Devotionals · God's Word · Pondering

Testing

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.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him.  Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:3-9

δοκίμιον

dokimion

a testing; by implication, trustworthiness:—trial, trying; a crucible

Other versions of 1 Peter 1:7 ~

These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. NIV

…that the proof of your faithbeing more precious than gold which perishes though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; NASB20

…so that the proven character of your faith ​— ​more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire ​— ​may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. CSB

*the proving, your proved faith; that by which something is tried or proved, a test*

I love that word, “proving,” as though there is something to prove. Indeed, the test, the proof is in our willingness to obey and stand upright as we wait upon the Lord. He will bring us through whatever test, whatever proving ground we are to face. Counting whatever we go through all joy, or rejoice in the midst of these trials, can seem so opposite of what we are walking or running through, yet God calls us to these things and also calls us to rejoice, to be joyful in the midst.

Can you imagine being a Ukrainian today and being able to rejoice, to count all that they are experiencing or witnessing in this horrendous war all around them, and still be able to recount it with joy? Watching around 100 Ukrainian women and children evacuate from the ruined Azovstal steelworks in the city of Mariupol on Sunday, May 1, 2022, after two-plus months hiding under the plant would bring a sense of joy in the release, yet there was the threat of Russia bombing, leaving family and friends behind…could they count it joy? I know I would have rough time yet that is exactly the way we are to face the trials each and every day. Oh, God, please give me the strength of Jesus to face my trials. He went to that horrible cross for me, down the Via Delorosa, and counted and considered it all 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. James 1:2-4

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
Matthew 4:1-11

Jesus withstood such temptations, showing me that I can lean on Him for He desires to carry my burdens, to walk besides me, to dwell within me.

from Matthew Henry’s Commentary of 1 Peter:
The apostle grants they were in great affliction, and propounds several things in mitigation of their sorrows. 

1. Every sound Christian has always something wherein he may greatly rejoice. Great rejoicing contains more than an inward placid serenity of mind or sensation of comfort; it will show itself in the countenance and conduct, but especially in praise and gratitude.

2. The chief joy of a good Christian arises from things spiritual and heavenly, from his relation to God and to heaven. In these every sound Christian greatly rejoices; his joy arises from his treasure, which consists of matters of great value, and the title to them is sure.

3. The best Christians, those who have reason greatly to rejoice, may yet be in great heaviness through manifold temptations. All sorts of adversities are temptations, or trials of faith, patience, and constancy. These seldom go singly, but are manifold, and come from different quarters, the effect of all which is great heaviness. As men, we are subject to sorrows, personal and domestic. As Christians, our duty to God obliges us to frequent sorrow: and our compassion towards the miserable, the dishonour done to God, the calamities of his church, and the destruction of mankind, from their own folly and from divine vengeance, raise, in a generous and pious mind, almost continual sorrow. 

4. The afflictions and sorrows of good people are but for a little while, they are but for a season; though they may be smart, they are but short. Life itself is but for a little while, and the sorrows of it cannot survive it; the shortness of any affliction does much abate the heaviness of it.

5. Great heaviness is often necessary to a Christian’s good: If need be, you are in heaviness. God does not afflict his people willingly, but acts with judgment, in proportion to our needs. There is a conveniency and fitness, nay, an absolute necessity in the case, for so the expression signifies: it must be;therefore no man should be moved by these afflictions. These troubles, that lie heavy, never come upon us but when we have need, and never stay any longer than needs must.

