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Archive for the ‘Meditation’ Category

For the last two posts I’ve shared journal-contemplations from the first two stanzas of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” As with most hymns and praise songs, it’s easy to sing through the lyrics and miss their full significance.

But when we put pen to paper and delve into word meanings, explore implications of the lyrics, and ponder the impressions God brings to our spirits, wonderful blessings emerge: increased understanding of God and his Word, renewal of the mind, and augmented intimacy with God.

Contemplations become worship.

With those thoughts in mind, let’s savor the third stanza:

Hail, the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!

I praise You, Lord Jesus, the only One who can mediate reconciliation between the sin-prone people we are and the righteous God of heaven. Without You, we’d have no hope of eternal life.

I praise You also for the peace of mind you provide as we affirm Your attributes. By Your omnipotent strength you will uphold, and by Your omniscient wisdom You will guide, until our days on earth are complete. We are safe in Your hands (1).

Hail, the Sun of Righteousness! Light and Life to all He brings

I praise You, Lord Jesus, that Your radiant presence brings comfort, joy, and prosperity of soul.

Your Light of truth obliterates the lies of our enemy and brings us closer to You.

From Your Light shine beams of blessing such as these:

  • The variety of wholesome pleasures in this world, benefiting us in mind, body, and spirit
  • The love of family and friends, increasing our joy
  • The ability to read and learn, providing knowledge and wisdom
  • The delight of hands, allowing us to pursue a myriad of satisfying activities (2)

Risen with healing in His wings

I praise You, Lord God, for raising Jesus from the dead. Because He’s alive, we who believe in Him can be confident of eternal life also.  

One day Your Son will come on swift wings, ready to bestow perfect healing upon all who’ve come to Him. Our healing from the sickness of sin that causes so much woe will finally be complete. There will be no more pain and suffering, no more harm and brokenness, no more sorrow or death!

But even now, Lord Jesus, just as beams from the sun bring health to every living thing, You bring health to our spirits—a deep-down contentment only You can provide (3).

Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die

I praise You, Lord Jesus, for laying aside Your glory as the Son of God. You left Your celestial throne, the unceasing adoration of angels, and all the splendors of paradise to be born a helpless baby.

During your earthly life, few praised You as You deserved; many found fault with Your glorious perfections.

Nevertheless, You see worth in every human being; you desire that everyone accept God’s gift of eternal life, that “man no more may die.”

I praise You for saving us from the death-sentence of our sin (4).

    

Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.

I praise You, Lord Jesus, for the transformed life You offer, raising each believer out of his plight of eternal death and into the pleasure of eternal life with You–pleasures that begin the moment we say yes to You.

Those gifts include:

  • Security, because our final destiny is secure, and in the meantime You’re always with us, working toward our best good
  • Provision of guidance, strength, help and more
  • Rest for our souls, as Your Spirit of counsel and power takes up residence in our spirits
  • Gladness, as we celebrate Your work around us and in us

One day, Lord God, You will raise all Your children into the magnificence of Your heaven! With joyful expectation we anticipate the wonders You’ve planned for us.

Thank You for making possible this second birth into Your family. All the amazing blessings highlighted in this carol come to us when we choose adoption into Your family (5).

I praise You, Lord Jesus, for providing reconciliation with God, ultimate victory over death, over-arching peace and joy, healing for the wounds of our spirits, and more.

Glory to You, my magnificent, sovereign King!

Notes:

  1. Acts 4:12; 2 Timothy 4:18
  2. Psalm 23:4; John 15:11; Philippians 4:11-13; Hebrews 4:12
  3. John 6:40; Revelation 21:4; Psalm 23:1-3
  4. Philippians 2:6-7; Revelation 5:11-12; 2 Peter 3:8; Romans 6:23
  5. John 11:26; Matthew 28:20; Romans 8:28; Isaiah 11:2; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Psalm 92:4; John 14:3; 2 Corinthians 4:14; John 14:3

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Last week I shared with you journal-contemplations from the first verse of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” As with most hymns and praise songs, it’s easy to sing through the lyrics of this carol and miss their full significance.  

