God's Word · Pondering · prayer

Praying for Ukraine

Before I pray, I want to share these changes to Ukraine and parts of Eastern Europe over centuries:

Source: The Voice of Russia
“Note that the map says Crimea divorced Ukraine in March, 2014. Russians have a sense of humor too.”
“This week (March 22, 2014) Crimea and the city of Sevastopol joined Russia. Or put another way, Russia annexed Crimea and the city of Sevastopol from Ukraine. Regardless of how we look at this, the simple fact is Ukraine lost territory and Crimea is now part of Russia. The only thing left is to make sure that the rest of Ukraine does not fall apart since the economy is in shambles and the Eastern Ukraine wants to join Russia.”
Map of Ukraine @ Ukraine-Accommodation.com
UNC WorldView Supports Ukriane

Oh, Dearest God. My heart is breaking for the people, the children, the soldiers of Ukraine. If the people of Russia were being attacked, my heart would be breaking for them too. Oh, so many are dying, getting wounded. So many trying to flee. So many, Lord. My heart cries. It aches. It is a horrible act of war. About people, each and every person. Each and every soldier who is dying. They are people and they are mothers’ sons. So many trying to get out of Ukraine to Poland and other nations.

Woman and child evacuating via train. @ AW-Journal.com

Women…children…oh, so many children. Father, I lift up each and every one to You. You know them and know just what to do and when to do it. You are in control of this awful war yet I know You are have Your plans for each and every one, for nations across this world. We are all and each affected by this war. I read that people from Russia are even leaving Moscow. Most do not want war either, that is if they even know that it is war rather than a “special military operation,” as Putin has called it. Some Russian soldiers do not want war either. I lift them to You too, Father.

Saint Sophia Cathedral, Kyiv, Ukraine @ Wikipedia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the main Christian cathedrals in Ukraine
Skyline of the Lviv Old Town with preserved medieval urban topography, many fine Baroque and later buildings @ Wikipedia

I want You to reach down into Ukraine and stop this horrible carnage and devastation to such an old and beautiful country. I can see in my mind’s eye Your hand reaching down and Your BOOMING voice saying, “STOP!!!” Yet that has not happened. YET! One day, it will be over. I pray soon, far sooner, then later, Lord. Please! I ask for peace. Peace between these two nations, between all nations and all peoples, and between each and every one of us. We are called to love one another and we have strayed so very far off course. Oh please, Father, rain Your peace upon this world. We need Your mercy and Your grace so dearly. Thank You for hearing my prayers, Lord. In the Strong Name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Devotionals · God's Word · Pondering

Oh, His Majestic Voice

After it His voice roars;
He thunders with His majestic voice,
and He does not restrain the lightnings when His voice is heard.
Job 37:4

And the LORD will cause His majestic voice to be heard and the descending blow of His arm to be seen, in furious anger and a flame of devouring fire, with a cloudburst and storm and hailstones. Isaiah 30:39

C. H. Spurgeon in “The Treasury of David:”

“The thunder is not only poetically but instructively called “the voice of God,” since it peals from on high; it surpasses all other sounds, it inspires awe, it is entirely independent of man, and has been used on some occasions as the grand accompaniment of God’s speech to Adam’s sons. There is a peculiar terror in a tempest at sea, when deep calleth unto deep, and the raging sea echoes to the angry sky. No sight more alarming than the flash of lightning around the mast of the ship; and no sound more calculated to inspire reverent awe than the roar of the storm.”

For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 2 Peter 1:17

I am overwhelmed by the majesty that is God. His majesty is truly something that drops me to my knees, humbled by the awesomeness of Who God is. I do not physically hear God’s voice yet the ears of my heart do. It is through these ears that I am awed. I am filled with reverence and humility. I am not afraid. When I hear His voice, I am at peace while at the same time filled with a thrill that I cannot explain.

Psalm 29

A Psalm of David.
Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.

The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD, over many waters.

The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.

The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon.

He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.

The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire.

The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;
the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth
and strips the forests bare,
and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

The LORD sits enthroned over the flood;
the LORD sits enthroned as king forever.

May the LORD give strength to His people!
May the LORD bless His people with peace!
[Psalm 29:1-11]

Again, Mr. Spurgeon says: “‘The voice of the Lord is powerful.’ An irresistible power attends the lightning of which the thunder is the report. In an instant, when the Lord wills it, the force of electricity produces amazing results. … God is everywhere conspicuous, and all the earth is hushed by the majesty of his presence.”

O kingdoms of the earth, sing to God; sing praises to the Lord, Selah, to Him Who rides in the heavens, the ancient heavens; behold, He sends out His voice, His mighty voice. Psalm 68:32-33

Charles H. Spurgeon wrote of verse 33 as:

“‘To him that rideth upon the heavens of heavens, which were of old.‘ Before, he was described in his earthly manifestations, as marching through the desert; now, in his celestial glory, as riding in the heavens of the primeval ages. Long ere this heaven and earth were made, the loftier abodes of the Deity stood fast; before men or angels were created, the splendours of the Great King were as great as now, and his triumphs as glorious. Our knowledge reaches but to a small fragment of the life of God, whose ‘goings forth were of old, even from everlasting.’ … ‘Lo, he doth send out his voice, and that a mighty voice.’ Was there a thunderclap just then heard in heaven? Or, did the poet’s mind flash backward to the time when from the heaven of heavens the voice of Jehovah broke the long silence and said, ‘Light be,’ and light was. To this hour, the voice of God is power. This gospel, which utters and reveals his word, is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. Our voices are fitly called to praise him whose voice spoke us into being, and gives us the effectual grace which secures our well being.”

Ascribe power to God,
whose majesty is over Israel,
and whose power is in the skies.

Awesome is God from His sanctuary;
the God of Israel—He is the one who gives power and strength to His people.
Blessed be God!
Psalm 68:34-35

The God of all creation, the God of the Majestic Voice heard on high, may I know Your voice in Your guidance for my life. I pray the magnificence of it so moves me to know Your voice, to heed Your voice, to bow in adoration and praise the One Who created me in my mother’s womb. You mean so much to me, Father. Please take my hand and lead me to the place to which you would have me to go. I find that I can seek You and praise You while at the same time, I am not comprehending the ways in which You work here in this world. Some of Your children seem to have strayed, yet is it I? Have I lost my way? Take me and hold me near, Father. May Your voice be of comfort as well as mighty. Thank You, my Father. In Your Son’s Holy Name I pray. Amen.

