Category Archives: Devotional Thoughts

Devotional thoughts about a relationship with God.

Patterns of Love

A friend of mine was praying and in that prayer she asked to be able to love other people. She boldly went on to specify that she wanted to love others like Jesus loved. Immediately, all sorts of pictures of Jesus loving people flashed through my mind.

Suddenly I saw my own weakness in this area. It is easy for me to love people who show love, or even “like” to me. I usually feel good in their presence. They, in fact, are the people I tend to hang with and seek time in their presence.

But what do I do with those who do not readily show appreciation of me, my ideas, my style, etc.? What about those who do not voice their approval or value of me? What about those who may look at me, my actions, my words, or my family with a shade of criticism? What about those who seem to interact with me in a way that demonstrates their superiority?

My pattern is to gently withdraw myself from these people. When hostility is shown by those beyond my immediate circle, I create an even safer distance.

So my love for people is not like that of Jesus. Those two sentences in my friend’s prayer challenged my heart. I want to grow in this area, so I am looking at some of those pictures of Jesus that flashed through my mind. I see one in Mark 3:1-6. 

Jesus Loves Hard People in Hard Times –
Love that Makes People Whole
In Mark 3:1-6, Jesus goes against tradition and heals a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. He took a stand and loved a man by restoring the use of his hand. Jesus is in the business of helping people to become whole. It took courage to stand before the critical religious leaders and love this man.

“Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.”

Love in the Face of Hostility
This passage notes that Jesus was grieved in His heart about the hardness  of heart and lack of love these leaders had for their fellow man.  Jesus had a righteous anger about their lack of love.  They stood watching and waiting for Jesus to show his love for this man and in so doing violate their law, their standard. The hearts of these religious leaders were hard – filled with envy, criticisms and wrong judgment. Yet, Jesus loved them.

Love Is Grief at a Hard Heart
You may think, “How did He love them?” Jesus’ love for them is noted by the fact that He felt sadness towards them and the condition of their heart. This so to speak softness of heart towards their hardness of heart demonstrates God’s overall heart of mercy towards man. Jesus did not condemn them but instead was grieved at the condition of their heart.

Love Asks Poignant Questions
Jesus did not speak harsh words to them, but rather, asked a gentle but poignant question that would lead them to reflect on what is right, just, equitable and good. See Mark 3:4.

“And He *said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent.” Mk. 3:4

Love Is Vulnerable
Jesus did not withdraw himself from this circle of hostility, but He made himself vulnerable to their hostility. Jesus shows these leaders what love really looks like by taking a stand and publicly healing this man. Jesus could have followed this man out; pulled him aside privately and healed him, if the healing was all He was about.

In this act of love towards the man with the withered hand in the company of hostile men, Jesus deliberately and vulnerably loved these men by very clearly revealing to them that He was the Son of God. He was vulnerable, opening Himself to their conspiracy of hate, and loved them enough to show them God in the flesh.

What about Me? What about You?
I tend to withdraw from those who are critical, those who seem disapproving of me; those who are jealous; those who act superior, and definitely those who are hostile.

Jesus looks beyond the hard exterior of people, and He has compassion for their heart. He sets about to restore the physical being and the inner heart. That is love.

Lord, teach us to love others like you do!

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

“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:8-9

Faithful

Just when things seemed to be turning around in her life, she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. It was aggressive! The outlook was bleak. I had an underlying fear that she would be despaired and or blame God. We talked about the difficulty of trusting God when it seemed like life was composed of a series of harder and harder trials.

We asked ourselves, “What does faithfulness look like and sound like, especially in times of significant difficulty? What are some examples in the scriptures?” We came up with numerous examples, but were significantly impressed by one in the book of Daniel.

Jaw-dropping Faithfulness
Three young Hebrew men demonstrate “jaw-dropping faithfulness” in the book of Daniel in chapter 3. These Hebrew men who worshiped God were commanded to bow down to an idol representing the king and his power.

Such bowing proclaimed that they honored this image, the sovereignty of this king, above all. It proclaimed that they gave him ultimate value in their life and pledged their allegiance and obedience to him above all others. The king boldly challenged the God of these men when he said, “what god can deliver you from my hand, Dan. 3:15.” The consequence for refusing to bow was to be thrown into a fiery furnace.

When confronted by the king their response was a declaration of their faithfulness, their loyalty and their value of the living God. They said:
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up. Daniel 3:16-18

Such a response is amazing! They had no foreknowledge that God would actually save them from being burned alive! These men believed in the power of God to miraculously save them, but more importantly, they knew the wonder and of the living God through their covenant relationship with Him.  As a result, honoring their God was of greater value than any suffering or even loss of life. That is faithfulness to God.

