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That title comes from the New Living Translation of Hebrews 12:2:

Isn’t that a strength-infusing image? Picture our Lord Jesus wearing a spotless white robe, sitting tall on a regal white horse, a golden sash encircling his chest.  See his face glowing like the sun, eyes blazing like fire. And in his hands rests a scepter of iron. Everything about him conveys authority, glory, and power.[1]

Statue located in Hendersonville, TN at Trinity Music City. Photo by Brent Moore.

But more important than how he looks, of course, is what he does. And that list is extensive. 

We have a Champion on our side—an all-victorious One—who is ready to help us win this race of life as we stay focused on him.[2]

Scripture reveals remarkable truths about our Champion. The following sixteen statements not only create an acrostic, but offer glorious reasons for praise.  

Our Lord Christ is:

Jesus, the Son of God through whom all things were created and through whom we live.[3]

Everlasting Father, protecting and providing for us now and always.[4]

Sovereign over all, reigning with wisdom, righteousness, and mercy.[5]

Unfailing and unchanging in his personal love for each of us.[6]

Savior to all who believe in him.[7]

Overcomer of our arch enemy, Satan, who’s already been defeated.[8]

Upholder of justice and truth, always acting with integrity, always speaking rightly.[9]

Rescuer from every evil attack, who will take us to heaven when the time is right.[10]

Conqueror of death who brought us the good news of salvation, offering life to us that never ends.[11]  

Hero of impeccable character and omnipotent power, willing to help us every moment.[12]

Alpha and Omega, the all-sufficient One who always was and always will be.[13] 

Mighty Warrior King, coming to earth again to establish his glorious kingdom.[14] 

Perfector of our faith, who will never give up on us.[15]

Intercessor for all believers, continually pleading for us before God.[16]

One and only Word of God—communicating and manifesting the magnificence of God to us.[17]

Name above all names, the result of his absolute perfections and humble sacrifice in our place.[18]

And what will be the result as we focus our contemplations upon Jesus our Champion?

His influence will penetrate to the core of who we are.

The Apostle Paul put it this way:

We’ll begin to act and react like Jesus, talk and even think like Jesus.

And in the process we’ll become champions ourselves—victors and conquerors, able to triumph over whatever comes our way.[19] 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I praise You, Lord Jesus, for being my Champion. What a glorious relief to know that you—the all-sufficient One–go before me each day, ready to defend, protect, guide, and provide. May I keep my eyes fixed on you to bolster my faith and grow me more like you. I do want to live in confident victory!

2 Corinthians 2:14a; Deuteronomy 31:8;

Psalm 91:14-15; 2 Peter 3:18; 1 John 5:4

Scriptural support for this post:


[1] Daniel 7:9; Revelation 19:11-15; 1:13-16; Daniel 7:14

[2] Philippians 3:7-12; Hebrews 12:2

[3] 1 Corinthians 8:6 NLT

[4] Revelation 21:4

[5] Ephesians 1:19b-21; Jeremiah 23:5; Isaiah 42:1; James 5:11

[6] John 15:13

[7] John 3:16

[8] John 16:33; 1 John 3:8

[9] Jeremiah 33:15; Revelation 19:11; 1 Peter 2:22

[10] 2 Timothy 4:18; John 14:2-3

[11] 1 Timothy 1:10 CEV

[12] 1 John 2:1; Ephesians 1:19; Philippians 4:13

[13] Revelation 22:13; Colossians 1:13-20

[14] Isaiah 42:13; Psalm 72

[15] Philippians 1:6

[16] Romans 8:34 GNT

[17] John 1:1; Colossians 1:15; 2:9

[18] Philippians 2:6-11

[19] 1 Corinthians 15:57; Romans 8:37

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Pretend you’re on an ocean liner headed from New York City to England.   You and several thousand other passengers enjoy your days at sea, free to choose from dozens of activities—games, shopping, shows, sports, crafts, and more.

You can eat anytime you like, sleep whenever you feel drowsy, make friends among the other passengers or remain solitary. In other words, you make many choices during the voyage, but all the while the ship is headed towards its predetermined destination.

A.W. Tozer gave us this ocean-voyage illustration in his classic, The Knowledge of the Holy, to help us understand God’s sovereignty:

  • Our all-powerful God wields total authority in the universe, just as the shipping authorities exercise sovereignty over the course of a ship.
  • We’ve been given much freedom within the confines of God’s sovereignty to move about and make choices.

Now some folks take issue with God’s control. They want to direct the course of their life-ships.  I for one find great comfort in the numerous, reassuring scriptures about God’s sovereignty.

For example, everything in heaven and earth belongs to Him. He is the glorious head over all, the ruler of all things (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). That includes us–those who know Jesus and belong to the family of God.

