Christianity 201

April 14, 2015

Head for the Hills

Psalm 121 – The Voice

A song for those journeying to worship.

I look up at the vast size of the mountains—
    from where will my help come in times of trouble?
The Eternal Creator of heaven and earth and these mountains
    will send the help I need.

He holds you firmly in place;
He will not let you fall.
    He who keeps you will never take His eyes off you and never drift off to sleep.
What a relief! The One who watches over Israel
    never leaves for rest or sleep.

 The Eternal keeps you safe,
    so close to Him that His shadow is a cooling shade to you.
Neither bright light of sun
    nor dim light of moon will harm you.

The Eternal will keep you safe
    from all of life’s evils,
From your first breath to the last breath you breathe,
    from this day and forever.

Today’s post is from Jon Foster, a pastor in Port Hope, Ontario, Canada.

Higher Than the Hills

God can do anything, anytime, anywhere, and in any way. There’s just nothing he can’t do. Do you believe it? In Luke 1:37, the angel Gabriel was commissioned to take that message to Mary, the soon-to-be mother of Jesus. He keenly assured her that “with God nothing is impossible.” She was not too small, weak, or insignificant to benefit from the personal touch of God on her life. Later, in his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul made it clear to his readers that they too were beneficiaries of the same divine power. Speaking of God, he wrote: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

To put limits on what God can do is simply wrong. Yet we do this more often than we’d like to admit. There are times when we feel tempted to “throw in the towel” saying, “It’s hopeless! I’ve tried and tried but this is a no-win situation.” But giving up without intently looking to God for help is just another way of saying, “This is impossible… even for you, Lord.” Ouch! …and we wonder why we’re not making progress. Simply put, God can’t help us overcome obstacles that we are unwilling to face with faith.

I like to think of God as the great “Picture Changer.” He specializes in transforming what seems hopeless to us into pictures of promise and blessing. But sometimes He allows us to reach the end of our rope because it’s often only when we’re there, hanging on for dear life, that we get desperate enough to invite Him to come and take control. And when He comes, He comes not as a mere tinkerer, but one who has the power to completely alter the landscape of our lives according to His good purpose.

In Psalm 121, the psalmist wrote, “I lift up my eyes to the hills where does my help come from?” In the old days, a person fleeing for his life would often escape to higher ground; they would, as the saying goes, “head for the hills!” There were logistical (and tactical) reasons for this. Not only could “the hills” provide suitable hiding places — they also gave you a better chance of spotting your adversary before he saw you! The benefit of higher ground is even more obvious when the imminent danger is from rising floodwater. But in the very next verse we learn that the psalmist’s confidence ultimately was not in mere physical or logistical advantage. No, he had his eyes much higher than the hills! In verse 2 he declares, “My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2). The help he was looking for is the same kind of help we all need in order to be the kind of spiritual overcomers the Bible says we can be.

In these modern times (and in this part of the world), it’s easy for us to take for granted that “help is on its way.” We have developed structures and systems to ensure our well-being and, to a large degree, we have put our trust in them. But true spiritual help will not come from these “hills.” True spiritual help comes only “from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

At the beginning of a new year it’s appropriate to acknowledge our ultimate source of help and strength. We don’t know what the year will bring but we do know that there will be both challenges and blessings. And we know that we serve a God with whom “all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). Take some time to affirm your trust in God. Let him know that you are serious about walking with Him, abiding in Him, and being fruitful for Him.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank you that with you, all things are possible. Thank you for making me your child and giving me new life in Christ Jesus. Thank you for your promise to be with me each and every day and to provide the strength and help required to overcome every obstacle. Help me to walk closely with you so that others may see enough of you in my life to inspire them to put their trust in you. I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

February 24, 2015

A Cross-Carrying Kind of Life

cross at Grace ChurchThis is one of two posts in a series by Deb Wolf who blogs at Counting My Blessings. This is her third time appearing here at Christianity 201 and we do appreciate the work she does on her site; the tag line is “Encouraging you with stories of faith, hope and love.” Click the title below to read at source and/or read part two, “Jesus Answer to the Fear of Cross-Carrying.

When You Don’t Want a Cross-Carrying Kind of Faith

There is a verse in the Bible that did anything but give me peace and contentment. I tried to pretend I was obedient, but my heart knew it terrified me.

Then He [Jesus] called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. Mark 8:34–35

[Last Wednesday] was Ash Wednesday—the beginning of Lent. For the next six and a half weeks followers of Jesus will fast, pray, and ponder His journey to the cross.

Followers who are called to deny themselves, carry their cross, trust and obey . . . lose their life for Jesus.

I didn’t want to carry my cross. I liked my comfortable safe life. Sure there were some problems and pain, but life—my life, my kid’s lives, my husband’s life, complete trust and obedience . . . what could happen to a life lost to cross carrying.

My doctor and a counselor said I was “high-strung,” anxious.

Lack of Faith

I knew I was a fear-filled worrier. Seriously, I turned worry into an art form. Not surprising. Look around. Have you seen all the truly terrible things that can happen?

I didn’t want to admit it, but I knew it was lack of faith.

But that verse and others like it:

But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.” Acts 9:15–16

For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in His steps. 1 Peter 2:21

 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. Matthew 10:38

Giving Up Fear for Faith

“I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith . . . I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

It’s true. In this world there will be trials and sorrows. Worry doesn’t prevent it. Fear won’t keep it out of reach.

Trials and sorrows did happen, but.

What a small yet important word.

“You will have trials and sorrows. But take heart, because.

Take heart [don’t lose your faith], because…

I have overcome the world
I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.
Be sure of this: I am with you always.

Through trials and sorrows Jesus was faithful, and because of His faithfulness my faith grew. Faith that was greater than my fear. Faith that was impossible when I focused on my fears, but grew when I kept my eyes on Jesus.

Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Hebrews 12:1–2

January 29, 2015

Persevering Grace

Our goal at Christianity 201 is to provide representation from a wide swath of doctrinal and denominational perspectives. Today’s bears both the perspective and the language of the Reformed or Calvinist tradition. This is Richard Phillips on

God’s faithfulness to preserve His own

 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

Philippians 1:6 develops the theme of God’s preserving grace—which ensures the perseverance of His own—in three points.