Faithfulness Is
Faithfulness is loving God with your whole heart, soul, mind and body even when God does not make everything “better” in your life. In the account in Daniel 3, faithfulness sounded like proclaiming that the God who created the heavens and earth is the only God, and it looked like stepping forward into the fire with a heart filled with faith in God.

Faithfulness is steadfast faith in the power of God to do anything; to change a situation, a heart, a mind or an outcome; to heal; to mend; to restore/to resurrect a life, a spirit or a heart. Faith is belief in the supreme power of God and the absolute love of God.

Faithfulness Comes From…
Faithfulness is trust and loyalty that comes from knowing the truth about God’s character, and from having experienced the presence of His character, love and power in your life.

Such faith enables one to see beyond the current situation and its consequences, and trust God in them, as these three young men did. They had no definitive guarantee that they would be delivered from being burned alive, yet they knew God deeply enough to take a stand and be faithfully devoted to Him.

After the fact, we know God delivered them, but also that He walked in the fire with them. The king was amazed!
“Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God,” (or a son of the gods) Dan. 3:25.

It is an important fact that before their deliverance was a reality, these three young men choose to be faithful to God. They made a faith filled declaration about the character and nature of their God and acted on it.

What Does Your Faith Say About God?
After reflecting on this account of faithfulness in Daniel with my friend, I needed to ask myself some questions. Perhaps you will find these questions helpful to you, also.

  • What does my faith say about my relationship with God?
  • Do my words and actions proclaim that I personally know God’s character?
  • Do I believe God will help me, that He will deliver me, that He will change my circumstances, or that He will “presto chango” change my character?
  • What do I proclaim about God when He does not answer me the way I think He should? Do I fault Him? Do I no longer trust in His goodness and His righteous character? Do I accuse Him of a lack of love?
  • Do I stomp my foot and say “No” and miss seeing Him in the fire with me?
  • Am I genuinely faithful, or do I merely “wear my faith on the surface”?

These three young men showed me and my friend how do go deeper with God. Sometimes it takes the fire to help me see God.

Dear Reader,
I encourage you to pause and reflect on the depth and veracity of your faith in God in times when things are “going your way,” and in times when your character, your pride, your security, your well- being are challenged.

What Child Is This – The Prince of Peace

What do you think of when you think of the word “peace?” I think of sitting in a comfy chair near a fireplace, in a quiet room with strains of classical music in the air, and an engaging book in my lap. It is calm, there is a sense of quiet, contentment, and all is well with me and those around me.

God has a slightly different definition of peace from mine.  A word most frequently used for peace in the language of the New Testament is eiréné.  Eiréné primarily means “one,” as in to join, to tie together into a whole. This definition makes sense, since a lack of peace is when there is disagreement, dissonance, and fighting.  

Peace – Oneness
We have seen the oneness that is implied in the word peace. We have seen it in the relationship of Jesus and Father God. Jesus describes this oneness in John 17:22 – 23:

  • “I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one I in them and You in Me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent Me and have loved them even as you have loved Me.”

And prior to this prayer in John17, Jesus clearly stated that “I and the Father are one,” in John 10:31.  Jesus and the Father are in total harmony and peace; they are as one whole entity.

Peace can also mean a state of secure welfare, as in the promise of Philippians 4:6-7 that states when we give thanks to God and pour out our requests to Him, He will give us a peace, that is, a sense of security and well-being in the midst of trouble.

  • “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:6-7

Peace Implies War
If there is talk of peace then there has been enmity or war. In order to understand that Jesus is the Prince of Peace, we need to know that there was/is a war.

We see in scripture that there is a spiritual war going on of the Light versus the Dark. There is a war between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. This is clearly outlined in Ephesians 6:11-17.

We can trace this war as far back as the early chapters of the Bible. In Genesis 3 we see enmity between God and the Dark One:
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He (Jesus) will crush your head, and you will strike His heel,” Genesis 3:15.

Also, there is an internal war of the flesh versus the spirit within each one of us. This is depicted in passages such as James 4:1; 1 Peter 2:11 and Galatians 5:17.

  • What causes conflicts and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from the passions at war within you? James 4:1
  • Beloved, I urge you as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from the desires of the flesh, which war against your soul. 1Peter 2:11
  • For the flesh craves what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are opposed to each other, so that you do not do what you want. Galatians 5:17

The Prince of Peace is Lord of the Battle!
In Is. 28:29, God is named “Lord Sabbaoth.”  Sabbaoth is translated Lord of Hosts. “Hosts” in the context of this verse refers to the angel armies.

  • “This also comes from the LORD of hosts, Who has made His counsel wonderful and His wisdom great.”

