled with it. When we have the foundation of His love in our lives, we can make a greater impact on the people around us.

Being Shepherded

One of the things we lose context for in a modern society is the idea of being shepherded. We use the word sheep as a means to put someone down, yet the Bible constantly refers to us as sheep and God as the shepherd. There is great trust between the shepherd and the sheep. He makes sure the sheep are cared for, fed and protected. When one runs off, the shepherd goes after it. There is a unique relationship there that is incredible. It’s the same relationship God longs to have with us. He wants to watch over you, protect you and make sure you’re well fed, but you must submit to His shepherding in order to receive the benefits the Shepherd offers.

Here are some Bible verses on God as your shepherd.

1. There once was a shepherd with a hundred lambs, but one of his lambs wandered away and was lost. So the shepherd left the ninety-nine lambs out in the open field and searched in the wilderness for that one lost lamb. He didn’t stop until he finally found it. With exuberant joy, he raised it up, placed it on his shoulders, and carried it back with cheerful delight!

Luke 15:4-5 TPT

2. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep [the protector and provider].

John 10:2 AMP

3. I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me,

John 10:14 NLT

4. The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, to guide and to shield me], I shall not want.

Psalms 23:1 AMP

5. You were like sheep that had lost their way, but now you have been brought back to follow the Shepherd and Keeper of your souls.

1 Peter 2:25 GNT

July 29, 2022

Trusting Despite All Odds

We tend to think of Psalms as a poetic book, but there are passages where what we’re reading is really history; and occasionally (as in the ‘rivers of Babylon’ verses) we’re given details beyond the original narrative.

Today’s devotional was sourced at the page From The Heart. We don’t know much about this except that “From The Heart (FTH) is a movement of Christ followers in FPCP to make Jesus known online through blogging.” We’re guessing, but we’re going to go with First Presbyterian Church of Plymouth. Clicking the header (title) which follows will take you to read this at their site.

The Joseph in You

He called down famine on the land and destroyed all their supplies of food; and he sent a man before them— Joseph, sold as a slave. They bruised his feet with shackles, his neck was put in irons, till what he foretold came to pass, till the word of the Lord proved him true.

Psalms 105:16-19 NIV

Joseph is a familiar character in the Bible. At least once in every church, he must have been preached in the pulpit.

And every time we hear about him, we know that it will end up well because his life story is good. It is probably one of the best turnaround stories in the Bible. But have you ever imagined actually being Joseph? Imagine being betrayed to death by your brothers just because you had a dream. Imagine being a child sold out as a slave knowing you have a family somewhere. Imagine losing your freedom just because of a betrayal. I would probably have given up on the first trial. I most likely would not make it until the time Joseph became in charge of Egypt.

God had to strip Joseph of every single thing he could put his trust in so that when He lifts him up, he will be fit for the job. God had to strip Joseph of every hint of pride so that when He puts him in the position of power, he will be ready.

Maybe the story of Joseph is not just about God lifting him up from all the trials he went through and restoring his family in the end. Maybe it is also about the humbling power of God that prepares every person who keeps on trusting Him despite all odds being against their faith, for the appointed time He can use him.

There was no other person who can help Egypt survive the famine but Joseph, because God had molded him from childhood. God also used his calling to answer lifelong questions he had kept within himself.

There is a Joseph in each of us, the one who will persevere against all odds; who will still believe in the dream; who acknowledges the One who manages everything; who has gone through enough troubles to know it is the Hand of God at work; and the one who knows what the enemy meant for evil, God turns for good.

I am claiming this over your life. This is a timely reminder regardless if you’re sick, struggling, wandering, or transitioning. I believe that the Hand of God is at work, moving all the pieces together until the time is ripe. You will know that all this time, it was Him who is preparing you for your future. Trust that God has a better plan for your life. Leave your anxious thoughts to Him, and ask Him for guidance in the way you should go. No matter what you’re going through, and no matter what lies ahead, let God unleash the Joseph in you.

 

July 26, 2022

The Lord Will…

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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The first paragraph below is from Psalm 138. The second paragraph consists entirely of different renderings of the verse which follows, Psalm 138:8.

Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
the arrogant he watches from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
Lord, you preserve my life.
You stretch out your right hand against the anger of my enemies;
and you save me.