Photo of Lightning at sea @ AlphaCoders

Photo with Psalm 29:2, 4 @ Pinterest

Photo of Landscape @ Wallup.net

Devotionals · God's Word · Pondering

Christ is Christmas ~ Christmas is Christ

Find a quiet moment to read…sing…hum as you read…this beautiful hymn written in the 19th century. It is the Salvation message. It is of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Our Messiah.

O Little Town of Bethlehem

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wond’ring love.
O morning stars, together proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth!

How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.

Where children pure and happy pray to the blessed Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
Oh, come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel.

May we spend time this Christmas Day to be with You, Lord Jesus. May we be still and know that You are God. May we calm our spirit to see and hear You in all we are and do. May this day, this season, be filled to overflowing with You, our Messiah.

You mean so very much to me, Lord.

I thank You for coming into my life and saving me from myself, from my sin. You adorn me with Yourself and continue to grow me as I decrease so that I can be more and more like You. I come before You this day and know that You are my Lord. In Your beautiful and holy Name, I pray. Amen.

Words and history of “Little Town of Bethlehem” from https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-o-little-town-of-bethlehem

History of song: “Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) wrote this beloved Christmas hymn for the Sunday school children at his Philadelphia parish, Holy Trinity Church, following a pilgrimage to Bethlehem in 1865, according to British hymnologist J. R. Watson. The hymn was printed on an informal leaflet in December 1868 and then appeared in The Sunday School Hymnal in 1871. In the United States, the hymn is generally sung to its original tune, ST. LOUIS by Louis H. Redner (1831-1908), a wealthy real estate broker who served as a church organist for his avocation.”

peace … come: photo of Yosemite in winter from wallup.net; + graphic/’peace …come” added by ~ linda @ pixlr

Devotionals · God's Word · Pondering

O LORD, I Want to Know Joy, to Feel Hope, AGAIN!

Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. John 16:20

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13

I believe Your Word, LORD because You speak to my heart. I doubt because I am human.

Sorrow

Sadness

Overwhelm

Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
my eye is wasted from grief;
my soul and my body also.
Psalm 31:9

The United States of America has been home for my entire 74 years on this earth.

I love this country. It has been a place where I hold memories filled with love and joy, loss, and struggles. The USA has been my home, such a wonderful home to and for me.

Yet, there is so much now…on this very day…for a number of years…that I no longer recognize as ‘part and parcel’ of the United States (‘with part meaning “a portion” and parcel “something integral with a whole’ *).  There are parts of this country that no longer fit with the whole of the country I have always known as home.

I recognize most of the natural landscape although even some of that is filled with burned forests, lakes so low that one can no longer swim or sail in them. Waterfalls have less flowing down the sides of mountains, and more animals are becoming extinct.

Yet, I can see God’s changeless beauty in His handiwork in the likes of the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, the Oregon coastline, and many other places such as these.

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims His handiwork
. Psalm 19:1

And there are kindhearted people around me, too. Some are strangers to me but they hold a door open while I walk through, smiling behind a masked face. Some are people I do know who call to check on me, just to say ‘hi.’ Some are family who calls for a weekly conversation. New friends in my new city have invited me to go with them to an outdoor art show, and then again to a “Chocolate Walk.” Joy, kindness, peace, love flowed around and through us.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

Yet, there is so much anger, animosity, hatred, and fear in our country and the world today.

My joy is gone; grief is upon me;
my heart is sick within me
. Jeremiah 8:18

Desires to commit violence against others for reasons I cannot comprehend: the amount of the pigment melanin in one’s skin, one’s religious beliefs, political bent or absolute, even a look someone gives another. So many cruel reasons for hatred and violence. Trials are being held all around the country as I type. Three men with very little melanin in their skin shot an unharmed jogger who happened to have a lot of melanin because they suspected him of being a thief. A white boy went to a Bible study with a gun and shot nine parishioners who all were Black after studying and praying with them.

How can this be?

We all have a degree of melanin in our skin, hair, eyes: “a dark brown to black pigment occurring in the hair, skin, and iris of the eye in people and animals. It is responsible for tanning of skin exposed to sunlight.”**

Violence against one another with American flags on January 6, 2020, killing and maiming. Threatening many with death and harm. A continuing threat of hatred and anger is perpetuating in so many arenas.

Why is there so much hatred fueling these fires?

The USA is a Democracy. The people have a say in the way the country is governed. When the United States became an independent nation, the Continental Congress set up the Constitution and the way of governance. It still stands today. Yet, voting integrity is threatened because many did not like the outcome of recent elections so they have decided to rig the elections so that they will win. Our democracy is being threatened by those who fear loss. They threaten those who are in positions to secure the elections…threats at their home’s doorsteps, at their cars after work, on the walkways as they do their jobs. One political party against the other party, higher-ranking members of government stripping other members of their committee assignments, people calling one another liars and traitors, using vitriolic language…and the list goes on and on. Some are attempting to do their jobs. Others do not! Divisiveness is overbearing to me!

What is happening?

We may not have a Democracy for long, I fear myself.

How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Psalm 13:2

I grieve these losses to my precious country. I watch in plain sight things being taken, stolen, threatened, stabbed again and again. It is not only lives being lost but the underlying whole of the United States of America…on the verge of being lost.

Grief overpowers me at times.

This nation has been built by the hands and on the backs of immigrants. I come from people who immigrated from Scotland, Ireland, England, Italy, Germany, Holland, and maybe even other countries. They worked hard to make this nation what it has been. Some of each batch of immigrants did indeed harm the next nation of immigrants by belittling their culture, making fun of their lack of language to communicate, maybe even their skin color, making assimilation hard for each new incoming group. But we are a nation of immigrants. How can we turn people away with violence and family separation when our very own relatives came here for a better life. Some of my relatives came because of religious persecution in their home country. Others came because of famine in their home country. Others immigrated for work, for masonry/bricklaying jobs in the big cities being built…all for a better life.

Bricklayers Building Wrigley Field Bleachers/Chicago History/Horsch Gallery

We come from these people. We could not call America home if they had not come before us.

I weep.

Yet, I hold onto God for He is hope.  He is joy.

Is not your fear of God your confidence,
and the integrity of your ways your hope?
Job 4:6

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him,
my salvation and my God.
Psalm 42:11

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from Him.
Psalm 62:5

My soul clings to the dust;
give me life according to your word!

When I told of my ways, you answered me;
teach me your statutes!

Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous works.

My soul melts away for sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word!

Put false ways far from me
and graciously teach me your law!

