Atheists will sometimes claim that they have “looked for God” but did not find Him, so they concluded He does not exist. But God might not reveal Himself exactly in the way that the proud and insincere demand of him. An eye-opening article from apologist Kenneth Samples at Reasons to Believe……………….
Learning to Love the Psalms by W. Robert Godfrey (Reformation Trust Publishing; 2017)
In this most enlightening and informative book on the Psalms. Godfrey laments the fact that this vital part of holy Scripture which played such an important role in the life of the Jewish community for thousands of years, as well as for the Christian church for almost 1800 years has now fallen into a theological corner. In this book, Godfrey hopes to spark a new interest in the use the Psalter, both in corporate worship services, and in the personal devotions and prayers of believers everywhere.
Learning to Love the Psalms is neither a commentary or a devotional —- technically speaking. Yet the author both explains the occasions and use of the Psalms in ancient Israel —- like a commentary; but also shows how the theme of each psalm discussed can be used as a devotional and as a springboard to prayer and communion with the Father.
Godfrey describes the make-up and apparent theme and aim of each of the five Books that make up the Psalms in our Bibles today. After that description, the author details more of the interesting facts behind the psalms described (over 80 in all), how they tie into the overall theme of the Book in which they are found, and how modern-Christians can better understand and make more practical and spiritual lessons contained in each psalm. The book is written in a clear and entertaining manner, making it very accessible to the general reader; but with enough theological and expository insight to be very useful for pastors. Most highly recommended!
WHO GOD SAYS YOU ARE by Klyne Snodgrass (Eerdmans Publishing Co.; 2018) covers a topic that sounds overwhelming and intimidating, but is rather an important core issue for every human – identity. By “identity,” Snodgrass means what “makes me me;” and since we all have a divine Creator Who made us the people we are for some distinct purposes, there can be no more important question for anyone to answer, but especially Christians. “Why did God make me like this, and does my life reflect who I really am?” But rather than a stuffy anthropological or philosophical treatise, Snodgrass does a wonderful job of demonstrating and explaining this issue in compelling and inviting ways.
After establishing the fact that only Christians have the ability to truly understand themselves – as opposed to all non-Christians – because we know our Maker; then the meat of the book discourses on nine factors the author says comprise the total makeup of our true identities. Quickly, those factors are: Our body; our history; our relations (and relationships); our self-interpreting of our memories; our chosen commitments; our actions; our boundaries; our ongoing change in temperament and styles of living; and the future we see for ourselves. The theme and goal of this timely book when “identity” is in so much confusion in the world, is that we can only truly understand ourselves by understanding the God Who not only created us, but loves us. Highly recommended.
Oh, to have some of the powerful faith of George Muller! Below is an excerpt from a sermon in which he tries to explain his understanding of biblical faith. A goal to shoot for! From ReasonableTheology.org……………
THE IMPERFECT DISCIPLE by Jared C. Wilson ( Baker Books; 2017)
This book is about discipleship but takes a different approach from most Christian books on this subject. The typical book by a pastor or Bible teacher who wants to explain how the Bible defines discipleship and how a person can become wholly sold out to Jesus — like the author! But this book is written by a former pastor who had to give up his pastorate due to stress, depression, and burnout. And he sets the goal for himself to write a book that encourages the average Christian who is trying to walk with Jesus while raising kids, going to school, and working long hours at a job that they are not exactly crazy about.
Wilson accomplishes this goal by openly admitting how messed up and thoroughly ordinary he is. He is no kind of example for other believers to follow. But this is the point, because until a believer is honest enough to admit how hopeless they are in trying to walk like Jesus on their own skills and willpower, the sooner they will be able to recognize the extraordinary grace found in the gospel. The author makes an interesting point that our Christian lives can be summed up in Romans 7 and 8 — that we fail in our sins daily, but God has given us the Holy Spirit as a down payment of His intention to cause us to become like Christ through the efforts of the Spirit. And that God will not give up on us until we become glorified in heaven with Jesus and all of our spiritual brothers and sisters.
Wilson writes in a humorous and passionate style that is both engaging and encouraging. And he does a beautiful job in showing how spectacular and amazing God’s grace and love are and that any believer can live in confidence that by being a follower of Christ — even one who constantly stumbles — they are greatly loved and cared for by our heavenly Father. Highly recommended!
This devotion from pastor and author Mark Batterson is about open ears, ears open to God, and whose voice one listens to…………….
This article gleans the teachings on having a relationship with God from Chapter Two of the book Hearing God by Dallas Willard. That chapter discusses some general guidelines on hearing from God.
Willard says the first guideline in hearing from God is to know that God intends to develop a relationship with us as two persons who freely love each other with genuine agape love. This means we should not just want to hear God speaking to us but becoming someone engaged in a mature and loving relationship with Him. To have any meaningful conversation with God, we must be in communion with Him.
