Category Archives: Word Studies

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

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.

The God Who Stoops

I have a friend who has a habit of saying a certain phrase almost every time she prays publicly. It goes something like this: “Father God, I thank you that you stoop down to help me.” Or, she might say.” I thank you that you bend down to pay attention to me.”

I used to say in my head, “Stop that! Stop that! God is GOD. He does not stoop down. He is high and lifted up. He is the exalted, almighty God. He does not have to bend, stoop or lower Himself in any form.” Of course I never had the courage to say it, and I am grateful that I did not say it, because I have learned that it is true – God does make Himself lowly for us.

No matter how majestic and powerful God is, and He is, He is in all things a “humble” God! Maybe humility does not fit your profile of God, and I can understand why you think that, especially when you look at God’s creation power and intelligence; His mighty acts of leading Israel and fighting for them; healings; resurrections, and of course the power and love displayed in Jesus. His majesty and glory are impressed upon us when we read passages in scripture that describe what people saw when they saw God. Let’s look at a few of these.

God High and Lifted Up
Isaiah 6:1-5 records what Isaiah saw when he saw God: “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim, each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Such grandeur! The train of God’s robe flowed through the temple. I can’t imagine the heavenly beings. Even these beings covered their faces because of the glory of God. Isaiah was so blown away he said “I am lost,” which really means I am undone, ruined, destroyed, coming apart.

Ezekiel 1:1-28 records in great detail Ezekiel’s encounter with the living God. Let’s focus on verses 26 – 28; “…And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

Ezekiel recorded the majesty he saw: the appearance of sapphire; gleaming metal (maybe like shining gold); the appearance of fire; brightness all around; rays of light as a rainbow, and the glory of God.  Ezekiel’s only response was to fall down before this great God.

Another account of seeing into the throne room of God is in Revelation 4. Reading verses 4 through 6, John describes the glory he saw with descriptors like: the appearance of jasper and carnelian; a rainbow with the appearance of emerald; lightning peals of thunder and a crystal sea, all indicating majesty, splendor and shades of the glory of God!

God Comes Low
It is true God is more majestic and awesome than we can ever think or imagine, yet God is humble! The word “humble” is used to characterize God in Psalm 18:35.

“You have given me the shield of your salvation; your right hand upholds me,
and your humility exalts me.”

The Hebrew word anava is used in this passage and it means: a lowly mind; modesty; meekness; humility and condescension (in the sense of lowering oneself to do something for another such as in God bending down to help us, as my friend mentions in her prayers).

Ps. 113:5-6 echoes this thought of God making Himself low on our behalf: “Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth.” (NIV)

The New American Standard Bible uses the words “humbles Himself” instead of stoops. In this verse the word shaphel means: to become low; to abase oneself; to be humble. So the psalmist is saying that God, who sits enthroned on high, lowers Himself to look into the affairs on earth; to intervene in the lives of men and to work on our behalf.

Proofs of God’s Humility
If you think about it, there are numerous examples of God’s humility in the Bible. The most powerful is in Philippians 2:5-8 states Jesus “emptied Himself” and took the form of a man and became obedient unto death, even the most humiliating death of crucifixion.

But, I want to look at an example of God’s humility that actually preceded Jesus becoming a man and dying on our behalf. Let’s look deeper into Ephesians 1:4-5. It is just one short passage that I think displays God’s humility in a powerful way.

“Even before God made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” Eph. 1: 4-5 (NLT)

Before God created the world He, the majestic – all powerful God on high, deliberately made a plan to send Jesus into this world to die on our behalf in order to bring us into His presences as His sons and daughters.

God looked down through time and saw all the evil, the hate, the immorality, the deceit, the greed, the pride, and the selfishness of each one of us. He knew we would reject Him, ignore Him and worship ourselves over Him, yet in His great love, He humbled Himself and provided for our salvation. He sent His Son in the form of a man (in a body that could suffer, bleed and die) as the atonement for our sins. He lowered Himself to do all this so that we could come into His presence and have a relationship with Him.

God’s Humility and Us
As I walk in my relationship with the God , I see that He is constantly humbling Himself to work in my life. He is God and needs not to prove Himself to me, yet He proves His love and promises to me all the time. The God who is surrounded by heavenly hosts and angel armies takes time to know me and to support me in my daily struggles.

