Christianity 201

March 4, 2019

The Greed/Worry Connection

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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We’re back for a fifth time with Steven C. Mills at the website, Steve’s Bible Meditations. Click the header below to read at source and from there, browse other articles.

Worry is a Faith Matter – Luke 12:22-32

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing…. So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.” (Luke 12:22-23, 32, NLT).

Jesus told a parable about greed to a crowd of people (vs. 12:13-21). Then, in stark contrast to the greed story, Jesus turned to His disciples and proceeded to tell them not to worry about their daily needs for life, specifically food and clothing, because God will provide everything they need.

Jesus said that ravens don’t plant or harvest crops yet they have enough food (vs. 24). He said King Solomon was never dressed as beautifully as a lily (vs. 27).

Jesus concluded that if God takes care of both the birds and flowers, how much more will He take care of human beings (vs. 28).

What’s interesting is after Jesus admonishes His disciples to quit worrying about their basic needs for life, He indicts them for a lack of faith.

Jesus links worry to faith! In other words, when you worry you are demonstrating a lack of faith.

So, worry is a faith matter! And, the best way to reduce or eliminate worry from your life is to build your faith in God.

And the way to build your faith in God is to seek His Kingdom more than you seek the necessities of life.

As a result of seeking God’s Kingdom first each day, your daily needs (and more!) will be supplied as a result or benefit of seeking His Kingdom (vs. 31).

When your main priority is seeking the Kingdom of God, the other work you undertake each day will serve to supplement your main vocation of building God’s Kingdom.

And then you won’t have to worry about all your other needs because you belong to God and He takes care of you by blessing what you do.


And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. (Hebrews 11:6, NLT)

January 3, 2019

2018 “Bible Verse of the Year”

by Clarke Dixon

What was the most popular Bible verse of 2018? According to the popular Bible app YouVersion, the verse of the year was not John 3:16 or Romans 8:28 as you might expect. It was Isaiah 41:10.

Unfortunately, this verse is an indicator of what was on the hearts and minds of people around the world in 2018; fear and discouragement. We had many reasons for fear in 2018, such as changes in society and changes in our world with movements toward nationalism and various kinds of fundamentalism. We saw changes in relationships between nations, thinking especially of renewed trade wars. Most of us saw changes in ourselves. I am one year closer to the big five-O. Perhaps you are one year further away from it. Aging can be a great cause for fear. Then there are the things that stay the same; wars and rumours of wars, continuing oppression, natural disasters. There were reasons for fear in Isaiah’s day as well. Israel was a small nation surround by strong nations. That can be cause for fear in any age, but certainly back in the days when empires were eaten up by bigger empires.

What do we humans do when we are afraid? Isaiah tells us:

5 The lands beyond the sea watch in fear.
Remote lands tremble and mobilize for war.
6 The idol makers encourage one another,
saying to each other, “Be strong!”
7 The carver encourages the goldsmith,
and the molder helps at the anvil.
“Good,” they say. “It’s coming along fine.”
Carefully they join the parts together,
then fasten the thing in place so it won’t fall over. Isaiah 41:5-7

The New Living Translation makes clear what most other translations don’t. The artisans and goldsmiths are making idols. We have a tendency of turning to idolatry in the midst of fear. In Isaiah’s time people thought idols could control the future. Are we any different today? What do we think controls the future in our day? In answering this we tend to either run toward superstition, or away from it so far that we run from the supernatural altogether.

It amazes me when I check the news headlines using the Internet on my tablet as to how often the daily horoscope shows up among the headline news. Here we are as very sophisticated people with great technology in our hands, and yet people are still looking to the stars for their future.

Superstition can sneak into Christianity very easily. I have often used an app on my phone called IFTTT which means “if this, then that.” I program this app so that when I do the right “trigger,” it will automatically do the right action. So, for example, I can say “time to eat,” and text messages are sent to our boys that dinner is ready. People often treat God that way. If I do this, then God must do that. I can control the future by doing a certain “trigger” which will force God to do the right action. Problem is, God is not an app or a phone that he must operate according to our scripts. God is sovereign. I am reminded of a prominent Christian couple who walked away from Christianity in 2018. God had not responded to them as they thought He should have. People do not tend to walk away from Jesus. They do, however, walk away from superstitious expressions of Christianity. Unfortunately, people tend to walk towards superstitious expressions of Christianity in times of fear.

While some, in thinking of the future, rush headlong into superstition, others will go the opposite extreme and become anti-supernatural. Nothing controls the future, it just all unfolds according to mechanistic processes. Even the process of thinking is said to be just a matter of one thing causing another, like a line of dominoes falling. Anti-supernaturalism can be found in certain expression of Christianity where people appreciate the benefits of religion such as structure, morality, and community. However, they don’t really believe in a transcendent and immanent sovereign God. The world is what it is and the future will be what it will be.

According to Isaiah, neither superstition, nor anti-supernaturalism speaks to our future. Who really holds the future? We find out in Isaiah 41:8-10

8 “But as for you, Israel my servant,
Jacob my chosen one,
descended from Abraham my friend,
9 I have called you back from the ends of the earth,
saying, ‘You are my servant.’
For I have chosen you
and will not throw you away.
10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:8-10

God holds the future. Notice how Isaiah points to the past, present, and future. God’s people could look back and see a long standing relationship with God, “I have chosen you.” They have been his people for a long time. They can look to the present “I am with you, don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.” They can look to the future, “I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Nothing could provide hope and help in times of fear like God Himself. In thinking of the future we do well to leave behind our superstitions and our anti-supernaturalism and turn to God. He holds the future as surely as He has held the past and now holds the present.