“Sabbaoth” can also mean battle; war; or a leader of the army. God is the leader of the heavenly army. He is the Lord of the battle.

Rev. 19:11-21, shows us Jesus as “Lord Sabbaoth.” Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is depicted as the Lord of the Battle. He is described as a fierce warrior king leading the heavenly hosts in battle against the dark enemy to procure peace.

  • And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” Revelations 19:11-21

The Cross and the Prince of Peace
A horrific battle scene of the Prince of Peace – the Lord of the Battle, shows Jesus being flogged close to the point of death; nailed to a tree, hanging in shame and agony before a jeering, uncaring world. In this seeming act of total defeat and shame, Jesus is procuring peace for us with God. The Prince of Peace is the crucified Messiah. In His death and resurrection this mighty warrior achieved eternal victory for us.

We were enemies of God, hanging out in the darkness, but Jesus procured peace with God for us. Through our faith in Jesus we can be “one” with him and the Father. This oneness is true peace.

  • “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.”  Romans 5:1-2

The blood from the battle scene at the crucifixion obtained peace for us with God through our faith in Jesus, our true Prince of Peace.

  • ”For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.” Col. 1:19-20

What Child Is This?
This child is Immanuel, God in the flesh. He is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace, Isaiah 9:6.  

As you start this “new year,” think about Jesus, and ask God to open the eyes of your heart that you may see Him for who He is, value Him, and live a life that honors Him.

What Child Is This: Everlasting Father

Jesus was born in a stable and slept his first night in a manger which is nothing more than an animal feed box! Yet, on this same night, a different and unusual star appeared over that stable, and in the field nearby, a host of angels proclaimed his birth, Luke 2:9-14.

700 years prior to Jesus birth, Isaiah defined who this “child” born in a stable was and is. Isaiah said He is the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Is. 9:6

In two previous blogs entitled, “What Child Is This,” we learned that this child is our Wonderful Counselor and Mighty God. In this blog we will look at the title given Him of “Everlasting Father.”

How Can It Be?
It is hard for me to grasp this thought that Jesus is both the Son of God and Everlasting Father. However, when I consider all the references to this truth in scripture I know that He is indeed both.

In John 8:57-58, Jesus declares this truth: “Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and You have seen Abraham?” “Truly, truly, I tell you,” Jesus declared, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

In John 10:30-33, Jesus boldly states this truth that He and the Father are One, and the response of the religious leaders’ was to stone Him because they knew exactly what He was saying about Himself, but they choose not believe.

“I and the Father are one.” At this, the Jews again picked up stones to stone Him. But Jesus responded, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone Me?” We are not stoning You for any good work,” said the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because You, who are a man, declare Yourself to be God.”

Today as you read these passages, think deeply about what they reveal about Jesus, then look again at that baby in the manger, what do you see?

Always Was and Is and Ever Will Be!
Isaiah states that Jesus is the “Everlasting Father.” “Everlasting” comes from a Hebrew word that means: from ancient times past unto eternity. It signifies “continuous existence; existing forever.”

Paul reveals this truth about Jesus in Colossians 1:16b-17;
“… All things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.…”

The expression,“from ancient times past and into eternity,” in the above definition reminds me of the description of Jesus in Daniel 7:9.

“As I continued to watch: thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took His seat. His clothing was white as snow, and the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.”

Jesus, the Ancient of Days, has always existed within the Father. He is the “Everlasting Father.”

Throughout the book of Revelation we see various images of Jesus similar to the description in Daniel’s vision. Each description emphasizes Jesus’ divinity and eternal existence.

” and among the lampstands was One like the Son of Man, dressed in a long robe, with a golden sash around His chest. The hair of His head was white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes were like a blazing fire. His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and His voice was like the roar of many waters…” Rev.1:13 -15

This Ancient of Days, this Lord of Lords – Jesus, is the child in the manger!

Forever Father
Jesus is our “Everlasting Father.” The term for “father” in Hebrew has several applications. It does refer to “father” as in being a parent. It also refers to a “father” in the sense of: author or maker; a great chief or leader; and a founder of a nation or household.

Let’s look further at Jesus as a father in the sense of “author and maker/giver of life.”

Father – Author and Maker
The scriptures clearly present Jesus, “Everlasting Father,” as the Author and Maker of life.

  • John 1:1-3,10 -“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being … He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize him.”
  • Colossians 1:15-16 – “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for Him.”
  • Acts 3:15 – “… and you killed the Author of life, but God raised Him from the dead, and we are witnesses of the fact.”

With a True Father’s Love
I think a passage that brings home to me the truth of Jesus being our Everlasting Father is in Matthew 9:22.

