What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, December 19, 2013

December Thoughts

I just realized that if I don’t write something about Christmas this week, my next post will be after Christmas. In realizing that I also realized that I failed to take note of a very special day to me, December 13th. So I will start with December 13 remembrances.
In 1978 – that was 35 years ago – on December 13th I wrote in my journal: “I believe!” I wrote it in big letters with several exclamation points after it. It was my first proclamation of a belief in Jesus Christ. It wasn’t proclaimed publicly for several days after that, but December 13th is the official first day of the rest of my life. It’s the day I put my faith and trust in my Higher Power for the first time.
Since that day I have experienced God in many ways in my life, but when I’m struggling with my faith, I need to remember to go back to what life was like before that December 13th in 1978. I see that I was only able to make a sober decision to trust in Christ because of God’s power in my life. Up until that time, I drank alcohol on a regular basis. I was surviving college and managing to do okay in my classes but my social life was wrapped up in parties and drinking (even when there wasn’t a party to go to). I don’t have any explanation as to how I stayed sober long enough to make a decision to trust in God. The only explanation is that God was at work in me. He was providing a small miracle to help me see Him more clearly. I stayed sober long enough to make a decision to follow Him and He helped me stay sober after that for quite some time. I only returned to drinking when I lost sight of the One who got me sober in the first place. When I doubt God’s existence, I return in my memory to those days in 1978 when all seemed hopeless and I felt so alone. There was a change in my life because of Christ. There’s no other explanation and I need no other proof that God exists.
There’s another December 13th that is meaningful to me. On December 13, 1989, my son was born. He was another miracle of God that I can hold onto when I doubt God’s existence. He was born healthy, more or less, in spite of my insulin-dependent diabetes. He has made huge difference in my life and I cherish the memories of his infancy and childhood. I also am excited to see what the future holds for him. His name means “gift of God,” and he has proven to be that for me.
December, in general, is a special time of the year for me. Besides the two births – mine into Christ and my son’s into this world – there was a baby born over 2,000 years ago. That brings me great joy. I’ve been doubting a lot lately, but the Christmas season reminds me that there’s hope. It seems like such a fantastic story . . . a virgin giving birth, a boy growing into a man who would die for my sins, etc. But, those things took miracles to happen. There’s hope in miracles. Maybe there will be miracles for me in my future. Christmas brings the hope of miracles with it.
So I choose to look at the joy and miracles of the Christmas season. I choose to believe in the birth of Christ and in all the stories found in Scripture. There are miracles happening all around us everyday. I just need to choose to see them and believe in the Giver of miracles. That’s where I get joy from in the month of December.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

How to Get Invited to God's Place: Psalm 15

Who gets invited to dinner with God? That is the question David asks and answers in Psalm 15. Verse 1 asks the questions: “God, who gets invited to dinner at your place? How do we get on your guest list?” [The Message] Then David goes on to answer the question in the next four verses.
I looked at the answers and tried to honestly evaluate how I would measure up. It was a humbling experience. I looked at the answers in two versions of Scripture, The Message and the New American Standard Bible (NASB).
The first criteria is to “walk straight” or “walk with integrity.” The best I could say about my efforts in this area is that I try to walk with integrity. I don’t always do what I say I’m going to do so I can’t say I do this perfectly. I try to be true to my word and do what I say I’m going to do and I try not to say I’ll do something then not follow through on it. One example where I have failed is in promising God to memorize His Scripture. I am just not very good at following through on that commitment.
The next criteria for being invited to God’s house for dinner is “act right” or “work righteousness.” Again, the best I can say is I try. I’m so thankful for God’s mercy and forgiveness that we have in Jesus. Without it, I would never get invited to God’s place because I do fail to act right, mostly I fail to even think about what right acting would look like.
Next is to “tell the truth” or “speak truth.” I was able to honestly say that I do this most of the time. Again, I’m not perfect and I’m thankful for God’s forgiveness and for the opportunities to try to improve upon it. But for the most part I say what I mean and I mean what I say. I don’t spread lies about other people and I try to only speak that which is true. Sometimes I don’t know what the truth is. In those cases, I try not to speak at all.
Another criteria is “don’t hurt your friend” or “does not slander with the tongue.” I don’t think I do that. I try to look at the positives in people and I’m cautious about saying bad things about another person. Another aspect of this criteria is “not taking up a reproach.” I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds to me like it means not spreading a bad rumor (or even the bad truth) about another person. I have to be careful to not be involved in spreading gossip and rumors. I don’t do it often but I can be lulled into thinking I’m just sharing a prayer request but may be spreading a rumor.
In verse 3 it also mentions that we shouldn’t “blame a neighbor” or “do evil to a neighbor.” I like to think I take personal responsibility for things that happen in my life. I don’t place blame on others when I’m at fault. But I also need to be careful not to place blame on others when it’s not my fault. I should let God decide where the blame goes.
Verse 4 says, as another criteria, “despise the despicable” or “despise reprobate and honor those who fear God.” I’m at fault here. Sometimes I laugh at a dirty joke or go along with watching less than godly television shows and movies. That’s not despising the despicable. It’s condoning the despicable things. I need to evaluate where and when I do this and try to change my ways. After all, I’d rather be invited to God’s place than watch a questionable show.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Skipping Rope: Psalm 14

