Awe Inspired Faith – 1

What are you looking at?

In this time of fear and anxiety about the threat of well-being to you and your loved ones we need to make sure we are looking at the right things.

In Psalm 40:5, David says: You have multiplied O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and thoughts towards us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.”

It is believed that David wrote this Psalm upon being delivered from some pressing trouble which was overwhelming him. I would say the current pandemic is a pressing and at times overwhelming trouble.

After reading Psalm 40, I have had to ask myself, “Am I seeing the many wondrous deeds and hearing the wondrous thoughts of God?”  Or is what I am seeing and what I am hearing blocking out the truths about God?

Truths of Wonder
Reading about the wonders of God always lifts up my faith. The mighty deeds of God remind me of the power, the supreme authority and the steadfast love of God.

Remembering who God is directs my focus on him and takes it off of me or my circumstances.

In these troublesome times think back on the wondrous deeds of God and let these remembrances cause you to bow in praise to God and fill your heart with faith in our Father’s love and care for you.

Presented below are some of the “mighty deeds” of God. I encourage you to take time to read the references, meditate on them and turn your focus on God.

God Divides the Sea
In Exodus 14:10-31, the Israelites had been freed from Egypt but now being pursued by Pharaoh and his army. Their backs were up against the Red Sea with nowhere to flee. They are full of fear, panic and thoughts of impending doom. They resort to fear, regret and blame.

Wow, does their reaction sound familiar to you? In deeply troublesome times I have said, “Where are you God? I trusted you. Why are you letting this happen?”

What about now as you and your families face the pandemic. Do you feel an inner tug of war between trusting God and blaming him? With each new report of more cases or even friends having the virus do you ride a wave of faith and fear, up and down, in and out ?

In Exodus 14:13-14, Moses advised the people to be still, to hush their fears, to stand back and watch the deliverance of the Lord. Moses did not panic and scream, “Run for your lives.” He did not even direct the fighting men among them to take up shield and sword. He turned their eyes and hearts to trust God.

  • “Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:13-14

The truth is that no matter how bleak the circumstances, God is fighting for us. In seen and unseen ways God delivers us. During the pandemic, each of us is fighting to gain a sense of stability in our faith.

What God did as recorded in Exodus 14 is true. Look at the God of that truth and be encouraged. Take time to share with another person how the truth of God in Exodus 14 encourages you.

The Walls Fall Down
In Joshua 6, we read of the account of how God brought down the protective walls of Jericho for Joshua and Israel.

In Joshua 6:1, we read that the gates of Jericho were securely barred, no one went out and no one went in. We do not always see how God is going to deliver us.

Anyone looking on might consider it an insurmountable task to take this city. It was not immediately evident as to how this would occur.

Perhaps some of the Israelites were saying, “This is impossible, we don’t have the resources or equipment needed to get through this wall and take the city.” Others, may have been sitting around the camp fire making plans of how to do it.

But God, gave a plan to Joshua. God’s plan had nothing to do with resources or the strategy and strength of man.

  • “Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men…” Joshua 6:2

The Israelites followed the plan of God. They marched around the city, as prescribed, carrying the ark of the covenant with them which signified God’s presence with them.

  • “When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the Lord went forward, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the Lord’s covenant followed them… When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city.” Joshua 6:8, 20

In Hebrews 11:30, we read: “By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.” So it was not the men, or the resources that brought down the wall, but God’s power and their faith in God.

In the same way today as we face the seemingly impenetrable wall of this pandemic, it is the presence of God and faith that will bring it down.

Our trust in God will bring down our wall of fear, of anxiety, of questioning the goodness of God, of frustration and sorrow. Our trust in God healing and taking down the walls of the corona virus.

This account of God bringing down the walls of Jericho reminds me of:

  • the wisdom of God;
  • of his strength in my weakness;
  • and in God bringing about good and teaching good in all things.

As I reflect on the account of the walls of Jericho, I am making a choice to trust that God has a plan, and that He is working on our behalf in ways I do not understand or readily see.

Can you imagine the conversations of the Israelites after the battle; “Did you see that? What just happened here? Did you feel the earth shake?”

Let’s open our eyes of faith and see God helping us, strengthening us, reviving us drawing us, restoring us and holding us close as we walk through this with Him.

Imagine the conversations we will have of the many mighty ways God has worked during this time!

Truths for Troublesome Times -3

God Eyes Us with Value
Deuteronomy 32:10 describes God as keeping Jacob (Israel) as the “apple of His eye.”

  • “He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness;
    He encircled him, He cared for him, He kept him as the apple of His eye.”

When looking at the context of this expression “apple of His eye”, we see in the previous verse (v. 9 ), the writer is referring to Jacob or the people of Israel.

  • “But the Lord‘s portion is his people, Jacob His allotted heritage.”

So what does this have to do with us today? Putting aside the context and the people to whom this was spoken of in time, it reveals a truth about the heart of God –which remains the same.

The expression in verse 10 is set among words of love and nurturing such as: God’s finding; encircling, protecting, caring, and maybe even wrapping His arms around them.