Mr. Henry goes on regarding the praise, the honor, and the glory:

“The trial of faith will be found to praise, and honour, and glory. Honour is properly that esteem and value which one has with another, and so God and man will honour the saints. Praise is the expression or declaration of that esteem; so Christ will commend his people in the great day, Come, you blessed of my Father, etc. Glory is that lustre wherewith a person, so honoured and praised, shines in heaven.  …. Jesus Christ will appear again in glory, and, when he does so, the saints will appear with him, and their graces will appear illustrious; and the more they have been tried the more bright they will then appear. The trial will soon be over, but the glory, honour, and praise will last to eternity. This should reconcile you to your present afflictions: they work for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

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

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

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

“I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:10

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Cast your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken. Psalm 55:22

Father God, there are so many reasons to rejoice even when I do not feel like rejoicing. And there could also be many reasons why I should feel overwhelmed and filled with sorrow. Yet, You lift me up when I am down. You fill me up when I am empty. You stand with me always and care for me, about me. You have given me life through Your Son, Jesus the Christ, Who died that terrible death for me, taking my sins to the cross. You shower grace and mercy upon me again and again. You sustain me and never let me down. I trust You and know I can. I know You are my God forever and ever. I will be spending Eternity with You. Oh, Lord, how glorious that will be. I thank You for holding me near through any and all trials I may be currently going through as well as those in my future. I thank You from the depths of my heart.

Bible Study · Devotionals · God's Word · Pondering

See To It…

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. Colossians 2:8

This one verse is so packed with words and concepts that I want to understand. I was going to break this into two posts but it all ties together as one rather large misstep I can make so easily in my walk with God. So I shall unpack these words and see just where God leads.

philosophy

φιλοσοφία

philosophia

properly, love (and pursuit) of wisdom; used in the Greek writings of either zeal for or skill in any art or science, any branch of knowledge. Once in the N. T. (Col. 2:8), of the theology or rather theosophy* (see below for definition), of certain Jewish-Christian ascetics, which busied itself with refined and speculative inquiries into the nature and classes of angels, into the ritual of the Mosaic law and the regulations of Jewish tradition respecting practical life.

empty

κενός

kenos

  1. empty, vain, devoid of truth
    1. of places, vessels, etc. which contain nothing
    2. of men
      1. empty handed
      2. without a gift
    3. metaph. destitute of spiritual wealth, of one who boasts of his faith as a transcendent possession, yet is without the fruits of faith
    4. metaph. of endeavours, labours, acts, which result in nothing, vain, fruitless, without effect
      1. vain of no purpose

deceit

ἀπάτη

apatē

deceit, deceitfulness; the lusts excited by deceit, i. e. by deceitful influences seducing to sin, (others, ‘deceitful lusts’)

elemental spirits

στοιχεῖον

stoicheion

  1. any first thing, from which the others belonging to some series or composite whole take their rise, an element, first principal
    1. the letters of the alphabet as the elements of speech, not however the written characters, but the spoken sounds
    2. the elements from which all things have come, the material causes of the universe
    3. the heavenly bodies, either as parts of the heavens or (as others think) because in them the elements of man, life and destiny were supposed to reside
    4. the elements, rudiments, primary and fundamental principles of any art, science, or discipline
      1. i.e. of mathematics, Euclid’s geometry

I spent about ten years of my adult life (before I knew Christ) following after philosophies of New Age and Eastern religions. I read and pondered things that turned into empty deceitful ways. Very little fruit, if any, grew on me-trees, on and in me, planted by these “religions.” Elemental spirits of this world, of satan, pulled me into a web which was difficult to pull and push my way out. These were the makings of human traditions, of this world and the underworld. They were surely not of Christ. Yet I remained blinded by them for, oh, so long!

There is so much that can ensnare us and then hold us tightly in its grasp. Our focus must be on Christ or we will not be able to discern much once we are in the midst of these elemental spirits, these basics of life yet are not life-giving. O Lord, hold me fast. I must “see to it…see to seeking You, my Lord.

from Matthew Henry’s Commentary of Colossians: “The fair warning given us of our danger: Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. There is a philosophy which is a noble exercise of our reasonable faculties, and highly serviceable to religion, such a study of the works of God as leads us to the knowledge of God and confirms our faith in him. But there is a philosophy which is vain and deceitful, which is prejudicial to religion, and sets up the wisdom of man in competition with the wisdom of God, and while it pleases men’s fancies ruins their faith; as nice and curious speculations about things above us, or of no use and concern to us; or a care of words and terms of art, which have only an empty and often a cheating appearance of knowledge.”

