2015 Verse of the Week #42: Psalm 20:7

Finally over that cold! But I gave myself last Monday off from sharing my verse of the week. I was not only sick, but traveled 700+ miles with my husband to a middle school ministry workers’ conference which, while wonderful/encouraging/refreshing/inspiring, completely sucked the life out of this introvert. It was an entire weekend of people-time! Once the event was over we drove a few short hours to see my family in Tennessee, which was a special trip because my grandma was there visiting my parents and sister for a month. I enjoyed resting in safe fellowship with my family in the familiar place where I spent the majority of my growing-up years. There was eating, chatting, laughing, and even some shopping. Sidewalks were strolled upon. Backroads were driven. I was “home,” and now I am back.

I figure if anyone is following along and missed the verse last Monday they could have easily used the track list from Seeds Family Worship to find “God is Unchanging” on the album The Character of God. That song goes along with Hebrews 13:8 which says “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” I pinned a cute image for it to my Verse of the Week pin board, FYI. It was in a Tennessee home studio some 15-odd years ago that I committed this verse to memory… for money. I sang on an album of memory verses– from the King James, no less– with a few other young people. From that session I can recall the verse from Hebrews along with Romans 12:1, although any other verses we recorded have since faded from memory. Maybe those two songs took us the longest? If you want to memorize a verse forever, singing it a few dozen times in a row with the words on a music stand in front of you and someone modeling how he wants it to sound after each take will do the trick!

This week’s verse is the final track of The Character of God. It’s called “We Trust” and can be found in Psalm 20:7.

Psalm 20:7

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
    but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

 

I love that this verse is the last song on the album for a couple of reasons. First, a reasonable response to learning about God’s character is to trust him with our hearts, our feelings, our futures, and all aspects of our lives. Over the past 10 weeks the Scriptural passages I have looked at from The Character of God have pointed to God as Creator, Holy, Love, Light, Spirit and Truth, Wise, Faithful, Everlasting, Jealous, and Unchanging. While not entirely all-encompassing, this is an awesome list that I think does a great job of highlighting the most important facets of God’s character that have been revealed to us in Scripture. If we believe that God is all of those things, it only makes sense to trust him above anything else.

The second reason I love the choice of this verse on the album is that the name of the Lord actually carries with it descriptions of his character and deeds. This is something I learned yesterday in church when, as usual, I thanked God that my pastor reads all (and I do mean ALL) of the books so I don’t have to. 😉 He pointed to the time when Moses very boldly asked something of God: to show his glory to Moses. I love that story (found in Exodus 33 and 34) and enjoyed studying about it last year at Bible Study Fellowship. But the thought of the Scriptural term “the name of the Lord” actually referring to his nature and deeds did not crystallize for me until yesterday. God said he would come to Moses in all his goodness and declare his name to him, although God would not appear in all his glory because he needed Moses to stick around and lead the people (“you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” Ex. 33:20). God descended in a cloud, shielded Moses, and caused the glory of his goodness to pass by as he declared his name: “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Ex. 34:6-7)

God does not describe himself in one word or name, but by telling about his nature and his deeds (which prove his nature). Once these thoughts connected in my mind, I though of another verse: The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10). I’ve heard that verse many times throughout my life and thought it was just another poetic thing to say the name of the Lord is strong rather than just saying God is strong. But the words mean more than that: the sum of all of God’s parts equals a trustworthy and strong refuge for all who seek the Lord.

I want to say one more thing about Psalm 20:7. As I was listening to the song and working on the chalk lettering I noticed that there is a bit of an “us vs. them” mentality to the words upon an initial, surface reading of the verse. While there is some truth to that because some trust in God and some do not, it would be inconsistent with the character of God for the Christian to allow a feeling of superiority to take root from reading this verse. Even the faith it requires to trust God is a gift from God himself, and the other effects of trusting his “name” are also gifts– undeserved ones. It is not the ability of the believer, but the subject of our belief that allows us to trust in the name of the Lord our God who is Creator, Holy, Love, Light, Spirit and Truth, Wise, Faithful, Everlasting, Jealous, Unchanging, and more. Those who have accepted the free gift of salvation by Christ’s sacrifice can experience communion with God as he reveals himself to us by his Spirit through his Word, prayer, and fellowship with other believers.