All these words have to do with care and nurturing. It implies God’s watchful care and does not imply judgment, as in an all seeing eye watching you. It indicates that God values His people and centers His attention on them much like a doting parent.

A Truth to Hold Onto
The expression “apple of His eye” refers to the pupil of the eye, the center of the eye, and implies God keeps us at the center of His focus.

This expression is not just a poetic description, it is a truth about God. He holds us at the center of where He can see us, and focuses on us because He values us. He looks upon us with eyes and a heart to care for us.

This expression indicates a permanent truth about God’s character, so it applies to us today as God’s people. We see this idea presented in 1 Peter 3:12a:

  •  “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are inclined to their prayer…”

There are days when I do not feel especially valued. Sometimes I feel forgotten or overlooked, even hurt. There are times when I feel overlooked by God, especially when I feel alone, or confused, or afflicted.

Maybe you have had those times too? Struggles in life, disappointments in relationships, and weaknesses in our own character can discourage our spirit and blur our thinking about ourselves and God. I know I can get my thoughts and emotions in a tangle of untrue thoughts about myself; about other people, and about God.

Times of crisis in our life cause fear, doubt and inward turning.  Tosay we are in a worldwide crisis, that affects all of us and each one of us. Our lives and security are threatened by a virus. We may wonder, “Where is God? Does God care?”

I believe God cares. God knows and God is working in ways that are not apparent to us at this time.

Truths like the one stated in Deuteronomy 32:10 reveal God’s character and heart towards us. In “down” times we need to recall this truth and let it renew our thinking, untangle our thoughts and encourage our spirit.

We are God’s beloved; we are God’s people (1 Peter 2:9). God has this heightened sense of value towards you and me. He is watching and standing ready to defend  us; to help us; to teach us, and to refine us.

A Prayer
In closing this entry let’s consider this thought: in Psalm 17:8, David prays and asks God to “keep him as the apple of His eye.”

I wonder how our outlook and relationship with God would change if we prayed: “Lord, keep me as the apple of your eye. Open my eyes and help me to see your love, Father God.” Perhaps, also, we could add to it, “Teach me how to treat others as if they were the “apple of Your eye.”

Truths for Troublesome Times – 2

When life gets difficult or painful, I can turn aside from God instead of leaning into Him. In trying times I begin to ask, “Where are you God?”  I can even blame God and say, “This is your fault God.”  When things hurt or become confusing, secretly, I may even think, “God does not love me.”

All these thoughts are very far from the truth. Emotions like anger and fear can block our minds to considering truth or lead us into shallow thinking.

We do not have to be academically gifted to understand the truth of God’s love. We only need to think with a grain of faith of what we know about God and we will see His love.

I love Romans 5:10 and 8:32. Think deeply about what these verses are really saying about God and His love for us.

  • “We were God’s enemies, but he made us his friends through the death of his Son. Now that we are God’s friends, how much more will we be saved by Christ’s life!” NLT
  • “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, freely give us all things?” Romans 8:32 (BSB)

In these passages, I hear God reminding us that He has already given His highest and best. He suffered His Son, Jesus to put on flesh and blood to become the sacrifice that atones for our wrongs, so that we can have a relationship with God. He will provide everything we need within that relationship.

The truth is that God gave His Son, Jesus to die for us. Since He did this we then are assured of the second truth that He will provide for us and be faithful to care for us in all things. It does not mean everything will be easy and comfortable the way we think, but it does mean that He will be with us at all times and provide us with what we need.

Presented in this blog are truths about God’s love and presence in our life. Take these into your heart and let them encourage your faith at all times, but most especially in these insecure times.

God Is Personally Involved in Our Lives
It is true, there are times that I wonder what is happening. I may feel so fearful or discouraged that I wonder, “Where is God?” If I take time to read God’s word I can know He is here with me even when I don’t see evidence of it.

  • Psalm 56:8– You keep track of all my sorrows.You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.
  • Psalm 139:16-You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.
  • Psalm 34:17– When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit
  • Romans 8:28 – And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
  • Matthew 10:29-31– Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
  • John 10:3 -To him (Jesus) the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
  • John 10:14, 15 – I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.
  • Psalm 139:1-5 – O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up;you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
  • John 17:20-23 – I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,  I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

Making His Presence Real in Your Life
My view of life is so far from God’s. That may be because my focus can too often be on my “self.” Read these truths about God and his involvement in your life. Consider each one carefully. Meditate on each passage.

Ask yourself:

  • What is the “personal” action(s), attitude(s) or thought(s) of God in each one of these scriptures?
  • Then, ask yourself, how do I see God doing this, being this in my life?
  • Examine your heart, your faith, events/relationships in your life. What are the weak points? Where do you need to pray for strengthening?
  • Pick one of these areas of your faith and write down ways that these truths about God’s heart for you and his presence in your life can strengthen that area.

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Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Ps. 23:4

 

Truths for Troublesome Times -1

The LORD is near to all who call on Him, to all who call out to Him in truth.
Psalm 145:18

During this time of concern over the dangers of the coronavirus there has been much said about the virus, and about what we should do.

