Category Archives: Word Studies

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

God: A Keeper – Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wonder of Wonders

Have you ever been “stuck” in your faith, in trusting God during a rough season, one of those dips or pits in life? Struggles of a physical, spiritual, emotional or relational nature show up in our life on a regular basis, at least they do in mine.

These are the times when we question God about: His love, His good will towards us, His power, His truth and even His presence in our life. It seems odd that we should question the very character and nature of God, but when overwhelmed with turmoil or suffering, our perspective is often blurred and confused.

Psalm 77 describes a dark time in the life of the psalmist. During this time he wrestles with some strong feelings about God and asks seemingly  accusatory questions.

  • He asks where God is and if He (God) has rejected/abandoned him in verse 7- “Will the Lord reject forever?”
  • The psalmist goes on questioning, asking God if He cares about him and if He loves him in verse 7b and 8 “And will He never be favorable again? Has His loving-kindness ceased forever?”
  • He even questions the faithfulness of God in keeping His promises in verse 8b – “Has His promise come to an end forever?”
  • The psalmist continues his lament and asks God if He has forgotten to bless him or has forgotten about him in verse 9a – “Has God forgotten to be gracious?”
  • He asks if God is mad at him, verse 9b – “Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

The psalmist is so discouraged that he could not sleep (notice he blames God) and he could not even speak about it,You have held my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.” He asked God some of the same questions I have and perhaps you have asked at some time in your life.

What to Do in a Faith Funk?
The psalmist knew where to go, and was able to drag himself to that source even in the midst of his turmoil. The psalmist decides he will remember the truths he already knows about God. He makes a decision to “recount the wonders of God.”

“I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; surely I will remember (recount)Your wonders of old. I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds.” Psalm 77:11-12

The psalmist did not look inward to himself, or outward to others, but interestingly enough he looked back at the great deeds of God for help. As he reviewed these deeds, he fanned the flame of his faith because he remembered how great, powerful and loving God is.

What Are the “Wonders?”
The word “wonders” as written by this psalmist comes from a root meaning something wonderful, admirable; extraordinary; astonishing and hard to grasp. It often refers to the wondrous acts of God’s redemption towards man. Words like miracles, marvelous things and mighty deeds are used to define “wonders.”

However, we should note that this word “wonders”  not only refers to God’s might deeds, but it can also refer to His counsel (Isaiah 9:5), and His interaction with man (Isaiah 29:14).

Wonder About the Wonders!
In Psalm 77:13-20, the psalmist details some of these wondrous works that God did for Israel as he delivered them from Egypt.

I like wonder at the wonders of God by scanning through the Bible and recounting the wonders of God. When I do this, I come away renewed in my faith. When read one right after the other it takes my breath away.

I stand in awe of God, who He is, and how intricately and complexly He wove His love and power through the history of His people to bring about the salvation of mankind. Then I remember that this God, I am reading about, is the same God who walks in a relationship with me through my faith today. This renews my faith. Keeping a ready reference of these wonders close by me has lifted my soul out of despondence and doubt many times.

Reminiscing
Here are few of my favorite wonders of God from the scriptures.

  • God spoke things into existence, Genesis 1-2.
    “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Hebrews 11:3
  • God made man in His image and gave him dominion over all the earth, Gen. 1:26.
  • God enabled a100 year old man and a 90 year old woman to give birth to the child from whom would descend the Messiah, the Son of God, Romans 4:19.
  • God divided the waters of the Red Sea and Israel walked across on dry land, Ex.14:21-22.
  • The Lord delivered 3 young men from a fiery death, in fact He walked within the fire with them, Daniel 3:23, 25.
  • God let fire fall from heaven in answer to a prophet’s prayer in order to show Israel that He is God and there is no other,1 Kings 18:30-39.
  • The Almighty God who creates and sustains all life became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth, John 1:14;Philippians 2:6-8.
  • In compassion, Jesus healed a leper, Mark 1:40-45.
  • Jesus raised a young girl from death, Mark 5:35-42.
  • Jesus calmed the storm and the sea, Matthew 8:23-27.
  • Jesus, God in the flesh, became the sacrifice for my sins so that I might become the righteousness of God, 1 Peter2:24; 2 Cor. 5:21.

Chronicle the Wonders
There are many “wonders” of God in the scriptures, as well as ones He has worked in your life. I encourage you to scan through the Bible and find the wonders of God.

  • Read them.
  • Meditate on them.
  • Paint pictures of them in your mind.
  • Journal about them.

Create a ready reference of them, then in times of discouragement, deep wrestling and doubt you can be restored by remembering the wonders of our great God!