The Lord will vindicate me;
The Lord will avenge me;
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
The Lord will accomplish all that concerns me;
The Lord will do everything for me;
The Lord will work out his plans for my life;
The Lord will finish what he started for me;
The Lord is with me until the end

Those last phrases are all translations of the same verse taken from different translations of the Bible. These are all a number of different translators’ understandings of how best to express the idea that the Psalm writer included in verse eight. The idea that God will. He will.

It’s the same idea that we see in the writings of the apostle Paul when he says, “I am confident of this: that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

It’s that idea that God doesn’t give up. He doesn’t give up on us when we keep making the same mistakes over and over again. When we wake up in the morning feeling like failures because of whatever happened last night. God doesn’t give up on the people we love who we are praying for.

Some of us have people we are praying for for one thing or another. God does not give up on them. God does not give up and he will complete the good work that he has begun. God is working, he is active. He is always working on the good thing that he began in us and in Creation.

– Ruth Wilkinson


Related verse: 1 Corinthians 1:18

He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you will be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.


In Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary, he looks at verse 8:

The assurance we have that whatever good work God has begun in and for his people he will perform it (Psalms 138:8; Psalms 138:8): The Lord will perfect that which concerns me,

1. That which is most needful for me; and he knows best what is so. We are careful and cumbered about many things that do not concern us, but he knows what are the things that really are of consequence to us (Matthew 6:32) and he will order them for the best.

2. That which we are most concerned about. Every good man is most concerned about his duty to God and his happiness in God, that the former may be faithfully done and the latter effectually secured; and if indeed these are the things that our hearts are most upon, and concerning which we are most solicitous,* there is a good work begun in us, and he that has begun it will perfect it, we may be confident he will, Philippians 1:6.

Observe, (1.) What ground the psalmist builds this confidence upon: Thy mercy, O Lord! endures for ever. This he had made very much the matter of his praise (Psalms 13:6), and therefore he could here with the more assurance make it the matter of his hope. For, if we give God the glory of his mercy, we may take to ourselves the comfort of it. Our hopes that we shall persevere must be founded, not upon our own strength, for that will fail us, but upon the mercy of God, for that will not fail. It is well pleaded, “Lord, thy mercy endures for ever; let me be for ever a monument of it.”

(2.) What use he makes of this confidence; it does not supersede, but quicken prayer; he turns his expectation into a petition: “Forsake not, do not let go, the work of thy own hands. Lord, I am the work of thy own hands, my soul is so, do not forsake me; my concerns are so, do not lay by thy care of them.” Whatever good there is in us it is the work of God’s own hands; he works in us both to will and to do; it will fail if he forsake it; but his glory, as Jehovah, a perfecting God, is so much concerned in the progress of it to the end that we may in faith pray, “Lord, do not forsake it.” Whom he loves he loves to the end; and, as for God, his work is perfect.


*The term ‘solicitous’ means that which we are most interested in and most concerned about, or perhaps most anxious about


The verse in Matthew that Matthew Henry refers to is this:

These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.

It’s the verse which proceeds, “But seek first the kingdom of God…”

July 10, 2022

This Devotional is Going to be Different

Several years ago, I became quite captivated by the writing of the late Rob Lacey, who took the Bible and re-told it in the language of inner-city youth in Manchester, and London. The result was two books, The Street Bible and The Liberator, respectively a Bible overview, and a summary of the synoptic gospels. (We ran excerpts from these here and here.)

Nobody would question the need to translate the Bible into foreign languages, but sometimes variants of English such as a street language version written for British youth, or The Kiwi Bible written similarly for the New Zealand market strike some conservative Christians as disrespectful. That’s unfortunate. We find that most of the New Testament were actually written Koine Greek, which was the language of the marketplace, or the language of the street.

All that to say, I was thinking about this when today I came across the blog  KarlisAnn.com. The devotional I chose is mostly about Elisha, but there are two other blog posts linked in the opening paragraph and I considered those as well.  Today’s thoughts are based on 2 Kings 4. Clicking the title which appears next will take you to where this first appeared, and if you know someone who might appreciate this, copy the link below or the blog’s link above and send it to them.