The purpose of this blog is not to discuss the coronavirus but to turn our focus, our hearts, our minds and our souls to God, Yahweh, the great I AM,  the creator and sustainer of all life.

Presented here are words of truth, words of wisdom, words of life and power, presented ages ago through the inspiration of the Spirit of God.

As we review these truths let us remember that they were spoken within a certain context to a specific group of people, yet they reveal absolute truths about the character of God and His love for us both of which remain the same yesterday, today and tomorrow and can be depended upon in today.

  • Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8
  • “In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth,and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain. . .  like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same,  and your years will never end.” Hebrews 1:10-12

Read these truths slowly and with much thought. Meditate on them. Think about how these truths bring peace and hope to you at this time. Share these truths to encourage the faith and hope of others. But above all, meditate and believe on these truths that you may know God more deeply, and praise Him.

Our Help Comes from the LORD
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble. Psalm 46:1

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Psalm 9:9

But I will sing of Your strength and proclaim Your loving devotion in the morning. For You are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. Psalm 59:16

God Is Faithful
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.  Do not forsake the work of your hands. Psalm 138:7-8

For the LORD is good, and His loving devotion endures forever; His faithfulness continues to all generations. Psalm 100:5

He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. Psalm 91:4

For the Word of the Lord is upright, And all His work is done in faithfulness. Psalm 33:4

If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. 2 Timothy 2:13 

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He remains faithful forever, Psalm 146:5-6

Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord. Psalm 117:1-2

God’s Proven Faithfulness and Love
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Romans 5:8-10

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-7

But because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them. Hebrews 7:24-25

Food for Thought. Food for Life
There are many truths about God that we can draw strength and life from during this time. We will review more in the days to come. But take your time with these few and let their power work in your mind and heart.

The media of this world will provide much content for you to read, listen to and think about. Do not allow that communication to wash over you and be your focus.

Instead let these truths from God fill you. Let these truths live in you and be your sustenance during these days.

 “Send out Your light and Your truth; let them lead me. Let them bring me to Your holy mountain, and to the place where You dwell.” Psalm 43:3

Risk:Living by Faith-2

In the previous “blog study” we looked at David as an example of a person who had faith in God and lived out that faith in his everyday life. At times David took great risks of faith with God. The key is “with God” and from his “relationship” with God.
Keys that characterize David’s faith:

  • David knew God through the scriptures. David discerned God’s character and heart for men as he read the word of God. David believed what he read about God and took that into his heart and mind. David spoke these truths to himself and integrated these truths into his life. It is knowing and believing truths about God that made David able to take risks of faith.
  • David valued and esteemed God. David was in absolute awe of God. David’s heart was set to honor God. Read Psalms 63:1-3 and 27:4 to get a glimpse of David’s genuine heart for God.
  • David had an acute awareness of God’s presence in his life. David was able to discern God helping him, supporting him, training him and protecting him in various situations in his life. David took these things to heart, remembered them and connected them to his present circumstances. These experiences fueled David’s faith.
    An example of this is in 1 Samuel 17:34-37, David tells Saul that God helped him to kill a lion and a bear when they went after the sheep. He connects that experience with facing Goliath and believes God will do the same with Goliath.

Risks – Living Faith
David had a deep relationship with God. He valued God. He esteemed God. He feared God and was devoted to “do life with God.” Because of the strength of David’s heart for God, he lived out of his faith in God and took risks that honored God and helped others.

A Personal Reflection: I have to stop here and think about my life and my relationship with God. Is my relationship with God really a “relationship?” Or am I going through a series of “spiritual activities” that give me a false sense of a relationship with God?  Do I know truths about God’s character? Do I believe those truths and bring them into my daily consciousness and use those truths to uphold me in difficult situations?

Risking Life – Come from Personal Connection
In 1 Samuel 17, we read of the encounter between David and Philistine giant, Goliath.

1 Samuel 17: 10, Goliath brazenly, with no fear, states that he “defies” the armies of Israel. It seems he postured and railed thus for 40 days (v.16).  David’s heart picked up on the fact that this man was railing against God, as well as His people. David personally felt the insult and disrespect of Goliath for God and God’s people.

  • A Personal Reflection: I have to ask myself: Do I personally connect with God, am I insulted on behalf of God by the “railing” of the world against God and truth? Or is my faith more just in my head, but not my heart?

Goliath defied God and Israel. In this context the word “defy” means: to hold in contempt, to scorn, to belittle, to denigrate, to shame and to blaspheme.

David was insulted on behalf of God. He took a stand and asked, “Who is this pagan Philistine anyway that he should be allowed to defy the armies of the living God,” 1 Sam. 17:26

To David, Goliath was not a giant, but a man without faith or fear of God. David steps forward in faith, without armor or supporting troops. Looking at David in that moment, he is mismatched, vulnerable, outnumbered, alone, and exposed.

Fighting Words – Faith Words
David knows God. He has truths embedded in his heart that he learned from the scriptures and from his experience with God. David spoke these truths about God to himself, to all the people watching from a distance, and to Goliath as he stepped forward to encounter him.