By putting pen to paper, we slow our thinking and wonderful blessings begin to emerge—like increased understanding of God and his Word, renewal of the mind, and augmented intimacy with God.

Contemplations can become worship.

With that in mind, let’s savor the second verse:

“Christ by highest heaven adored”

How glorious the music in heaven must be! Rich, clear voices, every note perfectly pitched. Intricate harmonies and faultless instrumentation.

All these sublime elements come together to worship You, Lord Christ–the Anointed One–who left the magnificence of heaven to be the Savior of humankind.

Thank you, Father, for giving us a glimpse (in the book of Revelation) of the heavenly song that celebrates King Jesus. I can’t help but hear Handel’s majestic melody from Messiah for the lyrics:

I praise You, Lord Jesus, for Your splendor!

“Christ, the everlasting Lord!”

You, O Christ, existed throughout the infinite past and will prevail into the infinite future.

Though Son of God, You are also the Eternal Father, forever with us and LORD of all. Nothing is outside Your control (1).

Power often corrupts in the human realm. But You are perfect in all attributes and motivated by matchless love.

I praise You, O Christ, for the supreme grace of Your Lordship!

“Late in time behold Him come”

To those who waited for Your arrival, You must have seemed late! Centuries had passed since the last prophecy of Your coming.

“But when the time was right,” You, O God, sent Your Son to redeem us (2).

In retrospect we can see why You chose the time of Roman rule. They had established stability in their far-reaching empire, built thousands of miles of roads, and established a common language.

Such factors meant early Christians could spread the good news about You more easily than ever before (3).

I praise You, O God, for Your masterful orchestration

that’s always in operation for the benefit of Your children!

“Offspring of the Virgin’s womb”

You are the One and Only begotten Son of the God the Father, the only Man of heavenly origin who ever lived on earth.

You committed no sin. Without that absolute perfection in You, there would be no salvation for us. God made You, who never sinned, to be sin so we could be made right with Him (4).

I praise You, Righteous Savior, for Your perfection!

“Veiled in flesh the Godhead see”

You embodied all the magnificent attributes of God during Your time on earth, yet You were also human.

You dealt with exhaustion, frustration, temptations, and discomforts, just as we do. The fullness of Your glory was veiled behind the ordinariness of Your humanity (5).

How difficult that must have been to know Your full capabilities yet continually hold Yourself in check.

I praise You, Lord Jesus, for your fierce love

that compelled You to complete such an arduous mission.

“Hail th’incarnate Deity”

No one has ever lived a sinless life except You.

No one espoused wisdom as You did or performed miracles like You.

You are the radiance of God’s glory!

I praise your for your divine holiness.

“Pleased as man with men to dwell”

You chose to come to earth and dwell among us, in spite of our self-centeredness, pride, weakness, and brokenness.

Such an incredible reality!

I praise You, O Lord, for your mercy, for wanting to be with us.

“Jesus, our Emmanuel.”

You are Emmanuel—God with us (7). Once we invite You into our lives we’re never left to our own feeble devices; we’re never without Your attentive care.

In Your presence we experience joy, refreshment, help, and pleasure (8). You enhance every moment of life with Your radiant attributes!

I praise You, O Christ, for choosing to veil Yourself in flesh that we might behold You.

I praise You for dwelling with us that might enjoy You!

Notes:

  1. Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 28:20; Philippians 2:9-11
  2. Galatians 4:4-5 CEV
  3. See “The Appropriate Time” for further details
  4. John 3:16; 1 Peter 2:22; 2 Corinthians 5:21
  5. Daniel Ruben, http://www.fbccarson.org/harktheheraldangelssing
  6. John 10:17 and 1:14
  7. Matthew 1:23
  8. Isaiah 9:3; Acts 2:28 and 3:19; Psalm 42:5; Psalm 16:11

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If you brought together six people with diverse traits and backgrounds, their answers to the title question would likely include six different types of spaces.

Some of us prefer cozy decor, surrounded with precious keepsakes.

Others prefer sleek, white spaces with lots of light.

Some like a rustic, log cabin aesthetic; others prefer the industrial look.