I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I set your rules before me.

I cling to your testimonies, O LORD;
let me not be put to shame!

I will run in the way of your commandments
when you enlarge my heart!
Psalm 119:25-32

“Great thoughts of your sin alone will drive you to despair; but great thoughts of Christ will pilot you into the haven of peace.” – Charles Spurgeon

“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.” – C.S. Lewis

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9

“…when You enlarge my heart!” (Psalm 119:2) Yes, Lord, please enlarge my heart. Calm my soul. Fill me with love. May Your love overflow to others as we pass it on to the next. I want to shine Your light in this dark and ever-darkening world. I desire Your joy to spread across the path that You have laid before me. Your hope and joy are two things I lose myself. Fill me up to overflowing because we all need hope in these torrential times. Let me not be angry nor fueled by hatred. Take any frustration from me with those I do not understand. There is so very much I do not understand, LORD. Draw me in and teach me Your ways that I will know You so well that even when I misunderstand or just don’t get another’s ways, Your ways will penetrate so deeply that I can shine Your beautiful light into this country I call home, into this world upon which I live. Grant to me Your peace and Your grace and Your mercy, Your hope and Your joy, O LORD. In the Name of Jesus, Your Son, I pray. Amen.

 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:7-10

“Sorrow turned to Joy” photo @ St James – LCMS

 * ‘part and parcel’ – The American Heritage Dictionary

Charles Spurgeon quote @ AZQuotes

Rose – Love @ Public Domain

Marigold – Despair and grief over the loss of love @ FlowerMeaning.org

** melanin: The Oxford Lexico

Photo of immigrants coming into New York City harbor/Statue of Liberty @ Lessons from History/UCLA

Bricklayers in Chicago/Wrigley Field @ Horsch Gallery. (My Grandpa was a bricklayer in Chicago and loved the Cubs. Grandpa was born in 1891 so he could very well have been a part of this. The man in the dark overalls with his back to the photographer looks a lot like him!?? His father immigrated from Italy in the mid-1800s and was a bricklayer.)

Gardenia – Hope @ FlowerMeaning.org

Iris – Joy @ Espoused to Him

Lavender – Peace @ FlowerMeaning.org

Fruit of the Spirit photo/graphic: @ Bibles Verses to Go

Snapdragons – Strength @ WallpaperFlare

 

 

 

Devotionals · God's Word · Pondering

Gather

On the surface, the word “gather” seems simple enough to understand. But in the context of the Scriptures I have been rooting around in, it is not an easy word for it brought up death before Christ came to save us from our sins.

The Old Testament often tells us that when the Hebrew fathers and descendants died, they were gathered to their people or to their fathers.

Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. Genesis 25:8

(These are the years of the life of Ishmael: 137 years. He breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people.). Genesis 25:17

And Isaac breathed his last, and he died and was gathered to his people, old and full of days. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him. Genesis 35:29

When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people. Genesis 49:33

“Let Aaron be gathered to his people, for he shall not enter the land that I have given to the people of Israel, because you rebelled against my command at the waters of Meribah. Take Aaron and Eleazar his son and bring them up to Mount Hor. And strip Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son. And Aaron shall be gathered to his people and shall die there.” Number 20:24-26

The LORD said to Moses, “Go up into this mountain of Abarim and see the land that I have given to the people of Israel. When you have seen it, you also shall be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was, because you rebelled against My word in the wilderness of Zin when the congregation quarreled, failing to uphold Me as holy at the waters before their eyes.” (These are the waters of Meribah of Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.). Numbers 27: 12-14

And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers…. Deuteronomy 31:16

That very day the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go up this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, opposite Jericho, and view the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel for a possession. And die on the mountain which you go up, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died in Mount Hor and was gathered to his people, because you broke faith with me in the midst of the people of Israel at the waters of Meribah-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin, and because you did not treat me as holy in the midst of the people of Israel. For you shall see the land before you, but you shall not go there, into the land that I am giving to the people of Israel.” Deuteronomy 32: 48-52

And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel. Judges 2:10

But to the king of Judah (King Josiah), who sent you to inquire of the LORD, thus shall you say to him, Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the LORD, when you heard how I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you, declares the LORD. Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place.’” And they brought back word to the king. 2 Kings 22:18-20

God gathers His own, in death and at other times, to their people, their fathers.

אָסַף

ʼâçaph

‘āsap̄

pronounced: aw-saf’

  1. to gather, receive, remove, gather in:
  2. to gather, collect, to gather (an individual into company of others), to bring up the rear, to gather and take away, remove, withdraw
  3. to assemble, be gathered
  4. to be gathered to one’s fathers, to be brought in or into (association with others)
  5. to be taken away, removed, perish
  6. to gather (harvest), to take in, receive into, rearguard, rearward (subst), to be gathered, to gather oneself or themselves

I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob;
I will gather the remnant of Israel;
I will set them together
like sheep in a fold,
like a flock in its pasture,
a noisy multitude of men.
Micah 2:12

Shepherds must gather their sheep as they are most unable to do much for themselves. They need guidance and rescuing and picking up when they fall. They need to be protected from wolves and illness. God refers to us as sheep often in the Bible. We need guidance and protection, healing and rescuing, and so much more. Our stubborn and sinful ways can get us off God’s path for us. Thus, our need is to listen, pray, and accept help from the One Who has plans for us and will guide us in all ways. He is our Shepherd.

As he looked, he saw a well in the field, and behold, three flocks of sheep lying beside it, for out of that well the flocks were watered. The stone on the well’s mouth was large, and when all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone from the mouth of the well and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place over the mouth of the well. Genesis 29:2-3

As one sows, we also are to reap, to gather up the harvest:

You shall keep the Feast of Harvest, of the firstfruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. You shall keep the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor. Exodus 23:16

God calls us to gather to Him….

Gather to Me My faithful ones,
who made a covenant with Me by sacrifice!”
Psalm 50:5

What about those who died during Old Testament times? Yes, they were gathered with family, but where were they when gathered?

