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Archive for the ‘Bible Study’ Category

Well-known preacher, C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892), delivered at least twelve sermons on the same three verses of scripture, but attested that a minister could never preach too often on the passage. 

“In its depths are pearls for which we hope to dive,” he said [1].

Another anonymous enthusiast for these verses called them “the greatest invitation that was ever issued.”

What scripture were they referring to?  Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew 11:28-30.

Will you go diving with me for the pearls of this passage?  What new treasure might God present to us, even in such familiar verses as these? 

Each key word and phrase offers insight into the glorious ways Jesus wants to bless us:

Come 

To come to Christ is simply to put our trust in him. As our Savior who died for us, he is more than worthy of our trust. As the all-powerful King of kings over everything in the universe, he is more than qualified to warrant our trust.

All who are weary and burdened 

A 2017 Gallup Poll revealed eight out of ten Americans feel stress sometimes or frequently every day [2].  But Ann Voskamp, in her book, One Thousand Gifts, suggests that “to choose stress is an act of disbelief”[3]. I see her point.

On the other hand, choosing to trust in Christ—with praise and gratitude for all he is and all he does—results in peace and joy.

Rest 

Our souls find rest when we affirm the truths we know about our Lord, including his constant presence to strengthen, help, and guide.  “The very act of confidence is repose,” wrote theologian, Alexander Maclaren.

Take my yoke upon you 

Like the young ox who is teamed with a trained animal in the wooden harness holding them together, Jesus invites us to companion with him and follow his ways, his example.

Learn from me 

He’s anxious for us to enjoy the abundant life he offers, so Christ suggests we learn how he handled life—in close companionship with his Father.  And for his part, our Father delights in manifesting his life-enhancing attributes in our lives.[4]

I am humble and gentle 

You’ve probably noticed our Savior is not an unreasonable and stern taskmaster, wielding his omnipotent power to bully us into submission.  Time and again in the Bible record of his life we see evidence of Jesus’ being kind and understanding, gracious and tenderhearted.  He is the same toward us because:

My burden is easy and light 

Easy = well-fitting.  Just as the farmers of old would shape the wooden yokes to uniquely fit their oxen, the ways of Christ fit us perfectly.  After all, he designed us; he knows what’s best for us.  And his yoke is lined with love.[5]

Perhaps now you see why someone would call these verses the greatest invitation ever issued. Jesus offers:

  • Salvation from the consequences of our sin
  • Relief from our burden of cares
  • Rest in his all-sufficiency
  • Instruction in the ways of abundant living, side by side with the gracious King of the universe

No wonder Spurgeon called such blessings pearls—lustrous pearls that can transform our reality, when we simply come to Jesus.

Which pearl(s) particularly caught your attention today?  Share with us in the comment section below!


[1] www.preceptaustin.org

[2] https://news.gallup.com/poll/224336/eight-americans-afflicted-stress.aspx

[3] p. 148.

[4] Jeremiah 9:24

[5] Matthew Henry

Photo credits: http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.wikimedia.org.

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During a former chapter of my life, I taught fourth grade language arts and social studies.

One of the reading strategies we emphasized was looking for Ah-HA Moments—places in a book where readers finally receive answers to the questions they’ve been asking—questions like:

  • Why is the main character doing that?
  • Who could be responsible for this situation?
  • How will the main character(s) solve this problem?

The quest for Ah-HA Moments helps keep readers engaged, aids comprehension, and adds more pleasure to the reading experience.

I took great delight in seeing my students internalize this strategy. Even during other subjects, I’d hear “Ah-HA!” now and then, as a student found the perfect verb for her writing or a history research-team discovered why the Erie Canal was abandoned.

Eons ago the apostle Paul desired Ah-HA Moments for his children—the spiritual offspring he’d led to faith in Jesus.

 

(“St. Paul” by Rembrandt, c. 1657)

 

In Ephesians 1:18, Paul prays that his readers would experience spiritual Ah-HA Moments.

No, you won’t find those exact words in any translation. What you will find is a statement with similar meaning:

 

“I pray that the eyes of your heart

may be enlightened” (NIV).

 

 

And then Paul chose to highlight three aspects of our Christian experience that can create those Ah-HA moments: 1) Our hope in Jesus, 2) The riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and 3) God’s incomparable power.

