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About Kathleen Petersen

I love digging around for scriptural nuggets of God’s truth with our devotional team and being amazed how many facets of meaning we discover. Thanks for reading!

Pentecost Fulfilled

 – The Spirit’s Inscription on Believing Hearts

Our nation accommodates multiple interests. As a result, official calendars are crammed with holidays and observances. A few holidays merit a day off from work, while others are a nod to trends or silly notions (i.e. who celebrates popsicle flavors on separate days?).

Unlike almost any other holiday on public lists, Pentecost, aka Shavuot/Feast of Weeks has thousands of years of vibrant history in both Christianity and Judaism. According to Exodus 23:15, Exodus 34:22, Leviticus 23:15–22 and Deuteronomy 16:9, Pentecost is inextricably tied to 50 days after Passover and is always celebrated on a Sunday. According to Scripture, Jewish men were required to celebrate three holidays in the Jerusalem temple — Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles. Hence, Jews from all over the world (not just local farmers) were gathered there as events unfolded early in the day, (Acts 2:13-15). 

In addition to being the festival celebrating the second “first fruits” harvest while in the Promised Land, certain scholars** have linked Pentecost to the time God supernaturally gave the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. Long after the Sinai event, when the people of Israel and Judah were forced to leave the Promised Land during their deportation to Babylon, the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 11:16-21 and Ezekiel 36:24-27) spoke pointedly about a New Covenant that would be written on the hearts of future Israelites after they returned to the Promised Land.

“Indeed, a time is coming,” says the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. It will not be like the old covenant that I made with their ancestors when I delivered them from Egypt. For they violated that covenant, even though I was like a faithful husband to them,” says the LORD. “But I will make a new covenant with the whole nation of Israel after I plant them back in the land,” says the LORD. “I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts and minds. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
Jeremiah 31:31-33 NET


As recorded in Acts 1, Jesus spoke this to his disciples just prior to Pentecost and before ascending to heaven.

While he was with them, he declared, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait there for what my Father promised, which you heard about from me. For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:4-5 NET

As the disciples obediently waited, the Father fulfilled the words of Jeremiah and Jesus with his fiery, supernatural power from heaven (resembling his activity on Sinai) as he baptized/permeated/filled the hearts and voices of those disciples with his Holy Spirit.

Now when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like a violent wind blowing came from heaven and filled the entire house where they were sitting. And tongues spreading out like a fire appeared to them and came to rest on each one of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:1-4 NET

Hebrews 8 repeats the prophecy of Jeremiah, establishing Jesus and the indwelling Holy Spirit as the promised fulfillment of the New Covenant and therefore, Pentecost.

Presently, when we observe Pentecost, we no longer bring grain offerings, newly harvested from an earthly Promised Land. Instead, we commemorate being his spiritual first fruits — those who have the heavenly gift of the Holy Spirit inscribed on our hearts. We are thus empowered to walk in the way of Jesus, celebrating his abundant spiritual harvest. 

**  Moshe Weinfield on Pentecost as a Festival of Giving the Law and the Book of Jubilees 

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Pentecost Fulfilled2024-05-15T21:47:47-06:00

The Gospel is More

In my Nebraska hometown farming community, couples often married young. When I was 15 my mother gave me a marriage hope chest just like this one,
even though I had no boyfriend.

  Our hope Chest

I started my college years anticipating the famed “MRS” degree. Although one man I dated during college appeared to be my future husband, a series of events derailed our relationship. The hope chest remained dormant in my childhood home as I moved to Washington, DC. There, at age 23, I started my professional life as well as responding positively to Jesus’ invitation to experience the Gospel — the good news of my reconciliation to him. My conversion was so dramatic that I anticipated a smooth path forward. 

In ensuing years, I interacted with many stimulating Christian individuals and groups. My calendar was full, my responsibilities heavy, and my spiritual flourishing noticeable. In hopes of marriage and children, I devoured a plethora of Christian books on the subjects — but God’s picture, so beautiful in Genesis 2, still didn’t materialize for me.

As I approached my 30th birthday, I asked God: where is my husband? I had resolved to serve Jesus with all my heart, but had made a secret (even to me) deadline of age 30 for him to deliver the goods. During the next 3 years I was angry with God for failing to meet that expectation. In desperation, I tried on a Cinderella slipper or two – no success.