“…I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.” (1 Sam. 17:45-47)

David was not alone, God was with him. David’s armor and shield was God. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why we see so many references in David’s psalms to God as his Shield, his Champion, his Rock, his Strong Tower, and so on.

A Relatable Faith
I read this account of the faith of David and I am in awe. I am enamored and star struck by David’s faith.

Then I think: I can’t relate to this. David is a super spiritual hero in the scriptures. I cannot have this faith. I have struggles and serious flaws in my character. I have made many mistakes in my life.

As I read further in the life of David, I see he was not a perfect man. He did not do everything right. God described him as “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14), yet David was flawed; he sinned. One might say that David made a royal mess of things. He lusted. He committed adultery (2 Sam. 11:2-5). He arranged for the death of a man who was loyal to him, and then tried to cover up both the adultery and the murder (2 Sam. 11:6-17).

David’s track record with parenting his children was not the best. His son Amnon forced himself on his sister (2 Sam. 13:1-15).  His other son Absalom killed Amnon. (2 Sam. 13:20-32).  Absalom then rose up in insurrection against King David his father and attempted to take the throne. (2 Sam. 15:1-14).

God Sees Something I Don’t
Even many years after the truth of David’s life is known, God continued to describe David in the scriptures as a “man after God’s heart,” Acts 13:22.

  • After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ Acts 13:22

While I am impressed with the stand David took for God with Goliath, I am honestly more drawn to the type of intimate relationship that David had with God. This relationship was born of God’s love for David as well as David’s love for God. It is a mutual relationship.

As I read further in 1 and 2 Samuel and the Psalms, I see that I can have a relationship with God like David had. It is a matter of the heart, not of perfect performance. I don’t have to be perfect, just faithful.

I can, like David, make my heart’s home in God and let my life flow from that. The Message version states this in an impressive way.

  • “God, the one and only—I’ll wait as long as he says. Everything I hope for comes from him,  so why not? He’s solid rock under my feet,    breathing room for my soul, an impregnable castle: I’m set for life. My help and glory are in God  —granite-strength and safe-harbor-God—so trust him absolutely, people; lay your lives on the line for him. God is a safe place to be.” Psalm 62:5-8

Jesus – Makes It Reality
Jesus, the ultimate hero in the story of God has made it possible for me and you to have a deep personal relationship with God. In fact, such an intimate relationship has always been God’s heart and will for us and Him.

“In Christ, he chose us before the world was made. In his love he chose us to be his holy people—people without blame before him.  And before the world was made, God decided to make us his own children (relationship) through Jesus Christ. That was what he wanted and what pleased him.” Ephesians 1:4-5 (NCV)

Risk – Another Word for Faith

Within the spiritual community that I am a part of we have been talking about God’s dream that is that everyone would have a deep personal relationship with God. That this is God’s desire; it is his will, his design.

  • “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” Eph. 1:4-5 NLT
  • “There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” John 14:2-3

Partners in God’s Dream
We have been reflecting on how God has invited us into being a part of his dream and working with him to complete this. The term “risk” came up, as in thinking about what risks can we take in order to be fellow workers with God to advance his dream by sharing God’s invitation to a relationship with him through Jesus.

Risk can be an intimidating term to some people, because in some way it means that we are doing something that has an element of stretching our limits. Risk involves going above what we normally would do, and it has the potential to result in a negative consequence of some type.

Risk involves vulnerability and possible exposure, or a pushing beyond our comfort zone. It involves a certain factor of the unknown. There is not a specific guaranteed structure or outcome. Sounds like faith to me.  

Risk – Another Word for Faith
As I pondered the term risk I thought, God has been talking about risks since day 1 of creation. When we assert faith, we do not physically see the outcome or sometimes even the process. The scriptures in Hebrews 11: 1 say that; “Faith if the assurance of things hoped for the conviction of things not seen.”  Therefore, faith involves risk.

Faith and Risk are inherent in many scriptures, such as: Romans 8:28 and Psalms 46:1-3.

  • “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

We may not see “the good” at the time, but we trust – we take the risk to believe that God is moving and working on our behalf.

Psalm 46:1-3 implies a risk to trust God in the midst of trouble, doubt, and when it seems our world is coming apart. These verses are a poetic and symbolic rendering of God’s unchanging heart and faithful character.

  • “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”Ps. 46:1-3

Risk Takers- Faith Walkers
If you are still unconvinced that you can become a risk taker read Hebrews 11 and become inspired by ordinary men and women who took risks of faith and deepened their knowledge and experience with God.

  • “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead…” Heb. 11:32-35

Relationship – Heart- Risk
Faith and risks flow from a deep relationship with God that is characterized by:

  • knowing and believing truths about God,
  • valuing God, and
  • cultivating a heart that cannot live without God.

