The Burden of this Cross

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Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.   Matthew 16:24

ἀπαρνέομαι

aparneomai

to forget one’s self

lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests

disown, abstain

Jesus’ words strike a hard cord in me.  I am called to follow Jesus because I have chosen His way over mine, yet I still want to do things my way, guide the direction of my own life, take my own chances.  Then I hit a wall and it hurts.  I run on empty, unable to go anywhere in life except down by the pull of gravity.  In order to follow the Lord, I am to deny myself, releasing my desires and hopes for His, His alone.  When I am in step with Jesus, all that He desires for me are those things I need.  An interesting piece of God’s puzzle for my life is His desires for me are often just what I desire for myself.  I’m not losing after all.  The relationship with Christ is far more important so that I walk rightly with the Lord.

αἴρω

airō

  bear (up)

place on oneself

to carry

My burdens can be worries, anxieties, physical pain, other people’s lives and their concerns, hurting people of this world, and so much more.  All can weigh heavily upon my heart.  The Word tells me not to be anxious, not to worry.  He is faithful and is with me.  He feeds and clothes the birds; He will do the same for His children.  So I lift those weights and take them to Jesus.

σταυρός

stauros

a stake or post (as set upright), i.e. (specially), a pole or cross (as an instrument of capital punishment)

figuratively, exposure to death, i.e. self-denial

by implication, the atonement of Christ:—cross.

The cross is what Jesus was placed upon for His crucifixion.  It is a horribly cruel punishment and eventual death.  Scourging comes first.  The one being crucified must carry his own cross.  Jesus did this part of the way until Simon was compelled to carry it the remainder of the way.  Jesus would hang upon the Cross until death.

And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus.  Luke 23:26

The cross is that which will kill this earthly life.

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I carry a cross, laden with burdens.  I place it there at the feet of Jesus.  He died for my sins.  Why do I continue weighing myself down?  Jesus has taken it all to the Cross.  Part of the definition of cross, in Greek, is self -denial.  I deny myself, being exposed to death, reproach, suffering, trials, punishment.  I am no longer mine, but His.

I am learning as I do that which Jesus asks of me: denying things of the self, lifting up that which weighs me down, carrying the cross to Jesus Who has already taken my burdens upon Himself.  It is in the doing, the actions of denying, lifting, and carrying to Jesus that I begin to find a clearer, deeper meaning to all that He is asking of me.

ἀκολουθέω

akoloutheō

to be or become the disciple of another as to faith and practice

to follow his teaching

Following Jesus is key to my walk in this Christian life.  When I am His, I desire to be near and to know the path upon which He leads me.  I release all burdens, knowing that He is caring for me.

“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)

As Your child, LORD, I depend upon You.  When I feel alone, or struggling with concerns, You are right here.  You are yoked with me.  You know my physical pain, the concerns that touch my heart regarding others, my anxiousness over provision for this earthly life.  Your grace is truly sufficient, Sweet Jesus.  Sometimes I feel wrung out and worn out.  The Word says in Matthew 27, verse 39-40: And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself!  If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’  But You hung on that Cross, LORD, and paid the ultimate price for me, releasing me to walk with You always. You have given me eternal life.  How much more could I ask?  What else is there to ask?  Forgive me when I am selfish.  Often, when I deny myself, I must turn around and deny myself again, LORD, because I am selfish.  I just am, but am also very sorry.  I carry my cross to You so that I may follow You.  “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”  (Matthew 10:38 ESV)  I do not want to be called “unworthy,” LORD.  Thank You for walking with me on this journey even when I fail You.  Your forgiveness, Your love, Your gentle nature give me the hope in this life that my physical eyes cannot see, yet the eyes of my heart know hope for You are the Hope.  I love You, Jesus.  I pray gently in Your Name.  Amen. 

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Graphic:  by American/Dutch web designer Catherine Reijans, founder of KATINK web design; https://thinkingmuseum.com/2013/10/30/thinking-museum-on-think-katink/  (but the actual think-Katink web design site is no longer connected, but I want to give her credit where it is due)

Cross:  http://www.themescompany.com/2012/04/17/cross/

Ears to Hear

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Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.  To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil.  Ecclesiastes 5:1

שָׁמַע

shama`

to hear intelligently (often with implication of attention, obedience, etc.; causatively, to tell, etc.):— attentively, call (gather) together, carefully, certainly, consent, consider, be content, declare, diligently, discern, give ear, (cause to, let, make to) hear(-ken, tell), indeed, listen, make (a) noise, (be) obedient, obey, perceive, (make a) proclaim(-ation), publish, regard, report, shew (forth), (make a) sound, surely, tell, understand, whosoever, witness.

