The Point of Kindness – A Second Look II

What I am about to tell you is a true story. It happened in a school in which I worked.  A young woman, who was a frequent substitute at the school, applied for an interim job teaching Spanish. She had taken a course in high school and several courses in college. She could read basic Spanish especially if she had access to a dictionary, and she was able to speak in a limited manner. So she felt confident in her ability to teach basic Spanish at the middle school level.

As part of the interview she was engaged in a conversation in Spanish by one of the teachers on the panel of interviewers. In addition she had to translate a passage from a book. Imagine her shock and embarrassment when she realized her knowledge was not broad enough or deep enough to qualify her for the teaching position.

In a some sense, I could apply this to my knowledge of Jesus. Maybe I need to think again about what I really know about Jesus, and how I apply that knowledge to my relationship with Jesus.

Why a Second Look at Jesus
In the previous post, “A Second Look,” we explored taking a deeper look into the truths about Jesus, who He is and what we have in Him. It is important for us to keep growing in our knowledge and understanding of Jesus.

In Phil.3:7-8a, Paul says this knowing of Jesus is so important to him that he considers everything else as a waste in comparison to knowing Him: “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.”

Paul put a high value on growing in his relationship with Jesus, in his understanding of who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for us. We should have this same hunger and thirst to know Jesus more, to know Him beyond the boundaries of the routine ways we look at Him. It is my quest to look at the scriptures that talk about Jesus and the blessings we have in Him, so that I might fully know Him, understand what He has accomplished for me, and more truly honor Him.

Jesus Manifests the Kindness of God
Life has its trials and troubles. Sometimes, when I am going through a difficult situation like dealing with financial pressures, sickness, death of a loved one, a consistently difficult relationship or any number of problems, I am tempted to think that God has some type of bad intention towards me, to hurt me or harm me. Have you ever thought that?

This type of thinking is far from the truth. Ephesians 2:6-7, clearly shows God’s kind intentions towards us and His kindness is shown to us “in Jesus.”

“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.”

 God’s kindness towards us is manifested “in Jesus.” This reference Ephesians 2:7 about the kindness of God in Jesus is sandwiched within a context of God’s outpouring of love and grace for us in Jesus. We see how He has made us alive in Jesus when we were dead in sins; and, how He has raised us up and seated us with Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-8). This passage enumerates many ways God worked in and through Jesus, and then the writer sums it up by saying all these things show us God’s good and kind intentions to us “in Jesus.” It is important to note that apart from Jesus we would never experience God’s kindness.

I don’t know about you, but the very thought of me being the recipient of kindness from the God who creates and sustains all life is an amazing thought.

So the next time I am feeling discouraged about my circumstances in life and am questioning God’s intentions towards me, I will remember this passage and set my thinking right. I will choose to thank God for His kindness to me in Jesus, my Savior, rather than to blame God for any discomfort I feel in this life. What about you?

“For at one time we too were foolish, disobedient, misled, enslaved to all sorts of desires and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not by the righteous deeds we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of new birth
and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:3-6

 Special Post:
At this time I would like to share a link with you. I have a friend who loves to thank God and praise God in song for His many blessings in Jesus. 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

 

 

A Second Look

In the early 1970’s, I remember driving around in my VW Beetle listening to a song by Johnny Cash in which were the words “I see men as trees walking.” This song told the story of the encounter of a blind man with Jesus in Mark 8:22-25. This passage relates how Jesus spit on the man’s eyes, put His hands on him and asked him what he saw. The man said,” I see people, they look like trees walking.”  Jesus touched the man a second time and the man saw clearly.

Do you ever feel that way, like you need a second touch? Like you need to read it again or take a second look at it? I do!

Routine Obscures the View
I think I can get busy with life and busy doing the activities associated with a “walk with God” that my sight of Jesus gets off. My sense of wonder and awe become veiled. Sometimes things begin to become more of a routine performance than heart relationship.