Sometimes the way The Message Bible puts things conjures up interesting images in my mind. For instance, Psalm 14:7 says,
“Is there anyone around to save Israel?
            Yes, God is around; God turns life around.
Turned-around Jacob skips rope,
            Turned around Israel sings laughter.”
That’s what I want: Life to be all about skipping rope and singing laughter. The image of people skipping rope brings to mind playing and having fun. That’s what I want for my life. I want it to be like play. I want life to be full of fun. But that doesn’t just happen by chance. It comes about because God works out the details to life and turns our despair into some kind of joy. In the New American Standard Bible verse 7 says,
“When the Lord restores His captive people,
            Jacob will rejoice, Israel will be glad.”
The idea that rejoicing is like skipping rope and playing brings me comfort. I can relate to the playing part being a way of rejoicing. The way to rejoicing in this way is to let God turn my life around.
I also relate these days to being a captive people. I feel held captive by my own thoughts and feelings. When will God restore me? When He does I will feel joy and gladness but when will He do it? Today would be nice. This moment would be nice but I don’t see or feel that happening. But, I know that if I turn to God and try to see things from His perspective, there’s a chance I will feel better. I wait and pray and long for the day I will be restored. I can’t wait to be skipping rope and singing with laughter. I know that if I focus on God enough and trust Him, that day is coming for me just as it came for David and for Israel.
We are now into the holiday season. Thanksgiving is behind me and the Christmas celebration is before me. I pray for the rejoicing and gladness of the season. I don’t feel it right now, but it’s still there waiting for me. If I focus on God and what He’s done in my life, I can have the joy of the season. That’s my goal for this season.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Answered Prayer: Psalm 13

Sometimes it seems like the people in the Bible had a huge amount of faith and trust in God. When I read the Psalms, I see a lot of praising God and trusting God. I don’t always feel or think that I can trust God and get discouraged by the faith other people show in God. My faith wavers and dips. Sometimes I have more faith and sometimes I have less.
When I think of King David, I think of a man whose heart was completely for God. In 1 Samuel 16 it talks about how God picked David because God looks at the heart and found David’s heart to be devoted to Him. Does that mean that David never doubted God? If that was the case then relating to David would be very difficult, because I am full of doubts.
In Psalm 13, David begins with a statement that tells me that he did in fact doubt that God would come through for him:
“Long enough, God –
            you’ve ignored me long enough.
I’ve looked at the back of your head
            long enough. Long enough
I’ve carried this ton of trouble,
            lived with a stomach full of pain.
Long enough my arrogant enemies
            have looked down their noses at me.” [Verses 1 – 2, The Message]
David questioned God’s care for him. He doubts that God will take care of him and protect him from the arrogant enemies. He complains of feeling alone and ignored. He complains of having a ton of trouble. He complains of living with pain in his stomach, possibly from nerves, anxiety and/or hunger. I can relate to this David. I’ve felt alone and ignored and like there’s a ton of trouble just waiting for me. I’ve struggled with anxiety that has left me with pain in my stomach. I can relate to the David in this Psalm.
The question that comes to me is this: Does God really ignore us? I don’t think so. I think David thought God was ignoring him but God was at work somehow. David comes around to acknowledging God’s work in his life by the end of this Psalm. David keeps talking to God and eventually comes to a point of trusting God. Verses 5 – 6 say,
“I’ve thrown myself headlong into your arms –
            I’m celebrating your rescue.
I’m singing at the top of my lungs,
            I’m so full of answered prayers.”
I think that many of my prayers are like David’s. I start off complaining and worried but as I focus on Who God is and what He’s done for me, I come around and end up praising Him. Eventually, I can end up throwing myself into God’s arms and celebrating the way He rescues me from the trouble I face. Sometimes it doesn’t happen right away. It may take a few days or a few months or even a few years, but eventually I see God’s answered prayer. And if there are things that I pray about and never see the answered prayer, it doesn’t mean God wasn’t at work. It may mean that in God’s plan there was something better going on than I could see.
I’ve seen enough of God’s rescues to know He’s at work. I can trust Him for the things I cannot see. I can trust Him not to be ignoring me, as I might think He is. I just have to remember the things He’s done and praise Him for the answers I’ve seen. Like David, I can be singing at the top of my lungs about the answers to prayer I have received and trust Him for the ones yet to come.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Refined Truth or Lies: Psalm 12

King David usually has something good to say about God. In this Psalm he says something very encouraging about God’s Word. I love God’s Word, and so did David. There are many reasons to love God’s Word. David gives a few of them in this Psalm, especially in verses 6 – 8, where he compares God’s words to the words of the wicked:
“God’s words are pure words,
Pure silver words refined seven times
In the fires of his word-kiln,
Pure on earth as well as in heaven.
God, keep us safe from their lies,
From the wicked who stalk us with lies,
From the wicked who collect honors
For their wonderful lies.”
God’s words are honest, pure, holy, perfect words. His words have been tested in fire and proven to be refined and pure. This is like silver being heated up and purified. His words come out as pure silver without any impurities in it. And, His words are pure in our world just as they are in heaven. Nothing deceitful or wicked is contained in His Word. Every word, sentence, line, and statement in His Word is truth.
That is compared to the words of the wicked. The wicked in this world and in the spiritual world try to get to us with their lies. Unlike Scripture and God’s words to us, the wicked tries to confuse us and pollute the truth with lies. Whereas God’s words are truth, the wicked only spout good sounding lies. And, according to this passage, the wicked get away with telling lies and win awards for their wonderful lies.
This cautions me to be reading the Word daily and to make sure I don’t allow the good sounding lies of the wicked confuse me. The lies are not always obvious. Sometimes the lies are subtle and sound like they could be the truth or could be from God. But I have to be careful to not be fooled. I think that’s harder to do than many realize. There are so many good sounding lies whether it be from politicians, friends, or even preachers. Sometimes we have to take a step back and really search the Scriptures to see what God would have us believe or how God would have us behave.
I don’t like to get political in my blog but I think an example may be necessary here. For instance, there are many who say abortion is wrong, yet feel capital punishment is right. Both involve taking a life. In my book you are either pro-life, in every situation, or you are choosing whose life is worth something and whose is not. I choose to leave it up to God. I choose to let Him decide whose life is worth sparing, without my help. If I believe He is a totally capable God, and I do, then I know He decides who lives and who dies. I hope I’m never put in the position of having to decide. I already know how I’ll decide. I decide to let God make the choice.
I’m not saying someone who believes differently from me is wicked. I’m just saying we have to be careful about what we purport to be God’s truth. Are we sure we are believing God’s Word or are we being confused and mislead by the wonderful lies of the wicked? Just something to ponder.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Psalm 11