And more than a few gravitate toward the quirky.

But no matter our style preferences, research has confirmed that certain environmental factors impact our mood:

  • A warm, cozy home creates a sense of well-being for most people
  • Clutter can cause a person to feel overwhelmed and anxious; tidy, organized spaces tend to calm
  • Beauty in the form of pleasing colors, sounds, and smells as well as meaningful objects can elevate a person’s mood
  • A dark room can make a person feel lethargic; light energizes and exhilarates
  • Bringing nature indoors with plants and flowers contributes to serenity

But we can’t always control our physical environments. Home isn’t warm and cozy in the midst of ongoing conflict. Children (and maybe a few spouses or roommates out there!) make messes they’re loathe to clean up. And days on end of gray weather can sap energy and joy. What then?

We can shift our focus from what’s around us to what’s within–the spiritual surroundings of our souls. But how do we impact that invisible space, in order to experience equilibrium and calm?

Let’s begin by imagining the soul like a room, and consider the bullet points above.

First, it is God who creates a warm and cozy environment in the depths of our being—a sense of peace and contentment that no one or nothing else can accomplish. To access His peace we only need to ask. And as the atmosphere of our spirits change, we discover: “The very act of breathing in his presence is balm.”[1]

Second, clutter in the soul includes such unsightly messes as sin, negativity, and worry. God knows we can’t remove the muck on our own. But out of his love and mercy, he gladly helps get rid of the filth as we turn to him for forgiveness, help, and strength.[2]

We can enhance our soul-spaces with beauty—thoughts that center on all things lovely, excellent and praiseworthy. Imagine hanging on the walls of your spirit pictures of God’s faithfulness—remembrances of his provisions, guidance, and blessings. View with delightful awe his magnificent deeds.[3]   

A few well-placed lights of scripture[4] will certainly energize and elevate our mood—passages such as these:

  • “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long, they celebrate your righteousness for you are their glory and strength”.
  • “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”
  • “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.”[5]

Last, at least for this post, we can bring the delight of nature into our spirits, much as we enjoy bringing plants and flowers into our homes.

Have you noticed that when we take the time to marvel at the intricacies of a leaf or petal, our pleasure is expanded further?

Similarly, we can take time to marvel in God’s attributes and abilities gloriously displayed in creation:

  • his inventiveness and engineering—from insects designed to walk on water to whales that communicate underwater.
  • His attention to detail as he created a planet that sustains life.
  • His mind-boggling power to fill the universe with stars, planets, moons, galaxies, nebula, comets, and more—all governed by the scientific laws he established.

And as a result of such contemplations, our pleasure in him is expanded.

When all these elements are combined within our spirits—warmth and coziness with God, cleanliness, beauty and light from God, as well as delight in God, we discover true sanctuary, a place where we can enjoy intimate relationship with him and rest for our souls–a place of refuge and calm.[6]

Isn’t that a place where youd like to live?


[1] Philippians 4:6-7 and Jan Karon, A Common Life, 116.

[2] Psalm 51:7, Psalm 94:18-19, Philippians 4:13

[3] Philippians 4:8; Psalm 105:5a; Habakkuk 3:2b

[4] Psalm 119:105

[5] Psalm 89:15-17a; Isaiah 26:3; Nahum 1:7

[6] Matthew 11:28-29; Psalm 55:6; Isaiah 25:4; Psalm 16:11

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Long ago in Sunday School, our teachers taught us proper respect for God.  The rules of reverence included:

  • Be quiet and solemn in worship
  • Bow your head, close your eyes, and fold your hands to pray
  • Always treat God’s house with utmost respect

The first rule proved the most difficult to keep. I failed many a Sunday. My legs wanted to swing, my hands wished for crayons and paper, my eyes longed for a book. Would the sermon ever end?!

Years later I came across the Westminster Shorter Catechism, a collection of 107 questions and answers explaining the Christian faith. The list began with, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer shocked me.

The first part made perfect sense. Paul made it clear: “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).  But the second part caught me off guard.

Enjoy God?

His blessings and benefits certainly brought me joy. But God himself? How could I enjoy Someone who’s invisible?