Willard then states that the second general guideline for hearing God is to believe that the people in the Bible were basically like us. If God could choose to communicate with those people, we have to believe that the Lord can speak to us today.
Finally, the third truth to keep in mind when considering receiving a word from God is that it does not necessarily mean we are righteous or what we believe He said is correct when He speaks to us. So, we must always be humble and curtail the temptation to announce, “God told me.”
Our next article in this series will focus on the fact that God is always with us and attentive to us.
This article will be the first in a series in which I discuss the wisdom I have received (and am still receiving) from the book Hearing God by Dallas Willard. This book is all about how to develop a conversational relationship with God.
Willard says that when we look at all of the examples in the Bible of God’s intentions for His relationship with humans, God deals individually with each person. So, there is a tremendous amount of evidence in both Scripture and the history of the church of the existence of God’s personal guiding communication with us. But paradoxically, there is also a pervasive uncertainty about how hearing God’s voice actually works today. This leads to many believers having so little clarity on what they should expect God’s voice to be like and how to deal with it that it only leads to more confusion when His voice does come to them.
To resolve this paradox that hinders people in their relationship with God, Willard says they need a clear understanding of God’s usual ways of guiding and communicating with us. Three ideas need to be reviewed before actually looking at specifics for communicating with God.
First, it must be recognized that God’s communications to us come in many different ways and forms. But we need to know about the methods that God has generally preferred to use in the Bible and Christian experience. Second, believers may have wrong motives for wanting to hear from God. An extreme preoccupation with our own security and comfort rather than a Christ-like attitude to commune with the Father or seek others’ wellbeing may result in God keeping silent with us. Third, our understanding of God’s communication will be flawed if we have the wrong conception of God’s nature and His intentions toward us.
When I read articles like this one, I get so upset with myself for ever thinking that God doesn’t know about or care about my life! From Core Christianity……………..
Only for the Christian is this possible, and only because of the indwelling of Jesus! From the Mental Health Grace Alliance…………………
I have suffered all of my life with severe anxiety and depression. And this includes my 35+ years as a Christian. I know that many other believers struggle as I do, and maybe even get to feeling “faithless” and “unworthy” before God for feeling that way. But God is neither surprised nor angry or frustrated with our struggles.
I am a voracious reader and student of the Bible and have tried numerous methods suggested by the thousands of books and sermons one can find these days on how better to handle stress. But I have discovered something — or rather realized — a solution that has stared at me in the face from the pages of Scripture. And it begins with one word: Remember.
Of course, anxiety and depression (like mine) often have some physical/chemical reasons, along with childhood trauma and emotional makeup that contribute to it. And I take medications and do most of the other things I can to reduce those feelings. But there is one beneficial thing that God Himself pointed out to us in His Word, and it starts with that little word “remember.”
In fact, if one were to do a word study on “remember,” that word appears over 230 times in the NIV, for instance. But here is the thing I discovered: I have to make a choice to remember what God has done for me in the past, and the character He displays all throughout Scripture. In other words, when I am stressed and anxious or doubting, I have to remember to remember.
This was apparently a problem for a large number of both individuals and tribes and nations to put into practice, too. Here are some examples of those who did not remember or forgot to remember:
- Moses and the Israelites: Nu. 15:39-40 — “You will have these tassels to look at, and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord…Then you will remember all my commands and be consecrated to your God.”
- Joshua: Jos. 1:13 — “Remember the command that Moses, the servant of the Lord, gave you….”
- David: 1 Chron. 16:12 — “Remember the wonders he [God] has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced….”
- Solomon: 2 Chron. 6:42 — “Lord God, do not reject your anointed one. Remember the great love promised to David, your servant.”
- Psalm 63:6 — On my bed, I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.”
- Jeremiah: Jer.15:15 — Lord, you understand; remember me and care for me.
- The women at the Empty Tomb: Luke 24:6 — “He is not here; He has risen! Remember how He told you while you were still in Galilee….”
- Hebrews 10:32 — Remember those earlier days after you had received the light when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering.
- Jesus to all believers: Rev.3:3 — “Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard: hold it fast, and repent.”
So, I am slowly learning that when I am anxious or doubting to stop and remember — not only all the hundreds and thousands of times that God never let me down. I also remember that folks in the Bible (even the so-called heroes), had to pause, stop, and remember on God and His love and faithfulness. So, REMEMBER to REMEMBER!
Those without Christ will always be basically discontented and restless. But this can also happen with those of us who follow Jesus. This article helps if we feel a lack of the peace that should characterize believers. From Two Journeys…………
By Nicholas Vafiades
The phrase, “getting the lay of the land,” originally referred to geographically understanding how the land is laid out with its various features before plotting a course or plan of action. But that phrase for map-making and traversing the landscape has now become an expression in common usage that refers to scoping out the current circumstances and situations. And especially doing so before beginning an endeavor or plan of action. So, while this phrase may not appear in the Bible, the concept is actually quite common in Scripture. And it is a place where I have found myself for the past few months.
