Category Archives: Devotional Thoughts

Devotional thoughts about a relationship with God.

Wonder of Wonders

Have you ever been “stuck” in your faith, in trusting God during a rough season, one of those dips or pits in life? Struggles of a physical, spiritual, emotional or relational nature show up in our life on a regular basis, at least they do in mine.

These are the times when we question God about: His love, His good will towards us, His power, His truth and even His presence in our life. It seems odd that we should question the very character and nature of God, but when overwhelmed with turmoil or suffering, our perspective is often blurred and confused.

Psalm 77 describes a dark time in the life of the psalmist. During this time he wrestles with some strong feelings about God and asks seemingly  accusatory questions.

  • He asks where God is and if He (God) has rejected/abandoned him in verse 7- “Will the Lord reject forever?”
  • The psalmist goes on questioning, asking God if He cares about him and if He loves him in verse 7b and 8 “And will He never be favorable again? Has His loving-kindness ceased forever?”
  • He even questions the faithfulness of God in keeping His promises in verse 8b – “Has His promise come to an end forever?”
  • The psalmist continues his lament and asks God if He has forgotten to bless him or has forgotten about him in verse 9a – “Has God forgotten to be gracious?”
  • He asks if God is mad at him, verse 9b – “Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

The psalmist is so discouraged that he could not sleep (notice he blames God) and he could not even speak about it,You have held my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.” He asked God some of the same questions I have and perhaps you have asked at some time in your life.

What to Do in a Faith Funk?
The psalmist knew where to go, and was able to drag himself to that source even in the midst of his turmoil. The psalmist decides he will remember the truths he already knows about God. He makes a decision to “recount the wonders of God.”

“I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; surely I will remember (recount)Your wonders of old. I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds.” Psalm 77:11-12

The psalmist did not look inward to himself, or outward to others, but interestingly enough he looked back at the great deeds of God for help. As he reviewed these deeds, he fanned the flame of his faith because he remembered how great, powerful and loving God is.

What Are the “Wonders?”
The word “wonders” as written by this psalmist comes from a root meaning something wonderful, admirable; extraordinary; astonishing and hard to grasp. It often refers to the wondrous acts of God’s redemption towards man. Words like miracles, marvelous things and mighty deeds are used to define “wonders.”

However, we should note that this word “wonders”  not only refers to God’s might deeds, but it can also refer to His counsel (Isaiah 9:5), and His interaction with man (Isaiah 29:14).

Wonder About the Wonders!
In Psalm 77:13-20, the psalmist details some of these wondrous works that God did for Israel as he delivered them from Egypt.

I like wonder at the wonders of God by scanning through the Bible and recounting the wonders of God. When I do this, I come away renewed in my faith. When read one right after the other it takes my breath away.

I stand in awe of God, who He is, and how intricately and complexly He wove His love and power through the history of His people to bring about the salvation of mankind. Then I remember that this God, I am reading about, is the same God who walks in a relationship with me through my faith today. This renews my faith. Keeping a ready reference of these wonders close by me has lifted my soul out of despondence and doubt many times.

Reminiscing
Here are few of my favorite wonders of God from the scriptures.

  • God spoke things into existence, Genesis 1-2.
    “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Hebrews 11:3
  • God made man in His image and gave him dominion over all the earth, Gen. 1:26.
  • God enabled a100 year old man and a 90 year old woman to give birth to the child from whom would descend the Messiah, the Son of God, Romans 4:19.
  • God divided the waters of the Red Sea and Israel walked across on dry land, Ex.14:21-22.
  • The Lord delivered 3 young men from a fiery death, in fact He walked within the fire with them, Daniel 3:23, 25.
  • God let fire fall from heaven in answer to a prophet’s prayer in order to show Israel that He is God and there is no other,1 Kings 18:30-39.
  • The Almighty God who creates and sustains all life became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth, John 1:14;Philippians 2:6-8.
  • In compassion, Jesus healed a leper, Mark 1:40-45.
  • Jesus raised a young girl from death, Mark 5:35-42.
  • Jesus calmed the storm and the sea, Matthew 8:23-27.
  • Jesus, God in the flesh, became the sacrifice for my sins so that I might become the righteousness of God, 1 Peter2:24; 2 Cor. 5:21.