Over time I’ve discovered that, although God deserves the utmost reverence and respect, we need not always be solemn. We can laugh and sing for joy in his presence (Psalm 68:3 MSG).

In fact, enthusiastic praise of God, especially in the company of others, is an invigorating way to enjoy him–reveling in who he is—our God of goodness, grace, and love.

We can also celebrate what he’s done—supplying our needs, guiding the way, and surprising us with gifts we didn’t even ask for.

While we’re worshiping, we can lift our hands toward God (Psalm 63:4), augmenting our connection to him. Even hands placed palms up on the lap can add to our enjoyment.

Steve and I learned this posture from one of his seminary professors. After a teaching session on prayer, Dr. Stanger instructed us to place our hands in our laps, palms up.

We sat in silence for a few moments, and suddenly I felt a tingling in my hands! Was the Spirit of God actually holding my hands as we prepared to pray?!

Dr. Stanger explained: the pressure on the backs of our hands caused the phenomenon.   But wasn’t it wonderful to imagine God gracing each of us with his personal touch in this way?

Yes, supremely delightful!

We can also take the celebration outside and enjoy God as Creator and King of the universe. For example, look to the sky and contemplate the galaxies of stars. Smile at him in wonder because of their incomprehensible magnitude and indescribable beauty. Consider too, they’re all under his control.

Another way to enjoy God is to delight in his scripture. We can proclaim appreciation to him for the strength, comfort, and peace his Word provides, as well as those passages that bring joy to our hearts (Psalm 119:111).

Those of us who like to write find great pleasure in composing journal entries, poetry, personal psalms, and more, addressed to God, as a way of expressing our delight in him.

Sarah Young, author of Jesus Calling, has inspired some of us to follow her example and go a step further: record thoughts or impressions we receive from God as we wait and listen in his presence (Psalm 25:5; 85:8).

In these ways and more God has made it possible for us to continually enjoy him.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Dare I say it?  Is it too irreverent? You are FUN, God! I love spending time with you, rejoicing in you, celebrating your works, reveling in your presence, taking delight in our mutual communication.

What a glorious privilege you’ve granted us, Father, to nestle close to you and experience fullness of joy forevermore!

(Psalm 100:1-2; John 10:27; Psalm 65:2; Isaiah 40:11; Psalm 16:11)

(Revised and reblogged from March 15, 2015, while I recover from Covid. My husband tested positive last Wednesday; I succumbed on Saturday. Symptoms have been uncomfortable but tolerable for both of us; we’re on the mend! ‘Will try to write a fresh post for next week.)

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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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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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You probably know it, have even memorized it:

Such a statement begs the question: how does joy—of all things–translate into strength? Wouldn’t it be faith in the Lord that makes us strong? Turns out joy is an important facet of faith.

That phrase “of the Lord” holds the key. When we delight in the Author of joy–who he is and what he does–that’s when our spirits begin to grow strong.

To foster that kind of joy and delight:

Express Gratitude

Tonia Peckover wrote, “The feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving” [1].

Research has proven that keeping a gratitude journal works well to develop our appreciation muscles [2]. Just a few lines per day can get joy percolating in our spirits.

Another strategy: turn mindless tasks like folding laundry, loading the dishwasher, etc. into moments of thanksgiving. Go through the alphabet, perhaps, and thank God for one blessing for each letter.

You might begin with AFFECTION among family and friends, BEDTIME and that first BLISSFUL moment on the pillow after a challenging day, COFFEE—the most delectable flavor to start the morning.

For an extra challenge, you might focus on who God is. He’s ACTIVE in our lives, BENEVOLENT to us, COMPASSIONATE, and DELIGHTFUL—you get the idea. (For a sample of such an alphabet, see “God’s Goodness from A to Z,” a post from 2018.)

Meditate on God’s Word

Here’s another joy-inducing, writing-exercise:

In a journal or on a piece of paper, write your reason(s) for being distressed. Then conduct a scripture search (Online resources abound!) for specific promises and encouraging passages that address your concern.  

Praise God for each one as you copy it on the page. Express expectancy for the day when each promise is fulfilled, and feel radiant joy rise in your spirit as you do.