The God who is all knowing and is everywhere at once, listens to me and responds to my questions, and my calls for help. The God who created all things fixes my brokenness. The God of all power comforts me in my fears. The God of all purity and holiness understands my weakness and forgives me my sin. The God who has all rule and authority chooses to lift me up.

When I think about God’s humility it is too much to take in, nevertheless it is a truth about Him. I believe true humility is the off shoot of great love. This thought enhances my awe of God, and challenges my own sense of humility towards others.

Today, take some time to think about God’s humility in His relationship to you. If you cannot see it, ask God to open the eyes of your mind and your heart to see His great love which responds in humility to you.

Special Post:
At this time I would like to share a link with you. I have a friend who understands the majesty of God and who loves to thank God and praise God in song. She is making an album of praise songs. For more information on this check out the following link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1440539986/morgan-minsks-solo-album-praise

Get a Lawyer – Second Look III

The idea that I would need an attorney is a scary thought to me, because it means I broke the law and am going to be liable for some type of punishment unless I can prove my innocence. The closest I ever came to this was when I was attending graduate school in Abilene, Texas. I hopped in my car to go to a friend’s house and forgot my purse, in which was my wallet, in which was my driver’s license. Wouldn’t you know that on that day as I approached the campus there was a police car in the middle of the road with a police officer stopping all cars and checking driver licenses!

I confidently reached for my purse, which was not there, and immediately was filled with fear. To my relief, I did not get hauled off to jail, but I did receive a citation stating that by such and such a date I had to show up at the police station and prove I had a current driver’s license. I went on my way, relieved.

However, about a month later, I received a notice saying there was a warrant out on me and that I could be picked up at any time because I did not show proof of a driver’s license. (Just another thing I forgot)! I was instructed to report to the courthouse on said date. I immediately was filled with panic, fear and dread. I wasted no time, called an older friend and asked for help.

We both went to the courthouse. It was comforting to have someone by my side as I faced the judge. The friend who stayed by my side was there for moral support, so to speak. He did not do any pleading on my behalf.  It turned out that I did not have to go to jail or even pay a fine. I simply had to show the judge my valid driver’s license. Nevertheless, it was a frightening experience, which if I had been found guilty would have had a penalty to pay.

I Need a Defender
When I studied the scriptures to learn about Jesus and the salvation He offers.  I understood that Jesus took my sins on Himself, and that He paid the penalty for my sins which was death and separation from God.

However, after I believed and was baptized into Jesus (Gal. 3:27), I thought I was done with sin and that I would be sinless from that point on. So, when I did sin, I became fearful and anxious forgetting what God did for me in Jesus. Obviously, I was very naïve about my fleshly nature.

Since I came to Jesus I have overcome some sin tendencies, but I still sin. Infact, I have been a disciple for many years and through the years God has helped me to see sins I had committed that I never realized. This became a new source of anxiety. Have you ever felt that way or wondered about these things?

The thought of sinning bothers me, because I thought I would no longer sin and the scripture calls us to stop sinning. There are many verses in the New Testament that call us to live a holy life, such as Col. 3:4-7.

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.  Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.
You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.” Col. 3:5-7

I have since come to realize that putting off my old self and putting on and growing in Godly character is a lifelong process. But the problem of sin remains. So, what do I do with the sins I commit after I have come to Jesus? In 1 John, a letter written to 1st century believers, the Spirit reveals the truth about this dilemma and provides God’s solution.

Jesus Our Defense Attorney
Jesus is not only our Savior, but also He is our advocate as stated in 1 John 2:1.

 “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”1 John 2:1

The term in New Testament Greek for advocate is parakletos which is two words. Para means “alongside” and kaleo means “make a call”. It refers to coming alongside someone to give aid. This word is often used in the New Testament when the scripture refers to the Holy Spirit. However, in 1 John 2:1-2, it is specifically applied to Jesus.

In this verse the term advocate is used in a legal sense. It was used to indicate one who pleads a cause before a judge. Our equivalent today might be a “defense attorney.”