How then will they call on Him in Whom they have not believed?  And how are they to believe in Him of Whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent?  As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”  But they have not all obeyed the gospel.  For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”  So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.  Romans 10:14-17

ἀκοή

akoē

hearing (the act, the sense or the thing heard):—audience, ear, fame, which ye heard, hearing, preached, report, rumor

to perceive by hearing

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In both the Old and the New Testament, we find the words listen, hear, hearing again and again.  Our parents often told us to listen, to pay attention, or they asked us, “Did you hear me?”  They knew we did not always hear them because we were not listening.  Does that ring any bells?!!  It does for me, even though I was a pretty obedient kid.  I still was a kid.

Then I grew up and went my own ways.  God spoke to me often but I did not always listen to Him either.  When I disobeyed the Father, I often fell and then could not always get out of the rabbit holes I found myself in.

Prophets, throughout the Bible, spoke God’s Word, calling on His people to listen, to hear, to obey:

You shall say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. Thus says the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing such disaster upon this place that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle.  Jeremiah 19:3

God gives us His Word to direct our paths:

Your Word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.  Psalm 119:105

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.  Psalm 130:5-6

And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD Deuteronomy 8:3

Jesus calls us to listen, to hear, to obey:

“Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.  Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.  He who has ears, let him hear.”  Matthew 13:7-9

The Son of Man will send His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace.  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.  He who has ears, let him hear.  Matthew 13:41-43

I have ears.  I am to hear.  I am to pay attention. I am to be faithful in my obedience to the One Who calls me to Him.  His Word is where the Truth is…and only there.  The Word is Christ.

  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  John 1:1

I read this and wonder how and why I can possibly NOT listen, NOT hear, NOT obey.  He is the Word and the Word is All.

Look at these precious gifts afforded to us:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truthJohn 1:14

“If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”   And He said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you.  For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”  Mark 4:23-25

In Him you also, when you heard the Word of Truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, Who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.  Ephesians 1:13-14

And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.  1 Thessalonians 1:6-7

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for
“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.  1 Peter 1:22-25

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  John 8:31-32

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Oh, I praise You, LORD, for the love that You have for us, Your creations who do not deserve such love, yet are given it because of Who You are.  In Your bounty, we receive the gift of Your Holy Word filled with Your Truth.  Your Holy Son, in His death, gives us the opportunity to come to the foot of the Cross to receive forgiveness and salvation.  The Holy Spirit comes to live in us to teach us and pray as our mediator when we know not how to pray.  You, my Father, are the Giver of all gifts to Your children.  I am so grateful to be one of those blessed to be under Your wing.  I want to have ears to hear and know the Truth.  May I be obediently listening and willing to follow Your ways.  May I walk closely to You, my Abba Father.  Forgive me when my ears are closed or I am “too busy” with worldly things that I miss the message that is right before me.  Forgive me when I am disobedient to You even when I hear Your words.   Father, teach me Your ways that I may walk in faithfulness.  I pray in the Name of Jesus.  Amen. 

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photo of child:  https://michaelanthonygagliardi.wordpress.com/2012/07/04/faith-comes-by-hearing-the-word-of-god/

graphic: https://marthabailey.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/omaha-omaha-kill-kill/

Bible: unknown

Words

Words…words can be beautiful or not so beautiful.  They come in forms which are read or heard, even touched (as Braille).  Words in the public arena these days seem so harsh, hurtful, grievous to those with eyes to see them and ears to hear them.  Yet…the words I am focusing upon are lovely.  I am choosing to live this day in the midst of a beautiful word-garden.  I want my heart and mind and soul to walk through the garden of kind and gentle words, of peaceful words, words of beauty, generosity, and gratitude, words of God.  I do not want to read or hear those words that hurt my heart or stab at my soul or conflict my mind.  I have chosen only a few as there are so very many.  I place one or two of the definitions alongside them.

Words I like this day:

gossamer: a film of cobwebs floating in air in calm clear weather; something light, delicate, or insubstantial

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  gossamer wings:

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mellifluous: having a smooth rich flow; filled with something that sweetens

efflorescence: the period or state of flowering

felicity: the quality or state of being happy; a pleasing manner or quality especially in art or language

lilt: a spirited and usually cheerful, bouyant song or tune

quintessence: the essence of a thing in its purest and most concentrated form

iridescent: a lustrous rainbow-like play of color caused by differential refraction of light waves

Iridescent Soap Bubble Colorful Bubble Water

halcyon: calm, peaceful; happy, golden

vellichor: the strange wistfulness of used bookstores, which are somehow infused with the passage of time  (an invented word used on social media and gaining usage)

petrichor: the distinctive and pleasant smell that can accompany rain falling on ground baked dry (from Greek words, used in some science fields)

zephyr: a breeze from the west, a gentle breeze

cascading: a steep, usually small, fall of water; especially: one of a series of waterfalls

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Cascading waters, the sound so pleasant to my ear even though I am not near any right now.  They remind me of The Living Water, of Christ Jesus.  He brings sweet grace:  a charming or attractive trait or characteristic; a sense of propriety or right; the quality or state of being considerate or thoughtful; and, of course, unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification; a virtue coming from God; a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine assistance into our lives, dwelling in our hearts.