In researching the word, gather, out of the Old Testament, a word I really could not quite wrap my head around, I looked deeper into how others defined this word. I found pastors and theologians with thoughts, research of their own, imaginings, that were beyond my original thoughts, helping me to make better sense of how this may be defined.

from David A. Padfield, Gathered To His People, Truth Magazine: “But what does it mean to be gathered to our people? “Gathered” (Hb. acaph) is defined as “to be collected, gathered together . . . used of entering into Hades, where the Hebrews regarded their ancestors as being gathered together. This gathering to one’s fathers, or one’s people is distinguished both from death and burial” (Gesenius’ Hebrew And Chaldee Lexicon, p. 626). William Wilson commented, “To be gathered to his fathers, is a peculiar phrase deserving notice; it is distinguished from death which precedes, and from burial of the body which follows: Gen. xxv. 8; xxxv. 29; 2 Kings xxii. 20. It seems to denote the being received by his own people, or among them. We read in the N.T. of being received into Abraham’s bosom, or of sitting down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven, as at a feast; so that to be gathered to his own people, is to be with them in joy or torment in Hades” (Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies, p. 182). Abraham has been “gathered to his people” until that day when his dust shall live again at the sound of the last trumpet, and all the buried dead shall hear the voice of the Son of Man….” *

from Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament: “This expression, which is synonymous with ‘going to his fathers‘ (Gen. 15:15), or ‘being gathered to his fathers‘ (Judg. 2:10), but is constantly distinguished from departing this life and being buried, denotes the reunion in Sheol with friends who have gone before, and therefore presupposes faith in the personal continuance of a man after death, as a presentiment which the promises of God had exalted in the case of the patriarchs into a firm assurance of faith (Heb. 11:13).” **

from John McArthur Study Helps: “‘Hades’ was the Greek term for the abode of the dead. In the LXX (Septuagint), it was used to translate the Hebrew Sheol, which referred to the realm of the dead in general, without necessarily distinguishing between righteous or unrighteous souls. However, in NT usage, ‘Hades’ always refers to the place of the wicked prior to final judgment on hell. The imagery Jesus used paralleled the common rabbinical idea that Sheol had two parts, one for the souls of the righteous and the other for the souls of the wicked–separated by an impassable gulf. But there is no reason to suppose, as some do, that ‘Abraham’s side’ spoke of a temporary prison for the souls of the OT saints, who were brought to heaven only after he had actually atone for their sins. Scripture consistently teaches that the spirits of the righteous dead go immediately into the presence of God (Luke 23:43, 2 Cor. 5:8, Phil. 1:23). And the presence of Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:30) belies the notion that they were confined in a compartment of Sheol until Christ finished His work.“***

We humans can do our best to understand God’s path for the Old Testament people, the Israelites. We do know that God loves the Israelites. They are His children. I need to not worry about them and trust that God has them in His way!! He writes:

Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints.
Psalm 116:15

God gathers His own to their people and to Him. He draws them in, guides them in as a shepherd leads his flock to pastures and water. This feels so very peaceful to me as I ponder this word, gather, regarding death, calling His saints home.

As I age, death can be on my thoughts from time to time, but because I know that Christ came to call me to Himself, death is not a fearful future for me. Knowing that God will shepherd me Home when it is my time is, actually, such a sweet thought for me. I can truly rest in His calling. I can rest in His guidance until that moment. I can rest.

“Far be it from You to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” Genesis 18:25

Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!  For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead. Isaiah 26:19

I shall ransom them from the power of Sheol; I shall redeem them from Death. O Death, where are your plagues?  O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion is hidden from my eyes. Hosea 13:14

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Daniel 12:2

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.  And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.  And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.  Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.  And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:11-15

God knows where His children will be. They will be with Him. That is what is important. We on earth try to figure everything out, but God’s plans are perfect and we need to rest in Him. If we are in Christ Jesus, we have been adopted into the family of God and will be with God when we die. PERIOD.

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5

And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:17

Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life. 1 John 2:24-25

LORD, You died for my sins, and have forgiven me. Gratitude overflows. I am so sorry that I have sinned against You. By Your forgiveness, I have been born anew. I am Yours. Hallelujah! Oh, What a Savior! You have given me eternal life and I will spend eternity with You. Thank You, Lord Jesus. I am gathered to You, needing You as my Shepherd. You are my very present Help in times of trouble, my Refuge and Strength. I know as I age, physical death looms, but I am not afraid for You are with me. I carry hope because You are near and will carry me over that threshold in Your arms. I asked of, believed in, and abided in You. There will be no spiritual death for me. I will be gathered to You and am so blessed. Thank You, O my Holy Father. In the Name of my Savior, I pray. Amen.

Photo from Kauai/”Gather:” taken by me; graphic added by me

“Gather” rocks @ https://medium.com/lets-gather/get-ready-to-gather-42c4e5f59197

Sheep @ water trough photo @ Flickr

wheat photo @ www.wallpaperflare.com

* from Gathered To His People @ Truth Magazine, David A. Padfield, Evansville, Indiana, Guardian of Truth XXXII: 19, pp. 580, 597, October 6, 1988

** Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, vol. 1, Commentary on the Old Testament(Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 168.

***John McArthur Study Helps/Luke 16:23, from The MacArthur Study Bible, 1997

Photo/graphic – Psalm 116:15 @ pinterest

Photo/graphic – 1 John 2:24-25 @ pinterest

Devotionals · God's Word · Pondering

Agony, Sweat, Blood

As Resurrection Sunday, April 4, 2021, nears, I am pondering different aspects of the hard walk Jesus took for me, for many such as myself. He took my sins to the Cross where He was nailed, NAILED, to a cross and left to die. It is a horrible way to die in the reading I have done. There is another piece of this that has given me questions and that is the sweat that “became like great drops of blood.”

And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.” And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Luke 22:41-44

Jesus went to Gethsemane to pray, to be alone, although some of the apostles were nearby. Jesus was in agony. He needed strengthening by an angel. He asked His Father to remove the cup. Yet He prayed for God’s will to be done. This is hardly the Jesus I read about…healing, loving others, having compassion for the dying, giving water to the woman at the well. Yet, it is the same Jesus.

ἀγωνία

agōnia

  1. a struggle for victory
    1. gymnastic exercise, wrestling
  2. of severe mental struggles and emotions, agony, anguish

Jesus was human. Jesus knew what was to come for Him. He knew sin. He knew why He was on this earth. In His humanness, He had been tempted.

C. H. Spurgeon writes so decisively: The temptations were, doubtless, of the very foulest character, but they left no speck or flaw upon him, who remained still the fairest among ten thousand. The prince of this world came, but he had nothing in Christ. He struck the sparks, but they did not fall, as in our case, upon dry tinder; they fell as into the sea, and were quenched at once. He hurled the fiery arrows, but they could not even scar the flesh of Christ; they smote upon the buckler of his perfectly righteous nature, and they fell off with their points broken, to the discomfiture of the adversary. *

This is our Jesus. Jesus answered each temptation with the Word of God. Jesus knew each and every one of us so very well. He knew we were fallen and He had come to save us. The only way to do that was to take our sins to the Cross where He would be crucified. He knew these truly agonizing realities. He loved us and hated sin. We was willing to be our Savior yet had to pay the price of death on that awful Cross.