First, Paul reminds us that since God has begun our salvation, we can rely on Him to complete it: “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.” God always finishes what He starts, especially the salvation of His people.

It is in this way that God’s preserving grace fits with the other doctrines of grace. God the Father chose us in eternity past, and the Bible says that God’s purpose in election must prevail (Rom. 9:11). God the Son offered an atoning sacrifice for these same elect people. Should they fall into condemnation, then His blood would have been shed for them in vain. But He insists that not one of them shall perish and none shall be plucked from His hand (John 10:28). Likewise, the Holy Spirit brought these same elect sheep to eternal life by the irresistible working of His grace. Should eternal life be lost, the Spirit’s work would prove ineffective. Therefore, as faith is the gift of God’s grace, the Christian’s perseverance is the work of God’s continuing grace.

Second, Paul says that God, having begun His work in our lives, “will bring it” to completion. This indicates that God not only guarantees the completion of our salvation, but is actively involved in the believer’s life to bring this to pass. God works in our lives in the way a craftsman works to finish a product he has created. He smooths out the lines, sands the rough places, and puts its pieces together in proper proportion. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes:

God does not merely initiate the work and then leave it, he continues with it; he leads us on, directing and manipulating our circumstances, restraining us at one time and urging us on at another. Paul’s whole conception of the Church is that it is a place where God is working in the hearts of men and women.

God’s work is manifested in His will playing out in our lives. This is what Paul says a bit later in Philippians: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:1–213). Being a Christian is not easy. Persevering in faith requires warfare with sin, labor in prayer, plowing in God’s Word, and performing His will in the world. We are God’s workmanship, Paul says, and this means we are called to “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). God will see to it that His work for each of us is carried to completion. By His preserving grace, He will carry us to our destination in heaven. We are called to work this out, but, Paul insists, God is all the while working it in us (Phil. 2:13).

Third, we can see in Philippians 1:6 our certainty of successful “completion” if God’s saving work truly has begun in us. Far from dreading the future, as we must if we look for signs of hope within ourselves, every believer possesses a hope that is certain for the most joyful, glorious, and holy destiny through faith in Jesus.

One of the reasons I love Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress is the portrait he paints of the eternity God has secured for every believer. Speaking of the believer’s entry into heaven, he writes:

I saw in my dream the two men enter the gate. As they did, they were transfigured. They had garments that shined like gold. Harps and crowns were given them. The harps for praise and the crowns for honor. Then I heard in my dream all the bells in the city rang again for joy. It was said to them, “Enter into the joy of your Lord.”

This may be a fanciful rendering from the Bible’s promises, but still it is our future history and not fantasy. For as Paul insists, God brings us to completion. One of the meanings of the Greek word translated as “bring to completion” is “bring to perfection.” That is what God has promised to do for every sheep who hears Christ’s voice and who shows the reality of his or her faith by following after Him through life. Whatever hardships, disappointments, or failures await us in this world, a Christian can anticipate the certain fulfillment of David’s exultant words in Psalm 16:11: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Terribly flawed though we all are now, God will bring our journey to completion and us to perfection, so that arrayed in perfect holiness we will live forever in His love.

This excerpt is adapted from What’s So Great about the Doctrines of Grace? by Richard Phillips

January 28, 2015

You Don’t Need to Have a Position on Every Issue

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:37 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Regular midweek contributor Clarke Dixon will return next week.

Opinion - Theological Issues

Perhaps you’ve been in churches where candidates for the position of pastor are being interviewed by the leaders or the congregation to see where they stand on particular issues. If a church has gone through a period of turmoil over specific areas of its ministries, it’s important to know which side a person takes. If there is a particular aspect of Bible teaching the church desires, it’s necessary to know the pastor’s skills on those areas. If the church members have a strong feelings toward certain doctrinal patterns, the candidate needs to be able to define their position.

This morning I was speaking briefly with a woman who I would consider as having a deep spiritual life, and in the course of discussing of something else, I asked her what her belief is concerning women in ministry.  (It made sense in context…)

She never did answer the question.

Instead, she quoted the middle sentence of three that occurs in Jeremiah 31:33:

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.

Having an opinion, or a position, on such an issue seemed almost irrelevant to her.  Although she didn’t say all this, obviously it wasn’t necessary…

  • to work it out in advance, since she was trusting God would show her His desire, His direction at whatever time it was needed; it’s not that she didn’t understand the question, but more like she didn’t understand my need to ask
  • to amass knowledge on the topic; this is something that came out in a few commentaries as I studied this passage; we put such a huge weight on diagrams, logical constructs, backing verses, etc. but none of this education ensures that we truly know the mind or the ways of God
  • to establish a position categorically; part of the holiness of God is that He is can’t be tamed, can’t be put in a box; it’s possible that the situation or context of any given issue could override the need to have a rule or policy written in stone, such as when David’s men ate the consecrated bread in the temple
  • to determine consensus; the point of the verse, and verse 34 which follows it, is that each individual will independent access to God…and will know Him. [Eerdman’s Bible Commentary, p645] hence there is no need for a collective opinion, a poll, a referendum on God’s desires
  • to practice anything less than grace; the whole point of the verse is God’s announcement of a New Covenant, something not mentioned in Jeremiah until this point

So…should the congregation ask the prospective pastor their questions as to doctrine and practices? Absolutely, but they shouldn’t expect to put God or the pastor in a box. And the individual being asked should not be evasive or mysterious, but should consider the type of answer I was given when I asked.

Or maybe there is a whole set of other questions that matter more, but we don’t know to ask them of each other.

We are simply too caught up in trying to cross ever ‘t’ and dot every ‘i’ and tying our theology together with a nice bow. Some categorical, hypothetical questions can’t be answered until you’re in the middle of the situation, and that’s where you often find that God surprises you.

