Christianity 201

July 20, 2020

Incomplete Devotion

Today we’re introducing a source which is new to us, Meanderings of a Minister by Pastor Jack Jacob. (I tried to learn more, but couldn’t 100% map his name to a church site which mentioned the blog.) There are some great articles here which fit in well with what we do here, though we only repeat authors every six months. I hope you’ll click through to his site and read one or two more. Click the header below to send Jack some traffic and encouragement and read the article there.

Not Complete

The Lord said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in executing what is right in My eyes, and have done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in My heart, your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.” But Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart; he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel sin. (2 Kings 10:30–31, NASB95)

Many people do not know the name, Jehu.  Jehu was king in Israel and was used of God to do some disturbing and amazing things.  Years prior, God had told King Ahab that his sins would cause his family to be decimated and he would no longer have a male descendant to be on the throne after him.  Ahab had repented and God said He would relent until the life of Ahab’s son.  Jehu carried out that punishment.

Jehu went even further in carrying out God’s plans for revival of true worship by destroying idols, tearing down shrines to other gods, and killing those who were leading Israel to worship other gods.  He went throughout the land leading a revival.  He even got a young man to go with him to witness the purifying of religion in Israel.  In 2 Kings 10:30-31, God told Jehu that he had done well in executing the justice and judgment of God on Ahab and in leading the people to do right in their worship and individual lives.

With all the good and big things Jehu did for God, 2 Kings 10:31 tells us that he was not careful to walk in the Law of the Lord, the God if Israel, “with all his heart.”  In other words, while he had been faithful in the public, external, or “big” things, he was not careful to let that be translated into devotion with his heart.  He had failed to follow God in his own personal devotion to God and in the consistency of his walk with God.  How could this be?

When Solomon died, Rehoboam became king of Israel.  When he failed to use wisdom, and in accordance with God’s warning to Solomon, the kingdom split in two with ten tribes following Jeroboam and retaining the name of Israel.  The remaining two tribes remained loyal to the house of David and became Judah.  Jerusalem was in Judah.  That would mean for those who had sided with Jeroboam, they would have to travel to Jerusalem to worship to obey the Law.  Jeroboam did not want this to happen probably from fear of losing control of them or a desire on the side of the people to reunify after a while, so he had two golden calves built and placed them in the cities of Bethel and Dan.  He told Israel that these idols were the god that had delivered them from Egypt and insisted they worship the idols instead of going to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple where God had told them to go.

As good as Jehu had done on the bigger, more public issues, he had allowed this to continue and was inconsistent in the reforms he had instituted.  God’s evaluation is in 2 Kings 10:31.  He had done great in the bigger things, but not in his heart or the things of personal devotion.

If we are not careful, we will be tempted follow the same pattern.  We will do well in the larger, public issues like teaching our Sunday School classes, singing in the choir, or serving as a deacon and miss out on consistency in our private devotion to God.  We do not have to be hypocrites for this to settle into our lives.  Sometimes, it is just a matter of losing focus and beginning to be drawn into habits or patterns of behavior that are less consistent than the full devotion God deserves from us.

What “gods” have crept into your heart, your home, your habits, your health, or other areas that are not as consistent as your church attendance, giving, or service?  Let’s pray God will work in us to make us complete and filled up with Him and His Holy Spirit.

Unrelated: Earlier today our parent blog, Thinking Out Loud posted an article about the Bible translation used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the New World Translation. Although the article was a somewhat superficial look at the translation, and not their doctrine, some of you may be interested in reading it and comparing the wording of popular verses. If so, click this link.

January 25, 2020

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

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

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

Ten Years with God

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was phone call interviews on my lunch break.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I can say, after ten more years with God, “How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.” (Psalm 31:19)


October 17, 2018

No Turning Back

Today we’re highlighting the writing of Jeffrey Youngblood from Tyler, Texas who appears here for the first time. His blog is titled Thoughts of a Blessed Man. We narrowed it down to four articles and they were all so good I wish we could run them all. Click the title to read this one at source.

Burn the Ships

I love to read. Specifically, I love to read history. One of the stories that piqued my interest the most as I was growing up was the story of a Spanish Conquistador named Hernando Cortez(writing about him does not mean I endorse him). This man was a ruthless leader who conquered most of present day Mexico for Spain. He never had to worry much about his men deserting him, because when they landed in this “new world,” his first order of business was to set ablaze to their only way back home… He burned the ships. Cortez had a goal in mind, and nothing was going to stop him from reaching the fame and fortune he was looking for in this new world.