As our Heavenly Father, he provides for our needs, guides us through decisions, bestows many blessings, and more. What encouraging truth! The Almighty God of the universe is in charge of our lives as we submit to him. We don’t have to navigate alone.

The key, however, is submission. God is a gentleman and will not force himself upon us. He’s chosen to limit his sovereignty, to allow humans free choice.

Another reassuring truth: God is totally competent. We’ve all known inept leaders who couldn’t fulfill their responsibilities.

But our Ruler is supremely capable. Nothing is too hard for him (Jeremiah 32:17).  As we focus on his complete sufficiency, our worries shrink in significance.

In addition, no plan of God’s can be thwarted (Job 42:2).   What God says, happens.

His sovereign plan is efficient and goal-oriented. He works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his perfect plan (Isaiah 25:1).

God’s sovereignty is also employed with infinite wisdom (Job 12:13).  No foolish decisions come from God’s throne!

And contrary to appearances, he does maintain over-arching rule on humankind (Daniel 4:35).

Consider how circumstances must have seemed to the people of Judah as the barbaric Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B. C., murdered all the nobles, and took thousands of Jewish captives to Babylon.

That wasn’t an isolated case of oppression either. Good people have suffered at the hands of the wicked for eons, and it breaks our hearts. It breaks God’s heart too (Isaiah 63:10). 

Our question of why God allows bad things to happen to good people doesn’t always get answered. We’re not privy to everything God knows or all the reasons behind his decisions (Romans 11:33-36).

What we do know is this: evil never wins in the end. Every evil empire of history that rose in prominence and power eventually fell in ruin. Our sovereign God knows what he’s doing.

And he will have the last word.

So when the squeaky wheels of worry, doubt, or fear begin to spin in your head, and you wonder, Who’s in Charge Here?, apply the oil of gladness, delighting in who God is—your all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise, and yes, in-control God!

Take joy in the knowledge that “if God is for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31)?

And rest in thIs affirmation: “from him and through him and to him are all things” (Romans 11:36, emphasis added).

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Sovereign Lord of the universe, I bow in worshipful wonder of your magnificence. Your greatness shatters all boundaries! I stand in awe of your vast power and infinite wisdom, always at work in the world.

But for those times when I cannot understand your plan or your ways, help me stand in the truth of who you are.

(Revised and reblogged from February 26, 2015, while we enjoy the company of out-of-town family.)

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Oh—you’ve never heard of yabbits? Not to worry. If I change the spelling and offer a few examples, you’ll instantly understand. Yabbits are the “Yeah, but . . .” statements that create havoc in our minds, much like rabbits create havoc in a backyard garden.

Who–ME?

For example:

  • YEAH, I know worry doesn’t help . . . BUT I can’t seem to shut it off.
  • YEAH, I know the Bible teaches that God is good . . . BUT what about all the evil in the world?
  • YEAH, I know I’m supposed to forgive . . . BUT this hurts!
  • YEAH, I know Romans 8:28 about all things working together for good . . . BUT I’m not seeing it in this situation, and it’s been going on a long time.
  • YEAH, I know some Christians seem to live in a bubble of joy . . . BUT I’m not feeling it!

These yabbits have names: Distrust, Disbelief, Disappointment, Discouragement, and Discontentment. They’re almost as challenging to keep out of our minds as rabbits are from our gardens.

Of course, the first line of defense against rabbits is a strong, deeply-implanted fence. For yabbits, that fence is scripture—promises and truths deeply implanted in our spirits, that can stand guard when those pesky Yeah-but statements come to devour our faith. Scriptures such as these:

For those times when DISTRUST wants to nibble at your faith, turn to Psalm 9:9-10.

Keep out the yabbits of DISBELIEF with Mark 9:24. [1]

When DISAPPOINTMENT tries to invade our thoughts, we need to remember such affirmations from God as Isaiah 55:8-9.

The yabbits of DISCOURAGEMENT can be turned away with 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

And last, DISCONTENTMENT can be kept at bay when we adopt Habakkuk’s attitude.

We’d also do well to follow Rev. Charles F. Deems’ (1820-1893) recommendation, as we take on these yabbits:

Believe your beliefs and doubt your doubts.

Most people believe their doubts and doubt their beliefs.”

Of course, the scriptures mentioned above are just a few examples out of many. More scripture planks will create an even stronger fence.

Someone may ask, “How can we know our trust in scripture is well-placed?”

Whole books have been written about the reliability of scripture, but here’s a short, worthwhile article to introduce the topic: “Three Reasons Why the Bible Can Be Trusted.”

