2015 Verse of the Week #49: 1 Chronicles 16:8-10

This week’s passage can be heard on track 7 on the album Seeds of Praise by Seeds Family Worship. They use the 1984 NIV on the album, which has since been updated. I found that the ESV is actually the same as the old NIV used in the song, so that is the version I’m including here.

1 Chronicles 16:8-10

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!
10 Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!

This is a great song, and I have a new memory to go with it. A few weeks ago at preschool I played this song for the children in an effort to stretch my Bible lesson out while our lead teacher was at the store picking up food we had ordered for our Thanksgiving feast. We were learning about David in our Bible lesson, specifically his worship of God through words, music, and dance. I put this song on and told the kids it was perfect for Thanksgiving. Because it isn’t a fast song I said they could dance but needed to be gentle and peaceful and listen to the words so we could sing together. At first they sat and swayed, mostly just watching me as I sang the words, but as they started to pick up the lyrics my sweet little class began to stand up and hold hands with one another in groups of 3 or 4, walking in slow circles. A couple of the little girls got experimental with “ballerina” moves. By the end of the song they were all singing, walking around, holding hands with friends, some lifting their hands or jumping. Once the song had ended we all said, “Thank you, God!” It was a precious moment to see them respond to the Word in a way that made sense to them without specific instruction from me.

The entire chapter of 1 Chronicles 16 is a description of what happened after David brought the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant back to Jerusalem. Verse 8 is the beginning of a song David appointed the Levites to sing as they were ministering before the Ark. The entire song is 28 verses long and worth a read.

With Thanksgiving over, Advent in full swing, and Christmas around the corner, I’m thinking of how I can tie them all together. I have a visual reminder of the things I am thankful for which I have placed in a visible spot, an art journal I am using to record my journey through the She Reads Truth Advent devotionals, and I can see reminders of Christmas everywhere– within my own home and beyond. I like to see Thanksgiving as a time to put the brakes on the quickening pace of life that we start to feel as “the holiday season” approaches. It’s a time to put the focus on what matters most, which for me is the fact that God is the source of everything– not just everything I have, but my life, every person, the earth, and the connections between it all. He is the source of true life– salvation through Christ– and that is where I want my focus to be as Christmas approaches.

This year I’m feeling the pull to be more intentional and thoughtful as Christmas approaches. I know this motivation is from the Spirit, of course, but I’m wondering if my little verse of the week project (also motivated by the Spirit) played a role in tuning my heart toward intentional contemplation. Anyway, with much prayer and after many times of failure, I am finally waking up earlier to have a time of reading and prayer at the beginning of my day. It’s been maybe a year since I’ve done this. And after a few times it wasn’t so difficult anymore; I am now actually excited to get up, read the day’s devotional, and create something artistic from it. It is my hope to continue this early-morning routine into the new year, but whatever happens with that, I’m glad I can have these early morning moments in the days leading up to Christmas.

Speaking of the new year, I have been thinking of how I will structure my blog posts in 2016. The verse of the week definitely helped me create content regularly, but I don’t know if I want to do it again next year. I do know that if I don’t have a plan I will probably only post every few months, but I don’t like that– I need to write and share more frequently than that. I am pretty sure I will share the verse of the month I memorize with my high schoolers at church, but I’d like to continue to post at least once a week. So if you have any ideas, please tell me!

Finally, here is a lovely image I found for this week’s passage.

this image is from duoparadigms.com; if you download it, please download it from their page by clicking on the image to go to their site.

 

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2015 Verse of the Week #19: James 1:17

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My 19th verse of the year is James 1:17. I love, love, LOVE the Seeds Family Worship song for this verse, “Heavenly Lights,” which is track 6 on “The Power of Encouragement.” I have a special attachment to this verse because it was one of my preschoolers’ favorite songs, and I had them perform it at graduation and as I watched them (and mouthed the words for them) I cried from all the adorableness. It was more than simply adorable, which I’ll get to, but first I should share the verse. The image above is from my Bible app, which I have set to the ESV translation. I think the 1984 NIV is easier to memorize, though, and that is the version used in the Seeds song, so here it is:

James 1:17

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

My challenge today will be getting through this post without crying, because I can’t help but think of two different classes of 3- and 4-year-olds shout-singing these words while smiling, looking around at their peers, and doing motions. I am also preparing to attend preschool graduation tonight, and will be saying goodbye to the little ones I was blessed to spend a few months with as a substitute helper in their class. Preschoolers typically prefer more rowdy fare for their action songs, and while there is some rocking guitar during the chorus of this song, it’s definitely on the mellow side overall. So I was always surprised that my munchkins loved it so much. But should I have been?

As I pondered this verse from a grown-up perspective I felt like maybe I taught it to my kids out of context. It sounds very nice and happy: God, our father and creator, gives us good gifts. And this is true (look up Matthew 7:11 for a start). But the verses preceding 17 are about temptation and the results of sin, and the first part of the chapter is about enduring the difficulties of life. Chapter 1 of the book of James opens with that classic pick-me-up, “count it all joy, brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (verse 2).