This man had no idea where he was going. There were no maps he could purchase in Spain prior to leaving. He knew one thing for sure. If he left an avenue back to where he came from, the men in their times of uncertainty would gladly run home.

Pursuing something new can be exciting, but also terrifying at the same time. Trying to develop new habits or lifestyles is difficult to do, but there is an end goal in sight. As a follower of Christ, we start out on our journey much like Cortez, by faith. We are serving a God that we cannot see.

The easy thing to do is return where we came from, but the difficult thing to do in any situation is to destroy the way back. We all have a past. Some of us have a past that we hope we can forget (or at least part of it), others are indifferent, and others have a great past. The only thing about pasts, though, is that it is a place we cannot return or remain. We cannot camp out in the past and not move forward. The apostle Paul discussed this in Philippians.

Not that I  have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

Paul was probably more mature in his walk with God than me… and by probably I mean certainly. He had it figured out. His past in people’s eyes differed based on who you asked. He thought for the longest time he was doing the right thing until Jesus Christ knocked him to the ground. He realized quickly that he needed to be leading a very different life, if he was going to obtain the prize. Paul went through so much, but he knew that he could not look back.

Paul burned the ships.

The author of Hebrews decided to chime in with Paul and offer some advice to us as well.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

The advice given is to get rid of some stuff in our life, and run the race that is in front of us. In our walk with God, we need to keep our momentum going forward. Moving backwards is not an option for a Christian.

If we are not careful our past seems better. Our past seems easier. Our past is something we know. Familiarity can be dangerous. We all know people who are living in the past (I even see some mullets floating around Tyler every once in a while). The past will handicap our ability to move forward into the plans that Jesus Christ has laid out specifically for you and me.

It is time to burn some ships. Remove the possibility of going back, and decide today that the only option is to go forward and possess the things that God has planned for you. Looking over your shoulder will be useless, because you will have destroyed the only vehicle to your past.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Get to burning and move forward.

September 27, 2017

The Fresh Start of Repentance

Life doesn’t always hand us an opportunity to redo every mistake we’ve made, but in Christianity, through grace and repentance we can go back to where we faltered, and ask God for a fresh start. But it’s more than just the confession of particular failings. It can also mean repentance of being on the wrong path, choosing an errant lifestyle, or even misunderstanding God’s truth.

We’re paying a return visit to Rick Joyner; click the title below to read this at source.

A Special Grace

Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to Thee in a time when Thou may be found;
surely in a flood of great waters they shall not reach him (Psalm 32:6).

There is often a tendency in Christians not to really seek the Lord until we get into a crisis situation. Then we seek Him earnestly. We see this same pattern with Israel in the Old Testament. This is a primary reason why many stay in a seemingly perpetual state of crisis. As we are told in Matthew 7:21-27:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven;
but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.

“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in Your name,
and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’
“And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them,
may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock.

“And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house;
and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock.

“And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them,
will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand.

“And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew,
and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall.”

As we read here, just calling Jesus Lord does not guarantee that we will enter the kingdom of heaven. We must do His will. To call Him Lord and not do what He says disqualifies us from being believers, and makes us obvious unbelievers. How could we really know the glorious King of kings and not do what He says? To know that He is God and not obey Him is an ultimate delusion. This delusion leads to many tragedies and failures when the floods of life come.

One of our ultimate quests should therefore be to hear the words of the Lord. As we are told in John 10:4: “When he (the good Shepherd) puts forth all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.” The obvious counterpoint here is that if we do not know His voice we will not follow Him. However, hearing His words and obeying them are two different things. Many glory in how well they hear the Lord, but they do not do what He says. We must count His words as the unfathomable treasures that they are. When the Lord gives us direction we should write it in a journal, reviewing it often to see how we have complied with our King’s directives.

If you are in confusion about how to hear from the Lord, go back and review the things that you know He has directed you to do. These are things like prayer, reading the Bible, fellowship, etc., all of which are directives that are clearly given to us in Scripture. As we obey these we will begin walking in the light, and the light will make our paths, and His voice, increasingly clear. As we are told in Proverbs 4:18:

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.

