Category Archives: Word Studies

Studies from the Word of God involving specific words and phrases.

Forget God!?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bible Bytes: God: Awake, Alert and Oriented

God Awakens to Help Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chew and Know 2: Blessings of Rumination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are how various versions translate this passage:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chew and Know

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God’s Facebook Page

If God had a Facebook page imagine His Time Line and His photos!
I read an article in Reader’s Digest recently that talked about how people are obsessed with documenting their life through technology and on social media.

Entries on Facebook alone are an indication of this obsession. We see pictures, even videos, of major life events, as well as minutia in our life even down to pictures of food we are eating.

Remembering and Relationship
Recording memories about our life and the people in our life is a good thing. Remembering has the ability to enhance our knowledge and appreciation of one another.  Looking back on a picture, or reading a journal entry can evoke a memory of a loving action, an encouraging word or a joy shared.

I remember many fun shopping trips with my mother. We would stop for a hot dog, or eat a sundae at the Woolworth’s lunch counter. At the time, it was just a lot of fun, but as I remember these times I see my mother’s generosity, her desire to be close to her children and to encourage them. So in that remembrance I come to know more about her character and heart.

Remembering people and events is a dimension of our relationship with them. Remembering can revive our feelings for people, but also can deepen our knowledge and understanding of them.

Think on some of your favorite memories. As you bring that person and event to mind ask yourself what do I now know about this person that I did not see before?

God Calls Us to Remember
God cherishes the act of remembering because He knows it will deepen our relationship with Him. There are places in scripture where God specifically commands His people to remember Him, His deeds, and His covenant.

Deuteronomy 7:18-But do not be afraid of them; remember well what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt. You saw with your own eyes the great trials, the signs and wonders, the mighty hand  and outstretched arm, with which the Lord your God brought you out. The Lord your God will do the same to all the peoples you now fear.

Exodus 13:3- Moses said to the people, “Remember this day, the day you left Egypt. You were slaves in that land. The Lord with his great power brought you out of it.

1 Chronicles 16:12, 15 – “Remember His wonderful deeds which He has done, His marvels and the judgments from His mouth. . . Remember His covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations.”

Luke 22:19b -20 – “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

Prepared for Memories
God prepared memorials for Israel to remember Him in order to remain close to Him. Among these God established memorials are: the Ark of the Covenant with the manna, the rod and the stone tables of the law; the Passover meal, and the 12 stones from the Jordan River. Each memorial brings to mind God’s love, power and faithfulness. Each one documents God’s relationship with His people. I believe these are some of the posts we would see on God’s Facebook page.

In the New Testament era we have the testimonies of the miracles and events of the life of Jesus as documented in the Gospels, as well as the remembrance of the Lord’s Supper. The bread and wine are visual reminders of His death, burial and resurrection, documenting God’s love for us.

Remember and Act
Remembering is not just recall. Zakar is the Hebrew transliteration of the word “remember.” It does not merely mean to recall a fact, detail or an event to mind. It calls upon us to use mind, hands, feet, mouth etc., to engage in whatever action a memory requires.

The true concept of “remembering” involves the action that comes from the remembrance. For example, zakar is used in Genesis 30:22 in reference to God and Rachel: “God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.” The specific action of God in remembering was to listen to Rachel’s prayer and open her womb.

In Psalm 77, the psalmist remembers the wondrous deeds of God and this remembrance encourages his faith. He writes of feeling forgotten and unloved by God (verses 7-8). Things are not going well and he is wondering if God is angry with him (verse9). I can relate to those feelings.

The psalmist reaches out for help by remembering about God. “Then I thought…I will remember the deeds, miracles and works” of the Lord (v.11). This remembering strengthens the psalmist’s faith and leads to the action of praising God.
“Your ways are holy. What god is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.” Psalm 77:13-14

I have tried “remembering the wondrous deeds of God” when I am feeling discouraged and despaired. I have learned that I cannot remember the great deeds of God from His Word, or that He has done in my life, without it restoring my faith.

God and You
Think through some of the wondrous deeds of God that you read about in the scriptures, what do they inspire in you?

