Category Archives: Devotional Thoughts

Devotional thoughts about a relationship with God.

Finishing Strong

One of my favorite characters in the Lord of the Rings is Samwise Gamgee. He presents as real and very human. In this tale of the struggle between light and dark, Samwise exhibits a faith, loyalty and a strength of character that go far beyond what we would expect of the average hobbit.

Close to the end of the book as Sam and Frodo labor their way up Mount Doom, Sam senses the heaviness of their task, and feels the inevitability of their death. He thinks:
“. . . we are going to die, and we should just lay down, curl up in a ball and sleep and die. But then – then something happened – even as hope seemed to die in Sam, it was turned into a new strength. Sam’s plain hobbit face grew stern, almost grim, as the will hardened in him, and he felt through all his limbs a thrill, as if he was turning into some creature of stone and steel that neither despair nor weariness nor endless barren miles could subdue.”

At the end of the journey, Sam came into a clear perspective of the goal and was renewed in hope and strength. He was able to finish strong and help his friend to do the same.

Changes in the Dark
Laying in the dark craigs of Mount Doom, Sam was being turned into something of greatness.
Scripture teaches us that dark/difficult times indeed do make us stronger, and lift us to a higher version of who God is forming us to be. We know that God uses all things in our life, even those shadowy dark times, to conform us to the image of His Son.

  • Romans 8:28-29a – “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.29For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son . . .”

In December of 2021 I was diagnosed with a somewhat rare blood disorder a myeloproliferative neoplasm. In my case, it was caused by a mutation which affects the bone marrow and how it produces platelets. I was told there was no cure but the immediate risk of a heart attack or stroke from too many platelets could be managed by medication. At this time my doctor and I are trying different rotations of the medication in order to find what manages the platelet number most effectively. Both the medication and the mutation can produce other significant issues that we seek to control.  Already it has affected the production of red blood cells in my body, limiting the amount produced and changing their size. All of which diminish the life force energy in my body.

So, as I sit in the craigs of Mount Doom, or as the scriptures say: “walk in the valley of the shadow of death,” I must choose how I will face life “in this shadow.” What will I let this threat of darkness form in me? Despair, anger, bitterness, doubt, fear, self-pity; or faith, peace, hope, and light? It is a choice as to how I will live this time, and since we are all terminal, it is a choice that all of us should be considering.

What do I need to finish strong?
Faith in Salvation
We know we will die, but when we face this reality daily in our life – fears, insecurities and various feelings pop up. One of the first things I did was to ground myself in the truths about my relationship with God, and about my salvation.

The Spirit called to mind truths in God’s word that affirm to me that my salvation and the security of my relationship with God does not depend on what I have done, achieved, my heritage or my social standing.

The truth is Jesus died to procure forgiveness for my sins, He gives me His righteousness, and He brings me into God’s presence here as well as after death. I trust these eternal truths in order to resist doubt and fear and to help me finish strong.

  • “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.” Romans 3:23-24a
  • Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1
  • In Him and through faith in Him we may enter God’s presence with boldness and confidence. Ephesians 3:12

Practice Living in the Presence of God
Each day, I will live in my relationship with God. Those of us who are “Christians” believe we have a relationship with God, but at times, we do not live with God’s presence as a reality.

Living as if the presence of God in our lives is real is different from reading the Bible and praying, although those activities are an important aspect of the presence of God in our life.

Making God’s presence real in my life is a way of moving through my day as if God was right by my side. So, I use the imagination God gave me and I insert myself in scripture truths. Such as from Psalm 23, I picture myself as a lamb leaning into the Good Shepherd, Jesus, as we prepare to walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

It is not only a way of thinking, but also a way of talking with God throughout the day; acknowledging Him before I do something; consulting with Him about decisions I make, sharing with Him how I am feeling at any given moment. (Prov. 3:6; 16:3; 1 Peter 5:7)

In the morning I have coffee with God and talk with Him about my sins, my struggles, my plans for the day, people I love, and people that I will interact with during the day.

Sometimes the intensity of the activities of my day and the speed at which they transpire can block my awareness of God’s presence, so I slow down, draw boundaries, and deliberately take time to intentionally redirect my attention to God.

Practice Gratitude and Praise
I have a choice as I walk this valley, I can let the darkness and shadows, rule me, or I can look for the light. There is so much light in praising and thanking God. A grateful heart radiates light, faith and power.

Since the diagnosis, I have made it a rule ( a principle to live by) in my life which is to praise God when the sunrises; thank Him for breath of life each day. When the sun sets, I acknowledge His name and thank Him for this day. (Ps. 113:3, From the rising of the sun to its setting, let the name of Yahweh be praised.)

Meditating on His love, grace, and mighty works, brings light and strength in my mind and heart. I will praise God for He is my light and my salvation and He will help me finish strong.

  • The LORD is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise Him, my father’s God, and I will exalt Him. Exodus 15:2
  • Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Hallelujah!150:6
  • You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.16:11

Someone once said, “Until God opens the next door, praise Him in the hallway. “

Keep Building into the Lives of Others
Time is our greatest currency. I will invest in the people that God puts in my life for their good and God’s glory. I refuse to waste another minute, because the clock is ticking. I will give to others the faith, love, grace, peace, joy, and hope God has and is giving to me.

Acts 13:36 reports of David and his life; “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors …”.

In this stage of life God makes me more keenly aware that I do not live on this earth for my own purposes and desires. I belong to God and He to me and I belong to you and you to me. (Romans 12:5; John 17:20-21; Eph. 4:12)

I ask myself these questions to help me finish strong:

  • What am I doing with the time God has gifted me?
  • How many people will be stronger because I am here?
  • How many people will have a change of mind, perspective, and purpose because I am here?
  • How many people will know more about God because I am here?
  • How many people will believe in God because I am here?
  • Am I bearing forward the image of God or just shining my “self?”

It is my prayer that you and I will find the purpose that God has for us, and that we will live it out to the very finish.

Reflections
There is so much more that I am learning about finishing strong, like how I hope to build into my family while I am here with them.