In this touching passage, Jesus heals a woman who had an incurable flow of blood. In faith she reaches out and touches His garment, and she is healed. Jesus turns to speak to her and calls her “daughter.”

“Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.” (Mt. 9:22)

We could pass this off as a traditional saying of a Rabbi to a woman of Israel, but I do not read anywhere else in the gospels that Jesus referred to a woman as “daughter.”

When I hear the name “Everlasting Father” I think of someone great, powerful and distant. However, when reading this account in Matthew 9, I see Jesus, the Everlasting Father, who wants to make a deep personal connection with His children, with me.

Jesus cared enough to ask who touched Him. He deliberately stopped, turned to look at her, and spoke to her. Jesus addressed her specifically as “daughter.” I can just hear the tenderness and kindness in His voice. She went from an outcast to a daughter of the Everlasting Father.

Jesus is Immanuel, God in the flesh. He is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. Take time to think of these names that Isaiah used to define Jesus. Allow the meanings of these names impact your heart. May you to stand in awe of Jesus, but also remember His tender love that calls us “daughter,” or “son.”

What Child Is This

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

God Has a Thing for Names 
Everyone wants to know the name of the new born child, even before the actual birth of the child we eagerly ask the parents, “What is his or her name?” That is because we know names hold out meaning and promise.

God was very specific about names. He used names in several significant ways:

  • to communicate messages (as in Isaiah 7 when God instructed the prophet to name his son Shear-jashub meaning a “remnant will return”);
  • to commemorate wondrous events  (as when God met with Jacob through the ladder to heaven and the place was named “Bethel”- the gate of heaven, Gen. 28:16-19);
  • to define Himself (YHVH Shalom-God of Peace, Judges 6:24; Elohay mikarov– God Who Is Near, Jer. 23:23; El Elyon-God Most High Gen.14:18).

Considering this, it is not strange that God would give His son a specific name(s) that would reveal Hus  nature, character and mission.

There IS Something in a Name
In this holiday season of Christmas when many Christians honor God becoming a man in the sending of His Son, Jesus, “Emmanuel,” God with us (Matthew 1:22-23),we look at the names given Him in Is. 9:6.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.”

These are amazing names. The more I learn about them the more I am filled with awe and wonder as to who Jesus is and what He does. For this season, in a series of articles, we will look into each name.

Wonderful Counselor
The name “Wonderful Counselor” is transliterated as pele yäats in the original language. Pele is translated wonderful and has several shades of meaning that enhance our understanding.

This term is usually used to refer to the deeds of God. Pele is translated as wonders of God in verses like:

  • Exodus  15:11- “Who among the gods is like you, LORD?Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?”
  • Psalm 77:14 – “You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.”
  • Isaiah 25:1 – “LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.”

Astounding-Miraculous!
Pele refers to the “miraculous,” that which is supernatural. It is that which is extraordinary, hard to be understood by the human mind. This word points to something beyond the realm of human understanding. It points to the supernatural, even miraculous, wisdom of God as described by Paul:  

“But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” 1 Cor.1:23-25

In addition to the “Wonderful Counselor” bringing us understanding of the deep truths of God, Our “Wonderful Counselor” speaks words that have life changing and demolishing strongholds power (Heb.4:12) (Rom. 1:16-17).

If you want power to change, seek out the “Wonderful Counselor.”

A Trustworthy Counselor
The word translated counselor in most Bibles comes from the Hebrew word yäats. This word has shades of meaning that enhance our understanding.

It is translated: to advise; to consult, to counsel, to deliberate, to strategize, and to plan.  It is said that this word indicates the innate quality of the person and not simply their actions or words.  Again we see the connection to Jesus, literally, being the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:23-25).

Some students of scripture have suggested that the title “wonderful counselor” could be translated as “wonder knower” or “wonder genius.”

Who better than the One (Jesus) who resides in the bosom of the Father to reveal the wisdom of God, the character of God, the mysteries of God and the heart of God to us. The counsel of Jesus can be trusted because He is One with God.

  • “No one has ever yet seen God. The only begotten God, the One being in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known.” John 1:18 (Berean Literal Bible)
  • No one has ever seen God. God’s only Son, the One who is closest to the Father’s heart, has made him known.” John 1:18 (God’s Word Translation)

Jesus is able to “advise” us because His qualifications surpass all others.  In Colossians 2:2-3, Paul reminds us that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Jesus.

  • “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Jesus has a deep understanding of our human nature. He, being God, knows us from near and afar; knows when we rise up and when we sit down; He perceives our thoughts and knows the very words that are on our tongues. Psalm 139 tells us that His knowledge is too “wonderful” for us to grasp.

