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, 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.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

God's Righteousness

We all have heard about God’s righteousness, and I don’t know about you, but I often equate that with His judgment. Of course, God knows right from wrong and only participates in what is right. Of course, He judges things when they are wrong, including people who are doing wrong according to His edicts and declarations. However, His righteousness also shows up in His mercy.
I am struck with how His mercy takes into account His laws and how we break them. Yet, He provided for the fact that mankind would break His laws and not follow through, not being able to only do righteous things. As a matter of fact, He’s the only one who can perform righteous deeds all the time. He knew that, and He knew He would have to judge, but He loves us and desires us to be in fellowship with Him (see last week’s blog article), so He provided a way to exercise His great and powerful mercy toward us. His mercy is demonstrated by the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus.
Our faith is what determines our righteousness. Scripture gives us the example of Abraham’s faith: “Then he [Abraham] believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).” Our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the only way we are made righteous in God’s eyes.
God’s righteousness is part of His character. He’s always been and always will be righteous. He’s the only one who exists with righteousness without the help of another. We need faith in Jesus to make us righteous. For us, we need both God’s judgment and His mercy to be made righteous. Without judgment there would be no need for mercy, and without mercy there could be no way for us to be righteous before God.
Psalm 103 talks about His judgment and His mercy being opposite sides of the same coin as far as our righteousness goes. I memorized verses 6-8, which indicates these things about God’s righteousness:
The Lord performs righteous deeds,
And judgments for all who are oppressed.
He made know His ways to Moses,
His acts to the sons of Israel.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
I also liked Psalm 71:2:
In Thy righteousness deliver me, and rescue me;
Incline Thine ear to me, and save me.
May you celebrate your deliverance through the recognition of God’s righteousness. May you see that it’s only by His judgment and mercy that true righteousness can be extended to us. May you draw nearer to God because you understand and appreciate His righteousness.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

God Desires Us

God created us to be in fellowship with Him! That’s an amazing thought. He longs for us. He wants to be close to us. Sometimes I get caught up in having to obey Him, which He does want, and lose sight of the fact that He loves us immeasurably.
As I studied several Psalms this week, I saw just how much God desires us. Psalm 8 speaks to that in verses 3-6:
When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers,
The moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained;
What is man, that Thou dost take thought of him?
And the son of man, that Thou dost care for him?
Yet Thou hast made him a little lower than God,
And dost crown him with glory and majesty!
Thou dost make him to rule over the works of Thy hands;
Thou hast put all things under his feet,

God considers man to be worthy of dominion over His kingdom here on earth. He could have given that responsibility to angels, cherubs, seraphim, or some other created being, but He didn’t. He gave it all to us. He esteemed us worthy. He wanted us to be in communion with Him in such a way that we would know what He would have us do to care for His creation. No one gives that much responsibility to someone He doesn’t love or trust. What I find amazing is that even though mankind has screwed up and allowed the destruction of the planet, He still gives us authority to manage His world. He has high hopes that mankind will eventually get it right – even if it’s not until the Millennial Kingdom when He comes back to make everything right.
Another Psalm passage that spoke to me was Psalm 27:4-10 which talks about how He protects us and hides us from our enemies because He desires to keep us close to Him. I especially like Psalm 27:8 and have memorized it. It tells me that one of the first commands he gave us was to “Seek His face.” That is a primary desire of His – that we seek to be in His presence. The verse says,
When Thou didst say, “Seek My face,” my heart said to Thee,
“Thy face, O Lord, I shall seek.”
He wants us in His presence! So much so, that He told us to seek Him and to be face-to-face with Him.
When I think about His desire for me to be with Him and communicate with Him I am overwhelmed by His love for me. Figuring out exactly how I can do what He asks and seek His face is a challenge, yet in studying the Psalms as I’m doing now, I feel closer to Him and I feel cherished and valued. It gives a new perspective to my place in the world. The God of all power and glory values me. That knowledge can give me peace like I’ve never felt before.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Longing For Intimacy With God

