Category Archives: Devotional Thoughts

Devotional thoughts about a relationship with God.

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.

********************************************************************************

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

A Thought for Thanksgiving

Eight months into the pandemic and we see no light at the end of the tunnel. Many have been sick; many have lost loved ones. Many are scraping through financially because of work shut downs. Others have fraught nerves as they juggle working at home and helping their children with online school. All of us are weary of the restrictions that have changed our lifestyle.

The difficulties and suffering of 2020 is like a heavy weight on the soul. However, even though no respite seems in sight and that light at the end of the tunnel is a shadowy mist, there is light, if we just look for it.

The idea of thanksgiving to God may seem ironic to some considering the above mentioned struggles, yet as we approach Thanksgiving in 2020, we may need to consider more deeply the idea of thanking God.

I read scriptures each week with a woman who recently had half her lung removed due to cancer. Recently, we selected a few Psalms that focused on giving thanks to God. She read the passages with a weak voice and halting breath, but with genuine thankfulness. Looking at who God is and meditating on his wondrous deeds increases faith and radiates light and hope.

Giving Thanks Brings Light
These readings caused me to consider studying about thanking God. The deeper I went into studying thanksgiving to God, the more layers to it I found to this concept. As I read I became more hopeful and more faithful. Thanking God brings things into perspective, at least for me it does.

The Praise and Thanksgiving Connection
The concept of thanksgiving to God and praise are interrelated. Some writers of scripture use the two words interchangeably. We see this in Psalm 100:4:

  • “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!”

The three words: thanksgiving, praise and bless are used as parallel structures while there are shade of difference in each meaning, these words are used in a poetic sense to repeat the same idea. In so doing each defines the other by adding a slightly different dimension.

A similar parallel structure is found in the passages below.

  • “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.” Ps. 69:30
  • “I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among the throngs I will praise” Ps. 35:18
  • “I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High.” Ps. 7:17

A facet of praising God is thanking God, so when I thank God, I am praising him as well as showing my need for him and dependence on him.

The Thanksgiving and Sacrifice Connection
In my studies I came across an intriguing passage about thanksgiving.
Hebrews 13:15 infers that giving thanks is equivalent to offering a sacrifice to God.

  • “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” (NKJV)

This image of our thanks to God being a sacrifice is found in the Old Testament.

  • “I will offer to You a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD.” Ps. 116:17
  • “And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!” Ps.107:22
  • Sacrifice a thank offering to God, and fulfill your vows to the Most High.” Ps. 50:14
  • “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” Ps.141:2

These passages refer back to one of the types of sacrifices that the Israelites made to God. It is referred to as the “thank” offering and was offered in association with the “peace or fellowship” offering which celebrated having peace and fellowship with God. (Leviticus 7 provides specific details about these sacrifices.)

These sacrifices lead us to Jesus, our “peace” offering.  Through the sacrifice of Jesus, the Son of God, we have peace with God and are brought into His presence. (Read: Romans 5:1; 1 John 1:3, Eph. 1:4.-7).

Thanksgiving in Approaching God
When I was a young girl, attending church was a big deal. We got washed up and put on clean clothes, “Sunday best.” After all, this was serious business we were coming to worship God.

We really don’t need special physical clothes to come before God to show him respect and give him honor. The scriptures talk about an attitude of the heart that we need to wear to come before God, and that is a thankful heart. This idea is illustrated in the passages below:

  • “Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his, we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” Ps.100:3-4
  • “Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!” Ps.95:2
  • “Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter.” Ps. 118:19-20

In the New Testament we see the same attitude when approaching God in prayer.

  • “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Phil. 4:6
  • “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful…” Col. 4:2
  • “First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be offered on behalf of all men,” 1 Tim. 2:1
  • “Rejoice at all times. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thess. 5:16-18

As I meditate on all these verses, I ask myself is giving thanks to God a primary characteristic of how I approach God. Hebrews 4:15-16 states that we can approach God with confidence because of what Jesus has done for us, but do I also approach with awe and a grateful heart?

Thanksgiving and the Life of a Disciple
As I study about giving thanks to God, I learn that thanksgiving characterizes the life of a disciple. Genuine thanksgiving characterizes how we receive the kingdom to how we should be talking to one another in the kingdom.