After the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world: this plainly reflects upon the Jewish pedagogy or economy, as well as the Pagan learning. The Jews governed themselves by the traditions of their elders and the rudiments or elements of the world, the rites and observances which were only preparatory and introductory to the gospel state; the Gentiles mixed their maxims of philosophy with their Christian principles; and both alienated their minds from Christ. Those who pin their faith on other men’s sleeves, and walk in the way of the world, have turned away from following after Christ. The deceivers were especially the Jewish teachers, who endeavoured to keep up the law of Moses in conjunction with the gospel of Christ, but really in competition with it and contradiction to it.”

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Matthew 7:15

You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 2 Peter 3:17

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? Galatians 4:8-9

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. Colossians 2:20-23

O Father, I pray that I keep my eyes, my ears, my heart focused upon You, and You Alone. May my heart and mind be so attuned to Your Word, to Your Son, that I would know the Truth all of the time. I pray that I would know the way in which I should go as the Holy Spirit directs me each and every minute of each and every day. May I see to it that my understanding of You will continue to grow in the wisdom and knowledge of You, not of this world for it is not Your‘s. I pray for my sisters and brothers in Christ to know Your ways for them as well. My desire is to be wholly Yours in all my ways. Please direct, and redirect, my paths, Lord, for I stray. I am so sorry for I do not intend to wander, yet I do…I have. The world seeks me yet I desire to see to it that I find shelter under the cleft of the Rock. Only in You will I be safe. In the precious and Holy Name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

Graphic of Colossians 2:8 @ Young Disciples International

Colossians 2:8 license plate @ Josh McKibbon on Pinterest and Flickr

Matthew Henry’s words come from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Colossians.

* definition of ‘theosophy’ ~ “any of a number of philosophies maintaining that a knowledge of God may be achieved through spiritual ecstasy, direct intuition, or special individual relations”

Devotionals · God's Word · Pondering

How Great is Our God!

As many others, I am spending the next couple of weeks praising God with my thanks…for Who He is to me and what He has done for me. I want to take several Psalms over these two weeks which speak for me. I need not change a thing for the psalmist has said all that I desire to say to my God.

Great Is the Lord

A Song of Praise. Of David.
I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.

Every day I will bless you
and praise your name forever and ever.

Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.

One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.

On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.

They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
and I will declare your greatness.

They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

The LORD is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.

All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD,
and all your saints shall bless you!