At 33, I moved to Colorado to discover many my age already married. At age 38, my brother Joe and I joked about me finding the right man. I believed this man should be a serious Christian, and I tossed in a couple other reasonable attributes. After doing rough calculations, Joe and I concluded that only one man in the Denver area could be a fit. 

I trudged along in my single life, resigned to loneliness. A hard tumor of doubt interfered with my spiritual health. Proverbs 13:12 rang true.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick….

This declaration of the Apostle Paul, a Christian committed to singleness, provoked me.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7 CSB

Delayed, legitimate desires can develop such roadblocks to spiritual growth. Jesus’ followers trust him for the big stuff. When time passes without fulfillment, doubts about his concern and compassion arise. The stories of Naomi in Ruth 1:1-21 and of Samuel’s mother, Hannah, in I Samuel 1 portray the distraught emotional states of these two women. It helps to know their desires were ultimately satisfied by God’s overdue (?) provision.

For his own reasons, God waited to activate my hope chest until I was 42. The statistic my brother and I developed was accurate…there was just one man God had in mind to be my husband. For almost 35 years, God has continued to prove what an ideal fit Lloyd is for me. 

If you or a loved one are experiencing doubt that the Gospel of Jesus covers more than basic conversion, meditate on the below description of his wisdom, character, and timeliness. His Gospel of reconciliation, though complete in eternal terms, is not rushed in this life.

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:8-9 NASB

by Kathleen Petersen

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The Gospel is More2024-05-11T09:22:17-06:00

Glow in the Darkness

by Kathleen Petersen

Earlier this week you received words from some of my fellow Devotional Team members about the shade cast on Jesus’ reputation by dishonorable conduct of self-identified Christians. Such examples prompt doubt that our puny spiritual light can be adequate to combat the negative effects of those fallen reputations.
In addition, we might compare our “good works” with those of the world around us and wonder if our honorable actions can ever be enough. 

There is even more room for doubt. When we give in to a temporal whim or impulse, we can relate to this little dog. 

Like the little dog, our K-9 predisposition/human bent emerges just when we had hoped to be extraordinary. Although we might avoid the worst kinds of depravity and restrain ourselves from spewing the verbal religious garbage of hypocrisy; we lament the slowness of our Biblical transformation as did the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:14-25.

What happens when we briefly join the little dog’s Hole in the Couch Gang for an activity? Is our testimony to the power of Jesus destroyed? Does Jesus cast us aside when we muddle up? Not at all — he provides a way to get us back on track. The spiritually immature in the Corinthian Church received this admonition: 

Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own… I Corinthians 6:19 CSB

Jesus promised: 

But I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I am leaving; for if I do not leave, the Helper [Holy Spirit] will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. John 16:7 NASB

Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to live in those of us who have chosen to follow him; and to our surprise, Jesus relies on that crazy strategy to produce better results than if he had remained on earth after his resurrection. It’s hard to believe he has that kind of confidence in us, isn’t it?

 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5 RSV


The light of the Holy Spirit shines in the darkness past deficiencies that often trouble us. 

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 2 Corinthians 4:7 ESV

In no way am I providing excuses for Christ followers to obscure the light of the Holy Spirit.
We have a life-giving connection that requires nurture.

Notice these two exhortations:

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30 NASB

Do not extinguish the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt. But examine all things; hold fast to what is good. Stay away from every form of evil. I Thessalonians 5:19-22 NET


Thank
Jesus for planting the Spirit inside you. Pray that the Holy Spirit’s light will shine noticeably through you today. Trust the Holy Spirit to glow in the midst of Darkness around you. Sing this familiar song.

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Glow in the Darkness2024-04-27T18:22:23-06:00

The Power of Choice in the Face of Doubt

by Kathleen Petersen

Have you analyzed the tone of this familiar testimony?

“I accepted Jesus into my life.” 

This statement assumes the power of choice — power to welcome God’s intervention. It also carries a suggestion that we retain power to manage his influence. 

Power of choice is not a new concept. 1 Kings 16:29 launches readers into the reign of Ahab, the king who ruled the Northern Kingdom of Israel from
874-853 BC. He began his reign by exerting his power of choice. He “trivialized the commands of the God of Israel” and fully embraced gods of surrounding nations. God evaluated Ahab’s choices in 1 Kings 16:30: 

Ahab…did evil in the sight of the LORD more than all [the kings] who were before him. 