That is when I need a second touch, a second look into Jesus. The story in Mark 8:22-26 reminds us that true sight comes from God, so I start with prayer, asking God to show me Jesus, to take me deeper into knowing Him. As I progress in “knowing Jesus” I am sure I will need more of these second looks.

I started this quest by looking at what we have “in” Jesus and “through” Jesus. These are little words that open up another dimension to knowing Jesus.

Created In Jesus For
In the letter to the Ephesians in chapter 2 and verse 10, Paul reveals an eye opening truth about Jesus. It reads:

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Three important truths come from this passage.  I am God’s handiwork. That word is also translated workmanship. I am His workmanship. When I think of “workmanship,” I think of a carpenter or a violin maker holding the wood,maybe even caressing it as he cuts, bends, shapes, shaves,  joins and engraves it. God enthroned above is actually involved in forming something in and through me and my life. This truth should dispel any doubt about my value or His love for me.

This working of God is happening in me as I am “in Jesus;” and this creative action is towards the purpose of my doing good works.

A Truth to Sustain
So in Jesus, I am given value and purpose for life. In the more mundane or ho-hum moments in life I can be tempted to think, “What am I doing here? What is my meaning or value here?”

This passage gives me meaning and purpose “in Christ Jesus.” I learn what the “works prepared in advance for me” are as I read more of His Word, and as I participate in the community of believers, the body of Christ, His church.

Encounter God Through Jesus
It is an amazing thought to think we can be near to the One who creates and sustains all life. Yet we can do this “through Jesus,” and only through Him. Salvation through Jesus brings us into the presence of God.

In the context of the letter of Hebrews to the Hebraic disciples the writer is explaining how Jesus is the true high priest and what He has done before God on our behalf. We read:

“The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:23-25

This thought is associated with understanding of the system of priesthood and atonement recorded in the Old Testament. But, the truth remains that because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus and His eternal priesthood, we can draw near to God through Jesus based on His merits, not ours. Through Jesus we can approach God, actually through Jesus we have consent to come near God.

This is an amazing thought to me, especially when I am plagued with self-doubt and feelings of not being good enough. The truth is that I, in and of myself, am not “good enough.” I cannot come into the presence of God, or achieve a close relationship with God through my performance and achievement.  Jesus, through His atoning blood and resurrections from the dead can bring me into the throne room of God.

Jesus Prays for Me
Another amazing truth in this passage in verse 25 is the fact that Jesus intercedes for me. He, so to speak, prays for me.  Jesus presents me and my case to God the Father.

Jesus, God in the flesh (John 1:14) came to earth, showed us the character and heart of God, died as the atoning sacrifice for our sins, was raised from death to live eternally, is seated at the right hand of God, and continually intercedes on our behalf. Amazing and true!

Jesus always lives to make intercession for me. His sacrifice on the cross was a one-time event, but Jesus continues to work on my behalf. His approaching the Father on my behalf is one such way I am blessed through Him.

There are times when darkness obscures light and truth in my life; when I am discouraged; confused, tempted or worn down. At times like these, I bring this truth to my mind, remembering that Jesus is bringing me before God and speaking on my behalf to our Father, gives me hope.

And There Is More
There are so many blessings that we have within our salvation in Jesus. Sometimes we just need to take a second look into Jesus. We have much in Him, with Him, by Him and through Him. He truly is our all in all.

 

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

Sweet Spot Truths

I believe there is a sweet spot in our relationship with God that is a refuge and a guide to us in the many and diverse difficulties in our lives from the heavy duty issues like grappling with a terminal illness, a debilitating accident, a broken marriage, depression, or to the prickly thorns of our insecurities and the stresses of everyday relationships and activities.

Huh-What is a Spiritual Sweet Spot?
A “sweet spot” is primarily a sporting term. It refers to the area or point of contact on a bat, racket or other instrument with the ball that yields the most effective result.  To me a “spiritual sweet spot” is that place and time in my relationship with God in which I am hiding in Him, covered by Him, protected within the confines of His love for me and my trust in the truths of His character.