Where do we find refuge from the wicked? I only know one place. In God’s arms. I strive to keep focused on God’s ways and on God’s help in times of trouble. That’s what David says we should do. In Psalm 11:1 in The Message, David says,
“I’ve already run for dear life
            straight to the arms of God.”
This was David’s response when people were telling him to run from the evil people who were after him. David says, he’s already run to God and will trust God to take care of him. He went on to say why would he run away now just because there is evil aimed at him. God is fully capable of protecting David (and me) from all the evil that might come his (or my) way.
I take comfort in knowing that God has already protected me from all possible harm. Sometimes I get afraid of what’s coming at me and I want to run. However, I usually realize there’s no place to run to. And, God is able to take care of every detail of my life. He’s in control of everything and I can be confident that no matter what comes my way, whether it be evilness, wickedness, or just the normal temptations of living in a sinful world, God is setting things straight and making things turn out the way He has planned.
Verse 7 of Psalm 11 is more assurance of God’s care in times of trouble:
“God’s business is putting things right;
            he loves getting the lines straight.
Setting us straight. Once we’re standing tall,
            We can look him straight in the eye.”
Putting things right and setting things straight is His business. I don’t have to make everything right. That is a good thing because I don’t always know what right is or what right looks like in every situation. He’s in the business of setting us straight. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t have to do my part. My part is to be asking Him for insight and discernment that I may know what is right. And I need to be open to whatever it is He is trying to tell me. And I need to respond in obedience so I may end up standing tall and will be able to look Him straight in the eye. He provides the guidance and instruction necessary for me to be right with Him, but I have to respond by turning to Him.
Lately, in my life, I’ve been questioning what to do in certain situations. I don’t hear God’s voice telling me what to do. I wish that I did. What I have instead is God’s Word to give me guidance and instruction. So by reading His Word and studying it, I gain insight into what He wants me to do. This passage of Scripture gives me the assurance that God will show me what to do even in the midst of turmoil in my life. I can and should run to Him for my dear life and know that He will give me the direction I need to end up standing tall.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Psalm 9

I’m not feeling very positive these days. I haven’t been feeling much joy for some time now. Back in April, when I read Psalm 9 for my daily devotion, I was not feeling the happiness I think I should be feeling. I realize that not much has changed with the passing of time. I’m still not feeling very happy.
But, Psalm 9 recounts a time in David’s life when he was feeling the joy and thankfulness of knowing God. Verses 1 and 2 in The Message say,
“I’m thanking You, God, from a full heart,
            I’m writing the book on Your wonders.
I’m whistling, laughing, and jumping for joy;
            I’m singing Your song, High God.”
I should be this joyful for all God has done for me. But, I tend to dwell on the negative far too much. I need to be thanking Him from a full heart. I do try to write of His wonders in my blog articles and sometimes I even succeed. I also try to write words that express joy in letters and emails to friends. Sometimes I even succeed.
But lately, I’m struggling to feel good and struggling to see God’s wonders working in my life. I want to see where God is working in my life and through my life, but I’m struggling.
I don’t know if I can force myself to be whistling, laughing and jumping for joy, but I can sing along with the stereo as I play songs that thank God for what He’s done in this world. Sometimes when I do that, I feel a little more thankful and can feel a little more hopeful. Maybe that was David’s secret to such a joyful life: that whatever else was going on in his life, he found things about God worthy of singing about. David wasn’t always in the best positions. He was often being hunted and was in fear for his life. However, he often found something for which to praise God.
In Psalm 9 in The Message, David was focusing on his enemies turning tail and running away. He noticed that his enemies stumbled and fell on their faces. He noticed God taking charge and setting everything right. What am I missing? Why can’t I see my enemies running away? Sometimes I don’t even know who or what my enemies are.
Regardless of whether I can tell who or what my enemies are, God can still provide a relief from the troubles in this life. Verses 9 and 10 in this same Psalm tell us,
“God’s a safe-house for the battered,
            a sanctuary during bad times.
The moment you arrive, you relax;
            you’re never sorry you knocked.”
How I long for a safe-house. Today I pray that I will experience His safe-house protection and be relieved of the troubles during bad times. Maybe the bad times will still exist, but I can find relaxation by coming to God. Maybe that’s where I can find the joy and happiness I need to live another day.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Psalm 8

I am often amazed at the simple truths that come out of the mouths of children. However, David in this psalm tells us we shouldn’t be so surprised. In The Message verse 2 says,
“Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you;
            toddlers shout the songs
That drown out enemy talk,
            and silence atheist babble.”
Even gurgling babes proclaim God’s name. The fact that babies were even conceived is testimony of God’s greatness. The fact they grow and develop into toddlers, then children, then teenagers, then adults is amazing. The whole process is a miracle that God put in place. It’s not some accident of nature or the primordial ooze. It’s part of God’s plan.
When I think about how people are formed and born and grow I am amazed that more people don’t get it. Babes proclaim God’s existence by their existence. What miracles they are. How wonderfully made they are. It amazes me that someone could look at babies and think they happened by chance. It’s too much of a miracle for chance in my book.
Psalm 8 goes on to tell us that we are part of the creation God has made, a very special part of the creation (verses 3 – 8):
“I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous,
            your handmade sky-jewelry,
Moon and star mounted in their settings.
            Then I look at my micro-self and wonder,
Why do you bother with us?
            Why take a second look our way?
Yet we’ve so narrowly missed being gods . . .
You put us in charge of your handcrafted world . . .
Made us lords of sheep and cattle,
            Even animals out in the wild . . .”
God chose to make us be almost like gods. He created the heavens and the earth and everything in them, but He gave us the position of ruling over them. That amazes me, too. He put all things under our control. We have rule over the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. He takes a second look at us. He takes a third look at us. He watches over us constantly so we may, in turn, worship Him. That’s what He wants from us. So today, as I think about these things, and ponder the miracle of life, I praise Him and stand amazed that He looks at me at all.
I say with David verse 9:
“God, brilliant Lord,
            your name echoes around the world.”