One of the primary offenses that magnified Ahab’s evil deeds was his marriage to Jezebel, daughter of the king of Sidon, who was a wholehearted worshiper and promoter of the false Canaanite gods, Baal and Asherah. She not only eliminated (by death and exile) the kingdom-supported prophets of the God of Israel,
but replaced them with her 850 man team of prophets of those false gods.

In contrast to Ahab and Jezebel, 1 Kings 17 introduces Elijah, one of the displaced prophets of the God of Israel. Near the beginning of Ahab’s reign Elijah proclaimed to Ahab:

“As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall certainly be neither dew nor rain during these years, except by my word.”
1 Kings 17:1 NASB 

Immediately after this declaration, God directed Elijah to flee:

Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. 1 Kings 17:2-3 NASB

Although Elijah remained in exile and in hiding during most of Ahab and Jezebel’s reign,  Kings 17 through 2 Kings 2:11 shows Elijah’s prophetic career was far from over. While living in safe places that God supplied, the most amazing miracles were performed through Elijah. Though Elijah had only sporadically interacted with Ahab and Jezebel, Ahab attached this label to Elijah:

When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is this you, the cause of disaster to Israel?” 1 Kings 18:17 NASB

It’s no wonder Elijah felt like the ultimate outsider — one considered not only worthless but damaging to his fellow countrymen. Elijah twice made the following complaint:

“I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of armies; for the sons of Israel have abandoned Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they have sought to take my life.” 1 Kings 19:10, 14 NASB

Before making this utterance, Elijah’s ventures were dramatic. He experienced an exhilarating victory over 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, followed by fulfillment of his earlier prediction of rain only after a 3.5 year drought. When Jezebel heard about these events she swore to kill Elijah. 

Elijah didn’t wait to see if she was serious. He feared for his life and promptly escaped into the wilderness. He then went into deep despair and doubted his future. His response has been interpreted as a loss of faith. But he hung in there in the midst of churning emotions.

The New Testament says this about Elijah:

Do you remember Elijah? He was a man like us… James 5:17 PHILLIPS

Are you like Elijah in every respect? Me neither. But like him, we are human. Take courage and instructions from James 5:16 PHILLIPS: 

Tremendous power is made available through a good person’s earnest prayer.

Even though none of us have been made instantly superhuman when we “accept Jesus”, we can count on being transformed by his power. Moreover, we have access to that amazing power through prayer. Doubt and fear do not have to land knockout punches in our lives. If you have time today, read 1 Kings 17 through 2 Kings 2:11 and marvel at what God did through Elijah.


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The Power of Choice in the Face of Doubt2024-04-07T12:33:48-06:00

Very Early, Still Dark – The Murky Hour

by Kathleen Petersen

 

Now very early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been moved away from the entrance. John 20:1 NET

This “murky hour” between dark and light when most of us are not quite asleep nor quite awake can create a state of vulnerability to dark thoughts and unusual experiences. 

When my daughter was young, I was sometimes assailed during that ”murky hour” with thoughts that I had permanently ruined her life with prior actions.
Such guilt! Only after I pulled into full consciousness was I able to put those thoughts into better perspective.

Mary Magdalene’s sense of grief and foreboding may have been intensified that particular morning because it marked what should have been the joyous
Feast of Firstfruits. But no joy for her — she was lamenting the loss of her Master who had brought her out of desperate brokenness. Was she also hearing
murky voices that reminded her of her own weakness and accented her sorrow? 

The Jews celebrated the Feast of Firstfruits two days after Passover as part of the seven day Feast of Unleavened Bread. Leviticus 23:4-14 discloses that these holidays were instituted to be holy convocations (rehearsals) which recalled the most significant past events/miracles that God had ever performed for Israel. They were also rehearsals for more glorious fulfillment in future events and miracles. These festivals also anticipated Israel’s expected messiah.   

Little did Mary know she was to be such a significant part of that glorious fulfillment. She was the first person to experience the most extraordinary First Fruits celebration in history! The Apostle Paul wrote:

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also came through a man. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; then when Christ comes, those who belong to him. 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 NET

Are you experiencing a “murky hour”? Silence any voice of despair by taking time to gain full consciousness. Review either God’s promises or some of the marvelous acts of power Jesus has performed in your life. Rejoice that you are part of the First Fruits who belong to him and will join in his resurrection.  