Chronicle the Wonders
There are many “wonders” of God in the scriptures, as well as ones He has worked in your life. I encourage you to scan through the Bible and find the wonders of God.

  • Read them.
  • Meditate on them.
  • Paint pictures of them in your mind.
  • Journal about them.

Create a ready reference of them, then in times of discouragement, deep wrestling and doubt you can be restored by remembering the wonders of our great God!

Come and see the works of God, Who is awesome in His deeds toward the sons of men.
Psalm 66:5

God – A Keeper

The other day I was sorting through things in my home with the intent of “minimalizing.” As I sorted through things I realized that I “kept” or held onto things based on their value or their use, and also, if it held a special memory or emotional connection.

As I read my Bible during the days of my minimalizing project, the word “keep” continued to come into my focus. The word keep” is used numerous times in the scriptures, especially in the book of Psalms, and I am finding it has a different meaning than just holding onto something for its use, value or sentiment.

A Deeper Meaning
The word “keep” in the scriptures is used often to refer to an action of God on our behalf that is seemingly separate from our value or use.

There are several words in the Hebrew language for keep. We will consider three of them: shamar, tsaphan and natsar.  When we look at these words it is in a sense “splitting hairs” because they all have the same general meaning “to keep”, yet they differ slightly in shades of meaning. I guess if the Holy Spirit thought it necessary to use several different words to communicate the same thought then we should sit up and pay attention to what the Spirit is saying.

Tsaphan – Hide Me Away O God!
Tsaphan
 meaning “keep,” comes from a primitive root meaning to hide, to cover over implying hiding to protect; store away secretly; to keep hidden, as in hidden from harm. Psalm 31:19-20 brings out this meaning.

  • “How great is Your goodness, which You have stored up (tsaphan) for those who fear You, which You have wrought for those who take refuge in You, before the sons of men! You hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the conspiracies of man; You keep (tsaphan) them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues.”(NASB)

In Psalm 31 we see David trusted that God was “keeping” him from the harm of the conspiracies of men that were going on around about him.

We too can trust that God is sheltering us; He is keeping us- hiding us away in His secret shelter from the tongues of men, and protecting us from the danger of their gossipy words, angry or jealous talk, or outright evil intent. When we trust in God, He keeps us safe in the secret place of His presence. How special is!

Natsar- Faithfully Keep Watch Over Me!
Natsar
is translated “Keep” and comes from a primitive root meaning to guard with fidelity; to watch over with the emphasis on faithful watching over. It is also translated preserve; save.

This concept is illustrated in Isaiah 26:3.

  • “You keep (natsar) him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”

God faithfully keeps our soul in peace and calm in the midst of difficulties as we trust in Him. Perhaps Paul was thinking of this scripture when he penned Phil 4:6-7, “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Shamar – Put a Hedge Around Me!
Shamar means “keep”
and comes from a primitive root meaning to hedge about, in the sense of surrounding a thing for protection or containment. However, it is also translated: to observe, to keep watch over; to guard; to protect; to keep safe; to preserve and to treasure.

We see this word used in several psalms but I want to point out two of them: Psalm 140:4 and Psalm 12:7. Note David uses both shamar and natsar in these verses, enriching the idea of God as our Keeper.

  • Keep (shamar) me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; preserve (natsar) me from violent men who have purposed to trip up my feet.” Ps. 140:4
  • “You, O Lord, will keep (shamar) them; You will preserve (natsar) him from this generation forever.” Ps. 12:7

As we know from the scriptures David was anointed king but was chased around the countryside by Saul who intended to kill him. Things were so bad that David hid in caves and even went over to the enemy and pretended to be out of his mind. In the midst of these difficulties David called upon God to keep him, to put a hedge of safety around him, and to faithfully watch over him to preserve him and deliver him.

God is the same in character and heart today as when He interacted with David. We too can ask God to put a hedge around us and to preserve us in the midst of our trials.

This Doesn’t Feel Like Safety and Security
Whether you “feel” like it or not- God is “keeping” You. It is a part of His character and heart in relationship with us. When God “keeps us” it does not mean that we are free from all trouble and pain, but rather that He preserves us, our spirit, and yes sometimes even our life in the midst of difficulty. So have faith and trust God as your Keeper.

