Category Archives: Truths for Life

Truths about God’s character as revealed in the Bible and how these truths can strengthen our faith and help us through life.

Leaning Into God – Magnifying God-5

Ankyloglossia is the Greek term for “stiff-tongue.” It is a medical condition that a person is born with and can affect their ability to take nourishment, as well as impact speech as a child develops.

At times when I try to express my thanksgiving and praise to God, I feel like I have a “stiff tongue.” So, as you know from previous blog posts, this January I began a journey to learn from the Word of God how to express my thanksgiving and praise to Him. I have invited you on this journey.

 Deeper Gleanings
The learning curve is high. I am discovering direction from God in His word for what to praise him and even what to say as we saw in Psalm 66:3. Here the Spirit literally tells us what to say.

  • Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! How great is your power that your enemies cringe before You.”

As the Spirit reveals in the Word the what and the how about expressing thanks to God, I am also learning about the Who.  I am seeing God, His character; who He is; how He thinks about me (us), and how He interacts with us.

Thank You for Your Faithfulness
In my search for how to more adequately express my thanks and praise to God I learn from David in Psalm 138:2 that he advocates thanking and praising God for His faithfulness.

  • “I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your unfailing love and your faithfulness.”

As we follow the psalmist’s lead and praise God for his faithfulness it opens a door for us the see God and to know Him as faithful to us.

Deuteronomy 7:9 makes a clear statement about the nature and character of God as being faithful.

  • “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.”

In Acts 2:38-39, we see the fulfillment pf this promise unto us and generations after us.

  • Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off (generations to come), everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

Lean On Him
In Deuteronomy 7:9 God is identified as the faithful God. The word for faithful in that text is “aman” meaning confirming, supporting, reliable. The faithful one is the one who sustains, carries, nurtures, supports and builds up. The faithful one is trustworthy and can be leaned on. The faithful one is consistent in being true and right.

God, as the Faithful One is consistent in daily applying His love, mercy grace and care for us. In Lamentations 3:22-23, Jeremiah describes this faithfulness as emanating from God’s devotion to us.

  • “Because of the loving devotion of the LORD we are not consumed, for His mercies never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!”

This truth about the faithful nature of God sounds a resounding chord of hope within me. It assures me that God is faithful to be forgiving and merciful to me every day.

I can lean on this truth when that accusatory voice sounds within me, reciting all the ways I failed, all the ways I missed the mark. That voice that reverberates with echoes of “you are not worthy; you are not good enough; yet again you messed up.”  It is that voice shaded in darkness that we all hear.

But, knowing that God is faithful, that He is consistent in His love and grace to us and that I can lean on Him for support in my weakness leads me to life, hope and faith. That hope explodes in praise to God for His faithfulness to me.

Facets of Faithfulness
There are many ways that God is faithful to us. As a meditation exercise, read the verses below. Let them speak to you and help connect with God’s faithfulness in your life.

God’s faithfulness is a protection.

  • “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Ps. 91:4

God’s faithfulness is eternal.

  • “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and bless His name. For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” Ps. 100:4-5

God’s work is done in faithfulness.

  • “For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. 33:4”

We see God is faithful in His work of salvation to us . This truth of God’s devoted faithfulness is attested to in 1 Corinthians 1:8-9.

  • He will sustain you to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”

The Faithful One is with us in the hard times.

When I am going through hard times it is difficult for me to see God’s faithfulness. Sometimes, in the fog of hurt and pain, I have to hold onto the truth of the scripture by making a choice to believe He is there. There are many promises of God’s faithfulness to us. Here are a few, add some of your favorite ones.

  • “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
  • “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.” Ps. 46:1
  • “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear for You are with me.” Ps. 23:4

Look for Faithfulness
Sometimes the stress and difficulties of life obscure God’s faithfulness to me. It is easy for me to recall the most wondrous act of God’s faithfulness in fulfilling His promise to send His Son to save us and to draw us into His presence.

