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, November 23, 2017

Serving God Wherever He Sends Me


I hate doing what I’m about to do. However, God tells us that we are to support those of the faith that have need. 2 Corinthians 8:1-9 is an accounting of Paul asking the Corinthian church members to be as giving as their counterparts in Macedonia (a much poorer community). I’m often challenged by this passage to give more to God’s work. Verses 6-7 in the New Living Translation says,
So we have urged Titus, who encouraged your giving in the first place, to return to you and encourage you to finish this ministry of giving.  Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving.
I do not want to preach to you. I want to appeal to you in the power of God’s Word. I’m praying your hearts and your devotion to improving the world will prompt you to act.
Here’s the appeal: Help me go to Haiti, January 20-27, 2018 to help in mission work that partners with my local church. We are going with an organization called Loving Shepherd Ministries, which provides homes for orphaned children in Haiti. They not only house children, but LSM provides each child with long-term educational and vocational opportunities.
We will be involved in various roofing projects in the community around one of the homes that LSM operates. We will also be building relationships with the children as well as giving them something tangible that will point back to how much God loves them. This gives each child hope and allows them to reach God.
The total cost is $1,750 and needs to be raised by January 10th (I’m getting a late start at this because the Holy Spirit only recently convinced me to go; notice He was convincing and it took a while for the message to sink in). Part of these funds will purchase construction materials.
Contribution checks can be made out to “Fowlerville UB Church” and marked on the memo line: Haiti-Grimm. Then send it to:
Fowlerville United Brethren Church
9300 W. Grand River Ave.
Fowlerville, MI 48836
If you have any questions, please send me a note at thetootsierolllady@yahoo.com
I love serving Jesus and I’m excited by this opportunity. Join me in the adventure!
AND HAVE A GREAT THANKSGIVING CELEBRATION.
 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Standing Up For the Most High


There are several themes in Daniel 5 and 6, but one stood out to me. Daniel – like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego earlier (chapter 3) – was willing to lay everything on the line to be faithful to their God. The examples these faithful Jewish individuals are ones I know I need to pay attention to more than I do.
In Daniel 5, the great-grandson of Nebuchadnezzar is ruling over Babylon. He had not paid heed to the changes in Nebuchadnezzar’s life or to the Most High God that Nebuchadnezzar had come to believe in as a result of events in his life. Belshazzar was as prideful of his accomplishments as Nebuchadnezzar had been, even to the point of defiling the treasures taken from the temple in Jerusalem many years before. He held a big party for his highest-ranking officials. Out of his pride he proclaimed his Babylonian gods were greater than the God of Israel. To prove that, he called for vessels and challises of the temple in Jerusalem to be brought from the storehouse and be used to toast the Babylonian gods.
God had had enough! He sent Belshazzar a message written out by a disembodied hand. But no one there could understand the message. Eventually Daniel was brought in. Daniel was promised a high position in the kingdom if he told the king what the message meant. Daniel said he didn’t want the rewards, but he’d interpret the writing anyway. Daniel knew the message was not a good message for Belshazzar, but remained bold, as he trusted God to protect him from whatever danger might come his way from interpreting the dream. He proclaimed God’s message at the risk of personal injury or death.
In Daniel 6, Daniel is now in a high position in the kingdom of the man who had overthrown Belshazzar. This king’s name is Darius, of the Mede-Persian Empire. Daniel is now about 85 years old and risen to a high rank in Darius’ kingdom. Darius was convinced by some other leaders who wanted to see Daniel dead (how can this Jewish person be ranked over us Babylonians?) to make an injunction “that anyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides [Darius] for thirty days shall be cast into the lions’ den. [Daniel 6:7]” These conspirators knew Daniel’s practice of daily prayer to the God of Israel and were pretty confident he would not stop the practice. Their plot was all set.
Daniel was a man of God and everyone knew it. He did not hide his worship or his obedience to the commands of the God of Israel. It was well known, because Daniel was faithful. So, he was brought before Darius and Darius was angry that he’d been tricked and that Daniel, whom he respected and maybe even loved, had to be thrown into the lions’ den. Daniel’s witness to the One High God is shown in Darius’ comments to Daniel when Daniel is thrown into the den: “Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you. [6:16]” We all know the story: Daniel is unharmed in the den and brought out the next day. Darius makes a new decree in verses 26 and 27 that starts like this: “I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel . . .” Daniel’s witness reached all the dominion.
So, these stories gave me pause to consider what people would say about my life. To have unbelievers see in me the same faithfulness the conspirators saw in Daniel could be frightening. Yet it is a compliment for those who truly desire to serve the One and Only Living God.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