Think about some well-known accounts of God “keeping” his people.

  • Daniel in the lions’ den: Daniel lived his faith in God before unbelieving men. He was punished barbarically by being thrown into a den of hungry lions. Where was God his keeper? Right there, closing the mouth of the lions! (Dan. 6)
  • What about Joseph? Where was God, the Keeper, when Joseph was falsely accused and thrown in a dungeon to rot? He was right there with Joseph blessing everything he did, waiting to bring things together at the right time to exalt Joseph and deliver Israel. (Gen. 37-50)

We could flip through the pages of scripture and find many such examples from Adam through to the Christians in the first century church.

What about you?
Your circumstances may be painful or messy; your emotions may be blinding you to the truth of God’s presence, but He is there surrounding you, faithfully guarding your soul and preserving you. God is your Keeper!

Take time out to think of all the ways God has been “keeping” you. Think of the many ways God has protected you and surrounded you with His grace and love, and then give to Him the praise that is due Him.

 

A Call to God From the Pit

There are times in our life when we feel like we are going down for the third time; when we feel like we are in a slippery bog, or sinking in a muddy pit. There are times we feel despaired and don’t even know what to think. We don’t feel inspired, motivated or particularly spiritual. We feel overwhelmed with our life circumstances or disappointed in ourselves.  We may be in direct conscious rebellion against God, or we may have been subtly drawn into a pit of self, of discouragement, or of worldliness.

You may think this can’t be me! I have a relationship with God. I am not supposed to feel this way. You are not alone. Prophets of God, kings and even His Son have felt this way!

Voices from the Pit
Jonah was outright rebellious to God. He refused to obey God’s command to call the Ninevites to repentance. He found himself in the pit of a big fish’s belly. He says in Jonah 2:1: “From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.”

Elijah, a prophet of God fell into despair and depression. This took place after he was a part of witnessing God bring fire from the sky to light a sacrifice in a spiritual contest with the worshipers of Baal. After this event Elijah collapsed in fear and depression. He literally asked God to take his life.

We read of his despair in 1 Kings 19:3-5, “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.”

King David felt this way numerous times in his life. Many of the psalms attest to David’s times of deep discouragement.

In Psalm 13, David was so discouraged he charged God with forgetting him. He cried out: “How long O Lord, will you forget about me…”.

In Psalm 42, David recognizes and admits that his soul is troubled and downcast within him. He feels forgotten by God, and as if he is mourning all the time. He is depressed, discouraged and overwhelmed by life.

“I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? … Why are you cast down O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. “Psalm 42:9-10

Again in Psalm 55, we see David feeling full of anguish, fear and feeling like he just wants to run away from it all.

“My heart is in anguish within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me.  I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest… Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur, and He will hear my voice.  He will redeem my soul in peace from the battle which is against me…” Psalm 55: 4-6, 17-18

Even Jesus!
In the Garden of Gethsemane we see a very touching picture of Jesus wrestling with facing the burden of carrying the sins of the world and dying for them. The scriptures describe what he was feeling as anguish, distress, feeling like he was dying, and even so stressed he sweat drops of blood.  Jesus cried out to God in His time in the garden and on the cross as he bled out and died.

“Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He told the disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is swallowed up in sorrow —to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with Me.”  Going a little farther, He fell facedown and prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:36-39 HCSB

“Being in anguish, He prayed more fervently, and His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Luke 22:44

And in the final moments of Jesus’ life we hear the depth of the pain He felt from being separated from God.
“From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over the whole land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice, Elí, Elí, lemá sabachtháni? that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
Matthew 27:45-46

A Common Thread
We are all in the depths, the pit or the “slough of despond” at one time or numerous times in our lives. During those times it is important to be aware of two things: where you are and that God is near.  Self – awareness is important in our life. We may not figure it all out but to be in touch with what we are feeling is good. We, like the people in these passages of scripture, need to realize when we are in trouble, regardless of the cause, and speak out to God.

The common thread in these accounts is the believer’s innate movement toward God. Whether out of anguish, frustration, despair, or hope they cried out to God. And – He responded to them with power, mercy and love.

************************
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me. Psalm 13:5-6

Forget God!?