In my time in both the for-profit and non-profit work worlds, I have spent most of my time communicating with others both inside and outside the organizations through written and spoken forms of communicating. But the Lord has now brought me to a new place where I am finally able to use my gifts, skills, and experiences to bless others and possibly help further God’s kingdom. But how best to do that? That is why I am getting the lay of the land before me.
The Bible often speaks about coming to a place of decision and the processes a person of God should go through as they think about the best course of action. Most often, the word you will find in most translations for this is “consider,” which means to plan, devise, think on, etc. I think about the contrasts between Saul and David in the OT, where they both had to look at the “lay of the land” before deciding on their next step, but where Saul went on his own best ideas, David consistently sought out the Lord and His wisdom as part of his decision of what to do next. And the saints in the NT always sought direction from the Spirit before proceeding — even if it meant going against where and when they originally wanted to go.
As I look at the lay of the land before me right now in terms of how best to use my writing and editing to minister to and assist others, you also may be in a place where you have a particular plot of land to figure how it lays for you. Perhaps you will join me in a prayer:
Father God, I stand in a place of decision, and I want to make the decision that is in accordance with your will and your plans for me. I don’t want to be either impatient and move ahead of you or impertinent in the belief that my plans are better for me than your plans. Please help me to wait on you, to hear your voice when you speak to me, and then to have the faith and courage to follow where you direct. In the excellent and holy Name of Your Son, Jesus, amen.
By Lori Vafiades
One of my greatest joys is encountering the creatives that are drawn to our co-op. My business partners and I represent over 20 Colorado Springs artists in our gift shop, Sanctuary Inspired Goods. We have never turned an artist away.
Charlotte and her busker fiancé dropped in one late afternoon. Her red hair was topped with an emerald green bowler hat, and her black tulle skirt adorned with silver moons and stars. Everything screamed “Artist.” She was pulled in by our energetic art community, how we love and support one another. “I love the vibes,” she said, then asked how she could join us. Charlotte grabbed her phone to swipe through photos of her art. I’ve done this with dozens of artists now, and it always reminds me of a grandma displaying pictures of her grandbabies or a cat mom sharing her kitty photo parade. I moved up next to Charlotte so I could have a better look at her art; both artist and art are precious to me.
“I’m a green witch,” she told me, looking closely at my face. I think she was looking for a reaction. In my years as an art coach, I have taught my facial muscles to remain still while looking at art and hearing the life stories of others. I nodded and said “uh-huh” a lot. But, if she had been able to read my mind, she would have heard, “gotta Google that one.”
Green Witch, according to Urban Dictionary: noun. A witch specializing in the earthen world. A green witch is typically female, practices solitarily, and is a Pagan. Green witches know much about the identities, myths, care, etc., of plant life and seek to preserve it. They attempt to connect with the earthen world with New Age methods such as meditating. They acknowledge magic and use it in tune with natural forces to accomplish a goal, aka using witchcraft. These goals may include but are not limited to: healings, protectings, blessings. Green witches are usually knowledgeable in herbalism.
Truth is, whatever she calls herself, God calls her beloved daughter, precious child, beautiful one.
And that is why we are here to look for organic opportunities; to remind daughters and sons of their name; to share with these creative ones their true destiny; to gently lead them to the Great Creator who is madly in love with them.
In my next blog post, I will talk about the encounter with the busker and why volume matters.
Hospitality is such an important practice for every believer, but especially in terms of being a missionary or a minister of the gospel, as well as for those who wish to serve those who minister the gospel to others. From Place for Truth……………….
HEARING GOD (PART THREE)
This is the third article in the series of teachings from the book Hearing God by Dallas Willard. This article covers lessons learned from Chapter Three, “Never Alone.”
Before discussing hearing God’s voice, a believer must first have an understanding and trust that God is present with them. This understanding of God’s presence usually grows in stages. First, there is a simple faith that it must be true that God is with us, maybe because of some unique past experience or the faith of others in this fact. But we might have no direct awareness of His being here with us specifically.
Then, through time and experience, we might move to awareness at times of a powerful feeling or impression of God’s presence. This type of understanding makes itself known at times when a number of people on a church project, for example, find that their thoughts and activities have been synchronized through a sense of God’s presence and intentions.
Finally, we perceive God acting in conjunction with our actions in a way that changes the circumstances not possible through simple human effort alone. But these three phases of the sensing of God’s presence are only the beginning because of our relationship with God as priests for Him and as His adopted children. God wants to relate to and converse with us actively. This leads us to what Willard defines as our full purpose in God: “A conversational relationship with God where we are consistently and deeply engaged as His friend and co-laborer in the affairs of the Kingdom of God.”
Next time, we will look more closely at the idea of God speaking to us directly on a consistent basis.