This whole experience is a wake-up call to me about how I am living out my relationship with God. Am I on the “religious treadmill” or am I truly walking with God?

There is one who has gone before us and faced the darkness for us all. In Gethsemane, Jesus faced the darkness. He allowed it to descend on Him; he allowed it to crush Him, so that He could bring us into the presence of God. In the darkness of the cross, Jesus finished strong for you and me.

It does not matter if God grants me a miracle cure and fills me with strength and energy, what matters is that I live in faith in Him and honor Him with this life He has graciously given me through Jesus.

Wherever you are on your journey with God, at the beginning, mid-way or end, please take time to think about your relationship with God, and how you will live it out each day in order to finish strong with God.

Likewise!

A priest, a Levite, a man and a Samaritan were traveling on the same road. No, this is not the opening statement of a “priest and Rabbi” joke. It is a life teaching spoken by Jesus, the Son of God.

Review Terms
First let’s review terms so we can understand what Jesus is teaching us.

  • Priest – The word for priest in this passage is “hiereus” and refers to one who offers sacrifices to a god.
  • Levite – A Levite was a member of the tribe of Levi, a descendant of Aaron, (Moses’ brother) the first priest appointed by God. The tribe of Levi was assigned by God to perform certain duties associated with the tabernacle or temple and worship.

This passage does not indicate anything further about the priest or the Levite. A Levitical      priest or any other priest were considered righteous and therefore doers of righteous acts.

  • Samaritan – In the days of Jesus the term Samaritan had a very negative implication. At one time the Samaritans were people of the Jewish nation.

Around 721 BC, the Assyrians conquered and captured the Northern Kingdom of Israel. They carried off many people to Assyria. Those who were left behind eventually intermarried with the Assyrians and other foreign nations. They created their own system of worship and used a version of the Pentateuch as their scriptures.

These practices caused the “Samaritans” to be forever scorned by the Jewish people. They were no longer considered members of the covenant nation of Israel. They were outcasts and referred to as Samaritans  or “dogs” not Israelites. The Samaritans were treated with hatred, prejudice and disdain. Jewish people avoided any contact with or dealings with them.

  • Likewise – This expression comes from the Greek word “homoios” meaning equally in the same way: similarly.

Summary
This story is in Luke 10:25-37, Jesus is defining who our “neighbor” is and how we should view and interact with our neighbor.

  • A man travelling on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho was attacked, brutally beaten; his possessions were stolen and he was left in the ditch to die. A priest and a Levite walked down that same road and each in turn passed by the injured man and did not stop to help.

The despised man, the one cast out of the religious community, the Samaritan gives aide, in fact he goes above and beyond to help this stranger. This stranger may have been an Israelite, one of the very people who held this man in contempt. The Samaritan provides immediate help and comforting, and provides for the stranger’s continued recovery.

A Closer Look
What did this Samaritan, whom Jesus’ says is the “good neighbor,” do? All the things the Samaritan does outline characteristics of heart and actions for us as to how to love others.

Intentional Sight – The Samaritan had “intentional” sight, meaning he “saw the man and “moved towards him with intent to help. The priest and the Levite saw the man and passed by him.

Indiscriminate Perspective – The Samaritan saw value in this man just as a fellow human being. He did not withhold his attention or help because of the man’s race, ethnicity, social standing, educational level, appearance, beliefs, character or need.

How often do I “pass by” or “pass over “ people because of their race, social standing, mental/emotional status, their appearance, their beliefs, or that they just seem too needy, too heavy to carry?

A Compassionate View – Jesus describes the Samaritans as seeing this man through eyes of compassion. The Greek word for compassion in this passage is “splagchnizomai” meaning he had a deep pity whelming up from deep inside his gut. This sense of tender consideration for another human being was entrenched deep inside the innards of this man.

He had a “gut” response – it came from within him and reveals his heart and character. How I respond to a person reveals my heart, my basic character.

Do I “shy away” from engaging the emotionally needy person? Do I avoid making eye contact or interacting with a person of another race; a homeless person; an elderly person; an overweight person; someone from another religion; someone in the LGBTQ community; or someone not in my “social/intellectual circle?” Do I consider it a waste of time to engage with someone who cannot appreciate me or advance my cause in some way?

Vulnerable Sight – The Samaritan was willing to put himself in a vulnerable position. He exposed himself to the possibility of being beaten and robbed.  He was already in an area where such an attack had very recently happened, but he risked his safety to help this man.
True compassion and love!

Healing Sight – The Samaritan had eyes to see the healing this man needed. He could have put this man on his donkey and brought him to the nearest town clinic. But he didn’t. First, he used his time (out in the open) and his resources to put oil and wine on this man’s wounds, and then to bind them up.

Surely such care would have been deemed sufficient, but the Samaritan had a view to see this man whole and well again. So, he lifts him and secures him on his animal in order to take him to a place where he can fully recover. The Samaritan walks the rest of the journey in order to help this man heal.

When the Samaritan gets to the town, he sets this man up in the care of an innkeeper and pays for whatever the man needs to recover. When I think about this it astounds me that the Samaritan sacrificed so much of himself to help a stranger, who actually may have been his enemy.

Just Stop and Think
I have to stop here because this story Jesus told gives me so much to ponder and examine within myself. The Samaritan is a shining example of loving others. It is almost too much to consider, yet it seems to be the spontaneous heart of the Samaritan to do these things. The Samaritan’s heart reveals his relationship with God and that he values those made in the image of God.

What do my interactions with and on behalf of others reveal about my heart and my relationship to God? Do I view others as valuable? If so, am I  stopping to build into that value, restore that value or just appreciate that value?

This is important stuff! In the context of Luke 10:25-37, Jesus says it has to do with the first commandment and my relationship to God, and inheriting eternal life. Jesus tells me to “go and do likewise – equally and in the same way,” as the Samaritan did!

You, Yes You, Are Pregnant – with the Son of God

What a statement! Sounds a little crazy, maybe even freaky, but it is true! When we hear a proclamation such as this, our minds might think immediately of Mary, but not ourselves.

