God’s Message by The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is probably the most misunderstood and overlooked of the Trinity. However, He performs several essential functions. God introduced Him in Acts 1:8 as One with power who would help the apostles witness for Him. At Pentecost, He came astoundingly as told, and the men spoke in each other’s native languages and miraculously understood each other. In her article, The Unsettling Holy Spirit, Dr. Judy Siker discusses the astonishment the Holy Spirit’s presence created. Instead of an entrance that made the men feel comfortable, the Holy Spirit’s presence shook the place and transformed the entire atmosphere and the men in it (Siker, J., 2004). This is indicative of who the Holy Spirit is. He’s the One who inspired biblical authors of old to record God’s message for humankind.  Not only did the Holy Spirit inspire the writing of the Bible, but today he also interprets it for us.  As interpreter, the Holy Spirit challenges our presuppositions, manifests God’s truth to us, enables us to understand what God is saying, and then empowers us to live according to it.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

The Holy Spirit works in the Church through illumination. We’re able to know emphatically God’s word is divinely inspired. And, He tells us what God means. Can you recall times, if ever, when you read or heard the Bible taught or preached, and suddenly, a light turned on in your mind? No longer did it feel as if you were reading a fairy tale story. A sense of reality hit you like a thunderbolt. “This is true,” you suddenly realized! You had read or heard that scripture passage over and over for years, but you could never quite grasp its full meaning. It didn’t penetrate your spirit. You tried meditating on it, but nothing. This happened to me with the verse, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” found in Philippians 2:13 (KJV). It’s one often quoted or preached in church and discussed among Christian friends. For me, as often as I had read this verse, it never clicked inside me what God meant. Not until one day, while reading it, the Holy Spirit came and illuminated my mind. When the Holy Spirit works in illumination, it’s like He’s turning on a light. Your surprised! Stunned! It’s an OMG moment, where your eyes are instantly opened, and you can see! The Holy Spirit helped me understand how transformation into Christ’s image is a work God does. This scripture means the Lord works in us to even want to do His will and works in us to do it. I was one of those persons on a treadmill walk to successful Christian living (with many peaks and valleys and highs and lows, may I add). I approached my Christian walk the same as I did my job. Be on time, work hard, strive to be good at it, and toil long hours, if necessary, to get the job done. I was going to get this thing right. It was remarkable when the Holy Spirit explained this verse to me. I found so much freedom and relief from the stress I was under trying to live God’s life through my own efforts.  Contrary to some popular church teachings and beliefs today, the Christian life is living the life of God–one we know nothing about. We’re humans, with a sin nature, and a proclivity for sin. God knows this about us. It’s why the Holy Spirit must come alongside us and enlighten us in God’s word and work in us a desire to do God’s will and live for His good pleasure. It’s not in my nature to want to do this. This is what our great Father–God, the Holy Spirit–is all about. It’s why, since Pentecost, He has continuously been helping guide believers and non-believers to understand the truth about Himself (John 14:6 NIV).  

God, the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—the Trinity. They work in accord and each function in one purpose. Scripture tells how God, the Son–Jesus Christ–always did what pleased the Father (John 8:29 NIV). It makes sense then how it’s only through the Holy Spirit’s work in illumination that we gain a proper understanding of scripture, which helps us become like Christ. He only acts in accord with what is written in God’s word. His interpretation will be consistent in revealing what is written about God’s nature, His ways, and what pleases Him. The Holy Spirit will not alter the written word to appease our lifestyles or desires, to make us feel comfortable, or to make us be right. People do that. At the same time, however, The Holy Spirit does not do all the work for us in interpreting God’s word. “The Lord expects us to use the available Bible tools to discover God’s message” (Duvall & Hays. 2012, pp.229-230). Second Timothy 2:15 (NIV) supports this idea, where it states, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God…”

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” Romans 12:17 tells us. By hearing God’s word, we become convinced about what God has said. Next, it takes root in our hearts and becomes our way of being and thinking. Finally, as we go about our daily life activities and encounter various type situations and people, we then do (or put into practice) what the Holy Spirit has made known to us. How do you know this to be true, you may ask? Well, in John 14:26, when Jesus was preparing His disciples for His departure, He told them, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have told you.” An advocate speaks up boldly to defend someone’s cause. We can rely on the Holy Spirit to come alongside us in our situations in life to boldly speak for God, reminding us of what He said and strengthening us to carry it out. He’ll be championing us on–assuring us “we can do all things through Christ.” I don’t know about you, but this is inspiring for me to know we have a Holy Spirit who equips and prepares us for all things that pertain to life and godliness.

Put a praise on it with me for Our God, The Holy Spirit! Inspiration by Ellie does not own the rights to this song.

So, in closing, I admonish you today to continue reading, studying, and meditating on God’s word, even when it makes no sense to you at all. Don’t become discouraged or disappointed because you’re not “getting it” and put it down, because you don’t know at which time you’re reading or listening to God’s word, when the Holy Spirit is going to show up to shake your world and change your life by turning the lights on to what God’s message is to you. If anyone is reading this who has never pursued the life of God or read the Bible, you can start today. Try it! Begin reading God’s words in the Bible today and watch! 😊

Be blessed until next time.


References

Duvall, J.S., & Hays, J.D. (2012). Grasping God’s Word. Zondervan. Grand Rapids, MI.

Siker, J. Y. (2004). The Unsettling Holy Spirit. The Living Pulpit (Online)19.

God Created Me – Psalm 139:13-18

My Beef about Creation

“Wow, your feet are big! What size shoe do you wear?” This exclamation I’ve heard quite often throughout my life, as a young kid and even into my adulthood. Wherever I may have been, I never knew when that question, which was the abominable sin to me, was coming. It always startled me because I never wanted people to notice my feet or know my shoe size, (not even the shoe salesperson). The person yelled it loud enough (it seemed) for bystanders to do what comes naturally—look down at my feet. They said it as if they had just made a significant scientific discovery or were announcing some breaking news. Ugh! How embarrassed I felt. Everything inside me would cringe in utter shame and humiliation. I loathed my feet and worked extremely hard trying to hide them. They were unordinary and did not look like other females’ feet. When sitting, I wouldn’t extend my legs out. I’d deliberately tucked them securely underneath my chair so no one would notice my feet. I dared not wear open toed shoes. Sandals? Are you kidding? No way. My feet were not only big, but they were also ugly. My foot is long and flat. I have no arch, long toes, and a fat big toe. Yuk! No one would ever get sight of these repulsive, unladylike feet. I cannot tell you how often I sat on the side of my bed, perusing my feet, and hating everything about them. My mother and sisters, female friends in the neighborhood, classmates at school, or females I noticed at the pool did not have feet like mine. My female supervisors and co-workers did not have feet as big as mine. Every female I encountered had nice, “normal,” dainty feet. Something was terribly wrong with me. “I’m a weirdo,” I thought. The more I noticed the difference in my feet from my counterparts, I began to think I was not appropriately fitted in this group. This was my thinking for a long portion of my life.