We can also bolster our faith with the testimonies of others who’ve embraced the power of scripture:

  • “Every year I live—in fact nearly every day—I seem to see more clearly how all the peace, happiness, and power of the Christian life hinges on one thing. That one thing is taking God at His word, believing He really means exactly what He says, and accepting the very words that reveal His goodness and grace.”—Frances Ridley Havergal, English poet and hymnwriter [2]
Frances Havergal (1836-1879)
  • “Take all of this Book that you can by reason and the balance by faith, and you will live and die a better man. It is the best Book which God has given to man.”—Abraham Lincoln [3]
  • “In the Bible I find a confidence mightier than the utmost evil.”—Helen Keller [4]
  • “The Bible is the book of my life. It’s the book I live with, the book I live by, the book I want to die by.”—N. T. Wright, Biblical scholar and Anglican bishop [5]
N. T. Wright (1950- ____)
  • “The Bible creates endurance. Its promises lift the heart and its panoramic insights strengthen the will.”—Pastor and author Timothy Keller with his wife Kathy [6]

Of course, the occasional reading of a scripture passage won’t suffice. That would be like trying to build a fence with slices of Swiss cheese–too flimsy and full of holes.

No, it’s Bible study and meditation that creates a sturdy fence.

Sound boring?  Hardly.

The Bible is worth all the other books

which have ever been printed.

–Patrick Henry

(1736-1799)

With faith, diligence, and a prayerful heart, every student of the Bible finds that Henry and countless others have been right. In fact, I’ve never met an earnest seeker of scripture-truth who later regretted the time they’d spent absorbing God’s Word.

And when we follow their example, the yabbits prove much less troublesome.

What Bible verse helps keep the yabbits out of your garden of faith? Please share in the comment section below!


Notes:

[1] The father speaking these words was admitting that doubts tainted his trust, yet Jesus still performed the miracle. We don’t have to be perfect pillars of faith for him to intervene for us!

[2] Quoted in Streams in the Desert by L. B. Cowman and edited by Jim Reimann, 127.

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1070&context=owners_manual

[5] https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/inspiring-quotes/25-quotes-from-influential-christians-about-the-bible.html

[6] The Songs of Jesus, 310.

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In 2 Peter 1:17 the apostle calls God, “the Majestic Glory.” Isn’t that an inspired name for God?

This week I chose to use each letter as a portal into aspects of his majestic glory—other names that reveal his Personhood. With each one, my awe for Almighty God expanded.

See if your spirit responds similarly, as you consider God as the:

Maker of All Things (Nehemiah 9:6)

He is responsible for every star in the heavens (200 billion trillion of them, thereabouts), every tree on our planet (all 3 trillion, give or take) and every fish in the seas (among 34,000 or so species)!

A rchitect of Heaven (Hebrews 11:10)

Here on Earth we marvel at God’s handiwork in the towering mountain peaks, delicate butterflies, and far-reaching rainbows. Try to imagine the fresh beauty, new wonders, and absolute perfection he’s prepared for us in heaven!

Jealous (Exodus 34:14)

God’s jealousy is simply passionate eagerness to protect what belongs to him, what is precious to him—you and me. He doesn’t want us following after such false gods as greed, self-gratification, or popularity that will never satisfy. Only he can.

Everlasting God (Genesis 21:33)

In contrast to this ever-decaying world, our God’s perfections never change and his mercies will never end. He is always and eternally available to us.[1]

Song (Psalm 118:14 ESV)

Think of song as a synonym for joy. He is the Author and Giver of joy, even in difficult times. In fact, “He uses troubles to show where true joys are to be found—in him.”[2]

True God (John 17:3)

He’s the one and only Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Yet, as holy, powerful, and awe-inspiring as he is, God invites us to know him—to pull up a chair to his table and talk with him.[3]

I AM (Exodus 3:14)

With this name that encompasses all his glorious complexities, God makes clear: “I AM the God of absolute power and sublime perfection, abiding faithfulness and assured reliability, unfailing love and generous benevolence.” Of course, these descriptors just scratch the surface of his infinite glory!

Comforter (Isaiah 51:12)

We can take comfort in the knoweldge that, even in the dark pit of emotional pain., we are not without hope. God always comes alongside to help us endure until it’s time to bring us out of those depths. And then, when we stand at last on the solid ground of restoration, we experience the exhilaration of greater faith and the enrichment of wisdom-from-experience.

Gardener (John 15:1)

Jesus often used figurative language in his teaching. One time he compared himself to a grapevine and called his Father the Gardener/Vinedresser.

Of course, our God knows intimately what we–the branches–need.  He supplies streams of living water to continually nourish and refresh, and he provides optimum conditions for growth, in order to produce the best yield of the fruit of the Spirit within us.