 

January 6, 2015

If It Were Not So I Would Have Told You

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
Tags: , , ,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

January 3, 2015

When Your Schedule is Daunting

When I asked our friends at Daily Encouragement if that had any sources to recommend for us here at C201, they mentioned one and one only, a marriage enrichment blog by Sabra and David Penley called Simply One. However, you don’t have to have been married to see why their writing came recommended. We’ll probably draw from this resource sometime again soon, but for today, I chose the post below (because I really need to read it); click the link to read it at source; once there click the header to look around.

A Crazy Week

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

“What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time.” – Ecclesiastes 3:9-10

“…there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work…” – Ecclesiastes 3:22

I’ve had a crazy week.

100_5375

Last Sunday, I checked out the calendar to see what the schedule held in store for the next seven days. Ugh!  I was not happy with what I saw! Every single day had something extra written into the allotted square. There was a doctor’s appointment, a women’s meeting, a counseling session, helping with an extra dinner at church, two meetings at my husband’s office, getting blood-work taken, a birthday, a dinner with friends, and a Sunday School party. Those don’t include the activities that were added during the week: an unexpected trip to the dentist, my husband’s lunch with prospective students, and baking a cake for the church dinner. (My husband’s activities are included here because he isn’t able to drive, and I am his driver.)

Now, many of these things would not usually cause stress on their own. In fact, they often can be pleasurable. It’s not that I don’t enjoy dinners and birthdays and parties and getting together with friends; I just don’t enjoy them coming at once. Put them all together in one week’s schedule, and certain things are pushed aside and not achieved. Just the thought of it causes me anxiety!

How does this happen, this over-scheduling?! Obviously, I’m the one who writes it on the calendar. Don’t I notice how full the days are becoming before I make the commitments?

Nevertheless, this frenzied week was upon me. And I wasn’t happy.

As I looked at the hectic schedule shouting at me on that calendar, I felt the stress pouring through my veins. My attitude took a nosedive and an overwhelming feeling took over. All I wanted to do was sit and sulk.

That’s what I desire when I get overwhelmed. I just want to shut down and do nothing. Well, actually, it isn’t nothing. Sulking and sitting are actions…like a little kid pouting when he doesn’t get his way. Yep. That’s a pretty good description. I want to pout…and sometimes I do.

Can you relate?

It seems we need to get a handle on all of this—these out-of-control schedules that wreak havoc . So, what should we do when faced with an upcoming wild week?

I found some encouragement in Ecclesiastes 3:

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…”  “What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time…” “…there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work…” (Eccl. 3:1, 9-10, 22).

Many times we have more on our plates than we think we can handle. But His Word tells us that if God has allowed it in our day, He has a purpose in it and it is a part of His plan. We must remember this and gain a better perspective. Each activity needs to be seen as a God-given opportunity to serve Him, to find the beauty in what we do, and to rejoice in the experience.

I’ve often heard the saying: “How do you eat an elephant?…One bite at a time.”

This certainly applies here. A hectic agenda can be as overwhelming as trying to eat an elephant all at once. Yet, we can victoriously conquer a busy week by taking it day by day, hour by hour, activity by activity.

In praying about all this, I’ve found some steps to follow whenever faced with an overloaded schedule:

  1. Change what can be changed. Look to see if anything on the schedule can be postponed until a less busy week to allow some breathing room.
  2. Be sure to spend time with God every day. Don’t make the mistake of neglecting your devotions with God, thinking you just don’t have time. Find your guidance and strength for the day from the One who has the power to make it all work according to His plan. (Matt. 6:9-11)
  3. Take it one day at a time. Spend your time and place your thoughts on what must be done for this one day only.  (Matt. 6:34)
  4. Keep your focus on the current task. Don’t spend time thinking about upcoming activities. Stay present and do your best to glorify the Lord through it. (1 Cor. 10:31)
  5. Enjoy the moment. Don’t let an oversaturated schedule ruin the joy of each activity. Find the beauty in everything. (1 Thess. 5:16)
  6. Be flexible. As you go through the week, some things may get cancelled; others may need to be added.  Some usual weekly activities may need to be postponed until next week.
  7. Always be grateful and give thanks to the Lord in everything. (1 Thess. 5:18)

When a crazy week threatens to take you down, trust the Lord’s calming grace to help you stand firm and be victorious.

Dearest Father, when we are faced with an overburdened calendar and we start to be overwhelmed, give us Your perspective and guide us in each step. Fill us with Your strength and ability to be victorious and complete each needed activity with excellence, all the while rejoicing and giving thanks. Help us to keep our focus on You, Your purpose, and Your power, trusting You to make everything beautiful in Your time. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

December 28, 2014

The Metaphor of the Vinedresser, Part Two

Yesterday and today, we’re running back-to-back expositions from Jesus’ teaching in John 15, from the blog Into the Foolishness of God by Shara Case. Click the title to read at source, and take a few minutes to look around other recent articles there as well.

Fruit that Remains

rudesheim

Continuing a bit in John 15 because I love it so…

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” (v.4)

A branch isn’t a branch if it isn’t abiding. It’s a dead stick. The nature of a branch is that is is a living, producing thing. The word “abide” is used more than any other word in this passage. The very nature of the word implies a consistent, constant action. A branch isn’t sometimes connected to the Vine, it either is or isn’t. Abiding allows the branch to draw all the nutrients it needs from the Vine, and over time the result is fruit.

Christ tells us to abide, not to bear fruit. He takes on the responsibility for the fruit – it is a natural result of an abiding branch! Trying to make it on our own is like a branch striving to develop grapes, it just isn’t natural. Our whole job is to respond to His ability to do it. Hebrews 4:11 tells us to “make every effort to enter into that rest.” Jesus is telling us, “relax, I’ve got this!” We never need to worry about the fruit our lives produce, we need to abide and let it happen. He wants fruit that remains. The word talks of fruits of the spirit, fruits of righteousness and holiness as examples of this. How amazing that our entire job is just to make sure we have entered into His rest, through our abiding. What a great way to live!