King David, a risk taker, was described by the Spirit of God in the scriptures as being just such a man. The Spirit says David was a man after the heart of God. We read this characterization in Acts 13:22  

  • “And when He (God) had removed him (Saul), He raised up David to be their king, of whom He testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after My heart, who will do all My will.” Acts 13: 22

David was known to have a relationship with God even before he became famous for his mighty deed of slaying the giant.

  • “One of the servants answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the LORD is with him.” 1 Samuel 16:18

I have to stop here and reflect: What am I known for: my education; my titles; my appearance; my various skills and talents or even for my vices? Or, am I known for loving God and my fellow man; for walking humbly with God and man?  What are you known for?

Develop a Heart for God
Having a heart for God involves: seeking to know God personally; trusting in God and developing righteous character as you do what pleases God.

The words of David in the Psalms he wrote, reveal his heart for God.

David valued God and actively sought after knowing God and relating to God.

  • One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple…My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” “Your face, Lord, I will seek.” Ps. 27 4, 8

David sought to know and to do God’s will:

  • Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” Psalm 86:11
  • “Show me your ways, Lord,teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25:4-5

It is through developing this knowledge of God and heart for Him that David could take risks for God.

It is the same for us. We can only live out our relationship with God, rise to challenges and difficulties, and do His will, if we are seeking daily to know Him and to do His will.

More to Come
This study has caused me to think more deeply about cultivating my heart for God and relationship with God. My faith is only as strong as the truths I know about God and choose to believe.  

In the next blog we will look closer at the various risks that David took to do great things that honored God, helped other people and caused David to grow in faith and love for God.

A New Look at an Old Truth for a New Year- 2

“I am Thy servant to do Thy will, and that will is sweeter to me than position or  riches or fame, and I choose it above all things on Earth or in Heaven.” A. W. Tozer

When talking about the will of God we generally don’t hear such a forthright proclamation of love for the will of God. When we think of the will of God, we may think of the commands of God and begin to feel all those “I am not enough,” and “I can’t do that,” or “It’s too hard” kinds of feelings and thoughts.  

As I begin this new year, I am hoping that my study of God’s will and gaining greater understanding of how it fits into my relationship with God will help me to “love” and “treasure” the will of God much like Tozer or the psalmist who said:  

“ I delight to do your will, O God, your law is within my heart.” Psalm 40:8

God’s Will = Intimacy with God
When I read passages about God’s will, I see how intertwined His will is in a relationship with us. Jesus addressed this.

In Matthew 7:21-25 – Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you.

In that little word “knew” we see a world of relationship, a deep knowing, trusting, believing, interacting with and doing what pleases our Lord. In this kind of relationship with God, doing His will is embedded in that love. I believe that is why in Psalm 40:8, the psalmist can say, “Your law is in my heart.”

When Jesus spoke to the Pharisees, He strongly reminds them, and us, that it is more than trying to live up to a standard in isolation from relationship with God and others.

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.” Luke 11:42

What is missing in what these men were doing? Justice, which I believe, is associated with doing right in relationship to their fellow man, and love for God. 

That is what happens when I think the “will of God is equivalent solely to keeping the law of God.” It then becomes a focus on performance and self. That is when I get scattered, running about, doing this and that resulting in my feeling “not enough,” “not making the grade,” “judged,” and eventually a dissatisfied feeling leading to trying to prove myself to prove myself to God and others.  Ever been there?

The Bottom Line
In the previous blog study, we saw that the will of God is his desire, intent, and design to draw us into a relationship with Him, through that relationship He gives us the ability to be with Him, to stand in His presence, through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. Clearly and undeniably encapsulated in Ephesians 1:4-5.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. For He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presence. In love He predestined (pre-planned) us for adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the Beloved One …” Eph. 1:4-5 (BSB)

The bottom line of God’s will is His love and desire to draw us close to Him. Everything about His will is directed towards that end. Within that interactive relationship God’s will encompasses Him delighting in and actively loving us, and us responding by pleasing Him.

Relationship Words
If we look closely in the scriptures at various words that are associated with the will of God. In these words we see God’s good intent and His love for us.

Desire:
“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” Hos, 6:6 (ESV)

God’s will is founded in the word “desire,” not “demand.” What is it that He desires? Love and knowing God.

Esteem:
Isaiah 66:6 uses a different word to show that those who live in a close loving relationship with God are “esteemed” by God.

“Has not My hand made all these things? And so they came into being,” declares the LORD. “This is the one I will esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, who trembles at My word.” Is. 66:2 (BSB)

The word esteem indicates God’s will is meshed with His valuing us. He is pleased with and highly values a person who is humble/contrite in his/her relationship with God and one who respects God’s word.

Desirable:
“All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the LORD weighs the heart. To do righteousness and justice is more desirable to the LORD than sacrifice.” Prov. 21:2-3 (BSB)

The emphasis is on what God desires is about heart and relationship, not necessarily performance. Righteousness involves our thoughts and actions in relationship to God, but also to others. Again, the will of God is relational, involving both God and man..