If you were on God’s Facebook page, what are some of the photos or videos of God and you that He would have posted? Think about the wondrous things God has done in your life. What actions of faith do His deeds move you to?

Treasures Within

I grew up in a region of our country where anthracite coal beds formed, because of this there were many different types of rocks around the area.

As a young girl one of my favorite places to go was the community pool and playground because rising up around this area were step-like hills with trees and wildflowers on them. I would love to climb and play on these hills. It was here that I found many “rock treasures.” Among these were: sparkling rocks glittery on the outside; some with quartz crystals attached; some thin and clear like with layers like mica; some striated orange and gray. Of course I found the expected, shale and slate. I always felt like I was finding treasure.

The most amazing find was a small, ordinary looking rock that when cracked open it had beautiful crystal structures inside it. I later found out those rocks are called geodes.

Empty Spaces Transformed
According to an article I read, geodes are rocks that have an empty space inside them.  As it rains or as various water sources flow through pores on the rock to the inside, over time, crystals from the various minerals in the water form and transform the rock into a beautiful and valuable gem.
Purple GeodeDifferent elements can affect the color of the crystal. For example trace elements of manganese can cause a pink crystal, while iron can cause purple. Heat is another factor of change. Heat can cause the purple crystal to turn to yellow or citrine. Geodes are a beautiful works of God.

Treasures Within
Geodes remind me of how God transforms us. In a sense we are God’s true geodes who reflect His glory and His image. God takes my empty soul,my rocky hard heart, my fleshly self and transforms me into His radiance. Consider these truths about what God is doing in us.

Transforming
2 Cor. 3:18 tells us that God is transforming us from our fleshly self into His image, into the image of His character and glory. The word transform (metamorphoó) means to change into another form. So God is working in us to change our inner fleshly nature into the essence of His character that we would have the same excellence that shines in Christ.

 “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who
is the Spirit.”  2 Cor. 3:18 (ESV)

Conforming
In Romans 8:29 we read the truth that God is conforming us to the image of His Son.
The word conform (symmorphos) implies a changing to make similar to or the same as. We are being changed from the inside, much like the geode, to be like Jesus. We are being fashioned into the likeness of Jesus character.

 “For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.”Romans 8:29

Filling
We are self oriented. We are fleshly and prone to follow our fleshly nature. God changes, transforms and conforms us to His image. God fills us with His Spirit, with His nature with His fullness.  This is astounding but it is true. This truth is reflected in several places in scripture.

In Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians he points to this truth in verse 19.
“… so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”  Ephesians 3:17-19

In Ephesians 4:13, Paul points to the truth that the whole church, the body of Christ, is being brought to be the fullness of Jesus. So even in the church with all our different strengths, weaknesses, agreements and disagreements, the goal of God our Father is to bring the church into the fullness of Jesus.

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4: 11-13

Christ in You
These truths deserve more intense study, deep consideration and prayer as to what they mean to us. They express God’s true intention towards us. In closing, consider this:

“. . . the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 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.” Colossians 1:26-27

Thrive in Hope

Thrive in Hope
Recently I read a true story of a man who was trapped in the North Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11/01. It was almost too late by the time he and some colleagues knew what was happening and decided to get out. They made it to the 22nd floor when the building began to collapse down on them. He huddled down in a corner on the landing as the walls ripped apart around him. He thought of his wife and that he would never see his unborn daughter whom they had named Hope.

The last thing he felt was a blast of hot air coming down on him as the walls tore apart. As he was swept forward through thick debris, smoke, and dust, he saw patches of light, patches of hope. He woke up on top of a small chunk of the stairwell landing on top of a 7 story high pile of debris, alive looking up at blue sky. All others in that stairwell perished.

They call this man the 9/11/01 surfer, because he seemed to have ridden a wave of air out of certain death into life and Hope.

Hope and Associates
Hope is a beautiful word. It radiates life, light, joy, peace and promise of good to come. The Bible has much to say about hope.

In the Old Testament there are several words used for hope. In general it means confident expectation of good to be experienced. It often carries with it associations with of waiting, anticipating, looking forward to, and trusting in.