Here are some more things we learned about life in the vineyard;

  • Vineyards aren’t natural. There are things in nature that flower and bear fruit naturally, without our help, but a vineyard isn’t one of them! A well organized, productive vineyard is one of the most unnatural things that could ever exist. Left to itself, will bear virtually no fruit and go totally wild. Grapevines put their energy into making leaves, not fruit. They need much guidance and care in order to produce. Too many leaves block the sun and air. Our lives can become very “leafy” if we’re not careful. From the outside, things look green and flourishing, but underneath, we aren’t experiencing any real fruit. We aren’t commanded to go forth and be leafy – our job is to bear fruit! All the extra stuff has to be taken away if we are to have quality fruit.
  • A struggling vine makes the best wine. Natural instinct would be to take the very best care of the vines, water them and tend to them so they grow strong. In reality, a vine that feels thirsty once in awhile sends it’s roots deeper in search of water and grows stronger. A vine can be very dry in a drought year and produce very little. But because it’s forced to go deeper, the next years harvest is better than ever. Artificially watering whenever dryness comes leads to lazy roots that don’t ever get strong. Vines that struggle learn to go deeper. When drought comes, it’s not a problem. It may look dry on the outside, but deep down it is secure! God is more concerned with our growth than our comfort.
  • Fruit Is Different. Vines mature with time, and so does fruit. The kind of fruit produced depends on many things, and no vine will turn out the same. Thats the great thing about our Vinedresser. He knows when we need straightening out, watered, directed, cut back, etc. Soils are different. Climates are different. But if we abide, the end result is healthy fruit that He is proud to put His name on. One of our biggest mistakes is to compare our fruit with others. We forget the Vinedresser is customizing each one of us. He takes great pride in the vineyard as a whole, but He loves the individual branches and knows just what each one needs.

ABIDE. It simply means to remain, stay, dwell, and hold on. It’s a fact that the healthiest grapes are the ones that grow closest to the vine.

Fruitfulness glorifies God. His will is done when we abide and allow Him to work on us. We have a Vinedresser that is concerned with every aspect of our growth and maturity.

I’m so thankful He lets us develop deep roots that strengthen us.

I’m thankful He doesn’t allow us to go wild and leafy.

That we would enjoy the special place we are planted and bear the exact kind of fruit the Vinedresser has in mind!

December 9, 2014

Fully Relying on God

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:37 pm
Tags: , , ,

NKJV Col 2:6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.

Fully Rely on GodToday we return to the blog Sharper Iron, where Dan Miller has run this particular devotional more than once. Click the title below to read at source.

Roller Coaster Faith

There are basically two ways to ride a roller coaster. The first is to resist the ride. You can press your feet against the floorboard and arch your back. You can grip the handle bar so hard your knuckles turn white. You can tense your jaw, tighten your abdominal muscles, and scream bloody murder as you descend the precipitous drops and are flung around the death-defying turns.

Somewhere in my rather limited experience of roller coasters, I discovered a second approach. You can actually relax on a roller coaster. Really! You can loosen your grip on the bar, relax your jaw, legs and abdominal muscles. In fact, you can take a roller coaster ride in the same physical condition and mental state of a couch potato.

Obviously, your physical state will have no influence on the roller coaster. No matter how tense or relaxed you may be, the roller coaster will not alter its route one inch or adjust its speed one iota. Either way, you will be delivered to the platform on time and in one piece. You cannot control the ride, you can only control the rider.

In a manner of speaking, this illustrates the way faith operates in the life of the believer. Like a roller coaster, life often takes us on a wild ride at speeds we are not sure we can handle and around turns and down precipitous valleys that seem to spell certain disaster. But choosing to place my faith in God, I can relax. I can rest in the realization that no amount of resistance or anxiety on my part will alter the course, but that he will sustain and uphold me as I hurl down the track of life. There are times the course seems too steep, too fast, too scary, but I can trust that God has designed the course and will get me safely to the celestial platform in one piece. And in this confidence I can rest.

No dream

The idea is not that through a process of mental gymnastics I convince myself that life is nothing but a dream—a gentle stream along which I merrily row my boat. To the contrary, I have a moral responsibility to participate in, and to fully enjoy the ride as it really is. The wind screams through my hair and the g-forces flatten my face. The turns and descents are often unpredictable. I am jostled about. I take it as a roller coaster ride because that is what it is.

Yet taking if for what it is, does not demand that I fight the ride. I can relax in the confidence that God has laid out the course and will convey me home. To say it another way, I can choose to live by faith.

But if faith is not running from reality, neither is it mere psychological transference of natural anxieties onto a higher power—whatever he, she or it may be. Genuine faith does not rest on thin air, it banks on the promises of the living God of Scripture who never lies and who rules the universe with sovereign power.

Colossians 2:6 counsels the believer: “just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him.” We received Jesus by faith. We placed our full confidence in His provision for our sin and trusted Him to get us to a heaven we cannot see and could never attain in our own strength. We rested in His grace and trusted God’s power to save. We relied not on ourselves, but rested entirely upon Him (John 1:12; 6:28-29; Ephesians 2:8-9). This is how every true believer “received Christ Jesus as Lord.”

Colossians 2:6 calls believers to go on living in this same way. That is, we are to rely on God, not upon ourselves—to fully trust him through every circumstance of life—to rest unreservedly in the truth that he is working all things together for our everlasting good and for his eternal glory (Romans 8:28-29). It is in this God and on his promises that people of faith can rest, and should.

Are you taking the screaming, twisting, climbing, plunging roller coaster of life in a state of resting faith? Perhaps you find yourself anxiously trying to control the uncontrollable today. Remember, you cannot change the ride, you can only change the rider. Actually, you can’t even do that, but God can. He is able to give you the gift of faith so that you may receive Him as Lord. And once equipped with such transforming faith, He can empower you to relax on the roller coaster ride of life and teach you to enjoy that ride all the way to the celestial platform where rest will take on a whole new dimension in His eternal presence.

December 8, 2014

How We Think About God

Peter Enns is a renown theologian and Biblical scholar who has experienced both accolades and controversy. In this simple article he published last week — click the title below to read at his blog — he presents ten scripture passages that he feels have informed his picture of God. What verses would you add to the list?