יָדָה

yāḏâ

yaw-daw

literally, to use (i.e. hold out) the hand; physically, to throw (a stone, an arrow) at or away; especially to revere or worship (with extended hands); intensively, to bemoan (by wringing the hands):—cast (out), (make) confess(-ion), praise, shoot, (give) thank(-ful, -s, -sgiving).

~~~

They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
and tell of your power,

to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
[The LORD is faithful in all his words
and kind in all his works.]

The LORD upholds all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.

The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.

You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing.

The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works.

The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.

He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.

The LORD preserves all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.

My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD,
and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

Father, I thank You for loving me so that You saved me from my own sin. I praise You for all things beautiful, all things created by Your hands. You hear me when I call. You answer me. You hold me near and comfort me in my need. Father. I praise You and love You. Teach me Your ways. In Your Son’s Holy Name, I pray. Amen.

Photo/graphic: Psalm 145:1-2 @ Verse of the Day

Photo/graphic: Psalm 145:5 @ Pinterest

Photo/graphic: Psalm 145:8-9 @ Pinterest

Photo/graphic: Psalm 145:10 @ Scripture Images

Photo/graphic: Psalm 145:13-14 @ Pinterest

Photo/graphic: Psalm 145:16 @ A Little Perspective

Photo/graphic: Psalm 145:18 @ Pinterest

Photo/graphic: Psalm 145:19-21 @ Turn Back to God/Bible Verse Art

God's Word · OneWord365 · Pondering

Decrease – One Word 2021

I have not made resolutions for many years. I never kept them for long so gave that whole idea up. In 2007, I happened upon “One Word 365” and decided to pick one word that I could study in God’s Word, thereby seeking His face as I desired to draw closer to Him. I chose “love” that year. I rowed steadily on this annual river until 2016. I found that after ten years, I was moving into a similar “resolution” stream so I called a halt to this when it was time to pick a 2017 word. Four years have passed and I am very ready to begin again. I am choosing “decrease” as my 2021 word from which to dwell, ponder, study, seek guidance. I pray that my wings will spread and that I will draw nearer to my Christ in the process.

He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30

Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification.  And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you across the Jordan, to Whom you bore witness—look, He is baptizing, and all are going to Him.”  John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.  You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before Him.’  The one who has the bride is the bridegroom.  The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears Him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.  He must increase, but I must decrease.” He who comes from above is above all.  He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way.  He Who comes from heaven is above all.  John 3:25-31

Oh, to understand this, to acknowledge this Truth, to walk this out not just for 2021 but for the remainder of my days, to love the outcome no matter the trials and pain, no matter the joy and beauty in this journey.

Blessed be His glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with His glory!
Amen and Amen!
Psalm 72:19

Father God, may the things of me, my selfish ways, my need to be in charge, all of me that shades out Christ from view to this world, that places His light in me under a bushel basket, may all that and much more decrease in me in order that You may increase. May Your holiness overwhelm me that I will glorify You, O Lord. May all of You become all of me. May my light be Your’s in this ever so dark world. I pray all in the Name of Jesus. Amen.

P.S. I will purpose to write of my journey with “decrease” once a month.

Weaving by ~ lindawoven; photo and graphics by ~ linda

Weaving by ~ lindawoven; photo and graphics by ~ linda

Up and Down arrows: Wikimedia (graphics added by me)

Devotionals · God's Word · Pondering

Abased and Content…Pondering Together

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Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.  Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  Philippians 4:11-12

“I know how to be abased….”  Abased As I read this Scripture, I understand, sort of, what that word means, but I want to dig deeper to really know what Paul was saying here.

In the Greek, the word, itself, can be interpreted in slightly different ways.

ταπεινόω

tapeinoō

Pronunciation:  tä-pā-no’-ō
 
  1. to make low, bring low:  to level, reduce to a plain
2.  to bring into it humble condition, reduce to meaner circumstances; i. e. α. to assign a lower rank or place to; to abaseto be ranked below others who are honored or rewarded: to humble or abase myself, by frugal living; of one who submits to want; of one who stoops to the condition of s servant.
3. to lower, depress. humble: one’s soul, bring down one’s pride; to have a modest opinion of oneself, to behave in an unassuming manner devoid of all haughtiness; to confess and deplore one’s spiritual littleness and unworthiness, (he afflicted his soul), of persons fasting, to disturb, distress, the soul of one.