The theme of “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you” will sound familiar to the Christian. We can think of the angels announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds:

9 They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! – Luke 2:9-11

That God had become present through Jesus was good news, and so “do not be afraid”! We are also reminded of the last words of Jesus to the disciples in the Gospel of Matthew:

And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. – Matthew 28:20

Like the people of Isaiah’s day, we can look to the past to see the relationship God has been pursuing with us. We can look to Christmas, we can look to Easter and the reconciliation that He has offered at the cross. We can also look to God’s presence in our lives now. We can look forward to God keeping His promises in the future.

2018 may have been a year marked by fear and discouragement for you. Perhaps Isaiah 41:10 is a verse you want to memorize for 2019.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. – Isaiah 41:10

May your New Year be blessed and happy!


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Ontario, Canada. All scripture references are NRSV.

Check out Clarke’s blog, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon

…or, if you prefer, all his articles here at C201 can be seen at this link.

Scripture references today are taken from the NLT

December 15, 2018

The Garment of Praise

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Almost exactly a year ago we introduced you to homeschool curriculum writer Anne Elliott . At that time we had discovered a much older article by her, and decided this time around to feature something more recent. Click the title below to read on her site, and then navigate from there to check out other articles.

The Garment of Praise for the Spirit of Heaviness

Sometimes we start to feel very sad. Circumstances seem overwhelming, and promises from God take too long to come to pass. Tears flow when we don’t want them to. We lose our desire to work, to eat, to be with our loved ones. We just want to crawl into bed. The Bible calls this a spirit of heaviness.

“To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified” (Isaiah 61:3, NKJV).

Other times we start to feel very hurt. People accuse us of things we didn’t do. Our hearts feel bruised, and we react in anger when our thoughts merely turn to the words said. We struggle to be with them, and to restrain unkind words, and our faces turn red with passion when they aren’t even in the room. The Bible calls this a spirit of bitterness.

“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul” (Job 7:11, NKJV).

Other times we feel paralyzed with worry. We know God loves us and has done good for us in the past, but this time feels different. The giants look bigger, and we feel deserted. Our hearts pound, our stomachs hurt, our eyes widen. We can’t think of anything else. The Bible calls this a spirit of fear.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7, NKJV).

As the Scripture clearly says, these spirits do not come from God! I’ve been pondering this. How do thoughts like these ever enter our minds, causing emotions and reactions in my body, when they do not come from God? They originate from the deceiver, who plants them in our hearts and minds.

“And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him…” (John 13:2, NKJV).

So let me give you a picture of something I’ve been pondering. My husband has been teaching about how the Spirit of God has been given to us as a down payment and a guarantee of the promises to come, especially of the resurrection.

“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).

“Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 5:5, NKJV).

The Spirit of God sets up His residence within our hearts, so that His presence can go before us, giving us strength, guarding us, empowering us, and leading us each day.

This reminds me of the Israelites when they came out of Egypt. They received the covenant at Sinai, but shortly after, they sinned terribly by building the golden calf. Shortly after, YHVH told them that He would send a messenger before them to lead them to the Promised Land, but that His own presence could not go with them because they were stiff-necked and He would destroy them (Exodus 33). Moses interceded on their behalf, and YHVH relented.

“Then Moses said to [YHVH], ‘If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?’

“And YHVH said to Moses, ‘I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name’” (Exodus 33:15-17).

Right after this, YHVH gave the plans for a Tabernacle to Moses, along with all the regulations for the worship of YHVH in the Tabernacle. The basic premise was that YHVH would dwell in the midst of His people, but they would need to be very clean in order for Him to remain there. Any uncleanness would separate them from His presence.

In the same way, the Spirit of God wants to dwell in our hearts and minds, but if His presence is to guide us, we have to get rid of any uncleanness.

We have to cast out the spirits of heaviness, bitterness, and fear.

It makes so much sense, then, why the Enemy wishes to attack us in our minds. If he can plant anxiety and anger and panic — and if we allow him to do this — then we will not be guided by the presence of God!

If we wish to hear His voice, then we have to cast out the voice of the Enemy.

If we wish to be distinguished from all the other people on the face of the earth, we must stop listening to their advice and counsel, heeding only the voice of the Presence of God.

If we wish to please Him, we must keep the outer courts of our hearts clean.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Faith is an action. Here are some actions we can take when we identify that the thoughts in our minds are not from God:

  • To cast out the spirit of heaviness, we must gird ourselves with a garment of praise.
  • To cast out the spirit of bitterness, we must bless others and not curse.
  • To cast out the spirit of fear, we must remember what God has done for us in the past, and how He has shown Himself strong on our behalf.

For myself, these things are easier when I set up some simple disciplines for my life. Just as the Tabernacle was to be maintained daily, always staying clean, we must maintain our hearts daily. It’s not enough to just passively wait for the Enemy to arrive.

  • Start the Day with Scripture. Write down some key verses, then speak those verses all day long. The Word is truth, and when we speak it, the angels of God do His bidding and both guard our “tabernacles” and go before us to destroy the enemy.

“So is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).

“Praise YHVH, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word” (Psalm 103:20).

  • Pray in the Spirit. As we come into His presence with our requests and petitions, reminding Him of His promises by praying the very Scriptures themselves, then our own faith is built up and renewed.

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

  • Sing and Praise. This is one of the hardest points for me, even though I love to sing. My flesh tends toward grumbling and complaining, and I often tend to focus on my problems rather than all the ways in which He has delivered me. It seems that I have to trick my body by singing aloud with a smile, with my foot tapping and even with dancing. If I am with other believers (even my kids or husband), then it can be easier.

“I will greatly praise YHVH with my mouth;
Yes, I will praise Him among the multitude.
For He shall stand at the right hand of the poor,
To save him from those who condemn him” (Psalm 109:30-31).