Mary was the young woman in in Nazareth who became the mother of Jesus. When the messenger of God brought the declaration to her that she would become pregnant and bring forth the Son of God into the world – she was concerned. The scripture says she was troubled and fearful. Here is a summary of the account in Luke 1:27-32; 35-35.

  • God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David . . .  “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”  The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

In Luke 1:29 the word “troubled” means: acutely distressed in her inner self with emotional stress and thoughts going back and forth in her mind.

Surely, Mary is trying to figure out how or why she was favored. Imagine all the thoughts and emotions that were swirling around as to being unmarried and pregnant, not to mention the shock of seeing an angel.

Confusion, concern and fear of what this means, and anxiety as to how this will be worked in her and in her life.

The angel told Mary this is from the grace of God, God’s grace to her and to all mankind. The word for “grace” is used here, meaning that what is about to occur has nothing to do with Mary’s value or worthiness but it comes from God’s grace . It is a gift, a blessing, undeserved, the unearned favor of God. It is the same word that is used of God saving us through His grace.

  • … But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. Eph. 2:4-5

In a sense, we like Mary, are pregnant with the Son of God. You may be questioning, “What? How can this be, since I am a sinner.?”

We are pregnant with Christ through the Spirit of Christ in us. Scriptures verify this truth, that through our faith, repentance and baptism into Christ we have His Spirit living inside of us.

  • Because you are sons and daughters, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Galatians 4:6
  • Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16
  • And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38

Transformed to Be Like the Son of God
Paul used the birth analogy as he explained how teaching the followers of Christ was like being a mother waiting for the image of Christ to be formed in them and birthed into the world.

  • My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, Galatians 4:19

God’s plan was not only to bring us into a relationship with Him but to transform us by restoring His image in us. God does this by the sanctifying work of His Spirit in us.

  • But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as first fruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 2 Thess.2:13
  • And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Cor. 3:18
  • For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Romans 8:29

What does this mean for us?
We have been saved through our faith in the sacrifice of Jesus. The Spirit of Christ is now in us.
We are pregnant with Christ through His Spirit in us. We are to give birth to Jesus, so to speak, by letting His nature, character and purpose come through us to others.

This purpose of Christ in us is made clear through scripture.

Jesus, Himself, identifies His followers as light and salt to the world. Our purpose is to shine forth Jesus in such a way that people are drawn to God so they too can have a relationship with God.

  • You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5 :14

The apostle Paul repeats this imagery with more specific details relating having a treasure inside us and this treasure being the light to give out the knowledge of God.

  • For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:6-7

In 2 Corinthians 3:3, Paul characterizes this mission of giving birth to Jesus unto the world in a unique way by identifying the followers of Jesus as letters form Christ to be read by all.

  • You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Paul further clarifies the idea of giving birth to Christ in us when he states that we are representatives of Christ in this world. We as ambassadors of Christ to show forth His image to the world, with the hope of reconciling people back to God.

  • We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 2 Cor.5:20

 Reflection
This is an amazing truth. I am still marveling at this truth. I am asking myself several questions.

  • Is this true in my life? Do I truly have the Spirit of Jesus living in me? (Romans 8:9)
  • Am I submitting my will to the Spirit daily and allowing myself to be led by Him and transformed by Him? (Romans 8:12-14)
  • What about this thought brings out resistance in me? Why?
  • How am I showing the image of Jesus to the world; to my sisters and brother in Christ; to my family?

Also, I have to ask myself:

  • Do I like Mary grasp the glory and privilege of this truth?
  • Can I say with her, “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For He has looked with favor on the humble state of His servant.” Luke 1:46-48a

My final thought for meditation is that I/we have been chosen to bear Christ to the world!

Not Just Another Face in the Crowd

Just one among the multitude! There are times in my life when I feel like a “no name,” just one amidst a large busy, clamoring crowd. I can feel that I have no outstanding characteristics or status that would draw God’s eye to me. I feel I am just one mixed in among the many who seek being known, who seek God’s attention.

Today, I read Mark 5:24-34, which records the account of  a woman who suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years, and her condition was growing worse.  Her status was low in her society; she was a woman, and she was considered an outcast because of her continuous flow of blood. Actually, she should not have even been within that crowd of people, but there she was packed into the multitude.

Words that stand out to me in this passage are:  a great crowd followed Him; suffered for many years; growing worse; heard about Jesus; came up from behind Him in the crowd; touched His garment; felt the healing in her body; came before Him trembling; and He said “daughter.”

No Qualifying Status
This woman was an outcast in her community because she had the flow of blood. She had no title, position of honor or respect. She had everything that would push people away, but nothing to draw people to her.

It is an interesting contrast that the Holy Spirit records for us in this passage. Jesus was actually walking  through the crowd on His way to heal the daughter of a man of status, title and reputation, that is Jairus, one of the rulers of the local synagogue. He was not only accepted in his community but also regarded with honor. He was viewed as entitled to receive the attention and help of Jesus. Notice Jairus is referred to by name, but the “bleeding woman” is not. She is a no name, just a face in the crowd.

There are moments when I am calling out to God that I think, “who am I, what do I have to bring” that merits God’s attention to me? This story gives me a right perspective on the all-encompassing love of God, and how He views the value of each one of us, of each face in the crowd.

Down Low but Seen
This woman knew she was viewed as an outcast. She may even have identified herself as that. Yet she had heard reports of Jesus, who He is and the power He has. She heard of this Son of God healing  and restoring people’s lives, setting them free from their bondage. Her desperation, hope and faith moved her through the crowd to Jesus.

While she had faith, she approached Jesus with full understanding of her poverty of status and of spirit. Mark 5:27 states, “ she heard of the reports of Jesus and came up from behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment.”

What humility! What faith! This woman did not even stand face to face to plead her cause. She did not show her face so that Jesus could see her deep desire, the desperation and sadness written on her face. She did not cling to his hand and pull on Him! She approached from behind and stretched out her hand to touch His clothing! And Jesus, God in the flesh, stopped and looked for her in the crowd.