I can trace this persistent faithfulness of God through the Old Testament and New Testament and into my life today.  But seeing His faithfulness as I walk through the events and relationships of my daily life takes an intentional focus.

The other day I was struggling with being hurt by a relationship that I have. Even after various steps of reconciliation, difficulties remained. I began to focus on the hurt, my thoughts produced fear and lack of peace and trust in God.

I began to look for God’s faithfulness to me in this.  I prayed for God to comfort me, to renew my thinking and faith about how He was feeling about me. Later that day I was listening to a spiritual song and it was like God himself encouraging me, reminding me of His grace and love for me.

Also, later that day I received an email from the person who is mediating this difficulty. In this email she communicated her love and acceptance for me. These were glimpses of God’s faithfulness to me.

Be intentional about seeing God’s faithfulness in your life.

  • Pray and ask God to show you, to open your eyes to see His faithfulness and open your ears to hear it.
  • Find a scripture that speaks God’s faithfulness to you. Read it as you ask God to help you see how it connects to you.
  • Make a mental picture of you in this faithfulness scripture. Mine is Ps. 23:4. In that picture I see myself a lamb walking through a shadowy valley, but I am at the side of the Good Shepherd, leaning into His leg. He has His staff in His right hand and every now and then He puts His hand on my head or back to reassure me that He is there.
  • Take time to think about all the ways God has shown His faithfulness to you.
  • Write them down, and then thank God for each one.

Chosen by God: Journey to Magnify God – 4

Mary, the mother of Jesus, praised God for being “chosen” by God to give birth to the Son of God. Jesus, the Son of God lived within Mary’s womb for nine months. Amazing to think that the majestic God who is full of glory and splendor lived within that very small space of her womb (Phil. 2:6-7).

Mary was confused and full of fear. She wondered how could such a thing happen. The angel told her it would be through the Holy Spirit that this would happen.

In the days in which Mary lived this “choosing” by God brought difficulty and suffering, possible death. An unwed mother in those days brought much shame and reproach upon herself. In Matthew we read that even her betrothed, Joseph, doubted her innocence and resolved to divorce her quietly (Matthew 1:19-20).

Yet, Mary gave thanks and praise to God for this honor, not only the honor of bringing the long-awaited Messiah, the Savior, into the world; but also, the honor of having God, the Son of God, live in her.

“And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For He has looked with favor (grace) on the humble state of His servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me. Holy is His name. His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation…” Luke 1:46-50

Mary: Not the Only Chosen One
Like Mary, you and I have been and are being chosen to have the presence of God inside of us, and to grow into that presence.

God is very upfront in revealing this truth to us that God, the Spirit of God lives in us.

Peter revealed this truth in Acts 2:38. This was a truth for his generation and for all the generations of true believers to come after.

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise belongs to you and your children and to all who are far off (from generation to generation) —to all whom the Lord our God will call to Himself.” Acts 2:38-39

Other scriptures verify this truth:

  • “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”  2 Timothy 1:14
  • “. . . the Spirit of truth. The world cannot receive Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you do know Him, for He abides with you and will be in you.” John 14:7
  • “ But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans 8:11

These are deep truths.  Do I believe them? Will I hold unto them when the evidence of my own life contradicts them? Will I let them set me free?

Christ Growing in You
As Jesus grew inside the womb of Mary, so He is growing inside each believer.

As I give space to Jesus by dying to myself, Jesus’ nature and character are being formed within me and I am becoming more “one” with Him. Scriptures promise us this, John 17:20-23.

You may think if you knew me and how messed up I am, and even how very unlike Jesus I am; you would know how hard it is to believe this.

It is hard for me to believe this, especially when I look at myself and do not look at Jesus or the power of His Spirit to raise up and to give life. It is hard for me to believe when I try to fix or change myself and do not give myself over to the truth and the power of God’s Spirit.