  • Bless and Not Curse. Our Master Yeshua told us to bless others, especially when they try to harm us. This breeds a spirit of forgiveness, of understanding, of empathy. My desire to see harm come upon others is replaced with genuine concern for their well-being. The key is to remember that our true enemy is Satan himself, never another person created by God.

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

  • Give Thanks. This discipline is something that needs to be done all day long, so that we can stay in a place of rejoicing. Boy, this one really takes discipline, doesn’t it? However, like all exercise, the more we do it, the easier it becomes.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Messiah Yeshua for you. Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-19).

Our adversary will certainly try to plant thoughts of evil in our hearts, but with these strategies, we can cast him out and instead see the fruit of living in communion with God Himself, His Spirit guiding us and empowering us.

“You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

 

September 19, 2018

Where Does the Object of Your Faith Reside?

Elsie Montgomery is one of the most faithful devotional writers I encounter when preparing these articles to share with you. She’s now in her 12th year of writing and this is her 15th time being highlighted here at C201. Click the title below and read it at her blog, Practical Faith.

Burdens can reveal the object of my faith

A Christian perspective can be easily misinterpreted. Because I know that God is sovereign and able to govern the world and all that it is in it, I can be calm regarding the stuff that happens because I know God is in charge. This calm reliance on His love and power can be misinterpreted; people might thing that I don’t care about the mayhem and tragedy in this world. Sometimes I misinterpret my burdens though. I can feel deep concern for the mess out there because God cares about the suffering going on in this world, but I can also be in a flap because I don’t believe that He does care. One burden comes from having His heart of compassion; the other is based on fear and panic.

Tozer said that warm hearts and cool heads should belong to Christians. His reason? We are seated above earthly circumstances and can calmly look down without being moved in spirit over the happenings in this world. He points to this passage:

“Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, ‘See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.’” (Hebrews 8:1–5)

Even though Tozer’s conclusions are often a stretch from the Scriptures he uses, this passage did remind me that the Lord God is on the throne. He is the High Priest of heaven who is sovereign, even when I cannot understand what He is doing.

Why then the burdens? The weight in my heart for a world gone crazy can have two sources: fear or faith. I can panic over floods, hurricanes, typhoons, crime, fires and so on because they are tragic and God’s creation is suffering. I can feel the heart of a caring God who knows and cares for even the sparrows that fall (Luke 12). Yet if my burden is the burden of the Holy Spirit for pain and loss, it is not excessive because Jesus said, “My burden is light” (Matthew 11). It is also evidence that the Spirit who lives in me is conveying to me His heart for the needs of people.

However, those burdens can be fearful and overwhelming, without trust in God’s sovereign power and even rooted in fear and pride. I start thinking that I must do something even if it is only identifying with the pain of others. Fear is anxious about the outcome and acts without waiting on the Lord for direction. With fear, I try to run the world even though I know He is the only one who can.

The burdens of faith are rooted in humility. They are the result of a heart willing to bear whatever the Lord puts on it, then praying to give it back to Him. It is obeying what I know — that God can deal with it. He might give me an assignment but humility assumes nothing, not even that my prayers will ‘fix’ these issues. They belong to God, not my will. Faith in Him knows Jesus will ‘win’ even when everything looks very black. Fear runs in circles; faith attaches itself to God.

Jesus, when the burdens of the world start getting me down, I realize I must pray lest my faith slip into fear. Forgive me for letting that happen and quickly let me know so I will be praising You instead of banging my head against a wall.

October 18, 2016

When the Worry Package is at the Door, Don’t Sign for It

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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When the courier company driver is standing at the door and says, “We have a package for Paul Wilkinson;” I have a choice. I can accept the parcel or I can refuse it. That was the spirit of today’s header; advice I also need for myself. Today we’re returning to Devotions by Chris, the blog of Chris Hendrix. Click the title below to read at source.

Refuse To Worry

Many of us struggle with understanding the difference between fear and anxiety. Fear is an emotion triggered by real danger. Anxiety is an emotion triggered by things that may or may not happen. Fear can save your life and anxiety can cause it to end prematurely. They elicit a similar feeling inside, but fear goes away after you’re out of danger. Anxiety continues to eat away at your energy, your mind, and your life if you don’t put a stop to it.

At work, I do an exercise with people to get them to stop assuming. I get them to admit that they don’t know the outcome. From then on, when they assume something, I ask. “But do you know?” Assumptions of the future are what cause anxiety. The truth is, we don’t know the future, but as Corrie Ten Boon says, “We can trust an unknown future to a known God.” When we allow assumption and anxiety to take over, we in essence are not trusting our future to God. The key to losing anxiety is to admit you don’t know and to trust God to take care of you.

The Bible says a lot about anxiety and worry. Here are some verses about it.

1. Therefore I tell you, stop being worried or anxious (perpetually uneasy, distracted) about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, as to what you will wear. Is life not more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Matthew6:25 AMP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

July 1, 2016

Unnecessarily Troubled

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Mary and Martha imgHeather is a former Mormon who doesn’t write often, but I had bookmarked this devotional many months ago and noted we still hadn’t run it here. Click the link below to read this at source and look around Jesus Is All, her blog.

Be Mary Not Martha

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42, ESV)

To put this story into context, the “they” at the beginning is Jesus, his twelve apostles, plus 72 disciples who have just returned from traveling abroad and preaching.  This group of at least 85 have been invited into the home of sisters Mary and Martha. Immediately, Martha gets to work, as I think a majority of us would do.

Let me say something here, there is nothing wrong with WHAT Martha is trying to do, only HOW she is going about it.  The bible is full of calls to serve others; Jesus Himself praised the service of others (see John 6).  So why this time didn’t he praise Martha for her willingness to serve?