As Jesus came to the Garden of Gethsemane, He took three men with Him and spoke some solemn words to them:

And taking with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then He said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with Me.” Matthew 26:37-38

And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And He said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” Mark 14:33-34

Jesus said those words out loud…that His soul was “very sorrowful.”

C. H. Spurgeon prays: O blessed Saviour, how can we bear to think of thee as a man astonished and alarmed! Yet was it even so when the terrors of God set themselves in array against thee. Luke uses the strong language of my text-“being in an agony.” These expressions, each of them worthy to be the theme of a discourse, are quite sufficient to show that the grief of the Saviour was of the most extraordinary character; well justifying the prophetic exclamation “Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow which was done unto me.” He stands before us peerless in misery. None are molested by the powers of evil as he was; as if the powers of hell had given commandment to their legions, “Fight neither with small nor great, save only with the king himself.” *

Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the LORD hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger. Lamentations 1:12

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on Lamentations: Lamentations 1:12-22 Jerusalem, sitting dejected on the ground, calls on those that passed by, to consider whether her example did not concern them. Her outward sufferings were great, but her inward sufferings were harder to bear, through the sense of guilt. Sorrow for sin must be great sorrow, and must affect the soul. Here we see the evil of sin, and may take warning to flee from the wrath to come. Whatever may be learned from the sufferings of Jerusalem, far more may be learned from the sufferings of Christ. Does he not from the cross speak to every one of us? Does he not say, Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Let all our sorrows lead us to the cross of Christ, lead us to mark his example, and cheerfully to follow him.

God, please forgive me. Not only have I sinned, but I so hurt my Jesus. I am so grateful that He loved me then and still loves me, that He would die for me that I may have life eternally. Yet, knowing and feeling just a tiny bit of the agony I caused Him crushes my heart and soul…even this day as I type. I am so sorry, so sorry, Lord Jesus. In Your Holy Name I pray. Amen.

And being in agony He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Luke 22:44

θρόμβος

thrombos

in the sense to thicken; a large thick drop, esp. of clotted blood

Luke, the author of both Luke and Acts, was a physician. “Of the four gospel writers, only Dr. Luke referred to Jesus’ ordeal as “agony” (agonia). It is because of this agony over things to come that we learn during His prayer ‘his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground’ (Luke 22:44). Only Luke referred to Jesus’ sweat (idros)—a much used medical term. And only Luke referred to Jesus’ sweat as consisting of great drops of blood (thromboi haimatos)—a medical condition alluded to by both Aristotle and Theophrastus.1 The Greek term thromboi (from which we get thrombus, thrombin, et al.) refers to clots of blood.Bible scholar Richard Lenski commented on the use of this term: ‘As clots,’ thromboi, means that the blood mingled with the sweat and thickened the globules so that they fell to the ground in little clots and did not merely stain the skin. 3” (by Dave Miller, Ph.D.) **

“A thorough search of the medical literature demonstrates that such a condition, while admittedly rare, does occur in humans. Commonly referred to as hematidrosis or hemohidrosis,6 this condition results in the excretion of blood or blood pigment in the sweat. Under conditions of great emotional stress, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can rupture,7 thus mixing blood with perspiration. This condition has been reported in extreme instances of stress.8 During the waning years of the 20th century, 76 cases of hematidrosis were studied and classified into categories according to causative factors. The most frequent causes of the phenomenon were found to be “acute fear” and “intense mental contemplation.”9 While the extent of blood loss generally is minimal, hematidrosis also results in the skin becoming extremely tender and fragile,10 which would have made Christ’s pending physical insults even more painful.” (Dave Miller, Ph.D.) **

After reading about this condition and the way human bodies can react to extreme stress, to that which Jesus faced, and He absolutely knew what He faced because of Who He was, I am so humbled. Before I knew Christ as my Lord and Savior, yet as I was beginning to understand why I needed Him, the guilt and shame began to wipe over me. I needed to acknowledge those feelings, as Christ endured so much for me. So very much.

Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. Hebrews 12:3-4

No, I have not. But Christ did. I am overwhelmed in what began as a simple word study on the sweat and blood combining. Yet the agony became the focal point, the sweat and blood attached. I am in awe at my Christ. I am so sorry for all that I caused Him. This has brought me to my knees. I know too that when I am weakened, He is strong. Even Christ needed strength when He was weakened, tempted, wanted His Father to take the cup. Jesus went alone to Him in prayer, humbled on His knees. He called upon the Name of the Father, to Whom He trusted and knew wholly. His earnest prayer led His body reacting in a way I did not understand until now. Thenthere seems to be a sense of calm about Jesus after praying. How could that be? Look at what He faced! And Jesus knew what He faced. Yet He goes to His friends who were sleeping and calls to them:

And when He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” Luke 22:45-46

And then the crowd came with Judas amongst them:

While He was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss Him, but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” Luke 22:47-48

And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And He touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against Him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on Me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” Luke 22:50-53

Jesus seemed calm, not filled with joy or any such emotion, but He seemed to calm the storm encircling Him. He healed the man’s ear. He spoke to the priests. He had asked Judas a question before Judas would take action.

Jesus had prayed. He knew how to pray for He taught us. And Jesus knew the outcome of all that was to come. Prayer can draw the calm and peace down upon one who needs that at the very moment they are needed.

LORD, I come to You with pain in my soul for all that Jesus had to endure for me. I am sorry for the human race’s disobedience to You since the beginning of time. We lost so much, yet we gained the Savior, the Lord, the One and Only Trinity Whom we can call upon at any time knowing that we are heard. I thank You for forgiving me in all of my weaknesses and failings, for all of my sin. Satan has beat me up many times, yet I so desire to be obedient to You and You Alone. I am loving the grace and mercy You have showered over and upon me by Your salvation in the sacrifice of Your One and Only Son.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:16-17

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Revelation 12:10-11

May I follow in the footsteps of my Christ, carrying my cross, holding fast to my Savior till my day comes to live in eternity with Him. In Your beautiful Name, Jesus, I pray. Amen.

P.S. May I recommend reading this whole sermon! It is so full of power and Truth. ~ C. H. Spurgeon: A Sermon (No. 493), Delivered on Sabbath Morning, February 8th, 1863, by the REV. C. H. SPURGEON At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *

References:

1 William K. Hobart (1882), The Medical Language of St. Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1954 reprint), pp. 80-84.