I wonder what Ah-HA Moments we might discover while meditating on each one?

Consider the following:

 

Hope

 

“Hope is the reality that is being constructed,

but is not yet visible.”

—William Stringfellow (emphasis added)

 

And just what does our reality-under-construction include?

  • God’s good work in us that is never-failing and never-ending (Philippians 1:6)
  • Peace and joy, because we hope in Jesus (Romans 15:13)
  • God’s delight in us—not when we’re finally perfectbut when we put our hope in him (Psalm 147:11)
  • Hope that translates into strength—especially strength to persevere (Isaiah 40:31)
  • Refinement, as the anticipation of Jesus’ return “acts as a purifying hope in our lives” (1 John 3:2-3 and Kay Arthur*)

 

 

Did any of those statements provide an Ah-HA Moment for you?

For me it was the third bullet point. God delights in me, simply because I hope in him. I don’t have to wait until I’m perfect to receive his approval.

 

The Riches of His Inheritance

 

Some Bible scholars believe Paul meant God’s inheritance in us.  

We are his treasured possession, adopted into his family when we accept Jesus into our lives (Deuteronomy 7:6; Galatians 3:29).

As such, he takes care of us, provides purpose for us, and even takes pleasure in us. He enjoys our company and looks forward to the day when we’ll all be together with him for eternity (Revelation 21:3).

 

 

 

Again, any Ah-HA Moments?

I, for one, am astounded to realize God treasures me—sinful and flawed as I am.

 

God’s Incomparable Power

 

Every one of us can relate stories of God’s miraculous work, as he’s provided, protected, and guided in ways beyond human explanation.

But sometimes he produces super-human perseverance, inner strength, and even joy through difficult circumstances.

The Christian who avails herself of God’s power is ready for both kinds of intervention. She knows that God will supply all her needs, including the wherewithal to turn every negative into a positive.

That last statement provides my final Ah-HA for this post; maybe for you too. We can find delight—in spite of distress—as we avail ourselves of God’s power.

 

Of course, these two verses from Ephesians aren’t the only places in scripture where we can experience Ah-HA Moments. In fact, we will never come to the end of them—for which I am very grateful.  You too?

 

“Nobody ever outgrows Scripture;

the book widens and deepens

with our years.”

–Charles Spurgeon

 

 

That’s especially true as we invite God to enlighten the eyes of our hearts—with Ah-HA moments.

 

*Kay Arthur, His Imprint, My Expression, p. 31.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.needpix.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com.

 

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If you have an extra $1,300 you need to spend, you’re in luck! A high-end department store offers an item of clothing you can purchase for just that amount: a belt.

You’d think the buckle would be gold at that price. Nope, it’s brass. And it’s shaped in the logo of the company. So you get to pay them to advertise for their company on your midsection.

Now some might treasure such a purchase, but I’d choose a different belt as my treasure: the belt of truth the Apostle Paul referenced in Ephesians 6:14. No doubt he wanted us to understand:

Just as a belt holds clothing close to the body, a belt of truth holds the confidence of our faith close to our hearts.

And truth is a treasure, in spite of ethical relativists who would throw it away.

Why?

 

(www.quotefancy.com/John Owen)

 

Some will say, “That’s a very arrogant and exclusive thing to say, that we have to accept absolutes revealed by God in the Bible!”

But isn’t it just as arrogant to dismiss him–and his Son Jesus? Can we afford to ignore Jesus’ claim to be the [only] way [to God], and the [real] truth, and the [real] life (John 14:6 AMP)– without thorough investigation? And isn’t it being exclusive to exclude the Son of God from careful consideration?

 

 

Such truth as presented in John 14:6 and Acts 4:12 requires a response. We can’t afford to ignore even the possibility of truth about such a life-and-death matter.

But then there are those who do not find John Owen’s statement (above) offensive, and would agree: We find reliable guidance, strengthening confidence, and expectant hope in the truths of God’s Word.

 

 

Imagine that belt of truth Paul wrote about, woven with spirit-strengthening statements. What truths would you choose?

Try on this combination for size. Cinch them snug around your heart by speaking each truth out loud:

 

  • God loves you and has your best interest at heart (Jeremiah 31:3; 29:11).