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This is my own image, taken in my home. It’s a little blurry because I had to take a panorama to fit the whole thing in the picture!

 

2015 Verse of the Week #40: Exodus 20:3-5a

I’m getting over a cold, and busier than one in my recovering state should be, so the blog has taken a back seat this week. I’m stopping by to update with my weekly passage from Exodus, which can be heard in the song “God is Jealous” from Seeds Family Worship’s album called  The Character of God. Here is the text:

Exodus 20:3-5a (5b in parentheses)

“You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, (visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,)

 

I thought it was important to include verse 5b here. It makes sense to me that Seeds did not include that part in their song, as their audience is primarily children. It’s a tricky topic and I wish I had the time and energy to get into it. I learned a little bit about the idea of God’s punishing sin in future generations last year during Bible Study Fellowship’s Moses study. I don’t believe God does this now under the new covenant, but rather each individual is responsible for her/his own sins and likewise is offered an individual chance to accept salvation in Christ. But the natural consequences of sin do affect subsequent generations. We see this now in cycles of abuse, addiction, poverty, etc. that are essentially “passed down” from generation to generation.

And the opposite is certainly true; loving relationships, healthy or wise living, and faith can all be passed down from generation to generation.

Exodus 20:3-5 shows us some rules that a loving God set forth for his people so they would be a people who followed him for generations to come.

I can’t say that God’s jealousy is a characteristic I truly understand. I think sometimes I view God as being indifferent to my foolish, selfish, or otherwise sinful choices, but he is not. And I can’t blame him- he knows the best way for me to live and has laid it out clearly for me in his Word, so when I choose the other way it is only natural that he would be hurt or upset. Not that he is any less complete without my measly offering of obedience, worship, or dedication, but these verses (and others throughout Scripture) tell me that he must miss it. He knows he is the holy, just, everlasting Creator and is complete and perfect as Father/Son/Spirit, but he wants me to be connected to him.

Contemplating this verse has caused me to view God’s jealousy in a little more relatable light, something that is only natural because of God’s love, light, holiness, and wisdom.

Well, I am off to take some more meds and drag myself back out into the world of the living. Have a great week and please share your thoughts on this verse if you have something to say!

I simply Googled “Exodus 20:3” to find an image for this verse, and I love that a blog post from a fellow ministry wife popped up. Thanks, Internet! 🙂

2015 Verse of the Week #39: Psalm 90:1-2

My verses this week can be heard in the song, “God is Everlasting,” track 8 on the Seeds Family Worship album The Character of God. There are a couple of ideas in the passage that I think will be very helpful to me this week! So here it is:

Psalm 90:1-2

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
    or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

First of all I want to point out that Psalm 90 is attributed to Moses. Just if you wanted to know. 🙂 After thoroughly studying the story of Moses and the Exodus last year in Bible Study Fellowship it is helpful context for me to have as I read these words. Last year I learned a lot of things about Moses I hadn’t considered before. Most notable to me is the humility God displayed in his life. It was great timing for me to study Moses while realizing I was in need of humility in order to more closely follow the Lord.

Anyway, the first idea that stands out to me is in verse 1: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place….” The thought of God as my dwelling place is nice, but what does it actually mean? Lately I have received help from the Spirit in trusting God more actively. This looks like praying a whole lot more, specifically in the midst of going over and over a worry in my mind.

As a behavior analyst I know that when trying to eliminate an unwanted behavior it doesn’t work to simply stop it, because behavior doesn’t disappear into a vacuum– we are always doing something. No, it is much more beneficial to replace the unwanted behavior with a more desirable, appropriate, or beneficial one. Lately I have been working on replacing worry with prayer. When I read Psalm 90:1 my mind goes back to the feeling I get when I interrupt a worrying thought and begin to have prayerful thoughts. There is surrender, trust, and peace. That, to me, is the Lord being my dwelling place. I’m sure there is more to that idea of dwelling, but that’s what it means to me right now.

The second idea that sticks out to me is at the end of verse 2: “…from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” The song emphasizes this phrase, which makes it comforting to listen to. I know I have heard this phrase many times over the years, but I never really thought about it as anything more than flowery, Psalm-y language. Now I’m seeing that it is so much more. It tells us about God’s nature and character. God is not God from beginning to end, but from always-has-been to always-will-be. He was not created, for he always was. He made us similar to him (made in his image), but he is not like us; he had no beginning and he will not pass away. “From everlasting to everlasting” does sound poetic, but it is also informative. I’m glad I finally paid attention to this phrase.