  • Receiving the Kingdom:
    “Therefore, since we are receiving an unshakable kingdom, let us be filled with gratitude, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” Hebrews 12:28
  • Growing in Faith:
    “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Col. 2:6-7
  • Communion: Fellowship with the Jesus and the Body
    “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.” 1 Cor. 10:16-17
  • In Generosity:
    “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.” 2 Cor. 9:11
  • In Purity and Speech
    “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” Eph. 5:3-4
  • In All of Your Life
    “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Col.3:17

Reflections
From my study I see that thankfulness is valued by God. A thankful heart and mindset will transform our relationship with God and with one another.

Thanksgiving and praise to God changes my perspective, my feelings, my interactions and my actions. Thankfulness increases my faith and shines light and hope in these dark times.

I am encouraging you to meditate on the passages in this study over the next few days, add new passages that you discover, Share what you are learning with others by thanking them.

As you talk with God ask him to open your eyes to the ways he is currently blessing you and offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to him.

 

 

A Word from a Friend

The pandemic has brought many things to the surface in our society and in our own hearts.
In this posting I am sharing a blog post a friend of mine has written. It shares the inner turmoil of thoughts and feelings that have come in focus for her during this time.

After reading her thoughts I began to feel a lot of things, at the forefront of these thoughts is how we as the family of man, and even more so as a “spiritual community” need to stop and listen to these thoughts and feelings, and learn about others, about ourselves and about the culture in which we live.

As a “spiritual community” we need to ruminate on what love looks like and sounds when encountering these feelings of others. How can we listen without defensiveness? How can we listen with love, acceptance and empathy?

The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 speaks truth into the “spiritual community” and set a guideline for how we listen and how we respond.

  • “ God’s purpose was that the body should not be divided but rather that all of its parts should feel the same concern for each other. If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts share its suffering. If one part is praised, all the others share in its happiness.” 1 Corinthians 12:25-26

My friend’s intent was not to cause us to think about spiritual principles, but more for her to write a blog about the importance of community and building into one another. I added the scripture thought because I believe we need God’s wisdom as to ways to love one another. As you read my friend’s thoughts and feelings, think about how you can suffer with her.

Becoming Your Best Self Doesn’t Mean You Have To Do It Alone 
A lesson I’ve just been learning on my journey to becoming my most authentic and best self is that I don’t have to do it alone. When we think of inspirational people like Michelle Obama, Oprah, or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, we think of them as a single entity. In reality, there are many people working behind the scenes to make them shine. The truth is everyone has a team, who’s on yours?

 At a Crossroads 
Lately, I’ve been struggling with my identity. The past eight years, my identity has been shaped by my faith, but now I find myself at a crossroads. I’m so deeply troubled by the racial turmoil that has taken over the U.S and the rest of the world. I find myself questioning if I can indeed be a Christian and an African American woman all at the same time. How does my faith that preaches being humble, patient, kind, compassionate, and peaceful, live in the same body of a tired, angry, sad, fearful African American woman? I wish I had the answer.

The church I’m part of has begun waking up to the issues of systematic racism and inequality in the world today against people of color. I’m grateful that collectively there is a church movement to be more culturally inclusive and address its past negligence and ignorance. But it feels really late.

On the flip side, I’m dealing with the resurfacing of suppressed trauma of blatant racism I’ve encountered that I’ve never dealt with. I’ve had to bottle it up because that’s what black people do to survive in a world whose fundamental core is rooted in oppression.

I’m at a place where I recognize how white the world is and the power that the white majority has over our government, education, economics, media, etc., and I’m sick of it. I’m no longer going to conform but to educate others and myself and take actionable steps towards equality and liberation.

 Seeking Guidance 
Yesterday, I was able to get some in-person (social distancing, of course) time with two of my closest friends. Those two conversations didn’t give me any solutions to the internal dilemma, but they did help me realize I can’t do it alone.

To protect their privacy, I’ll call them Louisa and Lena. Louisa is an older woman who has been in my life for the past five years. Lena is a few years younger than me and has been a friend since my undergrad days at Salem State. They were both there for me when my mom was going through chemo and became the family I needed when she later died.