Martin Luther advised:

It stands to reason that something much smaller, our hearts, will also change when we pick up our pens.

That’s happened for me; the same will hold true for you.

Follow God’s Ways

Countless people through the ages have thought that following their own way—striving for success, accumulating wealth, and participating in self-pleasing pursuits—would bring them joy. But such quests never deliver, because that’s not where joy is found.

Joy is found in obedience to God’s ways [3]. He made us; he knows what’s best for us. Of course, we know that. So why do many of us balk at what will bring maximum blessing?!

Anything God commands of us is so that our joy may be full.

Beth Moore [4]

Note that glorious word, full–as in brimming and bursting at the seams.

And what does fullness of joy include? Beauty and bounty.

Beautiful encounters. Beautiful endeavors. Beautiful moments.

Bountiful blessing. Bountiful fruit. Bountiful satisfaction [5].

When we yield in obedience to God’s voice,

he yields a harvest greater than we can imagine.

Denise J. Hughes [6]

And so, joy becomes strength when we delight in who God is and what God does.

Joy becomes strength as we blissfully trust in the truth of his Word.

And joy becomes strength when we gladly follow his instructions.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Lord God, I do want to experience your joy in my life, to delight in you so my spirit might grow stronger. Help me to make choices throughout each day that usher me into your fullness of joy!

(Psalm 112:1; 16:11)


[1] Quoted by Ann Voskamp, 1000 Gifts, 176.

[2] https://cct.biola.edu/thanks-science-gratitude/

[3] John 15:9-11

[4] Values for Life, 169

[5] Ephesians 3:20; 2 Corinthians 9:8 

[6] Deeper Waters, 149

Art & photo credits: http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxhere.com (2); http://www.canva.com (3).

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In April of this year I shared an idea borrowed from blogger Michele Morin, about journaling through hymns and praise songs. Such an exercise allows us to meditate on the lyrics, discovering more meaning than when we quickly sing through the words.

In that post I shared from my thoughts on “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” (Here’s a link to that post, Opening Up New Spaces.)

Today, let’s look more closely at another hymn rich with implications, “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise.”

If you don’t know this hymn, you can listen to a contemporary version here,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6S97XYCkJhY, then soak with me in the first verse:

“Immortal, invisible, God only wise”

I praise You, O God, for your immortality. There is much comfort in the fact that you–in all your sovereignty, power, and wisdom–have always existed and always will.

I praise You for your invisibility, which allows you to reside within the spirits of all your children. We marvel at the wonder of such a phenomenon–such a privilege–to enjoy intimacy with you, the King of the universe!

I praise you for your incomparable wisdom. Nothing is ever a mystery to you. You’re never puzzled, confused, or uncertain.[1] You always know the best course of action that will best serve everyone involved—even those who are part of the ripple effect, perhaps years later.

How amazing that you make your wisdom available to us–including an ordinary person like me.[2]

“In light inaccessible hid from our eyes”

You are light.  Your radiance is like sunlight, and rays flash from your hands! No one can physically look upon such brilliance.

But your light also symbolizes the purity of your character. Just as sunlight brightens our world, your multi-beamed goodness brightens my soul with grace, strength, blessings, and more.

You also illuminate truth in my life, through the light of your Word. And by the power of your Spirit I can walk daily in the guiding, cheering light of your presence.[3] 

“Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days”

I praise You that you are most blessed. That is, you are fully satisfied within yourself. (Of course this is true–you’re perfect!)

You’re also most blessed because of your holiness–transcendent and “totally other” from anything else in the universe.

In addition, you’re “most glorious.” Your breath-taking attributes astound us, including your:

  • omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence
  • infinity, changelessness, and self-sufficiency
  • faithfulness, goodness, and justice
  • mercy, grace, and love
  • holiness, righteousness, and immanence

I praise you for demonstrating all these traits with acts of power. You perform wonders that cannot be fathomed, and miracles that cannot be counted![4]

Our family has witnessed numerous wonders and miracles. “We are filled with the good things of your house” (Psalm 65:46), many of which are recorded in my God -Is-Faithful journal.