10 New Testament passages that shape how I think about God

1. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his suffering by becoming like him in his death… (Phil 3:10). Both suffering and resurrection—times of great difficulty and times of triumph—are expected and normal parts of the Christian life.

2. …unless you change and become like children… (Matt 18:3). As children trust their parents with no thought of an alternative, Christians are called to trust God—which is both comforting and challenging.

3. …do not worry about your life…look at the birds…consider the lilies… (Matt 7:25-34). Worry should be as impossible for followers of Christ as it is for birds and plants, which by definition are incapable of worry.

4. …the truth will make you free… (John 8:32). The truth—knowing Christ—will make you free, namely free from yourself to be free toward God.

5. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us… (1 John 4:12). The difficult and often counter-intuitive act of loving one another is the closest we get to seeing God.

6. But while he was still far off, the father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran… (Luke 15:20). The parable of the lost (or, mistakenly, “prodigal”) son. The father has no thought of judgment toward the son, only welcome…and he can’t wait to get started.

7. …your life is hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3). Intimacy (union) with God is the present reality and hoped for goal of the Christian life.

8. …there is no longer Jew or Gentile…slave or free…male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28). What humans use to divide between each other for power and control—ethnicity, economy, gender—mean nothing to God.

9. Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? (John 8:10). Whereas our tendency is to punish and exact holy retribution, Jesus shows us that God’s default mode is to forgive and encourage us to move on and begin anew.

10. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth… on either side of the river is the tree of life… Rev 21:1; 22:2). The entire biblical story is summed up. The Bible ends where it begins; creation is restored. Everything else in between, God’s story as a whole from Abraham to Christ, is about how God makes that happen.

October 18, 2014

Give Me This Mountain

I was enjoying the lyrical depths of a playlist of songs by Graham Kendrick and was particularly drawn to the song Give Me This Mountain (Caleb’s Song). I decided to post it on Thinking Out Loud by itself, but wanted to at least include the scripture reference. The video annotation reads:

A song about a Biblical encounter between Caleb and God. Caleb was called ‘wholehearted’ by God and was allowed to enter the promised land.

I decided to investigate that further, first in scripture,

Numbers 14:24 But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.

and then when I landed on the blog of Harvest Pointe Fellowship in Evans, Georgia. Once there, I knew I had to include it here at C201.  Click the title below — a reference to Caleb’s character before God — to read it at source.

Wholehearted -Joshua 14

Besides God, there are two main characters throughout this stage of our study of Joshua: obviously Joshua is one of them, and the other is Caleb. Caleb is one of the spies who entered the Promised Land the first time– all the other spies gave reports of giants and fortified cities and how it would be impossible to take this land but Caleb (and Joshua) stuns everyone by boldly proclaiming that they should enter the land because God had already given them the victory. No one listened to him and the children of Israel are forced to wander the wilderness once more. We should not be surprised to learn that the name “Caleb” comes from Hebrew and means “wholehearted”. Caleb is a man who lived his entire life with wholehearted devotion to God’s purpose.

…Caleb is one of the unsung heroes of the Bible. He stands as a shining example of one who never lost his edge spiritually. He himself said at age 85, “I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and coming in” (Joshua 14:11 NKJV). This demonstration of courage must have unnerved the other men. They may even have thought him senile.

At this point of our study of Joshua, God’s people have taken much of the long awaited Promised Land and Joshua was dispensing portions of it to the tribes. However, Caleb steps forward to claim that which had been promised him by Moses. In fact, Caleb asks for the land that he had surveyed as much younger man.

In response, Joshua granted his faithful friend Caleb what he asked. He gives Caleb Hebron. The old man proved he had not yet exhausted his courage, when he said:

Now therefore, give me this mountain [the land of Hebron] of which the Lord spoke in that day. . (Joshua 14:10–12 NKJV)

The other men of Israel must have breathed a sigh of relief that Caleb had chosen this portion of land. This was not some beautiful, green pasture; it was one of the most treacherous mountainous areas of the Promised Land. Even more problematic was the fact that formidable adversaries inhabited this land. This was the home of the sons of Anak, the very same giants that terrified the 10 spies sent by Moses. No one wanted to take on the giants except 85-year-old Caleb. Can’t you just envision him holding up that muscular old arm, saying, “Give me this mountain”?

I love the boldness of this man of God. I can just see Caleb running up that mountain. I can see him as he slays his adversaries. He was victorious. He had been strong all those years and he finished well.

Let me share several principles with we learn from Caleb’s life that can give us this same spiritual stamina we need to run and indeed finish in the race of life well.

1. Follow the Lord 100 percent. Scripture says again and again that Caleb “wholly followed the Lord.” It’s in Joshua 14:8–9 and verse 14: Joshua blessed Caleb and gave the old man what he asked because “he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel.”

This is clearly a key to Caleb’s spiritual success. But what does it mean to “wholly follow the Lord”? It means that you must fully follow our Lord not halfheartedly, but completely. One hundred percent.

Are you wholly following the Lord your God? If you are not, you will eventually be picked off. It is only a matter of time until you become a casualty in the race of life.

2. Don’t compromise—stand your ground. At the risk of being ostracized, Caleb took a stand for what he knew was true. He knew he needed to be more concerned with God’s approval than man’s approval. And for this, he was rewarded.

As you walk with the Lord, you will face many temptations to cave in to peer pressure, to do what everybody else does. But if you are going to fully follow the Lord, then, like Caleb, you must make this principle operative in your life. Stand firm and seek God’s pleasure, no one else’s.

3. Take God at His Word. Caleb didn’t win immediate entrance to the Promised Land. First, he had to wander around with those ungrateful, complaining Israelites for 40 years. They said things like “We remember the good old days back in Egypt, where we had garlic, leeks, and onions.”

Despite the Israelites’ childish clinging to conjured memories, Caleb hung on to the promises of God. He knew God would be faithful, regardless of the time frame. Caleb trusted God’s word to him. We can do the same.