I Don't Want To Be Like Nebuchadnezzar, Part 2


Pride. That’s the issue that kept coming up in Daniel 4. Nebuchadnezzar’s pride and where it got him. Nebuchadnezzar states three times in Daniel 4 that he has made himself great.  He proclaims that his kingdom is all of his doing. He has proclaimed that his majesty is above all others. God has something to say about that. Chapter 4 records the lesson God gave Nebuchadnezzar to prove that God is supreme over creation and mankind.
Daniel 4:17 is included in Nebuchadnezzar’s retelling of the dream he had: “This sentence is by the decree of the angelic watchers, And the decision is a command of the holy ones, In order that the living may know That the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, And bestows it on whom He wishes, And sets over it the lowliest of men.” This is what the “angelic watcher” was telling the king, in the dream. For some reason, Nebuchadnezzar did not lay aside his pride to acknowledge this truth.
Daniel 4:25 gives us Daniel’s recounting of the dream as he’s giving the interpretation: “that you be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place be with the beasts of the field, and you be given grass to eat like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven; and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whomever He wishes.” [Emphasis added] So, thus far the angelic watcher has told Nebuchadnezzar the fault in his thinking and the danger his pride is going to bring him, and Daniel in his interpretation of the dream tells Nebuchadnezzar that he needs to recognize the Most High as the ultimate ruler. Then God gives the king a year, exactly twelve months (vs. 29), to repent and change his thinking and attitude. But the king does not do it. If anything, he gets more prideful (vs. 30).
Finally, at the end of his seven-year illness/insanity Nebuchadnezzar finally gets it. Daniel 4:34-35 contains the following statements by the king:
. . . I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever;
For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom endures from generation to generation.
And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
But He does according to His will in the host of heaven
And among the inhabitants of earth;
And no one can ward off His hand
Or say to Him, “What has Thou done?”
Nebuchadnezzar’s attitude and perspective has changed. He now praises and honors the all powerful and sovereign God. It was a hard, seven-year, lesson but he finally got the message and chose to worship the one true Most High God. His pride was overcome.
I decided to memorize Proverb 16:18 as a reminder to myself to keep my perspective focused on the Most High God and not on my own accomplishments:
Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before stumbling.
Hopefully, this will remind me to worship the One and Only Truly Sovereign God.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Let's Praise God


Daniel 4 is Nebuchadnezzar’s spiritual testimony. It’s a decree he had sent throughout his kingdom explaining what had happened to him over the last few years and how God changed his mind towards God and restored the kingdom to him after 7 years of insanity.
While this is a good chapter to see what a testimony could look like (for us this should include God’s demonstration of sovereignty in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ). It’s a good read and an interesting study. However, what impressed me the most is the way Nebuchadnezzar opened his decree. He praised God.
It has seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me:
How great are His signs,
And how mighty are His wonders!
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And His dominion is from generation to generation. (Daniel 4:2-3)
This opening is something to be considered when we talk about what God has done for us. In order to do this God’s praises need to be on my mind as much as is humanly possible, thus my vow to God to praise Him everyday. Doing that keeps God’s power, love, righteousness and His other characteristics readily available in my heart and mind.
So, join me today in praising God. If I get “stuck” and can’t think of anything to say/write, I turn to the Psalms of David. No matter what situation we find ourselves in, David (or another psalmist) faced a similar trial and yet praised God. I often go to the following Psalms: Psalm 3, Psalm 8, Psalm 9, Psalm 29, Psalm 40, Psalm 136, and Psalm 145.
Choose one of those Psalms or a favorite of yours and pause right now to pray it back to God in a song of praise.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

I Don't Want to Be Like Nebuchadnezzar


The first few chapters in the book of Daniel (one of the minor prophets in the Old Testament) tells us familiar stories: Daniel’s resolve not to defile himself; Daniel interpreting the king’s dream; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in the fiery furnace; the writing on the wall; Daniel in the lions’ den; etc. In chapter 3 the incident in the fiery furnace is told. I saw two things about Nebuchadnezzar (the ancient king of Babylon) that I don’t want to be characteristic in my life.
Nebuchadnezzar had a bad temper. In verse 13 we see the first indication of the king’s temper when he is told that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego did not bow to worship the king’s gods or golden statue as the king had commanded. We know that those three Hebrews were withholding their worship for the one and only True God, the God of Israel. “Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego; then these men were brought before the king. When the Hebrews said they would not bow down to the statue even if Nebuchadnezzar gave them a second chance, the king blew a gasket. “Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath, and his facial expression was altered toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. He answered by giving orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated.” The king didn’t think through the consequences and just let his temper roar. He lost several valiant warriors as the fire burned them up as they were trying to drop the three men into the furnace. (That should have been a hint right there that God was at work because the warriors were consumed by fire and the three men were still untouched by the flames.)
One of the cross references I read was Ecclesiastes 7:9: “Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, For anger resides in the bosom of fools.” I do not want to be like the king and be so filled with anger that it comes out without my even thinking about it – that is an indication that one is a fool.
Nebuchadnezzar didn’t know or expect the God Most High to work. After the three men were in the fire a while, the king noticed something. “Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he responded and said to his high officials, ‘Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?’ They answered and said to the king, “Certainly, O king.’ He answered and said, ‘Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!’ (Daniel 3:24-25)” I want to be eager and expectant of God working in my life and the world today. I don’t want to be surprised because I didn’t believe God can and will work like Nebuchadnezzar was. Psalm 5:3 tells my desire: “In the morning, O Lord, Thou wilt hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to Thee and eagerly watch.” I want to be eagerly watching for the great things God is doing and will do. I still might be surprised when I see exactly how He works things out, but I do not want to be surprised in my unbelief that He will work.
Let’s not be like Nebuchadnezzar. Let’s deal with the anger in our hearts and let’s wait eagerly, expectantly for God’s work in our lives.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