There are two key words in these verses, “distracted” and “anxious”.  Martha is so “distracted” with her busyness that she doesn’t have time to enjoy the presence of the Lord in her home.  She has made her “to do list” her focus, rather than being focused on Jesus.  She’s focused on feeding the crowd, while Mary is focused on feeding her spirit.  This is frustrating to Martha, she feels that she is doing something helpful and noble, while her sister is over there lazily lounging around doing “nothing”.  She eventually gets so frazzled that she asks Jesus to make Mary help her.

Of course this crowd in their home is probably tired and hungry, and Martha sees a need and wants to feed them.  However, Mary realizes that the Bread of Life, the Living Waters, is more satisfying to her soul than anything she could offer the Savior and his group.  She has chosen the “good portion”.

So back to my question…why didn’t Jesus praise Martha’s efforts?  Because Jesus knows our hearts, He knows our thoughts.  He knew that Martha had made herself “anxious” and “troubled” unnecessarily.  He could see that her joy wasn’t in serving but in gaining approval. She was using her service to validate her self-worth and her righteousness.  Knowing this, Jesus didn’t get angry at her or tell her to quit working, He lovingly pointed out that she had another choice, the one that her sister had already made.

If you are currently caught up in what you think you “have to do” or “should do” to prove yourself to God, please reconsider your actions.  Ask God in prayer if what you are doing is what He wants you to be doing.  Maybe you are distracting yourself and making yourself anxious doing things that aren’t necessary.  Any time you are faced with an opportunity to serve, ask yourself if you would be doing it simply because you love to serve, or because you are looking for approval from God or from other people.

There is NOTHING we can do to prove ourselves to God.  As it says in Isaiah 64:6 (KJV), “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags”.  There is no checklist God asked us to complete for Him.  All Jesus asks for in return for redeeming us is for us to love Him and seek after Him. My personal goal is to be constantly seeking after God.  I don’t really care anymore what anyone else thinks of what I do or don’t do, only what God thinks of me.  It is very freeing to let God be your guide and do what you know He wants you to do, rather than trying to impress God by doing what you assume He might want you to do.  One of the reasons I haven’t blogged for awhile is I would’ve only been doing it because I felt I was “supposed to” and I felt guilty I hadn’t written. My writing has been sporadic because I wait for the times when I feel God is putting the desire to write and the message I should write about in my mind.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23, ESV)


Read more: We looked at Martha and Mary previously in March, 2015 in an article with a similar title, Troubled About Many Things.

January 20, 2016

A Key to Anxiety You Might Have Missed

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Today’s post is by Lutheran pastor Paul Willweber and is taken from the archives of a blog called The Three Taverns which ran from 2006 to 2013 and from which we excerpted some material about a year ago. Click the title below to read at source.

Praying with Thanksgiving

Philippians 4:6-20

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Those who don’t have much, who are scraping by, can easily become anxious. And yet, anxiety does not afflict only those who are in great need. There are plenty of people who have plenty and yet are riddled with anxiety.

The apostle Paul’s direct exhortation is “do not be anxious about anything.” That’s easy to say. It’s hard to do. Even as Christians we suffer anxiety. Paul does not say how not to be anxious. He just says, “Don’t be anxious.” About anything.

But he does give a contrary exhortation: “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Do not be anxious about anything but in everything let your requests be made known to God. We are not to be anxious about anything. Conversely, in everything we are to make our requests known to God.

On further pondering, perhaps Paul is telling us how to not be anxious about anything. It is by prayer and supplication. It is by not dwelling on those things we are anxious about but rather bringing them to God in prayer.

AnxietyBut Paul is very specific about the prayer we offer to God. Anxiety is not simply to be done away with. Prayer to God is not simply to take its place. The kind of prayer and supplication in which we make our requests made known to God is prayer with thanksgiving. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

This is the antidote to anxiety. Thanksgiving. You are not to be anxious about anything and you are to make your requests known to God in everything. The way you do this is by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.

When you are anxious you are caught up in what is afflicting you. When you are giving thanks, and that is in everything, there’s no opportunity for anxiety to wedge itself in. You are too busy being thankful to God in everything to be anxious. You are too filled with gratitude to consider how you are overly concerned about what is afflicting you.

Paul is not saying to ignore those things in life that are trials. Far from it. Rather than ignore, we pray! Rather than ignore those things, we give thanks for them!

That’s easy to say. It’s easy to do a New Year’s resolution kind of thing and say, “Okay, next time I’m distressed and fall into anxiety I’m going to pray instead. Instead of worrying or getting caught up in my trials, I am going to give thanks in them.” Just like so many resolutions, these attempts will quickly fall by the wayside. You will dwell on those things afflicting you. You will be anxious about them. You will forget to pray or you will be too weary, or perhaps wary, to pray. You certainly will not feel like being thankful for these trials!

So what will you do? Will you hear the words of St. Paul, do not be anxious about anything, and quickly fall into despair because you can’t overcome your anxiety by attempting to heed the exhortation? You very well may if you hear this exhortation as, You’d better turn things around you ungrateful Christian.

His exhortation is one of grace. His exhortation is one of showing you the better way. The way of anxiety leads only to being overcome by the things you’re anxious about. Being ungrateful, even for trials, only leads to not seeing that God is gracious and merciful.

The way of prayer, that is, prayer with thanksgiving, is the way in which you see that even those things you’d rather not endure are blessings from God. Because there’s another blessing He gives that you could not see otherwise.

It is the peace of God. You cannot see it otherwise because it goes beyond your ability to get a handle on it. You think you can’t overcome your trials? You’re right. And that’s a good thing. Because it’s only by the peace of God in which you will be able to not be anxious but rather rest in His grace and mercy. It is only by the peace of God that you will be guarded in your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.

That’s the blessing He gives you. But it also shows you how God works this way. Namely, in Christ Jesus. In Jesus overcoming every trial that comes your way. In Jesus accomplishing what He does so that you are granted peace.