When Mary was struggling with belief and trying to “reason it out” she asked the angel, “How can this be?” The angel answered her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and do this. (Luke 1:34-35)

God encourages us with the same words when we try to reason out how can this change happen. God says it is the Spirit who does this.

Meditate on these truths:

  • And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Cor. 3:18
  • But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. 2 Thessalonians 2:13
  • He saved us, not by the righteous deeds we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of new birth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This is the Spirit He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we would become heirs with the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:5-7
  • Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11

So then …
As you contemplate how to give thanks to God and how to formulate your words of praise to Him think about praising Him for “choosing to live inside of you.”

As you take time to praise God ,let the understanding of who God is, and what He is doing in you be magnified to you  – and reflect on these questions:

  • What does the story of Mary’s having been chosen and the scriptures of you being chosen to have God in you, say to you? What words describe your feelings about this?
  • How does this truth that “God lives in you” change your view of who you are and what your value is?
  • What are ways that you have seen Christ growing in you? List these and give thanks to God for this growth.

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.        1 Peter 2:9

Stand by Me (Magnifying God -3)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In You!

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “ Try not to become a man of success, but rather become a man/woman of value.”

Being a person of value is something we all seek at some level. Unlike Einstein I do not believe that I can create my own value, although that is something each one of us has endeavored to do.

God’s Truths Reveals Our Value
As a believer in God,  I am finding that the value I have comes from my connection with God. In fact, my identity and  my value come from God “in me.”

I have not always known this. In the past I have tried to create my own value  through attaining levels of education; seeking  titles and positions; and pursuing relationships /associations and things that make me feel valuable. I found that much of my value was dependent on other people’s  system of valuation.  I can still fall into this thinking from time to time.

As I walk with God and take in the truths of the scriptures, I see that God gives you and me true and lasting value by what He brings into us. 

God’s Love in You
The other day I was reading John  17:26 which is a part of the prayer Jesus prayed for his followers. In that prayer Jesus states that he has made God known to them so that God’s love will be in them, and so that Jesus, himself, will be in them. Romans 5: 5 repeats this truth.

  • “I have made You known to them, and will continue to make You known in order that the love You have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” John 17:26
  • “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” Romans 5:5

The scriptures tell us that God is love. Jesus is praying that as we know God, His love will be in us. Wow, talk about value.  God loves me, and his love lives in me.

It is an astounding truth, even though I do not always feel God’s love or act like his love is in me, that feeling does not negate the truth of God’s love being in me. God’s love in me is value!

God’s Glory in You
Again, in the prayer of Jesus that is recorded in John 17, we see a truth about the amazing value God places in us. In this prayer Jesus refers to God’s glory being in us.

  • The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and You in Me—that they may be perfectly united, so that the world may know that You sent Me and have loved them just as You have loved Me”
    John 17:22-23

We see the same truth in Romans 8:29-30, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”

The glory of God is in the believer through Jesus Christ. The concept of the “glory of God” is complex and has several meanings,  but in basic terms, in this verse, it refers to  the divine nature. The divine nature of God is in us through Jesus in us.

2 Peter 1: 3-4  further explains this glory in us.

  • “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. Through these He has given us His precious and magnificent promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, now that you have escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”

In John 1:12-13,  Jesus reveals that through our faith in Him we become true children of God, born of God.  God’s spiritual DNA , so to speak, is in us, and as it unfolds in my life I am participating in God’s divine nature.

On my worst day when I am feeling like a total failure, with no splendor and  very little value I turn to this truth. The truth of “ God’s glory in me” contradicts that feeling. That is value!

God’s Light in You
God places His Light in us. This truth is revealed in 2 Corinthians 4:6

  • “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

This verse connects with those written above and solidifies the concept of God’s glory in us through Jesus in us. Light is a beautiful thing; without it our lives would be very challenged.

As one who is slowly losing my physical eyesight, I am learning to value light and the clarity it provides, but spiritual light is even more vital.