Different Eyes
The scripture says that God/Jesus stopped! Turned around in the crowd! Asked to see and meet who touched Him (Mk. 5:30). His disciples discouraged His knowing her, but Jesus persisted.

The scripture says that he kept looking around to see her (Mk. 5:32). The woman was healed the moment she touched Jesus’ garment. She knew it; she trembled in awe and fear. Jesus knew it and turned to see her.

Jesus looked at her with different eyes. He did not have the censoring eyes of the religious community; He did not have the eyes of social superiority, even though He is God; He did not have the selfish apathetic eyes of the world. Jesus has the eyes of God, the eyes of welcoming love and kindness.

Jesus did not look for her status, the titles behind her name, her position in the community, her connections, the list of achievements, her outer beauty, or the togetherness of her outfit. He saw a woman of faith, a women in need of help and lifting up.

Up to this point in the story, the woman had no name, and was on the fringe of acceptance in her community; but Jesus addressed her as “daughter,” a term of endearment and belonging.

I see this incredible scene  amidst the multitude, the woman trembling with joy and fear, on her knees. I see Jesus turning his body fully towards her. Jesus reaching out his hand, helping her up, looking into her eyes, while tenderly saying “daughter!”

The Same Love for You
If today, you are feeling like “just” another face in the crowd, feeling uncherished, and not valued, stop because that is a lie!

Read this passage again and see how Jesus views you. Put your self in the scene as the bleeding woman. See His love. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  You are not “just a blurred face in the crowd!” you are valued and cherished by Jesus. He sees you.

God knew we would have difficulty seeing and grasping His love. I believe that is why the Spirit recorded and preserved Paul’s prayer for the believers in Ephesians 3.  This is a good prayer for us to pray for others and ourselves.

“May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:18-19

Stand by Me (Magnifying God -3)

The Bible is like a magnifying glass.  The scriptures have a way of focusing my sight and enlarging my understanding of God. I am reading the scriptures to see God magnified up close so I can know Him and then magnify Him to others. As I do this, I am finding truths about God’s character and heart towards us, and I am learning how to express praise and thanks to Him.

Psalm 75:1 reveals and magnifies the truth that God is near to us, and that is a cause for praise to God.

  • “We praise you, God, we praise you, for your Name is near; people tell of your wonderful deeds.”

The phrase “your Name is near” means that God is near to us. God’s name(s) are very important because they represent who God is. For example, in Exodus  3:14 God reveals that His Name is Yahweh – I AM WHO I AM. That term means God is self-existing and is the source of all life and existence.  God Is.

When the psalmist writes Psalm 75:1 that the Name of God is near to us, he means Yahweh, the “I AM”- the source of all existence is near to us. I am reassured to know that the “Life giving God” is near me.  This truth has given me courage and comfort as I daily walk through this pandemic.

In Joshua 22: 22a  some of the Israelites call God by the name LORD (Yahweh) and then they refer to God as Elohim which means “the Mighty One.”

  • “The LORD, the Mighty One, is God! The LORD, the Mighty One, is God!” Josh.22:22a

So, in Psalm 75:1 when the psalmist says “for Your Name is near,” he is saying, “God the Mighty One,” is near to me/you.

I am encouraged to know that God, the Mighty One who has all power and strength is near me.  When I am feeling weak, vulnerable, frustrated and overwhelmed with life, knowing that I can turn to “the Mighty One” for help gives me relief. He is by my side. I am not alone.

We could go through the list of the names for God and get the same reassurance in faith as with these two examples, that the God who is the definition of all His Names is near to us.

In Other Words
The scriptures provide many ways of conveying this truth that God is near; that He is a personal God involved in our life.  God is not just a distant power, but rather, He is a God who seeks to be close to us all the time and most especially in our times of need.

Here are some of the ways the Spirit confirms this truth.

  • Psalm 34:18 – The LORD is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
  • Psalm 145:18 – The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.
  • Psalm 119:151 – You are near, O LORD, and all Your commandments are truth.
  • 16:8- I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
  • Psalm 73:28 – But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works.

Psalm 119:7-10 poetically expresses this continual nearness and presence of God who acts on my behalf.

  • “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

Hard to Believe
When I am hurting, feeling  confused by the difficulties of life or betrayed by my own contrary nature which often seems to default to thinking, saying and doing things I don’t really want to,  I can struggle with believing God is near, or that God even wants me near Him.

This thinking is flawed and not based on truth.  God wants to be near us, He wants to have a deep personal friendship with us. The scriptures reassure us of this truth.

In James 4:8a we read, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” So, it is not a matter of whether God wants to be near me, but whether I am choosing to come near to Him, and whether I am making moves towards Him in faith.

In Ephesians 1: 4 and  2:13, we read how God brings all men near to Him through the blood of Jesus, both Jews and Gentiles: “ For He chose us(Israel) in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presence. In love, He preplanned for us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will. . . 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.”

God’s desire for us to be near Him, in a very personal relationship with Him, was not a mere “good idea,” but it became reality in sending Jesus to destroy the barrier between God and us so we could be near God.

God in Us!
God is so “near” that He is in us who believe
. The scripture speaks this truth in many forms. At times, when I am lost in my “self”  I need to be reminded of this truth. Here are a few encouraging passages for study and meditation.

  • “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16
  • “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Col. 1:27
  • “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him/her.” John 14:23
  • “What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.” 1 Corinthians 2:12

 Respond with Praise
As I learn who God is and what His heart is towards me, I am encouraged, re-assured, and filled with a sense of security to know God  is near me and in me. The psalmist who wrote Psalm 75:1 describes correctly what my response should be: “We praise you, God, we praise you, for your Name is near.”

  • Meditate on this truth, that God is near to you. Consider these questions:
    What does this truth that God is near me and in me mean to my faith and my life?
  • Have I been living in the presence of God?
  • What will I do today to draw near to God?
  • Take some time to give praise and thanks to God for choosing to be close to you.

Remember, Recount, Revived!