 

 

  • With perfect wisdom and understanding, he has thoughtfully planned out your life (Psalm 139:16). Therefore,

 

“Never be afraid of giving up your best

and God will give you his better.”

–Unknown

 

  • God is all-powerful and in control of all things, including your circumstances (Isaiah 14:24). How empowering to know…

 

…“There is no situation so chaotic that

God cannot from that situation,

create something surpassingly good.

He did it at the creation.

He did it at the cross.

He is doing it today.”

—Bishop Moule

 

  • He faithfully leads you in the way you should go (Psalm 23:3). You can count on him because:

 

 

  • All that God is, is always at work (John 5:17).

 

“If you are praying about it

God is working on it.”

–Unknown

 

  • He is constantly by your side, ready to help in a myriad of ways (Psalm 145:18-19).

 

“God hath in Himself all power to defend you,

all wisdom to direct you, all mercy to pardon you,

all grace to enrich you, all righteousness to clothe you,

all goodness to supply you, and all happiness to crown you.”

–Thomas Brooks

 

  • God’s peace, joy and hope are forever available (Psalm 29:11; John 15:11; Romans 5:5).  And what is hope?

 

 

And his word is absolute truth.

The more I learn about archaeological evidence, ancient manuscript verification, fulfilled prophecy, historical substantiation, and creation science, the more astounded I am by the great volume of proof upholding the authenticity of God’s truth in the Bible.

His truth is the reliable confidence of our faith, a treasure worth cinching close to our hearts.

 

What scriptural truths do you treasure?  Share your choice in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.pexels.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.quotefancy.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.canva.com.)

 

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The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes

James Tissot, Brooklyn Museum

 

It’s a familiar story:

Crowds of people teemed the hillside—thousands of them. They had gathered hours before so Jesus could heal the sick and infirm. But soon the sun would set, and hunger gnawed at everyone’s belly.

One young boy offered his meager lunch, and with its contents Jesus provided an ample supper for the entire throng.

I can only imagine, Jesus breaking the pickled fish and barley rolls into pieces over and over, his hands hiding the actual multiplication. He must have worked fast too.

Let’s see…if 5,000 men were in attendance, and perhaps an additional 5,000 women and children, the total count may have approached 10,000 people.

And if each bread-and-fish meal required one second of Jesus’ time to create, he would have been producing food for two hours and forty-six minutes. (Math whizzes: please check my figuring.) In actuality, the process must have been much more rapid.

But even when everyone had eaten all they wanted, Jesus wasn’t finished yet.

“Gather all the leftovers,” he told his disciples. And they filled twelve baskets with broken pieces (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13).

 

 

Now why would Jesus create an overabundance? Such excessiveness seems without purpose. And why did he instruct the disciples to collect all those leftovers? The birds would have swooped in and quickly devoured the remains.

But Jesus had his reason. Like all the other miracles he performed, his objective was to make plain certain truths about himself and his Father.

Consider:

  • The sheer number of wonders proved he was the Messiah. No one before or since has achieved such a record number of miracles.
  • Jesus’ supernatural deeds for people of all walks of life demonstrated his love and compassion for everyone; a person’s nationality or social status didn’t matter.
  • The breadth of his power became clear as he turned water into wine, healed numerous kinds of diseases and infirmities, quieted the wind, caused nets to fill with fish, walked on water, and even raised the dead.

 

The Raising of Lazarus by Rembrandt

 

The miracle of multiplied bread and fish highlights God’s benevolence. And the leftovers in particular provide a memorable picture of God’s inexhaustible resources and overflowing grace, available to us through Jesus.

I wonder if the disciples were reminded of Psalm 31:19 as their baskets began to fill with roll fragments:

 

 

Such abundance none of them had ever seen before.  The fact that it was an abundance of bread is significant too, because the very next day Jesus called himself the Bread of Life (John 6:35).

 

 

Just as he had supernaturally provided an abundance of bread for a huge crowd, so he would supernaturally provide an abundance of life (John 10:10)a God-enhanced, satisfying, joy-filled life—to those who believe in him (John 11:25-26).

And what about those twelve baskets? Where might a band of wandering disciples find a dozen baskets on a Galilean hillside?