4. to humiliate: to submit oneself in a lowly spirit to the power and will of God; equivalent to to put to the blush

 

From several different Bible versions, this word, abased, is also translated:

NIV – I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

ESV – I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

NASB – I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.

NET – I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing.

Matthew Henry’s Commentary:  “To accommodate ourselves to an afflicted condition-to know how to be abased, how to be hungry, how to suffer want, so as not to be overcome by the temptations of it, either to lose our comfort in God or distrust His providence, or to take any indirect course for our own supply.”

So when afflicted, God wants us to know that this is part of living in and for Him.  This Christian life is not all perfect and beautiful.  There are hard times and lowly times.  When times look up, He desires that we know His ways through which we handle those, as well.
 

“To a prosperous condition-to know how to abound, how to be full, so as not to be proud, or secure, or luxurious. And this is as hard a lesson as the other; for the temptations of fulness and prosperity are not less than those of affliction and want.”

Jesus is the Way through which we can handle every aspect of life.  Jesus is our Comforter and our Provider.  He is the One Who strengthens us from moment to moment.  No matter what situation we find ourselves in or put ourselves in, we need to look to the One Who is strong and will strengthen us in order to walk through each stage of life, each step in life.

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.  My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.  Psalm 121:1-2

We are to learn to walk in this life, in this world content…in every situation, in all circumstances…content.  What now does “content” mean?  Verse 11 uses this word in one way or another to describe the way we should be in any and all types of life’s experiences whether good or bad, rich or poor, healthy or sick, etc.


Content
in the Greek:

αὐτάρκης

autarkēs

sufficient for oneself, strong enough or possessing enough to need no aid or support

independent of external circumstances

accepting of one’s lot, with one’s means, though the slenderest

Being content seems to come from within ourselves from these definitions, yet being able to handle all or any situation truly must come through Christ.

“But how must we learn it? I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, v. 13. We have need of strength from Christ, to enable us to perform not only those duties which are purely Christian, but even those which are the fruit of moral virtue. We need his strength to teach us to be content in every condition. The apostle had seemed to boast of himself, and of his own strength: I know how to be abased; but here he transfers all the praise to Christ. “What do I talk of knowing how to be abased, and how to abound? It is only through Christ who strengthens me that I can do it, not in my own strength.’ So we are required to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might, and to be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus; and we are strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man. The word in the original is a participle of the present tense, en toµ endynamounti me Christoµ, and denotes a present and continued act; as if he had said, “Through Christ, who is strengthening me, and does continually strengthen me; it is by his constant and renewed strength I am enabled to act in every thing; I wholly depend upon him for all my spiritual power.'”  Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Philippians 4

philippians_4_13

I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.
 
Philippians 4:13

Father God, You have given us life.  Each precious breath is from You.  We are given those breaths one at a time just as we are given the strength we need to handle abasement and abundance.  You want us to depend upon You from moment-to-moment, breath-upon-breath.  You call us to lean on Your understanding and not our own.  You ask us to ask and pray.  You call upon us to live for You, loving and caring for others.  I pray that I am able.
 

Preserve my life, for I am holy;
You are my God;
Save Your servant who trusts in You!  Psalm 86:2 

May my eyes and heart stay upon You, and may I lean neither to the right or to the left but directly upon You.  I also want to be pleasing unto You, LORD, and to stay near to You.Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you.  And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.  1 Thessalonians 3:11-13

In the Holy Name of Christ Jesus, I pray.  Amen.

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Devotionals · God's Word

Harmony

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A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.  A psalm of David.

How wonderful and pleasant it is
when brothers live together in harmony!

For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil
that was poured over Aaron’s head,
that ran down his beard
and onto the border of his robe.

Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon
that falls on the mountains of Zion.
And there the LORD has pronounced his blessing,
even life everlasting.  Psalm 133:1-3

יַחַד

yachad

properly, a unit, i.e. unitedly:—alike, at all (once), both, likewise, only, (al-) together, withal