When I was growing up there was a boy in my class in elementary school who stuttered. His name was Johnny. His stuttering was to such a degree that he rarely was able to express his thoughts, ideas and feelings. His frustration was palpable, you could see it and feel it in the air. I see Johnny’s face to this day, the frustration, the sadness  and shame that he could not share his ideas and his heart with us. I wish I could have helped him.

In my quest to learn how to magnify God and to praise Him, I can experience a similar frustration as Johnny did. I stutter to magnify God – to make Him big; to tell of Him in a way that brings His value and His glory to light.

What kinds of words do we use that are capable of showing how great and wonderful God is? What can I say that can enlarge God to others in such  a way that they see His nature, His power and His love in a very real way?

I was reading in Psalm 66 the other day and I realized that God actually tells us how to do this. In Psalm 66:3, the Spirit says: “Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! How great is your power that your enemies cringe before you.”

The Spirit is telling us what to say in order to magnify God to others, and what to say as we praise God in our private and public worship.

I could not help Johnny in elementary school to express himself, but today through the word of God, the Spirit helps me express praise to God and magnify Him.

Say It! Again!
When I recount or re-tell the awesome deeds of God, I am magnifying Him to others and praising Him. This thought is presented over and over again in the scriptures. Here are a few references to this way of magnifying God.

  • “Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty— and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works— and I will proclaim your great deeds.” Psalm 145:4-6
    (We magnify God to our children by recounting His wonderful deeds, in so doing they know God and learn to trust Him).
  • “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.” Psalm 107:21
  • I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High

What are the wonderful deeds of God?
They are many, we can’t recount them all. We do not know them all. But when you are meditating on the wonderful deeds of God think about what is written in the Word. Think of how he planned, even before the creation of the world, to save us through the redemptive work of His Son, Jesus, (Ephesians 1:4-7)

Think about how God created the world out of nothing, just from the power of His thoughts and words. (Genesis 1-2; Hebrews 11:3)

Think about the wonderful deeds God performed to deliver Israel from slavery in Egypt, and to deeds God performed to establish His King, our Messiah in this world.

Think of the wonderful deeds Jesus did that reveal the character and heart of God. Think of how Jesus gave sight to the blind; showed compassion and healed the lepers; straightened crooked limbs; gave life to withered hands; healed the body and the souls by forgiving sins; raised the dead, and many more.

We cannot magnify God to others, or worship and praise Him without recounting His wondrous deeds, because God is these deeds.

Remembering + Recounting = Revival
Recounting the wondrous deeds of God is a way we praise God, but in so doing it also can revive our faith in Him and restore in our hearts a sense of awe for God.

This idea of recounting and reviving is described very specifically in Psalm 77. The psalmist is  experiencing hard times. He talks  about groaning, sleepless nights, and an inability to express his struggle in words.

In his personal agony he questions God’s love and care of him. He accuses God of rejecting  and forgetting him, Psalm 77:7-8. He doubts God’s love for him, and questions if there ever was love from God for him, Psalm 77:8. He feels that he cannot trust God’s promises and wonders if God has any sense of compassion for him, Ps. 77:8b-9.

I have felt some of those things at times; forgotten and pushed aside by God, and questioned God’s trustworthiness. The psalmist searches his memory and what he knows of God. As he does this he reviews the wondrous deeds of God.

So, he remembers and recounts the wondrous deeds of God, and as he does his faith is revived and he concludes:

“ I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds. Your ways, God, are holy. What God is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples. “ Psalm 77:11-14

Remembering and recounting or re-telling the wondrous deeds of God, revives my faith!

God’s Ultimate Wondrous Deed
We may never be able to recount all the wondrous deeds of God, because we do not know all of them. However, the greatest of the wondrous deeds has been revealed to us and that is God was sending His Son into this world in the form of a man to become the ultimate sin offering to atone for our sins that we might come into God’s presence, into a right relationship with God. And, that through His Spirit, God would live inside of us. Let’s read a little about this wondrous deed.

  • “… all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.” Romans 3:24-25a
  • “Brothers and sisters, because of the blood of Jesus we can now confidently go into the holy place (the presence of God).” Hebrews 10:19 (GWT)
  • “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Cor. 3:18

This short article cannot adequately express the wondrous deeds of God, so let’s end with this prayer.

Father God, teach us about you, how magnificent and wonderful you are. Teach us how to magnify you to others by knowing and  recounting your wondrous deeds. Help us to see and understand the wondrous salvation you provided for us through the atoning blood of Jesus, through his resurrection; and the breathtaking truth that Your Spirit lives in us and transforms us to be like you.

      “Magnify the LORD with me; let us exalt His name together.” Psalm 34:3

Just One

Just One
Seed pod explosionSeed pod explosions set off chain reactions of growth. I watched a slow motion video of this once and it was breathtaking. The pod explodes, seeds fly everywhere. Seeds hit other pods and cause them to explode. Keep in mind that just one flying seed has the potential to create a new plant, with new pods and more seed. Just one seed has amazing life and growth potential.
(Photo credit: ifioridelbene.com)

Just one verse in the Bible can explode with truths about God! The other day I read Psalm 4, verse one, and it produced an explosion of truth seeds in my mind. These truth seeds encourage my trust in God, and deepen my relationship with Him.

Faith Building Truth Seeds
Psalm 4:1 is loaded with truths to produce life giving/life enriching faith.
“Answer me when I call O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer.” (ESV)

Seed 1: Speaking to God with Force
The term “answer me” in Hebrew is in the imperative mood, so the psalmist is giving a command to God.

This verb in the imperative mood reveals how intimate I can be with God. When I am in need, I can approach God with confident strength, boldly telling God to “hear my prayer and answer me.”

Through my faith in Jesus, I am brought into a personal relationship with God. There are times to revere God with praise and thanksgiving, and times I can be open and boldly demand his help. It is comforting to know that I can express my desperation in such a real and raw way and still be accepted by God.

Seed 2: God of My Righteousness
The psalmist through the inspiration of the Spirit refers to God as “the God of my righteousness.” This is a truth expressing who God is and who the source of my righteousness is. I can only approach God with an “imperative” when I understand that my righteous standing with God is his and is gifted to me.