It Cost Her Something

I believe when I was writing Two Things Can Be True, and maybe even It’s Gonna Cost You Something, I thought about the person I’m going to discuss. Cuz I definitely though about her today.

It’s good ol Elisha, a woman, and her son again. It’s in one of the Kings. 2 I believe. Happy hunting. Go verify my words.

She was married to a man who was a prophet affiliated with Elisha. She sent word that her husband was dead. She made sure she name checked. She called her husband Elisha’s servant.

She told him her husband’s creditors were coming and going to take her sons as slaves.

E was like what can I do to help? Watchu got in yo house girl?

Sis was like “I ain’t got nothing but a small pot of olive oil.” Ooooh I can’t wait to get where I’m going.

E was like “aight bet. Go to your neighbors and get all the vessels (pots) you can. Don’t skimp. Get a bunch of them thangs. Go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into them and set them aside as they get full.

I’m gonna go somewhere else I wasn’t going. When he prayed over the boy I talked about in Two Things Can Be True, he went in and shut the door.

He gave her instructions that included going in and shutting the door.

When Jesus got to the house of Jairus where his daughter lay dead, he put the people out and shut the door.

When Jesus was teaching the disciples about doing stuff for or with God (go find it chiiii) He told them to do it in secret and their Father would reward them openly.

Sometimes we got to go through the process alone and quietly. This is a word for me!

David was made king in the pasture. Where he was before and after he was anointed as the next king. I am probably repeating myself but oh well.

Joseph was made second in command of Egypt after being sold, ending up in Potiphar’s house as he serving in that position, and then falsely accused and imprisoned.

We need to get behind that door and let God make us into who He showed us we would be. Move in silence. And when it’s time, let Him put us on display in a place nobody can take because nobody put us there but Him.

So, sis is filling pots left and right. Old school assembly line I’m imagining. She ends up asking her sons for another pot. They’re like “dis it moms. Dats alluem (all of them).”

Sis is like “aight. Aye yo E. I filled the pots like you said. Now what?”

E tells her to sell the oil and pay the creditors.

Bruh. I just got something else. Okay.

Before Jesus died, Mary broke open her alabaster box filled with what? Oil. She anointed Jesus for His burial.

Before He was arrested, Jesus sat in the Garden of Gethsemane sweating blood and asking not to have to go to the cross if it was possible. If you read another blog you know where He was: on Mt. Olivet/Mt. of Olives surrounded by what it takes to make oil. As Christ. Which means the Anointed One.

My blogging, author person reminded me that King David was anointed three times. Maybe one for the Father, one for the Son, and one for the Holy Spirit who are all one identified by the name of Jesus who is the King on the throne.

All this lady had was the symbol of anointing. That symbol multiplied and provided for her. This brings to mind the Scripture that says but my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory BY CHRIST Jesus.

Sometimes, all we have is the anointing and the Anointed One. Those are the best times. Cuz He shows us who He is. And we have enough because He is all, and everything, that we need.

Do what it takes to be anointed. It ain’t easy bein breezy. But it’s worth it.

Go be great. Someone is counting on you.

June 30, 2022

Pray More, Pray Bolder

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Today is our first time sharing the writing of Andy Brown, who lives in the east of England in the UK, and has been a lay preacher at a church there for ten years. You’re encouraged to read this on his blog, at andy-brown.org by clicking the link in the title below. (Note WEB refers to the World English Bible which is included at Bible Gateway.)

Anything

This passage from the Gospel of Matthew has been on my heart of late. Well, particularly verse 22.

In the morning he went back to the city. On the way he was hungry.

19 Along the road he saw a fig tree. He went to the tree. There was no fruit on it, only leaves. He said to the tree, `No fruit will ever grow on you again!’ Right away the tree died.

20 The disciples saw it and were surprised. They said, `So soon the fig tree has died!’

21 Jesus said to them, `I tell you the truth. Believe God. Do not doubt him. Then you can do what I did to this fig tree. But that is not all. You can even say to this hill, “Go and jump into the sea” and it will be done.