In Psalm 25:5, “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long;” the word hope carries with it the idea of constant waiting in expectation for God’s acting in our life.

In Psalm 33:18, “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in His steadfast love;” the word hope has the idea of tarrying, waiting, remaining, abiding with expectations of God’s love.

Hope is a confident expectation. The expectation is so certain that it leads to praising God for its fulfillment, sometimes even before it is fulfilled. Psalm 71:14 expresses this thought; “But I will hope continually and will praise You yet more and more.”

In Psalm 71:5, we see that hope and trust are used in conjunction with each other: “For You, O Lord, are my Hope, my Trust, O Lord, from my youth.” Faith is at the heart of hope.

A New Testament, a New Language, a Same Hope
In the New Testament the concept of hope permeates the story of Jesus and the epistles. It is stronger in that the reason for hope, the author and fulfillment of all hope is a reality in our world.

The Greek word “elpis” is most often used for hope and it means a confident expectation of good; a joyous and confident expectation of salvation in every sense and eternal life.

Jesus Is Our Hope
Hope is the foundation to our relationship with God. Hope is Jesus Christ, Himself.

In Col. 1:27, Paul leaves no doubt as to who our hope is: “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.”

This hope is based on the resurrection power of Jesus: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” 1 Peter 1:3.  Hope is living and breathing.  It is God in Jesus Christ – “Waiting for our blessed Hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” Titus 2:13.

Why This Hope?
The very nature and character of God transmits hope. God is faithful, steadfast, true, righteous, loving, wise and all powerful. He always loves and works on our behalf. Let’s review God in action – Hope.
Hope is:

  • Jesus reaching out and touching the leper before he was healed (Mt.8:3). This gives me hope that he will touch me, all spotted, marred and deformed by sin, and make me clean.
  • Jesus calling the blind man to come to Him while everyone else tried to hush him (Mk. 10:46-52). This gives me confident expectation that He will hear me though other voices try to tell me He doesn’t, and that He will open my eyes to Him.
  • Jesus feeding 5,000 people from five loaves and two fish, while the apostles are counting their change and wondering how can we buy for so many and how can we get it here (Mk. 6:32-44). This inspires me to trust that God will supply all my needs and that He will feed me His Bread from Heaven and cause me to thrive, (John 6:51).
  • Jesus allowing a desperate woman to touch His garment as He passes through a crowd. He allowed power to go from His body to heal her, while others are annoyed that He asked who touched me, (Luke 8:43-48). This gives me confidence to know that in the busy-ness of life and the press of many needs, Jesus will take time to touch my life. His power will lift me up and purify me so I can stand before Him.
  • Jesus standing outside the tomb of His friend, Lazarus when all hope for life is gone. People are standing around grieving wondering why didn’t you come and heal him before the finality of death, as Jesus called His friend out of death to life. (Jn. 11: 30-44). Jesus has the power to call us out of the death of sin and give us new life. If you know your “self” and your sin, you know this is true hope.

Hope – the Anchor for Our Soul
My hope to live and thrive in this life is not contingent upon my knowledge, skills, looks, health, achievement or heritage, though I often try to make it that. My hope is in the living Son of God, Jesus.

Jesus was the very sacrifice with which He entered into the presence of God for me.  It is through His atoning work that I have hope. (Hebrews 6:19-20b – “We have this hope as an anchor for our lives, safe and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. Jesus has entered there on our behalf as a forerunner…”).

No matter how battered we are by life, we have hope. No matter how many waves we ride through life’s trouble, we have hope. No matter how often we sit on the debris of our life, hope abides. No matter how low or discouraged we are, we have access to thriving in the middle of it all through our faith in God and in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Hope of glory.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him,
so that you may overflow (thrive) with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13

God Makes All Things New

Alfred Tennyson said. “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come. . .”  What a word picture! Do you stand at the brink of this new year wishing all things could be new for you, looking with hope towards this new year?