If we are on the right road, things should be getting brighter. If we are on the wrong road, things will be getting darker and more confused. If our path is not getting brighter and clearer every day, then we have departed from the right path somewhere. In the Lord the wrong path never turns into the right path. The only way for us to get back on the right path is to go back to the point where we made the wrong turn. That is called repentance.

Repentance is not only a good thing—it is one of the greatest Christian truths. In Christ we can actually go back to where we made a mistake and start over and get it right. In Acts 11:18 we read the response of the Jewish believers after hearing Peter’s testimony about going to the house of Cornelius: “And when they heard this, they quieted down, and glorified God, saying, ‘Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.’” Eight of the most powerful words in Scripture are found in this verse: “God has granted . . . the repentance that leads to life.” Repentance is a special grace that God grants, and it leads to life.

September 3, 2016

Enoch Walked With God – Part Two

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More from pastor and author Rick Joyner.

Day 127 – You Will Prophesy

Another remarkable characteristic about Enoch is that he is the first one recorded in Scripture to have prophesied (see Jude 14). Prophecy is a definite product of walking with God. When we walk with God, so that we are changed into His image, we will begin to see with His eyes, hear with His ears, and understand with His heart. God is beyond time. He sees from the perspective of eternity. To Him the future is just as clear as the present. Because of this, Enoch, who lived in the days of Adam, was able to look all the way to the end and see the second coming of the Lord with His hosts.

It is fitting that Enoch should prophesy of events all the way at the end of this age, since he is a prophetic model of the church at the end. The church at the end is going to walk with God, prophesy, and be caught up into the heavens to be with Him. That is why we see in Acts 2:17-18:

     ‘”And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit
     upon all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
     and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;
     Even upon My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days
     pour forth of My Spirit and they shall prophesy.'”

Enoch was the first one after the Fall to recover the most important purpose for our creation, to walk with God. And when he did, he could not help but to prophesy. Why is this?

First, prophecy is not just predicting the future, but it is speaking on God’s behalf. Man was created to be God’s representative on the earth, to speak for Him. Remember, Jesus, the One all things were made through and for, is called “the Word of God.” It was by His Word that all things were made, and His Word, His communication, is found in everything that was made. That is why Jon Amos Comenius said “Nature is God’s second book.” This was a paraphrase of what Paul wrote in the first chapter of Romans, that the Lord is revealed in everything that was made.

God speaks. He made His creation to speak through, and man was the crowning glory of His creation. He made man in His image to represent Him, which includes speaking for Him. That is why it appears that everyone in Scripture who walked with God also prophesied. If we can recover our basic purpose to walk with God, we will also recover our basic purpose to speak for Him.

This is also your destiny. When you were redeemed it was the first step toward recovering the ultimate purpose that you were created for—to walk with God, and to represent Him on the earth. Because He is the Word, He speaks. We cannot represent Him without speaking for Him. That is why we are told in Ephesians 4:29:

     “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth,
     but only such a word as is good for edification
     according to the need of the moment,
     that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Because Jesus Himself is the Word, words have infinite value. Words have power, for good or evil. Words have changed the world far more than armies or politics. Therefore, if we are walking with God, our goal should be for our words to be His words. As we are told in Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

What is the fruit of our words? Do they impart reconciliation, faith, love, joy, peace, and patience—the fruit of His Spirit? Do our words represent what the Lord is saying in that situation? Do they impart grace to those who hear them? If we are walking with God, they will, and we will also speak for Him. As the Word Himself told us in Luke 6:45:

     “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good;
     and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil;
     for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”

Is Jesus the One who fills our hearts? If so, we will speak His words.

Nowhere in Scripture does it say that you cannot do what Enoch did. The greatest testimony of the last day church will be that she walked with God, and she “was not,” because God took her, so she did not even have to taste death. She did not have to taste death because she died daily to herself by walking with Him every day, taking up her cross daily to sacrifice anything that was required to walk with Him. This is the ultimate quest of man. It is your ultimate quest—to walk with God.

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September 2, 2016

Enoch Walked With God – Part One

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Today we pay the first of two consecutive return visits to the blog of Rick Joyner at MorningStar Ministries. Click the title to read at MorningStar Daily Devotions:

Day 126 – Walking With God

One of the shortest, but most remarkable stories in Scripture is found in Genesis 5:22-24:

      Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years
     after he became the father of   Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters.
     So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years.
     And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.