God Speaks


My Bible study partner, Kris, had a great insight as we studied Daniel 2. Daniel points out that the dream the king (Nebuchadnezzar, a Gentile) was a vision from God. This is a turning point in the history of the world that is still being seen today. God begins communicating with the world through Gentiles.
The notes, in several places, say that this is a change. Prior to this point, God spoke only through Israelites – prophets and leaders, mostly. Here God gave Nebuchadnezzar a vision while he was on his bed (not necessarily asleep, but possibly). A Gentile getting a message from God! However, Nebuchadnezzar did not understand what he saw and heard. Daniel came before the king and told him, “However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days . . .” (Daniel 2:28a). God made the future known to a Gentile. Not just any Gentile, but a king who was caught up in worship of false gods. It doesn’t matter how far a person is from God; God can use them. If He can do that, He can use me. He can use you. He can use anyone. We all have a role in getting the word out about the greatness and power, judgment and holiness, compassion and love of God Almighty.
Nebuchadnezzar needed some insight into the full meaning of the dream. Daniel comes to the rescue. God again emphasizes the turning point between the rule of the world passing from the Israelites to the Gentiles, by the language Daniel used to tell the dream and its interpretation. The language switches in verse 4 as the Chaldeans start to speak to the king. Daniel records their words in the Aramaic language, the language they were speaking in. Much of the rest of Daniel is in Aramaic. It’s a time in history where the Gentiles begin to become the powerhouses of the world system.
It’s still that way today. Europe, the United States, Russia, and China are lead by Gentiles. The Jews and the Jewish nation play only a small role in the overall balance in the world today. Eventually that will change again – at Jesus’ second coming. We believers look forward to that time as it means we will be with Jesus and the Father again. Everyone else should get right with God before that time comes. Repent and rely on Jesus for salvation and for a standard to daily living.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Daniel's Praise


I’ve mentioned before my praise vow. This week God keeps bringing to my mind and heart Daniel’s prayer of praise in Daniel 2:20-23. As I repeated Daniel’s prayer in my own times of praise, I’ve been comforted and encouraged to keep praising God.
Daniel praised this way (Daniel 2:20-23 NASB):
Daniel answered and said,
“Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever,
For wisdom and power belong to Him.
And it is He who changes the times and the epochs;
He removes kings and establishes kings;
He gives wisdom to wise men,
And knowledge to men of understanding.
It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
And the light dwells with Him.
To Thee, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise,
For Thou hast given me wisdom and power;
Even now Thou hast made known to me what we requested of Thee,
            For Thou hast made known to us the king’s matter.
A commentary highlighted 15 reasons for praising God:
1.     Wisdom belongs to Him (Daniel 2:20).
2.     Power belongs to Him (Daniel 2:20).
3.     He changes the times (Daniel 2:21).
4.     He changes the seasons (Daniel 2:21).
5.     He removes kings (Daniel 2:21).
6.     He sets up kings (Daniel 2:21).
7.     He gives wisdom to the wise (Daniel 2:21).
8.     He gives knowledge to men who have understanding (Daniel 2:21).
9.     He reveals deep things (Daniel 2:21).
10.  He reveals secret things (Daniel 2:21).
11.  He knows what is in darkness (Daniel 2:22).
12. He dwells in light (Daniel 2:22; 1 Tim. 6:16).
13. He has given me wisdom (Daniel 2:23).
14. He has given me power (Daniel 2:23).
15. He has answered prayer by revealing to us the king's matter (Daniel 2:23).

I’m focusing on these reasons for praising God this week (and probably for the next several weeks as I attempt to memorize verses 20-23). I want to be like Daniel (resolved and confident in God). So I need to do as Daniel did.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Resolved


There’s a lot of stuff going on in my life these days: doctors’ appointments, regular appointments, engagement party, trips to and from Kalamazoo to see one daughter, volunteer work, preparing healthy meals, communicating with my husband, listening to my daughters and son, and more. Those things could easily grab my attention and hold my attention. I don’t need to plan to do them; they just happen.
However, there are more important things, things I could easily put off as not urgent in my life. Only God would know if I didn’t do these important things. My relationship with God would suffer greatly if I didn’t do my morning routine things, but would anyone else even know? I can fool myself into thinking that I’m not hurting anyone if I let the routine of meeting with God daily slide for a few days. The reality is something altogether different. I would be grieving the Holy Spirit and causing myself much suffering – mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Ignoring this aspect of my life would eventually affect all my relationships and efforts towards joyful living.
I need to continue to resolve each morning, each time I falter, each night that I will be about God’s work. That starts with daily Bible reading, praise and prayer. It continues with sharing Jesus wherever and whenever I can. It also means loving unconditionally as God loves us – even sacrificing my life to help others if that became necessary. More often I don’t have to sacrifice to the point of death. It means putting the needs and concerns of others ahead of my own. And I can only love and serve that way if I’m in regular, intimate, contact with God.
Daniel resolved to follow God no matter what (Daniel 1:8). Different translations of the Bible use different words to describe Daniel’s mindset as he was made a captive of a foreign culture and kings. “Made up his mind” (NASB). “Was determined” (NLT). “Resolved” (NIV). “Purposed in his heart” (KJV). One commentator (Fronczak, p 22) explained it this way: “a strong word that means to be devoted to principle and to be committed to a course of action.” That’s a challenge to me today. It’s great (and beneficial) to have strong intellectual convictions, but if I don’t act on those convictions, I’m not really resolved. I can give a nod to the concepts of daily reading the Scriptures, Bible study, Scripture memory, frequent prayer, regular praise, Christian fellowship, serving others, and sharing Christ wherever possible BUT unless I do something about each of those things, my agreement means nothing. “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves (James 1:22 NLT).”