It is true, many people celebrate the New Year with a sigh of relief concerning things difficult, painful and troublesome that occurred in the old year with an expectation of better things to come in the New Year. Each New Year brings with it the promise of a fresh start, and new blessings.

God is a fan of “new!”
New means something that is just brought into existence, or something that is different from the old, or former things.

The term “new” is used approximately 131 times in the Old Testament and 54 times in the New Testament. God talks about all types of new things: a new name (Is. 62:2; Rev.2:17); a new song (Is. 42:10; Ps. 40:3); a new covenant (Jer. 31:31; 1 Cor. 11:25); a new commandment (John 13:34); a new birth (1 Peter 1:3); a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26); a new man (2 Cor. 5:17); a new life (Rom. 6:4); a new attitude, and a new self (Eph. 4:23-24).

The thought of ushering in a new year with God holds promise for real change.

Re-think Resolutions
All newness begins in God, because it is He who makes all things new (Rev. 21:5), including you and me.

Most people approach the New Year with the thought of change; of some-how making things different, better or new. Many people make resolutions – a list of things they want/need to change; things they want to add to their life; things they want to re-new or re-do.

A resolution is a resolve, a firm decision to do something that you were not doing.  A resolution is a statement, a plan for change.

Is there anything you need to change, or want to change? (Maybe you want to change an attitude about life, or about someone; a habit that is harmful to your physical or mental health; a pattern of hurtful interactions within your relationships; a mindset of being critical and negative; a prideful or self-sufficient spirit; or _______________ (you fill it in).

A Resolution by Any Other Name Is…
Believe it or not, changing our mind or renewing our mind is repentance! In the New Testament of the Bible, repent comes from the Greek word metanoia which means a change of mind; a change in the inner man; a change of thinking and of purpose. In the Old Testament repentance is the concept of turning to God and away from sinful ways.

Repentance involves a turning away from our “selves” and our ways, and a turning to God.

Acts 17:30 describes repentance in a very clear way:
“God overlooked the times when people didn’t know any better. But now He commands everyone everywhere to turn to Him and change the way they think and act.”

Repentance is a word that some modern thinkers find repugnant or old fashioned. Yet to change how we think and act is the very definition of repentance.

The New Year is a time when we think of change. Resolutions are resolves and plans to repent and change.

Renewal Begins in Our Mind
In truth, God calls us to change all the time. God is all about change.

In Romans 12:2, God speaks to us about change and renewal:
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed (changed) by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

In other words, do not remain molded to your old, ineffective ways of thinking about your life and then acting, but allow your way of thinking to be changed.

Part B of this verse indicates that the renewing of our mind involves the will of God. It involves learning how to think about life and our selves the way God sees us; the way God wants.

Renewing our mind in this manner involves the Word of God. God’s will is in His Word, the Bible. Make a resolve to read the Word of God every day, so that you can know the will of God and begin to change, to have your “self” and your life transformed.

Change Is Refreshing
As we read through to the end of this verse we see that such a renewing by changing our mind produces something good and pleasing. Isn’t this the main idea of why we want to change certain things in ourselves and our lives?

Such change or repentance leads to inner peace, contentment, strength and refreshing, that comes from the presence of God in our life as indicated in Acts 3:19.

“Now change your mind and attitude to God and turn to Him so He can cleanse away your sins and send you wonderful times of refreshment from the presence of the Lord.”

God, Our Power to Change
There have been years I have made resolutions concerning things I wanted to change and things I needed to change, yet within 3 months of those resolutions I gave up.

You may say well you didn’t have the right plan; or you did not persevere; or you did not have the encouragement from others to change. Possibly all those are true, but the truth is I tried to do them in my own strength.

Change is hard. It is a process that occurs overtime. It does require perseverance, self-discipline and support from others; but, it also requires the acknowledgement of the active presence of God in our lives and the turning to Him. Turning away from our “self,” our thinking, and turning to God is not a one-time event, it is a daily, even hourly, act of trust and reliance on God, His love and His power.

God is the champion of change and He provides what we need to change.

2 Corinthians 3:18 clearly describes this process:
“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.”

The English Standard version of this verse indicates that with the help of God we are being changed to be like Him, to have His heart and His character degree by degree. This is a truth.