I also praise you for being our Ancient of Days—a name that speaks of your regality, endurance, and sound judgment.  You have reigned in supremacy through eons past and will continue to reign into eternity yet to come.

Again, what sweet comfort and joyful wonder to contemplate that you, such an incredible God, are with me and within me, wielding your attributes for my benefit.

“Almighty, victorious—Thy great name we praise.”

King David wrote, “How majestic is your name in all the earth” (Psalm 8:1)! Perhaps he had in mind the multiplicity of your names, each one highlighting different facets of your character. You are:

  • Elohim, God of supreme power and might
  • El Roi, the God Who Sees, who watches over all
  • Jehovah Jireh, our God who provides
  • Jehovah Rapha, our God who heals
  • Yaweh Shalom, our God of peace

And that’s just a few out of many. I thank you that as each one reveals more truth about you, we grow to know you better. I also praise you for the hope and encouragement we find in your glorious names.

You, O God, are most worthy of praise because of your infinite excellencies. I praise you for your greatness–beyond human comprehension!


[1] Lloyd Stilley, https://www.lifeway.com/en/articles/sermon-wisdom-god-romans-16-1-corinthians-1

[2] James 1:5; Psalm 19:7 CEV

[3] 1 John 1:5; Habakkuk 3:4; 1 John 3:3; Psalm 12:6; 119:105; Psalm 89:15; John 8:12

[4] Psalm 150:2; Job 5:9

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

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Some time ago, wise-and-insightful blogger Michele Morin (at Living Our Days) shared that she was journaling through some of the old hymns. I imagined her digging into the meaning of some of the rich language and theology, personalizing the truths, and/or using them as the basis for prayer.

Putting pen or pencil to paper in such a way slows down our thinking, allowing wonderful blessings to emerge:

  • Increased knowledge of God and his Word
  • Clarity of understanding
  • A record of discoveries
  • A record of faith deposits for later encouragement
  • Renewal of the mind
  • Augmented intimacy with God

If writing a meditation sounds intimidating, adopt the attitude of Isaac Asimov:

“Writing to me is simply thinking through my fingers.”

Isaac Asimov

For Christian journalers, writing can be worshiping through our fingers.

But how do we even begin such a process? Try Anne Sexton’s approach:

When we invite Jesus into our lives, the Spirit of God takes up residence within our spirits (1). We can put our ears down close to our souls and listen hard for him to guide our thoughts and lead us to the insights he would have us discover.

And then, we fill our pages with the breathings of our hearts (2).

The following is an example of a journal entry, based on the first verse of the hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”(3). The next four images contain the lyrics.

You, oh God, are the Source of every blessing—every provision, every answered prayer, every wise decision, every creative idea, every moment of joy. All good and perfect gifts come from you (4).

Out of your lavish generosity, blessings flow continually from your hand. May I be quick to praise you for each one as they demonstrate your lovingkindness.

This fount of blessing includes your mercy also. I praise you for your forgiveness, undeserving as I am. Thank you for looking upon me with compassion and tenderness in spite of my weaknesses, failures, and sins.

And I praise you that your mercy never ends! You are faithful to forgive me every time I come to you in repentance. Such grace is beyond comprehension. Yes, I want to sing songs of loudest praise, to honor you rightly for all you’ve done for me and continue to do.

Perhaps if I had the voice of an angel and knew the songs of heaven I could sing the full praise you deserve!

Nevertheless, I celebrate your name(s)—Shepherd, Lord of Peace, God of Grace, Father of Compassion and more. I glory in all the attributes indicated by each one. And I remember: the one trait that is part of them all: your unfailing love.

Thank you for loving me, in spite of my shortcomings; thank you for redeeming me from the consequences of my sins so I might enjoy you forever!

Should you decide to journal through a hymn or praise song, remember: perfection is not the goal, getting to know God better and worship him more passionately are the aims.

An added benefit? Our meditations will positively impact our words and actions (5).