Jesus, our counselor, can relate to us since He, who is “Emmanuel-God in the flesh”has endured troubles and trials the same as you and me. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

What Now?
I am just a woman of ordinary skill and average intellectual ability. On my own I cannot understand the deep truths of God and the salvation He offers. The truths and mysteries He reveals to us are extraordinary. They are astounding. They are pele– of a miraculous quality. But we have a “wonderful counselor” who advises us.

Jesus asked his disciples who do you say I am, Peter answered you are the Christ (the Messiah), the Son of God. Jesus said that Peter did not know this in and of himself, but that God revealed it to Him. In the birth of Jesus the marvelous wisdom revealed is that God became a man in order to become the sin offering for us!

As you move into this holiday season take time to read the words of Jesus. Ask Him to teach you how to live each truth of His wise counsel.

The Breath of Thanks-giving

Thanksgiving is celebrated once a year in the United States. It had its roots in humble hearts coming together to thank God for providing for life. I am not sure that “Thanksgiving” has retained that purpose in this age. Nevertheless, we should consider the quality of thankfulness not solely in the context of a national holiday, but more appropriately as a characteristic of our soul.

Gratitude is a perspective we choose to take in life. There is no doubt that such a perspective can bless our life, but if we are not careful our gratitude can become just a step in our pursuit of a happy life. If you are a believer in God and Jesus Christ then you need to consider the place that giving thanks to God has in your spiritual life.

Thanksgiving and Faith
In the Gospel of Luke there is an account of ten lepers who were healed by Jesus (Luke 17:11-19). One of these men returned to give thanks to Jesus.

Jesus makes an important statement to this one grateful man: And He said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:19 (ESV)

Jesus connected this man’s gratitude with his faith. It was the man’s faith that caused him to come back and thank Jesus. It was perhaps at the moment of healing that this man really saw and believed who Jesus is.

Jesus said this man’s faith made him well. Perhaps Jesus is not talking about the initial faith the man had that lead him to ask to be healed, but rather the belief about Jesus as the LORD and One Who truly saves.

Jesus then pronounced the man well. The word “well” has several meanings: to be healed; to be made whole; to be delivered or rescued; or in a spiritual sense to be saved.  The other nine men were cleansed from leprosy, but this man was made whole. His body and soul were made whole, were delivered, and were saved.

Breathe In and Breathe Out Thanks
Air with its different components, but most primarily oxygen, is necessary for our physical life and proper functioning of all of our body. Giving thanks should be as vital to our soul and spirit as breathing in oxygen is to our body.

If you are a person who believes in Jesus, the Son of God, then consider some of the blessings that you have received in and through Jesus. In this article, I would like to connect our thanks-giving focus to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Perhaps meditating on some of these blessings will not only enrich your celebration of Thanksgiving this year, but also help you to develop “the breath of thanks-giving.”

Life Giving Blessings
To begin our journey of developing the “breath of thanks-giving,” start by meditating on the three blessings in Christ that are briefly referenced below.

Friendship with God: God is not a cold, distant being. He desires a relationship/friendship with us, and we receive a living relationship with God as a gift through Jesus.

“For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” Romans 5:10-11 NLT

Free from the Weight of Guilt and Condemnation
As a young woman I had difficulty forgiving a relative. It was like a ball and chain on my leg. As I learned about and accepted Jesus’s forgiveness of me, I was able to forgive and be set free from the weight of guilt; the weight of the condemnation I felt for not forgiving and the weight of the condemnation I held over the other person.

“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” Romans 8:1-2 NLT

The Mother of All “Do Overs”
I don’t know about you, but I have often wished for a second chance, a do over with various aspects of my character, choices or relationships in life. In Jesus we are made new spiritually. It is the grand do over.

“He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them . . . Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:15, 17

“For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Romans 6: 4-5 ESV

On Your Own
These are only three blessings that were selected for this posting. There are many more blessing in Jesus. As you read through the scriptures begin journaling blessings in Jesus that can be found in both the New Testament and the Old Testament.

Collect and treasure the blessings you have. Breathe them into your spirit and then breathe them out into life.

******************************************
“I will always thank the LORD; I will never stop praising him.
My soul makes its boast in the LORD…” Psalm 34:1-2a

Soul Speak

The Gospel, the good news of salvation in Jesus, is dynamic truth. It is living and active. In fact Romans 1:16 states that the gospel is the power to salvation:  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”

The Gospel is Dynamite!
The word for “dunamis” in Romans 1:16 is translated  power. The origin of the word dynamite has its root in this Greek word.

“Dunamis” is defined as strength and power. This is no ordinary power, it is resurrection power. It is further defined as the power inherent in a thing or being by its very nature. Such as the power that is Jesus. The power of God is inherently in Jesus. Numerous scriptures reveal this truth.