God gifts me His “righteous” status through the redemptive work of Jesus, and therefore I am  able to approach God. Scripture bears witness to this.

  • God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Cor. 5:21
  • And this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. Romans 3:22
  • It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God: our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. 1 Corinthians 1:30

This “seed truth” that God is the God of my righteousness gives me security. My relationship with God is anchored in Jesus, the Son of God. It doesn’t depend on my up and down feelings or my up and down performance.

Knowing that Jesus is my righteousness makes me able to cry out “answer me. O God” even when I have messed up and don’t measure up.

Seed 3: God Gives Relief from Distress
Relief and distress in this verse are opposites.

  • In Hebrew the term for relief means “to expand; to provide a large space.”
  • The word for “distress” means “a narrow, tight place; pressed down.” This is similar to expressions we use when hard pressed like: “between a rock and a hard place,” or, “the walls are pressing in.”

Distress referring to those tight and pressing circumstances, come in many forms; inner struggles to trust God; frustrations with family members, friends, people; tasks at work; physical health challenges; failures; lost dreams, and so on.

The psalmist states that God has given him relief from his distress. There are many accounts in the Bible that describe what such relief looks like.

Psalm 23 provides a visual of this truth. God, our Shepherd, brings us into green pastures, leads us by quiet waters, restores our soul, provides safety in the dark/tight places, comforts us and follows us with His goodness and mercy.

Again, we see this truth in Psalm  18:19, “He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”

The truth that God relieves my distress gives me hope! God is going to bring me out from under the oppressive weight of my distress to a spacious place of inner peace.

Seed 4: God Listens to Us with Grace
The psalmist asks God to hear his prayer with ears of grace. The word “hear” in this verse means “to listen carefully.” God listens with attention and with the intent to help us.

Isaiah 65: 24 attests to this truth: “Before they call, I will answer, while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” Even though Isaiah is referring to Israel, this passage reveals a truth about the character of God, which is His readiness to hear us when we turn to Him in faith.

Psalm 34:15 states this truth, “ The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are inclined to their cry.” The apostle Peter may have been thinking of this very Psalm when he speaks this truth in 1 Peter 3:12a, “ For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer…”

It is reassuring to know that God hears my prayers with attention, a readiness to listen, and intention to act.

Truth Feeds Faith
The Word of God is amazing. The Spirit uses the Word to bring us into a deep, intimate, knowledge of God.

Studying and meditating on just one verse can reveal many truths that bring life to our faith and  deepen our heart connection to God.

I encourage you to read verse by verse, word by word and ask God to show you wonderful things in His Word.

           “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your Word.” Psalm 119:18

Living Your Inner Reality

I have read books and articles about my identity, and an equal number of books on changing and growing or becoming a better person.  As a believer and disciple of Jesus Christ, I want to be like Him.

One of the first things I did as a new disciple was to study all the passages in the epistles that talked about “putting on and taking off,” and adding to your faith.

However, I have learned that in all my efforts to “be like Christ,” that my greatest need my/your greatest need is to know  who I am already in Christ.

A Crucial Truth
Reading and studying about growing in Christ-likeness is not wrong, but could put our focus on performance and achievement. A more lasting and effective change or growth comes from knowing who I am, whose I am and who God is forming in me!

Transformation by Degrees
The transformation of my  nature and identity begins as I emerge from the waters of baptism.
Through this new birth, I am a new creation; saved; un-condemned; standing blameless before God; Spirit filled; and a child of God in the kingdom of light.

2 Corinthians 3:18 emphasizes the ongoing nature of our transformation. The “process of transformation” does not negate any of who we are as a new creation, but rather, it further develops the character and nature of Christ in us.

  • “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into His image with intensifying glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”  2 Corinthians 3:18

Transformation Through All Things
Romans 8:28-29 reveals that our transformation into the image of Jesus is a direct result of the desire, good pleasure, and action of God. He is using his Spirit in us, His Word and “circumstances” of our life to work “the good” of being transformed into the image of His Son.

  • “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. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son … ” Romans 8:28-29

Truth About Transformation
The word translated as “transformation” is the Greek word “metamorphoumetha.” Strong’s Lexicon defines the word transformation as a change in form. There are two important aspects of this change in form.

 Transformation from Association
The first characteristic indicates  a change in form after being with.” Now for a disciple of Jesus that would imply we are changed through being with Jesus. We are changed as we believe in Him; as we receive His Spirit; as His Spirit works in us; and as we go deeper in our relationship with Him.

It is important to note in 2 Cor. 3:18 that this transformation process is initiated and maintained by the Spirit through our relationship with Jesus. This is not something I do myself, or even can do myself. We have all tried to effect change in ourselves with very limited success. This transformation occurs through my relationship or being with Jesus.

This is a truth. There were 12 men who “hung out” with Jesus for three years and they soon were defined by their relationship with him. We read that their close relationship with Jesus changed these men.

  • When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.  Acts 4:13

As I reflect on this amazing truth, I have to ask myself, “Am I hanging out with Jesus, or just visiting from time to time?”

Transformation in Keeping with Reality
The second characteristic involves “changing form in keeping with inner reality.” This facet of the definition of transformation encourages my faith and gives me hope.

This aspect of transformation is at the core of who I am. It involves a change of form inside of me. It does not involve my heritage, education, appearance, achievements or performance. It is all about the truth of who I am in Jesus, and who he is forming me to be.

This truth is seen in  1 John 3:2 and Ephesians 2:6-7.

“Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when Christ appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is.” 1 John 3:2

  • Our nature and identity are changed and we are becoming more transformed in Him.

“ … God made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our trespasses. It is by grace you have been saved! And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus…”  Ephesians 2:6-7

  • Here we see our transformation from dead to alive in Christ and that we are already seated with him. This is an amazing truth, we need to think about the implications of this.

Our True Inner Reality
What does this transformation, this change in keeping with reality” mean to me? It means I am currently exactly what God says I am in Christ. I am what God states in his Word whether I feel like it or not; whether others approve me; and whether I think I am living up to it or not. I am who He says I am.