Come and see the works of God, Who is awesome in His deeds toward the sons of men.
Psalm 66:5

God – A Keeper

The other day I was sorting through things in my home with the intent of “minimalizing.” As I sorted through things I realized that I “kept” or held onto things based on their value or their use, and also, if it held a special memory or emotional connection.

As I read my Bible during the days of my minimalizing project, the word “keep” continued to come into my focus. The word keep” is used numerous times in the scriptures, especially in the book of Psalms, and I am finding it has a different meaning than just holding onto something for its use, value or sentiment.

A Deeper Meaning
The word “keep” in the scriptures is used often to refer to an action of God on our behalf that is seemingly separate from our value or use.

There are several words in the Hebrew language for keep. We will consider three of them: shamar, tsaphan and natsar.  When we look at these words it is in a sense “splitting hairs” because they all have the same general meaning “to keep”, yet they differ slightly in shades of meaning. I guess if the Holy Spirit thought it necessary to use several different words to communicate the same thought then we should sit up and pay attention to what the Spirit is saying.

Tsaphan – Hide Me Away O God!
Tsaphan
 meaning “keep,” comes from a primitive root meaning to hide, to cover over implying hiding to protect; store away secretly; to keep hidden, as in hidden from harm. Psalm 31:19-20 brings out this meaning.

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

In Psalm 31 we see David trusted that God was “keeping” him from the harm of the conspiracies of men that were going on around about him.

We too can trust that God is sheltering us; He is keeping us- hiding us away in His secret shelter from the tongues of men, and protecting us from the danger of their gossipy words, angry or jealous talk, or outright evil intent. When we trust in God, He keeps us safe in the secret place of His presence. How special is!

Natsar- Faithfully Keep Watch Over Me!
Natsar
is translated “Keep” and comes from a primitive root meaning to guard with fidelity; to watch over with the emphasis on faithful watching over. It is also translated preserve; save.

This concept is illustrated in Isaiah 26:3.

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

God faithfully keeps our soul in peace and calm in the midst of difficulties as we trust in Him. Perhaps Paul was thinking of this scripture when he penned Phil 4:6-7, “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Shamar – Put a Hedge Around Me!
Shamar means “keep”
and comes from a primitive root meaning to hedge about, in the sense of surrounding a thing for protection or containment. However, it is also translated: to observe, to keep watch over; to guard; to protect; to keep safe; to preserve and to treasure.

We see this word used in several psalms but I want to point out two of them: Psalm 140:4 and Psalm 12:7. Note David uses both shamar and natsar in these verses, enriching the idea of God as our Keeper.

  • Keep (shamar) me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; preserve (natsar) me from violent men who have purposed to trip up my feet.” Ps. 140:4
  • “You, O Lord, will keep (shamar) them; You will preserve (natsar) him from this generation forever.” Ps. 12:7

As we know from the scriptures David was anointed king but was chased around the countryside by Saul who intended to kill him. Things were so bad that David hid in caves and even went over to the enemy and pretended to be out of his mind. In the midst of these difficulties David called upon God to keep him, to put a hedge of safety around him, and to faithfully watch over him to preserve him and deliver him.

God is the same in character and heart today as when He interacted with David. We too can ask God to put a hedge around us and to preserve us in the midst of our trials.

This Doesn’t Feel Like Safety and Security
Whether you “feel” like it or not- God is “keeping” You. It is a part of His character and heart in relationship with us. When God “keeps us” it does not mean that we are free from all trouble and pain, but rather that He preserves us, our spirit, and yes sometimes even our life in the midst of difficulty. So have faith and trust God as your Keeper.

Think about some well-known accounts of God “keeping” his people.

  • Daniel in the lions’ den: Daniel lived his faith in God before unbelieving men. He was punished barbarically by being thrown into a den of hungry lions. Where was God his keeper? Right there, closing the mouth of the lions! (Dan. 6)
  • What about Joseph? Where was God, the Keeper, when Joseph was falsely accused and thrown in a dungeon to rot? He was right there with Joseph blessing everything he did, waiting to bring things together at the right time to exalt Joseph and deliver Israel. (Gen. 37-50)

We could flip through the pages of scripture and find many such examples from Adam through to the Christians in the first century church.

What about you?
Your circumstances may be painful or messy; your emotions may be blinding you to the truth of God’s presence, but He is there surrounding you, faithfully guarding your soul and preserving you. God is your Keeper!

Take time out to think of all the ways God has been “keeping” you. Think of the many ways God has protected you and surrounded you with His grace and love, and then give to Him the praise that is due Him.

 

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.

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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