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Psalm 7

In my Quiet Time (daily reading from the Scriptures) from April 15th, I discovered that David wrote this psalm primarily asking God to take care of him. He starts off this psalm praying, “God! God! I am running to you for dear life . . .” I often feel like I’m running to God for dear life, or at least for my sanity. I liked David’s request in verses 6 – 8:
“Stand up, God; pit your holy fury
            against my furious enemies.
Wake up, God. My accusers have packed
            the courtroom; it’s judgment time.
Take your place on the bench, reach for your gavel
            throw out the false charges against me.
I’m ready, confident in your verdict: ‘Innocent.’” [The Message]
I like the imagery of God sitting on the bench as judge and His knowing what the charges are and that He knows they are false. He knows what’s up with me. He knows I’m innocent of all the false charges, of all the Devil’s charges against me. He knows that I am innocent because I am in Christ and that means that I am innocent. I’ve been declared, “Innocent” by the Judge Himself because I have Jesus Christ as the center of my life.
I also liked verse 9, which in The Message says,
“Close the book on Evil, God,
            but publish your mandate for us.
You get us ready for life:
            you probe for our soft spots,
            you knock off our rough edges.”
It’s a comfort to know that He is preparing me for whatever is coming in this life. He’s getting me ready to deal with every situation that might come up. Not that I will always deal with things the way He wants me to. Unfortunately, I do not understand everything He wants me to do in every situation, yet. But, He’s in the process of showing me and teaching me what He wants. Sometimes I have to do things the wrong way before I realize what God’s way is. There are a lot of rough edges to be knocked off.
Some of the rough edges have to do with behaviors, but more often they have to do with my attitudes about things. I’m not always as loving and caring of others as He would have me be. Sometimes I’m just down right judgmental. Sometimes I’m just very anxious and fearful of certain situations. However, God shows me where I could have done things differently and, if I’m paying attention, next time I do things differently. My goal is to do things from a position of love and caring in spite of how I feel.
So I willingly ask God to probe my soft spots and knock off the rough edges. I ask Him to get me ready for life, for whatever may come. I ask Him to be my judge and pronounce me “Innocent” as I seek to change and become more like Him.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Psalm 5

I’ve been reading through the Psalms in The Message version of the Bible since early April. I’ve been encouraged by the perspectives of the various psalmists. I have found that while many of the psalms have similar themes, they are expressed in different ways depending on who wrote a particular psalm and what the circumstances were during the time when the Psalm was written.
Psalm 5 was written “For the director of music. For flutes. A psalm of David.” So when I read this psalm back in April, I tried to imagine flute music playing while I read it. That gave it a calming feel, and also a light and airy feel. That was in direct contrast to the content of the psalm that seemed to me to be about a very serious subject. Verses 1 – 3 say,
“Listen, God! Please, pay attention!
Can you make sense of these ramblings,
            my groans and cries?
            King-God, I need your help.
Every morning
            you’ll hear me at it again.
Every morning
            I lay out the pieces of my life on your altar
            and watch for fire to descend.”
David asked God if He could make sense of his ramblings, his groans, and his cries. I often wonder the same things, yet I know, as David also knew, that the things I pray about make total sense to God. In His omniscience, God does understand me. Even as I pray the same things over and over again, every morning, as David says he did, God understands and is listening to me. And like David, I lay out the pieces of my life before Him and wait and watch for God to take action. And He does take action. In verses 11 – 12 it says,
“But you’ll welcome us with open arms
            when we run for cover to you.
Let the party last all night!
            Stand guard over our celebration.
You are famous, God, for welcoming God-seekers,
            For decking us out in delight.”
He welcomes us and decks us out in delight. We just have to wait to see Him work. That encourages me to continue to seek Him every morning and to call out to Him with all my trials and struggles. He will answer and He will answer in a mighty way. He will answer in ways that give me cause to celebrate and to be decked out in delight. As I pray, I can expect such joyful and memorable answers to my prayers. And, no matter how upset I am when I pray, God hears and answers me, understanding exactly what I need to end up being delighted with my circumstances.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Praise Throughout the Day

Psalm 119:164 says, “Seven times a day I praise You, Because of Your righteous ordinances.” [NASB] This is found near the end of a psalm written to tell us to value God’s Word. We don’t know who is the author(s) of this psalm but whoever it is was going to praise God seven times a day. I think that’s a good example for us to follow.
I’ve been writing blog articles about various attributes of God for which we can praise Him. I’ve written about twelve different attributes of God. If we were to focus on just one of those attributes in each of seven times of praise throughout a given day, we would have a new perspective on life. As I read Psalm 119:164 in my devotional time this morning, I was challenged to praise God seven times throughout the day. (I have already failed to do that when I planned to do it.) Why is it so hard to follow through on something as simple as praising God?
So, I paused in my writing of this article to think about and say out loud one attribute I praise God for: His power, His almighty power. And, I feel stronger already just because I know I have an all-powerful God who is working in my life. Now I just need to remember to praise Him four more times today. This is the least I can do for the God who is deserving of praise all day long, every day.
I found the number seven comes up a lot in Scripture. The priests were to sprinkle blood and oil seven times on the altar of the Lord (Leviticus 14). There was to be seven Sabbath of years to mark out the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8). The Israelites marched around Jericho for seven days and on the last day, marched around Jericho seven times (Joshua 6:4). A man is cleansed after washing himself seven times in the Jordan River (2 Kings 5). Future prophecies speak of the sun being seven times brighter than it currently is (Isaiah 30:26). The furnace was heated seven times hotter than usual for Daniel’s friends (Daniel 3:19). And we are to forgive others seventy times seven times (Matthew 18:22).
I’m not sure why the number seven is so important in Scripture. However, I realize that praising God seven times throughout the day was important to the writer(s) of Psalm 119, so it is a good example for me to follow. So I am going to try to do that for today, and for tomorrow, and for the day after that. One day at a time. Even seven times a day is not enough for God deserves me to be in constant praise.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Praise God for His Wrath