2 W. Robertson Nicoll, ed. (no date), The Expositor’s Greek Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), 1:631; M.R. Vincent (1887), Word Studies in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1946 reprint), 1:425.

3 R.C.H. Lenski (1961), The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg), p. 1077.

6 A.C. Allen (1967), The Skin: A Clinicopathological Treatise (New York: Grune and Stratton), second edition, pp. 745-747; “Hematidrosis” (2002), Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary, p. 832, https://goo.gl/U192fY.

7 R. Lumpkin (1978), “The Physical Suffering of Christ,” Journal of Medical Association of Alabama, 47:8-10.

8 See R.L Sutton, Jr. (1956), Diseases of the Skin (St. Louis, MO: Mosby College Publishing), eleventh edition, pp. 1393-1394.

9 J.E. Holoubek and A.B. Holoubek (1996), “Blood, Sweat, and Fear. ‘A Classification of Hematidrosis,’” Journal of Medicine, 27[3-4]:115-33. See also J. Manonukul, W. Wisuthsarewong, et al. (2008), “Hematidrosis: A Pathologic Process or Stigmata. A Case Report with Comprehensive Histopathologic and Immunoperoxidase Studies,” American Journal of Dermatopathology, 30[2]:135-139, April; E. Mora and J. Lucas (2013),Hematidrosis: Blood Sweat,” Blood, 121[9]:1493, February 28.

10 P. Barbet (1953), A Doctor at Calvary: The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ as Described by a Surgeon (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Image Books), pp. 74-75; cf. Lumpkin, 1978

** Dave Miller, Ph.D. @ Apologetics Press

Photos/Graphics:

Jesus Praying painting @ Early Church History

Photo of blood: @ TruthWatchers

C.H. Spurgeon Quote/Graphic: @ Tim Challies

Not My Will-graphic on photo @ Walking in Sunlight

Devotionals · God's Word · Pondering

Which Wisdom?

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. James 3:13

σοφία

sophia

wisdom (higher or lower, worldly or spiritual):—wisdom.

This word in the Greek can mean either worldly or spiritual wisdom:

  1. wisdom, broad and full of intelligence; used of the knowledge of very diverse matters
    1. the wisdom which belongs to men
      1. spec. the varied knowledge of things human and divine, acquired by acuteness and experience, and summed up in maxims and proverbs
      2. the science and learning
      3. the act of interpreting dreams and always giving the sagest advice
      4. the intelligence evinced in discovering the meaning of some mysterious number or vision
      5. skill in the management of affairs
      6. devout and proper prudence in intercourse with men not disciples of Christ, skill and discretion in imparting Christian truth
      7. the knowledge and practice of the requisites for godly and upright living
    2. supreme intelligence, such as belongs to God
      1. to Christ
      2. the wisdom of God as evinced in forming and executing counsels in the formation and government of the world and the scriptures

(In the) meekness: πραΰτηςis, prautēs: mildness of disposition, gentleness of spirit, humility

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. James 3:14-16

From Matthew Henry’s Commentary on James: The order of things here laid down. Envying is first and excites strife; strife endeavours to excuse itself by vain-glorying and lying; and then hereupon ensue confusion and every evil work. Those who live in malice, envy, and contention, live in confusion, and are liable to be provoked and hurried to any evil work. Such disorders raise many temptations, strengthen temptations, and involve men in a great deal of guilt. One sin begets another, and it cannot be imagined how much mischief is produced: there is every evil work. And is such wisdom as produces these effects to be gloried in? This cannot be without giving the lie to Christianity, and pretending that this wisdom is what it is not.

As I live in this world, I can embody myself (as do others around me) a wisdom that I can call my own, and which, in reality, is not true to God Whom I know wants better for me. He does not want me to think I am better than someone else or think I know more than others. I sin. I am a sinner. That is all there is that!!

There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death.
Proverbs 16:25

I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself,
that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.
Jeremiah 10:23

The opposite of worldly wisdom is so beautifully described in the following verses of James 3:17 –

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. James 3:17

Pure: ἁγνός, hagnos: exciting reverence, venerable, sacred, pure from carnality, chaste, modest, pure from every fault, immaculate, clean; spiritual integrity, moral sincerity

Peaceable: εἰρηνικός, eirēnikos: relating to peace, peaceable, pacific, peace loving, bring peace with it, peaceful, salutary, peace promoting

Gentle: ἐπιεικής, epieikēs gentle, moderation, patient; able to be in hard circumstances yet be kind, courteous, patient, having no hatred nor revenge

(Open to) reason: εὐπειθής, eupeithēs: easily obeying, compliant, obedience to God’s standards

(Full of) mercy: ἔλεος, eleos: kindness or good will towards the miserable and the afflicted, joined with a desire to help them; of men towards men: to exercise the virtue of mercy, show one’s self merciful; of God towards men: in general providence; the mercy and clemency of God in providing and offering to men salvation by Christ; the mercy of Christ, whereby at His return to judgment He will bless true Christians with eternal life; ability to forgive quickly

(Good) fruits: καρπός, karpos: fruit: the fruit of the trees, vines, of the fields; the fruit of one’s loins, i.e. his progeny, his posterity. That which originates or comes from something, an effect, result: work, act, deed; advantage, profit, utility; praises, which are presented to God as a thank offering, to gather fruit (i.e. a reaped harvest) into life eternal (as into a granary), is used in fig. discourse of those who by their labours have fitted souls to obtain eternal life

Impartial: ἀδιάκριτος, adiakritos: undistinguished, unintelligible; without dubiousness, ambiguity or uncertainty; consistent, unwavering, undivided in commitment

Sincere: ἀνυπόκριτος, anypokritos: undissembled:—without dissimulation (hypocrisy), unfeigned

And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:18

Righteousness: δικαιοσύνη, dikaiosynē: in a broad sense: state of him who is as he ought to be, righteousness, the condition acceptable to God; the doctrine concerning the way in which man may attain a state approved of God; integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking feeling, and acting. In a narrower sense, justice or the virtue which gives each his due.

What I find wonderfully curious is that using spiritual wisdom, wisdom from God, in the world can convict heart and minds and souls, including mine!