Delights –Pleasure – Pleased – Devoted:
“He does not delight in the strength of the horse; He takes no pleasure in the legpower of the man. The LORD is pleased with those who fear Him, who hope in His loving devotion.” Psalm 147:10-11 (BSB)

These words are associated with the will of God in relationship with us. The “will of God” expresses God’s devotion to us. What an awesome truth- the almighty, sovereign and loving God is devoted to you and me. That gives me a clear perspective on the will of God in my life and moves me to respond with devotion to God and to delight to do His will.

Reflections on the Will of God
Throughout this study of the will of God, I am asking myself some questions. I will share them with you and perhaps they will help you in your walk with God.

  • Do I know what the will of God is? Have I taken time to know him so that I know what pleases Him?
  • Am I doing many good things because they are what everyone else is doing, and or because they seem to be expected of me? Or, am I doing these things as an intentional loving response to God in my relationship with Him?
  • Do I esteem, treasure, delight in God in response to how He esteems, treasures and delights in me?

When I feel stressed by performance, or other’s opinions, judgments and expectations, I meditate on Ephesians 1:4-5 and remember God’s will is to draw me close to Him and that He is transforming me into His image.

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The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear Him.
Psalm 25:14

A New Look at an Old Truth in a New Year

Do you ever wonder if you are attuned to God and His will; if you really understand what God’s will is, and if you are following it?  I do, even though I have been a disciple of Jesus for many years and have read the Bible through several times.  I feel led to seriously re-consider, study anew the idea of “God’s will” and “doing God’s will,” if doing is even the accurate expression.  

The concept of the “will of God” is often used in a generic way, in that all good activities are lumped together and referred to as doing the “will of God.” Most people would think that my choice of knowing and doing the will of God is a rather basic focus. After all, a friend of mine said, “You have been a disciple of Jesus for many years; surely you know and are doing the will of God.”

As believers in God, we tend to automatically assume we are doing the will of God. We attend and participate in church services; we do good works; we live a relatively “clean” life style, so we think we are doing the will of God, but are we? Or, are we doing someone’s idea of “God’s will,” or our own version of “God’s will.” So at the start of this New Year I want to take a new look at God’s will and my connection to His will.

What is the “will” of God?
Simply put someone might say, “That’s easy the will of God are the commands of God; and almost immediately another pipes up and says, ”Uh, oh, be careful you don’t get legalistic.” Putting my fears of legalism aside I want to look at this idea of doing the will of God as embodied within my relationship with God, not the keeping of a code or fulfilling certain expectations so that I feel good about myself, or sense of spiritual security, which may be false.
What does it mean to live out the will of God in my life?

The word for “will” in the Greek New Testament is thelema, or a form thereof, and refers to: will, desire, intention, design, or plan.

We see this word spoken by Jesus in the prayer he taught his disciples: “Your (God’s) kingdom come, Your will (thelema) be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10

Again, Jesus refers to “doing the will of God” as recorded in Mt. 7:21: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will (thelema) of my Father who is in heaven.”

The Will of God and Relationship
I am thinking the “will” of God has more to do with His intention, His desire, His design, or His plan to draw us close into a relationship with Him and to transform us more and more into His image. Clearly this has been God’s plan for me all along. Let’s take a close look at Ephesians 1:3-6 while defining and emphasizing some words.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. For He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presence. In love He predestined us for adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will (thelematos). to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the Beloved One..” (BSB)

 Here are the things that stand out in this passage about the will of God:

  • “chose” – God made a deliberate “willful choice” to draw us into a relationship with Him through Jesus
  • “in His presence” – The expression in His presence signifies a close personal relationship. God’s intention, his will/his design was to bring us into an intimate relationship with him
  • “predestined” – This meaning of this word is more closely associated with the understanding of “pre-planning.”  God planned in advance to send His Son Jesus to be the sacrifice for our sins (our self-willed-ness) so that we could be personally connected to Him.
  • “the good pleasure of His will” – God’s will, His intention, His design, His plan to initiate this and bring this about through Jesus was His pleasure. Pleasure has several meanings among those meanings is delight, good favor, beneficence towards man. God’s will to draw us close to Him was not done with a heavy heart or out of some kind of divine obligation. It was God’s pleasure to design, to plan in advance for us to be in an intimate relationship with Him.

When the angels announced the birth of Jesus they were revealing this truth about God’s good will, His good plan for us. The NKJV translates “God’s pleasure” as “His good will or good intent” to man.
          “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:14

There are many passages of scripture from Genesis to Revelations that reveal this same aspect of God’s will, His good intention, His design to gather us into Him.

Facets of the Divine Will
The will of God is like a large sparkling diamond. It has many facets. Like a diamond, each facet shines in a different way as you hold it up to the light. Once we see the whole of the diamond, we can then begin to examine the facets and get a better understanding of its beauty and value.

So it is with the will of God. The more I understand about the facets of the divine will, the more I can appreciate the will of God and the more likely I am to be in sync with God’s will.

Some words that need to be considered as facets of the will of God include:  surrender, submission, Lordship, exchanging yokes, denying self; abiding in God; refuging in God; knowing the eternal God and rejoicing in His presence. I am sure after a little thought you will see more facets to the will of God.