If I believe the Bible to be true and that God reveals his character to us through its words, if I believe the other aspects of his character that I’ve focused on in previous weeks– creator, holy, love, light, Spirit, truth, wise, faithful– then it is foolishness not to trust in him. Why would I spin my wheels in the mud of worry when I can bring my concerns to the God who existed before the world began?

I mean, I still do spin my wheels that way sometimes; I’m pretty sure it’s human nature. But I hope in time I can replace that old, ineffective behavior with the more beneficial route of prayer. And when I say prayer I also mean trust and humility- acknowledging that I need God because I don’t know the future and worrying can’t change it anyway.

I need these words this week and beyond. Dear everlasting God, please be my dwelling place.

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2015 Verse of the Week #38: 1 Corinthians 1:9

This week’s verse finds me on track 7 of Seeds Family Worship’s album The Character of God. The song is called “God is Faithful.” The song uses 1 Corinthians 1:8 and 9, but the fact that verse 8 is the end of a very long sentence and the song puts it after verse 9 was kind of driving me batty (why yes, I did major in English- how did you guess?) and left me in a pickle. Don’t get me wrong; I love the song! I’m going to focus more on verse 9, but I don’t want to overlook the ideas in verse 8 (which actually begin in verse 4). So for fun, here is the entire passage:

1 Corinthians 1:4-9

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Verses 4-8 tell us some basics. Paul is about to address some division among the Corinthians, but he gives them some encouraging reminders first. These reminders can be helpful to us, too, as we focus on the faithfulness of God.

Real quick, Paul is saying these things: God gives grace to his people through Christ, which in turn strengthens us in speech and knowledge and gives us spiritual gifts, and in all of this work God is doing in us he enables us to live a life of hope and expectation of Christ’s return. Oh, and he takes away our sins– I don’t want to forget that!

Verse 9 tells us why God does this (or one reason): he is faithful.

As I focus on this verse a couple of things stick out to me. The first one is how God shows his faithfulness, or how we know he is faithful. With Paul’s sentence structure being what it is, I find it helpful to read each of his sentences multiple times, rearranging the parts so they make sense to me. Otherwise I get a little lost, and sometimes I miss the most important ideas. I don’t think I’m alone in this! On my first reading of verse 9 I’m inclined to see “God is faithful” as the point, remember it, and skim everything else as just words as I move along to find the next point. But when I do my rereading and rearranging I find even more depth to the idea: God, who called us into the fellowship of Jesus Christ, is faithful.

God is faithful to do the work in us that Paul describes in verses 4-8: giving us grace, enriching us in speech and knowledge and spiritual gifts so that we can give testimony to who Jesus Christ is, helping us to wait in hope for the day of Christ, and sustaining us until the end when we will appear guiltless before our Lord when he comes in judgment. Whew, that is a lot!

But there’s more: God’s faithfulness is also displayed in his bringing us into the fellowship of Jesus Christ. This is huge. I often think of fellowship as being around other believers and having conversations together, maybe over coffee or food, talking about the Bible, giving encouragement, and/or praying. But I don’t think that’s the kind of fellowship Paul means here. Our fellowship with Christ is more than having some coffee and talking about our day; this kind of fellowship is a connection. This is the kind of fellowship that comes from being made children of God, and therefore co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). This is a huge, gracious gift from our God, who we know is faithful if we will look back over his history. From the Garden of Eden to the Ark, from the burning bush to the Exodus, from the entrance into the Promised Land to the judges and kings and prophets, from the life and sacrifice and resurrection of Christ, to the disciples and the spread of the Gospel, to us right now… God is faithful. We can look back and know that God will be faithful to the end. It is his nature and character.