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Very Early, Still Dark – The Murky Hour2024-04-08T09:28:59-06:00

A Wonderful Plan…

by Kathleen Petersen

“God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life!” opens the persuasive message of a popular gospel tract. I’m curious. If passages such as the one below were paired with that sentence, how many readers of that tract would be more cautious about following Jesus? In the final portion of John’s gospel, Jesus revealed unpleasant details about the finish of Peter’s earthly life: 

I tell you the solemn truth, when you were young, you tied your clothes around you and went wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will tie you up and bring you where you do not want to go.” (Now Jesus said this to indicate clearly by what kind of death Peter was going to glorify God.) After he said this, Jesus told Peter, “Follow me.”

Peter turned around and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them. (This was the disciple who had leaned back against Jesus’ chest at the meal and asked, “Lord, who is the one who is going to betray you?”) So when Peter saw him, he asked Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus replied, “If I want him to live until I come back, what concern is that of yours? You follow me!” So the saying circulated among the brothers and sisters that this disciple was not going to die. But Jesus did not say to him that he was not going to die, but rather, “If I want him to live until I come back, what concern is that of yours?” John 21:18-24 NET

Peter might have felt that the crucifixion of his Master was more than enough to endure — why did Jesus pick him to experience that same kind of shame? Peter reacted by appealing the fairness of his projected end by hoping to compare it to John’s last days. If John was scheduled to receive more favorable treatment, could Peter possibly negotiate a better deal? 

But Jesus firmly redirected Peter’s impulsive, agitated thoughts and underscored his purpose in revealing Peter’’s unique destiny.

…“Follow me.” John 21:19 NET

…what concern is that of yours? You follow me!John 21:22 NET

For those with strong personalities like Peter’s, who are inclined to arrange their own pilgrimage, “wonderful plans” rarely include “bringing them where they do not want to go”. Conversely, those with less aggressive natures lean into the idea that a truly loving God will supernaturally fulfill their secret hopes and dreams, give them special advantages, and make life safe. Sign me up!

Some of the most significant stumbling blocks to following Jesus into his sufferings are like Peter’s. We compare ourselves to seemingly better-off disciples and/or seek escape hatches when Jesus asks us to follow him into self-sacrificial service. Rather than choosing to follow him no matter the results, we are drawn to shortcuts offering immediate rewards.

The Apostle Paul gave the following perspective on what ordinary disciples should anticipate when relinquishing earthly, tangible desires to follow Jesus. Meditate on this: 

…but we have this treasure in clay jars, so that the extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are experiencing trouble on every side, but are not crushed; we are perplexed, but not driven to despair; we are persecuted, but not abandoned; we are knocked down, but not destroyed, always carrying around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our body. For we who are alive are constantly being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our mortal body…Therefore we do not despair, but even if our physical body is wearing away, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary, light suffering is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison because we are not looking at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen. For what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 and 4:16-18 NET


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A Wonderful Plan…2024-03-30T23:49:13-06:00

The Most Secure Investment

by Kathleen Petersen

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and money.”

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than they are? And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life? Why do you worry about clothing? Think about how the flowers of the field grow; they do not work or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these! And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, won’t he clothe you even more, you people of little faith? So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own. Luke 12:24-34 NET

According to this Forbes article, “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the U.S. and affect over 40 million adults, or 19.1% of the population.” The Mayo Clinic identifies some of the causes. The remaining 80% of illnesses are also affected by anxiety, but not so severely.

Although these reasonably authoritative articles from esteemed flagships of financial success and physical health are interesting, they probably don’t add much in helping us recognize main sources of anxiety. In the two millennia since Jesus spoke the words in Luke 12:22-34, nothing has truly changed on the list of most obvious and serious human concerns. Jesus’ summary statement gives sound guidance:

…the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own. Luke 12:30-31, 34 NET


Although we have daily troubles, it’s worth repeating Jesus’ counsel for the most secure investment we can make for a gold-plated future:

…above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 


Two prior verses in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount recommend recurring deposits into that secure investment:

accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and devouring insects do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Luke 12:20-21 NET


It’s tempting to squander energy, time and resources agonizing about many issues plaguing our current worldly system, and whether they can be fully anticipated, planned for, or solved. Of course we face serious personal, social, economic and political concerns that merit our heartfelt prayers and pertinent action, directed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. But, often to our frustration, outcomes are far beyond our control — even those ends that seem vital to building God’s kingdom.  

Let’s cherish our precious, daily opportunities to invest in God’s kingdom and leave the ROI (return on investment) to him.


