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, 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.