Historians can explain. Each man would have been carrying his own kophinos—a knapsack-type basket. It would have held food and necessary items for a journey, and also provided a place for acquired objects or supplies along the way.

The baskets might symbolize our hearts where the Bread of Life dwells. But unlike the disciples’ grapevine backpacks, our hearts are elastic, capable of stretching to hold more and more of the fullness of God.

And there is a wondrous and glorious abundance to be gathered.

 

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I praise you, Father,

“We need not fear that we shall ever come to the end of your goodness or any experience for which you will have no blessing ready” (J. R. Miller).

You are our Almighty God, able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think. With you, amazing things are always ahead.  Hallelujah!  

(Luke 12:29-31; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Ephesians 3:20)

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org ( U.S. work public domain in the U.S. for unspecified reason but presumably because it was published in the U.S. before 1924.); http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org.

 

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(A personal psalm in honor of our Lord Jesus)

 

 

We praise you, Author and Perfecter of our Faith.

BY your death on the cross we are saved from eternal separation from you and all that is good.  Your sacrifice made possible our adoption as children of the God of the universe. Your forgiveness covers every failure, and as your character permeates our own, your grace transforms us into works of art.

 

 

We praise you, Righteous One.

IN you there is no condemnation hanging over us like a black cloud. No longer must each of us wear the label sinner; we become saints when clothed in your righteousness.   Who dares point the finger and cry “Guilty?” Because of you, Lord Jesus, God has already forgiven us and granted right standing with himself.

 

 

We praise you, Emmanuel (God with us).

WITH you we may live a new life of confidence that Someone stronger and wiser is in charge, Someone available day or night for whatever we need, Someone perfectly capable to take on our troubles, Someone dedicated to increasing our joy, and Someone to infuse our lives with purpose and fulfillment.

 

 

We praise you, Ruler of Creation.

TO you all things are brought into existence. Everything in creation is for your glory—from the innumerable stars spilling across the sky to the diverse creatures inhabiting every corner of our planet.   As for humanity, we too are diverse—each endowed with unique gifts and talents to live for the praise of your glory.

 

 

We praise you, Great Shepherd.

FROM you we receive grace, mercy, and peace. Because of your grace, you listen to the broken heart, the guilt-ridden soul, the desperate plea. Lovingly you reply, “Come, and I will give you rest.” Out of your mercy you keep no record of wrongs. Your peace accompanies us through every storm of life.

 

 

We praise you, Lord of All.

THROUGH you we can do all things. Your perfect strength equips us for all life’s challenges, as we avail ourselves through continual, affirmative prayer. How reassuring to know “your power flows most freely into those who acknowledge their need for you” (Unknown).

 

 

We praise you, Christ Jesus our Hope.

LIKE you we will be raised from death to eternal life. That’s not just wishful thinking; it’s reliable truth. A whole body of proof corroborates the scripture record of your resurrection.* And because you came back to life, we can know beyond a shadow of doubt that eternity in heaven is guaranteed to us who put our trust in you.

 

 

Such astounding truths—too glorious for full comprehension.

But may I never cease to try.

_________________________

 

*The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel (Zondervan, updated 2016) offers proof after proof of the resurrection from scholars in the fields of science, history, and philosophy.  The book became the basis for a movie by the same title in 2017.

 

Scriptures used for this post:

Author and Protector–Hebrews 12:2; Acts 4:12; Romans 8:14-15; 1 John 1:9; Ephesians 2:10.

Righteous One–1 John 2:1; Romans 8:1 MSG; Hebrews 10:14-18; Romans 8:33-34.

Emmanuel–Matthew 1:23; Romans 6:4; Daniel 2:20; Psalm 46:1; Matthew 19:26; John 15:11; Philippians 2:13.

Ruler of Creation–Colossians 1:15; Romans 11:36; Colossians 1:16; Ephesians 1:12.

Great Shepherd–Hebrews 13:2; 2 John 3; Matthew 11:28-30; 1 Corinthians 13:5; John 4:27.

Lord of All–Acts 10:36; Philippians 4:13; 2 Corinthians:9.

Christ Jesus Our Hope–1 Peter 1:3; John 5:24; 1 John 5:12.

 

Art & photo credits: Ephesians 2:10–www.dailyverses.net; John 14:27–dailyverses.net; 2 Corinthians 12:9–www.heartlight.org.   

