CHRISTmas!

I’ve been doing two Advent devotions this year. One generated two images a day and the other generated many thoughts about Jesus. Today I’ll share my two Christmas Bible verse images, both using decorated Christmas tress as the background.

Choosing the version of the Bible is important to me. Usually I read the ESV, but one verse I chose the Good News Bible, which is normally for children.

I’m also struck this year by the word “exceedingly” and how it is used in the Bible. I see a word study coming in 2018!

For unto us!

rejoiced exceedingly

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Worship and Learn Something New

You can sing songs over and over again, and suddenly, a word or lyric catches you, and you wonder what it was you were singing about. Today, for me, it was Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing!

Verse 2:

Here I raise my Ebenezer,
Hither by Thy help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

Here I raise my Ebenezer? What’s an ebenezer? Like Scrooge? Google to the rescue. Here’s some of what I’ve found:

“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.””  1 Samuel‬ ‭7:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and he called the name of it Ebenezer [stone of help], saying, Heretofore the Lord has helped us.” 1 Samuel‬ ‭7:12‬ ‭AMPC‬‬

From housetohouse.com: “This hymn, written by Robert Robinson in 1758, stresses the joy of Christianity and the Christian’s need to rely on the Lord. Robinson chose the phrase, Here I raise my Ebenezer, from 1 Samuel 7:12, because it reminds God’s people how He he delivered Israel from danger.

Chapters 4 through 7 of 1 Samuel describe a series of battles between the Israelites and the Philistines. In an attempt to defeat the Philistines, the Israelites took the ark of the covenant into battle as a sort of good luck charm. To their anguish, however, the Philistines captured the ark and took it back to their pagan temple. God then sent plagues upon the Philistines and caused the idol of their god Dagon to fall over on its face. Fearing God, the Philistines sent the ark back to the Israelites, but continued to fight. As they fought more battles, the prophet Samuel led the Israelites as their last judge. As prophet and judge, Samuel offered sacrifices to God, so that when the Philistines approached, God thundered with a great thunder (1 Samuel 7:10). In the confusion that followed, the Israelites soundly debfeated the Philistines.”

From Apologetic Press: “The word Ebenezer comes from the Hebrew words ’Eben hà-ezer (eh’-ben haw-e’-zer), which simply mean “stone of help”….. When Robinson wrote his lyrics, he followed the word Ebenezer with the phrase, “Here by Thy great help I’ve come.” An Ebenezer, then, is simply a monumental stone set up to signify the great help that God granted the one raising the stone. In Robinson’s poem, it figuratively meant that the writer—and all who subsequently sing the song—acknowledge God’s bountiful blessings and help in their lives.”

Here (right now) I (Becky) raise my ebenezer, a stone to represent all God has helped me with, hither (to this place, this time) by God’s help I’ve come.

Altars were built of stones to commemorate an event, often a miracle, where God stepped in and showed His power and might. These stones, or altars were often given a name. This name and the altar was to remind the people of what God had done.

I need to research these altars!

The Love of God

Lotus flower

Lotus flower

“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.”  Ephesians‬ ‭5:1-2‬ ‭MSG‬‬

I want to be like this, every day. To be so filled with the love of God, that I would love everyone, not judge, no conditions, not to some but all. To love everyone I meet on the streets, all walks of life, anywhere in the world! I want to love others so they know of God’s love for them. So I need to love like God loves.

And so the church grew

Acts 11:18

Acts 11:18

And the church grew…

When we expand our thoughts, and see everyone around us, and know that they are made in God’s image, and we shower them with God’s love, the church grows. Because God’s love is transforming, reaching deep into hearts and blessing to the very core of our being. Let God’s love bless you today to the very core of your being. Let that love pour out of you to those you encounter today. Bless those you meet with God’s love, and let Him transform those you meet!

A Shield About Me

Psalms 3:3

Psalms 3:3

I’ve been singing a song a song based on this verse the last few weeks.