Notes:

  1. 1 Corinthians 3:16
  2. based on a quote from William Wordsworth
  3. by Robert Robinson, text adapted by Margaret Clarkson
  4. James 1:17
  5. Joshua 1:8

Photo credits: http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.flicker.com; http://www.freebibleimages.org.

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Fitness experts will tell you, strong core muscles of the mid-section greatly enhance your physical well-being, contributing to stability that prevents falls, minimization of strain that causes pain, as well as effective breathing that optimizes oxygen flow.

When core strength is absent, a person is likely to:

  • have difficulty getting up from a chair without leverage
  • struggle to bend down and tie his shoes
  • find himself slouching
  • lose his balance
  • experience back pain

But it’s never too late to reverse such ills. Those same fitness experts recommend exercises: crunches, planks, and bridges—to name a few—although just a brisk walk engages core muscles and contributes to strength.

Of course, even more important than our physical fitness is spiritual strength, which raises a new question:

How strong is your core–of the soul?

Just as we can identify symptoms of physical weakness, we can identify soul-weakness when challenge mires us in such thoughts as: Why me? This is so unfair. If God cared, this wouldn’t be happening.

However, it’s never too late to reverse such ills. Our spiritual Fitness Expert, God himself, has provided exercises to strengthen our souls, including:

Bible Meditation

More than just reading a passage, meditation includes taking to heart God’s Word and responding personally.

For example, how might you respond to Psalm 147:5, “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit?”

Perhaps your response would be similar to my own.

I praise you, O God, for your omnipotent power. Nothing is impossible for you (Luke 18:27)! Just that knowledge alone can settle my anxious heart and foster sweet hope.

I praise you also for your unlimited understanding. You are a God of infinite wisdom and you generously offer to bestow wisdom to me–if I just ask (James 1:5).

Thank you for coming alongside, ever-ready to expend your power and wisdom for my good. You are a gracious God beyond what anyone could hope for!

Such an exercise develops the muscle of faith, contributes to stability of soul, and helps prevent falls into worry and fear.

Positive Prayer

Even the tone of my prayers can impact soul-strength. If I focus on the problem, the emotional pain is likely to remain:

Lord, I don’t know what we’re going to do. I keep trying various scenarios in my mind but there seems no way out of these circumstances. You’ve got to help us, although I don’t see how. What a mess!  

On the other hand, if I focus on God’s attributes at work and his promises that apply, the strain of the situation diminishes:

“I praise and thank you, Father, that I have no reason to fear. You’ve given our family the promise that you’ll fight for us; all we have to do is stand firm and see your salvation (Exodus 14:13-14). YOU are our strength, providing the wherewithal to rectify this situation. YOU are our very present help in this time of trouble (Psalm 46:1).

As positivity is expressed in our prayers, the spiritual muscle of hope develops.

Gratitude & Joy

It stands to reason: if we focus on the problems surrounding us, discouragement will weaken our spirits.

But if we focus on all the good things flowing to us from God’s loving heart, we’ll find plenty to be joyful about. It’s just a matter of engaging our praise and gratitude muscles.

Most sets of the physical exercises I do each morning include twenty repetitions. I wonder if we could name twenty of God’s attributes, providing twenty reasons to be joyful in him?

Skim through the psalms with me, and let’s see what we find:

1. Watchfulness (1:6)

2. Righteousness (5:8)

3. Protection (5:11)

4. Encouragement (10:17)

5. Unfailing love (13:5)

6. Security (16:5)

7. Perfect ways (18:30)

8. Victorious power (20:6)

9. Goodness (25:8)

10. Uprightness (25:8)

11. Faithful ways (25:10)

12. Strength (28:8)

13. Splendorous holiness (29:2)

14. Justice (36:6)

15. Ever-present help (46:1)

16. Guidance (48:14)

17. Great compassion (51:1)

18. Power (62:11)

19. Forgiveness (65:3)

20. Sovereignty (71:16)

We did it—and long before reaching the end of Psalms!

Do you find the strain on your spirit relaxing, just in reviewing his surpassing greatness?  Is renewed strength, stability, hope, and joy flowing into your soul?

Keep up those soul-core exercises!

Photo credits: http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.heartlight.org; pxhere.com.

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