Concerning this we read in Hebrews 11:5:

     By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death;
     and he was not found because GOD took him up;
     for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.

In the last mention of Enoch in Scripture, but not the least important, we are told in Jude 14-16:

     And about these also Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam,
     prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands
     of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all,
     and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds
     which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things
     which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”
     These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts;
     they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.

Enoch’s is one of the most enigmatic and important messages in Scripture. As we read in Jude, it is also one of the most important for the last days. The special fact about Enoch is that he walked with God. Adam was still alive when Enoch lived. It is probable that he talked with Adam about what it was like to walk with God in the Garden, and his heart was so stirred that he began to yearn for such a relationship with his Maker. One of the great, eternal truths is, if we seek God we will find Him. Enoch found Him. He recovered the most basic call of man that had been lost by the fall—the relationship we are called to have with God. Because of this he was delivered from the consequence of the Fall, which is death.

Walking with God remains the ultimate and highest quest of man. When this is truly recovered, we too will be delivered from the consequences of the Fall. Enoch walked with God so closely that the Lord took him directly to heaven. This was a foreshadowing of what has been popularly referred to as “the rapture.” As Paul wrote in I Corinthians 15:51-52:

     Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
     in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,
     at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound,
     and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

Enoch was but the first fruits of the last day church that will also be caught up without tasting death. There have been many books written about how and why this takes place, and many have speculated about the timing of it, but the reason this happens is the same reason it happened to Enoch. The last day church will walk with God so closely that He will be obliged to bring them into the fullness of His presence, transforming them from the mortal to the eternal in the “twinkling of an eye.”

I have often heard Christians say that they were trying to decrease so the Lord could increase in their life. This seems noble, but it is not biblical, and is actually the opposite of what John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). If we try to decrease before He increases in our lives, we will just be empty, and the void will usually be filled with an evil, religious spirit. “Enoch walked with God, and he was not….” When we walk with God, we will decrease because He is increasing in our lives.

The Lord did not come just to make our lives better and easier. He did not even come simply to change us—He came to kill us! Even though Enoch did not “taste death” in the natural, his old nature was consumed in God. When it says that “he was not,” it means much more than him just disappearing. By walking with God His glory changed him, consuming his fallen nature and replacing it with His nature. The same is our goal—to be dead to sin, dead to our former lusts, dead to this world, but alive unto God.

Even so, if we try to crucify ourselves, the result will be self-righteousness. Our old nature was crucified with Christ on the cross. The rendering of our old nature as dead, so we can experience the resurrection life in Christ, is a process that takes place as we walk with God. We identify with His crucifixion, and therefore His righteousness. We will never be so good that we do not need His life and His righteousness. We are only able to enter into the presence of God because of His blood—His atonement. He will forever be our righteousness. Therefore, it is our goal to be found in Him, to abide in Him so that He might dwell in us.

The more we walk with Him and see Him, the more we are changed by who He is. When we focus on crucifying ourselves we are still focusing on self. We will never be changed by seeing who we are, but by beholding who He is. As we behold Him, we embrace and identify with His cross and His resurrection.

Christ is everything. He is the message and purpose of the whole creation. When we lose ourselves in Him we do not lose, we gain everything to infinity. We are exchanging the worthless and the death for that which is beyond valuation, and a life that cannot be destroyed. We will never make a better transaction.

Your ultimate purpose for being on this earth can be summed up in one thing—you are called to walk with God. Your highest purpose for this day is to walk with Him. If you do, you will also make the greatest transaction that can be made on this earth, exchanging some of the death in you for the indestructible life in Him.


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February 2, 2015

Marching in the Trees

II Samuel 5:24 And when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then rouse yourself, for then the Lord has gone out before you to strike down the army of the Philistines.” (ESV)

Angels tread light, and he that can walk upon the clouds can, when he pleases, walk on the tops of trees, or (as bishop Patrick understands it) at the head of the mulberry-trees, that is, of the wood, or hedge-row of those trees. ~ Matthew Henry

Today we pay a return visit to Alistair Begg, pastor and host of the Christian radio program Truth for Life.  He writes and broadcasts to a much older audience than most readers here, but I believe we can learn much from the writings of another generation if we just slow down enough to take in what they have to teach us.