The Word of God is the life of my very being.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  John 1:1-4

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.  John 1:14

For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.  John 1:16

The lovely words at the top are special, yet it is the Word of God, the Truth, The Word, Christ Jesus Who rains down the truly beautiful words.  He is Truth.  His words bring meaning to the life I walk and live each day.

LORD, I pray I hold fast to the hem of Your garment, that I will completely trust in You, having the faith of the woman who touched Your hem.  When I do let go and go my own way, that is truly not the way I want to be going.  I pray, that as much as I love words themselves, that I will always love The Word far above all else. 

Your words were found, and I ate them,
and Your words became to me a joy
and the delight of my heart,
for I am called by Your Name,
O LORD, God of hosts.  Jeremiah 15:16

Oh, that I will always find Your Words so satisfying and refreshing to my soul.  I desire to be hungry and thirsty for them.  May this be so.  In the Name of Jesus Christ, I pray.  Amen.    

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Spider Web By Elkagye – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4279109

Dragonfly Wings: no credit given

Iridescent Soap Bubble Colorful Bubble Water:  MaxPixel http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/Iridescent-Soap-Bubble-Colorful-Bubble-Water-1891640

Cascading Waterfall 02 by Rick Arbuckle @ https://www.flickr.com/photos/13122275@N08/2481815119/

Reading Jesus

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  John 1:1

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Matthew Henry said:  “He is the Word speaking from God to us, and to God for us.  John the Baptist was the voice, but Christ the Word: being the Word, He is the Truth, the Amen, the faithful Witness of the mind of God.”

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.  And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.  1 John 1:1-4 ESV

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Father, I pray I will meditate upon Your Word as if devoured by Its beauty, Its vibrancy, Its call from the depths.  May I hear Your voice in my ears, my heart, my soul.  May I seek You diligently without procrastination or unwillingness.  Oh, Father, I want to please You so.  You, my LORD will command Your lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night Your song shall be with me, and my prayer shall call unto You, my God, the God of my life.  (Psalm 42:8)  I pray in the Name of Your Son, Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

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photo/graphic:  Heartlight

O Holy Night

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But the people of God will sing a song of joy,
like the songs at the holy festivals.
You will be filled with joy,
as when a flutist leads a group of pilgrims
to Jerusalem, the mountain of the LORD
to the Rock of Israel.  Isaiah 30:29

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Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed.   Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me?  When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.  You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what He said.”

Mary responded,

“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
For He took notice of His lowly servant girl,
    and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
For the Mighty One is holy,
    and He has done great things for me.
He shows mercy from generation to generation
    to all who fear Him.
His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
    He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
He has brought down princes from their thrones
    and exalted the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
    and sent the rich away with empty hands.
He has helped His servant Israel
    and remembered to be merciful.
For He made this promise to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and His children forever.”  Luke 1:42-55

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When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”  And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.  And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.  And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.  But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.  Luke 2:15-20

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Father God, such joyful news You have given me in the beauty of Your Son, Your One and Only.  You have brought glad tidings to us all.  May my ears be open to hear the words of the shepherds.  May my eyes be open to see this wonderful “thing” that You have done.  May my heart be open to hear Mary’s heart-words.  I thank You for blessing me with the saving grace of Christ Jesus.  I bow humbly, Father, in adoration and respect and honor.  I love You so.  In the Name of Jesus, I pray.  Amen.  

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Why, oh Why?

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A bruised reed He will not break,
And smoking flax He will not quench;
He will bring forth justice for truth.  Isaiah 42:3 (+ Matthew 12:20)

He will tend His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs in His arms;
He will carry them in His bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.  Isaiah 40:11

He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.  Isaiah 40:21

Jesus cares about me. He loves me more than I can even fathom.  He does not break me.  He gathers me into His arms.  He leads me into the way I should go.  He gives me strength and power.  

YET…I doubt…I worry…I fear…I mistrust.  WHY?  Why do I doubt Him?  Why do I question whether He will provide for me?  Why do I lack the trust to know that He is always…ALWAYS…with me?  WHY?  

As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear Him.  Psalm 103:13

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.  Psalm 147:3

“For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.”  Jeremiah 31:25

He heals me and rains compassion upon me.  He refreshes me. 

Over and over again, the Bible tells me that I can place my trust in Him completely.  I do not need to feel the scars and holes in His body to know Who He is.  I know Jesus gave His all as the most beautiful Gift possible for me, for us all and each.  I know this, yet I doubt. 