God’s Thoughts on the Matter

In this month’s blog, we come to a section in Psalms 139 that is very appropriate to this story. It’s actually my favorite part of this chapter. I love these verses and periodically repeat them to myself. The words brought clarity to my life and helped reshape my thinking on how I felt about myself. God spoke to those dark places in my life where I always felt kind of weird, different, and unaccepted, or where I had a low self-esteem. Verses13-18 say:

13For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

In an Insight Today daily devotional reading entitled, We Are Wonderfully Made, by Insight for Living Ministries Pastor, Chuck Swindoll, he writes, “While the Bible was not written to be a scientific journal on the human body, it is amazing how much is included in the Scriptures that has to do with this subject. Frequently, we come across statements that specifically mention how God designed our anatomy and put us together emotionally. One of the most phenomenal revelations of His workmanship is found in Psalm 139, where we read of how closely and carefully God watched over our being formed while we were still in our mothers’ wombs.”1

Pastor Swindoll is right on point. The beautiful words here accurately reveal the astounding workmanship of our Creator-God in putting us together. By His mighty power, extraordinary wisdom, and masterful hand, He constructed us. We learn how, while inside our mother’s womb, God: formed our inward parts; knit us together; and saw (or envisioned) our frame. In verse 14, King David offers praise (not criticism) to God for being “fearfully and wonderfully made.” The word fearfully here denotes being done in reverence and with a heart-felt interest. Wonderfully suggests God applied a unique element to everyone He has created. This is evident as we move throughout the world. We recognize and interact with various races of people, who all have different looks and personalities, and are different colors, shapes, and sizes. Each of us has a unique imprint that distinguishes us from one another. David doesn’t berate himself because he knows God doesn’t berate Himself, His creative work, or human beings. After creating the heavens and earth and everything in it, Genesis 1:31a says, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” So too, God thinks this way when He sees you and me. You’re good!

It’s important to understand it is the Creator-God at work immediately after a male’s sperm cell travels through the woman’s vagina and joins with her egg cells to produce a baby, and during the 9 months she carries the child.2 We can speak confidently about this as followers of Christ because it adequately refutes Darwin’s theory of evolution. Through each trimester a baby is in its mothers’ womb, he/she is being formed by God until fully developed to enter the world. It’s exciting yet humbling how God included men and women to play a part in His human creative process. We plant, conceive, carry, and bring forth life. But, we are not the architects of the child’s sex or identity. God decides that. The text goes on to show how it is also at this time where our length of days on the earth is decided and recorded—before we even begin living them (vs. 16).

Help on the Way!

My belief that something was wrong with me, that I was not appropriately put together as other females needed to change.  My mother helped start this process for me. She felt my agony, watched my frustration about my feet, and heard my complaints. I noticed her compassion when we shopped for shoes. We couldn’t afford to shop the quality shoe stores, where the shoe’s construction would be what I needed and a better fit. No, we had to go where prices were affordable. I rarely found a nice, cute, fashionable pair of shoes there in my size. So, I had to settle. Mom would just quietly sit there, not offering any criticism or harsh judgements. She understood a girl’s need to be beautiful and look pretty like a princess. I’m sure it was hurtful for her as well. Nonetheless, she loved my height and often complemented it. She told me to walk tall. I do. Today, I stand 5’9” tall and wear a size 12 shoe. Ironically, my mother was only about 5’3” tall, had a nice frame and “normal” feet. My anatomy was nothing like hers or my three sisters, whose structure is closer to hers. I was the only female in the family who seemed to have inherited more of my dad’s genes, who was over 6’ tall.

One day, after hearing me complain and deride my feet, it was as if my mother had heard enough. With the same intensity as the people who’d yell “You have really big feet,” my mom yelled, “Look, those are your feet; there’s nothing you can do about it. You’re going to have to accept that and that’s it!” Her pitch was high and her tone strong. Possibly to make me feel better, she added, “And, you’re tall; you probably wouldn’t look right anyway in a tall body with small feet.” My mom’s words penetrated my psyche that day. I started agreeing with her in my mind, “Yeah, these are my feet. I probably wouldn’t look right with little feet,” I thought. Slowly, the shift began to happen to accepting my feet. Hearing God’s words in the scriptures also began to come alive in my life. I understood what God was revealing and trying to get me to see. He cared about me.

After reading Psalms 139:13-18, I hope you’re inspired. Maybe you’re now able to see how God feels about you when he looks at you, and how intimately He was involved in your existence today. You’re not a mistake, nor were you formed incorrectly. God did not forget and need to come back to fix a mistake he found on you, or complete a detail He missed. If, as me, you feel you don’t quite fit in with the social or cultural norms of society, your family, yes, even your gender, God says to you today, you do. Our inward parts, which include our basic character make-up, is good. The sex we are at birth is the sex God determined for us, and it’s good–regardless of traits we may manifest that appear more compatible with the opposite sex. Science takes it further to inform us how our genetic make-up, including sex, was complete at the moment of fertilization.2 Although my feet, by comparison, look more masculine than feminine, I’m not male. I am the female I was designated to be at birth, with feet designed, shaped, and attached to my legs by the Creator-God–feet that do not appear to match the female gender. Now, what can we say about that? I’m very aware of and sensitive to the varied opinions and discussions on this today. It’s constantly evolving. Science and society now encourage us to read more, search deeper, explore further to understand our eccententricities, and, possibly, consider an alternative.

My grandfather, too, admonished us to read everything. I did read more and searched within myself. My discovery led me to recognize and piece together the several unique imprints God made on me. I realized, not only do my feet not align with the female gender, but naturally, I also tend to think analytically and work methodically–traits often associated to males. Naturally, I’m assertive, independent, a go-getter, work very hard, and ask a lot of questions.  I’m not as florid, in my use of words, décor, or style, as the female gender tends to be; decorating, hanging pictures and curtains is my least concern when I move into a new home.  In discussions, I rarely make customary comments or share typical opinions as the group. Lastly, I have a big, black, unique birthmark on the front of my neck (that a few docs wanted removed); you can’t miss it. As I focused on me and put together these atypical aspects about me, it became very apparent that God wanted me to stand out from the rest. My unusual feet actually correlate with the rest of me! 😊

Final Thoughts

I’ve shared this life-long battle over my feet and publicly mentioned my shoe size for the first time in my life; I’m 59 years old. Yes, I had moments of sadness, felt depressed, and experienced anxiety about my feet because (culturally) they were not typical of how a female’s/a girl’s/a young lady’s/a woman’s feet should look. I’m not the only person who has struggled with negative body image or low self-esteem issues. I’m not the only one who has sensed a disconnect from or lack of acceptance by one’s gender group. I’m not the only one in life who was teased, rejected, excluded, uninvited, or overlooked because of an apparent difference. Maybe you’re a male reading this and can relate; you too recognize traits/features in yourself that appear more feminine than masculine–you’re gentle-natured, not as rough/tough as other guys. Members of your gender have made cracks about this to you. If you’re not aware, these words–“gender,” “body image,” “social acceptance”–are hot buzz words circling the internet, social media, books/articles, and news headlines. In this information age, a lot is being discussed, expressed, published and consumed on these topics. So, this month, I decided to share my never-before-told personal experience and contribute my thoughts to the conversation.

I made it through my despair because of a wise mother who recognized and felt the pain of my struggle, yet loved, accepted, and uplifted me with grace; by God’s truthful messages in the Bible; and by God’s Spirit close by my side, whispering His good thoughts in my ear. I can confidently tell you what did NOT happen with me during this time. I never believed I was NOT a female. I was never confused about being two sexes. Internally, I knew I was a female, and identified, acted, and expressed myself as such.  I never explored any ideology that I was a blend of both male and female. I did not wish to be a male. I never attempted to injure or cut myself to make my feet smaller or to punish myself because of my difference.