It’s not just a nice thought to be thankful in all things, including your trials. Jesus is the actual basis for you to be able to be thankful in all things. In becoming man He endured far more than we could ever imagine. The trials He endured would bring us to our knees in helplessness and despair. We would quickly see that anything we go through is a wisp compared to His suffering He endured in our place.

Through everything—His life, suffering, and death—Jesus never despaired. He was never anxious. He only gave thanks. He prayed and made supplication with thanksgiving and made His requests known to God His Heavenly Father.

Because of this, His peace, peace that surpasses all understanding, guards your heart and your mind in Him. Amen.


Regular Wednesday contributor Clarke Dixon returns in early February.

May 7, 2015

Come Apart and Rest

Mark 6:31And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) 32They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.…

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

At first, with its “Five things…” approach, this practical article may appear more like something that should run at Thinking Out Loud, not Christianity 201; but I believe it’s a message that we need to hear. This is by Benjamin L. Corey, and to read it at source, click the link in the title. (There’s also an internal link to a previous article.)

5 Things You Need To Take A Break From To Avoid Spiritual Burnout

Yesterday on the blog I wrote about how I had spent much of this winter suffering from spiritual and emotional burnout, and that I had a hunch I wasn’t alone. Judging from your comments and emails, it turns out my instinct was correct- a lot of Christians are feeling burned out these days. As part of my own process in sorting out how I got to such a dark place, and from the wonderful insight and advice from many of my peers, I was able to identify some behaviors that I absolutely, positively, needed a break from– because that was the source of my burnout.

As I processed this further, I came to realize that even Jesus himself was aware of the potential for spiritual burnout, and made a practice of taking steps to prevent it. Jesus was on a mission to change the world, and the key avenue he chose to do it was through pouring his heart and soul into a small group of 12 friends while simultaneously kicking up against the walls of the dominant power structures of his day. I can only imagine that this led to moments of fatigue and discouragement, since scripture affirmed that Jesus was tempted in all the same ways that we are tempted. So what did Jesus do to avoid spiritual burnout?

Well, it seems that Jesus had built into his life a habit of getting away from whatever things existed in his life that could have led to spiritual burnout. In the book of Luke we find a very important statement:

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray.” (5:16)

I personally really like the rendering of the International Standard Version of this verse, which words it: “However, he (Jesus) continued his habit of retiring to deserted places and praying.”

While there is a host of good stuff one could glean from this verse (such as the aspect of prayer which is not covered by this post), what I appreciate the most is that Jesus knew when he needed to take a break from some things. And, if even Jesus– the Son of God– had to take a break from life-draining things, why would we buy the lie that we can chug along indefinitely without taking a break ourselves?

While I can only guess what sorts of things Jesus needed to take a break from, I think I have a much better grasp of some things that led to my own spiritual burnout, and perhaps did yours as well. So, here is a tangible list of things that I think we need to take scheduled breaks from to help avoid another bout (or come out of your current state) of spiritual burnout:

1. Things that make you angry.

Speaking of money, the Bible says that it makes a good slave but not a very good master. I think the same thing could be said of anger– when it consumes us it masters us, and it makes a horrible master. If there’s a certain topic or issue that is constantly making you angry, take a break from it– in our era of outrage and culture wars it is likely that there will never be a shortage of things to piss you off… so just take a break from the things that fuel your anger.

2. Situations, roles, or people that/who only drain but never replenish you.

Your emotional tank isn’t any different than a bank account– there is a limit as to how much you can spend before things go really bad. Remember: Jesus is the savior of the world, you are not. Yes, let us invest in changing the world and building the Kingdom- but if even our king himself takes a break and steps away for quiet moments where no one is draining him, why would we think we should live differently?

3. Things that worry you.

Jesus warned us that not a single person has added a minute to their life by worrying- but yet we do it anyway (I myself am especially good at this). One way to address it is by a more holistic approach to sabbath keeping: for myself, I’ve been trying to practice “no work, no commerce, and no worries” on the day I practice sabbath keeping. What’s the thing that worries you most? Set aside one day a week where you purposely do nothing about it and do your best to avoid thinking about it.

4. Social media/the comment section on some blogs.

Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with some great readers- but this isn’t the case everywhere on the internet. The comment section in many places can be one of the most toxic environments on planet earth. If there’s a certain place on the internet (or a certain person on the internet) where reading and engaging the comment section is making you question the future of humanity– take a break and don’t go to that particular blog or comment section. Or, you can even use the “unfollow” option to remove toxic people from your FB newsfeed without the more obvious gesture of unfriending them.

5. Being in-doors.

When Jesus withdrew to take some space, he did it outside. I think far too many of us are cooped up in cubicles and need time in nature like Jesus did– plus, there are tremendous health benefits to exercise, and even some vitamins you can only get through sun exposure outside. For me, I realized that I started to turn the corner as spring hit and we started taking the dog for walks by the lake. Whether you live in the country or in the city- find a way to get outside, go to a park, or even just go for a short daily walk around the block– but get outside and take in some fresh air, because that’s one of the things Jesus did.

I think in some ways seasons of spiritual burnout is inevitable, but I think there are some concrete things we can do both to avoid it, and to pull out of it. These five things were crucial to helping me begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

What about you? What frequent practices have you found to be helpful to your emotional and spiritual health?

 

March 2, 2015

Troubled About Many Things

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“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things…” (Luke 10:41 NIV)

Most readers here are familiar with the story of Mary and Martha. (Click this link if not.)

On the one hand we have Mary, so willing to just sit at Jesus’ feet and take in each precious moment of teaching.