In Hebrew, the word for harmony is often translated unity or all together.

C. H. Spurgeon writes this of Psalm 133:2:

“In order that we may the better behold brotherly unity David gives us a resemblance, so that as in a glass we may perceive its blessedness. It has a sweet perfume about it, comparable to that precious ointment with which the first High Priest was anointed at his ordination. It is a holy thing, and so again is like the oil of consecration which was to be used only in the Lord’s service. What a sacred thing must brotherly love be when it can be likened to an oil which must never be poured on any man but on the Lord’s high priest alone! It is a diffusive thing: being poured on his head the fragrant oil flowed down upon Aaron’s head, and thence dropped upon his garments till the utmost hem was anointed therewith; and even so doth brotherly love extend its benign power and bless all who are beneath its influence. Hearty concord brings a benediction upon all concerned; its goodness and pleasure are shared in by the lowliest members of the household; even the servants are the better and the happier because of the lovely unity among the members of the family. It has a special use about it; for as by the anointing oil Aaron was set apart for the special service of Jehovah, even so those who dwell in love are the better fitted to glorify God in his church. The Lord is not likely to use for his glory those who are devoid of love; they lack the anointing needful to make them priests unto the Lord. “That ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard.” This is a chief point of comparison, that as the oil did not remain confined to the place where it first fell, but flowed down the High Priest’s hair and bedewed his beard, even so brotherly love descending from the head distils and descends, anointing as it runs, and perfuming all it lights upon. … Christian affection knows no limits of parish, nation, sect, or age. Is the man a believer in Christ? Then he is in the one body, and I must yield him an abiding love. Is he one of the poorest, one of the least spiritual, one of the least lovable? Then he is as the skirts of the garment, and my heart’s love must fall even upon him. Brotherly love comes from the head, but falls to the feet. Its way is downward. It “ran down,” and it “went down:” love for the brethren condescends to men of low estate, it is not puffed up, but is lowly and meek. This is no small part of its excellence: oil would not anoint if it did not flow down, neither would brotherly love diffuse its blessing if it did not descend.”

With the turmoil and hatred and violence we see all around this world, I am drawn to this beautiful word, harmony.  I so desire that we ALL could live in harmony.  I want to see everyone as my sister, my brother, my friend.  I want love to filter through each one of us to all.  Oh, I have these wishes and hopes for all who live on this earth.  Am I asking too much?

Jesus said these words to His Father before it was His time to go away from His disciples, from this earth:

I am in them and You are in Me.  May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that You sent Me and that You love them as much as You love Me.  John 17:23

He desired this for us all.

In the Greek, the words harmony and unity draw Christ into this oneness.

εἷς

heis

one, adhere to Christ to make one person, gather together into one

I love this word picture of adhering to Christ…making us one person.

Live in harmony with one another.  Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.  Never be wise in your own sight.  Romans 12:16

Living this way does not mean everyone must be exactly alike or think the same thoughts.  God created us each as His own creation.  He wove us in our mother’s womb as one-of-a-kind.  Our skin, hair, facial features, bodily shapes, talents…everything about us are one-of-a-kind.  So living in unity or harmony is to be who God created us to be…our very selves, yet walk in the ways that God would have us go.  He asks us to be kind and love one another, not just to those we want to love…but all.  We can love yet not like an action or behavior of another.  We are to forgive, to wipe the dust from our feet, to turn the other cheek, bless them through the image of Christ that we are to portray.  May we see them as He sees them, I pray.

Music is made up of many notes along scales.  There are flats and sharps, minor keys and major keys.  There are white keys and black keys on a piano. When music is played or sung, it can be harmonious.  The sounds are beautiful from high to low.  The music notes are individual but together, they get along, melding together into one piece.  Each note does not get huffy about another and go their own way.  They work together in one accord.

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As people, we should want to live as musical notes, united in the outcome of every beat.  We should want to sound beautiful together.  This should be like our way of living…in harmony.  God wants to see His children living in unity, in one accord.

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Romans 15:5-6

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  Colossians 3:14

Oh, these things are hard, yet, in Christ, they are not because the Holy Spirit is our guide.  Depending upon Him gives us strength, ability, and love so that we can bless others, speak the Truth, love as Christ loves.  Jesus said:

“I can do nothing on My own.  As I hear, I judge, and My judgment is just, because I seek not My own will but the will of Him who sent Me.”  John 5:30