Forget God? “Impossible! Preposterous!” you say, especially about anyone who is actively involved in “walking with God.” Yet forgetting God is s very real phenomenon. I believe we forget God in ways that seem small to us and are barely noticeable on a daily basis. Think about it.

Forgetting God Is Real
In fact, the phenomenon of forgetting God is so real that we read passages in the scriptures in which God predicts that His people will forget Him, and passages in which God charges them with forgetting Him.

In Deuteronomy 6:10-12, before Israel entered the “promised land” God encourages the people to remember Him and not forget Him after they become settled into their new land and new way of life.

“When the Lord your God brings you into the land He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied,  be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”

And we see a similar warning again in Deuteronomy 8:12-14:
“… Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”

As Israel progressed in life, we clearly see that it is not only possible for a people in a covenant relationship to forget God but it is a reality. Listen to this very heart breaking statement from God in Jeremiah 2:32.
“Does a young woman forget her jewelry, a bride her wedding ornaments? Yet my people have forgotten Me, days without number.”

The book of Judges documents the truth of a people in a covenant relationship with God who continually “forgot” God. Throughout the Old Testament we read of such warnings, statements of reality of them forgetting God, as well as ways that God encourages His people to remember Him. Some of these ways included: writing His command on their door posts; walking in the way with their children and telling of God’s great deeds; erecting stones of remembrance; celebrating feasts such as the Passover, and so on.

The Root of Forgetting God
There are many ways we forget God and many causes for our ungodly memory dysfunction. The psalmist in Psalms 78 reveals a major truth about this memory problem.
“That the generation to come might know…That they should put their confidence in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments, and not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not prepare its heart and whose spirit was not faithful to God.” Psalm 78:6-8 (NASB)

So what is at the root of the problem? We see some clues in verses 6 to 8, such as, the statement that they should put their confidence in God, which implies the generation before did not put their confidence in God but in something or someone else. We know Israel put their confidence in idols, in worldly practices of the nations around them, in pacts with other nations to protect them, and in their own wisdom.

Also, we see that they forgot the “works of God,” the great ways He delivered them and the mighty deeds He did on their behalf. It is further revealed that they forgot God’s law and how to obey it from the heart. They set their will up against God’s and so they are called a stubborn and rebellious generation.

The most revealing clue is in the phrase “a generations that did not prepare its heart.”

Prepare Your Heart
What does this phrase mean? It comes from a Hebrew term that means: to establish; to make provisions for; to make preparation for; to plan. In other words these people did not make provision to be faithful to God. They did not establish themselves in their relationship with God by planning to remain faithful to God.

Most of us have plans for our future. We make plans for our children. We plan to save money. We plan for our education,our vacation, our careers, our homes, our families, etc. We plan to be faithful to our spouse – even to the point of saying vows of love and faithfulness before others regarding our marriage relationship. Yet what about our relationship with God? What is my plan to remain faithful to God? What is your plan?

Note well: There is much to learn on this topic of “forgetting God.” Future blogs will add more to these thoughts. For now it is good to reflect on your memory of God, of His goodness and mighty deeds in His Word, as well as in your life.

What is your plan to remember God every day?
Think beyond your usual prayer and Bible reading!

My Father’s Eyes: What Is Your Spiritual Eyesight?

When I was young I had a crossed eye which seriously affected my vision. I wore an eye patch on my right eye to straighten and strengthen the left eye. It straightened the eye to the point of looking normal so I no longer was like Clarence the cross eyed lion; but the vision never was restored to the left eye.

The eye patch I wore was a black cloth patch that tied around my head, like a real pirate patch! Of course wearing such a patch to school became a cause of ridicule and teasing. Besides being teased, wearing the patch was frustrating because I was forced to see, read and write with one, not so “good” eye. I confess I cheated, often. I would lift up the corner of the patch with the tip of my pencil or fingers and read with the good eye.

Since I have been diagnosed with macular degeneration in both eyes, I have become more focused on saving what sight remains. I have been studying about the eyes and sight in the Bible.

In a previous blog I wrote about having “My Father’s Eyes,” which involves learning to see people and circumstance with the eyes of God, not my worldly eyes. The scriptures have much more to say about our “spiritual eyesight.”