Truths of Our Reality
For further study and meditation below are some passages that reveal who we are in Christ and who we are becoming. It is helpful to read these in the first person.

I am: a friend of God – Romans 5:10-11
I am: known by God – John 10:14
I am: no longer dead but alive in Christ – Ephesians 2:4-6
I am: no longer guilty but forgiven and blameless – Ephesians 1:4
I am: a partaker of God’s nature – 2 Peter 1:4
I am: a child of light – Eph. 5:8; Col. 1: 12-13
I am: the righteousness of God –  2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24
I am: a member of the household of God and a citizen of heaven- Eph. 2:19; Phil. 3:20
I am: a new creation – 2 Corinthians 5:17
I am: chosen by God; a royal Priest -1 Peter 2:9
I am: an heir of God and a co-heir with Christ – Romans 8:17; 1 Peter 1:4-5
I am: approved by God, not condemned -Romans 8:1-2; Romans 5:16
I am: filled with the Spirit of God – Romans 6:18
I am: fashioned God – Ephesians 2:10
I am: becoming like Jesus – 2 Cor. 3:18

 *******************
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6

Exploring Friendship with God

I believe the idea of having a friendship with God is real and true. It is not an ethereal ideal or a fantasy proposed by pious minded people. There is a substance and reality to a “friendship with God.”

The events of 2020 nudged me to see that there is so much more I need to learn about a friendship with God. So in 2021, I am setting myself on a journey of exploring more about a friendship with God.

Two Things I Know
There are two things I do know: one is that a friendship with God explodes way beyond the boundaries of “religious” practice; and two, having a friendship with God involves a giving of my heart and my will. If I am always thinking of myself, how I feel, what I think, what I need and what I want, there will not be friendship, maybe acquaintanceship maybe – but not a friendship. Self focus and self-will are a brick wall to friendship with God.

What does it mean?
Abraham was called the “friend of God” three times in the scriptures, in 2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8 and James 2:23.

  • “Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?” 2 Chronicles 20:7
  • “But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend… ” Isaiah 41:8
  • And the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called a friend of God. James 2:23

So what does this term friend of God mean? In these Old Testament passages the word translated friend” is ‘ohabi/ ’ahab, and it is defined as “beloved, dearly loved, friend.”

’Ahab is derived from a primitive root meaning: “to desire, to breathe after, to long for.” This word carries within it a sense of intimacy, of personal depth that goes beyond the idea of a companion.

Wow! Imagine that! God longed for a friendship with Abraham. Abraham was dearly loved by God. God desired to be in a relationship with Abraham that involved vulnerability and a oneness.

“Longing” a Relational Word!
The truth and process of God “longing for a relationship” with people is described in Jeremiah 31:3.
“The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with loving devotion.”

  • “Everlasting love” and “drawn you with loving devotion” expresses longing, and an action taken on God’s part to initiate the relationship.

God longs to be close to you and me! As we read through God’s Word, we see God’s plan to provide a way for us to be with him. That plan involves the sacrifice of his Beloved Son, Jesus. This truth of the sacrifice of the Son of God is proof of God’s longing, his loving devotion and of his drawing us to him.

This “longing for” in friendship goes both ways. We, who seek this friendship, “long for” God.

This idea of “longing for God” is found in the Psalms. King David uses the expression “long for” to express his spirit’s need for God and his heart’s devotion to God.

  • I spread out my hands to You; My soul longs for You, like a weary land…” Ps. 143:6

A Little More Understanding
Looking at a specific word such as “’ahab” in other scriptures helps to add shades of meaning to the definition of the word and gives us a more complete understanding.

A form of ’ahab is used to describe Abraham’s love for Isaac in Genesis 22:2.

  • Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love (whom you ’ahab; whom you long for)–Isaac–and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

This use of ’ahab helps us get a sense of the type of friend that is meant. It is a love of a father for his beloved child. There is a personal valuing of the beloved. There is so much value felt that it is near impossible to give up the beloved friend. This is one facet of being God’s friend.  You are valued by God.

We find this word “ ’ahab” again in Genesis 29:18 where it is used to describe the relationship of Jacob to Rachel.

  • “Jacob loved (’ahab) Rachel. And he said, ‘I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel’.”

Jacob’s love shows a longing to be in a personal relationship with Rachel. His love included sacrificing himself to work 7 years to have that close, personal relationship. So, to be in an “’ahab” relationship with someone is to be willing to sacrifice for them. God sacrificed His Son for you and me.

Friend in the New Testament
James refers to Abraham being a friend of God. The word for friend used here is “philos*” it refers to someone who is valued, dearly loved in a personal way; a respected, trusted confidant. * https://biblehub.com/greek/5384.htm

In John 15:5 Jesus says that he views the disciples as friends – “philos,” not servants or workers.

  • “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

A friend of God is a trusted confidant. Jesus shared with the disciples what the Father had said to him. Jesus shared trusted truths and mysteries of God with them. He revealed the heart of God to them. (See John 17:8,17,26)

For me to share deep heart feelings and thoughts, even personal insights in the word of God, with someone I have to have a solid trust in them. I trust their love for me, their heart to protect me; and that they will respect and value what I share. Jesus is this friend to me (us), he trusts me (us) with His knowledge, secret truths and mysteries.

A Friend But Not a Friend!
In Matthew 20, Jesus tells the parable of the kingdom of heaven being like the owner of a vineyard who hired workers for his vineyard. All the workers received the same wage, no matter what time of day they worked.

At the end of the day the first hour workers were paid the same as the eleventh-hour workers. Upon seeing this, some of those who worked all day grumbled about everyone receiving the same wage. The owner of the vineyard (God) answered them saying, “Look friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?”

Jesus used a specific word here for “friend,” and it is not “philos.” Philos implies a mutual friendship in which each friend holds the other as beloved and valued; both will give and share for the good and the joy of the other.