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothingJohn 15:6

Apart from Jesus, I can do nothing…NOTHING!  It is through Him that this harmony, unity can happen.

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“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.  Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.  For whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and His ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”  1 Peter 3:8-12

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.  Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.  This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.  Ephesians 4:11-13

Father God, I lift up this world to You.  There is so much discord.  It saddens me and hurts too.  I want all to be under Your umbrella, sweetly receiving the oil of brotherly love.  I want each of us to walk in Your ways and to know that You desire peace among us.  I am sorry for things I may say or do that hurt You.  I am saddened for that which I see around me whether it be on media or between people at the store.  Oh, that I can praise You for Your grace and love cropping up here and there around this place I am calling home now.  There is some brotherly love, care and kindness, respect and politeness.  May it grow and envelop this city, this state, this country, and this world.  May we live together as one…all in one accord.  I pray in the Name of Your Holy Son.  Amen. 

 

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Devotionals · God's Word · Pondering

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/

Devotionals · God's Word · Pondering

Green Wood or Dry Wood?

But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.  For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’  Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’    Luke 23:28-30

For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?  Luke 23:31

 

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ὑγρός

hygros

wet (as if with rain), i.e. (by implication) sappy (fresh):—green

 

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ξηρός

xēros

(through the idea of scorching); arid; by implication, shrunken, earth (as opposed to water):—dry land, withered.

Pilate has turned Jesus over to the people to be crucified.

The innocent, the unblemished Lamb, the Holy One, the One without sin…if they crucify this One, Christ Jesus, then what will they do to the ones who have sin, are guilty, are the withered ones?

In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.  John 5:3

Those who are less than perfect, which is all of us…

Those who are withered as dry wood, the man with the withered hand, those with withered, old skin, those who are less than physically whole…

Where do we stand in this scenario?  We are not the green, new wood of Jesus. We are, in ways of our own, the ones who are less than He is, by far.  Yet, there are ways to remain near to Jesus and return to Him where He sits at the right hand of God.

If anyone does not abide in Me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.  John 15:6

Let us…

come to Jesus as our LORD, our Savior

know that He died and rose again

abide in Him

obey Him

love Him

love others

be planted in the waters of the Lord

yield fruit that glorifies God

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.  In all that he does, he prospers.  Psalm 1:3

LORD Jesus, teach me Your ways so that when my days are numbered I may return to You for You have called me.  May I be steadfast in my walk beside You, obedient in Your way.  May I stand near and learn from You so that I may glorify our Father in Heaven.  LORD, I want to be planted in You, my Living Water, quenched in the richness of Your Word.  May this tree bloom, seed, and become the fruit of love and joy, of peace and patience, of kindness, goodness, and faithfulness, of gentleness, and self-control.  May the fruit of righteousness come through You, my Christ, to me so that I may give glory and honor and praise to God.  May I walk in Your light for this fruit is found in all that is good, right, and true.  I want to be pleasing to You, taking no part in unfruitful works of darkness.  Your Word is a lamp unto my feet.  It is a light unto my path, keeping me upright and on the narrow path.  I pray all of this, LORD.  This is not an easy road, but it is the one I desire for all the days of my life.  In You, the Bright, Shining Star, I pray.  Amen. 

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Photo:  One Tree Hill:  http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/green/images/19839104/title/one-tree-hill-d-wallpaper

Photo:  Black and White of Dry Treehttp://www.wallconvert.com/wallpapers/photography/dry-tree-3475.html

Devotionals · God's Word · Pondering

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/

 

 

Devotionals · God's Word · Pondering

Rushing Mighty Wind

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The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.  Acts 17:24-25

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  Acts 2:2

These two verses in the Bible use the same Greek word to mean both breath and wind.  In a gentle way, I can easily picture the duplicate meaning here.  Yet, in Acts 2:2, the adjectives describing this wind are rushing and mighty, neither of which fit the usual gentle nature of breath or a breeze that I initially picture.

πνοή

pnoē

respiration, breath of life

a breeze:—breath, wind