Light  (Psalm 27:1)

His Light reveals the way on the dark path ahead, lifts the shadows of hurt and despair, and guides us through “the grayness of doubt and uncertainty.”[4]

Only Wise God (Jude 1:25)

Yes, there is darkness and confusion in our world. Wickedness seems to be winning in the battle between good and evil. BUT! Our all-wise God knows what he’s doing—in our personal lives and in the world at large.

When the time is right he’ll dispel the darkness with his dazzling light and bring order out of confusion. One day he’ll rid the world of evil once and for all.

Revealer of Truth (John 16:13)

Our God is the “possessor and giver of all truth. Truth is not men’s discovery; it is God’s gift. . . At the back of all truth there is God.”[5]

And the more we avail ourselves of his truth in scripture, the more we treasure it.

Your Very Great Reward  (Genesis 15:1)

How rich we are because God is in us and with us, wielding his glorious attributes for our best good. How poor we are without him.[6]

Look upon God in all his MAJESTIC GLORY. This is your Heavenly Father who loves you with an everlasting love!

Breathe in the wonder.


[1] Lamentations 3:22; Isaiah 41:10

[2] Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, Songs of Jesus, 200.

[3] 1 Corinthians 8:16; Colossians 1:17; Jeremiah 33:3

[4] Iris Hesselden, quoted in Grandma’s Inspirational Recipes, 40.

[5] William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible, The Gospel of John, Volume 2, 229.

[6] MacLaren’s Expositions

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Thomas Jefferson gave us this bit of wisdom:

 https://www.azquotes.com/quotes/topics/brevity.html

Note how the following authors demonstrate this most valuable of all talents:

  • “It is good people who make good places.”—Anna Sewell, Black Beauty
  • “Trials come to prove and improve us.”—St. Augustine
  • “Change always comes bearing gifts.”—Price Pritchett

Conciseness contributes to effectiveness, agreed?

In Romans 15:13, the Apostle Paul wrote a magnificent but concise blessing for the Christians in Rome. He brought together five key concepts of our faith—hope, joy, peace, trust, and power—in just thirty words or so, depending on the translation:

Whole books have been written to expound on each concept. But since this is a blog post, not a treatise, I’ll try to keep it short—and concise!

HOPE

Our Christian hope is not wishful thinking; it is confident reliance on the sacred certainties of our Heavenly Father.

Paul calls him our God of hope because of his glorious attributes manifested in our lives—his omnipotent power, gracious mercy, continual patience, lavish kindness, and absolute reliability—to name a few.

And with statements of faith we can bolster our hope—statements such as these:

  • “God is kind and good, wise and powerful. All his attributes are always at work for my benefit.”
  • “God is accomplishing purpose in these circumstances, just as he always does.”
  • “He will bring me through this situation, and I’ll be a better person for it.”

JOY

Joy is not the absence of all misery and the presence of every whim; joy is found in the presence of God.

Sound silly? Talk to an old saint who has walked with Jesus many years—who’s felt the Lord’s presence surrounding him, heard God’s whispers in his heart, and experienced his guidance and provision again and again. 

This saint will tell you: the pleasures of this life don’t begin to compare to the soul-delight of intimacy with God.

PEACE

Peace is not found in circumstances; it’s found in a Person, the Prince of Peace. The better we know him, the better we know peace.

Tension decreases as we affirm:

  • He is completely trustworthy.
  • He knows everything; he’s in control of everything.
  • He takes pleasure in blessing us with all that we need.
  • He is with us to comfort, strengthen, and encourage.
  • Even in the midst of difficulty, we can experience his peace. In fact, it’s a promise.

TRUST

It’s God’s part to work all things for good; it’s our part to trust.

The question becomes, What can I do to grow in trust?

The answer: express gratitude. “The foremost quality of a trusting disciple is gratefulness”[1]

So thank God, even in the midst of frustration, disappointment, heartache, and pain. “There’s a good God leading, working all things into good. It is safe to trust”[2]!

POWER

The power to thrive does not come from within ourselves; it comes from the power of the Holy Spirit.

Do circumstances appear impossible to rectify? Think on the power of God. He scatters the stars in space. He breathes life into every creature. He provides everything necessary to sustain our little planet.

It’s that kind of absolute, unlimited power that will see each of us through every crisis until we’re home with him.

And so, in one concise verse Paul majestically highlights five pillars of the abundant life.

When we embrace the hope, joy, and peace that God offers, when we trust in him with expectancy and resolve, when we pray for his power to be released in and through us, our lives and outlook will become radiant and alive[3]!

Doesn’t that sound like a glorious way to live?