Opening one’s heart and inviting God to take a closer seat in your life will change it.  Learning about His ways, His nature, and gaining His viewpoint from the Bible regarding life and human relationships helps us distinguish what is true from what is false. Over time, His truth becomes your truth. His way of being is the way you now aspire to be.  Ultimately, His viewpoint takes precedence over any familial, societal, or cultural views—even your own. That’s precisely why God created us and how He desires us to be–to bring Him glory. Does this mean I finally reach a point of perfection, where I no longer have struggles, suffer, or commit wrong?  Nope. Life with God is a process He initiates, He grows and builds in you, and He continues into eternity.

Listen. This song helps me tell this story!
Inspiration by Ellie does not own the rights to this song.

As a biologically born female, with feet and other aspects about my makeup that are atypical of the roles and characteristics of the female gender, I declare, I’m fearfully and wonderfully constructed by God. With all my dislikes, perceived flaws, pet peeves, quirks, bad posture, sometimes politically incorrect behaviors, and/or misnomers, God created me in love. Despite how things may appear, what others have said or how they treated me, or how I may think or feel, I am okay. I praise God now for this awareness about myself. I stopped comparing myself with others and putting myself down. I fully embrace who I am, with my “perceived” flaws and unconventional ways. It’s how God made me. I’m happy and feel content. I’ve settled the fact that, while God has given me things I like while creating me, there are also some things I wanted that He did not give me (pretty girlie feet. Lol). That’s out of my control. And, personally, I will never attempt to alter His truth on this matter to appease myself or another. Why? Because I understand now that if He says, it’s good, then it really is. And that settles things for me!

Be blessed until next time.

God is With Me (Psalm 139:7-12)

God–with a person like me? After what I did last night, last week, last year? Are you kidding? He doesn’t want to be around a person like me! Not so.

Whether or not you read the Bible, many may have heard the term, Emmanuel, promulgated during the Christmas season when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, who came as Savior of the world. It’s a Hebrew name meaning “God with us” and speaks specifically of Jesus Christ. Before Christ came into the physical world, however, God’s presence has always dwelt among humanity. We’ll see as we continue our discussion of Psalm 139. In verses 7-12, David shifts his focus from God’s omniscience (vss.1-6) to God’s omnipresence. He begins vs. 7 asking a rhetorical question, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?”  I don’t personally believe David wanted to get away from God; he was stressing a point for the congregation. The revelation how God knew all things possibly helped him understand the magnitude of God’s presence. After all, think of your most cherished relationships. How could you know your loved ones so intimately without often being in their presence? This is what is true about God. His being omnipresent means He is always everywhere in the universe and beyond. There’s no place we are that God is not. David makes his case by presenting us a few “what-if” scenarios he may find himself going, and concludes, in each, God would be there.

Where?

  • Eternal places (vs. 8)

If, before our death, we choose to make our eternal destiny in heaven above with God or in a descent to hell, God’s Spirit would be there and be aware that we’re there. Contrary to one’s belief, we do have a choice in this matter.

  • Remote places and times (vss.9-10)

Time and place are of no significance for God’s presence. David says, “If I were to fly away on the wings of the dawn or settle down on the other side of the sea, even there your hand would guide me, your right hand would grab hold of me.” This statement suggests a time of day or speed at which one might travel.  During Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos’, space excavation on The Blue Origin capsule, God was there, whether they knew or not. From the rocket’s launch at a site in rural West Texas, to takeoff, and while ascending into space and descending back to earth, God was with them. As we’re moving throughout our day—doing laundry, dropping off kids, working, watching a movie, sleeping, lying sick in the hospital with Covid or another disease, or whatever—the Lord’s presence is with you. Whether late in the evening when most are asleep or five o’clock in the morning before the sun has risen, God is present. Even the most remote places in our world are not off God’s radar. I think of these places when I read in this verse, “the other side of the sea,” Remote places are where Christian missionaries often travel spreading the message of Christ in towns and villages we’re unaware of.  While unknown to us, they aren’t to God; He’s there. There’s no time when or place where we can escape God’s watchful eye.

  • Dark atmospheres (physical or spiritual) – (vss. 11-12)

Finally, the absence of light does not thwart God’s view. “If we say, Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me…” God’s presence could locate me when it’s completely dark outside, if there was no moon lighting the earth. In fact, there’s no difference between darkness and light to God, David informs us. How profound! He does not need prescription glasses to see better, as we do, or a flashlight to help navigate a path He’s taking. God’s presence supersedes darkness. Venturing past the literal interpretation here, I believe God is present even in the dark moments we sometimes find ourselves. They come upon us unaware, sometimes through no-fault of our own, or perhaps by our own neglect. As difficult as it may be to grasp, even in these, God is aware we’re in this dark place and is with us. This may be a solace for some but distressing to know for others. Regardless of your lifestyle, the Lord is there and sees; you don’t need to hide from Him, and can’t.

Consider Adam and Eve

I’m reminded of the story about Adam and Eve in Genesis, chapters 1-3. Read it if you haven’t. After creating heaven and earth and filling it with all things one would need for nourishment, sustenance, and pleasure, God creates the first man, Adam, and places him in His garden (Eden) to work and replenish it. He next forms the first woman, Eve, to be with him.  Both had all they needed and were at liberty to enjoy the Garden and eat as they pleased. They were given only one instruction, “And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Gen 2:16-17). Satan comes along, incites Eve, and engages her in discussion. She begins to reason (oh, yeah, how about that!) and eats from the tree and gives to Adam to eat. Suddenly, they realize their mistake, feel guilt, and try to cover themselves. God is walking, they’re afraid and run to hide. God calls, “Where are you?” (Has God ever called you?) Adam tells God he was afraid because he was naked, so he hid. Their nakedness was not an issue before. God asks two questions, “Who told you, you were naked?” and “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Oops…there it is!)  They did. The blame game starts. He blames her, she blames the serpent, and the serpent went on his usual way probably delighted he conquered, until God dealt with him.

We see how from the beginning, people attempted to hide from God and couldn’t, and neither should we. Actually, now, with our understanding about God’s omnipresence, we should humbly submit ourselves to this aspect of His nature and refute any attempts at hiding. As God is everywhere, He’s also all-knowing; it’s futile then to try and hide. Unfortunately, though, this is what sin and dark living produces—fear, guilt, shame, and spiritual separation from God. While God is not visible to us, He can be known and experienced through faith. He wants to be found; it’s why He’s been hanging out among us! (Lol)

How?

You may wonder, how can God be everywhere that I am along with all the other billions of people on earth? Glad you asked.  David ascribes God as being a Spirit (vs.7). This idea is also recorded in John 4:24 where it states, God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship Him in spirit and in truth. His presence is immanent—meaning it’s near and fully present in the physical world and accessible to us in various ways (Acts 17:27). However, His Spirit also transcends the material universe and functions wholly independent of it. There’s nothing in the physical world that God is relying upon to sustain Himself, as we need to.

Why?

In his book, Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer writes, “God dwells in His creation and is everywhere indivisibly present in all His works. This is boldly taught by prophet and apostle and is accepted by Christian theology generally. That is, it appears in books, but for some reason, it has not sunk into the average Christian’s heart to become a part of his believing self…These are truths believed by every instructed Christian. It remains for us to think on them and pray over them until they begin to glow in us.” (Tozer. A.W. n.d. Chpt.5)

You heard me frequently refer to God’s awareness of us, in the places we go or situations we’re in. This is a good enough reason to stop trying to hide from Him. I suggest this for two reasons. First, David realized, and we should too, that there’s no physical place where God’s Spirit is not. Imagine a game of Hide and Seek with a group of pre-school children; many would return home pouting to their parents, “It’s not fair mommy, God always wins.” (Lol) God pays attention to you. His attention is not predicated by your race, how special you are, look, act, or even how you feel about Him. You know, our culture raves over individuals who wear the latest fashions, keep up with trends, or look a certain way. Even our presence on social media platforms can afford us a lot of attention or notoriety. God’s presence with us has no requirement we have to meet. He simply wants us to believe that He exists.

