2015 Verse of the Week #35: 1 John 1:5-7

The passage I’m memorizing and meditating on this week goes along with track 4 on the Seeds Family Worship album The Character of God. The song is, “God is Light.” I understand why Seeds chose to omit verse 6 and the end of verse 7 in their song (to keep the focus on God as light), but I’m going to use the entire 3 verses for my own purposes. Here is the passage:

1 John 1:5-7

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

Verse 5 reminds me that God is the source and Christ the revelation of these words. (And it follows that the Spirit is the inspiration for the writing of these words.) This verse contains the monumental truth about God’s character: his light. It isn’t just that God has light, but he is light. To clarify and emphasize the point, the author goes on to say that there is no darkness in God at all. No flaw, no shadow, but ultimate and absolute righteousness, purity, and glory. The fact that God is light informs how we see all the other aspects of his character that are revealed to us such as justice, love, wisdom, and more. The phrase “in him there is no darkness at all” is sticking out to me today, because I don’t know about you but I bump into darkness in my own mind and heart on the regular…

…Which makes verse 6 kind of tricky, but it is in studying the difficult and strongly worded parts of God’s Word that his Spirit helps us reach important conclusions about our faith. I am challenged by what it truly means to walk in darkness and to walk in light. It seems to me, based on what I know about God and his Word already, that to walk in darkness is to live according to lies. One’s life would be built upon lies, such as self-sufficiency, works-based salvation… essentially a god of one’s own design. As usual, actions speak louder than words, so one may say s/he is in fellowship with God, but the fruit of that person’s choices will be visible and will call out the lies.

Verse 6 is true and important and cautionary, but it need only convict the guilty. For example: I know I’m a sinful person saved only by God’s grace through Christ’s sacrifice and living out my salvation under guidance from his Spirit. The enemy of my soul would have me stop at “I know I’m a sinful person,” and would love to see me put guilt on myself that God– who is Light– has already taken away. My enemy would have me think, “You are one of those liars, claiming to walk in light while your sin is keeping God at a distance from you.” This is the reality of a sinful nature that is being redeemed, being put to death, and the reality of taking up my cross daily: my sinful self is not dead until my body dies. And so, by the power of God’s Spirit, I put on his armor each day and fight this war against the powers of darkness in this world, including within my own mind. Because of God’s redeeming work in my heart and mind, and the fruit the Spirit has graciously cultivated in me (in thought and action), I know better than to believe the lie that I am unredeemed, or unredeemable. I know that if Christ’s sacrifice has secured my redemption, put me at peace with God, and given me the Holy Spirit, then God’s light is within me. This is to be the foundation upon which I build my life.

Verse 7 reminds me that because of the goodness (love-mercy-justice-holiness-light-etc.) of God, I can and will walk in the light and continue to work out my salvation with help from his Spirit. God’s pure, powerful light is greater than, and casts out, my darkness. But it’s not only about me, and I just love how this verse is constructed because the author mentions our fellowship with one another even before he mentions our being cleansed from sin. It is a super big deal to be in fellowship with one another, and that’s something else I want to remember this week. My salvation does not exist in an anti-social bubble (as much as that bubble sometimes sounds like a nice place to be), and it does not only redeem my connection to God, but my connection to others. I can be vulnerable and share my struggles with others. I can grieve with and give support to others who are going through hard times. I can ask for and give grace. I can share my triumphs and rejoice with others in times of joy and victory. This is all part of walking in the light.

In reflecting on this verse, my prayer is that I will not feel false guilt over the darkness that still exists as part of my sinful nature, but that I will feel and know God’s assurance of salvation and the gift of his Spirit. I pray that I will be drawn to confess and repent of any thoughts or actions that are rooted in lies. I pray that my mind and heart will be drawn to God’s truth and that my hands and feet will be led to godly actions so that his Light will shine through me.

I would love to know what thoughts this passage brings to mind for you.

image is from Logos Bible Software, found at anthonysvajda.com where the author links to a collection of similar images.

2015 Verse of the Week #34: 1 John 4:16

This week’s verse goes along with “God is Love,” track 3 on the Seeds Family Worship album The Character of God. Check it out:

1 John 4:16

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

There are a few things sticking out to me with this verse. First of all, it’s only one verse! But it is still just as full of ideas to ponder throughout the week.

When I read the verse in preparation for this post, the part about believing the love God has for us really jumped out at me. You can know something, but sometimes to believe it is something entirely different. And knowing doesn’t just happen, but it is a process- we come to know.

I have known that God is love for a looong time, but do I believe the love he has for me? Do I live in light of it?

The way those words jumped out at me this time, I’m thinking maybe I don’t live as if God (who is love) actually has love for me. I do this earning/achievement thing, place guilt on myself that doesn’t belong there, and believe lies about my worth. I don’t think those actions line up with abiding in love. It would be worthwhile to study what the Bible says about the love of God, but just off the top of my head I can tell you it is vast, it is unending, it is powerful. That’s just from my head, though; I want to allow God’s love to overtake my heart.