Today, I looked into another of God’s attributes that we as Christians don’t often like to look at. One of God’s attributes is wrath. That’s a loaded word because we think of it in terms of human anger. But, although we are made in God’s image, we humans are not automatically the same as God. This is true for all our attributes, but especially in the ways we see as negative or bad. I think J.I. Packer put it better than I could in Knowing God:
“. . . when Scripture speaks of God anthropomorphically, it does not imply that the limitations and imperfections which belong to the personal characteristics of us sinful creatures belong also to the corresponding qualities in our holy Creator; rather it takes for granted that they do not. Thus, God’s love, as the Bible views it, never leads Him to foolish, impulsive, immoral actions in the way that its human counterpart too often leads us. And in the same way, God’s wrath in the Bible is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing that human anger so often is. It is, instead, a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil. God is only angry where anger is called for. Even among men, there is such a thing as righteous indignation, though it is, perhaps, rarely found. But all God’s indignation is righteous. Would a God who took as much pleasure in evil as He did in good be a good God? Would a God who did not react adversely to evil in His world be morally perfect? Surely not. But it is precisely this adverse reaction to evil, which is a necessary part of moral perfection, that the Bible has in view when it speaks of God’s wrath.” (p. 136 – 137)
God’s wrath is tied closely to His judgment. It is always right and judicial. It’s the execution of His judgment. Some view this as cruelty, but it is not cruel in the same sense that man can be cruel. Cruelty involves being immoral and God’s judgment is never immoral or designed to assign unwarranted harm to anyone. In fact, God’s judgment is meted out based on man’s own responses to the knowledge and gifts God has given him. For example, God will judge those who have been given much more harshly than those who have been given little (Luke 12:47f). If man chooses to respond in obedience, God’s wrath will be limited. It’s up to each man to choose the path he will follow. And as a result, that choice will determine the extent of God’s wrath upon each individual.
I know it’s hard to praise God for something that seems so cruel. But with God it is not cruelty. It’s justice. As Packer said, what kind of God would God be if He allowed evil to go unpunished? He would not be righteous, holy, or perfect. God’s wrath is a necessary part of Who He is. Without it, there would be no need for a Savior.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Praise God For His Just Judgment

Yes, God is the Judge. It seemed weird to me that I would praise Him for what seems like such a negative characteristic. But regardless of how I feel, God is the just and righteous Judge of all mankind. It’s part of who He is. I admit I did not think to praise God for this character attribute on my own. I don’t often like to think of God as Judge. Yet there are some very important characteristics of God tied into His being the Judge.
First we need to understand that a Biblical judge is not the same as a modern, American, judge. There are characteristics of judges in Biblical times that are not true of judges in our society. One of those characteristics is ultimate authority. “In the Bible world, the king was always the supreme judge, because his was the supreme ruling authority. It is on that basis, according to the Bible, that God is judge of His world. As our Maker, He owns us, and as our Owner, He has a right to . . . make laws for us, and to reward us according to whether or not we keep them.” (J.I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 127) God is both the Lawgiver and the Judge.
Second, a Biblical judge is identified with what is good and right. That’s true of God. What He has decided is good and right. He is a passionate God who cannot be impartial. “The biblical judge is expected to love justice and fair play and to loathe all ill-treatment of man by his fellow-man . . . The Bible leaves us in no doubt that God loves righteousness and hates iniquity . . .” (Knowing God, p. 128)
Third, a judge displays wisdom and is able to discern truth. In reality, only God can do that 100% of the time. “When the Bible pictures God judging, it emphasizes His omniscience and wisdom as the searcher of hearts and the finder of facts. Nothing can escape Him . . .” (Knowing God, p. 128) Only God can discern truth, factual truth and moral truth, and be right every time. And, He not only can tell the truth, He has to judge based on the truth.
Finally, a Biblical judge has power and is able to execute a sentence. In our modern society, a judge just pronounces the sentence, usually determined by a legislative branch making laws. Also the judge does not enforce the penalty. That’s left up to a separate branch of government. “God is His own executioner. As He legislates, and sentences, so He punishes. All judicial functions coalesce in Him.” (Knowing God, p. 129)
When you take all that into account, being a judge is essential to His character. Without being a just and righteous Judge, God’s other attributes would not be displayed in the same way. Everything from His omniscience to His omnipotence to His love are part of what makes Him a just Judge of mankind. Being a Judge is one of His attributes and it’s worthy of our praise.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Praise God for His Grace

I like to tell myself I believe in the grace of God. I’ve heard many times that grace is undeserved favor. I buy that simple explanation as in my humanness I am fully aware that I do not deserve much of anything and yet God has given me much. Another saying I’ve heard about God’s grace is that it is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. I believe in that kind of grace, too.
However, I don’t pretend to fully comprehend God’s grace toward me. That is because I truly believe that I am flawed and totally undeserving of total forgiveness and grace. I struggle to believe that God can forgive me. I also struggle with forgiving myself. Fortunately, God is not limited by my abilities, either to believe in Him or to forgive myself. His grace is bigger than my beliefs and bigger than me. Just when I think I understand His grace, I am overwhelmed by my lack of understanding. I can only seem to hold onto the thought of total forgiveness and grace for short periods of time. Then it wanes and I struggle with believing in it again.
In Knowing God, J.I. Packer put it this way: “The grace of God is love freely shown towards guilty sinners, contrary to their merit and indeed in defiance of the demerit.” (p. 120) What this says to me is that God loves me and shows that love no matter how good I am. It also says that no matter how bad I am, that same love is freely shown to me. You see, God’s grace covers me regardless of whether I am holy (which I am not except in Christ’s forgiveness) or whether I am sinful (which I often am). His grace is not dependent upon my goodness or my badness. It just is. And it’s all encompassing. It covers me whether I’m good or bad, and it covers me because I am both good and bad.
It is beyond my comprehension that God can love me so unconditionally. Yet, He does. And He does so because He wants to. His grace is something to be thankful for and something for which to praise Him.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Praise God for His Majesty