 

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A certain king known for his wealth and brutality, took a stroll one evening on the rooftop of his imposing palace. From his lofty vantage point, he could view the large and glorious city he’d created–with the back-breaking labor of thousands of slaves.

Numerous, handsome buildings made of brick and stone displayed the best architectural design of the time. He had spared no expense in their construction. Many said it was the most beautiful city on earth.

But the king had also been careful to reserve space for parks and gardens. Most awe-inspiring of all were the “hanging gardens” of Semiramis. Planted on the rooftops, they kept cool the rooms below and offered stunning beauty as well. Soon they had earned the prestigious recognition as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

 

(One artist’s idea of what the hanging gardens may have looked like.)

 

The king threw his arms outward. “Look at this great and glorious city I have built,” he cried, “a fitting residence for a king of such mighty power as I!”

Someone heard the king’s boast–someone who detests the proud of heart (Proverbs 16:5), and who wields the power to bring disgrace to the prideful (Proverbs 11:2).

No sooner had King Nebuchadnezzar bragged about his glorious accomplishments, than he became insane and lost his throne for a period of seven years (Daniel 4:28-37).

 

(King Nebuchadnezzar, reduced to groveling among the beasts)

 

Clearly, we’d do well to avoid such boastful pride as Nebuchadnezzar demonstrated. But the repugnant trait manifests itself in other ways too. The prideful person:

  • Puts self first, others second.
  • Craves recognition, admiration, and attention.
  • Takes credit for what others have done.
  • Becomes defensive when differing views are presented.
  • Rarely acknowledges sins, flaws, or mistakes.
  • Blames others for failures.
  • Resists advice, new information, or techniques.

Not a pretty package.

And according to Harry Emerson Fosdick: “A person wrapped up in himself makes a small package” as well (emphasis added).

 

(Harry Emerson Fosdick. (n.d.). AZQuotes.com. Retrieved January 11, 2018, from AZQuotes.com Web site: http://www.azquotes.com/quote/99920)

 

I have to admit, at sometime or other over my lifetime, I’ve exhibited every one of these unattractive symptoms of pride.

But what about confidence? Is that different? And what would it look like, to be confident without pride?

Paul exemplifies confidence in Philippians 4:13:

 

(“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”)

 

The difference between pride and confidence includes the source of each. Pride grows out of arrogance and conceit; confidence grows out of trust in God.

 

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,

whose confidence is in him”

–Jeremiah 17:7

 

 

And because the source is different, the resulting traits are different.

For the Christian, confidence is the quiet knowing that God is in control and all will be well in the end. Therefore he/she can set aside self-aggrandizement, express convictions, even confront others when necessary with grace and poise.

In addition, confidence fosters:

  • Consideration of others before self (Philippians 2:3).
  • Collaboration and cooperation with others (Psalm 133:1).
  • Disinterest in the spotlight (Philippians 1:15-18).
  • Recognition and praise to God, the Creator of all accomplishments (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).
  • The desire for self-improvement with the help of God (Philippians 1:6).
  • The desire for wisdom from God and godly people (Proverbs 19:20).

 

 

Now that’s a beautiful and grand package.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    *

 

Heavenly Father, thank you for your willingness to help me eradicate prideful thoughts the moment they manifest themselves. Thank you for showing me the way to live with confident trust in you —no longer over-protective of ego or overly concerned about self-interests—but surrendered to you and dependent on you, the Engineer of what’s best and the Source of all competency.

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com (2); http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com; http://www.pixabay. com.)

 

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bird-1398362_960_720

 

My eyes scanned the short list of course-possibilities.  I needed three more science hours for my college degree. The one that best fit my schedule? Ornithology. I was not enthused.  Birds simply did not hold my interest.

I expected to just endure that class; instead I became enthralled, mainly because the professor was so enthusiastic. With humor and energy he shared his passion, and slowly his students became fascinated too. The more we learned, the more appreciative we became of the avian world.

To this day, I’m quick to grab my binoculars and study a pecking flicker or an upside down nuthatch dangling at the end of a branch. At least once a week my curiosity sends me to the bird guide so I can refresh my memory about habits (Should the robins still be here?) or exact names (Is that a downy woodpecker or a hairy?).

 

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(It’s a hairy!)