Time constraints are keeping me from writing more today, but I have plenty to think about as I go about my week, preparing for a new school year of ABA therapy, preschool, and youth ministry. My prayer is that I will identify areas of my own life where I need to believe and abide in love, but also that I can speak that message to others.

This week I’m displaying part of 1 John 4:16 on my chalkboard:

File Aug 24, 4 33 42 PM

As always, I would love to hear from you!

2015 Verse of the Week #33: Isaiah 6:1-3

This week’s passage corresponds with the song “God is Holy,” track 2 on the Seeds album The Character of God. This theme is reviving my writing motivation, because I think it is so important for Christians to study God’s character (inasmuch as it is revealed to us). As this passage alludes to, we can’t know it all, but we are given enough to come to the conclusion that God is, indeed, holy. We are also given a model for how to respond to this truth. Here are the verses in question:

Isaiah 6:1-3

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

As with most of my verse posts, there is so much I could say! I can’t believe I’m about to say this “out loud” (in print), but I could write a paper on each one. This is coming from a girl who hopes never (NEVER!) to go back to school. School had its time, but now it is done. And yet, I find myself wanting to dig into the Word in a cross-referencing, bibliography-ing, footnoting style. Yikes! I’m sure the urge would pass if I actually sat down to do it, so I will just thank God for the desire he has put in my heart to study the Word and press on in typing out a nutshell’s worth of thoughts one week at a time.

This passage is another common one, and one that was set to music quite notably in the 90s by Chris Falson and published by Maranatha. It’s a great song, and still in heavy rotation in many churches today. Here’s a little musical flashback for you:

But as with many things that are familiar, we can lose some depth and forget some of the meaning over time. This passage has important things to say to us about the nature of God and the appropriate response to who he is.

And as much as I feel like I could write a fully annotated paper on it, I’m going to focus on what these words say to me right now as I begin a new week.

Right now in my walk with God I am working on humility and trust. Or, more accurately, God is working on cultivating those things in me and I’m trying to surrender and let him do his work. Each verse in this passage says something to me about how to walk in humility and trust.

Verse 1: In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. God allowed Isaiah to see him, yet the way he inspired Isaiah to share about the vision was not to describe God’s facial features or his bodily form (except to say he was seated), but rather to say that the train of God’s robe was filling the temple with glory. This reminds me that we can’t handle God. His power, his justice, his purity, his love, even his form… he is too much for us. But still, he allows us glimpses of who he is in all his other-ness (aka holiness) to show his mercy and grace and goodness; he shows us enough for us to see our need for him, to desire him, and to trust him. This week I want to remember that God is too much for me, and when I say that I really mean that he is more than enough. He’s too much for me to handle, but so great and powerful and perfect that he can handle anything I bring to him… if I will bring it to him.

Verse 2: Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. Biblical descriptions of heavenly beings are so fascinating to me. As I read the verse now what speaks to me most is that I can model my response to God after that of the seraphim. The seraphim’s humble behavior tells me he knows he is not worthy, but he continues to serve the Lord. First of all, he covers his face– this reminds me that my thoughts and words are flawed and I should seek God’s guidance and redemption as I think and speak. This includes private thoughts and words as well as my words to others. Second, he covers his feet– a reminder that I walk on a broken, sinful earth that makes my feet dirty. The way that I walk needs to be redeemed by God. Although I have a sinful nature and live in a sinful world, God will work to renew me as I seek him. Third, the seraphim flies– he continues to live out the purpose for which he was created! He continues to worship and serve his holy God because God is worthy and, in his grace, allows the seraphim to remain close to him. I need this reminder that, although I am unworthy, God allows me to discover things about him and help him build his kingdom.

Verse 3: And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” First of all, the words spoken by the seraphim are important to my everyday life: God is other, separate, and perfect, the king of creation. He deserves my devotion, and the practical side of this is what I give my thoughts and time and gifts to. I must not live to serve myself, but to serve God, which often takes the form of serving others. When I must do things for myself I need to keep my motives in check so I am not serving myself, but being a good steward of what I was given (body, mind, materials). The second thing that sticks out to me is how the seraphim are calling to one another. It’s easy to breeze past that statement when we read, but that is what they are doing– they’re not telling God that he is holy; God already knows. They are reminding one another of God’s holy nature. Practically, this is something that I can do in my life. I can participate in calling out God’s holiness to others through corporate worship at my church when we sing and recite the Word, but also through encouraging others in the Spirit and through acts of service to my church body and community. The seraphim also say that the earth is full of God’s glory. This kind of ties into last week’s passage about God as Creator, so I want to continue to delight in his creation, but also to remember that the earth itself longs for God’s redemption.

Whew, those 3 verses contain enough calls to action to fill more than just a week (which is the point)! I’m glad I didn’t go for the fully annotated version. 😉 My prayer for my own heart this week is that I heed the call of the seraphim and live out a proper response to God’s holiness.

2015 Verse of the Week #32: Genesis 1:1-3

Let’s pretend it’s Monday. It’s more in line with how I feel anyway! I do have a verse this week, I’m just late in posting it.