  • Luke 6:19 – “And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them
  • Luke 8:46 – “But Jesus said, “Someone did touch Me, for I was aware that power had gone out of Me.”
  • Luke 4:36 -“And amazement came upon them all, and they began talking with one another saying, “What is this message? For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits and they come out.”

The gospel has the power to break down the strongholds of sin and darkness, and to transform hearts, minds and lives. When we believe the truth of the gospel and obey it, this power causes us to rise up from spiritual death to life.

Tell It to Me Again! And Again!
The gospel is for all times. It is not something that we encounter at the beginning of our walk with God, but the gospel, the good news of our salvation in Jesus Christ,  sustains our faith every day. (If you are unsure of what the gospel is, the passages presented below will make it clear).

It is important for us who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ to refresh our souls daily with basic truths from the gospel of Jesus.

The many activities associated with our walk with God, as well as the difficulties of life can cause us to become confused as to where we stand with God and the basis of our relationship or friendship with God. We can easily begin putting our trust in our feelings or our performance rather than in the saving work of Jesus. This can lead to doubts about our salvation, and leave us feeling that we are “not enough.”

Therefore, it is good to review the basic gospel truths daily to re-set our hearts and re-focus our faith.

Make It Personal
Look through the scripture for the basic gospel truths, and then make them personal. Change the pronouns such as “we” to “me,” and insert your name in the verses as if the Holy Spirit was speaking to you through these words because –
He is!

Read through these passages. Personalize these truths between you and God, Let these truths strengthen your faith and help you honor God.

  •  “He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on my behalf, so that  I (insert your name) might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Cor. 5:21
  •  “… He himself bore my sins” in His body on the cross, so that I (insert your name) might die to sins and live for righteousness; for by His wounds I (insert your name) have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24
  • “In Him, I (insert your name) have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of my trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” Ephesians 1:7
  • “But He was pierced for my transgressions, He was crushed for my iniquities; the punishment that brought me (insert your name) peace was upon Him, and by His stripes I am healed.” Isaiah 53:5
  • “For I know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that I ( insert your name) was redeemed from the empty way of life I inherited from my forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or spot.” 1 Peter 1:18-19
  • “For He (God) has rescued me (insert your name) from the dominion of darkness and brought me (Insert your name) into the kingdom of the Son He loves…” Colossians 1:13
  • “… don’t I know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  I (insert your name) was therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, I too may live a new life. Romans 6:3-5

Speak the Gospel Today
I encourage you to find other passages that tell the basic message of the gospel. Write the passage down and read them back to yourself with personal references to you. Speak the good news to others and speak the gospel to your soul. I want to suggest that you do this each day for a week and take note of the increase in your joy and your faith.

God: A Personal Friend-Part 2

While God is Almighty, all powerful, and the sovereign Lord, He does extend Himself to us as our intimate friend.

In Psalm 25:14 the scripture describes the God who creates and sustains all life as wanting to confide in us.

”The LORD confides in those who fear Him, He makes His covenant known to them.”
Ps. 25:14 (NIV)

In the previous entry, “God: Our Personal Friend,” we saw that this expression confides was translated from a Hebrew word having a primitive root meaning “couch.” This has the inference of a place where two people lean into each other and share intimate, personal conversations. Where they can open up their heart and share their inmost thoughts and feelings. God is welcoming us to do that.

It seems unbelievable, but it is true! If you are in any form a believer in God this is an astounding truth. I, for one, desire such a relationship with God. I want to go beyond the religious exterior of performance and be in close friendship with God.

God, the Initiator
God has been reaching out to man to have a very personal relationship since before creation. Eph. 1:4 states: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”

God initiated setting us up to be able to have this close relationship with Him even before He created the world. This close relationship was always God’s intention, will and desire.

Let’s look at a few of these types of encounters with God.

More Snapshots on the Couch with God
As we flip through the album of God’s friends as written in the scriptures I see God’s overtures to man to indicate that God truly does welcome such closeness.

A Bold Conference with God
In Genesis 18, the LORD visits with Abraham to confirm the promise of a son. As the Lord is leaving He considers Sodom and Gomorrah and looks in the direction of those cities. He plans to destroy them for their wickedness and harm to others. His intent to have a close relationship, one in which includes Him revealing His heart and mind to man, is indicated in these words:

“When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. Then the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” Gen. 18:16-17

After this comes a dialogue between Abraham and God in which God reveals to Abraham what He is about to do, and Abraham intercedes back and forth with God about this what God plans to do.