In Matt. 20:13 the word is “hetairos” which is translated as friend or comrade; however, it has the idea of “imposter” associated or attached to it. That is, one who poses as a friend and calls himself a friend but who has an agenda of self-interest and self-gain.

Jesus exposed the nature of their friendship, their association to him. This causes me to think more deeply about my friendship with God. What kind of friend am I to him?

Jesus uses “hetairos” when he addresses Judas in the garden of Gethsemane when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus: “Friend,” Jesus replied, “do what you came for.” Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus, and arrested Him. Matthew 26:50

Reflections
I think the definitions of the term “friend of God” that are relayed in scripture defines a concept that is layered with implications for my relationship with God.

I see that a friend of God is loved, beloved, has God’s devotion and heart, even more amazing is that God longs for me and longs to have a close personal relationship with me.

God’s friendship is characterized by a valuing and sacrificing. He values the friend, the beloved (us). He values us and so, he sacrifices what he must to make a way for the friendship to be reality.

God is humble and vulnerable in this friendship. He is willing to confide deep truths about himself and his will to me. God deems me (us) trustworthy.

As I explore what true friendship with God means, and as I see the characteristics of God in this friendship, I am led to ask several questions about my part in this “friendship.”

  • Does my interaction with God indicate that I love to be with him, that I long for Him?
  • Do I value the deep truths about God, his kingdom that he shares with me?
  • Do I seek his interests and his will?
  • Am I vulnerable in my relationship with God in that I will share with him my darkest parts, and am I willing to let go of those things in order to love him?
  • Am I humble with God? Do I ask him how I can be a better friend to him?
  • Do I know what God likes, what pleases him in relationship with me?
  • Am I a friend of God or an imposter?

I invite you on a journey to explore your relationship with God.

Star of Wonder, Star of Light

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” …  After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.  On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary,
and they bowed down and worshiped him. Matthew 2:1-11

Matthew 2: 1-11 refers to a bright seemingly unusual star leading the “wise men” to Bethlehem to see Jesus. The wise men were similar to astronomers of our age, so when they observed this different and unusual star phenomenon they were drawn to it.

According to their understanding such a celestial occurrence signified the birth of a pre-eminent king. Perhaps they were truly wise men because they interpreted the language of the heavens as a message from God. They understood about the heavens revealing knowledge of God, though they may not have ever read these words of David in Psalm 19.

  • “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” Ps. 19:1-4

Compelled by intellectual curiosity and possibly faith, these men set out to learn, explore, discover and then adore.

A Star for 2020
Astronomers of the 21st century are pointing to a phenomenon in the skies that is symbolic of light and hope in these dark times. These sky scientists report that in this year of chaos and darkness that the “Star of Bethlehem” will be seen again.

Actually, this “star” is the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn that occurs every so often in history. It is thought that such a conjunction occurred around the time of the birth of the Christ. It is believed that this conjunction of the planets appeared as one very intense star, and this is what the “wise men” saw, studied and followed.

Current day astronomers report that on December 21, 2020, we will experience a similar conjunction of planets which will be seen as a very bright, intense star, that scientists have dubbed the “Christmas Star” or the “Star of Bethlehem.”

True Light of Our Life
A leader in our country recently said that this winter we are heading into some of the darkest times. When I heard this statement I began studying the scriptures about light, so I can walk through this darkness. Light dispels darkness.

It is because of this statement and mindset that I write this blog and remind us of the “Star” of Bethlehem – Jesus Christ the Lord. I propose to us that these “dark times” can be full of light and hope if we set our eyes, our minds and hearts on Jesus Christ, the Light of the world.

  • Jesus said … “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

God is Light
There are many scriptures about “light” in the Word of God, and why not since God, himself, is light. So if we draw near to God we will be in his light no matter what form of darkness happens to be around us.

Let’s read and meditate on some of these “light” verses. Take some time to think about these verses, savor them and think of this Light in your life today.

  • And this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you: God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5
  • The LORD is my Light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom or what shall I be afraid? Ps. 27:1
  • The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent… Psalm 104:2
  • The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. Hebrews 1:3
    Note: The word translated “radiance” means “the light flashing forth from.”
  •  He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him. Daniel 2:22 (read Dan. 2:17-23)
  • In him (the Word/Jesus) was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.” John 1:4-9 (Note: Light in these passages is directly associated with Jesus. He is the Light).
  • For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Cor. 4:6
  • Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Ps.119:105

Walking in the Light
During this time of threatening darkness, I am seeking to learn to walk in the light. So I am looking to shed God’s light on my path. Throughout the scripture there are truths that serve as “points of light” that will help us through this darkness. Here are some points of light that have encouraged my mind and spirit through this pandemic.

When I feel isolated and alone, these truths help me remember the closeness that I have with God, and the constant connection to family that I have available to me within the church.

Isaiah 40:11, “He tends His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart. He gently leads the nursing ewes.”

  • This picture of God as a shepherd bringing his sheep close to his heart reminds me of his love and care for me.

Psalm 46:1, “God is my refuge and strength and ever present help in the time of trouble.”

  • This point of light helps me see that God is “ever present,” and my relationship with him as a place where I can find refuge and strength.

1 Corinthians 1:9, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

  • This truth reminds me that God called me to be in a relationship with him and with the company of those who believe in Jesus. So I am not in this alone. I am connected as in that connection with God and others I am called to encourage and build up. (1 Thess. 5:11- Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…”).

When I feel purposeless and like a “no count,” I turn to the light of God’s word to speak truth to me. There I see that my purpose remains the same, it is to share the light of the world and faith with others. I regain a true perspective of who I am and what my purpose is.

  • Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.”
  • 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

When I feel weary of restrictions I read these points of light which give me strength.

  • Isaiah 40:31, “…but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
  • James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.”
  • Philippians 4:12-13, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Finding Points of Light
There are many difficulties that we and others are facing, and there are many truths in God’s word to encourage our hearts and minds. I urge you to find truths in God’s word that serve as points of light for you. Make them your own, cherish them, and then use them to encourage others.

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“Star of wonder, star of light, star with royal beauty bright . . . guide us to your perfect light.”