4. Long for fellowship with your God. Caleb asked for a place in the Promised Land called Hebron. There is something very interesting about the name Hebron, which—in the original language—means “fellowship, love, and communion.” Hebron is where Abraham met with God face-to-face and received the promise of the new land in the first place.

Caleb yearned for fellowship with God. While the other Israelites longed for Egypt, Caleb longed for Hebron. While the others looked back in dread, Caleb looked forward with fearless anticipation. While others wanted to please themselves, Caleb wanted only to please God.

This is an essential key to spiritual longevity. You must always move forward. You must always seek to grow spiritually and never look back. That’s what will keep you going.

If you are living this Christian life for others’ applause, you won’t make it. You have to run empowered by your love for God.

Questions for thought:

1. Have you ever felt resentful or burdened by something God was calling you to do?
2. One justification for not helping or serving is that feel we need time for ourselves, for our studies, for our work, for our own rest. While easy to understand, what do you think is wrong with this mindset?
3. When was the last time you felt excited and even proud to have the chance to serve? What made that situation so different?
4. What are some practical ways you can begin to see serving God as your privilege rather than your burden?

 

October 16, 2014

God Has Done the Big Thing

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:43 pm
Tags: , , ,

It wasn’t intentional, but today we have a post from Stephen Altrogge at Thinking Out Loud, and below, a post by Mark Altrogge here at C201.  This topic appears very simple, but I had to read it twice to get all the nuances. To read this at The Blazing Center blog, click the title below:

God Has Done The Big Thing. Surely He’ll Take Care Of The Lesser Things.

Israel had a short memory.

They had been miserable slaves to the king of Egypt who seemed to have all power over their lives. They had no means of escape, yet God heard their groaning, and struck Pharaoh and Egypt with plague after plague, then brought Israel out of Egypt loaded with their gold and silver. Then God miraculously split the Red Sea and brought his people through on dry ground, then Israel watched the sea come back together and engulf the Egyptian chariots who pursued them.

Though God delivered them and provided for them again and again, they couldn’t seem to remember his faithfulness. In their unbelief, every new challenge they faced made them doubt the goodness of their God. They failed to make this important connection: If God did the big thing for them, he’d surely do lesser things. If God delivered them out of Egypt, he’d surely provide for their needs.

A short memory wasn’t just the problem of the generation who left Egypt. It was Israel’s constant failure over the years. We see God reminding his people again in Psalm 81:

I relieved your shoulder of the burden;
your hands were freed from the basket.
In distress you called, and I delivered you;
I answered you in the secret place of thunder; (6-7)

I am the LORD your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. PS 81.10

God says to his people: Don’t forget who I am: I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. I did the big thing. I saved you when you couldn’t save yourselves. So ask me to provide for you – open your mouth wide – expect me to meet your needs – and I will fill it – I’ll do the lesser thing and answer your prayers and provide for you.

We too need to remember this truth: God did the big thing for us – he saved us from our sins and his wrath by sending his only Son to live and die and rise for us – surely he will do the lesser things – provide, protect and help us.

God has done the big thing – he saved us. Surely he’ll take care of all the lesser things we need.

God could say to us:

I am the Lord your God,
who brought you up out of your land of Egypt – your slavery to sin, your misery, your condemnation and hopelessness.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it – ask me and I’ll give you all you need.

Romans 8:32 puts it this way:

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

God gave up his most valuable thing – his Son Jesus on the cross – he sent Jesus to be broken and to pour out his blood for sin, then he poured out his horrific wrath upon his Son’s soul, withdrawing every shred of mercy and love from Jesus’ awareness. He did this for us all. After doing this, how will he not graciously give us all lesser things? Surely God will give us all we need to glorify him. Surely he will give us mercy and grace and strength and help. Surely he’ll provide for our needs.

So open your mouth wide and God will fill it. Open your mouth today in praise and thanksgiving. Open your mouth wide in prayer. Ask for whatever you wish. Nothing will be greater than Jesus. Open your mouth wide in expectation that your heavenly Father will answer your prayers.

October 12, 2014

The Shepherd’s King

Today we look at the basics of Psalm 23. The author is Allan Connor, author and retired missionary. This is actually the first three of a number of shorter devotions; we’ll run the balance as Allan makes them available.

sheep in green pastureDavid, great King of Israel, had known the rugged life of a common sheep farmer – the hectic, 24 hour-a-day lambing season at the end of winter; the search for good summer pasture on far away fields, bedding down in a make-shift tent; the care of sick and wounded sheep; the never-ending battle with wild animals. He had cared for his sheep. Now, in the 23rd Psalm, he sees his experiences as a metaphor for God’s care.

The Bible Society’s Contemporary English Version of the Psalm provides a fresh translation so I thought it good to include it in full. Read it slowly and refresh your spirit. Take a few minutes to reflect on how these verses apply to your own life over the years.

“You, Lord, are my shepherd. I will never be in need.
You let me rest in fields of green grass.
You lead me to streams of peaceful water,
And you refresh my life.
You are true to your name, and you lead me along the right paths.
I may walk through valleys as dark as death, but I won’t be afraid.
You are with me, and your shepherd’s rod makes me feel safe.
You treat me to a feast, while my enemies watch.
You honor me as your guest, and you fill my cup until it overflows.
Your kindness and love will always be with me each day of my life,
And I will live forever in your house, Lord.”

Note the words “shepherd’s rod” in verse 4. The Hebrew text actually mentions two items carried by the shepherd: a club to defend against wild animals and a long pole to guide and control the sheep.


David writes in Psalm 23 that the Lord leads him “along the right paths.” But look how it’s done – from the front! When the shepherd has brought his sheep out of the sheepfold, “he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:4). No cajoling or beating here; just solid leadership. The sheep follow automatically because they have learned to trust their master.

Think of the meaning for us! The great God, the God who built the universe and everything in it, will go on ahead of us, if we are his sheep. He’ll search out the places and the circumstances so nothing happens by accident. What a tremendous comfort – being in his will! But there is an important caution: The shepherd must have control. Here is a story:

John D. Rockefeller, America’s richest industrialist, owned a large oil refinery in Cleveland, Ohio. Not far away stood a shabby wooden shop where an older man sold peanuts and penny candy. As Rockefeller passed the store day after day, he felt sorry for the vendor. One late afternoon he stopped for a chat.