It’s also futile to hide from God’s presence because we learn from the Bible how God has always been working for and toward the good of humanity. He desires to find us and be found by us. In this text, we see God is not just simply being among us, walking around showing off His power and might.  No. Once again, David shows us a God at work, extending His hand to help guide us, his right hand to keep us strong and stable in these “what-if” situations we may go. (See verse 10). References to God’s right arm in scripture usually denotes His powerful ability.  David doesn’t say God is shaking His finger in our face saying, “No, no, you shouldn’t have done that.” There’s no mention either of God holding a club to bash us every time we falter. God’s hand is there to help. As Light, God lights our way and makes our path clear because there’s no darkness in Him and darkness does not affect Him.

Listen to Brandon Lake & Eniola Abioye by Maverick City Music and UPPERROOM who sing about God’s wonderful Spirit. Inspiration by Ellie does not own the rights to this song.

God’s presence does not always mean that bad things will not happen, or that it will prevent calamity. It does mean our Heavenly Father, God one day, left His glorious throne and wrapped himself in human flesh to come and dwell among mankind. He is Emmanuel, “God with us.” God incarnate, Jesus Christ, became flesh in order to identify with our weaknesses. He was despised and rejected as we’ve been. He felt pain just as we feel. He suffered physical traumas and the grief of losing loved ones to death, just as we do. Every kind of temptation came His way as it does to us. Betrayed by His closest friends and misunderstood by the religious establishment who should have known. Jesus, the man, familiar with sorrow and pain, is our God. Because of this, the Bible says about Jesus in Hebrews 4:15,

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Heb. 5:15-16 (NIV)

God is with you, my friend. He sees. He knows. And, He really has “been there, experienced that.” Call on Him!

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great

and hidden things that you have not known. Jeremiah 33:3 (ESV)

Be blessed until next time…


References

Tozer, A. (n.d.). The Pursuit of God (1443448650 1047447034 J. L. Snyder, Ed.).

God Knows – Psalm 139:1-6

The grim and unpredictable challenges facing our world which began in 2020 are still upon us. By God’s grace we are walking through them, but still unsure what may come next. Sometimes reluctantly, each day we may anticipate what will be the next negative news headlines. More Covid deaths, mass shootings, political divides, racial tensions, or another troubling occurrence? This is a part of this life, experiencing tumultuous, troubling seasons. Christ did tell us we would in John 16:33, “…In this world you will have trouble….” What’s bothersome about this is that, humanly, we don’t usually know when, where, or how trouble will hit us. It happens abruptly and unknowingly we find ourselves baffled. This pandemic did. Out of nowhere, it seems, Covid suddenly surfaced, multiplied, and turned our world upside down.  And no one knew. Should that be our concern though—about the troubles we don’t see coming? Or is there One who knows us and about life’s troublesome times?

I find assurance during these times through one of my favorite psalms—Psalm 139. I previously posted a blog about this psalm. On his website, Discover the Books of the Bible, Ken Cayce describes this psalm as “…certainly one of the grandest psalms in all of the Psalter, it is also one of the richest theologically. It combines an exposition of the greatness of God’s character with the reality of human experience…They may be summarized under four key thoughts as David addresses the Lord: You know me (verses 1-6), you are with me (verses 7-12), you created me (verses 13-18), and your cause is my cause (verses 19-24) (Cayce, K. (n.d.) Retrieved online January 24, 2021 from https://bible-studys.org/psalm-139/). Let’s look closer at verses1-6.

Our Human Limitations

Humans are limited in what we know. This pandemic should have made us more aware about this. Scientists were unsure where the virus emerged and how to treat or stop it. Governments were not certain how to advise or manage citizens. Doctors and hospitals had to revise protocols on patient visits and procedures. Corporations and their employees were leery about continuing business as usual. It was never clear, and still quite isn’t, how Covid affects the younger generation. Some schools are closed while others have students attending a couple days a week; many school-age students are doing virtual learning. It’s confusing. I’ve never witnessed a time as such of mass confusion or lack of assurance. The prevailing indirect or direct message is almost the same everywhere—”we really don’t know.” When we don’t know or aren’t quite sure about something, we speculate and make our best judgments based on what we see, feel, hear or sense. We try our best to secure favorable outcomes, but, unfortunately, it does not always fair well. Why? Because humanity is frail, weak, limited in knowledge, and thus, prone to error.  God, on the other hand is not; He always makes right choices and accurate judgements because He knows all people and all things!

This characteristic of God whereby He knows all things is called His omniscience. In the first six verses of Psalm 139, David opens and identifies God by saying, “O, Lord, You…”  The Lord is his main subject. It is who David is talking to and about. What will follow in this discourse will be about Him. We may first wonder, “Okay, ‘O Lord, you’…what?” Well, David continues by describing aspects of God’s nature. We connect this idea by the various verbs he uses.

David

shows us

how our

Lord:

  • searches and knows (vs.1)
  • knows when… (vs.2)
  • perceives (vs.2)
  • discerns thoughts (vs.3)
  • is acquainted or familiar with (vs.3)
  • knows before it’s said (vs.4)
  • encloses or hems in (v.5), and
  • lays His hands upon (vs.5)

God’s Knowledge is Superior

Brother Tauren Wells helps us better understand this verse of scripture. Listen!! Inspiration by Ellie does not own the rights to this song.

Can you envision a God who may possibly be like you? Have you connected an emotional aspect to His being? I did. I thought of the investments into my son’s life, while raising him. Like God, I watched him closely, discovering who he was, his likes/dislikes, or what he was good or not so good at (character traits, school subjects, foods, fun, church/social activities). I asked questions to discover how things were going or if I perceived a problem. I scrutinized his friendships and carefully screened the neighborhood homes he visited. I recognized also how, like God, I sometimes call or visit a family member or friend to embrace them just because, or because they were sick or going through a difficult time; I wanted to help.

I did not visualize God in this text as a stoic monarch, sitting on his great white thrown with his chest sticking out and his nose perched up, looking lofty on His creation or being too preoccupied to involve Himself in their affairs. No. I feel a Presence in this text. His eyes are intently fixated on me, watching how I’m doing or what I’m doing. He’s aware of my coming and going–every day. I sense His intimacy and involvement on those days I’m just in a funk and not at the top of my game. I recognize His familiarity with my quirks when He reaches His hand, blocking the evil path I’m about to take. I recognize here His discernment is what shielded me from yesterday’s harm. I sense Him hastily lean to the edge of His chair, to warn me, “Don’t say that!” I will surmise (from me) He may also be quite serious; He’d have to be considering He hunts billions of souls and examines billions of hearts.