Majesty is just a fancy word for greatness or grandeur. It comes from Latin. We use it to talk about Her Majesty, the Queen when we talk about the Queen of England. We are saying that the Queen is great and grand. Other synonyms for majesty include illustriousness and stateliness. It also has a sense of nobility about it.
However, it is often found in the Bible in describing God. He is the ultimate in greatness, grandeur, and stateliness. He is the highest nobility there is. So using majesty to describe God makes sense. Some of my favorite praise passages in Scripture use majesty as part of the description of God. A few of those passages are below.
1 Chronicles 29:11: “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all.”
Psalm 45:3: “Gird Your sword on Your thigh, O Mighty One, In Your splendor and Your majesty! And in Your majesty ride on victoriously, For the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness; Let Your right hand teach You awesome things.
Psalm 93:1: “The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty; The Lord has clothed and girded Himself with strength; Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.”
Micah 5:4: “And He will arise and shepherd His flock In the strength of the Lord, In the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they will remain, Because at that time He will be great To the ends of the earth.”
Hebrews 8:1: “Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,”
2 Peter 1:16: “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.”
Whether the Scriptures are talking about the God of the Old Testament or about the Lord Jesus Christ of the New Testament, His majesty is noted. That’s because God is great in every way and majesty is the one word that can describe that greatness. Praise Him for His majesty.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Praising God for His Immutability

Immutable. Unchangeable. God is unchanging. God is the same as He’s always been. That’s good news for us. It means that the God who did all those great and mighty things throughout Biblical history is still able and willing to do great and mighty things today.
Sometimes it’s hard to picture God at work in our world. We don’t see Him miraculously fighting major battles in our conquest for the promise land like He did in Israel’s day. I know for me I have to be looking to see where God is working. But because He worked in the past, I can be sure He is working today. It’s part of His character to be unchanging in every aspect. So, for me today, it’s important to know He’s at work in my life.
According to J.I. Packer in Knowing God, there are six ways that God is unchanging. In looking at a couple of the ways God is unchanging, I gain confidence in my God acting on my behalf.
One point is that God’s life is unchanging, meaning that He’s eternal, always was and always is going to be. Psalm 90:2 says, “Before the mountains were brought forth or ever You had formed and given birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting You are God” [Amplified Bible]. “Created things have a beginning and ending, but not so their Creator.” (Packer, p. 69) God did not need to be made. He always existed and will always exist. God is not going to just disappear sometime in the future leaving me without hope. My hope is in an eternal God.
Another point is that God’s character is unchanging. Packer says that “in the course of a human life, tastes and outlook and temper may change radically: a kind, equable man may turn bitter and crotchety; a man of good-will may grow cynical and callous. But nothing of this sort happens to the Creator.” (p. 69) James 1:17 tells us that God “does not change like shifting shadows.” [NIV] God’s character is as it always has been and that’s good news for us because “God is sheer mercy and grace; not easily angered, he’s rich in love” [Psalm 103:8, The Message]. He will always be merciful and full of grace toward me. He’s not going to get angry with me, or stop loving me. It’s not in His character because we’ve been told what He’s like. His character will always be loving toward me because He is love.
The fact that God is immutable means I can count on Him at all times to be just like He is described in the Bible. I choose to focus on His never-changing love and mercy for the people throughout history. I can rely on Him to still be that way for me today.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Praising God for His Love, Part 2

I know I wrote about God’s love last week, but I came across a verse in my morning reading that shed some new light on God’s love. Psalm 98:3a says,
“He remembered to love us, a bonus
To his dear family, Israel – indefatigable love.
Indefatigable. I didn’t know what that meant – or how to pronounce it. But, it seemed key to understanding this Scripture. So I looked it up. God’s love for His people is amazing. Based solely on this one word, indefatigable, God’s love is unbelievably wonderful. Indefatigable means untiring. So God never grows tired of loving us. It means unwavering. So God’s love for us isn’t strong one day and weaker the next. It is always the same and it is always strong. It means unflagging. So God’s love for us doesn’t decline in its strength or vigor.
Indefatigable means relentless. When I think of something being relentless I think of it as being a go-getter, not easing up for anything. Indefatigable also means energetic and vigorous. So God’s love is active and busy. It’s not passive. He’s pursuing us with His love. He’s always looking out for us and doing what it takes to get the job done, the job of loving us without end.
That’s what God is like. He never gives up on us and pursues us with great energy. When I think about God’s love for us I also think of 1 Corinthians 13:4 – 7 because those verses tell us what love is like. Because God is love, those verses also tell us more about what God is like. So God in His love for us is patient. God in His love for us is kind. God in His love for us is not self-seeking. God in His love for us is not easily angered. God in His love for us does not keep a record of the wrongs we have done. God’s love for us protects us and perseveres. Those words could also describe indefatigable.
It’s amazing to me to think about God’s love being all those things. It also makes me want to praise Him all the more for His indefatigable love. His love is far beyond my understanding of it but thinking about all the meanings of indefatigable gives me a glimpse into what His love is like. And, none of it depends on how loveable I am. He loves me even when I am not loveable with the same kind of love. Indefatigable love. Praise Him for His love.  