I’ve started a new Bible study this week. My partner, Kris, and I are looking into what it means to have intimacy with God. Basically I want to not only know God, but also to feel God as I go about my daily life. I think people need to study His Word and get to know Him in order to sense His presence in our daily lives. This is a good study for me, because I often know a lot about God, but it doesn’t translate into my heart and thoughts as I go about my life. I long to know Him on a deeper level.
So this week’s study directed me to look at a few Psalms to study the longing people have for true intimacy with God. Psalm 62, Psalm 63, and Psalm 73 communicate some of the ways David and Asaph viewed God and how that translated into longing for Him. Some of the key points made in these Psalms include waiting for God alone, relying on Him alone as our rock and salvation, that He is our stronghold (NASB)/fortress (NIV), that we will never be shaken, that we should seek Him earnestly with thirst and yearning, and that He alone is our help and we should take comfort in the shadow of His wings  (Psalms 62, 63; Psalms of David). Psalm 73, a Psalm of Asaph, also says that He has taken hold of our right hands, and that besides Thee we should desire nothing on earth. Psalm 73 also says, in verse 28, “As for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, That I may tell of all Thy works.”
I discovered that I want that kind of intimacy with God, an intimacy that confidently rules my heart no matter what trials I may be facing. It’s more than just knowing these things are true. It’s also anticipating God working in my daily life and noticing when He works. David and Asaph were able to do that in the midst of the struggles in their lives. Experiencing God’s presence throughout each day will draw me closer to the God I worship. Another way to look at this intimacy I desire with God is to contemplate how I develop intimacy with other people. Getting to know them – their thoughts, feelings, joys, and sorrows – allows me to feel closer to them. And, my sharing with them those same elements in my life, allows them to draw closer to me. So, getting to know God is the first part of the process. However, I also need to apply Psalm 62:8 and openly share with God what’s going on in my life. “Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us (Emphasis added).” I don’t exercise that much in my life. I feel afraid to let God know everything that’s flooding my thoughts and feelings. How ridiculous is that?! God already knows, but He desires me to share it all with Him instead of keeping it all bottled up and trying to deal with the issues on my own. He desires us to take refuge in Him.
As part of my application for the study of these three Psalms, I decided to memorize Psalm 63:1-3:
O God, Thou art my God; I shall seek Thee earnestly;
My soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh yearns for Thee,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Thus I have beheld Thee in the sanctuary,
To see Thy power and Thy glory.
Because Thy lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips will praise Thee.

I also decided to put a reminder on my phone each and every time something is scheduled where I need to connect with God on an intimate and trusting level. Each time I’m going to see a doctor. Each time I’m going to be involved in a conflict. Each time something is going to be physically hard for me to accomplish. Each time I’m feeling lonely or weary. Each time I have the opportunity to share Christ with someone. Each and every occasion in my life where I want to see God work (which is all the time!)
Where do you need to seek Him earnestly in your life? Do you need to remember, even memorize, a specific passage of Scripture to remind you of intimacy with God? It’s more than head knowledge. It’s more than a feeling or emotion. It involves both of these experiences to develop a truth intimate relationship with God.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Acts Review: Chapters 15-28

Continuing my review of Acts, I found that many of the applications from chapters 1-14 can also be made based on the themes and principles in the last 14 chapters as well. There were a couple of additional ones which I will highlight. In addition to possible application questions I will look at several summary passages of Scripture found throughout Acts. I think you will be able to determine the key points of the book of Acts as a result of looking at these verses.
Application Questions:
       7.     Am I ready to give a response for the hope and belief I have in Jesus? Am I prepared to share my sorrows and my joys? Do I tell others the good things God has done for me? Do I make it clear that His blessings far outweigh life’s difficulties? Do I use every opportunity, every hardship, every struggle as a platform for sharing Christ? Is Christ the center of my conversations and in my writings? Do I make bold and faithful appeals? Do I see my limitations as the means for spreading the gospel truth?
            References: 2:14-15; 16:25; 20:18; 25:23; 26:30-32; 28:18

       8.     Do I share possessions to care for others? Do I consider how I may encourage and build up the body of Christ for the betterment of all? Do I encourage my local church to have the characteristics of a thriving congregation (unified, devout, attentive, and teachable)? How do we be unified in Christ as believers? Do I let others in the church help me and encourage me? Do I help other believers see and listen to God as He is working in our lives?
            References: 2:1; 2:46; 10:33; 10:45; 20:31