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Intimacy With God: Meeting a Need in My Life


Over the last 12 weeks or so, I’ve been sharing with you about the insights I’ve gotten from doing the Intimacy With God Bible study, by Cynthia Heald. I shared how my intimacy with God has grown and changed during this time (and hope continuing on from here). I can now say that my intellectual attachment to God has grown. That was always my strong suit before, and now it’s stronger. I rarely felt emotionally connected to God, but that has changed. As a result, I’m more able to see God at work in all areas of my life. I encourage everyone to develop both sides of their intimacy with God, and if you need help, invest your time and resources to studying Intimacy With God, by Cynthia Heald.
In writing my blog articles about intimacy with God, I mentioned several times how these concepts were helping me deal with the struggles in my life, as they were happening. What I didn’t tell you was what those struggles were about. I realize I’ve mentioned some of my various struggles in the past: mental illness, alcoholism, insulin-dependent diabetes, general fears, and various anxieties. However, since March, I’ve been dealing with something new: CANCER.
Follicular Lymphoma Grade IIIa, to be exact. I noticed a lump in/on my neck in late February and, after some urging from my therapist, I made an appointment to see my doctor. He thought it was “strange” also and referred me to a Ears, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist. After a couple of needle biopsies and a CT Scan (and lots of waiting in between each procedure), it was decided that in order to get an accurate diagnosis, some surgery was needed (on my left neck area where the lump was) to remove as much of the tissue as possible from which more biopsies could be done. That surgery happened on May 31st. It took almost two weeks to get any results from that, but when all was said and done, it was cancer.
I was referred to Oncology (Cancer Center) and after waiting some more, and seeing a doctor there, more tests were ordered, after which there was more waiting. Those tests revealed that the cancer, as far as they could tell, was not systemic and, therefore, Stage One. The course of action would be radiation treatments. So I was referred to a Radiology Oncologist. After a few more procedures and tests and scans, a protocol was set up for my treatment and I began treatments on July 31st. I went every weekday through September 6th for about 10 minutes of treatment. I was able to schedule the treatments for early afternoon each day and kept my usual morning routines as much as possible.
Now that stage of my treatment is over. However, I’m finding I need even more intimacy with God to deal with the “surveillance” stage, where there’s more waiting to see if the cancer is gone, shrunk, whatever. There are more CT Scans in my future, but right now I’m just in a waiting and trusting mode. Trusting God has become easier since I’ve been getting to know Him better through greater intimacy. As I said in my last blog article, I’m continuing to do several important things for depending on God, in all His greatness, as I draw closer to Him.
Maybe that’s why He didn’t urge me to tell more people about this. He wanted me to trust Him and lean on Him. On Him alone. Not on the prayers of others. Not on the sympathy of others. Just on Him alone. I think He led my Bible study partner and me to this study just so I could enhance my walk with Him and grow closer to Him. I’m going to continue looking for examples of Jesus’ intimacy with us and I’m going to continue to work on deepening my intimacy with Him. I’m seeing it everywhere now. Like in Psalm 5:3, I will turn to Him each and every day and order my life around my trust in Him. That verse says (I quoted it last week, too):
In the morning, O Lord,
            Thou wilt hear my voice;
In the morning I will order my prayer to Thee
             and eagerly watch.
Yes! In the morning. But also throughout the day as I review and memorize Scripture, study His Word, and spend time devoted to praising Him. And, sharing as much of Him as is possible with those who need to know Him better.
What can you do to grow more intimate with God? That is my challenge to you today!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Life of Deepening Intimacy