A defense attorney comes alongside a person to plead their cause before a judge. By using this word in describing Jesus, John paints a picture of Jesus as our legal representative coming along side us, in a spiritual sense, and pleading our case before the Father.

Jesus is in heaven, seated at the right hand of God presenting evidence to God on my behalf. The interesting thing is that Jesus’ advocacy is not a onetime thing, but rather it is a continuous process. The word “have” in the phrase “we have an advocate with the Father” is a present tense indicating a continuous action!

Jesus advocated for me on the cross and he continues to advocate for me. So, when I first came to believe in Him He presented my case to God, and He continues to advocate on my behalf as I walk along with Him. This is so reassuring to me, because I “mess up” a lot.

Jesus Is the Evidence
What evidence could Jesus possibly be presenting on my behalf since I know I am guilty of sinning, of going against the commands of Jesus? As a skilled defense attorney Jesus presents His evidence before God. The evidence that Jesus presents in not what I have done, but what He has done. All of His evidence on my behalf is based in His sacrifice, 1 john 2:1-2.

Article of Evidence#1: Jesus Became the Criminal
Jesus took my sins on Himself. In other words He became me and my sin. He gave up His status of being without blame, of being righteous or sinless. He took on my status as the transgressor, the law breaker, and He choose to give me His righteousness.

  • “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)

Article #2: Jesus Took My Punishment
He took my punishment of death on Himself and gave me life.

  • “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
  • “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” Hebrews 2:9

Article of Evidence #3: Jesus Made Restitution for My Sin
Jesus made up for my transgression by offering His blood to the Father. He met the requirement of the law by doing this.

  • “… He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” Hebrews 9:12

Article of Evidence #4: Jesus Wiped My Record Clean
Jesus cancelled out all the charges that were against me and He satisfied the requirement of the law in His sacrifice on the cross. So my “record,” so to speak, is clear and clean before God.

  • And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Col. 2:13-14)

Yes, these are some of the pieces of evidence that Jesus presents to the Father on my behalf. Maybe He says to the Father, “Father, this woman is innocent. I carried her sins on me. Actually, Father, I am the sinner. I already took the punishment and I offered to You my blood to make up for her sins. She is righteous and blameless, free to live life with You, Father.” I don’t know, maybe that is carrying things too far. I am not sure how Jesus advocates for us, but I believe 1 John 2:1-2 is true and presents reassurance for me and you.

The purpose of this article is not to say we can sin and it is ok, but rather, it is to magnify God and Jesus and what He has done for us on the cross and what He continues to do for us.  When I take sin lightly, it dishonors Jesus and makes a mockery of His sacrificial death.

The truth that Jesus is my advocate reminds me of Jesus’ steadfast love for me. It is reassuring to know that when I do sin and have a repentant heart, Jesus is talking to the Father for me. He is presenting His evidence and interceding for me. I can be at peace and rest in the sacrifice of
Jesus.

“Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.
Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Romans 8:33-34

 

Break Out

Have you ever seen someone who seemed to glow?  Everything about their face and movement radiated joy? The other day in the worship service of the church I saw a young woman who had this glow about her. She was standing next to her husband singing praises to God. Her arms were raised and her body moved slightly to the rhythm of the song and her face beamed out joy. Actually her face looked a little incandescent. Every now and then she would look at others with this light in her eyes and smile on her face as if she were saying, “Isn’t this great? Isn’t God good? How blessed we are!” Her appreciation for God bubbled up and out of her heart.

Let Your Joy Break Out
Recently, I saw a video clip on worshiping God that defined the Hebrew word “patsach” from Psalm 98:4 as it relates to worshiping God. The verse commands, “Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music.” Another translation says: “break forth into joyous song and sing praises!”

The speaker in this clip goes on to show a video of boiling lava inside a volcano. The picture shows lava roiling over and over and bubbling up and bursting up in splashes and spurts of fiery lava. He compared our hearts to this volcano.

My heart should be so full of truths about God, His power, His love, His faithfulness, His mercy, His holiness, and His grace, that my joy, thanksgiving, praise and awe for Him just breaks out of my heart, like it did for this young woman.

The Radiance from Being with God
As I saw this young woman praising God, several images from scripture flashed through my mind.