Here are questions you might consider if you find yourself headed into an anxiety spiral:

  • Has God’s kingdom become your heart’s treasure? 
  • Do you see yourself and others seeking solutions in a perpetual tangle of problems? 
  • Are you spending an undue amount of time chasing worldly, unsatisfactory solutions for those problems? 
  • Will you commit to move consistently and intentionally away from anxiety pathways that center around things you and your loved ones lack?
  • And will you renew your allegiance to and dependance on the provision our gracious, powerful King longs to provide? 

If you need a nudge, this humorous approach by the comedian Bob Newhart has helped me to see my problems differently.


Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.

The Most Secure Investment2024-03-23T12:37:40-06:00

A Healthy Outlook

by Kathleen Petersen

The eye is the lamp of the body. If then your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! Matthew 6:22-23 NET


In this word picture, Jesus wasn’t addressing our physical eyesight, but the spiritual lens we use to evaluate and interact with God, other people and circumstances. 

The essential contrasts in this passage are health versus disease, and light versus darkness. Both eyes see the same things. But the healthy eye sees clearly, positively, where the diseased eye sees morbidly, negatively. Jesus adds an emphasis to the morbidity — ”how great is the darkness!” This emphasis suggests hell itself is the trajectory of one who fails to cultivate a sound spiritual eye.

Around 6th century B.C. an occult symbol called the “evil eye” appeared in ancient Greece, accelerated throughout the world, and has persistent influence today.  

The evil eye symbolizes envy and malice. Many cultures believe it comes from coveting another person’s position or possessions. From this jealousy comes negative energy that can bring misfortune and injury to others and oneself.

I’m certain Jesus’ audience was familiar with this symbol and its significance. Jesus’ image of the unhealthy eye was also likely to bring to mind the tenth commandment:

Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. Exodus 20:17 CSB

“Coveting”  (“envy”) is aggressive and corrosive. A dictionary search pops up this maze of synonyms: 

yearn to possess or have (something), be consumed with desire for, crave, have one’s heart set on, want, wish for, long for, yearn for, dream of, aspire to, hanker for, hanker after, hunger after/for, thirst for, ache for, fancy, burn for, pant for

greedy, avaricious, acquisitive, covetous, rapacious, grasping, venal, cupidinous, materialistic, mercenary, predatory, usurious, possessive, grabbing, hoarding, Scroogelike, money-grubbing, money-grabbing, grabby, pleonectic, Mammonish, Mammonistic, eager, avid, hungry, craving, longing, yearning, hankering, thirsty, pining, enthusiastic, impatient, anxious, desirous of, dying, itching, hot, gagging

What an unsavory list! Encourage yourself to actively cultivate a healthy spiritual and scriptural eye:

… let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 CSB


Look at the life of
prolific hymn writer Fanny Crosby who suffered blindness at an early age. However, her spiritual eye was healthy. She considered the circumstances of her disability to be the avenue God used to enhance her musical gift as well as spurring her on to serve the underprivileged. 


Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.

A Healthy Outlook2024-03-16T12:21:18-06:00

Conspicuous Righteousness

by Kathleen Petersen

When you fast, do not look sullen like the hypocrites, for they make their faces unattractive so that people will see them fasting. I tell you the truth, they have their reward! When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others when you are fasting, but only to your Father who is in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:16-18 NET


Like other customary Jewish religious practices of Jesus’ day, fasting showed extraordinary dedication to God. Jesus pointed out that these practices, including prayer and charitable giving, had too often become just a show with the hopes of earthly benefits. Such conspicuous practices had not been directed toward our Father in Heaven, but orchestrated to build a reputation that would impress both religionists and common people.  

Because American evangelicals haven’t been bound to observing as many rites, ancient customs and holidays as other branches of Christianity, we can be inclined to think we are more centered on the basics and thus more pleasing to God. But, even if we consider those ancient customs as “show religion”,
have we acclimated ourselves to other religious performances?

The book of Acts describes the inspiring motivation of the newly formed Jerusalem Church:

The group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but everything was held in common. Acts 4:32 NET

“One heart and mind” What a beautiful description of wholehearted service. Sadly, it didn’t take much time for a couple engaged in this tender environment
to devise a self centered act of giving.