This week I finished the Bible study book on the topic of intimacy with God. It took all summer (12 weeks) to get to this point. However, I do not want my interest and commitment to intimacy with God to wane. I want to maintain a renewed deeper intimacy with God that this study has given me, and I want to go even deeper in feeling, knowing, and studying God’s presence in my life.
There are a few ways I intend to further enhance my connection to God: digging deeper into His Word, praising Him daily, and keep memorizing Scripture (and keep reviewing the ones I have memorized). In the conclusion of the Bible study one of the questions was, “Take some time now to reflect on your understanding and experience of intimacy as it has developed through this study. How will the insights you have gained in this study help you grow in your intimacy with God?” I thought and prayed about my response, and several things kept coming up. This is what I wrote:
This study has renewed my fervor for God . . . through Scripture memory and renewed commitment to praise. [These two things] keep me focused on God and His awesome, unique impact on this world and in my life. Only He is worthy of my dedication and devotion. Only He is caring for me in ways I cannot even imagine. Only He is worthy of praise. He has drawn me into intimacy with Him in new ways and restored my commitments to study His Word and proclaim Him whenever possible. He is opening my eyes to new (and/or previously existing) opportunities to love on and share with people who do not yet know Him. It flows out of intimacy with Him.
One of the psalms looked at this week was Psalm 5. I really like vs. 3 in the NIV:
In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice;
            in the morning I lay my requests before you
            and wait in expectation.
In the NASB the last line says, “In the morning I will order my prayer to Thee and eagerly watch.” Waiting in expectation and eagerly watching result when we trust totally in God to answer our prayers and bring about in our lives exactly what we need in order to live joyous and free lives. It reminds me of the prophetess and prophet in the temple on the day Jesus was presented there. They were eagerly watching and waiting for the Messiah’s coming. I should also be eagerly and expectantly looking for the return of Christ, however, I should also be eagerly looking and noticing God’s works in my current life. Maintaining intimacy with God motivates me to be looking with expectancy and hope. I’ve been able to see His hand in my life more readily since beginning this study. I want that to continue so I will continue to study His Word, praise Him daily, and memorize (treasure) His Word in my heart by memorization.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Expression of Intimacy: Praise


I love praising God. For a while, in the first 5-6 years of my Christian life, I praised God every day for at least five minutes. This came about because of an application I made from a seminar I went to with the woman who led me to Christ. I don’t remember a whole lot from that seminar (probably in 1979), but I remember the application. The speaker challenged us to pledge specific vows to God, and be amazed at His help at keeping the vows. I vowed to praise God for five minutes every day, early in the day. For many years, day in and day out, the Holy Spirit reminded me of my vow when I (almost) forgot about it on some days. Before I could close my eyes at night, the Holy Spirit would say to me, “Where’s today’s praising?” I would sit up in bed, thank God for His faithfulness in helping me to remember, and complete my five minutes for the day.
It was more than a habit. Some days it was what tied me to reality and truth in my messed up mind. Some days it brought me great joy and assurance. Some days it drew me closer to a fellow Christian as I asked them to praise with me. I truly believe doing it, wholeheartedly, kept me from falling off the deep end of depression or soaring to the psychotic stages of mania. I didn’t know I had a mental illness back then so there were no doctor-prescribed meds to keep me stable. I’m not saying I was “stable” during those years; I’m saying that things could’ve been much, much worse, either lows or highs. It was my source of hope when all else seemed to be hopeless.
I’m not sure why or when I stopped doing it. I do know that if I had kept it up, my journey into insanity might have taken a different route. I wish I had kept it up, but I didn’t. Over the years, I’ve thought about that vow and made attempts to start doing it again, but did not have a lasting practice of doing it. In my Bible study this week on Intimacy with God by Cynthia Heald, the topic was how praise is the expression of the intimacy we have with God. The greater our intimacy the more frequent our praise. I was convicted again about doing the praise daily; however, this time I’m renewing my vow to God and trusting the Holy Spirit to remind me daily to follow through on keeping it. In order to hold myself accountable, I decided I will write the praises out in a journal.
Scripture supports the concept of praising God frequently. Psalm 89:15 in the NIV says, “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord.” I’ve experienced many blessings because I learned and practiced giving God acclaim. Acclaim’s definition is to “praise enthusiastically and publicly.” Synonyms include “praise, applaud, cheer, commend, approve, compliment, celebrate, rave about, exalt, extol, and honor.” If we consider God’s character, it becomes easier and easier to acclaim Him, and that comes about by growing in intimacy with Him.
One of the best ways to begin praising God is to pray back to Him Scripture, especially some of the Psalms. I decided to memorize Psalm 150:1-2 because in those verses I am given plenty for which to praise God:
Praise the Lord!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty expanse.
Praise Him for His mighty deeds,
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Ongoing Intimacy With God