I thought of Moses and how his face reflected the light of God. Exodus 34: 29 describes it; “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD.”

Radiance comes from times of deep interaction with God. When I take time to read, study meditate on and take in the truths about God from His word, my heart becomes full of adoration, joy and my faith is inspired and enlarged. I am not sure my face glows but my heart does.

Celebrate the Presence of God
A second picture that came to mind is of David dancing before the ark as he joyfully celebrated the return of the ark (2 Samuel 6:13-16). I consider myself a fairly serious person somewhat intense, a little reserved. I can’t imagine myself dancing before the Ark of the Covenant. Yet David did. In fact the scripture says he leapt about before the ark.

Why such a display of joy? The Ark of the Covenant symbolized the presence of the Lord among His people. Remember the ark held a piece of the history of God with the people: the tablets of the law, the jar of manna and Aaron’s rod. All these things reminded them of the great deliverance God worked for His people as He led them out of slavery in Egypt, but also the ark reminded them of the covenant God had made with them. He would be their God and they would be His people.

But even more significant is that the cover of the ark was the Mercy Seat. It covered over the Law and it was the place where God met with the high priest as he offered atonement to God on behalf of the people.

True celebration of God happens only when I value the privilege of being able to come into the presence of God. As I think about myself and worshiping God, I have to ask myself some questions: Do I value the privilege of the presence of God in my life? If so, does my appreciation and joy bubble over and, so to speak, leap out? Am I too caught up in myself, my life to be enthusiastic for the blessing of being with God?

Be Humble and Honor the Lord
A third picture, slightly more intense, is the image of a “sinful” woman pouring expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and washing His feet with her tears, in a public display of her gratitude and understanding that Jesus was the Messiah, the Savior, and the Son of God.

“A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.”

This depicts a different type of worship but the same heart, that is, a heart of absolute adoration of God and genuine gratitude for forgiveness and new life.

Honoring God comes from a deep sense of humility in understanding who God is and who we are in relationship to God. This woman knew she needed the forgiveness of God, and she humbled herself and displayed how much she valued the one who gave her that forgiveness.

Again, this prompts me to ask myself some questions: Do I understand the depth of my unworthiness before God and the depths of His love and mercy? Do I take a relationship with the God, who created and sustains all life, for granted? Am I so self-absorbed in the “practice of religion” that I miss the joy of the wonder of the greatness of the love and the glory of God?

I end this article with a simple prayer. Father God, teach us to worship you and honor you as our Creator, as God most high.  Help us to stand in awe of You to Whom all praise is due.

Picture This

Picture This
I have always wanted to see God. I am sure I am not alone in this desire. We know in the scriptures that Moses asked to see God, Exodus 33:18.  Actually, Moses entreated God with a craving that begged for a favorable response. When reading this account today it seems a brazen request, after all, Moses had quiet the amazing experience with God in the “burning bush,” and in meeting with God amidst thunder and lightning atop Mount Sinai, how could he imagine more.  Yet in Exodus 33:18 Moses puts forth this entreaty, “Please show me Your glory.” God does not think it vain or out of order. God actually draws close to Moses and answers that request. From the description in Exodus 33:17-23, God showed His glory to Moses.

Jesus Reveals God
Our deep yearning to see God with spiritual eyes, to plumb the depths of His character and nature is available through  word pictures God has scattered throughout scripture. Many of these word pictures are seen in Jesus.

In Hebrews 1:3, the scripture clearly states that Jesus “is the radiance of His (God’s) glory, the exact representation of His (God’s) nature.” So if I want to see God then I need to look more intently at Jesus.

A Place to Meet God
A very revealing image of Jesus starts back in the Old Testament in Exodus 25. God gave Israel specific instructions for building the Tabernacle which was a portable dwelling place for God and a house for worship which later would be replaced with the temple.  Within that “dwelling” was a specific place where sins would be atoned for and where God would meet with man.

This separated area of the tabernacle/temple is known as the “Holy of Holies.”  The Ark of the Covenant was placed in the Holy of Holies.  The “Ark of the Covenant was a gold covered chest that contained the rod of Aaron, the tablets of the Law, and a jar of manna. These items represented the covenant of God with Israel. Placed atop this chest was a covering, a seat made of gold with two golden cherubim (angels) on each end of the seat. This covering is referred to as “the mercy seat.”