The truth that God’s light is in me is astounding. I cannot even say I really understand it. But on those days when my thinking  and vision of myself is dimmed by shadowy accusations, guilt or misperceptions, I am glad for God’s light in me that leads me, that removes the shadows and illuminates truth. I hold on to that truth.

Reflections
There is much to say about the value God places in us through Jesus and the Spirit of God in us.
At the moment, these few scriptures are rich with truth and can provide hours of meditation, prayer and deeper study.

What I love about these truths is that I don’t have to construct or conjure up my own value. I don’t have to toot my horn and draw attention to myself or my achievements to show people I have value. I don’t have to meet the ever-changing standards of people in order to have value.

Even on my best day, I cannot make my own value.  Trying to construct my own meaning and value is wearisome. It is chasing after the wind. God loves me and puts true value in me.

I encourage you to study the truth about God in you.  Let it redefine who you are and give you a true sense of your value and where it comes from.

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

God’s Love Is in the Details

When I first learned that God loves me and wants to be in a relationship with me, I was astounded! This closeness to God is what I have been searching and longing for all my life.

In those first days, weeks, months, even years of my walk with God, I was able to clearly see His love in Jesus the Savior. However, as I have moved along in my walk with God, I find that there are times when I do not have this clear sight of God’s love. Maybe this happens to you too.

Different trials and challenging events, such as: the slights and hurts received from others; disappointment at my own weaknesses and failures; chronic illness, and the weariness of the daily spiritual battle can blur or block out my ability to see God’s love. In times like this, I search for truths to hold onto.

I believe the Spirit has preserved, in the scriptures, various accounts of interactions between God and people. These interactions give us insight into God’s thinking and how he relates to us. One such story that has helped me recently is  the story of God and Elijah in 1 Kings 18 and 19.

God in the Low Points
In 1Kings 18 and 19, I read an account of God interacting with love at a low point in the prophet Elijah’s life. Reading this interaction reminded me to look more closely for God’s love in the details of my life.

This story prompts me to change my focus in difficult or challenging times, and  make a deliberate effort to see God in times when I have: “messed up;” am hurting, being hurt or failing; in times of frustration and anger; defeat and giving up.

Sadly, I am often late in associating God’s love with these times because I am so focused on the problem or my failure to respond the way I think a believer should.  From the story of Elijah, I see that it is exactly in those times of hurt and challenge that God is bringing His love to me.

Elijah and Us
The Bible tells us that this man, Elijah, was just like us. You say, “No, he was a man of God. He was a prophet. He did great deeds of faith.”  Yet, when James talks of Elijah, he says Elijah is a person who is like us. Elijah believed in God, like you and me. He prayed fervent prayers, like you and me. He serves God, like you and me. He helped others grow in their faith in God, like you and me. As believers in God and Jesus, we do these very things.

  • “Elijah was a person just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again, he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth yielded its crops.” James 5:17-18

This is a truth, revealed by God, that Elijah is a person just like you and me. Therefore, we can learn from God’s interaction with Elijah.

Background to the Story
Here is a quick overview of 1 Kings 18-19, but I encourage you to read it.

  1. The people of God were unfaithful to God.
  2. God worked through Elijah to call the people back to Him.
  3. In faith Elijah sets up a contest between God and the Baal worshipers. Both groups prepared a sacrifice to their god. The God who answers their prayers by lighting the sacrifice, is the true God.
  4. Yahweh, the God of Israel lit the sacrifice with a bolt of fire from the heavens. It burned  up the sacrifice, and the altar. (1 Kings 18: 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”)
  5. Elijah then got down on his knees and prayed for the rain to return, and it did. (1 Kings 18:44-45)
  6. Jezebel, King Ahab’s wife, heard all that happened, and she threatened to kill Elijah.
    (1 Kings 19:2: “… by his time tomorrow” Jezebel says she will take Elijah’s life as he did the prophets of Baal).