 

Delight has determined my direction toward bird enthusiast.

No doubt you’ve discovered delights that determined direction also–into hobbies, book genres, even careers.

Eons ago, an anonymous psalmist recommended a supreme delight that determines a positive, satisfying life-direction: taking pleasure in God’s Word (Psalm 1:2).

 

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“I don’t know about that,” someone might say. “I’ve tried reading the Bible. It simply does not hold my interest.”

After my transformation from bird-ignorer to bird enthusiast, I’d suggest that not only is interest possible, it is guaranteed if we:

  1. Attend class.

My professor, Dr. Burkholder, could not have changed my attitude if I had not been present. Neither can God perform his miracle of life-transformation if we don’t attend his class, in his Word. And our teacher is none other than the passionate Holy Spirit, who will guide us into all truth (John 16:13). How glorious is that?

 

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  1. Stay focused.

Mindless listening to a lecture or distracted reading of a textbook results in little learning. That’s why we were taught to take notes in school. The same strategy works well while listening to Bible teaching or reading scripture for ourselves. I’ve been amazed by the discoveries and questions that come to mind when pen and paper are handy, compared to when they aren’t.

  1. Seek treasure.

Dr. Burkholder shared with us astounding trivia from the bird world. For example, did you know young hummingbirds that have never migrated before know when to leave their northern homes, how far to travel south, and when to stop—without benefit of other hummers? They fly solo too, even the first time.  (Yet another proof of the genius of Creator God.)

 

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God’s Word includes treasure far more valuable than intriguing trivia—such gems as: faith-building promises, wise guidance, worthy examples to follow (and some examples of what to avoid!), and uplifting encouragement–all ready to be discovered by those who seek.

  1. Pray 

Here’s where the analogy to my ornithology class breaks down. I can’t imagine one of us going to Dr. Burkholder and saying:    “Open my eyes so that I will observe amazing things from your instruction.”

Yet those words make perfect sense when addressed to God. In fact, an anonymous psalmist said exactly that (119:18, ISV).

 

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To read the whole Bible may seem overwhelming—it’s long and some parts are difficult to understand. But who says we have to start from the beginning and read straight through?

The internet offers numerous plans. One site that intrigued me:

http://journeynyc.com/spiritual-growth/bible-reading-plans/

They offer a number of different options, sure to meet the needs of just about anyone—from biblical novice to scholar.

When questions arise, help is available at any number of websites. Two that I like include: www.bible.org and www.gotquestions.org.

Perhaps growing in our delight of God’s Word this year would be more impactful than any other resolution.  After all, he made us.  Developing delight in his Instruction Manual can’t help but lead us in a positive direction.

 

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What delights in the Bible have helped determine positive direction in your life?  Share an example in the Comments section below.

 

* “Delight determines direction”— a quote from Ray Pritchard, author and president of Keep Believing Ministries.

 

P.S.  For 2017 I’ll be posting just once a week in order to allow time for other projects and for assisting our son and daughter-in-law when Baby Girl #2 arrives (sometime mid-January).  I do hope you’ll still return each Thursday for a new post.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.pixabay.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.pixabay.com.)

 

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trick-or-treat-kids

 

Most of the children who come trick-or-treating at our doors tonight will be dressed as princesses and super heroes. According to statistics, those are the most popular costumes.

So even though Halloween is sometimes called Satan’s holiday, that bright red, fork-tailed, pointy-eared devil costume will not be a prevalent sight.

Wouldn’t it be nice, though, if the devil really did wear a bright red suit on his rounds. We might find it easier to spot him and put up our guard. In actuality, he’s quite the wily fellow.

For Eve, he took the form of a serpent (Genesis 3:4). An interesting choice. Serpents are noxious creatures that creep stealthily, hiss menacingly, and inject poison into their victims. Need we say more about the similarities between Satan and serpents?

He’s called the evil one in Matthew 13:19. Look up evil in the dictionary and his character is clearly described: morally reprehensible, wicked, offensive, causing harm, bringing sorrow, distress and calamity.

Satan is our enemy (1 Peter 5:8). He seeks to injure, overthrow, and confound us. He is a harmful and deadly opponent, hostile, and filled with ill will.