I believe we come into our “spiritual sweet spot” through knowing God and growing closer to Him. We do this by looking closely at truths in God’s Word and seeing the nature and character of God and making a choice to trust and rely on Him.

Here is a passage that paints a picture of a spiritual sweet spot; it is based on the character and actions of God.

  • “How great is Your goodness, which You have stored up 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 them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues.” Ps. 31:19-20

The sweet spot in this passage is being hidden in the secret place of God’s presence, and being kept secretly by God in a shelter. Yes, that is what God does. That is His heart towards us.

My “spiritual sweet spot” is a place of peace, a place of refuge, a place of belonging, a place of learning, and a place of strengthening.

“Spiritual Sweet Spots” in the Bible
There are some “spiritual sweet spots” described in the Bible. I believe some of the following events recorded in scriptures reveal people who are in “spiritual sweet spots.” Among these are: angels tending to Jesus after fasting 40 days and nights; Jesus sleeping in the boat in the midst of the storm; Jesus feeling power leave Him in the midst of the crowd; Moses covered by the hand of God in the cleft of the rock; Elijah under the juniper tree in the wilderness being fed by the angel of Lord; two disciples on the road to Emmaus come into a sweet spot with Jesus. I encourage you to look for more of these spiritual sweet spots in the Bible. They are there, and they will encourage you.

Sweet Spot Truths
Listed below are some truths about the character of God that can lead you into the “sweet spots” of your relationship with Him.

Truth: God is personally involved in your life. There are times when I forget this, when things seem on fast forward in my life or when I am facing a painful challenge or wrestling with a character sin. In the midst of the struggle or pain, I have sometimes asked, “Where are you God? Do you know about this? Do you care?” Here are a few passages that remind me of this truth.

  • Psalm 56:8 – “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” (God knows about our hurts and He cares intimately).
  • John 10:3 –“The gatekeeper opens the gate for Him, and the sheep listen to His voice. He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out.” (Jesus is the Good Shepherd always watching over His sheep. He is so personal that He knows us by name and leads us. He is a faithful shepherd, even when I don’t see His leading or feel it. He is there).

Truth: God is faithful. He is faithful to love us and to extend His grace to us. In the midst of difficulty I can forget this truth. When I have seriously sinned, I can feel hopeless, like I am a lost cause, but God is faithful to extend His love and grace to me when I turn to Him.

  • Lamentations 3:22-24– The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease.  Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.  I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”

There are times when I fear having to stand strong on truth, and times when I feel weak in the battle against worldliness and darkness, but the truth is God is faithful to help me.

  • 2 Thess. 3:3 – “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”

There are times when I feel like I won’t make it to the end and that I can’t move forward. Then I grab onto the truth of God’s faithful commitment to me as evidenced in this verse.

  • Philippians 1:6And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

These are a few of the truths about God that pull me into a “spiritual sweet spot” with Him. When I see beyond myself to the truth about our great God, and when I make a choice to believe that truth in my own relationship with God, I am strengthened even in the midst of difficulty and pain. The Word of God is full of these truths about God. I urge you to search for truths about God that will encourage your faith and magnify God to you.

“Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.”  Psalm 25:5

Looking for God in All the Right Places

In my quest to worship and praise God, I came across some scriptures that revealed another way we can praise Him. This involves remembering and proclaiming the deeds of God.The scriptures below reveal the connection between praising God and remembering and proclaiming His great deeds:

  • Ps. 145:10-12 – “All of your works will thank you, Lord,and your faithful followers will praise you. They will speak of the glory of your kingdom; they will give examples of your power. They will tell about your mighty deeds and about the majesty and glory of your reign.” (NLT)
  • Ps. 9:11 – “Sing praises to the LORD, who dwells in Zion; declare among the peoples His deeds.”
  • Ps. 105:1 – “Oh give thanks to the LORD, call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples.”