The fact is that God is working in me, that I am not left to make these changes on my own, and, that I am not expected to change overnight, gives me hope. God’s life giving and life changing power are working with me, in me and for me.

So, I urge you to re-think your resolutions this year. Bring God into your resolutions! Renew your mind, and turn to God to be transformed. Remember these changes are a part of our walk with God. We may fail at times, but He will not fail us.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness”  Lamentations 3:22-23
******

P.S. A friend of mine recently published a book about chances for change. The title of this book is “Every Day Is A New Chance” by Jeanie Shaw. It is published by Illumination Publishers.

 

 

Playing Ball With God

According to statistics listed by ESPN, Johnny Bench was the all-time best catcher in the history of MLB, and according to Bleacher Report, Roy Karkovice was the best all time defensive catcher in the history of MLB. I am sure there are those who would debate this. However, I want to go on record as saying I have found the best “catcher” of all, both defensive and offensive, His name is Jehovah, the God of heaven and earth.

Play Ball!
This morning I played ball with God. Yes, I did. I was the pitcher, He the catcher. This may sound crazy, but God invites us to do this.

1 Peter 5:7 says “Cast your anxieties on Him because He cares for you.” The word “cast” in New Testament Greek means throw.  So basically it is saying, “Throw your anxieties on God because He cares for you.”

Where did Peter get that idea? Most probably he heard it as he sat in the synagogue listening to the Hebrew scriptures.

David used this expression and set up this concept of throwing things to God in  Psalm 55:22. He writes: Cast your burdens on the Lord, He will sustain you…”

The lexicon provides a detailed description of this Hebrew word, “cast’” defining it with several synonyms: hurl, fling, and throw. Each word draws out a different nuance of meaning.

Hurl implies a forceful throw, something with strength and determination behind it. Fling implies a quick, “I have to get help with this” toss. A “throw” may be done with more deliberation and focus.

Whatever way you throw your concerns, fears and troubles onto God, He is there to catch them. In fact He welcomes us to “cast,” and He is waiting to catch.

Trust the Catcher
Knowing that God invites me, even urges me to throw my cares on Him reassures me and gives me peace amid the questions, and troubles of my life. I know I can rely on God for help.

I need to know that there is someone more powerful and faithful than myself, or even than my best confidante.  Some of the times I need to remember this truth are when I am struggling in a relationship; dealing with things I see as unfair; overcoming a weakness; trying to grow in my faith; or, when I am challenged by situations or people that seem impossible.

I have found that when I look in God’s word for truths about the character of God, I am building  a foundation for my faith.  I more readily see God as the faithful Catcher. He can field any hard ball we throw at Him or unto Him.

There are truths about God in His Word that help me to trust that He will not only catch what I hurl unto Him, but that He will work with it. Here are a few truths about our Perfect Catcher that make me feel safe and stir my heart to trust Him.

God is Faithful in His Love
One of these truths is found in James 1:17.
“That every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights. Who does not change like shifting shadows.”  James 1:17

This verse states that God is good and as a result good things come to us from Him. It also states that God does not change. In other words He has had, and always has, good intentions towards me and He will not change His intent.

Ephesians 1: 4-5 makes this truth in James 1 very clear: “For He chose us in Him (Jesus) 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—.”

Before the foundation of the world, God looked down through time and He saw that I was not always going to trust Him, obey Him, or choose to do what was right. He saw times when I would be blind, ignorant, arrogant, and forge ahead in my own way and dishonor Him. Yet, even before all this came to be He planned to bring me close to Him, into His family, through His Son Jesus. To top it all off, it was His good pleasure to do this.

The cross was not an instrument of pleasure, yet it was God’s pleasure to give up His Son to the cross so I could be in “God’s good graces,” so to speak.

God Is Trust Worthy
I think of these truths and I know that God is faithful in His love and good intent towards me. When I feel overwhelmed by troubles in my life, it is not always my first response to cast my troubles on Him and trust that He will sustain me.