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 2 Peter 1:3-4

Father, Your wonderful Word speaks for itself. I see the difference between the two types of wisdom far more clearly today than when I began. I have barely written any words myself. I pray you use Your Word and the words of Mr. Henry, the definitions from the Bible dictionaries to speak Your Truth to any one reading. I do not boast in myself, but I boast in You, glorify You and love You for all that You are to me for all that You do and will do through me. You teach me daily for which I am ever grateful. May I be bold with mindfulness that I am a tool in Your hands. May I be peaceable and gentle as Your heart is towards me. May I be obedient to You, to Your Truth. May I bear fruit in this world where I sojourn so that others would see the light of Christ in and through me. May these things be so, my Lord. In the Glorious Name of Jesus, Your Son, I pray. Amen.

Photo of sky/clouds: dimitrisvetsikas1969 (lives on Cyprus)

photo of James 3:14-16 – IMAGE BY JENNY KENT @ PicsArt

James 3:17 photo/graphic: https://www.thefellowshipsite.org/

“Wisdom from Above” photo: cloud photo from Pinterest with added graphics by me

Devotionals · God's Word · Pondering

Sisters in Christ Jesus

I spend one morning each week with 5-8 women. We all attend the same church as we worship the Lord. We have been meeting weekly for about 9 months now. We are women of all ages, from 30s to 70s. Some have young families. Some are grandparents. Some live near family. Some live far apart from their parents, children, grandchildren. We live in East Texas. Some are from here. Some are from places far away, such as California, Montana, New Mexico, Louisiana. Our backgrounds are so different. Our arrival to Christianity is unique to each. Some came to Jesus as children, others as adults. Our walk with the Lord is also so different.

Yet, we are the body of Christ…all Christians, all sisters in the Lord.

…so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Romans 12:5

I am amazed at the beauty that God is in our midst. He is faithful to draw us near to Him, the One Who created us, Who loves us so.

Each week, we gather around a table where we sip coffee, tea, juice. We eat muffins, fruit, nuts, other tasty treats which our hostess graciously lays out for us.

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Romans 12:13

One by one, we begin sharing our pray needs, concerns, praises. We each have a journal where we write down what each of our sisters need so as to jar the memory as we pray throughout the week. When the first one wraps up her words, one of us steps up to pray for her in this moment. Outloud. In sweet surrender to the Lord. Laying her at the foot of the Cross.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12

We continue around the table, sharing, praying. Sometimes guidance is given. All is in love.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10

Recently, I shared my heart through God’s prompting. I did not plan this as I am often rather quiet, sharing just things of the surface. But not this particular Monday. No, the women got to know me quite a bit more through words that dug deeply, to the very core of my being. Words that opened up long-ago wounds…wounds that I thought had been healed years ago. As one woman shared in a word-picture: it is healed over, but there is scar tissue all around. By that, there is still pain at times. I cried and cried for it was like it was all right at the top. These precious sisters did not know this history about me. They wept with me and loved me. They prayed for me, loving me through their words to our God, the Listener of our humble and humbling prayers.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15

Each week brings different and similar prayer requests. Each week, there may be all 8 of us, or maybe only 2, 3 or 4 of us. It does not matter for we desire to pray for one another. We have grown to know one another over these months as we barely did when we began. One of the ladies drew us together for the purpose of prayer and fellowship. She chose people of various ages, various stages of life and spiritual walks. I believe God picked us each and let her know just who He desired to have around this table.

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in the Spirit, serve the Lord. Romans 12:11

We open our homes, our hearts, our minds, and souls. Some of us may be more open one week, and others at other times, but we share each week, as best we can.

We want to grow in the Lord as we pray.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

When hard things are going on in a life of a sister, we want to be shoulder-to-shoulder with her. We want to wrap her in the Word, in our love which comes from God, our Source. We want to be attentive to her needs.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Romans 12:3-5

We want to share with one another what God is teaching us, whether it be through exhortation, a Scripture, arms wrapped around, a prayer lifted up.

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:6-8

All of God’s people are ordinary people who have been made extraordinary by the purpose He has given them. Oswald Chambers

As we seek to honor the Lord, we watch the words of our mouth, that they be without gossip or slander so as to not revile His Word. As we desire to glorify His Name, we show one another the love that is His.

Praise You, LORD. You are Mighty God, the Holy One of Israel. You are the Creator of all to Whom I humbly bow. You have given me life in Christ. You have brought me by Your side and into Your Kingdom. You, O God, are my God. You have dealt with me graciously. You have given me these precious sisters of whom I love and respect. They have come alongside of me to be honest, open, sweet and prayerful. They allow me to be this one whom You wove in my mother’s womb, this one whom I am still learning about at this age for I became a new creature only 27 years ago. I am young in You, my LORD. Whatever time I have remaining in this life on earth, teach me, O LORD, teach me. Through these women, I learn. Through Your Word, I learn. Through life, I learn. Teach me for I want to know You, LORD. In the precious Name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Photo/Graphic: Sisters in Christ, Forever – https://simplysharingandserving.weebly.com

Heart Graphic: http://www.fbcvan.org/womens-ministry/

Graphics: Romans 12:5 – https://www.amazingfacts.org/bible-study/scripture-pictures/the-book-of-romans

Graphic: Romans 12:13 – https://whateveryoudodowell.wordpress.com

Graphic: Romans 12:12 – https://abbashousetexas.com/2018/04/03/romans-12-prayer-for-refugees/

Graphic: Romans 12:10 – https://www.heartlight.org/gallery/book/romans/2/

Graphic: Romans 12:15 – https://www.heartlight.org/gallery/book/romans/2/

Graphic: Romans 12:11 – https://brightandclean.tumblr.com/post/48796377488/romans-1211

Photo/graphic: Romans 12:1-2 – https://www.heartlight.org/cgi-shl/praying_paul/pwp.pl?047

Photo/graphic: Romans 12:4-5 – http://www.triciagoyer.com/one-body-romans/

Graphic: Dove/Holy Spirit/Gifts – https://the-end-time.blogspot.com/2012/10/are-miraculous-spiritual-gifts-for.html

Photo/Graphic: Flowers in Jar/”Like flowers…” – sanibelsoaps.com

Devotionals · God's Word · Pondering

Pure Joy

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. James 1:2-6

How in the world can I count these trials as joyful? How?

God also says in Romans 5:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5

So now I can have peace with God too? These trials seem like they couldn’t possibly produce joy nor peace?…or perfection or hope?