Louisa helped me to see outside of my pain. She gave me an objective perspective and was also willing to ask questions to draw out my heart. Lena reminded me that even though our life circumstances are different, I can be vulnerable and real even if she couldn’t fully relate to everything I was going through.

Find Your Tribe
We all need a support system. If you don’t have trusted advisors, friends, or family helping you along the way, you miss out on reaching your fullest potential. It’s nearly impossible to become your best self on your own. Make sure you choose people who not only love you but strive to push you towards growth. If they aren’t afraid to tell you the truth, especially when you’re stuck in your own way, even better!

So, I urge you to find your tribe, those who will love you on this journey of becoming your best self. You deserve it. You need it. And the people who you’ll meet and impact along the way will be blessed by it.

 

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.

Chew and Know

Riddle me this: What do cows and meditation have in common?
Cows belong to a group of animals called ruminants. They have 4 stomachs, one of which is the rumen. It is like a big fermentation vat. It sort of predigests the food. The cow then brings back up the food and chews on it until it can be completely digested and returned to the system to provide energy and nutrition to the cow. Yes, it sounds disgusting!

Meditation on the word of God has similarities to the rumination process of a cow except we are ruminating, meditating on the word of God so that we can digest it to feed our souls. (“Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Mt.4:4)

Plumb and Mutter
Meditation is a process God has provided for us so that we can plumb the depths of the Word of God and grasp truths about Him. Meditation is a way in which we can come to know God more deeply.

The word meditate is very rich in meaning. In the Hebrew language it comes from a word meaning:
– mutter, moan, growl, utter, muse, ponder, meditate;
– to speak with oneself, murmuring in a low voice as one often does when musing or comparing;
– to read syllable by syllable.

Perhaps this is what the psalmist meant when he said:
“My mouth speaks wisdom; my heart’s meditation brings (speaks) understanding.” Psalm 49:3

A Picture of Meditation
The picture of meditation is not necessarily that of someone sitting cross legged on the floor staring vacuously into space. It is possibly more the picture of the professor walking the floor, mulling over his theorems and muttering to himself, pondering meanings and connections, and coming up with deeper understandings.

Meditation involves active thinking upon something, turning it over and over in your mind and even muttering it. Muttering would involve thinking about it and repeating it over and over as in grasping for meaning, perhaps saying it with different emphasis, finding connections between the words within the passage and between other passages. It is not merely the muttering or repetition associated with memorizing.

Sighing and Groaning Are Acceptable
Sometimes meditation will involve sighing in joy, as well as at the beauty of truth, or groaning upon conviction.

In fact, meditation may be born from our groaning under sadness or stress. Psalm 77 is excellent for showing us about meditation. In verses 2-3 we see that sadness and distress motivated meditation. In these verses we also see the connection with groaning and meditation.
“When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted. I remembered you, God, and I groaned; I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.” Ps. 77:2-3

The Word, His Deeds, His Character and Promises
The scriptures encourage us to meditate on the Word of God, on the acts of God as revealed in His Word and in our lives, on God’s character and nature, and on His promises.

“I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.”
Psalm 77:11-12

“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your doings; I muse on the work of Your hands.” Psalm 143:5

“On the glorious splendor of Your majesty and on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.” Psalm 145:5

“My eyes stay open through the watches of the night,that I may meditate on your promises.” Psalm 119:148

Meditation and You
In my experience meditation on the Word of God and on God is a way I commune with God. Such meditation always causes me to praise and thank God. It opens my mind to understand who God is and who I am in relation to God. It helps to humble me. It increases my ability to trust God for my life.

The problem is I can be so busy and task oriented that I neglect this wonderful way to commune with God. I want to encourage us to take time to meditate on God and His Word. Don’t be satisfied with just reading it, but “chew” on it. As you read the Word set aside certain passages to meditate on. Make a collection of such verses, categorize them by concept or focus and regularly dip into your treasure chest and think, ponder and mutter on them, and grow.

Note: This article is one in a short series on Meditation. To read the following articles subscribe to the blog. To subscribe to the blog on your mobile device: go to the Menu section and click on About; scroll down to the notice to “Follow My Blog,” and enter your email address, then click subscribe.