In Exodus 25: 22 God states that this is the place where he will meet with Moses and speak to him from above the mercy seat. (“There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony; I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel.”)

Each year on the Day of Atonement, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies and sprinkled the blood of an animal for the atonement of the sins of God’s people (Lev 16:1-17).  Earlier it was noted that the mercy seat was the covering for the ark in which was the tablet of the Law, or the commandments.  The blood of a sacrificed animal was sprinkled on the mercy seat by the high priest before God as atonement for the sins of the people.  Therefore, the mercy seat, which covered the demands of the law, was the place of atonement where God and man could meet; they could be together in fellowship.

Jesus –Our Mercy Seat
In Hebrews 9:5, the writer talks about the Holy of Holies and the mercy seat. The Greek word hilasterion is translated mercy seat. Hilasterion was used in the Greek Old Testament as the equivalent of the Hebrew word (kapporet) for mercy seat. In Romans 3:25, this word hilasterion is translated propitiation or atonement, and it is used to describe Jesus.

“… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a       gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” Romans 3:23-25

A form of the word hilasmos, with the same meaning as hilasterion is used in reference to Jesus in 1 John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (Also see 1 John 2:2).

I believe the Holy Spirit specifically selected a word for the covering on the ark to identify what Jesus is to us. Jesus is the true, living – mercy seat. He is the mercy seat sprinkled with His own blood. You and I can come into the presence of the most Holy God in Jesus our mercy seat. Jesus is the place we can meet with God. Through our faith in Jesus and His atoning sacrifice, He opens the door for us to come into the presence of God.

I don’t know about you, but this is good news to me, because ever since I was a young girl I had a longing to know God, to see Him, to be with Him. I used to sit in a sanctuary amidst candles and incense, staring at the statutes and pictures of God thinking if I just sit quiet enough and meditate enough maybe He will come and meet with me and talk to me. I did not understand much about a Holy God and sinful man back then, but this picture of the mercy seat and its fulfillment in Jesus opens the way for this to be true for me. I see myself standing with Jesus before the throne of God enjoying fellowship with Him. Picture that!

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

A Quest to Worship

I am on a quest to learn what it means to “worship” God. I can think back to several “worship” experiences. When I was young, I attended many worship services which consisted of rote and routine practice of words, and actions. It was meaningful to me because of what I believed.

Sometimes I would go to that building when few others were there. I would sit with sunlight streaming through the beautifully painted windows, the scent of candle wax and incense in the air and the sound of bird songs flowing in from outside. It was the quietness of the place that drew me to feeling of communing with God.

Later when I began reading the Bible I found this verse, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth!” (Ps.46:10)

When I read this I thought of those days sitting quietly communing with God. While the building provided an aura of communing with God it was the stillness and quietness that that allowed me to be calm in my soul and commune with God.  I am thinking that was the beginning of being drawn into knowing God.

Cease the Strivings of Self
To worship God, first requires a stilling of the heart. Various translations of Ps. 46:10 use the expression “cease striving” instead of still. To begin worshiping God I need to calm, still my heart and mind and cease striving with all the distractions of the world, and the inner turmoil. Above all, I have to cease striving to be first and foremost in my life. In other words I need to stop worshiping myself. Stop seeking honor, recognition, credit and approval for myself and give that first place and honor to God. (Wow, wouldn’t that make all our relationships go better).

Isn’t that what Ps. 46:10 says, “Be still, cease striving” to be at the top of the recognition consciousness, and know God.  Looking further in that verse, we see that exalting God above all is involved in being still and knowing Him.

God is God
In Ps. 95 there is a call to worship God, “Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God and we are the people of His pasture…” Ps. 95:6-7.  “Bowing down and kneeling before the Lord our Maker” is exalting God. It is honoring Him because it is an attitude of the heart and a mindset that says, “Yes, God, You are God I am not. You are my Creator. You are to be honored above all.”  It is acknowledging His supremacy. We are the people who belong to Him, under His care, under His reign.