What You See Is What You ARE!
The Bible has much to say about how we see things. Luke 11:34-35 states, “Your eye is the lamp of your body, when your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness.”

In the context of this passage, Jesus is speaking about greed and selfishness, and is basically using an expression that is associated with a generous eye towards others. However the thought that our spiritual eyes or our perspective is the light that directs our inner self is true.

Our focus, our spiritual sight, is the center or lamp from which we interpret and act upon life. If my vision is clear, that is, if I am seeing things through God’s truth, then my motives and deeds are righteous; but, if my vision is darkened by self, greed or worldliness then darkness and confusion reign in my life.

Pray for Right Sight
The apostle Paul understood the importance of spiritual sight. It is so important that we see God and ourselves in relationship to Him correctly that Paul spent time praying for the disciples to see it right. Ephesians 1:18 records his prayer for the spiritual vision of the disciples to be increased that they will know God and His love more deeply.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints”  Ephesians 1:18-19 (NASB)

I have to ask myself, “Am I seeing God for who He really is, or is my sight dimmed and blurred by my ideas or the world’s ideas of God?” 
I think it is a good idea to pray daily that the eyes of our hearts will be opened that we may see the truth and wonders of God.

God Invests in Our Eyesight
What we see spiritually is important to God. He wants us to know about Him and the good news of Jesus. God specifically set Paul aside to go and “open the eyes “of people that they might see their lost state and God’s salvation. See what God says to Paul.

“ I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” Acts 26:17-18

I love the fact that God is actually helping us learn the truth about Him so that we will know Him and come into a relationship with Him. It is refreshing to know that God cares about my growth and is directing my learning.

In Revelation 3:18, the Lord warns and encourages the church in Laodicea to buy salve for their eyes that they might see themselves and the world with right spiritual sight.

“I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”

God is so invested in how we see Him, ourselves and the world that He sent His Son and appointed Him to gives us true spiritual sight. This message is made clear by Jesus in Luke 4:18.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free…”

I have to ask myself, “What am I willing to do to get this spiritual sight from God?”

God Gives Us a Focus
In 2 Corinthians 4:18 we read that God directs us to focus on the spiritual; not the worldly.
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Again in Hebrew 12:2, God encourages us to “look at” the person and life of Jesus. When I look at my problems I can be overwhelmed. When I look at my sin I can be despaired. When I look to myself and my wisdom I lose my way. When I focus on Jesus, I am re-directed and strengthened. Like Peter in Matthew 14:22-33 when he fixed his eyes on Jesus he walked on the water, we too will be able to walk on the waves of life if we keep our eyes on Jesus.

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:2-3

My Father’s Eyes

I am a visual freak, so to speak. I am not an artist, photographer or designer, but I love looking at color and light and how they play off one another, especially outside in nature. I can look out my window at the same scene in our yard anytime during the day, and I will see something different and uniquely beautiful depending on the angle of the sun light. The same leaves on a tree can appear golden at one point in the morning, while shimmery silver at another time, even the shadows create beauty.

I am on a journey of losing my eyesight through macular degeneration. This has caused me to focus more on what I see around me, and what I see spiritually.

My Eyesight Affects My Life
I strive for clarity in my physical eyesight as well as in the eyes of my heart. I need clear vision in my spiritual life, to find my way with God and man. The eyes through which I see other people, my relationships, events, trials/difficulties, achievements, etc., in my life will make a significant difference in my faith and how I live out that faith in my life.

When I am hurt by another person, do I see them as someone to avoid, and complain about; or, do I see them through God’s eyes of forgiveness and patient endurance?

When my children behave in ways that embarrass me, do I see them with eyes of condemnation, shame and despair; or, do I see them through God’s eyes of grace and persevering love?

When I am passed over for some position, promotion or honor, do I look at those who made the decision with bitterness and anger; or do I see it as God working out what is best for me, and do I look for His will and His timing?

When I struggle with physical illness or limitations, such as my weakening eyesight, do I look at God with accusing eyes, and charge Him with not loving me; or do I look to Him with faith and seek to surrender my will?

In 1979, Amy Grant released a song entitled, “My Father’s Eyes.” In the song, Amy Grant sings of how she wants to see people and life through the eyes of God so much so that when she dies, she will be recognized in eternity by the fact that she has “her Father’s eyes.”