Scriptures for further reflection:

Hope–Psalm 145:8-9; Daniel 2:20; John 5:17; Philippians 1:6; Romans 8:28; James 1:2-4

Joy–Psalm 16:11; Psalm 71:5-8

Peace–Deuteronomy 32:4; 1 John 3:20b; Jeremiah 31:3; Philippians 4:19; Deuteronomy 31:8; Isaiah 40:29-31; Philippians 4:6-7

Trust–Proverbs 3:5-6; Psalm 9:10; 28:7; 112:7; Colossians 2:7; Psalm 110:4-5; 1 Peter 1:6-7

Power of the Holy Spirit–1 Corinthians 8:6; Psalm 8:3; Job 12:10; Psalm 46:1

Notes


[1] Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 24.

[2] Ann Voskamp, 1000 Gifts, 155.

[3] The last clause is based on Touchstone’s revised version (1995) of the J. B. Phillips’ translation for Romans 15:13.

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Stuffed pork tenderloin, prepared by our son.

Our son became interested in cooking while attending university, and he’s been experimenting ever since. Now guests often say his fare is better than what many restaurants offer.

Father’s Day last Sunday was no exception. We enjoyed a sumptuous dinner off the grill: perfectly-seasoned, tender steaks; thick, golden, onion slices sprinkled with bleu cheese and slivered almonds; and polenta squares topped with lightly-sauced mushrooms.

The big surprise came skewered: Brussel sprouts alternated with radishes. I’d never eaten the latter cooked, but these were amazing—nothing like their raw flavor.

Our daughter-in-law creates memorable desserts. One time she constructed a rainbow cake—six layers of jewel-toned deliciousness under a cloud of butter cream frosting. All from scratch of course.

H.’s cake looked every bit as perfect as this one.

Now what if E. and H. invited new guests unfamiliar with the stellar meals these two can produce. And what if E. shared that the menu would include onions with bleu cheese and cooked radishes.

These unaware invitees might say, “Uh, no thanks, our schedule is really tight, plus we have other plans.” Later to themselves they’d likely comment, “E. and H. actually eat that stuff?! It sounds awful!”

But they’d miss out on a memorable meal.

God offers us gourmet cuisine too, but of a different variety.

“Open wide your mouth and I will fill it,” he says. “I would feed you with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you” (Psalm 81:10, 16).

God offers fine food for our souls, found first of all in the Bible. Some people believe the Book is out-of-touch and irrelevant, containing whole sections of unintelligible gibberish.

These folks are like those invited dinner guests, turning down a marvelous opportunity because the offerings sound unappealing. If they’d only come and try the dishes new to them, they’d be more than pleasantly surprised.

God’s soul food also includes wonderful surprises: useful wisdom, uplifting encouragement, fortifying support, and sweet comfort. We miss so much if we let a busy schedule and other interests interfere with the feeding of our souls.

A well-read Bible is a sign of a well-fed soul.

–Unknown

Just one of my father’s well-read Bibles.
Note the numerous and tiny comments he wrote in the margins.

To make time, we may have to give up something—like those long minutes on social media or watching TV. During my years as a teacher, making time meant getting up earlier than everyone else in the house. And the ten years I commuted a half-hour each way, the alarm sounded at 4:30 a.m.

But it was not a hardship; I just went to bed earlier. The feast each morning was well worth it. (For an example of one feast, you can read from an earlier post, “Down the Aisle of Your Years.” Scroll down to just below the James 1:17 image.)  

Another problem: The Bible looks like a huge buffet to some. They wonder where to start. Add all those puzzling cultural and historical references, and it’s tempting to give up before turning the first page and taking the first bite. What we may need are a few utensils.

Just like a shrimp fork or steak knife make it easier to eat those foods, certain tools help us consume God’s Word. Many are available online. For example, www.biblestudytools.com or www.studylight.org offer word definitions, cultural and historical background, commentaries, and more.

Bible study guides also help us dig into the sustenance the Bible has to offer. A few recommendations include:

  • NavPress LifeChange series, with each study focused on a book or two of the Bible. Luke is a good place to begin, with its many stories and teachings of Jesus.
  • LifeWay Press also produces worthwhile Bible studies, including an overview by Angie Smith, titled Seamless. Others I’ve enjoyed include: Believing God by Beth Moore and Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer. You can’t go wrong with studies by these women.
  • Another LifeWay Press classic? Experiencing God by Henry T. Blackaby and Claude V. King. Millions of people have already benefited from this study.
  • Harper Christian Resources offers 40 Days through the Bible from Lysa Terkehurst and her team. They provide an overview by theme, including: identity, freedom, and fulfillment.

What if, when E. and H. invited dinner guests and shared what’s on the menu, I was there to add, “Oh, you’ve GOT to come. I’ve eaten at their house numerous times, and it’s always delicious!” Might they be more likely to come? Perhaps.