“My good fellow,” he began, “why don’t you come and work for me. I’ll give you a decent wage, holidays with pay, health benefits and a pension.” “I don’t know,” the man replied. I’ll have to think about it.” Rockefeller’s brow registered his surprise .

“Alright, take your time, then.“ Rockefeller answered.

A couple of week later, the industrialist stopped in again. “So,” he said, expecting a positive answer this time, “what’s the verdict?”

“Well, sir, it’s like this. Your offer is a fine one but I have to turn it down. I’ve decided that I want to run my own business.” Rockefeller knew by the tone that persuasion would fall on deaf ears. He pulled at the brim of his hat and strode briskly to the door. Now compare this:

Jim Elliot, while studying at Wheaton College in 1949, wrote in his journal, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jim was killed in 1956 by Huaorani Indians of Ecuador , the very people he had come to share the Gospel with.


King David tells us, “I may walk through valleys as dark as death, but I won’t be afraid. You are with me and your shepherd’s rod makes me feel safe” (Psalm 23:4). David may well have been thinking of the numerous times his enemies had tried to kill him; yet he wasn’t afraid. He knew how to deal with fear. How does this apply to us?

We don’t have to face such life-threatening situations. But there is a universal fear that can harass us. It crosses all human barriers; no social group, class or country is immune. It is the fear of death.

The CEV translation above uses the words, “valleys as dark as death.” This phrase may also be rendered, “valley of the shadow of death,” as in the King James Version. The fear of death really is more like a shadow – it hangs around. It clings.

So how do we shake this fear? What is the shepherd’s rod that makes us feel safe? We get rid of the fear of death by receiving life – the life that Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, will give us under his own terms.

John 3:16 is one of the best known verses of Scripture. Here it is: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” For years I read this verse thinking only of its application to death and eternal life in heaven. It means that, of course; it is the Shepherd’s rod. But it also means much more.

The apostle Paul says, ”if anyone is in Christ, he (or she) is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17). I receive this brand-new life the very moment I place my faith in Christ as savior! So it’s like a two-for-one deal! I become a child of God, receive a new nature and at the same time don’t have to wait to become comfortable with death. As I learn to trust Jesus on earth I become comfortable with trusting him about my eternal life in heaven.

~Allan Connor

September 4, 2014

The Timing of the One who Exists Outside of Time

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:21 pm
Tags: , , ,

This is part two from Steven C. Mills of Steve’s Bible Meditations, and again you’re encouraged to read this at source and visit the rest of the blog. If you’re a grandparent, you might also enjoy Steve’s other blog, Poppy’s New Adventure. Click the title below to read today’s devotional at source. If you missed part one, you’ll find it there on July 4th, as well as here yesterday.

 

Wait Training, Part 2: The Inscrutability of God – Isaiah 40:28-29

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power” (Isaiah 40:28-29, NASB).

When we wait upon the Lord, our faith is actually strengthened because the act of waiting develops God’s perspective in us. In other words, it’s Wait Training!

“Waiting upon the Lord” causes you to rise above your present circumstances to get a higher view, a more objective view, a God-view of them. From that vantage point, you can gain perspective about what it is that you are hoping and trusting God to do and thereby develop a better understanding of God’s plans and purposes for you.

When you follow the advice to “wait upon the Lord” (vs. 31), it’s easy to see why you must wait on God to act and to perform His will when you consider it within the context of the previous verses. God is the Everlasting Creator of the universe. Time and space exist only within His Infinite realm (vs. 28). So, He proceeds about the business of performing His will at the perfect pace!

While we can ascertain God’s intentions–His goodness and our redemption–we can’t always perceive His timing. We can only know that because He is the Everlasting Creator of the universe that His timing is perfect. He doesn’t need to hurry up because He’s fallen behind or slow down because He’s gotten ahead. He’s at the right place at the right time doing just the right thing!

But because God is not limited by time and space and we are, He is inscrutable to us. We can’t always know what His timing is nor do we have the capacity or authority to question or mistrust His timing. That’s why we wait on it. That’s why we wait on the Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the universe who is always at the right place at the right time doing just the right thing.

Rather than scrutinize God’s timing, we must wait upon and trust in and hope for the One Who Is Inscrutable. Then, our faith is strengthened and we are empowered to do His will!

Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.  (Psalm 27:14, NASB)


If you missed it, click back to Saturday (August 30th) for the song More Power To Ya by Petra, which really fits this theme.


Some days I really struggle with the idea that it seems so few Christian writers are willing to try their hand at writing devotional literature.  But six months ago I discovered this page at CBN. It’s good to know that there are others out there who prioritize the gift of encouragement and the gift of teaching and are willing to take the time to write out thoughts that will strengthen and encourage others. If you find yourself looking for something at other times of day, bookmark the page and then ask God to lead you to a particular author and click their name.

September 3, 2014

Building Spiritual Muscles: Wait Training

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:25 pm
Tags: , , ,

Today is the first of two “borrowings” we’re going to do from Steven C. Mills at the blog Steve’s Bible Meditations. We have a rule here of not going to the same source more than once every six months, but because we’re going to run both parts of this, today and tomorrow I am going to ask you really strongly today to click the title to read this at Steve’s blog and send him some ‘stats love.’ Then take a few minutes to look around the rest of the blog.

Wait Training – Isaiah 40:31

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31, KJV).

When I was younger, we often sang this verse at prayer meetings or Bible studies as a song. Then, at the end of the verse we added this refrain to the song: “Teach me Lord, teach me Lord, to wait.”

The Hebrew word that is translated “they that wait upon” in the KJV finds its root in another Hebrew word that means to wait or look for, to hope for or expect. The sense of the waiting in this verse is eager expectation or anticipation. So, the NIV translates it as “those who hope” and the HCSB translates it as “those who trust.”