Abraham asks God in a series of dialogues if God would destroy these cities even if Abraham found 50 righteous people. God says, “No.” Abraham intercedes back and forth through 40, 30, 20 and 10 righteous people. (Genesis 18:16-33)

This is a true to life example of sitting on the couch with God.

Vulnerable Outpouring on the Couch
Have you ever been so frustrated and hurt by a situation or a person that you just had to sit down with your best friend and have a good cry, pouring all the hurt and confusion out? This is what we see in the next picture of Hannah and God.

In 1 Samuel 1:3-17, we see Hannah in a frenzied state talking to God. In verses 6 and 7 we read the background of Hannah’s soul talk with God. We see Hannah has been being harassed by her rival, Peninnah, the second wife of Elkanah.

We read hard words: provoked, irritated and rival. Some translations use the words provoke grievously and taunt severely to describe how Peninnah interacted with Hannah.

The scriptures relate that Hannah was in “deep anguish” when she confided in God, 1 Sam.1:10. The term “deep anguish” is translated as: in bitterness, anger, or discontent.  One older translation says in bitterness of soul she prayed to God.”

We might say Hannah was more than discouraged. This was not some simpering, prayer full of clichés and platitudes. She was frustrated and angry. She was honest and vulnerable before God. She prayed in such a distraught fashion that the priest who watched her as she spoke to God took her to be drunk, 1 Sam. 1:12-14.

What did God do? Ignore her? Recoil? No! God did not chastise her. He did not turn away from her. He listened to her and responded. He understood and answered her prayer. Infact, God had a mission for the son she would bear as a result of this talk with God.

You and God: Heart to Heart
God wants to have heart to heart talks with you also. In Revelation 3:20, Jesus says,

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” (NLT)

Jesus is talking to believing disciples in this passage. He is not speaking to non-believers; He has another invitation for them in His Gospel. He is addressing the church in Laodicea.

He is reminding these disciples that He wants a deep personal friendship with them. The imagery in this passage is of sitting down and sharing a meal and conversation with Jesus. It is a picture of a personal friendship.

God wants to have a heart to heart talk with me, every day. Do I want to have this with God? Do I trust Him and His love for me?

God made it possible to be close with Him. He set this up through the death of His Son. Do I come in openness, humility, and a willingness to be vulnerable with God? Am I sitting on the couch, leaning into Him? Am I sharing a meal with Him, or participating in a routine or a religious process.

Think about it. What is it like between you and God?

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

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?”
Psalm 42:1-2

God: A Personal Friend

Picture this: It is the dark of the night, the sky out in the country is brilliant with stars, myriads of stars, countless, dazzling, bright stars, against the dark backdrop of night (imagine no street lights). As we watch the scene, Abraham stands looking up. He seems to be talking to someone, someone who has his arm around him and seems to be pointing to the stars. The scene seems to present two friends appreciating the night sky and conferring with each other.

Something like that really did happen to a man named Abraham. It is recorded in Genesis 15:4-6.

  • “Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.”  He (God) took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then He said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.”

Now picture this: you seated on your couch with God next to you. Maybe He is holding your hand or has an arm draped around your shoulders, talking to you and you to Him.

Can’t picture it? Let’s see where we get this idea about a very personal God.

Come Sit with Me
Psalm 25:14 states: “The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him and He will make His covenant known to them.”

The word translated secret” inherently implies some type of intimacy. Like one friend whispering a confidence to another. The word “secret” is “cowd” in Hebrew. It means “counsel, consultation; familiar converse; intimate conversation.”

Actually this word “cowd” comes from a primitive root that means a couch or a cushion upon which someone reclines, indicating people sitting together leaning in towards each other and conversing.

  • The NIV translates this concept as: “The Lord confides in those who fear Him;
    He makes His covenant known to them.”
  • The ESV translates it as: “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him,
    and He makes known to them His covenant.”

Both translations catch the intended meaning with the words “confide” and “friendship,” but the primitive root of “cowd” captures the intimacy of this relationship. We need to be careful that our “religion” does not obscure our vision of the relationship that God is longing to have with us.

A Second Look at an Old Friendship
So what does this very personal friendship with God look like? If we take time to look closely, and beyond the way we have always seen the story of Moses and God, we can get a glimpse of it.

We see this relationship throughout the life of Moses. Let’s look at one snapshot of their relationship, such as when Moses was called to work with God to deliver Israel from Egypt. This meeting is recorded in Exodus 3 and 4.

I am used to seeing this meeting of God with Moses at the burning bush as God, the Sovereign LORD, giving a command to His servant Moses. But, on second look, maybe what we really are seeing is God reaching out to a man (Moses) to bring him into a friendship and partnership with Him.