In the same vein, consider this post my affirmation of what God has to offer in His Word. I’m here to say, “You’ve GOT to read it, study it, digest it. I’ve dined at God’s table of truth countless times over the decades and have never been disappointed!”

What Bible study materials or methods have you found nourishing to your soul? Please share in the comment section below!

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Have you been pillow-shopping lately? If not, be forewarned: the number of options may cause nausea, dizziness, and high blood pressure.

There are pillows made with down, fiberfill, foam, latex, gel, and even buckwheat hulls. Manufacturers also provide different levels of cushioning, and now pillows come in different shapes, depending on your sleep position or special needs such as neck pain.

All they want is for you to get a good night’s sleep, right? Oh, and sell you lots of different pillows until you find the one best for you!

For proper rest though, we need a different kind of pillow—not made from feathers, foam, or buckwheat hulls; not made by Mike Lindell. The pillows I’m thinking of can easily be taken with us wherever we go and never need to be replaced. They’re free too!

These special pillows have been available a long time, but perhaps Charles Spurgeon, the famous preacher of Victorian England, was the first to make note of them. He suggested we “use the Lord’s words as our pillows,” and lie down upon them in restful faith [1].

We’d do well to understand:

God wants us to rest—physically (Psalm 127:2) and especially spiritually (Matthew 11:28-30).

In fact, the word rest, when referring to spiritual relaxation, is used over 200 times in scripture [2].

Spiritual rest brings tranquility of soul.

We can experience rest from anxiety and fear—even fear of death—as we place our confidence in God, our all-wise and powerful, ever-merciful and gracious, wholly-trustworthy and faithful Heavenly Father.

St. Augustine was right when he prayed:

The key to spiritual rest is acquainting ourselves thoroughly with God’s Word (Psalm 119:52).

It’s there we find the pillows of encouragement, hope, and peace we need in order to experience rest.

And what might some of those scriptural Word-pillows be? Here are three examples.

Pillow #1

My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.

–Exodus 33:14

Each moment we can choose to focus on God and his attributes, or on our problems and their difficulty. When we choose the former, He wields his attributes on our behalf.

  • His wisdom offers perspective, and keeps discouragement in check.
  • His power affords strength to endure.
  • His attentive care provides blessing in the midst of challenge.
  • His protection shields us from deep despair.
  • His provision supplies all that we need [3].

Pillow #2

Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths,

ask where the good way is and walk in it,

and you will find rest for your souls.

— Jeremiah 6:16

The more we know of God and his attributes, the better-equipped we’ll be when adversity strikes.

Pillow #3

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.

Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

Then you will experience God’s peace,

which exceeds anything we can understand.

His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

–Philippians 4:6-7 NLT

Such truths become all the more meaningful when we remember: the apostle Paul was in prison when he penned these words to the Philippians (1:14). From his own experience he wanted his readers to know that prayer and gratitude produce peace, as we depend upon our sovereign God whose ways are always right.[5]

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

O God, help me rest in you and upon your Word-pillows of scripture.

 I thank you for the pillows of promise, reminding me of your sovereign power to provide whatever I need.

I thank you for the pillows of assurance, affirming your glorious attributes, always at work for the best conclusion.

And I thank you for the pillows of encouragement, reminding me that with you all things are possible, with you I can stand firm through life’s trials, and with you I am NEVER without hope.

(Psalm 23:2-3; Proverbs 30:5; Psalm 145:15-16;

John 5:17; Job 42:2; Ephesians 6:10-17 and 1:18)

What Word-pillow from scripture gives rest to your soul ? Please share it in the comment section below!


[1] Faith’s Checkbook, January 3.

[2] Herbert Lockyer, Seasons of the Lord, 241.

[3] Proverbs 2:1-11; Isaiah 40:31: Jeremiah 17:7-8; Psalm 33:17-18; Philippians 4:19

[4] Psalm 18:30; Psalm 22:28; Deuteronomy 32:4

Photo credits: http://www.rawpixel.net; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.wikimedia.com.

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Remember Christmas morning as a child—the first glimpse of the enticing packages tucked under the tree?  Did you hop and clap with delight?

Or how about that winning touchdown for your team—in the last few moments of the game with your school’s arch rival? Did you jump up and shout in celebration?

Perhaps a family member or dear friend recently announced glorious news—a baby on the way, better employment obtained, or a clean bill of health finally received.  Did you find yourself dancing for joy?

Over-the-top pleasure and exciting events will do that to us. And although the body may no longer respond with hops, jumps, or dance, our spirits certainly soar in the moment.

photography by Nicole Sánchez : love.nimagens.com

The prophet Habakkuk of Old Testament times wrote about just such a response.  I love the way Eugene Peterson paraphrased the verse: “I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God” (Habakkuk 3:18 MSG). Sounds like the prophet received the answer to a heartfelt prayer or perhaps a miracle had occurred.