As a result of these and other passages, I began looking for God’s deeds in the Bible and in my life so that I could praise Him.

Recall God’s Deeds of Old
Many of the mighty deeds of God have been recorded and preserved in the word of God, the Bible. When we take time to recall the many great acts of God, we begin to know Him more and to trust Him more deeply. When I meditate on God’s great deeds, I cannot help but marvel and praise Him.

Some of my favorite deeds of God to recall are how:
– God created all things with his powerful word – Genesis 1
– God opened a path in the Red Sea for Israel to walk through on dry ground – Exodus 14:22
– God shut the mouths of lions and delivering Daniel – Dan. 6:22
– Jesus walked on water – Mt. 14:22-33
– Jesus fed 5,000 from 5 loaves and 2 fishes – Mt.14:13-21
– Jesus healed a servant from a distance – Mt. 8:5-13
– Jesus resurrected from the dead seated at the right hand of God – Phil 2:5-11.

As I meditate on these mighty deeds of God, I try to picture them in my mind. I see God is magnified before me. I am immediately struck with awe for God, for His power and His love to work on behalf of man. Reflecting on these acts causes me to praise God, and encourages me to trust in Him because the God who has done these mighty deeds is the same God with whom I have a relationship.

Recalling God’s Deeds in My Life
As a result of this, I became vigilant, looking for God’s working in my life, both past and present. As I reviewed my life I saw God’s mighty deeds in my life. Some of these deeds were obvious displays of God’s working, while others involved an unfolding of His working in my life and character over time. Some of the mighty deeds of God in my life have to do with God restoring my husband, Dan, to health.

A little after our first year of marriage, my husband, Dan, age 28, was having a hard time breathing. Dan went to a doctor, had the usual examination, x-rays and so on and was diagnosed with asthma. Despite treatments, the condition persisted and worsened. We prayed for God to help us and lead us to a doctor who could help.

We looked up asthma specialists in the phone book! We selected one, went to him and received the diagnosis of a malignant tumor inside the trachea. The cancer was a lymphoma which had also affected other areas of Dan’s body.

 Use God’s Mighty Deeds to Build Faith
God was there to help immediately.  As we received the dark news, my mind almost instantly was lead to the story of King Hezekiah. In 2 Kings 20, Hezekiah was given a terminal diagnosis from the prophet Isaiah. Hezekiah cried out to God for a longer life. God had compassion and added 15 years to his life. That flash of remembering of this compassionate and powerful deed of God towards Hezekiah became the fuel for the faith we would need on this journey.

At the time of the diagnosis the tumor was growing at such a rapid rate that in two weeks it would have closed off his ability to breathe altogether. Here we see the hand of God in His timing.

The tumor was inside the trachea which at that time was a very difficult procedure and required significant expertise. We were told there were 5 doctors in the nation who could perform that specific procedure. The doctor, who diagnosed Dan, knew one of those skilled surgeons who happened to be located 50 miles away from where we lived.

The surgery happened within two days of the diagnosis. The doctors warned of a 50-50 chance of surviving the surgery, and a 50% chance of surviving a year afterwards. Tumors were found in three other places along the spine. During recovery from surgery many new dilemmas presented such as the lung collapsing three times, and an emergency tracheotomy, but God brought appropriate personnel and procedures in place at the right time to help with these difficulties.

After seven months of intense chemotherapy, my husband was declared to be in remission. Dan had to re-learn how to swallow and was fed through a tube in his stomach for a year and a half. Immediately after surgery, he was unable to speak and swallow, but over the years his ability to speak was restored, even though his voice remains somewhat quiet and raspy.

God worked mighty things behind the scenes using doctors, treatments and time to give Dan life and to restore him to full function.