 

 

In the same verse above, Peter says, “The devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” The Living Application Bible reminds us lions attack sick, young, and straggling animals, and Satan does the same. When we are suffering, depressed, or being persecuted, that’s when he loves to move in for the kill. And he often chooses a time when we’re alone and more easily swayed.

The devil is our accuser (Revelation 12:10). First, he lies to us, trying to convince us that whatever he’s suggesting will make us happy. Then he turns around and uses our sins to accuse us of disobedience and unfaithfulness before God! In fact, Satan in Hebrew means accuser.

 

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You’d think that all these abhorrent traits would repel us from the devil and his cohorts. But his opposition against us isn’t always obvious. 1) We cannot see the spiritual forces of evil, and 2) Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).

But! In spite of his power (although limited) and sophisticated trickery, the devil has already been defeated.

I love what author and Bible teacher, Ann White, said years ago:

“The devil may prowl around like a lion, but Christ removed his teeth at Calvary!”

Jesus is much greater than Satan (Hebrews 2:14-15). And Jesus is within us (1 John 4:4), empowering us to fight against him.

 

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In fact, Jesus showed us how to fight him off. Remember the strong temptations he withstood in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11)? Jesus used scripture to refute the devil’s lies and twists of truth.

We can do the same, starting with one of Jesus’ responses in the passage above:

“Away from me, Satan! It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ ” (v. 10).

And now that we know a bit more about the opposition, such resistance can be even more successful.

We can be ready–red suit or not.

 

(Reblogged from 10-31-13)

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(Art & photo credits: http://www.haloweencostumes.com; http://www.buckshappeningmag.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.slideteam.net; http://www.interest.com.)

 

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Three-year old Elena (our granddaughter) had much to report about preschool last Thursday:

“Firemen came and they brought their fire truck! We got to hold the hose!”

Later Elena recited what to do if a fire occurred: 1) Don’t open a hot door, 2) To get out, crawl along the floor under the smoke, 3) Stop, drop, and roll if clothes catch fire, and 4)…

 

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“…CALL 9-1-1!” she announced loudly and firmly.

Isn’t it a comfort to know that with three quick taps on our phones we have access to emergency help almost anywhere at any time?   The process to develop such a system, however, was not quick. It took forty-some years to fully install the Emergency Call Answering System, from its inception in the 1950s to almost complete coverage of 911 service across all America by the 1990s.

On the other hand, Pastor Arnold Prater pointed out years ago in one of his sermons that King David of Bible times called 9-1-1.

Did you know that?  I didn’t.

David recorded his call in Psalm 91, verse one – 911:

 

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(“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”)

 

Notice his call was not characterized by panicked fear. Instead his attitude is one of calm faith.  David affirmed several important truths about Who he was calling and what the Almighty had to offer to those who dwell in His shelter.

Wait a minute. DWELL? How do we dwell in the presence of an unseen God?

By bringing our thoughts back to him throughout the day with praise, worship, and gratitude. We can:

 

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  • Say his name to center our attention. He has dozens but to get us started, he is God Almighty, Maker of all things, The Lord Who Provides, and our Helper. Let who he is impact how we function.
  • Breathe out the stressful, worrisome thoughts; breathe in the Spirit, the breath of the Almighty (Job 33:4). Listen for his voice.
  • Pray, recite scripture, sing, even shout (Psalm 47:1-2)!

 

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David says we dwell in the SHELTER of God. Bible writers used the word, shelter, or synonyms like refuge and sanctuary, more than 40 times. In Psalm 91, David alludes to several details of God’s sheltering protection. He is trustworthy (v. 2), faithful (v. 4), watchful (v. 11), attentive (v. 15), thoughtful and compassionate (vs. 15-16).

These traits are just a few examples of our Heavenly Father’s character—which he brings to bear in our lives. He never responds out of character; he is always motivated by love and goodness. Take shelter in such glorious thoughts!

In addition to those mentioned above, the MOST HIGH is another meaningful name of God. One of the ancient creeds described him as “a Spirit infinite, eternal and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.” No one can claim to be of higher capacity or higher worth.

 

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And in him we can REST. How? I like Spurgeon’s advice: “Use the Lord’s words as your pillows. Lie down and [rest] in Him.” We can collect pillow after pillow as we prayerfully read our Bibles, asking God to speak comfort and strength into our weary souls.