Truth is, Habakkuk’s home city of Jerusalem faced imminent invasion by the brutal Babylonians.  Recent conquests of other kingdoms left no question about the city’s fate.

God had made clear why disaster loomed.  The people of Jerusalem had continually ignored his wise ways and reveled in wickedness. Multiple warnings had been proclaimed and disregarded.

In response God was about to provide a means of saving his people—not from the ruin of their city—but from the ruin of their souls.  He would allow the invasion and a period of captivity in a foreign culture 900 miles away (Isaiah 39:5-8; Jeremiah 25:1-11).

(Isaiah foretold this scene in the latter half of the eighth century BC,
Jeremiah in 605 BC. The invasion took place in 586 BC.)

Habakkuk questioned God’s decision, wondering why he would allow the Babylonians, a people more wicked than the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to “swallow those who are more righteous than they are (Habakkuk 1:13)?”

By the end of his book, however, the prophet’s doubts had turned to faith and he declared—in the face of calamity–“Yet I will celebrate the Lord. I will rejoice in the God of my salvation” (3:18 NIV).

The word rejoice in this verse is ‘alaz’ in the original Hebrew, and means to “spin around for joy.”* Can you imagine? Disaster loomed. All Habakkuk had ever known would be destroyed.  If not killed, he would be forced into captivity in a hostile country.

Yet Habakkuk determined to dance for joy in his spirit—spin cartwheels even.

How does a person acquire such joy? Not by setting her sights on things that make her momentarily happy.  Deep-down dancing joy grows in proportion to our trust in God, and our trust grows in proportion to our knowledge of God—knowledge gained as we spend time in His Word.

We’d also do well to remember the close relationship between joy and gratitude.

As 2022 unfolds, a number of crises threaten—in our cities and states, our country, and around the world.  With Habakkuk of old we have a choice: to sink into despair over the real possibility of disaster, or to rejoice in our God who will enable us to endure whatever we may face (James 1:2-4).

It is our turn to spin for joy–in the God of our salvation!

*Linda Dillow, Satisfy My Thirsty Soul, 202.

Art & photo credits: http://www.flickr.com; http://www.love.nimages.com; http://www.maxpixelnet; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.pixabay.com.

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For most of us, the words Christmas scriptures bring to mind the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke.  We may even remember the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Micah.

Rarely will we think of the psalms as part of the Christmas story, yet at least a dozen passages from the Book of Songs include references related to Christ’s birth. A few qualify as outright prophecies; other statements are less direct, but hindsight allows us to make delightful connections.

So for each passage quoted below, see if an aspect of the Christmas story doesn’t come to mind!  (To keep this post from getting too long, I’ve included just six examples. Answers appear below.)

1. “The Lord said, ‘I have made a covenant with My chosen one, I have sworn to David, My servant, I will establish your offspring forever and build up your throne for all generations” (Psalm 89:3-4 HCSB).

2. “[The Lord] himself will redeem Israel from all their sins” (Psalm 130:8).

3. “Light shines on the righteous and joy on the upright in heart” (Psalm 97:11).

4. “The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all peoples see his glory” (Psalm 97:6).

5. “Send me a sign of your favor.  Then those who hate me will be put to shame, for you, O Lord, help and comfort me” (Psalm 86:17 NLT).

6. “Praise the LORD and pray in his name! Tell everyone what he has done” (Psalm 105:1).

7. “Because of your temple at Jerusalem, kings will bring you gifts (Psalm 68:29). 

(The second Jewish temple; a model in the Israel Museum)

Answers:

1. Jesus’ lineage and reign described in Matthew and Luke fulfill this prophecy perfectly (Matthew 1:1; Luke 1:32-33).

2. Psalm 130:8 sounds very similar to Matthew 1:21, doesn’t it?

3. The Light of the world began to shine that night in Bethlehem, and the angel of the Lord proclaimed great joy for all people (Luke 2:9-10).

(by Philip James de Loutherbourg, 1740-1812)

4. The psalmist may have thought he was writing about the stars, sun, and moon—all declaring the power and glory of God.  Little did he know his words foreshadowed events on the night Jesus was born, when the heavenly host proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest heaven” (Luke 2:9) and the shepherds saw the glory of the Lord shining around them (v. 9, 13-14).

5. This verse also brings to mind the lowly shepherds (whom others often despised) as well as the angel’s words, “This shall be a sign unto you . . .” The birth of the Messiah brought great help and comfort to all his people, but perhaps especially the marginalized. For everyone, the long wait for his appearing was over.