“Remember” onto Faith and Praise
When I am feeling forgotten by God, or frustrated about waiting on Him to work in my life, when my faith is hitting on empty, I recall not only the mighty deeds God has done of old, but also the great deeds God has done in my life, from restoring life and health to my husband to helping me change things I thought would never change in my character.

This “remembrance of God’s mighty deeds” grows my faith and my awe for God. When I share the ways God is working in my life, or when I remind others of God’s mighty deeds, I am praising God.

I never read the Bible as a child but I do remember paging through a big family Bible that sat on a coffee table. Perhaps it was the pictures of God’s mighty deeds that I saw in that Bible that captured my heart for God.

I encourage you to page through a Bible and find more mighty deeds of God. Let these truths lead you to faith and to praise God.

Thanksgiving as Worship

I have been seeking to learn to worship God in a manner that truly honors God as God.

I have not always felt this strong drive to worship God even though I have been a disciple for over 40 years. I have experienced the goodness of God in my life.  I have said some deeply emotional prayers, as well as my share of rote or canned prayers. At times I have viewed prayer as a way to get what I want. I have prayed prayers from true faith, and at times I have merely mouthed words.  In my quest for true deeper worship I am not talking about prayers like that. I am talking about learning to talk to God in a way that honors Him as God.

As I study the Word of God and see who He is through the character, life and sacrifice of Jesus, I am moved to worship Him. Another factor that moves me to worship God is seeing my sins, especially those things that are deep in my heart. Examples of deeper heart issues include doing the right things for the wrong reasons; doing good things because they are expected; resenting using my time and resources for others but doing it anyway; not being totally honest about my feelings; judging others, and the like.

The more that these things are revealed to me, the greater my appreciation for the sacrifice of Jesus becomes, and the more intense my desire to worship Him. The deeper I see inside my soul the more drawn I am to honor Him.

The Heart’s Stance in Worship
In my quest to worship God I found that giving thanks to God is a major facet of worshiping Him, but to truly thank God requires a heart stance and understanding about our “selves” and God.

Romans 1: 20-21 reveals a truth about man’s relationship to God: “ For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.  For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Romans 1:20-21 reveals the heart stance and understanding that we must have before God in order to worship Him.  Simply stated, we have to acknowledge God as the Creator and our “selves” as His creation under Him. It is from this stance that we can honor God and give Him thanks. When we refuse to glorify God as God and do not give Him thanks we become more and more darkened in our thinking and unable to understand spiritual truths.

Honoring Self Hinders Honoring God
In the gospels we see religious leaders who surely should know and worship God. Although these men practice religion, they do not really honor God. In John 5:43-44, Jesus infers it is because they seek their own glory: “For I have come to you in my Father’s name, and you have rejected me. Yet if others come in their own name, you gladly welcome them. No wonder you can’t believe! For you gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from the one who alone is God.”

They do not honor God because they are honoring themselves among men. Seeking our own honor hinders our ability to honor God, and it hinders our ability to believe. Therefore, as a “worshiper” of God, I need to ask myself some hard questions: Who do I really seek to honor, God or myself? What are the subtle ways that I honor myself over God?

Thanksgiving and Worship
In Psalm 50:23, the psalmist reveals that thanking God is like offering a sacrifice that honors God, “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; and to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God.”

Ps. 69:30-31 states that to praise God with thanksgiving is more pleasing to Him than offering a sacrifice, “I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs.”

Hebrews 13:15 states that in Jesus we can continually worship God in a way that gives thanks to His name, “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.”

Gleanings
So in this quest I am learning to put God in His place over me by acknowledging in my daily life that He is God, my Creator, and I am His creation under His rule and authority.

Honoring God involves giving Him thanks in praise. I thank Him for who He is and what He does. I thank Him for: His steadfast love and faithfulness, His mercy, His grace to me, His power and help, His wisdom and truth, and so much more. The more I know Him, the more I praise Him with thanksgiving.