While we share God’s image, being made in his likeness, His nature does contrast our human nature.  Isaiah 55:8-9 supports this where it says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” David recognizes this as he shouts in declaration in verse 6, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” See, the difference between you, me and God is, while we can know as He knows, God’s knowledge supersedes ours; His encompasses all humanity and all things. He knows everything. We too should enter this place of awe, and wonder, and amazement about God’s omniscience. We’re able to gain confidence in this truth. We can live and move freely in the fact that He knows all about us—what was, what is, what is to come. He knows. There’s no need for us to feel shame or to run and hide our eccentric, secret selves from Him because He already knows everything there is to know about you.  If we’re humbled by this aspect of God, we would probably come more frequently to boldly approach His throne of grace to ask for the help we need. Wouldn’t it be exciting if the leaders of our world believed in our omniscient God and asked His advice about this pandemic? Oh yes, the Lord has the 411 on Covid (and on you)! David, the king, deduces himself here upon realizing the magnitude of God’s knowledge. In essence, He’s saying, Lord, this is way over my head; I’m not that!

It’s important to realize God is not directing us to make an attempt at attaining His omniscience; we’ll never be able to. Think about the times you presented your best case to someone close and was wrong. God is never wrong. The message God wanted King David to convey to us, to know, to become assured of and confident in is that God knows you completely. This is a truth about God that has personal implications for us. You see, not only is the Lord the main subject in this psalm, but there is also an object, another participant in this discourse. David’s not just blurting out a bunch of facts about God to maximize our scriptural knowledge or bolster our theological egos. Neither is he inciting us to be shaking in fear of such an all-knowing God, whom we dare not cross or attempt to get close to. No! In this discourse, David links together the omniscient God and humanity. We know because as he described God’s attributes of God using verbs, those verbs pointed to the object–that object being the personal pronoun “ME.” God’s omniscience, as described here, now become specific toward humankind. The Lord is not being for the sake of just being. He is not doing just for the sake of only doing. We’ve discovered, from Genesis to Revelation, the Lord has always had a plan He’s been working–to bring people close to Himself. This relational truth, He wants you to know today.

In closing, read again the words of Psalm 139:1-6, this time with the realization God is talking about you!  In fact, where you see the word “me” or “my,” replace it with your name. Works for me! Believe! Be amazed and in awe! May this truth infiltrate your mind and spirit and bring a change to your life! Amen.

O, Lord, You…

search and know ME!

scrutinize (examine or inspect closely) ME!

are intimately acquainted with ME!

know it all before it’s said from MY (mouth)! 

enclose (surround, circle, guard) ME!

lay your hand upon ME!

Next time, we’ll look at verses 7-12, how God is with us. Until then, be inspired… 😊.


Maybe you’ve never heard about Jesus Christ. This blog is your first-time hearing about Him.  The apostle Paul tells us good news about Jesus Christ in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 from the Bible. It says, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve…” Jesus really did this for you, my friend. John 3:16-17 from the Bible tells us why He did. It says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” 

So, you see, God sent His Son, Jesus out of a heart of love for you! Everyone’s looking to be loved. Well, I’m introducing to you the greatest love you’ll ever find! I know; I invited Jesus into my heart when I was a teenager. God wants you to simply believe and receive this truth about his Son, Jesus Christ. Believe He came from God and died for your sins, was buried, but rose again to give you eternal life and bring you close to God. He’s the only One who can do that!

Believe and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior right now, where you are. Simply tell him you believe Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose again from the grave. Then ask Him to come into your heart and make you the person He created you to be. Let us know you did!


Jesus the Healer

Hello good people! It’s been a while since I’ve written. This actually is one of my resolutions for 2020–to write more! It’s interesting how in so much of life’s busyness, we are easily distracted away from what is important or what matters. Now–with this coronavirus pandemic altering all our lives–we find ourselves with a lot of available time to refocus our time, our attention, our energy to what we may have been neglecting or putting off.

I don’t have much to write in this post. I simply wanted to share a story with you from God’s Word–the Bible. Follow the link to my most recent Facebook post, where the story is located. I pray it will encourage your heart during this difficult time, and that it will give you a greater understanding of who Jesus (still) really is! 🙂

God bless you until next time…!

Jesus Heals

Good News in the Psalms

In my Old Testament Poetry and Wisdom course at Colorado Christian University, we discussed the Old Testament in the Bible. The Bible is divided into 2 sections—the Old and New Testament. There are 39 books in the Old Testament, one being the book of Psalm, which has 150 chapters, written by various authors, most by the notable King David. You may recall King David, the son of Jesse, who was a handsome mighty warrior and skillful musician, but was initially overlooked for the role as king (1 Samuel 16); who killed the giant, Goliath (1 Samuel 17); who was known by God as “a man after His own heart.” (1 Samuel 13:13-14); and who committed adultery with Bathsheba and deceived and murdered over it (2 Samuel 11, 12). So, you see, the writer was a man who, like us, experienced the peaks and valleys of life.

The psalms have various genres, or a category or style of writing they fall into and are usually individual or communal. There are hymns, as Psalm 97, 103,117, 113 and 150. These psalms offer general praises of God, celebrate Yahweh’s kingship and sing Songs of Zion. Some are literal musical compositions sung by a communal group of worshipers. Other psalms are categorized as laments, as Psalm 13, 22, 41, 51 and 54. These are the most common psalms that “express the psalmist’s response to God when in a situation of need or affliction” (Lucas, 2003). In the psalm of lament, usually: “(1) someone feels falsely accused of some crime; (2) someone has an illness; or (3) it is an expression against some enemy invasion or trouble caused by enemies.” It’s true! Read one of the examples to get a better understanding. In his article, Psalms of Lament, Lester (n.d.) agrees with Lucas on the features of lament Psalms. He states, “In a lament psalm, a petitioner addresses God directly on the occasion of some calamity…” (Lester, n.d., para. 2).  There are also psalms of thanksgiving or trust in God, such as Psalm 32, 66 and 116. Thanksgiving psalms express thanks and praise to God for some specific act of deliverance that the psalmist has experienced. They are also a form of witness to God’s saving work, declared throughout the congregation. Psalms of trust are united by mood and may refer to God entirely in the 3rd person; however, there is scholarly debate as to which psalms belong in this category. There are also royal psalms, such as Psalm 2, 18, 30, 45, 89 and 110. Their distinguishing feature is the content of the psalm, which concerns the relationship between God and the King. Some of the royal psalms have a battle context. Other royal psalms speak of royal occasions or situations, such as in Psalm 2 and 10, and coronation psalms, that address the rulership succession in the Davidic dynasty. Lastly, there are psalms that provide wisdom for us. Examples of wisdom psalms are: Psalms 1, 34, 37, 49, 73, 111 and 112 (Lucas, 2003). It is important to note how within the psalms, overall attributes of God are revealed but also how those attributes relate to humanity.

Most of us are familiar with the psalms and have heard a few read in a sermon at church, recited at a funeral, or quoted as a liturgy at an ecumenical service—as Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd…;” or Psalm 46, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble…;” or Psalm 27, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear…;” or Psalm 150, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord…” I wonder, however, if you’ve ever read Psalms 139? It’s one of my favorite psalms. As you’ll see, it seems to have all the elements of the type Psalms we just discussed. Most importantly, this is the Psalm that helped me in my battles with low self-esteem, low self-image and low self-worth. Through this Psalm, I dealt with my negative identity issues and problems I faced with rejection and isolation that travelled with me most of my life from my teenage years. Yes, issues from puberty can and do linger to adulthood if you don’t recognize them and/or honestly face them at some point in your life. Many people ascribe to me a sense of strength and confidence. Well, here’s where a lot of this came from—reading, studying, meditating on and understanding Psalm 139. You’ll understand after you delve into it for yourself. So, right here, right now, please STOP reading my blog and take a few minutes to read this magnificent, awesome psalm. Hear King David’s message to us about God, the Father, Creator of the Universe and what He (and King David) wanted humanity to know about God.