Eyes of the Father: Compassion
Jesus reveals to us the eyes of the Father. In Mark 1:40-45 Jesus meets a leper on the road. Jesus looked at the leper through eyes of compassion and healed him. The scripture says; “Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, v.31.

Leprosy was not pleasant to look at, smell or touch, but it moved Jesus to compassion and action.

Sin is like leprosy, it rots our heart. It distorts our character and disposition. It is not pleasant to be around a person ruled by a sin, such as anger, bitterness, addictions, pride, and so on. The question for me is: How do I look at someone who is struggling with sin? Do I have compassion and reach out or do I draw back?

Take it a step further, how do I look at someone who is different from me, or from societies “nice” norms? Someone who is homeless or very poor? How do I view someone who is uneducated; someone who dresses on a weird style; or someone who has a disability?  Do I avoid them or reach out to them?

Eyes of the Father: Grace
In John 8:1-11 Jesus meets an adulterous woman. She was, so to speak, thrown at Jesus’ feet. The men who brought her to Jesus expected Him to look on her with condemnation.

According to the Law, she was to be stoned, but Jesus looked at her through the Father’s eyes of mercy. In mercy He released her. He moved the men from condemnation to grace. Each man dropped his stone and turned away.

When someone has sinned, most especially when someone has personally sinned against me, am I willing to drop my stones; the stone of judgement; the stone of accusation; the stone of blame; the stone of condemnation or revenge?

Eyes of the Father: Love
In Mark 10:17-27, a young ruler talks to Jesus about eternal life. This young man seems to have it all: wealth, status, power and a relationship with God. Yet, when Jesus asked him to give up the one thing that he loved more than God, he couldn’t do it. He struggled and walked away sad.

Even though Jesus knew this man would reject Him, the scripture states, “Jesus looked at him and loved him,” verse 21.

God looks at us in love even when we struggle to do what is right. When we fail, there is love. When we turn away from God, He watches for our return with eyes of love, Luke 15:11-32.

God does not overlook sin, but rather He chooses to look at us through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.

What do I choose to see? Do I look at people who are struggling with eyes of love or frustration? Do I look at those who fail me with eyes of love or accusation? Do I look at people who turn away from God with mercy and perseverance, or do I write them off as lost causes?

Do You Have the Father’s Eyes?
As a disciple of Jesus, I would like to think I have my Father’s eyes, but after reviewing these passages I have had to examine my vision more deeply. So, today when I pray for my physical eyesight, I will more urgently pray for my spiritual eyesight, to have my Father’s eyes.
What about you dear Reader? Maybe, it is time for an eye exam?

Bible Bytes: Being Brazen with God or the Approachable God

David is very bold with God. He asks God some very poignant and seemingly brazen questions. We all understand the frustration of waiting for someone, or the discouragement we feel when someone fails to follow through on a responsibility or a commitment in a relationship. In our frustration or even disappointment we might ask: “Where were you? What happened? Why didn’t you follow through on what you were supposed to do? Don’t you care? How often do you need to be reminded?”

But, and this is a big but, in Psalm 13, David is asking God these questions. Here is what David asks God:

  • “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
    How long will You hide Your face from me?
    How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
    having sorrow in my heart all the day?
    How long will my enemy be exalted over me?” Psalm 13:1-2 (NASB)

Why the tough questions?
We do not know the exact situation David was in that brought about these questions.  David does not disclose that in the psalm, and scholars have not pinpointed a specific event. Anyone familiar with the life of David knows that he had many situations in his life that could have given rise to these questions.

Questions Reveal Heart
As we read these questions, we get a sense of the underlying desperation and sheer need of David. On one hand he is asking God some heavy duty “why questions,” but on the other hand he is pleading with God for help. Anyone who has felt fear, desperation, or despair in their life from some emotional, spiritual or physical pain has probably asked questions like these. Who has not felt tired of waiting for God to work, wondering why He isn’t, and then feeling forgotten? I know I have.

Take heart if you are asking such questions, they may reveal your faith in God. In many instances these questions signify faith, not a lack of it. Such questions may arise from dependence on a trusted Father, not anger at abandonment.