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Praising God for His Love

“God is love.” We know it says that in 1 John 4:8. It also says that in 1 John 4:16. That whole passage talks about God’s love. But God’s love for us did not start in the New Testament. It did not start with Jesus’ actions. God has been love all along. Even when God was punishing the Old Testament followers for their lack of faith, His very nature included love.
J.I. Packer in his book Knowing God said that the saying God is love, “is not an abstract definition which stands alone, but a summing up, from the believer's standpoint, of what the whole revelation set forth in Scripture tells us about its Author. This statement presupposes all the rest of the biblical witness to God. The God of whom John is speaking is the God who made the world, who judged it by the Flood, who called Abraham and made of him a nation, who chastened His Old Testament people by conquest, captivity, and exile, who sent His Son to save the world, who cast off unbelieving Israel and shortly before John wrote had destroyed Jerusalem, and who would one day judge the world in righteousness. It is this God, says John, who is love."
Basically, this tells us that God has always loved us and everything He’s ever done has been done out of this love. What that means to me now is that God is still working from a place of love. Everything He does for me and around me stems from His love for me. I may not feel it. I may not see it. I may not believe it. Yet, God cannot act any other way than out of His character of love. It’s out of a very strong liking for us that God acts. He cannot help but like us. We are His creation and He likes what He’s made. He always has and He always will like us.
Don’t get me wrong. There are things He is displeased about in our behavior and attitudes. He has a strong affection for us but that doesn’t mean He approves of everything we do. Just like He had to chastise His followers of the Old Testament, there may be times when we need disciplining, too. But even that discipline comes out of His love for us. He loves us too much to let us go astray. Because He loves us, because He is love, we can trust that anything that happens to us somehow fits into His plan of love.
When we say, “God is love,” it means far more than some flippant expression. It is talking about a characteristic of God that makes Him unique in the universe. He is the only One who is the total embodiment of love. We might think we love, but none of us are love. None of us acts out of love all the time. Only God does.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Praising God for His Omnipotence

God is all-powerful. But what does that mean? It means that there is nothing that He is not stronger than. Nothing. Not physically stronger. Not manipulatively stronger. Not thoughtfully stronger. Nothing is stronger than God.
Right now in my life I’m struggling to really understand what this means. There is a situation in which I want to see God work. God is able to work and He’s able to cause the outcomes to be the way I want them to be. But, what if things don’t work out the way I want them to? Does that mean God wasn’t strong enough to make it turn out “right?” No! It doesn’t mean that. It means that He has a bigger plan than the one I can see right now.
Knowing that He is the all-powerful, omnipotent God, means I can trust that He has a plan. Whether or not His plan is my plan, He’s causing the situation to work out just right. My latest memory verse says it well, which is why I memorized it. Jeremiah 32:17 says, “Alas, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! There is nothing too hard or too wonderful for You.” [Amplified Bible] God made the heavens and the earth and everything in them. He is powerful enough to do that. He is powerful enough to control the things He created including other people, government agencies, political entities, and anything else you can think of.
It is hard to think of what it would mean to be all-powerful because our power is so limited. God is mighty. He is unrestricted. Nothing can thwart His will and His ways. So when I’m trying to figure out what is going on in this world, and cannot quite make sense of the happenings, I can be certain that God’s desires will happen. There’s a bigger picture that I might not be seeing – usually am not seeing. So I pray that His will be done. There’s nothing else I can do in a situation than to trust God to exercise His almighty power and create a situation that is in alignment with His will. He has all the power necessary to do that. Trusting that power is the hard part for me.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Praising God for His Omniscience

Infinite knowledge. That’s what omniscience is all about. No one has all knowledge – except God. That’s one of His qualities. He knows everything that has ever happened, everything that is happening, and everything that is going to happen. He not only knows everything, he works with everything.
I don’t quite get this. It’s pretty hard to grasp because my knowledge of what goes on in the world is pretty limited. I’m limited in what I can know because I can only know what I see. Even if I hear other things from other people, I can’t really know if it is as reported to me. But, God sees everything because He’s everywhere, like I talked about in last week’s blog post about omnipresence. God not only knows what He sees but He knows before something happens what’s going to happen. He’s all knowing in every sense of the word. He knows what is going on and what will happen on the other side of the world.
He knows today . . . actually He knew an eternity ago . . . that there would be political unrest in Egypt. Nothing takes God by surprise. He is not surprised by the outcomes of events in our world. He already knew it would happen the way it happened. He knew that Joseph, of the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat fame, right out of the Old Testament, would be sold by his brothers into slavery into Egypt. God knew that Joseph would become an important man in Egypt and eventually save his whole family, treacherous brothers and all, from a great famine in Israel. God used the seemingly bad actions of Joseph’s brothers for their good. And He wasn’t surprised by the brother’s actions. He knew what they would do and used it.
There are many situations in my life where I cannot see how God is working. Maybe it will take many years for me to know the outcome of a seemingly terrible situation as it did with Joseph. Maybe I’ll never know what God knew about the seemingly terrible situation. However, I can be confident that God knows what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen. And, because He loves us, it will all work out to some greater good, whether it works out the way I want or not. I can praise God for the way He works in situations whether I see Him at work or not. He knows everything and everything is in His control.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Praising God for His Omnipresence

Omnipresence. A big word that means always present. That’s what God is. Always present. It doesn’t matter where you go, God is already there. He’s there before we go there, while we’re there and after we leave. We are finite people. We can only be in one place at a time. It’s not so with God. God is everywhere all the time.
Sometimes I worry about what’s going on where other people are. For instance, my daughter is in Mackinaw City this week. I worry about how she is, whether she’s getting enough to eat, whether she’s staying dry or not, etc. I am not there and even with today’s technology I can’t know what she’s doing every minute of every day or night. And, if I did know, I wouldn’t be able to do anything about any of it anyway.
God knows and is there. He is not bound by time and space like we are. He is with her, just as He is with me, right now. He’s in both places – He’s in all places. He’s not just in two places, Fowlerville and Mackinaw City. He’s everywhere. He’s with you and He’s with all your loved ones. He’s in the United States and He’s in Iraq. He’s in my office with me as I write this and He’s with my husband in the living room as he reads a book. God was in my office ten minutes ago when I wasn’t in my office and He was in the kitchen, too. He’s everywhere all the time.
It’s hard to envision that because we are so tied into our current place and moment in time. For God, it is easy. It’s part of who He is. What does that mean for me? It means that I can be confident that God is taking care of business everywhere. Even when I am unable to know what is going on somewhere else, God knows and is present. Nothing is outside of His presence. Because God is everywhere, He’s able to take care of all the details in other people’s lives. I can be confident that He knows what’s going on and is there, able to deal with whatever situations come up. To be totally honest, he also knows ahead of time what situations will come up. He’s prepared and able.
So I don’t have to be everyplace. God is everyplace and is intimately involved in every situation. I can trust Him to take care of every situation. He is omnipresent.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Praising God for His Glory