22 When you ask God for anything, believe that you will have it. Then you will have it.’

The “He” in verse 18 refers to Jesus, in case it wasn’t clear. As Jesus passes by this fig tree, which apparently offers the promise of fruit, He finds only leaves on it. He then curses it, causing it to wither. Many feel sorry for this poor little fig tree, but in context, we realise it is an allusion to the Pharisees and teachers of the Laws aka the religious leaders of the day. They, like the fig tree, promised fruit but instead delivered nothing.

But the fig tree really did wither. It was not just a clever analogy for the religious leaders. There was a real tree, and Jesus spoke to it, and it died. We ought not to miss that simple truth.

Like Moses when he struck the rock twice, and God punished him for it. This was a serious problem because the rock symbolized Christ who would only be struck the once. Yet, irrespective of the symbol, there was a real piece of stone and Moses, in his anger, actually hit it twice with his staff (see Numbers 20). Symbolic or not, it was a real event.

Verse 20 of Matthew 21 shows us that the disciples were surprised at the withering of the tree. They perhaps did not fully understand the power of Christ’s words.

Jesus answers their astonishment with verses 21 and 22, and I restate them here because they are so utterly amazing.

21 Jesus said to them, `I tell you the truth. Believe God. Do not doubt him. Then you can do what I did to this fig tree. But that is not all. You can even say to this hill, “Go and jump into the sea” and it will be done.

22 When you ask God for anything, believe that you will have it. Then you will have it.’

Matthew 21:21-22 WEB

Believe God. Do not doubt. Then you can do what I did to the fig tree, and not just that, but tell the hill to go jump into the sea, and it will be done. Let that sink in!

And likewise, the next verse, the Lord says, when you ask God for anything, believe that you have it and you will have it. It sounds so matter of fact, and yet is seemingly beyond the realms of our prayers.

Ask God for anything – anything! No limits, no boundaries! Although I hasten to add that there are those who would take this Scripture on its own, ignoring all others, and claim whatever their flesh desires. Within the confines of the Bible and the will of God, we can ask for absolutely anything! Yet, I so often pray like I’m bothering God or that He is a miserly, stingy Father unwilling to part with anything. Not so! God knows how to give good gifts to His children.

I want to start praying Matthew 21:22 prayers. I want to ask God for what is on my heart. I don’t wish to be greedy, but I do want to recognize who He is and the kind of Father I worship. He is generous, and kind, and more powerful than anything we can imagine. I want my prayers to reflect that.

More than just asking though, I also need to believe. There is little point asking God for something, and then saying to my family, “That’ll never work!”

Nothing pours cold water on the fire of faith than words of doubt.

Nothing is too big for our God to handle. There is no request we can make which will dim the lights in heaven because it uses so much power. God is more than able to respond to our needs and our prayers. Let each of us step more boldly into prayer, being specific, recording what we ask for and praising Him when the answer comes.

Those points are important. If we cannot be specific, then we cannot know for sure if God answered or not. If we do not record what we pray (in a journal or note of some kind), then there is a good chance we will forget what we have asked for and so, when it comes to pass, may not give proper thanks.

My prayer life can be sporadic at times, but I want to press into it more and more. Not every prayer I utter may be answered the way I expect, but if I do not pray at all, it certainly won’t! I want to partner with God, praying His will and seeing the answer come. The point of my post today is to do no more than encourage you to pray; pray more and pray bolder.

What will you ask for today? Whose life will change for the better because you prayed for them? For what will you give thanks to God for when you see Him moving?

Thanks be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ – to whom we can ask anything in His Name!


After reading the devotional you just finished, another blogger in the UK wrote a response. We’ll share that one with you tomorrow.

June 29, 2022

Second-Half-of-the-Year’s Resolutions

June 30th marks the end of the first half of 2022. With half the year to go, what are your half-year’s resolutions? We mined the archives of Christianity 201 to locate some thoughts that might direct us in the second half.

Keeping Up the Energy

It’s a known fact that many sports team lose their momentum in the second half of the game. It’s easy to get tired, weary and discouraged. The Bible doesn’t use the term energy for this, as much as it talks about zeal. Spiritual zeal and spiritual passion simply keeps going, even in the face of challenges.

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
Romans 12:11

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…
Ecclesiastes 9:10a

In May, 2015, Michael Donohoe reminded us that the particulars of your passion — especially in areas of mission and service — might be different than that of your church friends and colleagues in ministry.