As I studied more about intimacy with God, I was directed to several Psalms that showed the psalmists being able to rest and be content in life as a result of their conscious contact with God. There were two passages that I found interesting and brought me some peace as I continue dealing with some issues in my life. I can’t decide which one to memorize. Maybe writing about them here, will help me choose.
Let’s start by looking at Psalm 16:11. I looked at it in several versions: New American Standard Bible, New International Version, Amplified Version, and the Message. Each version put it a little differently (you can look them up for yourself using Bible Gateway (https://www.biblegateway.com). I’m focusing my attention on the NIV version:
You have made known to me the path of life;
            You will fill me with joy in your presence,
            With eternal pleasures at your right hand.
This verse states some truths about God and my life and it promises I will be filled with joy as long as I stay in God’s presence. Keeping in God’s presence is the key. How do we do that as we go through our days on earth? To answer that question I looked again at the NASB’s translation of that verse:
Thou wilt make known to me the path of life;
In Thy presence is fullness of joy;
In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever.
The second line tells us where the joy comes from (as did the NIV in a different way), but to me, the use of “Thy” reminds me whose presence I’m supposed to be in: God’s. The previous parts of this study have been instructing me how to stay in His presence: seeking His face earnestly, recognizing His righteousness, believing He is trustworthy, seeking His protection, knowing and remembering that God is responsive to our prayers, having a healthy reverence for God, being truthful with Him, and loving and studying God’s Word. It sounds like a big order when put all together like this, but I think it can be summed up with a verse from the New Testament:
Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” It also kind of goes along with the middle part of Psalm 63:1: “I shall seek Thee earnestly; my soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh yearns for Thee.” Seek God first and foremost in our lives will draw us closer to Him and we will be able to live in contentedness and peace.
That brings me to the other passage I’m considering memorizing. Psalm 131:2 says,
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
David uses a word picture to say he’s able to be content and peaceful after experiencing trouble because of his close relationship with the Lord. In my Ryrie Study Bible, Ryrie wrote the following note: “As a child who has successfully gone through the troublesome process of weaning and found contentment, so David had been delivered from all self-seeking and had found contentment in the Lord.” I want to have that composed and quiet mind and spirit because I’m constantly in the presence of our powerful, loving Father. I too want to feel contentment knowing that God’s got everything under control.
So which verse would you memorize: Psalm 16:11 or Psalm 131:2? I will meditate on both this week and hopefully make a decision soon.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Love God's Word


I don’t often have the emotions of intimacy with God that some people have, although working through this study (Intimacy With God), I feel more of those emotions than I have in a long time. Yet, I do have an intimacy with God through His Word in ways that many other Christians do not. It’s still an intimacy with God, but it’s based on my love for His laws and principles.
Psalm 119 is all about that kind of intimacy. It’s 176 verses about the psalmist’s love for God’s judgments, statutes, ordinances, testimonies, precepts, laws, commandments, words, and the word of truth. In reading and studying it, I have regained a sense of how the Scriptures should be my central focus in my Christian walk. The feelings are great, however, for me, I depend on the Scriptures to tell me why I should feel close to God. There in lies the source of all our love and reasons to love, primarily because of God’s great, enduring, love for us. He gave us His Word so we could know Him. I intend to take full advantage of this amazing source for knowing God better.
I would suggest setting aside 20 minutes, give or take, to read through and think about what Psalm 119 says about the psalmist’s love for God’s instructions. The Word can have the same purposes in our lives as it did for the Israelites (in specific, the psalmist who wrote Psalm 119). There are basically three functions of the Word, and we need all three to be working in our lives to truly be intimate with God. The Word, 1. Keeps us from sin, 2. Guides and directs us, and 3. Gives us hope and comfort. These functions pretty much cover every area of my life.
There were so many choices of verses in Psalm 119 to memorize so they are always with me. I chose one: Psalm 119:18. “Open my eyes that I may behold Wonderful things from Thy law.” That’s my prayer, not just when I’m about to intentionally dive into the Word, but throughout the day. As I go about my life, I want to know the Scriptures well enough that the Holy Spirit can bring it to mind in each moment of need. There’s a verse for every situation in our lives. If only I could memorize verses for every joy, struggle, and question that arises in my life today. I’m working on it, but I have a long way to go.
A verse in Deuteronomy about God’s Word also stood out to me. Deuteronomy 30:14 says, “But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe [see and obey] it.” This verse encourages me to keep memorizing; not only does it give me what to say and feel, it draws me closer to God.
My application for the study of Psalm 119 was to write my own stanza in the style of Psalm 119 (the first word in each stanza begins with the same letter as I describe what the Word means to me):
My heart longs for Thy Word;
            Show me the answers to life’s questions
May Thou show me the truths
            Only found in Thy Scriptures.
Maladies and struggles overtake me,
            Yet I hold onto Thy teachings.
Memory fails me,
            Except for Thy Words you bring to my mind.
Musings on my failures and faults,
            Bring me back to Thy Scriptures.
May Thee restore my mind and soul,
            As I search Thy Holy Words.
May Thy principles always be my words,
            That others may come to know Thee.
Mindless rhetoric and the world’s views,
            Are challenged by Thy testimonies.
Can you write a “psalm” that expresses your heart for God’s Word? Give it a try!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Being Honest With God


Psalm 62:8
“Trust in Him at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. [Selah.”
I admit it. I struggle to be totally honest with God. There are just some things I’m afraid to share with Him. I don’t think He is a vengeful God who is looking for ways to punish me, but something keeps me from sharing my deepest hurts and fears with Him. When I ask myself, “What am I afraid of?” one thought comes to mind: I’m afraid of what He might ask me to do to deal with the hurt or hang up I’m afraid to share.
However, there are three major faults in this thinking. 1. God already knows my deepest thoughts and feelings and doesn’t reject me. 2. God wants me to be completely honest with Him (pour out my heart). 3. Failure to share with God usually leads to denial of the thoughts or feelings and, as a result, I miss out on God’s peace.
In my past, I would keep a thorough and fearless journal. Most of the time, when writing in the journal, I was able to be fully honest with God. I didn’t have to share with anyone what was written in the journal, but I was able to put words on the thoughts and feelings so God could help me deal with them. Occasionally, writing everything out showed me that what I thought were BIG deals and vitally important to live life, were not as devastating as I thought. Thus I would be able to share these issues with someone who could help me sort things out. Usually, the greatest stressors in my thoughts were things that were just not true; they were lies I believed. Writing them out often showed me where my thinking was quite possibly wrong, and then I could give voice to them and someone would be able to direct me in the way of truth – mostly God’s truth versus Satan’s lies. If I keep those things secret, I cannot break free from the lies and my life will continue to be unhealthy and depressing.
My application for this week is to write in a journal every day for 5 minutes (which often leads to many minutes!) I can then pray to God being open and honest with Him, pouring out my heart and soul to Him. Then I will be able to fully understand God as my refuge and my fortress (Psalm 91:1-2).