In our agony we can ask some piercing questions of ourselves and of God. Most often these questions are a way of pouring out our heart to God as we seek to find Him in our troubles. The very thing we consider bold or even brazen about asking such questions of God may actually be our faith trying to become more sure.

The main point here is that David had a relationship with God in which he felt he could ask such questions of the all-powerful God who creates and sustains all things; the One who has life and death in His hands. David did not distrust God’s love, but intimately poured out his soul to God.

In his wrestling, David did find God. In verses 5 and 6, David’s heart of faith is more readily seen.

“But I have trusted in Your loving-kindness; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.” Psalm 13:5-6

Ask and You Shall Receive
So, what questions do you need to ask God? What is weighing on your heart? What feelings are you wrestling with? What battle do you need deliverance from? In reverence and trust, ask Him; pour out your heart. You may not get every question answered the way you expect, but you will be drawn closer to God.

 

Bible Bytes: God: Awake, Alert and Oriented

God Awakens to Help Us

“O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me… Arise, O Lord in your anger; if yourself up against the fury of my enemies; awake for me; you have appointed a judgment.” Psalm 7:1 and 6

Things happen in our life and our relationships that cause us pain, anxiety and inner turmoil. Sometimes these events are of our own doing because of choices we have made; or ways we have sinned. Sometimes we are caught in the fall out of another person’s choices, fears, problems or sin. Whatever the cause, we feel the oppression of the event. At times, I have wondered where God is.

In Psalm 7 we read about David speaking to God about such an event in his life and he seems to be wondering where God is; better yet, David is crying out to “wake” God up to see his trouble.

It seems an accusation or charge was leveled against David by Cush the Benjamite. An interesting side note in these few verses is that David had a heart to accept blame and accountability for his actions should he be shown to be at fault. In the midst of the pain of what he thought were false charges, he had a humble heart. We see his heart in verse 3:

” O Lord my God, if I have done this , if there is wrong in my hands; if I have repaid my friend with evil or plundered my enemy without cause, let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it…” .

God: A Proven Refuge
But the greater truth here is that David went to God with all of this before taking any action himself. David trusted that he could go to God in his time of need because God had proven true to David before in his relationship. Every time David reached out to God, he found God answering him in some way.

David is so sure that God will help him that he frantically calls to God to wake up and see what is happening to him. He seems to think God has not come to his aid yet, because God is not aware of his situation. He asks God to “awake for me.”

Awake for Me
Awake comes from a primitive root word that means “open your eyes.” David cries out to God to look at what is happening to me here – open your eyes- SEE this and help me.

In a literal sense, “awake” means to rouse up from slumber, to open your eyes as you do in the morning to see around you. Figuratively it means to stir oneself up; to incite to action. A truth here is that in any difficulty that I am in, God will awake for me.

God and Me
I am so encouraged by this choice of words that David uses. It reveals characteristics of David’s heart and faith that I need to imitate:  his ever awareness of God’s nearness to him; his belief in God’s willingness to come to his aid; and how “personal” David is in communicating with God. On one hand David acknowledges God as the One who is all powerful and can deliver him and save him; on the other hand David calls out to, so to speak, “wake up his Father.”

No matter what my difficulty, God will awake and rise up to help me. He will provide a way out, or a way to stand up under the pressure. As we read through Psalm 7, we see within the context that we have to  take refuge in God (verses 1, 10); call upon Him to help; have a heart to repent of our fault/sin ( verses 3, 4,5,12), and praise God for His righteous response (verse 17).

Call out to our Father today to awaken on your behalf concerning trials and troubles in your life.

************************
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
Psalm 46:1a

Bible Bytes: Prayer Talk Reveals Faith

As I read through the Psalms I am continuously amazed at how lovingly and personally God interacts with us. Today while reading in Psalm 4, which was written by David, I see David’s trust in God which has been wrought within him through his belief in truths about God he has learned in scripture and in his interactions with God.

David trusts God so much that he is comfortable with God. His trust and ease show in his prayers to God. In verse 1, David is so bold as to demand God answer him. He says, “Answer me when I call,” sort of like a trusting, needy child saying, “Pay attention to me, give me what I need.”

In Psalm 3:7, David says to God, “Arise (get up!) and save me.” In Psalm 5:1-2, David demands, in a respectful way, “Give ear to the sound of my words,” and “Give attention to the sound of my cry.”