Elijah’s Response to A Threatening Situation
Upon hearing Jezebel’s threat, Elijah became full of fear and anxiety. After having been partners with God, that very day, in an amazing display of God’s power, and love for the people, one would think Elijah would have trusted God to deal with Jezebel.

In facing the reality of the threat, Elijah gave in to fear and anxiety, and he ran away. Fear clouded Elijah’s thinking and blocked his faith. He turned inward and despaired. In fact, he gave up and wanted to die.

  • 1 Kings 19:3-5 describes Elijah’s state: “ Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. . . . He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.”

Elijah’s fear blocked out his ability to trust God. He turned inward, withdrew, and wanted to die. His thinking became distorted, believing he was the only faithful one left to take a stand for God.

God’s Loving Response to Elijah
One would think that God would be angry at Elijah’s fear and inability to trust God in this challenge. But, God did not get angry. He did not punish Elijah. God did not make a point of telling Elijah that he was messing up, failing to meet his expectations. Instead, God shows his love in the details of caring for Elijah.

In 1 Kings 19:5-9, we read of God’s compassionate and loving response to Elijah.

  1. God restores. God provided for Elijah to lay down and rest, and he gave Elijah food to strengthen him (1 Kings 19: 5).
  2. God comforts and supports. God sent an angel to minister to Elijah. The angel gently touched Elijah and directed him to eat and sleep. (1 Kings 19:5b-7).
  3. God speaks truth. God lovingly corrected  Elijah’s distorted perspective of things. God told Elijah that he was not alone, that God had reserved 7,000 people who have not bowed to Baal. So, Elijah had access to the fellowship of faithful people to encourage and support him. (1 Kings 19:18)
  4. God has a plan and a purpose. God continued to trust Elijah even when Elijah did not trust Him. God gave Elijah a mission: to anoint a king in Aram and a king in Israel, and then to anoint Elisha to be his predecessor. (1 Kings 19:15-18)

 Look for the Details of God’s Love
Elijah’s response has some elements of familiarity. I can see the pattern of his response threaded in some of my responses to trials and challenges. I can slip from faith to fear, or usually from faith to insecurity, and then turn inward and withdraw; but, meditating on this story in 1 Kings 18-19 reveals to me that God is there in the details.

We are like Elijah and God is the same to us as He was to Elijah. From the relationship of God and Elijah I am learning to ask myself these questions during the challenging times.

  • How is God restoring and comforting me?
  • What angel did God send into my life to help me?
  • What truth is God telling me about Himself, or myself?
  • What purpose or plan of God’s do I see? How did /will God use me?

Exploring Friendship with God- 2: Blood Brother

Two young girls sat on the back porch. They pricked their fingers with a pin and cemented their friendship with their blood in hopes of becoming closer.  It was an act to solidify their friendship and create a deeper bond.

As we explore the idea of “friendship with God,” we will see that the foundation of our relationship with God is the blood of his Son, Jesus. It is that blood which enables us to come into God’s presences and have a deep relationship with Him.

A Little Review
The concept of a friendship with God first caught our eye in the story of Abraham, not because Abraham was the first friend of God, but because Abraham was the first person that the scriptures actually say was a “friend of God.”

In the previous article, “Exploring Friendship with God – Part 1I,” we looked at the three scriptures that literally say that God considered Abraham his friend.

  • 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

The word for friend in 2 Chron.20:7 and Is.41:8 is “ ’ahab” and it means to desire, to breathe after- to long for, therefore,  implying a very deep and personal aspect of friendship that goes beyond the idea of companionship and takes into the realm of a deeply personal, intimate relationship. A relationship that involves sharing of inner thoughts and feelings leading to a “heart” knowledge of one another.

As we looked at several scriptures where the word “ ’ahab” was used, and we saw characteristics of God as a friend.

  • A friend of God is loved, beloved, and 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. God 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 (us). God deems me (us) trustworthy of that confidentiality.