I fall by the wayside and wonder why I feel so alone.  Yet, I am not.  I am held in the Savior’s arms and know that He will never leave me nor forsake me.  He will not drop me on my head or tail. 

I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy.  I will feed them in justice.  Ezekiel 34:16

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28

He gives me rest.  He gives me justice.  He carries my heavy burdens and looks for me when I am lost.  So much Jesus does for me.  He cares for me. 

I seek Your forgiveness, LORD, for my doubt, my lack of trust, my faithless spine.  I am sorry, my LORD.  I have fed myself so much self-doubt that I forget just Whose I am.  I have allowed my ears to hear lies about myself.  I shout to satan to get behind me and he does because You are with me.  I want to trust You in Your care for me.  Precious Jesus, I love You.  May my walk be along the straight and narrow pathway with You…and You alone.   Jesus, You prayed for Simon Peter and You have given the Holy Spirit to be my Intercessor.  He knows the prayers I want to utter but cannot.  He prays for me. 

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”  Luke 22:31-32

I read the many ways that God cares for me, all of the time, in so many ways, in every kind of way.  Where do I read this?  In His Word.  The Word of God is the pivotal place from which I know.  I KNOW that He loves me and cares for me because He tells me through His Word.  I KNOW His care because I feel it in my heart.  I can see it too.  I KNOW it in my head.  His Truth speaks volumes to me when I doubt…when I fall…when I mistrust…when I feel alone. 

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16-17

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the Word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the Word of God, which is at work in you believers.  1 Thessalonians 2:13

LORD, I thank You for loving me so perfectly.  I want the hard places in me to soften and know that You are LORD.  That this body of mine is Yours and made perfectly.  That this mind was woven by Your hands in my mother’s womb and continues to function well.  That this heart is knit with the Love of Your heart for You loved me first.  That trust, faith, love, hope all come from You.  I believe.  I truly do know that just in this one heartfelt acknowledgment…belief in You…I am so filled with all of Your gifts.  Can I trust and walk in faith?  Can I love without conditions and be loved without conditions?  Can I be filled with hope?

“It is the LORD who goes before you.  He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed.”  Deuteronomy 31:8

You are my Hope, my Peace, my Love.  May the hard and broken parts of me open up to You for Your loving touch, for Your gentle and tough molding so that I know that I am the one You created me to be.  I want to be a gift to those I encounter as You were and are for me.  For me!  You love me and care for me.  The Bible tells me so.  Thank You.  No more whys, LORD.  I believe and I trust in You.  In the loving Name of Jesus, I pray.  Amen.  

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The Word of the LORD came to me….

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“Then the Word of the LORD came to me saying….”

… to Abram, to Samuel, Nathan, Solomon, to Elijah, Isaiah, to Jeremiah, Ezekiel, to Jonah, Haggai, Zechariah, and to others.  This phrase is repeated again and again in the Bible, some versions show well over 200 times.

דָּבָר

dabar

a word | words; speech; speaking; utterance; a thing

commune(-ication), concern(-ing), confer, counsel, decree

The Word of the LORD came to these men, most of them prophets used by God to communicate to His People.  But we do not need to be God’s chosen prophets in order to have the Word come to us.  He wants His Word indwelling us.

But the word is very near you.  It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.  Deuteronomy 30:14 KJV

He wants us to dwell upon the Word.

For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.  1 Thessalonians 2:13 NASB

The Word can come to us by being in fellowship with Him: by spending time in His Word, in prayer, in quiet times spent at His feet, in worship, in adoration.

Our lives should reflect reverence/awe for God.

He can use us in whatever way He deems, should we be available to the One Who called us into being.  Oh, that we would want these precious ways for our lives.

Jeremiah was afraid for God had spoken to Him and given Him the assignment of being a prophet:

Then said I: 

“Ah, Lord God!

Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.”

But the Lord said to me:

“Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’
For you shall go to all to whom I send you,
And whatever I command you, you shall speak.
Do not be afraid of their faces,
For I am with you to deliver you,” says the Lord.

Then the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me:

“Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.”  Jeremiah 1:6-9 NKJV

God reassured Jeremiah.  He reassures us, giving us just what we need when we need it.

God comforted Jeremiah.  He comforts us, loves us, and protects us.

God is always with us.

LORD, in my doubts and fears, please draw me near as I dwell upon Your Word.  Teach me to come before You regularly with my hands and heart open.  I want to hear Your words for me.  I want to know the direction You have chosen for me each moment of every day.  Father, may a sense of peace and calmness reign over my heart.  May I know that Your hand touches my mouth and places the words in my mouth so that I use them for Your glory and for Your honor.  May I be available to You…and You alone.  I want to be still and know that You are God, my God.  I pray in Your Son’s Mighty Name.  Amen.

 

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Photo @ “Bible Study with Randy” – Randy McCracken – http://www.biblestudywithrandy.com/