I had an experience once where I was talking to a pastor after a church service while he in turn was trying to listen to some things the guest speaker was saying to people near the door as they were leaving. He made it clear that he wanted to hear what was being said, even though, of all the two thousand people in the building, he had the most unlimited access to this man before, after and during his time in the city. What I got from that was the local pastor’s teachability; his desire to be ever learning.

On the other hand, Martha is making lunch for their guest, so willing to express love through an act of service.

As a very small child, we visited a church in Wisconsin which had a group called the “Lend-a-Hand Marthas.” While it grates me to type that (!) it was a group that clearly wasn’t dedicated to prayer (though I’m sure they prayed) and wasn’t dedicated to Bible study (though I’m sure they had devotional times) but was dedicated to getting their hands dirty and helping those who needed help. A similar group where we live today is called Love in Action.

Mary and Martha imgGenerally speaking, the takeaway people get from this story tends to castigate Martha and put Mary on a pedestal. The KJV many of grew up with says, “Mary hath chosen that good part…” after all, so clearly, if the story needs a hero, that would be Mary.

But the church needs Marthas as well, or nothing gets done. Andy Stanley focuses on this in his recent series Brand New, and especially so in the fifth of five parts which you can watch at this dedicated link. We can’t equate holiness with Bible knowledge or an ability to teach the scripture.

We can’t be too quick to jump to conclusions about this story. Luke places it just after the story of the Good Samaritan. The moral of that story is that the person who truly kept the commandment to love their neighbor was, as the expert in the law states, “The one who had mercy on him.” Obviously not the priest or the Levite. But then we have Mary, who chooses the better part.

Is this what is echoed at the end of I Corinthians 12 where Paul wraps up an entire chapter on the exercise and use of spiritual gifts by saying, “And yet I will show you the most excellent way” and then proceeds to speak about love?

I think what is called for here is balance.

I have friends who attend Mainline Protestant churches, and after describing a period of dryness or frustration I will simply say, “You need to take a month off and do the tour. You need to visit the Baptist church, and then the Pentecostal church, and then the non-denominational church and finally a Missionary Alliance or Salvation Army church.

To those in a similar position in an Evangelical or Charismatic church, I will say, “You need to take a month off and do the tour. You need to visit a Presbyterian Church, and then a Lutheran Church, and then an Episcopalian church, and then a Catholic mass.”

The idea isn’t that they’re going to leave the church they attend, the idea is that they will return with a fresh perspective.

The same applies to today’s text.

There are some Marthas who need to set aside the service for a period of time and do the tour of Bible study and learning. Buy a few good Christian books; perhaps two recent ones and a couple of classics. Watch some sermons online from some of today’s top communicators. Immerse yourself in a deeper study of a particular book of the Bible using study notes, commentaries or a fill-in-the-blanks type of outline.

Then there are some Marys who need to do the tour of getting their hands dirty. Do some volunteer work downtown. Help out on the church Spring cleanup day. Sign up for church nursery duty. Offer to deliver hot lunches to shut-ins.

I am writing this today partly with one individual in mind. He runs around his church like the proverbial headless chicken, often tied up in some backroom activity while the rest of us soak in great teaching in the church’s main auditorium. I watch him and sometimes wonder if we even follow the same God (seriously) because his expression of his faith on Sunday mornings is so demonstrably different than anyone else in the building.

But perhaps you know someone who is so quick to quote chapter and verse and understands vast bodies of knowledge about doctrine and theology and church history and hermeneutics, but comes off like the clanging cymbal Paul writes about in I Cor. 13.

The key is balance.

While this may be slightly out of John 21:6’s context, let me encourage you to cast your nets on the other side.

 

 

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

October 10, 2013

Stressed People Make Bad Decisions

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This is a reblog of an article from Created to Give God Glory, the blog of Prentis McGoldrick. You can read the article at its original source at this link.

We live in a moment-by-moment news reporting world. I get updates on my phone for each “Breaking News” story. Many of these stories are upsetting.

A young man begins to shoot people, a young woman is shot while using her car like a weapon, another person sets himself on fire, a group of bikers violently beat a man- each of these stories flash across my phone. The news reports look for a reason why. Often they chalk it up to some sort of mental illness.

Shouldn’t we be concerned why these people became ill rather than looking at the illness as if there is nothing that can be done? Nearly every case reveals that those who commit these acts have been under long term significant stress. They lost their jobs, were bullied, live in depression or somehow believe they have been denied something they deserve. This stress multiplied by time has caused them to become mentally ill if even for a moment. They are stressed and have no outlet for relieving that stress.

Think of Saul in the Old Testament. He didn’t believe he should be chosen as king. He was of the tribe of Benjamin, the humblest of the tribes. He hid among the baggage when called out to be recognized by the people. Later, he would offered a sacrifice that was not his to offer because he was afraid that Samuel the priest wasn’t going to get there before he lost to the Philistines. He kept the best spoil from a group of people whom God told to destroy with everything that belonged to them because he was afraid of the people. He opposed his best general when he wasn’t given as much praise as that general. He lost his kingdom because he made bad decisions. He was a man under stress.

Each day I watch people burst into road rage. I believe that most of these people are normally good neighbors and good citizens. What causes them to explode over the insignificant slights of others? I believe they are under such stress that any added stress sends them over what they are able to take. It is like a balloon that can’t take an ounce more air. It simply explodes.

This is so unnecessary. The Bible tells us to pray and turn it over to God. The Bible tells us that God loves us so much that He wants us to give Him our fears and anxieties. But I have observed that few Christians are having Quiet Times with God. They aren’t turning those things over to Him and, therefore, are carrying their stress on top of everything else that stresses them. Eventually the balloon must pop.

So, I urge you to make a very needed decision today before you make a bad decision. You may not do something violent but the decision may be just as harmful. (You might continue to bite your husband’s head off until you have added so much stress to him that he leaves- another bad decision!) Tell your stress to God. Put all of it in His hands. Trust that He will take care of it and you.