“Therefore, since we are receiving an unshakable kingdom, let us be filled with gratitude, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” Heb.12:28

God Understands Us

There have been times in my life when I have felt totally incapable of doing something that I needed to do. I remember one such time very clearly.

I worked as an Evaluation Team Leader for a mid- sized school system in a city outside of Boston. One time I was called upon to hold a controversial meeting that involved the usual multi-discipline team, but also included the Director of the Special Education, the school district’s attorney, the parents’ attorney, the principal of our school, and DCF officials. Needless to say, it was an intimidating situation. I even asked the director to chair the meeting in my place, but she declined. I was anxious and overwhelmed. I felt that I was not up to the task.

Did you ever feel that way, like you couldn’t do a something you were expected to do or needed to do, or that you didn’t want to do because it was going to require too much of you? I believe God understands my thinking and feeling in times like this and is ready to help, whether it be presiding over a meeting with intimidating or difficult people, or overcoming a seemingly impossible situation in your life.

God Understands Our Insecurities and Fears
Sometimes I think the God who creates and sustains all life would not care about my fears and insecurities. I believe the Word of God reveals to us truths about God’s nature and heart for us that tells us He does care. In Exodus 3 and 4, we read of an encounter between God and Moses that exhibits God’s understanding of our insecurities and fears. In times of fear and anxiety I need to recall and trust these truths.

God calls Moses to go speak to the pharaoh and tell him to let all the Israelites go out from Egypt. This is a monumental request, since the Israelites were Egypt’s major work force. Forty years previous Moses was a prince in the court of pharaoh, but for the last forty years he had been tending sheep in the wilderness. So, it is not too hard to understand when Moses tries to refuse the assignment.

In the interchange between Moses and God we see Moses’ fear, Moses’ focus on his own ability, and in contrast we see God’s continuous understanding and building into Moses.

God Patiently Works to Establish Trust
In Exodus 3:11 Moses responds to God’s assignment with: “Who am I, that I should go to the pharaoh?”

God does not belittle Moses for his lack of faith. He does not give up on Moses. Rather, God works tenderly and logically with Moses throughout the whole encounter.  God understands his feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. God builds faith in Moses and reassures Moses that He will go with him and support him (v.12).

In Ex. 3:13-15, Moses counters with another obstacle to the assignment. He states that the people of Israel won’t accept him or believe him. They will demand his credentials by saying “What is God’s name?” In other words if “our” God sent you then you should know His name.

So God tells Moses His name which defines God and His authority. God said, “I AM who I AM  . . . tell them I AM has sent you.” Gently, God instructs Moses to remind the Israelites that the “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” sent him. He buoys up Moses’ credentials with a connection to the patriarchs of Israel.

Moses continues to express imaginations of purported resistance from the Israelites towards him. Again, with great patience God persuades Moses by giving him powerful signs to perform that prove he was sent by God, (the staff turning to a snake, his hand turning leprous and then being cured, and the water turning into blood – Ex.4:4-9).

One would think Moses would be all set now, but even after all this, Moses voices yet another fear. He states that he is not an eloquent speaker, and he will be unable to speak to the pharaoh effectively. Patiently, God reminds Moses that He, God that had made his mouth and He can give Moses the words to say (Ex. 4:12).

However, Moses continues pleads to be relieved of this commission. While verse 14 states that God was angry, He continued to provide Moses with the support he needed. God gives Moses a partner, his brother Aaron, to help him speak to the pharaoh.

God is the Same Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
The God who interacted with Moses is the same God we relate to today. We need to understand that God “gets it,” He understands our fears and insecurities, and He is not repulsed. He responds with a long-suffering and steadfast love towards us. “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious; slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” Ps. 86:15

As God worked with Moses, He will work with me and you to bring me to where I need to be, and support me along the way. When I am challenged in life, overwhelmed, fearful, and maybe even despaired, I will remember this interaction between God and Moses, take heart, and trust a loving compassionate God.