And in the SHADOW OF THE ALMIGHTY we find:

  • Security (Psalm 17:8),
  • Love and Kindness (Psalm 36:7),
  • Refuge (Psalm 57:1),
  • Satisfaction and Joy (Psalm 63:7).

 

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Now some readers of Psalm 9-1-1 might assume David was promising a delightful, problem-free life of ease. But his own life proved otherwise as he ran from murderous King Saul, lived as a fugitive in enemy territory, fought numerous battles, dealt with problem sons, and more.

No, David would be among the first to tell us that God doesn’t rescue us from all difficulty; he uses difficulties to nudge us closer to him.

In the shelter of the Most High.

In the shadow of the Almighty.

 

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What better place to be?

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.youtube.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.thefellowshipsite.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.quotes.gram.com; http://www.pinterest (4).

 

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Say the word, blessings, and our minds turn to the many ways God continually bestows good things. The more attentive we are, the more blessings we notice.

But in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus described eight blessings that sound quite bizarre at first hearing. For example:

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.” (Matthew 5:3a, MSG).

 

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Surely his listeners blinked in astonishment and thought, There’s no happiness at the end of that rope!

Jesus continued. “With less of you there is more of God and his rule” (v. 3b, MSG). Some may have nodded in agreement at this statement, having experienced profoundly God’s help in time of trouble.

Others may have wondered, More of God sounds good, but if I’m still at the end of my rope, where’s the blessing?

At least a few probably misunderstood the word, blessed. It’s more than happiness; it’s deep down, untouchable contentment. No matter what might happen, the blessed person remains confident in his God, hopeful in his outlook, and peaceful in his spirit—despite the turmoil of circumstances.

 

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In the ancient Greek of New Testament times, blessed was not a word spoken in sedate, pious tones. It was a shout of overflowing joy. And in the Be-Attitudes of Matthew 5:3-12, Jesus announced shout-worthy blessings—satisfying consequences of embracing God’s way of thinking and living.

“You ARE blessed,” Jesus taught (emphasis added). Notice he used present tense verbs. These statements were not hope-filled platitudes for the future; they expressed conditions for the present, available immediately.

Notice, too, that such overflowing joy is not procured through the acquisition of material goods or the experience of pleasure. King Solomon found that out long ago. He had it all, only to discover that everything was meaningless (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Countless others have tried the same route; each one has failed.

In the face of so much evidence, why do we expect self-indulgence to provide deep satisfaction?

On the other hand, Matthew 5:3-12 is just the beginning of blessing-instruction, presenting God’s guarantees for soul-happiness. If Jesus had preached another sermon of Be-Attitudes (Maybe he did!), our wise Savior/Teacher might have included these:

 

Blessed are the stretched and overwhelmed,

for they shall discover strength (Isaiah 41:10).

 

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You probably know heroes of the faith who have proven: “God gives unexpected strength when unusual trials come” (Charles Spurgeon). That strength isn’t just for heroes; it’s available to us all.

 

Blessed are the disappointed,

for they shall be transformed (Romans 12:2, NLT).

 

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As God leads us toward a new focus, a new perspective, we find our minds renewed and our spirits uplifted.

 

Blessed are the shaken,

for they shall experience the security

of the Lord, the Rock (Psalm 27:5).

 

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Praise God he is reliable, immoveable, and firm! We can confidently depend upon him now and forever.

 

Blessed are the confused,

for they shall receive wisdom (James 1:5).

 

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God never turns away from a sincere heart seeking his guidance.

 

Blessed are those who celebrate God’s blessings–

even in the midst of difficulty–

for they shall find contentment in gratitude (Philippians 4:6-7).

 

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We can follow the example of Jean Baptiste Alphonse Karr (1808-1890) who said, “Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.”

Know this, too: We can humbly and resolutely expect such blessings as these. God doesn’t make such promises lightly; He fulfills what he says:

 

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“God is not a man, that he should lie,

nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.

Does he speak and then not act?

Does he promises and not fulfill?”

–Numbers 23:19 NIV

 

No indeed.

‘Care to give God a shout-out for joy (Psalm 95:1-3)?

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.askideas.com; http://www.lifemoreabundant.me; http://www.pinterest.com (5); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

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