Then, laugh for He has healed you from your bad decision.

Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)
6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

1 Peter 5:7 (ESV)
7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

If you enjoyed this, here is another article from the same writer: Carefully Choosing Words to Bless.

If your internet surfing takes you past any articles our readers would be interested in, or you wish to try writing devotional/Bible study content yourself, please see the guidelines at right and then click the “Submissions” page.

May 17, 2013

Comfort From the Word

I tend to read the scriptures for instruction and teaching. I’m looking for passages that engage my intellect and illustrate the inter-connectedness and symmetry of scripture; not to mention scriptures I can share with personal contacts and blog readers.

I wrote about that in a blog post that has actually run twice here, sharing a popular verse of scripture, II Tim 3:16,  in three translations and then ending with my paraphrase:

All scripture has its point of origin in God’s mind, and

  • shows us the path God would have us walk
  • highlights when and where we’ve gotten off the path
  • points the way back to the path
  • gives us the advice we need to keep from wandering off the path in future

But while this list includes four benefits of studying the word, it is not inclusive. The point is that whatever we think of when we think of the Bible, it is always so much more.

In Ps. 23:4 we read:

Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

What is the ‘rod and staff’ spoken of here?  Most translations, including The Message preserve this imagery:

Even when the way goes through
    Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
    when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
    makes me feel secure.  (The Message)

Matthew Henry affirms that this imagery is pertinent to the phrase that precedes it; that the protection of the Lord described here is that needed in the face of death:

It is a comfort to the saints, when they come to die, that God takes cognizance of them (he knows those that are his), that he will rebuke the enemy, that he will guide them with his rod and sustain them with his staff. The gospel is called the rod of Christ’s strength (Ps. 110:2), and there is enough in that to comfort the saints when they come to die, and underneath them are the everlasting arms.

Ultimately, our comfort is God Himself. The Voice version, which tends to add things to the text, simplifies it in this verse:

Even in the unending shadows of death’s darkness,
I am not overcome by fear.
Because You are with me in those dark moments,
near with Your protection and guidance,
I am comforted.  (The Voice)

This echoes Psalm 46:1

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (KJV)

a verse which in many ways parallels the first verse of Psalm 23:

The Lord is my Shepherd…

This itself echoes Psalm 121:2

My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.  (NIV)

This comfort should sustain us at all times; not just as we reach the end of life; though it is often at the end of life that people turn to God.

Now going back to where I started, many times in my day, both here and in my personal Bible study time, I find myself engaging scripture more as an intellectual pursuit than to seek comfort, solace and strength from its pages. My faith is way up in my head somewhere and isn’t penetrating my heart.

Or there is also the “This is really deep stuff; who can I share this with?” mentality that sees the truths about God more as a type of theological email forward to be sent on to ten people who must promise to send it ten others.  “This is so good, I must send it to Bob.”

The result of this is what I am experiencing as I write this: In times of anxiety, stress or fear, I sometimes feel I have woefully inadequate resources at my immediate internal disposal because I have not “banked” the truths of God’s comfort and life-giving strength. I find myself totally broken because I have studied God’s Word enough to know the comfort of God is there to be taken, but living in the middle of a disconnect, not being able to draw on it as I should.

I don’t need God’s rod or staff to drive away 3rd party oppressors as much as I need to be hit over the head with it as a reminder, “Hey…I am right here; I am the strength you need.”

Do some of you resonate with this? Is it possible you’re attracted here to the “201” nature of this page — perhaps even looking for Christianity 301 or Christianity 401 — but are missing the “Christianity pre-Kindergarten” principle that Jesus loves us?

Yes, we need to search the scriptures and study to know the core doctrines and history that we learn from its pages. But we also need to know how to find comfort from the Word; because in those times, all our Bible knowledge and ability to explain theology will not hold us up. We need to know the reality of  “still waters” spoken of elsewhere in the 23rd Psalm.  

I know I do.

January 31, 2013

Coming Forth As Gold

This was sent me for reasons that are entirely personal and not for the blog. So if the sender sees it here, I want to be clear that I wasn’t missing the point. But now I want to share it with everyone here. It’s from The Presbyterian Church in Canada’s daily devotional website, where it appeared as Lost.

Job 23:10-11 – But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to His way without turning aside. (NIV)

Fog! Thick, swirling, engulfing fog! And I was hopelessly lost. I had decided to take a shortcut home to save time, but now I had absolutely no idea where I was. My GPS was in a drawer somewhere in my house, and I no longer carried maps because I had a GPS. How ironic!

I crawled along slowly, for fear of running off the road or meeting another car in the middle of the road. As I squinted through the ghostly tendrils curling across my window, I noticed a cross-road ahead, but I couldn’t make out any signs. Feeling a sense of panic beginning to build up, I decided to pull off onto the shoulder, and putting on my flashers, I did the only thing I could under the circumstances: I began to pray.

Suddenly, a verse from the Bible popped into my mind:

Isaiah 30:21 – Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (NIV)

For a moment, I was stunned. Was that God telling me that I should follow this side road? Which way? Now I was really confused and more than a little scared.

Suddenly, out of the fog, a whirling red light appeared behind me, its rays wavering through my back window, and I heard a muffled voice on a loud hailer: “You there, in the car. Are you all right?”

The next thing I knew, there was a person standing beside my window, shining a light on his police badge. I let out a relieved sigh of gratitude. It was probably the only time in my life when I would be so happy to see a flashing red light shining through my back window!

As I began rapidly pouring out my predicament, the officer kept patiently nodding his head. I didn’t realize how uptight I had been, and I could feel the tears of relief threatening to spill out. The officer evidently saw my reaction, and he quietly asked me where I was headed.