First, a definition of a term in the first sentence that is not used as much in the modern church:

Unction = ( 1 John 2:20 1 John 2:27 ; RSV, “anointing”)  Kings, prophets, and priests were anointed, in token of receiving divine grace. All believers are, in a secondary sense, what Christ was in a primary sense, “the Lord’s anointed.”  (Easton’s Bible Dictionary sourced at Bible Study Tools.)

Here I would add that this should not be confused with the Roman Catholic sacrament of the same name. If your background is Catholic Church, you may find the use of term confusing.

To read the devotional at source, and see others by the same author, click the title below.

Be Prepared

The members of Christ’s Church should be very prayerful, always seeking the unction of the Holy One to rest upon their hearts, that the kingdom of Christ may come, and that His “will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”1 But there are times when God seems especially to favor Zion; such seasons ought to be to them like “the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees.”

We ought then to be doubly prayerful, doubly earnest, wrestling more at the throne than we have been used to do. Action should then be prompt and vigorous. The tide is flowing–now let us pull manfully for the shore. Oh, for Pentecostal outpourings and Pentecostal labors.

Christian, in yourself there are times “when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees.” You have a peculiar power in prayer; the Spirit of God gives you joy and gladness; the Scripture is open to you; the promises are applied; you walk in the light of God’s countenance; you have peculiar freedom and liberty in devotion, and more closeness of communion with Christ than before. Now, at such joyous periods when you hear the “sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees,” is the time to rouse yourself; now is the time to get rid of any evil habit, while God the Spirit helps your infirmities. Spread your sail; but remember what you sometimes sing…

I can only spread the sail;
But God must breathe the auspicious gale.

Only be sure you have the sail up. Do not miss the gale for want of preparation for it. Seek help from God, that you may be more earnest in duty when made more strong in faith, that you may be more constant in prayer when you have more liberty at the throne, that you may be more holy in your conversation while you live more closely with Christ.

1Matthew 6:10

I John 2:27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit–just as it has taught you, remain in him.

June 14, 2013

The Ways of the Lord

Several years ago we visited a church expecting to hear the pastor preach, only to discover it was Teen Challenge Sunday, and the team would be taking the entire service. At first I was disappointed, but as one of the young men shared his testimony, he said something I will never forget:

I knew about the Bible, but I didn’t understand the ways of the Lord.

That one sentence was a takeaway from that day which was worth all the other minutes at that service. I used it to examine my own relationship with God. Was my standing based on just Bible knowledge? Just on acts of Christian service? Just on coasting on a commitment made many years ago?

If you’re in relationship with someone, you’re going to know how they would act, what they would think, words they might say; all in response to a variety of situations. You know if you do something whether or not they would be pleased or grieved. You can almost hear them audibly speaking.

The phrase “the ways of the Lord” occurs in the NIV seven times. The first six are positive, the last is negative, when Paul tells Elymas,  “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?” in Acts 13: 10

Two passages are identical, II Sam. 22:22 and Ps. 18:21

For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I am not guilty of turning from my God.

— not surprising since David is the author of both; the inclusion in Psalms is very much a ‘copy and paste’ with the next verses in both being:

All his laws are before me;
I have not turned away from his decrees.
 I have been blameless before him
and have kept myself from sin.

Psalm 25: 10 continues

All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.

and in Psalm 138:5

May they sing of the ways of the Lord, for the glory of the Lord is great.

In II Chron. 17: 5b and 6 we read:

…all Judah brought gifts to Jehoshaphat, so that he had great wealth and honor. His heart was devoted to the ways of the Lord; furthermore, he removed the high places and the Asherah poles from Judah.

Hosea 14:9 states:

Who is wise? Let them realize these things. Who is discerning? Let them understand. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.

Of this last verse, Matthew Henry writes:

The ways of the Lord are right; and therefore it is our wisdom and duty to know and understand them. The way of God’s precepts, in which he requires us to walk, is right, agreeing with the rules of eternal reason and equity and having a direct tendency to our eternal felicity. The ways of God’s providence, in which he walks toward us, are all right; no fault is to be found with any thing that God does, for it is all well done. His judgments upon the impenitent, his favours to the penitent, are all right; however they may be perverted and misinterpreted, God will at last be justified and glorified in them all.