Sometimes my mind and heart are slow to do this. I have to push through my feelings and make a deliberate effort to recall truths like the one stated in Ephesians 1:4-5,  and then choose to believe it. Then, I can hurl my cares on Him with confident expectation of His care.

Studying the meaning of a small word like “cast;” seeing its history in the Old Testament through to the New Testament enriches my understanding of God and increases my faith. God relishes a relationship with us.

There are many other passages in God’s Word that show Him reaching out to us. I urge you to search out these passages and be encouraged by God’s good intent towards you.

Portraits of God

The book of Psalms provides some of the clearest and most detailed pictures of God; who He is and how He interacts with man. David, the author of some of the Psalms, journals, so to speak, about his relationship with God. He exposes his fears, anxieties, hurts, disappointments, doubts and joys.

David’s Journaling: A Window to God
By journaling in such an authentic way, David not only unfolds his feelings during the events of his life, but he opens up for us a window to look into an intimate relationship with God. David pens his life and relationship with God in such a way that we, the readers in the 21st century, can relate not only to his feelings but also to the awesome God he tells about in his writings.

Word Pictures by David
In the Psalms we find many word pictures which reveal God. These pictures are actual truths about God. As we understand these pictures we can have a more personal relationship with God because we see Him more clearly.

Psalm 18:2 provides an excellent example of such word pictures. There are several word pictures clustered in this verse. Each word describing God stands alone in its’ meaning but also is connected in meaning with the other word pictures.

“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Ps. 18:2

God is My Rock
In Psalm 18:2, David refers to God as his rock. Rock is used by David twice in this one verse. In the expression “The LORD is my rock,” the term rock emphasizes the qualities of a large, lofty, craggy rock such as the rock wall of a cliff, producing an enduring, safe place – a place hard to reach and difficult to destroy. It is the same word that is used in Numbers 24: 21 describing the enduring dwelling place of the Kenites in the rocky cliffs: “And he looked at the Kenite, and took up his discourse and said, “your dwelling place is enduring and your nest is set in the cliff.”

The second term for “rock” used in the phrase “my God, my rock,” has a similar meaning but is associated with the strength, protection, and stability that a rock or rock structure can provide. We see this definition illustrated in Exodus 33:21-22 when the scripture describes a cleft within a rock wall of a mountain. According the scripture God placed Moses inside this cleft in the rock so that Moses would be safe as the glory of god passed by him.

“Rock” is used often to describe God in the Psalms, and is associated with a place of refuge; strength and safety in times of physical and spiritual troubles.

Ps. 32:1-2 illustrates these concepts: “In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me! Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!”

Ps. 62:2 says, “He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.”  This verse reveals a picture of God as a strong rock providing safety, stability and salvation when my world is shaken by trouble; be it a sudden severe illness; the death of a loved one; a financial loss; a marital rift; problems with children, or some other problem that threatens to undo me emotionally and spiritually. No matter how shaken up things get, no matter how shaky I get, God proves Himself as a solid rock on which I can stand.

Ps. 71:3 shows a God in whom we can live. He is a rock that is a place where we can live in times of trouble and return to as needed. He is a rock; fixed, immovable and reliable. God is the “stronghold solid as rock” in which I can live.

  • Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come; You have given commandment to save me, for You are my rock and my fortress.” Ps. 71:3 NASB

God is My Fortress
One of the word pictures David provides of God in Psalm 18:2 is a fortress. A fortress is defined as a mountain castle.  It is a stronghold against the enemy. Again it is providing a place of refuge, security and safety. I like the idea that God is my safe place, my fortress of peace in times of storms.

Ps. 144:2 paints a picture of a loving God who provides Himself as a fortress that is strong, that holds me fast, and delivers me from evil.

  • “He is my loving God and my fortress,my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.” Ps. 144;2

There are problems and evils in our world and in our own lives. Concerns about these problems can cause me to be fearful, insecure, and anxious. I believe other people feel these same concerns, especially the millennials of these times.

I believe the underlying fear and anxiety of the young millennials about good and evil in the world today is evidenced in their preoccupation with super heroes. These super heroes have super powers, vehicles, weapons and fortresses to combat evil. The scriptures tell me God is my fortress, my deliverer- hero.