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“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Psalm 32:8

“Jesus understands every weakness of ours, because he was tempted in every way that we are. But he did not sin!  So whenever we are in need, we should come bravely before the throne of our merciful God. There we will be treated with undeserved kindness, and we will find help.” Hebrews 4:15-16 (CEV)

Simple but Profound Truths about Jesus

Not too long ago I read John 5:23b which says, “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father.” These words were spoken by Jesus about Himself and His Father. Being someone who wants to know God and honor Him, I took this seriously and began looking more closely at Jesus, in particular His sacrifice on the cross. I want to honor and value Him in truth rather than in rote or in an unthinking or shallow manner. I am still learning many truths about Jesus, but here are a few.

Jesus, Immanuel, God in the flesh, had a body. Many people think Jesus had a body so that He would be more relatable to us. It is true, that Jesus having a body makes Him more relatable to us. He was able to show us who God is and what He is like in a more visual way. However, the fact that He had a body like us has more to do with salvation truths than anything else.

 Jesus Had a Body for the Explicit Purpose of Dying
“Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me…” Hebrews 4:4-5.

This is a partial quote from Ps. 40:6 and other Old Testament passages. It is used to indicate that a spirit of obeying God is more important to Him than all the ritual sacrifices that people offered unto God. But, there is a deeper meaning in the expression “a body you prepared for me.”

A body was prepared for God in Jesus, because it is that very body that would be the one true sacrifice that atoned for the sins of the world. A physical body was necessary for Jesus to have not just to relate to us, but actually to be able to die for us.

Phil. 2:7-8,  states that Jesus being in very nature God put on the form of a man, took on the appearance and qualities of man in the flesh. He did this, humbling Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. I find this very compelling that Jesus literally became a “man, a human” so that He could die for our sins.

A Flesh and Blood Body Provided Atoning Blood
Hebrews 9: 11-12 – “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” (NASB)

Jesus took on a flesh and blood body so that His actual blood was poured out for our sins. Isolating this truth and thinking about it makes it more real and meaningful to me.  Think about this -before Jesus came to earth He knew He would give His earthly body to be killed and His blood would bring spiritual life to us who believe in Him. Romans 3:25 emphasizes this truth, “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.”

A Physical Body – Resurrected
Jesus had a physical body so that He could suffer and die on our behalf, but also so that He could be resurrected. This resurrection is crucial to our life.

In Luke 24:39  we read  what Jesus said about Himself to the disciples after His resurrection, “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

Acts 1:3 emphasizes the truth of this resurrection. “To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.”

John in the book of Revelations states the most powerful truth about Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus, Himself, tells us who He is and what His resurrection has accomplished, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”

Jesus, because He had a body that was resurrected, holds the keys to death for us. He is truly, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

The Resurrection of Jesus’ Body Leads to My Resurrection
The resurrection of the body that God prepared for Jesus is crucial to our spiritual life, to our freedom from sin. Paul notes this in 1 Corinthians 15:17 – “and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.”

As a result of Jesus’ resurrection I can be resurrected from death, because He was the “firstborn” from the dead. (Col.1:18- “He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.”)

The power of Jesus’ physical resurrection brings about both physical resurrection from the dead for me, but also a spiritual resurrection in me through His Spirit in me. As a result of Jesus’ resurrection, I can die to my fleshly self and be resurrected as a new creation in Jesus.

Romans 6:4- 7 describe this resurrection process: “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.

Who does not want this? How many times have you asked yourself, “How can I be different? How can I change? How can I do this better or do this over?”  We have hope in these things through the resurrection of Jesus.

Basic Gospel
Paul describes these truths that I wrote about as being the Gospel, “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.

As for me, I see nothing simple in these truths. They are rich with meaning and complex with implication for us in our relationship to Jesus. My sense of honoring Jesus is deeper, and more entrenched in truth than ever before.  I encourage you to look deeper into the truths you know about Jesus. Let your faith be encouraged.

“Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” 1 Timothy 3:16

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)