David’s manner of speaking to God is based on his knowledge of God, the truths he knows about God’s character through the scriptures and through his experience with God. David bases his pleas to God on the knowledge of God’s righteousness; His faithfulness; His protectiveness; His good will and life giving support.

I long for such a close relationship with God. Like David, I need to look for truths about God’s character in the scriptures; and be alert to God’s faithful working and speaking into my life.

Two questions for us: What are you learning about God from reading the scriptures; and, how do you see these truths in your relationship with God?

 

 

Chew and Know 2: Blessings of Rumination

Did you know that a cow can spend up to eight hours a day chewing cud! Cows swallow large amounts of food at one time. They then spend more time bringing that food back up and chewing it. This process allows enzymes to be produced that breakdown the food and cause it to be more effectively processed through the body.

Cows that spend time chewing the cud are proven to have a better quality of life. They are more content and healthier, producing a better milk and having a higher production of muscle.

Do you see any spiritual parallels here between cows ruminating on cud and believers meditating on the Word of God?

A Definition Reviewed and Extended
In the previous article, it was noted that the word for meditation in the original language has its roots in the concept of “muttering” or even “growling.” The word actually has shades and gradations of meaning that create a rich definition.

The word means: mutter, moan, growl, utter, muse, ponder, think, meditate; and, to speak with oneself, murmuring in a low voice as one often does when musing or comparing.

Another insight into this concept of meditation is found in 1Timothy 4:15. Paul is encouraging Timothy to attend to the public reading of the Word, to teaching and preaching, and to use the gifts God has given him. He is specifically telling Timothy to be absorbed in these tasks with the Word of God.

There are two words of interest in this passage. The first is the Greek word “melatao” which means to meditate on as in preparing for oratory; to attend carefully to; to ponder, meditate, to devise and plan and to practice.

The second word of interest is “eimi” which is a form of the word “to be:” meaning to live in; to be immersed in; to be absorbed in or with. It carries the same connotation of Col. 3:16 which encourages us to let the Word of God live in us, richly.

Here are how various versions translate this passage:

  • Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.” 1 Timothy 4:15  NKJV
  • Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all.” 1 Timothy 4:15 NASB
  • Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.” 1 Timothy 4:15 ESV

It is very clear that reading, teaching and preaching the Word involves a deep intake of the Word of God. 1 Timothy 4:15 describes the concept of meditation as well as its’ most essential product or benefit which is progress in our growth in Christ.

Blessings of Muttering/Meditating
Intimacy with God:
Meditation brings blessings. The focal point of meditating on God’s Word is to know Him. In Psalm 46: 10 the Spirit commands that we be still and know that God is God. Such understanding comes through meditating on truths about God and on His great deeds. The greatest blessing of meditation is understanding God in a deeper way; knowing Him more personally.

Counsel and Instruction: Another blessing of meditation is found in Ps. 16:7:
“I will bless the LORD who has counseled me; indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.”

Pondering and mulling over the Word of God, even in the watches of the night, counsels our heart and instructs our mind. As we meditate we see God and His heart for us more clearly and we are comforted by what we see.

Also, we receive direction and indeed instruction in how to apply the principles of God.

Fruitful and Thriving: Meditating on the Word of God makes us grow. It causes us to become fruitful and effective in our walk with God.

In Psalm 1:2-3 reveals that meditation enlivens and nurtures our spirit making us fruitful and effective in every season of our life.

  • “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.”

Righteous Living:  Meditating on and muttering God’s word helps us be on guard against sin and resist temptation. In Psalm 119:11 we learn that valuing the Word of God so much so that we take time to meditate on it helps us to live righteously: “Your Word I have treasured in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”

Joy and Satisfaction: Meditating on God’s Word brings contentment and fullness to our spirit. It produces an inner joy within us. Read and believe the truths associated with the practice of meditating on God’s Word.

Psalm 63: 5-6, “My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth offers praises with joyful lips. When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night.”

Psalm 104:34, “My meditation of Him will be sweet; I will be glad in the Lord.”

Start Chewing
This article is meant to encourage you to begin meditating on the Word of God, on God and His deeds. Taste and see that this practice is good. I would be encouraged to hear of a blessing or insight you receive from your meditations.