6. The shepherds followed this directive as they left Jesus’ birthplace and “spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child” (Luke 2:17).  They glorified and praised God for all the things they’d seen and heard, just as they had been told (v. 20).

7. That’s exactly where the Magi went first—Jerusalem—seeking the one born king of the Jews (Matthew 2:1-2.)  And of course they came bearing gifts–gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:10-11).

Isn’t it amazing–from the Book of Songs written eons ago, come the distant strains of the exquisite, eternal Christmas Song that we celebrate to this day:

All your works declare Your glory;

all creation joins to sing.

Praise resounds as earth rejoices

in the birth of Christ the King (2)!*

*the last four lines of “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” stanza 2)

Art & photo credits: Steve Ruegg; http://www.stockvault.net; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); http://www.pixabay.com.

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The psalmists of old seemed to have a favorite metaphor for God: Rock. You’ll find the imagery used twenty-nine times.  Sometimes the writers included reasons why this was a meaningful comparison for them; sometimes they included synonyms:

  • “The Lord is my rock, my fortress” (18:2)
  • “My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield . . . my  stronghold” (also 18:2)
  • “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (61:2)
  • “God alone is the mighty rock that keeps me safe” (62:2 CEV)
  • “Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come” (71:3 NASB)

David seemed especially fond of this metaphor, perhaps because he spent months hiding from King Saul in the rocky terrain of the Judean wilderness. Psalm 57 was written specifically when he escaped into a cave. It may have been the characteristics of the rock walls surrounding him that brought to mind descriptors of God—solid, strong, protective, and unchanging.

Perhaps a cave such as this hid David and his men.
Might such a formation as this have provided the inspiration behind
“Be the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2)?

Later when he became king, David composed Psalm 18, probably after the numerous battle victories summarized in 2 Samuel 8.  Four times in that psalm he extolled God as his Rock.

In the New Testament we find Jesus’ parable about a foolish man building his house on sand, and a wise man building his house on rock. The point is clear: God is a reliable foundation-Rock on which to build our lives.  He provides:

  • solid, trustworthy wisdom for decisions 
  • strength and power for life’s challenges
  • protection from our arch enemy, Satan
  • unchanging reliability, faithfulness, and love—to name a few unfailing attributes
“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise,
like a person who builds a house on solid rock” Matthew 7:24.
(House in Meteora, Greece.)

One of my favorite examples of Bible imagery is found in Philippians 2:15.  To understand the context though, we have to start reading at verse fourteen:

Do everything without grumbling or arguing,

so that you may become blameless and pure,

children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.

Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky

as you hold firmly to the word of life.

–Philippians 2:14-15 NIV

Isn’t that a glorious statement in the fourth line above?  We can shine into the darkness of the world like stars as we allow the Spirit to foster purity within us!

Ngc 3603 Nebula Cluster Of Stars

Now why would letter-writer Paul choose stars to make his point? Perhaps their beauty reminded him: with kindness, patience, joy, and more we can bring beauty to the world around us–a world darkened by selfishness, greed, and hatred.

Paul would also have known about using stars for navigation.  As far back as 3000 B.C. ancient Minoans were using constellations to navigate the Mediterranean Sea (1).  Perhaps Paul connected the starlight to God’s wisdom shining in mature believers, enabling them to provide guidance to those around them.

But now, centuries later, we know more about stars than Paul did and further comparisons can be drawn:

Stars shine by burning hydrogen into helium in their cores.  We shine as the Holy Spirit burns away the dross in our lives—those unbecoming traits like pride, negativity, and ingratitude. That’s when we can become radiant.

One prominent star in the evening sky of Fall and Winter is Deneb in the constellation Cygnus (the Swan), which is 19 quadrillion miles from earth.  The gleam we see left Deneb about 1500 light years ago in 521 A.D (2). The gleam of our lives can also achieve far-reaching effect as one life touches another which touches another, and then another . . . ad infinitum.

Stars not only create beauty but fulfill function.  They manufacture and distribute into the universe such elements as carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen (3). As we shine like stars in our circles of influence, we too fulfill function, manufacturing and distributing such elements as goodness, encouragement, and helpfulness.

From earth and sky come these two insightful examples of biblical imagery:  rock and stars.

Do you see the connection between the two? As you plant yourself on the firm Rock of Almighty God and shine for him like a star . . .

. . . YOU are a Rock star!

Notes:

  1. https://nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/navigation/
  2. https://earthsky.org/space/ten-things-you-may-not-know-about-stars/
  3. https://science.nasa.gov/astrophysics/focus-areas/how-do-stars-from-and-evolve

Photo credits: http://www.hippopx.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); http://www.pixfuel.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.maxpixel.net.

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