Now a man named Ananias, together with Sapphira his wife, sold a piece of property. He kept back for himself part of the proceeds with his wife’s knowledge; he brought only part of it and placed it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back for yourself part of the proceeds from the sale of the land? Before it was sold, did it not belong to you? And when it was sold, was the money not at your disposal? How have you thought up this deed in your heart? You have not lied to people but to God!”
Acts 5:1-8 NET

Hypocrisy is just another word for lying. Lying always hurts our relationships with God and tears communities of faith apart. Peter calls this couple’s plot lying
to God. Such irony –- trying to lie to God from whom nothing is hidden! 

Are your Christian activities enhancing your visible dedication to God but leaving you empty? Are you engaging in spiritual exercises, serving others, teaching, music ministry, giving financially, being friendly, etc., secretly angling for others to praise your talent, intelligence, generosity, dedication and warm personal touch? Are you in a respected and needed ministry because the Holy Spirit continues to prompt you, or do you press on primarily because others are impressed with your talents or religious knowledge? 

It’s wise to periodically review your religious involvements and check your motivations. You might want to add a less visible niche area of service that seems of less value to others and see what happens. 


Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.

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Red Couch Theology Podcast

Sermon Conversations with Alex and Aaron

There’s only so much we can cover in a Sunday morning gathering!
Each week, you’re invited to tune into our LIVE podcast at 11 am on Thursdays – recorded (and sometimes prerecorded) for later, online viewing.

What can you expect? Pastors Alex, Aaron and the occasional guest, having a casual conversation diving deeper into ideas related to last Sunday’s teaching:


Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 6:16-18

(See also Isaiah 58)

Questions may be sent through
https://redcouchtheology.com/  

Blog sites:

Youtube:  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCWnNSTN-6XA7oYy6TBfS0LAxqxPvxVjH

Apple Podcast:  https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/guys-drinking-tea/id1616539767

Conspicuous Righteousness2024-03-10T14:51:52-06:00

Tactics of The Evil One

by Kathleen Petersen

And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Matthew 6:13 NET


When I was young, my parents were involved with Freemasonry organizations. Both encouraged me to join Job’s Daughters, the Freemason branch for young women. I later learned, although this covert organization had biblical trappings, it was entry level occultism which I later renounced. However, the book of Job, the oldest book in Scripture, still intrigued me and his sufferings remain a mystery. Job’s story begins in Job 1:1-5 with describing him as a man who had been experiencing the Prosperity Gospel of his time.

Job was unaware he was about to encounter unprecedented torment because of the following conversation in the Unseen Realm.

One day the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD asked Satan, “Where have you come from?”

“From roaming through the earth,” Satan answered him, “and walking around on it.”

Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? No one else on earth is like him, a man of perfect integrity, who fears God and turns away from evil.”

Satan answered the LORD, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Haven’t you placed a hedge around him, his household, and everything he owns? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he owns, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

“Very well,” the LORD told Satan, “everything he owns is in your power. However, do not lay a hand on Job himself.” So Satan left the LORD’s presence. Job 1:6-12 CSB


After this dialogue, Job’s circumstances morphed into a series of horrible nightmares. He had no scripture from which to draw strength. But he did have rich experiences of the goodness of God. In later chapters of the book, the words of advice from his wife and limited understanding of his best friends served only to increase his agony. In Job 19:22-24, Job expresses his longing for all their counsel along with his own words to be recorded for future generations. Guess what? He got his wish.

After his petition to record his experience for succeeding generations, Job’s next words express a sentiment that rings true through the rest of scripture.

But I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the end he will stand on the dust.

Even after my skin has been destroyed,
yet I will see God in my flesh.

I will see him myself;
my eyes will look at him, and not as a stranger.

My heart longs within me. Job 19:25-27 CSB


Let that sink in! Job, who had no centuries of theological resources, placed his faith in the Unseen One who had always been good to him. He did not let his memory of God’s generosity vanish in the midst of humanly unbearable satanic persecution. In return, God did not permit Job’s faith to fail. Read this portion of Jesus’ prayer again:

And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.


God has been faithful to those who serve him throughout every phase of human history. It’s revealed in Hebrews 7:25 that Jesus, our Redeemer and High Priest, intercedes for us during every unanticipated test or temptation generated by the evil one. A reminder: 

Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me. Rejoice and be glad because your reward is great in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way. Matthew 5:11-12 NET 


Are you or someone close to you suffering torment for no apparent cause? Pray this week’s portion of the Lord’s prayer and listen for scriptural insight. Don’t be in a rush for the response — leave room for a clear word from the Holy Spirit. God provides the same supernatural strength to us that he granted to Job.


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Tactics of The Evil One2024-03-02T20:56:47-07:00
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