That opening may sound like a downer on the surface, but this first portion of James 1 is actually quite encouraging, full of assurance and truth and affirmation. Verses 2-6 are particularly rich, and verse 12 boldly affirms God’s heavenly reward for those who trust and follow him. James also wanted us to know that God does not tempt us. And his reasoning behind the statement is that God cannot himself be tempted by evil (13), and when humans are tempted it is by our own evil desires (14). Verse 17 confirms that God is unchanging and gives good gifts. To put it all together, he would not lure us to evil because that would contradict his intrinsically, naturally, permanent and unchanging good nature.

When I taught this song, maybe I did disregard some of the context. And maybe when I try to dig really deep into the context of the passage, my brain hurts a little bit. I don’t fully understand the placement of this verse and all of what it means past what I have shared above. But despite my lack of understanding, I latch onto it just as my little preschoolers did. Why is that?

I believe this attraction is due to the power of God and his Word. I believe that the human authors of the Bible were guided by God’s Holy Spirit in their writing, and that his Spirit also guides our reading of the Word. James 1:17 not only contains powerful truths about God, but it is also written beautifully, and something about the beauty of the words is conveyed to our hearts by the Spirit. This is such a beautiful and unmerited gift from God to us, and now I have failed my “no crying” challenge. 😉

There is something about the Word of God that draws us to Him. That something is actually someone, or God’s very Spirit. So even if we’re 3 years old (or 31 years old) and don’t feel like we fully understand the theological implications of a verse, it can speak to our hearts. This is the uncontainable, unstoppable, unchanging power of God. He does not change like shifting shadows. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8, Mal. 3:6, Ps. 90:2). He acts out of his everlasting nature of love and righteousness, and his desire is for every person to choose to be reconciled to him through Jesus (John 3:16-17, Acts 17:27).

Sometimes we may “feel” a verse before we fully understand it. And that is alright! God knows our limitations- that’s why we need salvation, and were given a perfect Helper in the form of the Spirit to guide us as we seek to know God better. I would love to hear from you– how does this verse or passage encourage you? Do you have any experience with being drawn to a verse even if you don’t fully understand it?

2015 Verse of the Week #18: Mark 9:35

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Verse #18 of 2015 is Mark 9:35. The Seeds Family Worship song is called “Servant of All,” track 6 on “The Power of Encouragement.” It is a super fun song! I have fond memories of my preschoolers dancing around with air instruments to this one when I was teaching my own small class. Seeds uses the 1984 NIV which is different from the updated NIV, and I like the ESV (which my church uses) so that is what I’ve included here.

Mark 9:35

And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

This statement from Jesus is so foundational to his earthly and eternal character, to our understanding of the character of God, and to our understanding of the gospel in our lives as Christians. Jesus’ serving others was one of the ways he showed that he was the Messiah and set an example for us to follow (Phil. 2:7).

Earlier in Mark 9, we are told of the transfiguration (2-13), at which point I have to assume that Peter, James, and John knew Jesus was the Son of God; and the story following the transfiguration details Jesus’ casting out a demon that the disciples had failed to cast out earlier (13-29). In verses 30-37 (which contains my memory verse, 35), Jesus speaks with his followers and predicts his death a second time and gives further evidence of his being one with God the Father.

Jesus shows his omniscience by speaking to something the disciples wouldn’t tell him about: that they had been arguing about who was “the greatest” in their group (33-34). Again, they have missed the point entirely, but Jesus takes the opportunity to lead them back to the real point (which is the classic Sunday School answer: God). He tells them that if they want to be first, they must be last, and a servant of all (35).

I don’t think Jesus was saying that the way to win and be the first or best is to do our time by humbling ourselves and serving others; it’s not a means to an end kind of thing. Or just not the means to the end the disciples were thinking about. Certainly, Scripture tells us that those who put others before themselves will be rewarded, but again that is not the main point. God is first! God is all! His glory is the goal.

So in the process of serving others we should lose our initial desire to be first or raise our status or be above others at all as we become aware of our humble position in comparison to God’s holiness, and we recognize the importance of elevating the truth of who God is for all to see and believe.

With Mother’s Day coming up, I can’t help but think of a mother’s sacrificial love when I read this passage. My own mother lives a life of putting others before herself, and I have had the privilege of knowing many other mothers who live this way, specifically my grandmother and my mother-in-law, but also countless other ladies who were and are part of my church life. This love lived out is a great example, and it doesn’t take great wisdom to recognize this- we all know we need to thank our mothers for everything they have done and continue to do for us.

Even in preschool last week as we asked the kids about their moms for a special Mother’s Day gift, we heard the most precious responses. The words of these children revealed the service and sacrifice of their mothers. Many of them said, “She plays with me,” or “She gives me food,” which may seem like simple things but are sacrifices of time, effort, money, and planning. The sweetest thing I heard by far was when I asked a little girl what her mom does that makes her happy. She said, “She thinks about me.” That is being a servant: thinking of others first.

So my first encouragement is to put a little thought into how you will thank your mother (or grandmother, or “other mother”) for thinking about you! Then, put some thought into how you will serve others through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, available to us because of Jesus’ perfect life and sacrifice. We do not do this on our own, but through him and for him, so we can acknowledge that HE is first.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this verse, on mothers, on this passage in Mark, or whatever comes to mind from reading this post. Thanks for reading.