Finished? Great!  Now, let’s continue with our blog post.  It’s quite easy to recognize the central theme or focus of this Psalm, because King David opens verse 1 by showing us. He says, “O, Lord, You…”  As you read on, he continues to acknowledge God by referring to Him using the pronoun, “You,” or “Your,” or by saying “God” or “Lord.”  The reference to the pronoun you/your is repeated 30x in the NASB version of this reading. NASB is simply a version the Bible was written in (like the KJV version). God is the central figure of the text and the object of David’s conversation. David’s choice of verbs enables us to visualize God as a real, active being who functions. He says, “You search and know…” (vs. 1); “You know when…” and “You understand…” (vs. 2); “You scrutinize”(examine or inspect closely) and “are intimately acquainted…” (vs.3); “You know it all before it’s said…” (vs.4); “You have enclosed…” and “laid your hand upon…” (vs.5); You are Spirit; it’s everywhere… (vs.7); “You are there…” (v.8); “Your hand will lead…” and “Your right hand will lay hold…” (vs.10); “You formed…” and “You wove…” (vs.13); “Your works are wonderful…” (vs.14); You know the bodily frame…” (vs.15); “Your eyes have seen…” and “You have a written book you record in…” (vs.16); “You think many precious things…”(vs.17,18); “You have enemies…” (vs.20). It’s quite evident here that God is present, knowledgeable, and an active participant in life. Interestingly, though, not only is God the subject of the text, but there is a central object we see in the text as well, where David personally refers to himself as “me,” “my,” or “I.” Humanity then is the object of God’s ways, function, actions or emotions in the text. Who He is and what He does are on behalf of, for, or directed toward a human being, King David. “Me” is repeated 16x in this chapter; “my” 15x, and “I” 20x. This is another skill we learned in school to get to the intended meaning of a scripture text. Pretty cool, huh?

I want to conclude this month’s blog right here. In what we have discovered thus far, I believe we have gained enough insight to ponder and meditate on. It’s simple, yet a wealth of information. We discover several attributes about God in this psalm. We discover several things about ourselves in this psalm as it relates to God. We find a connection between Him and ourselves. David assures us of this as He speaks to God about Himself and is telling us, in essence, “God, you’ve done this, you’ve done that; you know this, you know that—all for and about “me.”

I invite you then, to go back and read once more Psalm 139. This time, however, where King David indicates “me” in the text, replace the word “me” with your name. It will now become more personal to you, and you’ll be able to internalize God’s intended message for you through this Psalm. What a mighty God…!

Be blessed until next time when we’ll look further into the attributes of God as revealed in this psalm and what it means for us! 😊

———-

References

Lucas, E. C. (2003). Exploring the Old Testament, Volume 3: A guide to the Psalms &    Wisdom Literature. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Continue reading “Good News in the Psalms”

Calling New Members into Jesus Christ’s Body of Believers

Happy Independence month everyone!

I had planned a different post for July using another Scripture reference I felt addressed some important issues going on in our world today. However, through a medical condition I had, the Lord allowed me to understand a picture the Apostle Paul was painting for the church of Christ in his time, and for us today. The Scripture is found in 1 Corinthians 12, where Paul is answering some questions the Corinthian church had, as well as giving them some general biblical principles on godly living. In this chapter, Paul is primarily discussing how members of Christ’s body have spiritual gifts and ministry callings that are used in the church. This is how this passage is taught or preached, and it is a proper interpretation. His theme is evident in verse 1 where he states, “Now concerning spiritual gifts…,” and in the concluding verses 28-31, where he identifies spiritual callings members have (i.e. apostles, teachers, etc.).

When we get to 1 Cor. 12:12-27, Paul shifts his thought and begins to paint a picture for us by making an analogy of members of the human physical body to members of Christ’s body (the church). It reads,

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts,[b] yet one body .21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”

I really enjoy Paul’s writings because he almost always highlights for Christians how in Christ either something has already been done for us, or he emphasizes a present state we are right now in, as in this analogy of Christ’s body. It is a mindset we are to adopt, a way we are to see ourselves. In verse 27, Paul argues, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” This was the Corinthian church’s status, and it is also the church’s status today. We belong, are included in, and are participants together with other believers in the universal body of Jesus Christ. As a unified whole, we are Christ’s body, following and representing Jesus Christ, the Head. Individually, I am a unique member of this diversified group. Paul wants us to have this picture in view so that we will respect the whole as being Christ’s and thus see each individual member as a selected, essential, equal part in this membership. (See Rom. 12:5; Eph. 1:5, 3:6, 4:25, 5:30; I Cor. 6:15; Col. 1:18, 1:24, 2:19, 3:15)

On June 29th, I underwent a parathyroidectomy, a minor surgery where doctors removed an abnormal parathyroid gland from my neck due to hyperparathyroidism. This abnormal parathyroid caused me problems with: an elevated calcium level in my blood, kidney stones that developed over time in both kidneys, calcifications around my aorta, and osteoporosis. Oh boy! These ailments were indicative of an abnormal parathyroid which needed to be removed. Thankfully, we have 4 parathyroid glands, so removal of one would not be life-threatening; however, this tiny part (or member) of my physical anatomy was so important, that its going awry had contributed to my normal body function going off. This gland is so significant that, after surgery, I now need calcium supplements and should eat and drink foods rich in calcium to bring my calcium and PTH back to a proper balance. Isn’t this amazing?

Some Facts About the Body of Christ

Here’s the main point Paul is making for us in comparing Christ’s body to the human body.  Just as our physical bodies have various significant parts that help it function properly, so too individual members in Jesus Christ’s body help it function as Christ intended the church to function.

  • Christ’s body is also known as: the church, members, family of God, God’s people, assembly, citizens, saints, believers, congregation, disciples.
  • Christ’s body is formed, held and led by One—the Holy Spirit of God (vs.13). No other spirit controls or leads Christ’s body. Members of Christ’s body share an affinity with one another—the life and message of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. They are believers in Jesus Christ who have chosen to follow Christ and live by His Holy Spirit, who binds us all together. Jesus Christ, the Messiah, culminated into one all those who have placed their faith in Christ. It is by His Spirit we have been placed as members in Christ’s body for a specific purpose. Membership is not based upon: age, gender, nationality, ethnicity, culture, race, status, socio-economic class, education, good deeds, going to church, and/or spiritual giftedness, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (vs. 13).
  • Christ’s body is large and ever-growing (vs.14, 20). There are a lot of members in Christ’s body from all around the world. It’s been growing for centuries, ever since the twelve Apostles began preaching the Gospel throughout the world. The 3,000 souls who were saved from Peter’s first sermon in Acts 2 may have duplicated his actions and added 3,000 more souls as they preached. (You see my point?) The body of Christ is not specific to your one church congregation (vs. 14); your church congregation is inclusive and a part of the body, but it is not the only body of Christ. We must broaden our view of Christ’s body.
  • Christ’s body is unified yet diversified (vs.15-26). Not everyone is a “hand,” an “eye,” a “heart,” or as strong as another. You are uniquely significant to and needed in Christ’s body! If something happens to one, it affects the whole–whether good or bad. Just as the small parathyroid gland in my neck proved to be essential to my normal bodily function, so it is in Christ’s body. Members share an affinity in this group—serving the Lord Jesus Christ and sharing His good news message of the Gospel. We must then be respectful of, care and look out for one another. We can only do this as we visualize, as Paul suggests, how our physical bodies function. We are connected and what we do affects each other. Paul stresses each member’s difference, yet importance. Everyone is needed in Christ’s body. (Were examples of how the early church functioned recorded for us for a reason? See Acts 1:12-2:6, 2:42-47, 4:32-35, 5:12; 9:31, 12:5. See Acts 1:12-26, 6:1-7, 9:19-31, 11:1-18, 12:11-17, 13:1-3, Acts 15 and Eph. 4:13; Phil. 2:2.
  • Christ’s body is affirming and accepting (vs.15-18). If you have received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior but are finding some seeming to be more noble, wise, or spiritual attempting to convince you: (a) that you are NOT a part of Christ’s body because you do not do or act as they; (b) that you are NOT essential to Christ’s body because you are weak; or (c) that you MUST DO something more to be in Christ’s body, I am confident in saying, more likely than not, this is not coming from the Spirit of God. Jesus simply said, “Come…” (See Matt. 11:28-30; 2 Pet. 3:9.)