Some of the facets mentioned above may bring back a tinge of fear or maybe even a sense of burden or insecurity, but when I consider the will of God as His choosing to design a plan for me to come into a forever friendship with Him  through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus, I can give up all fear and lean into Him.

Reflection for a New Year
I would ask you to reread Ephesians 1:3-6 and re-consider your ideas about the will of God in your life.

Do you know what the will of God is? How does doing the will of God fit in with having a personal relationship with God? How can you grow in sync with God’s will? What will that look like in your life?

I intend to continue my quest for comprehending and taking in the will of God in my life this year. I invite you to join me.

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“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,
making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Ephesians 5:15-17

God Became a Speck for You!

As a young child during the Christmas season there was an elaborate and very beautiful manger scene that took up a whole corner of the church I attended. To my child eyes it was beautiful, really, a thing of awe. I have never seen anything like it since.

Every year during the Christmas season the children would line up and stroll past this scene singing a song of triumph. I think the song is entitled “Strains of Triumph.”  My family lived in a multi-ethnic community, we were among the Polish group, so I should clarify that we sang this song in Polish. I hear it in my head, with only snatches of remembered words, but I clearly remember the word for triumph.

It was a song about the triumph that came from God becoming a man! And there, encapsulated in that procession of children and their worship song, you have the true cause for celebration – the incarnation.

 God With Us – Immanuel
Immanuel is a name given to Jesus by God. This name encapsulates the incarnation. When Joseph heard the name spoken by the angel, he believed and obeyed.

“Behold, the virgin will hold in womb, and will bring forth a son, and they will call His name Immanuel” which is, being translated, “God with us.” And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife.”  Matthew 1:23 BLB Matthew 1:24 NASB

Sometimes we can be as confused as Joseph was in regards to who Jesus is.  At times I may even wonder what is God’s intent towards me and purpose for me. I think meditating on this truth of Immanuel, God becoming man, will strengthen my faith in the love of God for man, and His desire to know me and have a relationship with me.

God went through great lengths to show us that He desires to be with us and have a relationship with us.  

God, the majestic, all powerful, the Creator and king of the universe, the source of all life and light, the all sovereign God became a “speck,” a single cell zygote in a human womb for you and me. 

Love Detailed
There are numerous passages of scripture that confirm this truth and define the purpose of God becoming man. These passages reveal in detail the deep love of God for us and His desire to be in a relationship with us. Let’s review some of these passages.

Immanuel, God in the flesh, purchased us with His blood.

  • Keep watch over yourselves and the entire flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood. Acts 20:28
  • He (God) is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. Ephesians 1:7

 Immanuel, God in the flesh, had a physical body that could bleed, die and then be resurrected.

  • Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Hebrews 2:14
  • For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the spirit 1 Peter 3:18
  • But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy, unblemished, and blameless in His presence—Col. 1:22
  • By His power God raised the Lord from the dead, and He will raise us also. 1 Cor. 6:14

Immanuel, God with us, had a body that could suffer on our behalf.

  • He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24
  • But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

Why Immanuel?
Jesus is God in the flesh, Immanuel.  Why did God come down in the flesh? Why was He born as a man so many years ago? The answer is throughout the scriptures but is very clear in Ephesians 3:12

  • In Him (Jesus) and through faith in Him we may enter God’s presence with boldness and confidence. Ephesians 3:12

God became man and did for us what we could not do for ourselves. Immanuel became the “sin offering” for us, His blood atoned for our sin. He did this so that we could be in a relationship with God and enjoy fellowship with Him.

This truth of “God with us” is carefully documented for us. 1 John 1:1-4 describes the documentation of the Word become flesh- Immanuel, and it clearly states the purpose of God becoming a man.

“We proclaim to you the One who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw Him with our own eyes and touched Him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. 

 This One who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen Him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us.

We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy.”

So What?
Whether you know the exact month or day that Jesus was born is not so important. Whether you follow those who think Jesus was born in a lean to stable or whether he was born in the lower floor of a house which was reserved for the animals is not so important. Whether you understand the origins of the “Christ-mass” holiday is not so important.

What is important is the truth that God became man in Immanuel. God became man for the explicit purpose of suffering, bleeding, dying, being buried and raised from the dead. He became the sin offering for us, so that we could have access to fellowship with God.

God went through great lengths to draw me to Him. Will I value and appreciate the humility and love of God? Will I choose to die to my “self” and live in friendship with God? What about you?

God in the Coffee Shop

We sat in the coffee shop talking about the disappointing turn her life had taken. She thought she had what she wanted in life but within the time it took to make one decision everything was turned upside down.

It had been six months since he left and her feelings are tangled in a ball of confusion. She is trying to cobble together a life by herself. We talked about her connection to God and where she is with Him now.

Thoughts of failure and unworthiness were swirling in her head. She wondered where God is; did He too walk away from her? Can God and His people be trusted? There must be something really bad about me that this happened?

Listen for Truth
In times of difficulty and pain, many fears and insecurities vie for center stage in our mind. When we are attacked by swarming life draining thoughts the best place to go is to the source of truth, the Word of God. If you are not strong enough to go there by yourself, call a friend and seek these truths together.