God gives man life and breath and everything.  He gives us all that we need to live.  He also gives us the rushing mighty wind, filling us to overflowing.  The Holy Spirit gives us a life in Christ Jesus that goes so deep, so wide, so high.  The Holy Spirit breathes life into us so that we may walk in the Spirit while we live our lives here on earth, sharing the Truth of God.

The wind:

 βίαιος

biaios

violent, forcible

mighty

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φέρω

pherō

to move by bearing; move or, to be conveyed or borne, with the suggestion of force or speed

of a gust of wind, to rush

of the mind, to be moved inwardly, prompted

God’s wind can be strong, able to move things.  It can be forceful as we are seeing with Hurricane Matthew in the Atlantic this very day.   It can be a breeze that barely ruffles the hairs on our head.  But the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples of Jesus that day of Pentecost with force, made to move the minds and hearts of those who followed Him.  The wind in God’s hands is formidable, awesome, and able to accomplish all that God intends.

He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth;
Who makes lightnings for the rain,
Who brings forth the wind from His treasuries.  Psalm 135:7

Who has ascended into heaven and descended?
Who has gathered the wind in His fists?
Who has wrapped the waters in His garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is His name or His son’s name?
Surely you know!  Proverbs 30:4

Matthew Henry spoke of this wind:

We often read in the old Testament of God’s coming down in a cloud; as when He took possession first of the tabernacle, and afterwards of the temple, which intimates the darkness of that dispensation. And Christ went up to heaven in a cloud, to intimate how much we are kept in the dark concerning the upper world.  But the Holy Ghost did not descend in a cloud; for He was to dispel and scatter the clouds that overspread men’s minds, and to bring light into the world.

The Spirit of God came upon those gathered together in one accord, without dissension as the apostles had indulged in while Jesus was still with them (i.e., …for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.  Mark 9:34).  Yet over the three years of the ministry of Jesus, they had been prepared by the LORD to live together, pray as one, eat together, fellowship with others.  Through lessons, love, and the example of Christ, they had seen His ways.  When Christ returned to them after His crucifixion, He had told them to wait in Jerusalem before heading out to spread the Gospel.  They did.  They broke bread together and prayed together.  They were in one accord, loving one another.  The Holy Spirit, the precious dove, came in the calm, over the still waters, where noise and chaos were not.

When the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, the force of the wind would signify the influence He would and could have over the minds and hearts of men.  By that, men, women, and children can be mighty through God.

Matthew Henry:

Let us be all of one accord, and, notwithstanding variety of sentiments and interests, as no doubt there was among those disciples, let us agree to love one another; for, where brethren dwell together in unity, there it is that the Lord commands his blessing.

The Spirit came upon the apostles in a rushing mighty wind.  His powerful and secure direction through the hearts of believers is compared to the breathing of the wind.

Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.”’”  Ezekiel 37:9

His sweet effect on the souls of saints to the north and south wind…

“Awake, O north wind,
And come, wind of the south;
Make my garden breathe out fragrance,
Let its spices be wafted abroad.
May my beloved come into his garden
And eat its choice fruits!”  Song of Solomon 4:16

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  John 3:8

The Spirit works randomly, not abiding by our ways of order, nor is He subject to our command.  God directs Him.  The Spirit fulfills God’s Word.

…fire and hail, snow and mist,
stormy wind fulfilling His word!  Psalm 148:8

The Holy Spirit distributes His influences where, and when, on whom, and in what measure and degree He pleases.

All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, Who apportions to each one individually as He wills.  1 Corinthians 12:11

A filling of the Holy Spirit brings the graces of the Spirit into this body temple, sanctifying the one indwelled to be more holy, more spiritual, more weaned from this world. The comforts of the Spirit, the love of Christ, and the hope of heaven are endowed.

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Father God, thank You for living me dearly.  I pray that as I write these words, that they be Your Truth.  As the wind breathes into me, filling me to overflowing, may I know Your Holy Spirit in my very being.  If I am tossed upon the waves of this life, may I recall that the Holy Spirit is with me in all ways.  May my heart reach for Your best and know the Divine nature from which I have been created.  May I trust in You as I walk in the Spirit.  I want to know You, LORD.  I want to know You in all Your Ways.  Breathe on me, O LORD.  I love You and seek You.  I pray in the Name of Christ, Your Son.  Amen.  

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Graphic: “Rushing Wind” by  Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre

Photo:  Jill Wellington, CC0 Public Domain @https://pixabay.com/en/users/jill111-334088/