Unfortunately, when we talk about “waiting upon the Lord,” it’s not necessarily waiting with hopeful anticipation, but more like waiting with dreaded apprehension! For us, waiting upon the Lord is exceedingly distressful and practically unbearable. Instead of eagerly waiting upon the Lord, we impatiently wait upon the Lord.

But “waiting upon the Lord” is a discipline that is actually related to “trusting in the Lord” or “hoping in the Lord.” In fact, I would argue that “waiting upon the Lord” is the same thing as “having faith in God” or trusting or hoping in God.

Here’s what I mean. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as: the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (KJV). Faith is substantively comprised of hoping for outcomes that haven’t yet occurred. So, to me, “having faith” is a lot like “hoping for,” which is technically the same as “waiting upon.”

To hope for some outcome and hope that God is going to do it, we have to wait for God for it; we have to wait for God to work according to His will! Paul explained in Romans 8:25: “But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (KJV).

But this verse has a lot more to teach us about waiting on the Lord than just informing us that we should do it. This powerful verse tells us why we should wait upon the Lord. It explains the spiritual value and benefits of waiting upon the Lord. When we wait upon the Lord, our faith is strengthened because it develops God’s perspective in us so that our faith can sustain us spiritually both in the short-term and the long-term! It’s Wait Training!

To see what I mean, let’s unpack Isaiah’s metaphors in this verse.

“Waiting upon the Lord” causes us to rise above our present circumstances to get a higher view, a more objective view, a God-view of them (“soar with wings like eagles”). From that vantage point, you can gain perspective about what it is that you hoping and trusting God to do and then develop a better understanding of God’s plans and purposes for you. And when you better perceive what His will is, then you will have the resolve and the willpower to accomplish His will in your present circumstances unhesitantly and without wavering (“run and not grow weary”). And, this willingness to do God’s will that you develop in your present circumstances will lead you into a lifestyle of continually and confidently hoping and trusting in God for all that you do and ask Him for in your life (“walk and not faint”).

And the end result of this waiting is that your faith is strengthened, it’s renewed. It becomes faith with precision and fidelity, faith aligned with God’s will. It becomes front-end faith instead of should-have-been faith. It becomes proactive rather than reactive faith. After all, wouldn’t you rather be having faith for what you know God wants to do instead of hoping what you want to do is what God wants?

When you’re waiting upon the Lord for what you know He wants to do, then you wait with eagerness, expectancy, anticipation.

So, teach me, Lord, teach me, Lord, to wait!

But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13, NASB)

September 2, 2014

The 8.3% Who Dare

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:19 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on to the other side of the sea while He dismissed the crowd. 23 Then, after the crowd had gone, Jesus went up to a mountaintop alone (as He had intended from the start). As evening descended, He stood alone on the mountain, praying.

In the midst of the burdens of life and ministry, like when news of John’s death reaches Him, Jesus seeks refreshment in solitary prayer.

24 The boat was in the water, some distance from land, buffeted and pushed around by waves and wind. 25 Deep in the night, when He had concluded His prayers, Jesus walked out on the water to His disciples in their boat. 26 The disciples saw a figure moving toward them and were terrified.

Disciple: It’s a ghost!

Another Disciple: A ghost? What will we do?

Jesus: 27 Be still. It is I. You have nothing to fear.

Peter: 28 Lord, if it is really You, then command me to meet You on the water.

Jesus: 29 Indeed, come.

Peter stepped out of the boat onto the water and began walking toward Jesus. 30 But when he remembered how strong the wind was, his courage caught in his throat and he began to sink.

Peter: Master, save me!

31 Immediately Jesus reached for Peter and caught him.

Jesus: O you of little faith. Why did you doubt and dance back and forth between following Me and heeding fear?

32 Then Jesus and Peter climbed in the boat together, and the wind became still. 33 And the disciples worshiped Him.

Disciples: Truly You are the Son of God.

(Matthew 14:22-33, The Voice)

The title we used for today’s post will become clearer when you read the title of the original article below, which you should click to read this at source. The writer is Matt Appling at the blog The Church of No People. (Yes, we’re breaking our six month rule, but I like Matt’s writing.)

For Every Person Who Jumps Out of the Boat, There Are Eleven Who Stay

I’ve been thinking a lot about the story of Peter getting out of the boat this weekend.

You know, the one where the disciples see Jesus walking on the water and they think he’s a ghost. And so Peter dares the “ghost” to tell him to come out on the water.

And before Peter can even think twice, he acts recklessly and steps out of the boat.

There are very few times in our lives when we actually get a chance to step out of the boat, to take a big step of faith, not knowing if we are going to sink. Peter took his chances.

I’ve also been thinking about something else.

The eleven guys who did not get out of the boat.

I wonder what they said to one another.

“What is Peter doing?”

“That’s a bad idea.”

“He is going to sink!”

“I’ve read a blog about these guys who try to walk on water. I don’t agree with it.”

See, every precious time we get the chance to step out of our boat, there is going to be eleven (or a lot more) people who stay in the boat, and tell us why we should stay put. They are the concerned friends who urge “discernment.” They are the experts who prophesy disaster at every turn. They are the barely-informed Christians who think they have well-reasoned moral objection.

I have been seriously struggling with this recently, knowing that I have made choices, I have gotten out of my boat. And there are plenty of people who have an opinion about that. Mob mentality is alive and well and it keeps us in fear of ever leaving the little boundaries of the boats we are in.

“We are all in the same boat,” they say. Maybe it’s because no one is allowed to leave the boat.

All of the people in the boat mean well. But the result is the same. The voices of fear, anxiety, safety, guilt or shame always try to crowd in and hold us back. They try to tell us that our faith is too reckless. They try to tell us that God wants us to stay safely in the boat. They try to convince us that we are doing something wrong by getting out of the boat.

For every man who has the faith to leave the boat, there are eleven others telling him to stay.

You know, the hardest part of getting out of the boat might not be seeing the wind and the waves that are about to crash into us, but shutting out the voices who try to hold us back, wondering what could have been.

 

Next Page »

The Rubric Theme. Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 159 other followers