The second thing that sticks out to me is more of where this verse causes my mind to go, which is a little outside the direct context of the verse. If God is faithful, he must be trustworthy. If he has given fellowship with Christ and is sustaining me until the end, then it must be worth my while to let him do his work. I can look back at God’s history in the Bible and see his faithfulness, but I can also look back at my own life to see it. Since God’s character is consistent, then he can be trusted. So the lesson that sticks out to me from this verse today is that I can look at the uncertainty in my life now and remember that someday I will look back at this time in my life and be able to point to what God was doing. And if that is the case, I should not worry about what may or may not happen. I will know eventually, but I can’t know right now. I only know what I know- no more.

So with the information I have, not striving for what cannot be found, will I choose to strive for what I already know is mine– fellowship with Christ Jesus my Lord? I want to. My own thoughts, plans, and worries get in the way, but when I put God’s Word into my mind and heart it helps me remember what is true and what matters most. It’s my prayer that this Word in my heart will bring me into deeper fellowship with the One who changes me and sustains me to the end, who enriches my life to give testimony to his grace and, of course, his faithfulness.

What are your thoughts on this passage and God’s faithfulness?

Bonus: I also thought of this beautiful song by Matt Redman, especially the part that says, “You are faithful/God, you are faithful.” It is already competing with “God is Faithful” for space in my brain. 😉 They’re both welcome, of course. Listen to “Never Once” here.

Annnnnnd, I found a really nice graphic to go along with my verse. Enjoy!

image from year27.com

2015 Verse of the Week #37: Romans 11:33-36

This passage from Romans is featured in the song “God is Wise” by Seeds Family Worship on their album The Character of God. Click through and look for track 6. Here is the passage:

Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
    or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
    that he might be repaid?”

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

These verses are some of my favorites! As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, learning all we can about God’s character is so important to understanding the Bible and its impact on our lives. If we are seeking God first and are dedicated to knowing him, we will become equipped to discern whatever is not of God. Of course, as I’m typing this I can clearly see the verses in italics: “For who has known the mind of the Lord…” There are many things we can know about God, many ways in which he reveals himself to us, but there are still parts of him that remain mysterious to us or are beyond our understanding. To me that is just another reminder of God’s holiness and power.

Last week was my first week as the classroom assistant at our church’s preschool in the 3- and 4-year-old class. We meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays and I just love that bunch of babies already. Oh, sure, I tell them they are “big kids,” but when you boil it down, their age can still be measured in months and they hardly know anything about life– most of them only learned to use the toilet this summer– so they are babies! They are precious and tiny, but also growing and learning at exponential rates. Praise the Lord. It is an amazing privilege to be a part of this time in their lives.

Anyway, the first week was devoted to learning the rules and routines of the classroom: sitting criss-cross applesauce, keeping one’s hands to oneself, staying together as a group, listening for your name to be called, what does your name even look like….. and on and on. They have a lot to learn!

And this week we start in on letters and craft projects and Bible stories. The way our teacher/director has set up the class is for her assistant to teach the Bible portion of the morning, and that’s what made this job a perfect fit for me because teaching the Bible to preschoolers is pretty much my favorite! Tomorrow I will open our little Beginner’s Bible and talk about the creation of the world with the kids. I will tell them how God didn’t need help or tools or materials to create the world, he just thought of it, spoke, and it came into existence.

And I’m so glad this passage will be fresh in my mind as I teach that lesson! I think it’s a perfect tie-in to creation because it reminds me of God’s power and majesty and, of course, wisdom. I love to look at the world around me and just revel in the details that God designed– from cloud formations and the colors of the sky down to how a butterfly “drinks” from a flower or ants communicate with one another as they go about their work.

If I believe that God created this world with such beauty and intricacy and cares about its welfare, then I have to believe that he cares for me. This is no revelation, but… the world is pretty big. And I have always found it easy to trust God with the world. I try to do my part in caring for the earth, but ultimately I trust that God knows what he’s doing and will sustain it for as long as he sees fit before sending Jesus back. If it’s so easy for me to trust my wise creator with the world, why is it so difficult for me to trust him with my life sometimes? I don’t have a neat little answer for that, but I think the tension in that question can help me as I seek to trust God more.

I think acknowledging God’s wisdom and power as creator can serve as a readily available reminder to me that God is trustworthy. God designed me and knows me, and not only that: he is with me. He is for me. He is aware of every aspect of my life, every cell in my body, every feeling I have– even the ones I can’t make sense of yet. But he doesn’t just watch, silently judging me for my shortcomings or mistakes. He sent the Son as a redeeming sacrifice and the Spirit as a constant companion and guide because he loves me and wants me to be connected to him. Christ intercedes on my behalf and the Spirit helps me to pray even when my troubles escape my understanding.