YET…God’s Word gives me Truth. So I know that these things are possible. I have not written in this space for quite some time, but God is using the circumstances of Kenneth’s death to show me His love, His people, His little children, His body of Christ, His kindness, His glory. He is showing me that although my heart may hurt from this deep loss, it can also overflow with so much more because He is my joy. He is my love. He is my kindness. He is my all. Dependence upon the One Who is Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent gives me all. I lack for nothing.

I have not hidden away from the world. I have not walked away from His will for my life in Christ. I have not been too disobedient (not much that I am aware of!). I am walking with the One Who saved me from the pit. I am holding close to my Savior because He is. He is alive and risen. He has given me His Holy Spirit to dwell within me. And I am His, walking in the Spirit. I am filled with a joy that is incredibly remarkable.

Is that not amazing?

He fills me with pure joy in the midst of sorrow and struggle. Do you know what else He does? He builds me up. He grows me in His character. He molds me to look more and more like Him. Is that not beautiful? How grateful I am for His love for me. Oh, my sweet Lord. You are changing me day-by-day, moment-by-moment. Thank You, Sweet Jesus.

when you meet trials of various kinds,… James 1:2b

Trials come. Trials can be of all types…physical, emotional, mental, financial, marital, death, and everything else under the sun.

And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:4

I am not perfect and will not be until I pass over the Jordan River into Heaven, but each step of obedience here on earth brings me another step closer to both perfection and Heaven. Christ is molding me to be more and more like Him while I sojourn here. I am the clay and want to be. I desire that molding more and more now too. That is what boggles my mind…that I, willingly, want Him to mold me which takes trials. No vessel is perfect, needing parts redone again and again. The Potter has much work to do on me. I choose to allow Him to form me and make me. I also choose to stay close to Him so that I may endure the current trials and those on ahead.

ὑπομονή

hypomonē

steadfastness, constancy, endurance

in the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings

patiently, and steadfastly

a patient, steadfast waiting for

a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance

NKJV: But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

NIV: Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

NASB: And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Other Scripture with the same Greek word: ὑπομονή

As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the Word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. Luke 8:15

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4

Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. 2 Thessalonians 1:4

Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. James 5:11

Matthew Henry wrote: “The graces and duties of a state of trial and affliction are here pointed out to us. Could we attend to these things, and grow in them as we should do, how good would it be for us to be afflicted! One Christian grace to be exercised is joy: ‘Count it all joy.’ We must not sink into a sad and disconsolate frame of mind, which would make us faint under our trials; but must endeavour to keep our spirits dilated and enlarged, the better to take in a true sense of our case, and with greater advantage to set ourselves to make the best of it. Philosophy may instruct men to be calm under their troubles; but Christianity teaches them to be joyful, because such exercises proceed from love and not fury in God. In them we are conformable to Christ our head, and they become marks of our adoption. By suffering in the ways of righteousness, we are serving the interests of our Lord’s kingdom among men, and edifying the body of Christ; and our trials will brighten our graces now and our crown at last. Therefore there is reason to count it all joy when trials and difficulties become our lot in the way of our duty.

Faith is a grace that one expression supposes and another expressly requires: ‘Knowing this, that the trial of your faith,…’ verse 3; and then in verse 6, ‘Let him ask in faith.’ There must be a sound believing of the great truths of Christianity, and a resolute cleaving to them, in times of trial. That faith which is spoken of here as tried by afflictions consists in a belief of the power, and word, and promise of God, and in fidelity and constancy to the Lord Jesus.

There must be patience: ‘The trial of faith worketh patience.’  The trying of one grace produces another; and the more the suffering graces of a Christian are exercised the stronger they grow.”  *

Jesus, my Lord, I come to You, seeking Your face. I want to be near to You, to know You more and more with each passing moment. Is that possible, Lord? How can it be when I am in physical pain, emotional loss, sorrow, spiritual vacuums, and other trials? How can I focus upon You when these trials distract me so? Yet, Lord, You rain grace over me in joy, love, hope, faith, patience and far more than I could even ask. Thank You, sweet Jesus. You reign in my heart. That is what has changed me as I experience trials, Lord. You!…Your Spirit indwelling this earthly vessel. Your graciousness abounds. Thank You for keeping me close to You. You are the One Who generously gives. You are merciful and faithful, Lord God Almighty, overflowing with love for me. I want to grow in the Truth, in the knowledge of You. I want to grow in grace, too. I want to reflect You to the world in which I sojourn. May I be strong through the trials and tribulations so that I may be more like You. Give me wisdom that I would know how to walk through these times. In Your Holy Name, I pray. Amen.

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18

Graphic: Knowing-Jesus.com

Graphic: Daily RCL Bible Reading Devotional @ http://dustoffthebible.com/Blog-archive/2016/05/22/daily-rcl-bible-reading-devotional-may-22nd-2016/

Graphic: http://access-jesus.com

Graphic: Knowing-Jesus.com

* Matthew Henry Commentary on James 1

Graphic: https://www.heartlight.org/gallery

Devotionals · God's Word · Pondering

Christ is Christmas

It is nearing Christmas and I cannot seem to gather any get-up-and-go to write a post.  It just is hard this year.  It is not that I am avoiding Christmas as I am NOT!  I revere the birth of Christ, my Savior.  I am celebrating Him with each day.  I just can’t seem to write a whole post.  So I shall not.  Just a bit this day! 

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I hope to be back here more steadily in 2019.  I pray that I walk in obedience to the call of God.  

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As most of you know, life has taken a huge turn.  The death of Kenneth, my husband of twenty-five years, changed everything.  I am handling life fairly well.  I seek God at most every turn and with each step.  I need Him and He is with me.  He has never left me not forsaken me…and He won’t.  I went to visit my sisters in August in California.  This past month, I went to see Kenneth’s sisters, one in the Houston area, one in Southern Alabama.  I was gone for two weeks driving all the way.  I spent two hours each week for 13 weeks at GriefShare, a wonderful caring, biblically-based grief group with a leader and co-facilitators, a workbook and video series, along with discussion and sharing.  I am also becoming more involved in my new church, in Bible study, meeting so many precious people. 

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As I grieve, both inwardly and outwardly, I am being healed from the inside-out.  I thank my God for His grace and His mercy.  This is a process and probably a long one!  I thank each of you for praying for me, for loving me, and for caring about me.  Many of your comments and private messages have blessed me so.  Thank you, sweet friends. 

I wish you each a Christmas filled with the love and peace of our Savior, Christ Jesus. 


For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 
Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even
for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
  Isaiah 9:6-7

Merry Christmas

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Image/graphic:  https://rustyrev.wordpress.com/2010/12/25/did-the-christmas-message-find-you/