I have been an independent spirited person and at times I don’t like the idea of being “under someone’s reign or rule.” That is that part of me that is god in my own life. Yet I like the thought of being one of the “people of His pasture” and being comforted that the God who created the universe takes care of me.

God is the Ultimate Value
In Ps. 96:8, another call to worship, the psalmist says, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name…”  Ascribe means to give, to acknowledge, and to declare. We must acknowledge that God is God, and assign to Him that position in our life.

 “Glory” in this sense means weight, heaviness or value. In other words worshiping God is giving to Him the ultimate value in our life.  I can intellectually agree with this, and even have an emotional connection to this, but do I really live my life as though God was the most valuable being, the most valuable relationship in my life?

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind he will find acceptable.
This is truly the way to worship him.”
Romans 12:1(NLT)

Bless the Name of God

Blessed be the name of God!
As I am reading and learning to pray the psalms, I came across the expression “blessed be the name of God.” That sounded so familiar to me. Slowly, my mind unraveled the mystery. As a young girl I remember kneeling down in a small church building and responded “blessed be the name of God,” over and over again. As the lector called out attributes and actions of God, we responded “blessed be the name of God”. Since most attendees were of Polish, or partial Polish descent, often this call and response was in Polish. My mind still remembers the response “Niech będzie błogosławione imię Boga”. It is only recently that I connected the Polish phrase to the English form of the call and response worship.

As I read through the Psalms (and other passages) I see this expression in various forms: blessed be the name of the Lord; let God’s name be blessed; bless the Lord and so on. Some examples :
– Psalm 113:2 “Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time    forth and forever…”.
– Daniel 2:20 Daniel said, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him.
– Psalm 103:1,2 “Bless the LORD, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits…”

There are many statements of this expression in the scriptures. (See other references to this expression: Ps. 41:13; 50:2; 72:18,19; 89:52; 106:48; 124:6; 144:1; Gen. 14:20; 1 Kings 1:48; 5:7;8:15,56;10:9;8:56; I Chron. 16:36;29:10-13; Job 1:21. It is an encouraging study to read these passages in context and learn who blessed God, what did they say in blessing God and why).

How does one  “bless” God?
I was a little stumped by the term bless in the expression “bless, the Lord.” I thought, how can I bless God, isn’t that something He does to me? Isn’t that something we say to one another,?” We write it in notes of encouragement, birthday cards, and so on, ” God bless you”, and so on.

In the context of Ps. 113:2, the term “blessed be” comes from the Hebrew term “barak” which means bow or kneel. Brown, Driver and Riggs provides the following meaning, in reference to its use in numerous psalms: “to bless God, to adore on bended knee.” This gives us the picture of  bowing before almighty God, surrendering our pride, our self, honoring, and praising him.

“Blessed be God, blessed be the Lord, blessed be the name of God” are all terms of praise, a praise to God that indicates His position as sovereign, Almighty God worthy of our honor and thanksgiving and crediting Him for all goodness and acts in our favor.

So when I, with purposed intent, take time to bow and worship God, praising His nature, His character and great deeds, I am “blessing the name of God.” So, “blessing” in this sense is a term indicating worshiping God, bowing before Him, honoring Him, and praising Him.

Blessing is Praising
The idea of blessing God, or blessing His name is closely related to praising Him. In the psalms we often see parallel type statements that mean the same thing with a slightly different tint or shade of meaning. In Psalm 145: 1-2  we see this parallel structure:
“I will extol You, my God, O King,
And I will bless Your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless You, and I will praise Your name forever and ever.”

Another example of this is in Psalm 34:1 which states:
“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” And, again, we read it in Ps. 634:  “So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands (a stance indicating praising God) in Your name.”

In my way of thinking, when I bless God I am praising Him with a heart of good will and gratitude to God.  When I praise God I am praising Him from a heart of deep reverence, honor and adoration, with an understanding of His worthiness and my need for Him.

Blessing the name of God is worshiping Him and praising Him. We are ascribing to God the value and worth that He has. We, the creation, are honoring the Creator. We, the subjects are honoring the King. We, the children, are honoring our eternal Father.

Read through the book of psalms highlight all the verses on blessing the name of God.  When was the last time you thought about God and honored Him as God? Take time today to bow before God and bless His name.