Based on what God reveals to us in his Word and through his Spirit, we can trust that in the depth of his wisdom and knowledge (beyond our understanding) there is righteousness. He is Creator. He is Love. He is Holy. He is Light. He is Spirit. He is Truth. Therefore, he is trustworthy, and it only makes sense for me to trust him with my life if I believe all those things about him. That’s what I want to work on this week. I have unanswered questions and messes that have yet to be cleaned up, but rather than turn to the anxiety my mind creates, I want to turn to the peace God offers when I trust in his wisdom.

I’m running out of time today, but aside from the Creator connection in this passage, I also want to mention verse 35: “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” This is just more evidence of God’s power, grace, and trustworthiness to me. I need to be reminded that it’s God’s world and I’m just living in it. 😉 That he doesn’t need my help, but he lets me help for my own benefit and the benefit of the Kingdom.

Being involved in helping professions through my husband’s vocational ministry, my work with preschoolers, and my work with autism as a behavior analyst, I can fall into the trap of having a too-lofty opinion of myself. This isn’t an active “I’m the best” attitude, but presents itself in a sneakier way when I feel like I am the only one who can do this job, help this person, etc. and the world will fall off its axis if I ever stop. My work, while important, is a humble and meager offering compared to God’s goodness, power, wisdom, and care for people. It is God who gave me the gifts I’m using in my work in the first place, so it only makes sense that if I ever stopped doing it… he will make sure the work gets done! I have learned this lesson in the past when I’ve had to leave different jobs or ministry responsibilities behind, but I also want to remember the lesson while I’m in the midst of the work. My prayer is that I will remember to leave my work in God’s hands even while I’m doing it.

So much for time! 😉 Thanks for reading, and please share your thoughts in the comments section if you feel led.

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2015 Verse of the Week #36: John 4:23-24

This week’s verses can be heard in the song “God is Spirit” on the Seeds Family Worship album The Character of God. Here is the passage:

John 4:23-24

23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

I’ve been enjoying Labor Day weekend, so I hope I can keep this post short in order to enjoy a little more rest before preschool and youth ministry kick off this week. I also hope I can keep it short because I chopped my hand up while slicing some carrots Sunday night. Boo! I mandolin-sliced chunks off of the edge of my hand and the tip of one of my fingers. This is all on my right hand, so writing, typing, self-care, and pretty much all routine tasks are challenging at the moment. And probably for the next several days.

Anyway, after Sunday’s church service I am ready for this passage! I was given the privilege of leading worship, and because the message was focused on the Spirit (Galatians 5) I chose songs that I prayed would tune our minds and hearts in that direction. And, as always, God came through. I got to see and hear evidence of his faithful presence in the praises of his people. By the grace of God we were worshiping together in spirit and truth: celebrating who God is, his love for us, the sacrifice of Jesus, the presence of the Spirit with the redeemed, and recognizing corporately our humble position before God’s righteousness. I love hearing the sound of hundreds of voices praising the Lord, and our congregation was really going for it! I am so encouraged by that sound and feeling.

So with that image, sound, and feeling in mind I will be meditating on John 4:23-24. These words of Jesus were spoken to the woman at the well in Samaria, and the entire story can be found in the first 45 verses of John chapter 4. It’s an amazing story! In the verses of interest, Jesus is telling the Samaritan woman that soon “true worship” of God will not be about going to the correct temple but about the heart of each worshipper. Jesus’ sacrifice as part of God’s great plan to reconcile creation to himself would– and did– change everything.

It is the same now. Worshipping God is not about going to the right church, singing the right songs, or doing a specific set of religious actions. Church services and music and religiosity are actually only a very small part of our worship. We are to serve God with our entire lives, following his Spirit and allowing him to cultivate his fruit in our hearts.

My prayer for myself this week is that God will use the powerful memory of the voices of my church family and the feeling of unity in worship to remind me to seek him in everything I do. And to remember what matters most to him: the heart of the worshipper… my heart. All I need to do is surrender it to him and he will work, as he always does.

I’m also praying for my slices to heal. 🙂

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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