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Reverence For God


In drawing closer to God and improving our intimacy with God, we need to maintain our respect for God. Yes, He is a loving, caring, saving God, but He is also the Almighty, Most High, All Powerful, Creator, Judging God. I think we sometimes forget that God deserves and demands our worship and our humble respect for everything He is. I think we also need to be careful that we, in our dealings with other people, only portray God as loving and caring, leaving out the truth of His pending judgment. The outcome of the judgment is dire for those who are not in a relationship with Jesus Christ. We must not lose sight of that.
Many of the Psalms make a connection between God’s holy character and a life dedicated to fearing (revering) God. As I thought about that I decided that if God did not have a holy character that requires my worship, what would we have to live upright lives for? If God is not holy and powerful, He might just as well be an idol or a statue that does not have the power and righteousness worthy of our respect. Unlike false gods, our God can and does act in this world. Psalm 115:4-8 talks about what “their” gods are like:
Their idols are silver and gold,
The work of man’s hands.
The have mouths, but they cannot speak;
They have eyes, but they cannot see;
They have ears, but they cannot hear;
They have noses, but they cannot smell;
They have hands, but they cannot feel;
They have fee, but they cannot walk;
They cannot make a sound with their throat.
Those who make them will become like them,
Everyone who trust in them.
The Almighty God of the Bible can do all those things and He does every moment of every day and night. He is an active God. We need to live in awe of such a God.
Keeping in mind that when the Bible says, “fear the Lord,” it’s not telling us to be afraid of the Lord. In fact, in the other lessons on developing intimacy with God, I learned that it’s quite the opposite. We should draw near for He is an approachable God, who wants to be in relationship with us. Fearing the Lord brings us into a respectful attitude as we humbly bow down before this wonderful God. There are many benefits to learning to live a life that fears God. Psalm 111:10 gives us a couple of benefits:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
A good understanding have all those who do His commandments;
His praise endures forever.
Who doesn’t want wisdom and understanding? Psalm 115:11-13 also talks about the need to fear God and the benefits that result from doing so:
You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord;
He is their help and their shield.
The Lord has been mindful of us; He will bless us;
He will bless the house of Israel;
He will bless the house of Aaron.
He will bless those who fear the Lord,
The small together with the great.
He is a help and a shield to those who fear Him. He will bless us without partiality. All we have to do is have a healthy respect and awe of all that He is. Whether we fear Him or not, He is powerful and judging. How much better it is to fear Him and worship Him, and get the resultant benefits and relationship with the ultimate Higher Power!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

God Is Responsive


God is responsive. In other words, He’s paying attention to us and answering our prayers – even those we didn’t know to pray. I’ve memorized and studied verses that tell us that God answers prayer, but I think I saw that as a child asking Santa for things on their wish list. I didn’t take into account that God knows better than I do what I really need. He responds to the situations in our lives, not just the things I remember to pray about. Of course, we have to recognize that sometimes His answer are “No,” or “Wait.” However, we can be certain that He is at work giving us whatever we need to live for Him.
The Psalmists recorded their experiences with God. They cried out, they trusted, they sought, and they feared (revered) God, and God responded in many ways:
·      Answered
·      Delivered
·      Saved
·      Rescued
·      Redeems
·      Satisfied
·      Lead
·      Had compassion and grace
·      Raised up
·      Gave food

Many passages of Scripture tell us why God takes care of us so well. It’s all because of His lovingkindness. Another word for lovingkindness is mercy. It’s hard to imagine the depth and breadth of God’s love for us. I’m not sure any of us can fathom the totality of God’s loving character. His love is what makes all things possible for us, from being rescued to eternal life. However, the Psalmists also recorded some areas we have responsibility for so God’s answers will be seen and recognized. In Psalm 34:11-14 explains some of the responsibilities:
Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Who is the man who desires life,
And love length of days that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil,
And your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil, and do good;
Seek peace, and pursue it.
So, we are to keep our tongues from evil and lips from deceit. We are to depart from evil and do good. We are to seek peace, and pursue it. In other words, be righteous before God. Without God’s love and power we are unable to do those things, and we have to do these things to see God’s answers to our prayers, which include the ability to avoid evil and deceit, the ability to do good, and the ability to seek and pursue peace. Yet God promises He will make it possible for us to see His answers to our prayers.
Psalm 107 describes several situations His followers found themselves in and the specific ways He helped them in those situations. The Psalmist gives four vignettes each containing a problem, a prayer, a provision, and praises. It is interesting reading. I chose to memorize part of one of these situations, the part that tells me about the prayer and some of the provision (demonstrating God’s responsiveness):
Psalm 107:19-20
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble;
He saved them out of their distresses.
He sent His word and healed them,
And delivered them from their destructions.
I need only to cry out to the Lord in my troubles for Him to save me. Ultimately, that is what He has already done for those who cried out to Him for salvation. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, as the payment for our sin, and that act gave everyone the chance experience His lovingkindness. All we have to do is ask and seek His righteousness.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