Membership in Christ’s body is always open for new members. Rev. 3:20 (ESV) says, Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” Jesus Christ is knocking at your heart today, inviting you to become a member of His family, to know Him, to know God, and to enjoy life found in Christ. He is the truth for this life and the one to come, and He is the only way to God.  He said it in John 14:6 (ESV), “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus could say this because as He walked the earth He is the only One who fulfilled God’s righteous standard and gave up His life so others could be saved. What a man! What a God! What a friend! Please, open your heart and come to Jesus today! You are welcomed regardless of what…

Let us know you did!


 

It Will Happen!

Wow! It’s been 8 months since I’ve last blogged. A new year has emerged. Another birthday has added to my years. Spring has sprung. And, I have completed my Bachelor of Arts degree in Biblical Studies/Communications from Colorado Christian University. How time just flies by! Whether or not we are ready, time moves constantly and offers us new opportunities for change and/or growth. Things just happen in life, and sometimes we may find ourselves surprised by, overwhelmed with, or unsure about what time has brought to or taken away from us.

I hope you had an opportunity to review the Scripture reading I suggested in my last post to learn more about Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels. As I pondered my relationship with Jesus recently and His help in enabling me to finish school while living with a disabling condition–multiple sclerosis, I was amazed by and grateful to Him. I experienced the friendship, support and strength of God as I never have. Thinking on God’s faithfulness made me wonder how anyone can live life without Him. Jesus Christ truly makes life different, exciting and purposeful! I’m a witness.

I discovered not only does time keep moving constantly, but so does the life of God, through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. With Christ in your life, His Holy Spirit promises to guide us, teach us, comfort us, strengthen us and never, ever leave us. In this journey with multiple sclerosis coupled with my goal of completing my degree, I have just now experienced this to be true about God’s Holy Spirit. I can relate with Job where he states in Job 42:5 (NIV), “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” This experience for me has been orchestrated for a (set) time.

Many times, as Christians, we wonder why this or that has not taken place in our lives. We read and hear the word of God, but it does not seem to radiate or manifest in our lives. We have a Christian home, preach/teach, go to church, worship God and pray, yet there are many Scriptures we read that we honestly have not yet experienced for ourselves. We need not worry about this. God’s kingdom life is just that—His life. It is a life we as humans have no capacity of performing, comprehending, or putting together—except by the consistent, constant and faithful work of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives throughout time.

We learn about time in the wisdom literature poetry by the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 3 (NIV). He writes:

“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? 

10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

Verse 11 emphasizes for us how God makes everything beautiful in its time, and, (in essence), how no one can (actually) fathom what God does. He reveals this in time–even the experience with Him we so desire, want, need and pray for. While this is not customary to what we thought or have been taught, Jesus sort of alluded to this in Matthew 11:28-30. In God’s Kingdom there’s no striving–for anything. We simply come and receive from God His gift, through Jesus Christ, by His Holy Spirit! Exhale…Aaaah! 😊

Be encouraged my friends!   Continue reading “It Will Happen!”

Salvation Is a Big Deal

In salvation, the Bible makes it known that we became new creations in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 (NASB) says, For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. Therefore, from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” New Christians need to know how once you believe in Jesus Christ, who died and resurrected to new life for us, did so to bring us into the life of God. Immediately upon our salvation, God transitioned us out from under darkness and into the kingdom of God. Our old way of being, thinking and acting—in darkness–is no longer where our identity lies. Our life and identity is now in God. Colossians 1:13-14 confirms this by stating, “He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of His Beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

There are two opposite kingdoms—a dark one (controlled by sin and evil) and the kingdom of the Son, Jesus Christ (controlled by light and love). This is where we were placed the moment we received Jesus Christ as our Savior.  I emphasize the immediacy because for a long time, many Christians have not known about this work Christ did for them in salvation. Even many of us older Christians have accepted Jesus as Savior but have been erroneously taught (or not taught at all) how placing faith in Christ gives us a new identity. We are instantaneously children of God, children of the light, and accepted in God’s beloved.  This is the reason why the scripture verse states above, “we no longer consider anyone from a fleshly perspective.” God’s kingdom is spiritual and does not operate as we do or this world. This is important to know because new Christians can boldly begin their Christian journey by immediately receiving this truth into their hearts, mind and spirits. They can “hit the ground running,” so to speak. They can confidently proclaim their acceptance by God into his supernatural kingdom. Imagine how one’s actions would immediately change if this was the new focus of one’s thinking? “I have been rescued from sin and evil and brought into God’s eternal light and love” Do not let anyone try to deduce you or kick you out of where God placed you in salvation. You are no longer darkness, but light in the Lord. Think this way; act this way. Hmmm! (Take a deep breath, exhale and smile!).  Salvation is a miracle indeed!

To learn more about this new life God has given you, I recommend reading the Bible books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which biblical scholars term the Synoptic Gospels. They are the only books in the Bible that reveals to us who Jesus is. Why do we want to do this? Well, Hebrews 1:1-4 (Study Bible) tells us why, “On many past occasions and ways, God spoke to our fathers through the prophets.  But in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature, upholding all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. So, He became as far superior to the angels as the name He has inherited is excellent beyond theirs.”  Our invisible God’s nature can be seen through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only One who accurately represents who God is. Jesus controls God’s kingdom and shows us God’s nature, what pleases God, and reveals God’s plan for humankind.  Therefore, He deserves our undivided attention this scripture is saying. Wow! These gospel narratives, written by the disciples (turned apostles) of Christ, are very important to read and study because in the kingdom of God, Jesus Christ is the One who connects us to God, is our new model, and the One we now follow, and no longer ourselves or this (dark) earthly way of doing things.  It is in these Synoptic Gospel books where Jesus’ life and public ministry is recorded and where we find out how God operates. Be encouraged and happy reading!  Continue reading “Salvation Is a Big Deal”

Inspired by Ephesians 1:3-13

As a long time Christian , I recently found astounding inspiration in this passage in Ephesians I wish I had learned about sooner. I want to share it with you. The passage begins appropriately for the situation facing the biblical audience. It’s a theological statement as well as a message to encourage the saints in Ephesus. Paul opens verse 3 with a praise, which is to be “to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He continues in verse 3 suggesting a reason for this praise—“who has blessed us…” The word “blessed” is a Greek word (eulogeō) which means “to impart a benefit to someone being blessed.” The benefits imparted are not from the physical world but are spiritual blessings proceeding from “the heavenly realm,” where God resides and where believers have a share (Snodgrass, 1996). The blessings here are not indicative of the future, but are blessings we now partake of on earth because of the work Christ did for us on the cross.