God is My Deliverer
In Ps. 18:2 David calls God his deliverer. “Deliverer” refers to a way of escape; the one who brings me into security and safety; the one who rescues me.

In the New King James version, in Ps. 71:2 the word deliverer is actually translated “way of escape.”

  • “Deliver me in Your righteousness, and cause me to escape; incline Your ear to me,
    and save me.” Ps. 71:1-2

Other psalms and translations emphasize the concept of God as our rescuer or deliverer. In Ps. 40:17 David acknowledges his needy state and turns to God to deliver him.

  • “Since I am afflicted and needy, let the Lord be mindful of me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God.” Ps. 40:17

In verses 1 and 2, David talks about how God delivered him from the pit. At times, I have been in the pit of discouragement, depression, sadness, or loneliness concerning things in my life. Being able to see and understand God as my deliverer gives me hope in those times. Having this picture of God in my mind leads me to trust Him and seek His help rather than remain stuck in the pit.

God is My Shield
Shields are protections typically used during times of battle. “Shield” in Hebrew is a buckler, a defense, something like the scaly armor-like hide of the crocodile that is fashioned and held up in a way that protects a person from death. Often in the book of psalms God is described as a shield.

  • “But you, Lord, are a shield around me,my glory, the One who lifts my head high.: Ps. 3:3
  • “We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.” Ps. 33:20
  • “You are my hiding place and my shield;I hope in your word.” Ps. 119:114

In these verses we see God as placing Himself around us as a shield; lifting our heads in victory; a shield who is a help; and a shield behind which we can hide.

Describing God as a shield paints an amazing picture of who God is for us. Imagine being in a battle and God, himself steps in front of you as a shield and protection. He offers His body to receive the arrows, bullets or blows for you.

I believe that in the spiritual battles in life God is our shield daily, and most significantly He is this shield in Jesus the Christ, the Messiah: God incarnate offered Himself as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. He stood in our place. He is our shield against the enemy.

God is my Stronghold
The word translated “stronghold” is a different word from both fortress and refuge. It is a place of safety, a sanctuary, and a rock strong protection, but, it is different in that the word “misgav” focuses on the height to which we are removed to safety. It emphasizes a refuge that is up high; a high fortification.

A more appropriate word for stronghold is “high tower.” The King James Version of the Bible translates “misgav” as high tower, emphasizing not only its strength but the safety vantage of its height.

  • “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” Ps. 18:2

It seems that in describing God, David wanted to relate to us all the different aspects of security in the presence of God. Height has always been a vantage point in times of trouble. Most women when they encounter a mouse or a spider get up higher than the creature by climbing up on a chair. Likewise we see pictures of men climbing trees to escape a vicious dog or a bear. During floods we see people seeking safety on the roofs of their homes. So, we understand the concept of safety in a high place.

God lifts us up high to help keep us safe in times of trouble. The ultimate lifting from God is that those who believe in Jesus are even now seated with Him in the heavenly realms (Eph. 2:6-7).

  • “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,  in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” 2:6-7

Concluding Thoughts
It is important to note that God did not remove all troubles and difficulties in David’s life. “Bad things” happened because of choices people made, and even because of some of the choices David made. David was denied the God given position of King by a prideful and jealous man. David was the object of Saul’s murderous intent and was chased around the country side by Saul and his army for years. David’s son Absalom was so rebellious that he ran David out of town and then publicly disgraced David’s servants that were left behind. David was despised by his wife Michal. One of David’s sons died because of David’s sin. In all these things David interacted with God in a real way. He saw God’s presence and love during all these difficulties, and derived help and comfort from God.

The word pictures that David and other psalmists write are truths about the nature, character and heart of God; about His interactions with us, and of how we can think about and interact with God.

Many times these truths have provided for me stability, strength, endurance and a true sense of the presence of God in my life. I encourage you to read the Psalms and look for word pictures that make God come alive to you; pictures that cause you to marvel at the intimacy that He seeks with us.