Knowing truths about God that we can sink our faith into is like firmly embedded pegs in a slick rock wall that you can grasp onto to keep your balance and use to pull yourself up as you move forward.

So God’s peace entered the coffee shop as we read some truths about Him.

God Cares
One of the stand out truths we needed that morning was to know that God cares about us and He is with us in our hurts.  God is very personal.  He does not disappear when we are going through difficulties. Here are a few verses that reveal the truth of God’s heart for us.

“Cast all your anxieties on Him for He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

This truth of God’s care and concern for us stands out within a passage from the letter of Peter to the disciples scattered abroad due to persecutions. The disciples had to move away to escape the threats to their life, their faith, their families, their livelihood, etc. They probably left behind much and were in emotional distress, and physical need. It is possible that they did not feel the care of God. Yet, in the midst of their troubles, Peter tells them this truth – “… God cares for you.”

The word translated “cares for you” is defined as: to pay special attention to; to take an interest in.

The truth about God always stands in direct opposition to the circumstances we are in.
Our circumstances seem to shout out: “God does not care.”

These disciples to whom Peter wrote had to make a choice to believe that God cares.
This truth is the same today, and we receive the benefits of this truth the same way they did. In the midst of the pain and chaos of our lives, we choose to believe that God cares. This truth is found over and over again in God’s Word. Truth leads us out of hopelessness and fear.

God Knows the Details
The scripture 1 Peter 1:5:7 literally means God cares about every little detail of your life. “Surely not,” you say. But yes that is the truth; a description of this very truth is in Psalm 56:8:

“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (ESV)

Some translations say “wanderings” instead of tossings, which makes sense in light of all Israel’s wanderings and missteps. But the truth about God is He knows our wanderings, our tossings. He records our tossings of confusion, distress, despair, hurt, fear, betrayal, etc., in His book.

It’s like God keeps a journal of our difficult and painful times much like a parent might journal the growth of their child. God tenderly stores our tears in a bottle, as a parent might keep their child’s first tooth to come out, or store away a lock of baby hair.

A loving parent is attuned to all good growth as well as difficulties in their child’s life. In fact many parents can sense even a nuance of difficulty in their child’s life.  God is the perfect parent, the ultimate shepherd; and He sees, He knows, He records our laments, and He responds.

I Don’t Know
Well, you say, “If God cares so much and He knows so much why doesn’t He change my situation, in fact, why did He allow this to happen in the first place?

I have thought these thoughts and asked these questions. I have thought that if God really cared, He would magically pluck me up out of the difficulty.

It has been my experience that in general, God does not do this. But true to His faithfulness and love, God walks with us in all these things. We see Him with us through our faith.

For example, consider the account in the book of Daniel in which Daniel is falsely accused, of sedition against the king by jealous men. God does not rush in and punish these men; He does not send an angel to tell the king to overturn the ruling; and He doesn’t mysteriously remove Daniel from the situation.

Daniel still has to walk into the den where there are lions, hungry ones. Imagine that!

Daniel does not have an insider tip that God will shut the mouths of the lions. Daniel moves forward perhaps with some fear, and is willing to be attacked by hungry lions for honoring God. Yet God was there and shut the mouths of the lions. (Read Daniel 6) Think about what it might have been like for Daniel in that den that night. Could it be similar to you in your troubles?

God Is in It
A similar account is in Daniel 3 regarding an account of three young men who refuse to dishonor God by engaging in an act of worship that would betray their loyalty to God. These men knew the punishment for this crime against the king – death in a fiery furnace.

I hate fire and would do almost anything to avoid being burned by fire, let alone death by fire.

These three men professed their faith in God and their knowledge of His faithful care and powerful ability to save them, but also they were aware that God might not save them from this fiery death.

Again, we do not see God swooping to the rescue like a modern super hero; righting every wrong; huffing out the fire; rebuking the king; exposing the accusers or picking up the three men and flying away with them. No! The three young men stand firm in trusting and honoring God and walk into the fire.

Do you think they did not have any fear of the flames? Any second thoughts? Any tossings in their minds?

Where was God?In the flames with them!
Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”  He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” Daniel 3:24-25

As a result of their faith in God; in your face loyalty to God and God’s presence with them, these three young men came out of the fire unsinged.

“ … So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire,  and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them. Dan. 3:26b-27

The Result of Trusting God
What was the result of the fiery trial of these three young men? They saw the glory of God. The king and all his people believed and praised God. (See Daniel 3:28-28)

Choose Truth
In the midst of our troubles; our anxieties; our tossings; our pain we need to ignore the lying voices about God, and deliberately hang onto truths we know about Him. The truth is God cares about us and our lives, and God is with us in the big and small troubles.

So what will you and I choose to believe about God when we are in the fire? Will we trust that He cares, that He is there walking with us? Will we choose truth and see His glory?

As you reflect on these questions, consider this truth about God.

“He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him freely give us all things?!”  Romans 8:32