What signs of friendship do I see?
I see God’s reassurance of His presence with Moses, like he isn’t going it alone; it doesn’t all depend on Moses.
      And God said, “I will be with you…” Ex. 3:12

I see it in God, like a true friend, being transparent and revealing His true identity to Moses.

  • God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.” Ex. 3:14-15

I see it in God, as a good friend, sharing His strength and power with Moses.

  • “Then the Lord said, “If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first sign, they may believe the second. But if they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground.” Ex. 4:8-9

In chapter 4, we see Moses, so to speak sitting on the couch” with God, having intimate converse or consult with God. Moses shares his weakness and fears with God, and God provides support for Moses in each thought. There is intimacy; there is encouragement; there is frustration and even anger expressed; but always, God is the friend, the help, the advocate.

Many other instances in the life of Moses reveal this close personal friendship and partnership between God and Moses. We can see it in the life of Hannah, David, Hezekiah, Elijah, Elisha, Daniel and countless others, but the question is do we see this for our life today?

In the End It Is “Religion or Relationship”
So many times in my life I have tripped over my practice of religion and missed the depth and beauty of a real relationship with God. God is all about this relationship. He has set it up from before the creation of the world for us to be close to Him.
Eph. 1:4 – 6 states this truth clearly. Look for the relationship words.

  • “For He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presence. In love He predestined us for adoption as His sons/daughters through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the Beloved One.”

While God is Almighty, all powerful, and the sovereign Lord, He does extend Himself to us as our intimate friend. In the next article we will explore this relationship as seen in others in the scriptures; God’s many invitations; and what it takes for us to have this relationship.

God: A Keeper – Part 2

In the ups and downs of life it can be difficult to believe that God is really there for me. One of the reasons I struggle with this at times is because I do not have deep understanding of the character of God. Another reason is because I tend to go by my feelings instead of the truths I know about God.

I have set out on a journey to learn more about the character and truths of God to help keep my faith stable.

God, a Keeper of Old
In the Old Testament there are many beautiful descriptions of God, one of them being that He is our Keeper. One sense in which God is our Keeper is that He keeps us within His presence during times of difficulty.

In Psalm 31:19-20 we see that God keeps His goodness stored up for us during times of difficulty, and He keeps us our hearts safe in His presence during times of challenge and trouble.

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

In Isaiah 26:3,  we learn that God keeps faithful watch over us, so that even in times of trouble or sorrow, He is there watching over us and assisting us through our trials.

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

In Psalm 12:7, David uses the Hebrew word “shamar” in this psalm to indicate God as a keeper who  builds a spiritual hedge around our heart so that we are not spiritually destroyed during dark times. So, in a sense, God keeps us so that we can keep holding onto God.

“You, O Lord, will keep (shamar) them; You will preserve (natsar) him from this generation forever.” Ps. 12:7

David is an example of someone going through significant trials, especially in reference to his relationship with Saul, yet, even in the midst of his troubles David understands that God “keeping” him.

Jesus An Appointed Keeper
I am very drawn to the picture of Jesus as our keeper in John 6:37.
“All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”

The expression “drive away” is associated with Jesus as our keeper. “Drive away” means cast out or banish.  In a sense Jesus will not remove us as a part of Him. He will not withdraw His love or step back from a relationship with us. He keeps us.

In some instances the term “drive away” carries the connotation of being “rejected or cast away” as in John 9:39, “They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out (of the synagogue).”

I find this thought reassuring that even in my inner struggles and trials of life, Jesus will keep holding onto me. This is a remarkable truth, especially considering during these times I may not be thinking and saying uplifting things about or to God.

Hear It Again
Jesus wants us to get this truth about “keeping us.” In the same chapter of John two verses following verse 36, this truth is repeated again using slightly different words. Jesus is driving this point home.

“And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I shall lose none of those He has given Me, but raise them up at the last day.” John 6:39

The term “lose none” implies keeping, protecting and guiding so that we do not perish but rather hold onto eternal life. This term brings up pictures of the story of the Father and his prodigal son, as well as the Good Shepherd guarding and leading His sheep.

John 6:39 brings out another encouraging truth about God and that is: it is God’s will, His preferred desire, His deliberate intention for us to be kept. This reveals the heart of God towards us that He wants us to be in a right relationship with Him. He sent His Son to be the atonement for our sins so that we can be in a right relationship with Him and then in that relationship He “holds onto us.”

Take a Spiritual Selfie
Meditate on these passages and study them out for yourself. Let the picture of what they say be engraved in your heart. Take a picture of Jesus with you as your “keeper.” What do you see?

The next time you are undergoing difficulty, hanging on the precipice of fear, and doubt; and wondering where God is – pull up this picture and let the truth behind it uphold you.