I’m excited to go through Seeds Family Worship’s album The Character of God for my verses of the week for the next 10 weeks or so. This is my 32nd passage of 2015, Genesis 1:1-3 or “God is Creator” from the album. Here is the text:

Genesis 1:1-3

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

I probably take this passage for granted; I can’t think of a time when I didn’t know it, but when I read it today on its own I was touched by what a beautiful beginning it is for God’s Word.

It’s probably obvious that I am operating under the assumption that the passage above is true, I just want to state that this is something I have thought through. In my 31 years I have had plenty of opportunities to engage with differing opinions on just how true this passage is, whether through reading secular writings on the subject or through discussion with others. For what it’s worth (because I am relatively puny and insignificant), I have come to the conclusion that God did, indeed, speak our world into existence from nothing (ex nihilo). Obviously I wasn’t there– none of us was– so I guess I can’t technically know for sure. But the longer I live and the more I learn about the world, the more I am convinced that there must be a creator. The conditions are too precariously perfect, the creatures too strange and wonderful, our ecosystems too delicately intertwined for me to believe that all of this emerged accidentally. I hope there is a movie of the creation process playing on a loop when I get to heaven because I would love to see how it was actually done!

For now, on this side of eternity, with so many other issues and questions and work that needs to be done in my heart, I am content with knowing that God spoke the world into existence. It is not always in the forefront of my mind, but it is an undercurrent-level knowledge that supports me through life’s journey. This passage assures me that God is powerful enough to be our creator. He is Spirit, he is other, he is holy, he is original. He didn’t need permission or help, he didn’t agonize about the order in which he should create things, he just did it because his power and will are perfect. It brought him joy. And he started with light.

These are all important things to know about God as we live our lives. The questions and doubts and struggles we face sometimes call this “undercurrent” into question, although maybe not directly. While I have always believed that God created the world, I sometimes indirectly doubt this fact when I don’t trust that he will carry me through a trial. This also happens when I start to worry about the state of the Church, or the state of humanity. I am reminded of God’s response to Job after Job laid out his complaints and questions in response to immense suffering:

Job 38:4-7

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
    Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
    Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
    or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
    and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

This questioning of Job by God goes on for a couple of chapters, and is worth reading. Job’s response (spoiler alert) is one of confession and repentance, a lesson I want to heed. I am often awestruck by the beauty of creation. I feel it when gaze up at a blue sky with fluffy white clouds or watch tiny snowflakes gather on a windowsill. I feel it when I watch a seed sprout or a flower bloom over the course of a few days, and even when I see insects meandering through my garden, taking nourishment and shelter among blossoms, stems and leaves.

I recently had the opportunity to see a lot of God’s creation when we drove from Iowa to Tennessee and back. I saw so many different trees, clouds, grasses, critters (some dead- sad), and felt different kinds of weather (mostly heat). I try to revel in that awestruck feeling and enjoy a moment of appreciating nature as it was created, but as I contemplate Genesis 1:1-3 this week I’m encouraged by the Spirit to take it a step further and also practice humility in that moment. I want to remember that God is creator and sustainer, present with me and you and every other part of this world– his world– that he loves. I want to respond not only with wonder, but with confession and repentance. I pray that this process will become a new connection in my mind when I read or hear this passage from Genesis.

As always, I would love to hear any thoughts you have on the subject!

my own image, text added with the Rhonna Designs app

my own image, text added with the Rhonna Designs app

2015 Verse of the Week #31: Psalm 105:1-3

This week’s passage will be my last one from this album. The song is called “Give Thanks,” track 11 on “Seeds of Character.” I skipped a couple of tracks on this album– one because it was too long (Psalm 1) and another because it’s not really a verse (The Only Way). They’re both very much worth listening to and learning, though, so check out that album online! Anyway, here is this week’s passage in the ESV translation:

Psalm 105:1-3

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
    make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
    tell of all his wondrous works!
Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!

My husband Mike and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary this past Thursday. We have been really excited for this one, and invited some friends to celebrate with us yesterday. It was so fun, but we had a laaaate night and I am super tired today. Still, there is so much to be thankful for– including the very reason I am so tired!

The words are pretty straightforward, although I did have to look up one part. I can understand giving thanks, calling upon the Lord, telling others about him, singing praise, and rejoicing. We can do those things in all circumstances with help from God. But “glory in his holy name” is not something that comes up a lot. I made quick use of Bible Gateway’s study tools and found some insight from Matthew Henry’s commentary.

As I understand it now, the command to “glory” is more like a command to “find glory.” So rather than boasting about our own accomplishments we are to boast about the accomplishments of God and the goodness of his character, and receive glory because we are connected to him. And then, the commentary says, “…in glorying in him, we bring glory to him” (emphasis mine). Because all glory belongs to God.

My brain just cannot continue, so I have to stop here. I’m excited to begin a new Seeds Family Worship album next week, The Character of God. It is as we seek God and learn more about him that we give him the glory he is due and find all we need in life– growth, peace, comfort, joy, obedience and more– so I’m looking forward to meditating on verses that reveal different aspects of God’s character in the weeks to come.