When I told him where I lived, he said that he would drive ahead of me, and when he honked his horn, I was to turn left at the traffic lights. Then I would be on familiar ground and soon be home. It happened exactly as he had promised, and as I pulled into my driveway, I quietly bowed my head in a prayer of thanksgiving to the One who had promised so often to direct our paths.

Sometimes, when we are faced with difficult situations, we may feel that our minds are in a kind of thick fog, a state of utter confusion, possibly even to the point of panic. We know that we must make some important decisions that will affect our lives, but how do we begin? It is then that we need to stop and “pull off the road”, as it were, and be still in God’s presence, in order to calm down and hear His voice. We must turn the entire matter over to the One who has promised to guide us in the way we should go, because He knows the way.

When we follow His leading, it won’t be long until we can see clearly what we are to do, and we can move confidently in the right direction towards the goal.

Prayer: Lord, help us to rely on You every day to guide us in the way that You have planned for us. Teach us not to lean on our own understanding, but in all our ways to acknowledge You, knowing that You will direct our paths. Amen.

Sharon Greer

December 12, 2012

Anxiety, Depression and the Hope of Christmas

Fear, worry and anxiety are strongly linked to depression; and at this time of year, when everybody else is celebrating, depression seems to get larger, not smaller, for some people. Today is a double-post from Ben Nelson at the blog Another Red Letter Day.  I thought it significant that he dealt with both of these issues a few days apart. Links to the individual articles are in the titles, and you’re encouraged to read these there, leave comments, and browse other articles.

The Catch

Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’ For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. (Matthew 6:31-34 NASB)

In Monday’s post [Much More] I told you that God provision was not a principal or a promise, but more of a forgone conclusion.

Today there is actually another shoe about to drop.

There is a condition – a catch – one itty-bitty proviso.

And that goes back to the last paragraph – Who’s your master?

Here is the thing – If Jesus is your master, you have nothing to worry about – really –nothing.

Worry is a total waste of ‘redeemed time.’

The time you have is a gift of God. He gave it to you with a plan and a purpose.

Worry is a waste of that precious commodity.

Remember this guy?

And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. (Luke 15:13 NASB)

We call him the prodigal son. Do you know why we call this young man prodigal? (yes it is an adjective) Prodigal means wasteful.

So are you a prodigal when it come to your time – wasting it on worry? 

I pray today you would come to your senses like the prodigal son, and run home to Papa who is more than willing to take care of ‘what you will eat’ and ‘what you will drink’ and ‘how you will clothe yourself.’ And He has your tomorrow well in hand.

So get yourself comfortable in the role of servant, and our Wonderful Lord and Master will sweat the details.


Got Gloom?
Check this out

We all know this Christmas verse thanks to GF Handel:

The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them. (Isaiah 9:2 NASB)

But look what comes right before it:

But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. (Isaiah 9:1 NASB)

I love this – Jesus growing up in Galilee of the Gentiles making it glorious – but check the beginning

No more gloom for her who was in anguish.

Are you in anguish?

Are you living in gloom?

Are you stuck in a dark land – a dark place?

Christmas is here to break the gloom – break the anguish.

Ok – that was a bit mushy – how ’bout this:

Jesus was born, lived, and died a cruel death to break the gloom with an astonishing light

~ Ben Nelson

After posting this I discovered we had already borrowed an article from Ben just a few months ago, which I try not to do. But obviously this is a great source of devotional thoughts  which you might want to bookmark.

May 24, 2012

Cultural Overlay Adds Depth to Familiar Bible Story

The majority of Jesus’ disciples may have been fisherman, but generally, we see a kind aqua-phobia among the people of that region.  I was reminded of that this week when I decided to check back with Kevin Rogers’ blog, The Orphan Age, where this appeared under the title

WAKING UP TO THE CHAOS DRAGON
It’s good to be well rested because you never know when your strength will be tested. Consider the disciples with Jesus in the midst of a brutal storm. With their strength being exhausted bailing a swamped boat, their sense of peace was gone.

Mark 4:

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

Tom Boomershine is a Bible scholar who gives us an interesting perspective on this story. The fear of the fisherman may have had a spiritual twist to it.

The chaos dragon lived in the sea and a common belief in the ancient world was that storms in the sea were caused by the sudden rising of the chaos dragon. 

Storms were a kind of tidal wave caused by the great dragon, a symbol for the cosmic powers of evil.

The chaos dragon is in the background of stories in the Old Testament and some of the Psalms. The story of the flood in Genesis reflects the Ancient Near Eastern myths of the chaos dragon. It is a sign of the powers against God. Contemporary movies have developed a large repertoire of signs of the powers of evil.[i]

Even though they were with Jesus, these fishermen grew up on stories from many sources about the dangers of the sea. What evil power was at work seeking to destroy them?

Were they thinking about Jonah who was awakened by the sailors when a violent storm threatened to destroy them? They were not spared until Jonah confessed his wrongdoing and had the men throw him overboard into the frothing chaos.

The disciples waken Jesus and frantically yell over the howl of the storm, “Don’t you care if we drown?”

Have you ever prayed like that? You are facing a life storm that has the capacity to destroy you and you cry out to God asking if He cares. Sometimes there is faith enough to believe that God is with you, but not enough faith to believe that God cares about the fearful circumstance. God may be nearby, but you are going down and cannot understand why God is sleeping.

“Don’t you care if we drown?”

The truth is that Jesus does care. It is God’s preference that none would perish. But in the threat of destruction we lose our ability to see love. How can a loving God allow this to happen? Fear and anger howl like the storm drowning out the quiet-natured presence of peace. Jesus is here, but why is sleeping at a time like this?

“Don’t you care if we drown?”

Jesus cares.

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