When I think about praising God, I think about His glory. I want to be like the saints in heaven as they are singing in Revelation 1:6 “to Him be the glory and the power and the majesty and the dominion throughout the ages and forever and ever. Amen (so be it).” [Amplified Version] But what is the glory?
Glory has a lot of different meanings. The first thing that comes to my mind is beauty as in a glorious countenance. God is the ultimate in beauty. He shines and is like gems of every color of the rainbow (Revelation 4). Other words that describe glory are greatness and honor. Eminence, majesty, prestige, and splendor are also words used to try and convey the meaning of glory.
Our words of praise are too meek and mild for describing what God is really like. Like David and the other writers of the Psalms, the best we can do is compare God’s glory to things we do know about. Psalm 19:1 compares God’s glory to the heavens (“The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.”) Think of a beautiful summer’s evening sky with the clouds reflecting the sun’s rays turning the sky various shades of purples and pinks and oranges. That’s glorious, but God is even more glorious. In Psalm 57:11 it again compares God’s glory to the heavens: “Be exalted above the heavens, O God; Let Your glory be above all the earth.” His glory is greater than all the heavens and everything in the earth. No matter how glorious a sunset we might ever see, God’s glory is greater still.
I try to picture what God’s glory is like while I’m praising Him. That is very difficult to do but if I keep in mind that it’s greater than the most beautiful sunset or the most beautiful landscape, I get to a place of awe and that’s what praise is all about. I’m in awe of God’s greatness, of His splendor and of His majesty. And telling Him I’m in awe of Him is what worship and praise is all about. Acknowledging His glory is one way to do that.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Praising God for His Holiness

We are commanded to give praise and thanksgiving to God. There are many places throughout the Scriptures where we are commanded to do so. Many times King David, in his Psalms, tells us to proclaim God’s greatness. One such place is found in Psalm 70:4 which says, “Let those on the hunt for You sing and celebrate. Let all who love Your saving way say over and over, ‘God is mighty!’” (The Message) We who are followers of God are to say over and over and in many different ways just how great the Lord is.
So I focus a part of my daily time with God, usually after reading the Bible, on praising and worshiping and giving thanks to God. I try to spend about 10 minutes just acknowledging God for who He is and in adoration of His awesomeness. My words are meager and no matter what words I use, I find that I’m often at a loss for the words that truly describe how great God is. I try every day anyway.
Sometimes I find myself repeating certain phrases, especially phrases I’ve read in Scripture of others giving praise to God. In my recent study of Revelation, there are several places where it talks about God being holy, holy, holy. I asked myself why it repeated the word three times. I found that when something is repeated in the Bible it usually means we should take note. In this case my research suggested that repeating something three times indicates perfection. So, God is perfectly holy. But what does holy mean?
Holy means something is derived from a divine power. It means something is blessed, pure, perfect, sacred, pious, moral and upright. God is all those things and so much more. He is the definition of holy. When we say, “Holy, holy, holy God” we are saying that He is perfect and moral and upright in every conceivable way. He is the epitome of holiness and perfection. We are declaring that God is perfect and upright and does everything with total perfection.
Explaining holiness is a tough act. Describing what holiness is is like trying to describe God. In many ways it is impossible for us mere humans to do it. But, we can say the words and proclaim His holiness, trying to wrap our heads around what it means. Doing this is a way of praising God. It’s just one word that describes God’s attributes. He is truly holy, holy, holy – perfectly pure and without blemish or fault. He is God. He is holy.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Hope in the Context of Scripture

I think hope is an emotion I’m not very good at recognizing or feeling in my life. So I decided to do a study of Scripture on what hope is. There were 146 places where the word “hope” is used in the Bible. Many of them were in the Psalms. A few are listed below.
A common theme is from where the Psalmist got his hope. It seems like hope is found in the Lord. So when I think I need hope, I need to focus on Him. I like what Psalm 42:5 says. “Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.” It’s the help I get from God that gives me the hope I need to get through any circumstance. So when I am in need of hope, I need to look to God and remember the help He’s given me in the past.
I still struggle with being hopeful, but God assures me that I can be hopeful when I focus on Him. So, this week I’m going to try to focus on the hope I have in Him for a few moments every day. To do that I’m going to look for hope in the Scriptures I read each morning. When I see how God has helped other people, like the people who wrote the Psalms, I’m able to believe that He will also help me.
Psalm 9:18 “For the needy will not always be forgotten, Nor the hope of the afflicted perish forever”
Psalm 31:24 “Be strong and let your heart take courage, All you who hope in the Lord.”
Psalm 33:18 “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, On those who hope for His lovingkindness,”
Psalm 33:22 “Let Your lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us, According as we have hoped in You.”
Psalm 38:15 “For I hope in You, O Lord; You will answer, O Lord my God.”
Psalm 39:7 “And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You.”
Psalm 42:5 “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.”
Psalm 62:5 “My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him.”

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fruits of the Spirit as Positive Emotions

I’ve been writing about positive emotions, trying to identify them and figure out what they mean to me. One suggestion given to me was to look at the Fruits of the Spirit as possible positive emotions. Galatians 5:22 – 23 says,  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” In the last few weeks, I’ve written about love, joy and peace but I’m not sure the other things in this list are emotions. What do you think?
They seem more like actions to me. Maybe they are attitudes to have, but not really emotions to experience. I easily get confused as to what is an emotion. Just this week I tried to identify laziness as an emotion and was told it’s a judgment, an evaluation and not an emotion. So can patience be an emotion? I know people say, “I feel patient” but is it really a feeling or is it a decision to be patient. I think it’s a decision. So, I’m not going to write about it as an emotion.
The other fruits of the spirit – kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – don’t seem like emotions to me either. I guess I will need to do some more praying about these things. If you have any thoughts on whether these are emotions or not, feel free to write a comment.
And, have a wonderful 4th of July.