The only trouble I see with passion is that it can sometimes become an obsession with the ones involved, and they can begin to expect everyone to have the same passion they have for the same thing. This is where we have to realize that God designed each of us with different gifts, abilities and passions, and they are displayed differently in each of us.

I think each of us has a passion for what God designed us to be. We may not be as outspoken or even act the same way as others with passion, but God works through us in a way that is effective according to the personality and gifts with which he designed us. We may not even realize the passion that shows through us to others, but rest assured, God will work through us to touch others with his love.

We are all designed differently, and we all act and respond in our uniqueness. I think it wrong to think we are not useful to God because we do not act like someone else. God works in us and through us based on the way he created us, each unique temples of the Holy Spirit, each making an impact on those we have contact with, through the power and love of God within us.

In August, 2020, we continued this theme:

The writer of Ecclesiastes offers this (9:10)

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.

BibleHub.com notes that Paul echoes this,

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters – Colossians 3:23

Make Good Use of the Days You’ve Got

When I was just in my teens (or perhaps even pre-teens) I first heard the scripture verse below expressed in an original song for choir and orchestra and it stuck with me for life.

Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.
– Eph 5:16 KJV, NLT

The words of that song began, “Redeem the time, the night is drawing fast…”  A Google Translate iteration of Ephesians 5:16 from Dios Habla Hoy, a Spanish Bible (below) could also be “this decisive moment.”

Well seize this critical moment, because the days are evil.

We looked at this verse in August, 2016 and wrote the following:

…As Christians, the stewardship of our time is important. In the old KJV rendering of Ephesians 5:16, they used the phrase, Redeeming the time…” More recent translators went with:

  • Make every minute count. (CEV, NASB, and others)
  • Make the best use of your time. (J. B. Phillips)
  • Don’t waste your time on useless work. (Eugene Peterson)
  • Make the most of every living and breathing moment. (The Voice)

Other verses come to mind, such as Psalm 90:12

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. (ESV)

Other translations render this;

  • Teach us how short our lives are so that we can become wise.  (ERV)
  • Teach us to use wisely all the time we have. (CEV)

Some verses remind us of the brevity of life, such as James 4:13-15

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (ESV; some translations use vapor instead of mist.)

and Proverbs 27:1

Do not boast about tomorrow,
    for you do not know what a day may bring.  (NIV)

Don’t Let the Past Dictate the Present

In January, 2017, Valarie Dunn reminded us of Abraham and Sarah.

I am reminded of the story of Abraham, who was told that his ninety-year-old wife Sarah would have a son.

Genesis 18:13-14 – Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” (NIV)

Indeed, nothing is too hard for the Lord. We are not too old, too young, too inadequate, if it is the Lord’s idea. The Lord knows what gifts we have to offer, and like the wise men, He will direct us to the place where we need to give them.

You’re Not On Your Own

Living our lives in partnership with the Holy Spirit means we’re not abandoned and having to operate by ourselves. Furthermore, coming up with plans isn’t a solo project either. In December, 2013, Enoch Anti from Ghana wrote:

Plans are good. Strategies are needed. Clear cut smart (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) goals are very necessary. But human wisdom, skill and talent is not enough to live a victorious life: “…This is the word of the LORD … Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.”  (Zechariah 4:6). On top of our plans and strategies, we also need the direction and leading of the Holy Spirit.

By Spirit-controlled living, I mean a life that is controlled by the Holy Spirit. He leads and we follow. We cannot live a Spirit-controlled life and still have control over our lives so to speak. There must be a place for the leading of the Holy Spirit of God in the life of every child of God, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the [children] of God.“ (Romans 8:14).

In January, 2014, Clay Smith echoed this idea:

There is a different way. Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Another translation would be, “Put God in charge and follow His way of thinking, and He will take care of everything else.”


For our Canadian readers, we wish you a Happy Canada Day on Friday, and for our U.S. readers, we wish you a Happy Independence Day on Monday. We hope you found this “½-New-Year’s” devotional helpful.


Our regular Thursday columnist, Clarke Dixon is a few weeks into a 14-week sabbatical, but just days in he announced the completion of a book. You can read more about what’s inside Beautiful and Believable: The Reason for My Hope, by clicking this link.

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


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