I think the key here is that knowing could easily be inferred to be knowing about. We all know the danger of knowing about God, but not truly knowing Him. But the verse doesn’t give us that option, it speaks of walking in His ways.

The first part of Micah 4:2 says,

Many nations will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”

R. G. LeTourneau is quoted as saying,

If you know the Lord
You will love the Lord
If you love the Lord
You will serve the Lord
If you’re not serving the Lord
You don’t love the Lord
If you don’t love the Lord
You don’t know the Lord

Today, I offer a paraphrase based on today’s study:

If you know the Lord
You will know the ways of the Lord
If you know the ways of the Lord
You will walk in the ways of the Lord
If you’re not walking in the ways of the Lord
You don’t know the ways of the Lord
If you don’t know the ways of the Lord
You don’t know the Lord.

November 18, 2012

Worship in the Psalms

The blog Fresh Read is working through a study of The Psalms and provides some excellent online devotional commentary. Here are two recent posts, one dealing with Psalm 146 and the other with the first verse of Psalm 147. Click the title for each to link directly and locate other entries.

Together & Alone – Psalm 146

Praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord, O my soul.
I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live

Psalm 146:1-2 (NIV_84)

Hallelujah is a Hebrew word.  It is a verb that calls us to Praise the Lord.  It is possible in Hebrew to have verbs for an individual or for a group.  This word is for a group.  It means, “Let us, together, praise the Lord.”

While Israel lived in tents, before they entered the Promised Land.  They would put the Tent of God in the middle of all their tents.  Each tribe was arranged around the tent of worship.  God was at the center of their community.  (Numbers 2)

When they enter the Promised Land they put the tent of worship in one place.  Later Solomon built a temple in Jerusalem.  The people would come from all over to worship God in this one place.  They worshiped together in Jerusalem.  (Psalm 48)

Worshiping God is something that we do together.  Hallelujah is a command. It calls us to get together, and to worship God together.  You could watch a church meeting on TV or on the Computer.  You could stay at home with a cup of tea and be part of a church service.  You could go to TV church in my pajamas.  It would be much easier when it snows here in Wisconsin?

“Hallelujah” is a call to meet together.  His people honor the Lord when they meet together.  They show that God loves many people and many kinds of people when we meet together.  They give each other encouragement when they meet together and say “Welcome.”  And when they say, “Praise the Lord.”

It is also important to praise the Lord alone.

In verse 1 the Psalmist speaks to his own soul.  He says, “Praise the Lord, O my soul.”

In verse 2 he says, “I will praise the Lord as long as I live.”

These verses are for the individual.  The bible has stories about how God looks on the heart, not on the outside.  David was chosen to be king, even though he was the youngest in his family, because his heart was strong for the Lord.  Isaiah spoke in warning of those whose lips offered praise, but their hearts were not in it. (Is 29:13)

It is important to Praise God together. It is also important to  praise God from the heart.

There is balance in the pronouns.

Why Worship? Psalm 147:1

Praise the Lord.

How good it is to sing praises to our God,

    how pleasant and fitting to praise him!

We gather to praise the Lord together.  Have you ever wondered why?  Maybe it is a tradition – your parents and their parents did this.  But there are better reasons than simple repetition and tradition.

This psalm says that praising the Lord is good, pleasant and fitting.

It is good in many ways.  Only the ungrateful do not give thanks for a gift.  We all think it good to thanks our parents, to thank a vet, to thank a neighbor who lends a hand.  It is good because there is not harm in it, not sin.  It is good because Praise realigns our hearts from despair or doubt – when we praise we remember what God has done.

It is pleasant. Isn’t it delightful to hear good music?  Don’t you enjoy singing a great old hymn, even if you have more enthusiasm than skill?  God desires that our walk with him is delightful and pleasant.  We are not called to be grim, sour legalists.  We are called to live in delight.

It is fitting.   Sooner or later you will run into someone who says that this is all a waste of time.  Why are we here praising God when we could be doing something useful?  During the Civil War the army wanted to close churches and turn them into hospitals.  Lincoln stopped this idea because he said that a nation has to have a place to pray, especially in times of distress and danger.

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