       9.      Do I keep myself pure from the things in this world that can be considered idolatry? Do I hold onto evil things . . . even those things in my thoughts and emotions? Is there spiritual fruit in my life? Do I do my best to “maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men?”
            References: 15:20; 16:33; 19:19; 19:37; 21:19

       10.     Do I take comfort in Christ’s presence even when I feel and think I’ve come to a standstill? Do I believe God has a purpose for my life? Do I consider persecution and trials as blessings from God? Do I rejoice in these blessings? Do I act as if God will not give up on me even if He has to repeat lessons multiple times?
            References: 5:41; 10:16; 20:18; 23:11; 25

Did any of those spark your interest? Make a plan and begin to change one area of your life today. It’s never too late to get started on transforming your life.
Now for the key summary verses found throughout Acts. I will just quote each one and summarize them all at the end. There are six of these verses.
                    1.       Acts 6:7       “And the word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.”
                    2.      Acts 9:31       “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and, going on in fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.”
                    3.      Acts 12:24      “But the word of the Lord continued to grown and to be multiplied.”
                    4.      Acts 16:5      “So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily.”
                    5.      Acts 19:20      “So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.”
                    6.      Acts 28:31      “[Paul continued] preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.”
What are the common factors in all these verses? First I go back to the commission Jesus gave the disciples. The commission was found in Acts 1:8. “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” The summary verses state how that command was being fulfilled in the lives of the disciples. For me, these summaries tell us what happened in the early church. They tell us that the spread of the gospel and the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ had begun. It’s up to us to continue the work begun in Acts. It’s our turn to spread the gospel and bring glory to the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Acts Review: Chapters 1 -14

Primarily my review involves looking at the various applications I listed as possibilities for each section of Acts that I studied. I’m finding there are several reoccurring themes that I would like to think more about, pray more about, and apply to my life more than I have in the past. Some of these will be reminiscent of previously talked about thoughts from Acts, and some may be new. However, I’m going to try to highlight the most repeated applications (in the first 14 chapters of Acts; I’m sure they will also show up in the last 14 chapters). I think the best way to do this and include various references to where it came from is to list them with their references. [All references are in Acts and are based on the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.]
      1.      Do I expect and hope in the coming of the eternal kingdom? Do I expect answered prayer?    In other words, do I believe God will fulfill His promises?
            References: 1:6; 7:17; 7:55-56; 10:31

      2.      Am I continually devoted to prayer? Am I involved in earnest prayer? Do I pray with others and not just in isolation?
            References: 1:12-15; 2:42; 7:55; 9:11; 10:31; 12:5; 12:15

      3.      Am I filled by the Holy Spirit for service? Do I have the proper attitude about service? Do I have my priorities straight? Do I use my Spirit-given gifts for service?
            References: 2:4; 5:29; 9:43; 11:27; 13:45

      4.      Does my gospel message include the death of Christ, the physical resurrection of Christ, and the manifestations of Christ in our daily lives? In other words, am I involved in witnessing and am I including all the pertinent points?
            References: 2:40; 2:31; 4:1-2; 8:4; 13:38-31; 14:3; 14:19

      5.       Do I make it clear where my “miracles” or “ministry” come from” From whose authority do I speak? Do I meet people where they are in their spiritual journeys? Do I show tenderness, compassion, and love in sharing the gospel?
            References: 3:12-13; 3:16; 3:17; 7:17-18; 7:55-56; 8:13; 8:30; 8:35; 10:29; 12:23; 13:28; 14:7

      6.      Am I intentional in my ministry? Do I hear and respond to God’s call or take advantage of the Holy Spirit’s opportunities? Do I bravely and boldly share the gospel even in the face of threats or skepticism or rejection? Do I get defensive in those situations?
            References: 4:20; 8:4; 8:26; 9:10; 13

Remember, these are just from the first 14 chapters. Stay tune for next week for the rest. In the meantime, does any one of these areas prick your hearts? Is there something you could be or should be doing better? Don’t wait until next week to take action. It’s in the taking action that our lives are transformed into the likeness of Christ. It’s also where we begin to see growth and change. It’s also what sets us apart from those who have not yet been saved. I call to mind Jesus’ words in John 14:21:
He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him.