God is My Refuge


The Bible tells me, repeatedly, that God is our refuge. That is the theme of Bible study this week, and it is appropriate for me as I am struggling with feeling hopeless, helpless, afraid, and anxious because things in my life are not going the way I want them to. Those are troublesome feelings and possible indicators of an approaching depressive episode. There are just things going on right now for which I have no control leading me to frustration and anxiety.
However, if I turn to God (or if I don’t), the Lord Almighty is my refuge and protector. He’s an ever-present help in times of trouble whether I acknowledge and give praise, or wallow in self-pity. Psalm 46 explains that help, and I especially like verses 1-3:
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.
Nothing like the catastrophes described above are happening in my area of the world, but the emotional world inside (and in my environment) are in turmoil. It’s a different kind of trouble, but it is still trouble that is infecting my thoughts and feelings. And God will help. As a matter of fact, He is already helping!
I do have some responsibilities if I want to see, recognize, and acknowledge God as my refuge. Foremost, I need to be looking for God at work. I also need to cry out to Him and reinforce verbally the truths of Scripture. I also need to be willing and able to tell others of the refuge He is providing for me. I can’t do those things if I stay focused on me, and my problems.
The passage I chose to memorize for the topic, “God is My Refuge,” is Psalm 91:1-2, because it clearly says God is my refuge (and fortress), but also reminds me to be calling out to Him and acknowledging that fact.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!”
A long time ago I memorized Psalm 91:11 and it brought me encouragement.
For He will give His angels charge concerning you,
To guard you in all your ways.
However, in adding verses 1-2 to the picture, I now know why He will give His angels charge concerning me: because He is my refuge and fortress and His angels are His soldiers manning the castle I’m unassailably ensconced within.
Today, I will take notice of God’s protection around my thoughts and my feelings and praise Him for the help is has given, is giving, and will give me as I journey through life on this earth. Doing that should keep depressive thoughts and behaviors at bay and even give me glimpses of hope in the midst of this very present trouble.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

God is Trustworthy


I’ve known this concept for a long time: God is trustworthy. However, I have still struggled with not feeling like I can trust Him. This lesson has helped me see the many reasons and ways that David trusted God in the midst of all kinds of attacks and struggles. Psalms 31, 40, 55, and 56 address David’s trust issues and shows why he trusts God in every area of his life.
After noting many situations and David’s thoughts about those situations in Psalm 31, I noticed a pattern in the circumstances that prompt David to trust God. The circumstances (which were mostly the same in the other Psalms from this week’s study) encompassed physical, mental, emotional, and social situations in which David felt besieged. In some of the other Psalms I noticed that David was convinced he could trust God in situations where he was under military attack. David relied on God’s protection to see him through. Psalm 55 specifically addresses a situation where a very close friend of David’s betrayed him. David calls him a traitor (vs. 12-13). David is clearly heartbroken by the friend’s turning against him. David realizes that there is no one but God who is completely trustworthy to look out for his interests.
I’m not saying we should hold every friend in doubt and fear of betrayal. This passage just brings home the fact that mere men cannot always keep their words or their promises – whether out of treachery or just because they are human and make mistakes. People will, in general, fail us at one point or another just because they are human and fallible. However, God is not human and He will keep His promises He’s made to us. We can and should trust Him with every aspect of our lives.
I chose to memorize Psalm 56:3-4 this week because one of my go to emotions is fear.
When I am afraid,
I will put my trust in Thee.
In God, whose word I praise,
In God I have put my trust;
I shall not be afraid.
What can mere man do to me?

I also like what C.H. Spurgeon had to say about Psalm 56:3-4:
It is a blessed fear which drives us to trust. Unregenerate fear drives from God, gracious fear drives to Him. If I fear man I have only to trust God, and I have the best antidote. To trust when there is no cause for fear, is but the name of faith, but to be reliant upon God when occasions for alarm are abundant and pressing, is the conquering faith of God’s elect. Though the verse is in the form of a resolve, it became a fact in David’s life; let us make it so in ours. Whether the fear arise from without or within, from past, present, or future, from temporals or spirituals, from men or devils, let us maintain faith, and we shall soon recover courage. [Emphasis added]

One of the questions in the study asked, “What other aspects of the psalmist’s life were touched because of his trust in God?” I answered simply, “All areas. Relationships, health, emotions, physical protection and well-being, soul condition, spiritual condition, mental health, and vengeance upon enemies.” David’s faith and relationship with God blossomed because God has proven Himself worthy and shown His care and love for man. My trust in Him has also been growing as a result of new recognition that I can trust God for every aspect of my life – especially when I am afraid.