Really?
When I first heard someone talk about being “friends with God,” I thought this is preposterous. I was sitting in a co-worker’s living room. The people gathered there were freely sharing about their relationship with God. They made it sound as though they had some kind of special connection with God, an intimate relationship. I was shocked to hear people describing their experience with God as if he was their most adoring friend and closest confidant, but secretly I wanted that.

Yes, It’s True!
These claims of a close, personal friendship with God seemed far-fetched, but the more I read the scriptures the more insight I gained to this “friendship with God.”

Psalm 25:14 is a verse that clearly states  friendship with God is available to us. When we look closely at the word some scholars translate as “friendship” we will see it is no ordinary friendship but a mutual deeply intimate sharing of love and heart.

Look carefully at the rendering of the Hebrew word  ס֣וֹדcowd or sode” in the following versions of Psalm 25:14.

  • The friendship (cowd) of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. ESV
  • The LORD confides (cowd) in those who fear Him, and reveals His covenant to them. BSB
  • The secret (cowd) of the LORD is for those who fear Him, And He will make them know His covenant. NASB
  • The intimate counsel (cowd) of the LORD is for those who fear him so they may know his covenant. ISV

The word “cowd” comes from a primitive root meaning couch, a cushion, a triclinium, or a divan. It is a place where friends gather to share intimate conversation. It is, so to speak, the symbol of friends sitting together conversing, sharing the deep thoughts of their hearts. It extends to consulting with, counseling, and familiar conversation. The personal sharing of hearts. Each version above connotes this meaning. (See other passages indicating friendship with God: Proverbs 3:32; Job 29:4; 2 Chronicles 20:7; John 15:15; 1 Corinthians 1:9).

Also note, that the second part of each verse above makes a point to state that this close relationship leads to deep inner knowing of the heart and will of the other, in this case God.

Throughout the gospels we see Jesus in familiar conversations with his followers. At the Passover supper before Jesus’ death, we can picture him sitting on a divan or triclinium eating and talking with his friends, actually sharing deep things on his heart such as his upcoming death, the covenant of his blood, and even his betrayer.

The Basis Is Blood
I thought the people in my friend’s living room who were freely talking about their friendship with God seemed odd, and it was definitely foreign to me, but I wanted that. I wondered what would I need to do to have such a personal friendship with God.

As I began to study the scriptures, I realized that God opened the door for me to come near to him through the blood of Jesus.  And, what is more I did not have to stick my finger with a pin, feel pain and bleed in order to achieve a true and lasting relationship with God. It is Jesus who suffered and bled to bring me into the presence of God.

There are many passages in the Bible that explain the truth about the atoning blood of Jesus.
I isolated this timeless truth from a few passages. As I read and consider this truth in each passage, they reaffirm my belief and understanding of the basis for a friendship with God.

  • 1 Peter 1:18-19 – “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”
  • Hebrews 10:9 – He (Jesus) did not enter (the presence of God) by the blood of goats and calves, but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, thus securing eternal redemption.
  • Hebrews 10:19 –“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus…”
  • Romans 3:23-25a – “. . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.” (See: Romans 3:19-26)
  • 1: 19-20 – “For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him (Jesus), and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through the blood of His cross.” (BSB) (See: Col. 1:18-23)

Reflections
The blood of Jesus is the foundation of our relationship with God. This thought is very reassuring to my faith. It is a clear and specific truth that shows us the extent of God’s longing for you and me to be His friend.

This truth brings a sense of relief and peace to me, in that I don’t have to be perfect, or sinless to come close to God. The blood sacrifice of Jesus makes me blameless and able to confidently approach God. I am not relying on myself, my knowledge, my achievements, or my personal righteousness, but I am relying on the blood sacrifice of Jesus.

This truth is especially reassuring to me as I walk under the shadow of death in this pandemic, I rest confidently on the blood of Jesus and know that He has secured for me an eternal friendship with God no matter what happens.

Exploring Friendship with God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Star of Wonder, Star of Light

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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