The verse opens with a greeting by its author, the Apostle Paul, “to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus” (1:1).  Ephesus was a prominent city in Rome that housed one of the Seven Wonders of the World–the divine temple entity devoted to Diana (Artemis)—whom they worship and from which they made a lot of money. People travelled great distances to worship Artemis. The goddess was responsible for Ephesus’ prominence in business and also for the city’s immorality and wickedness. Sexual promiscuity, prostitution, sorcery and other sins were running rampant. However, saints were in Ephesus, who, with Paul, were proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ, uniting in church fellowship and the teaching of God’s word. Included were new convert Gentiles and Greeks who were turning from their gods to the Lord.  As a result, believers were facing persecution, suffering, imprisonment, and involved in rioting.

Paul goes on in verses 4-13, it seems, letting us know what these imparted spiritual benefits are. These blessings have changed their life position. They are now united with God through Christ and must think and act this way, and not as they used to. These blessings are inclusive of all saints and the faithful in Christ Jesus, including converted Jews, Gentiles and Greeks who have put their faith in Christ. We will take a look at these blessings and the implications they had for the church of Ephesus as well as for believers today.

The first blessing bestowed on us by God is that“… He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (1:4).  This thought of being chosen is confirmed in John 6:44, where Jesus lets us know, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him….” God is the initiator in bringing us to Himself.  He elected us as members of His family to be holy and blameless in His sight. This is a phenomenal blessing indeed! Many times in our lives, because of our actions, personality, past mistakes, or present predicament, we do not equate ourselves as being holy. This verse encourages us that God sees us as holy and blameless in His sight.  This is based solely on our identification and faith in Christ.

The next benefit bestowed upon us is that God, in love, “predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves” (1:5-6).  The idea of predestination, again, has to do with the idea that God decided beforehand to bring us into the family of God. To think, the God of the universe had you in mind to specially select you as His child! This should exhilarate us with much excitement! It is important to note here, God decided this in love!  In our relationships with significant others, we express our dying love for each other. However, the God of heaven and earth first fell in love with us by deciding to bring us to Himself.  He freely delighted in and wanted to do this for us, because He is a gracious and kind God who loves to show favor.

Our next benefit also “in Him” (in Christ that is)—“we have redemption through his blood”(1:7-8).  The payment for sin required a sacrifice, which Christ paid when he shed His blood by dying on the cross. By putting our faith in His substitutionary death, He bought us back into right standing with God.  This payment also blessed us with, “the forgiveness of sins in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding”(1:7-8).  God, in his wisdom, understood that mankind could never fulfill his righteous requirements, so Christ’s death, again, stood in our place, took the penalty we deserved in order to bring us to God. When we sin, we receive forgiveness when we ask. Christ, the great High Priest, intercedes to the Father on our behalf, asking God to remember the sacrifice He made for our sins. As such, God’s gracious nature forgives us on Christ’s behalf, all because we’ve accepted Jesus as our Savior!

God has also blessed us because He, “made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put in effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and earth together under one head, even Christ” (1:9-10). We are now no longer strangers, but heirs with God and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17 NIV). As such, God has shared classified information with us, that once was hidden. As His children, we are now trustworthy to receive it. This mystery includes, I believe, God’s enlightenment about His plan of salvation which is through Christ. This plan was being worked on before the foundations of the world, since the creation and throughout the Old Testament—God bringing people to Himself in relationship. As we trusted Him, He has revealed to us that, at the proper time of fulfillment, everything on heaven and earth will come together under His rule. And everything will be back in order and under God’s authority. As believers, we understand and hope for this as we continue in our spiritual journey.

Another blessing we received is stated as,“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of  Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory” (1:11-12).  Believers were not just haphazardly chosen to live life aimlessly. God had a predetermined plan for our lives that He would work all things, within us and throughout lives, according to His will. This includes our good, our bad, and our ugly. God wants to show forth His glory through our life testimony. When we share it, the world will follow suit and give God praise. We cannot always fathom this in our painful earthly moments, but there is a larger picture God has in the heavenly realm which is oftentimes incomprehensible to us until God reveals it.  This too is indicative of such a great blessing we have as dwellers on earth living with a heavenly mindset–God chose us with a plan in mind! We surely are not “nothings.”

The final blessing addressed in this passage, and possibly the best of them all, states, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory.”(1:13-14).  “You also were included” mentioned here could be Paul’s specific address to the Gentile believers at that time who were not originally God’s chosen people.  He is encouraging them that they are now included (Snodgrass, 1996).  I believe we can safely assume also that this blessing would include all persons throughout all ages who would come to Christ. Upon conversion, believers in Christ receive a “seal” and a “deposit”—the promised Holy Spirit. This mark identifies us as God’s possession. The Holy Spirit’s mark also serves as our down payment, so to speak, to guarantee our place in heaven. To think, God has put a stamp of approval on us to walk through the pearly gates! This is comforting to know because this puts the forces of darkness–who roam throughout the spiritual realm–on notice that we belong to God; therefore they cannot harm us. It also comforts us that our place in heaven is secured. When we die and when the “times have reached their fulfillment,” our place in heaven is guaranteed through Jesus Christ. Nothing can alter this fact.

How blessed we are, ‘eh! Paul graciously addresses the significance of this perspective. Announcing these blessings to us shows us what God had in mind in times past, what they have afforded us in our present life here on earth, and the glorious hope of our future. This reality was needed for the biblical audience in Ephesus as well as for us today. While the extent of suffering, pain and persecution for Christ is not as prevalent today as it was in Ephesus, believers today do suffer for bearing Christ’s name. This letter’s message to the Ephesians saints, I’m sure, encouraged and provided them hope in their corrupt surroundings, during imprisonments, persecutions and rioting. Believers today can gain encouragement and hope as we live our daily lives in an increasingly ungodly world.

Paul’s challenge for the believers in Ephesus was to train their mindset to think like God, according to these spiritual blessings they had received. As we fellowship together in church, visit one another’s homes, work with one another, teach, and talk with one another, let’s also remind and encourage each other with these words.

I close with Paul’s most fitting opening acknowledgement, “Praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us.” The Apostle Paul got his own message first. He shows us in verse 17 where he prays, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father…may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.” 

I too hope and pray that you will know that you are blessed! Embed these blessings in your hearts and minds. Speak them out of your mouth! They come with divine authority from a graceful God. They will enable you to think and act according to God’s will. They will remove doubt and fear as you face persecution and temptation. They will cause you not to shrink back. You will sense a closeness to God who loves and cares for you and will never leave you. Your assessment of yourself will change, and you will know, “I belong to God and within His family!”

Be inspired my friends, until next time!!!


“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (3:20).


References:

Snodgrass, K. (1996). The NIV Application Commentary: Ephesians. Grand Rapids, MI.                  Zondervan.


If you have never heard about Jesus Christ or accepted Him into your heart, I invite you to do so now. The Apostle Paul told us in the Bible in I Corinthians 15:3-5, the “good news” about Jesus Christ. It says,
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve…”
Jesus actually did this for you my friend. John 3:16-17, in the Bible says,
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” So, you see here my friend God sent His Son to do all this for us out of a heart of love! Everyone’s looking for love. Here is the greatest love!
God wants you to simply believe and receive this truth about His Son, Jesus Christ. He died, was buried and rose again to bring you to God. I know it sounds hard to believe, but it is true! Won’t you believe and receive Christ as your Savior right now. Simply tell Him you believe this and ask Him into your heart. We would love to hear about your decision. Let us know you did!