Thou, O Lord, art a shield about me
You’re my glory
You’re the lifter of my head
Thou, O Lord, art a shield about me
You’re my glory
You’re the lifter of my head

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
You’re the lifter of my head

There is so much to think about in these few, powerful words.

A shield about me: It’s like the song, Christ in me: before and behind, above and below, with me and in me, like a shield, a big shield!

You’re my Glory: the source of honor, blessing and sustenance.

The lifter of my head: lift your head, raise your eyes, lift your hands and face our Lord courageously and with thanksgiving!

Hallelujah: Praise the Lord!

There are several people and families I’m praying for that are facing medical problems, some very serious. I’ve been singing this song over them, that would feel the shield of the Lord, His Glory and lift their eyes to heaven and keep their eyes on Him, the Healer of our souls.

How do I live and honor my God in these days?

Psalm 73:28

I’m reading through the book of Daniel a chapter at a time, reflecting on Babylon and how Daniel and his friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego not only lived, but were seen as successful in a society that was anything but Godly. Today, Daniel 3:16-18 gave me the directions on how I should live in this world that has become so separated from God’s ways.
“Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.””
Daniel‬ ‭3:16-18‬ ‭NIV‬‬

How should I behave? Today, I’m looking at what these verse say I should do:

  1. I do not need to defend my beliefs.
  2. If that means I will be punished, then so be it.
  3. My God is able to deliver me from the punishment.
  4. But even if God does not deliver me from the punishment, I will still praise Him.
  5. I will not praise the gods of the world, or their images!

Note that the three Hebrew men acknowledged the ruler of the country and were respectful. They used his title in an honorable way. (I think we could learn from this in our politics.)

When I read the Law and the Gospel, it is apparent that many of Gods ways are broken in this world. But yet my call is for me to be accountable to God and to follow His ways in my life. I am not called to judge or condemn, but to follow as an example, so that God may show His Power and Glory through my life. It is not easy to be obedient. The pressures of the day, the list of things to do, the news of even more atrocities, and the flaunting of sin, make it easy for me to think about others and not about me being accountable to God for my sins.

Jesus died on the cross for my sins. When I accepted Him as my Savior, I knew all the sins and mistakes of my past were forgiven and cleansed. But every day I fall short. Every day I need to stay accountable to my Savior. Every day I need to be forgiven and cleansed. When I forget this, it is easy to judge others.

I confess that I fall too easily into condemning sin in others and too reluctant to see my own sin. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did not spend time telling Nebuchadnezzar all the things he was doing wrong. They stood on their beliefs and were not ashamed. They trusted and were obedient to God.

Sometimes, we as Christians, are too quick to point out sin and shortcomings. We judge, we condemn, we do anything but love. How can the lost be saved if we yell in their face and call out their sins? Do they see the love of Jesus in that behavior?

Judgements and division, hatred and anger, are driving emotions to become a god. We sacrifice to the altar of a god that demands a fuel of emotions that are negative.

We should be the voice of calm, of love and acceptance, to the world. We should be willing to be obedient, but not expect others who do not know God to be obedient to His laws.

Psalm 73:28 tells me what I must do:

  1. “But for me it is good to be near God;
  2. I have made the Lord God my refuge,
  3. that I may tell of all your works.”

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The Land of the Free, Trusting in God

We no longer live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. I feel we live instead, in the land of the fearful and the home of the angry.
Those are my thoughts this morning as I think about the rhetoric of the presidential debates and read the comments posted on my Facebook wall.

I read a devotion today that talked about “practical atheists” as those who do know deep down there is a God, but choose to live as if He doesn’t exist. The Bible verse was:

“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” ” Psalm‬ ‭14:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬.

This describes much of our country today, based on behaviors, rhetoric, and life styles.
So there is no deep trust in God, but in self. And in ourselves we see no way to control the violence and ideologies that we read about in the news.
A friend shared verses to contemplate as we pray for Burkina Faso and the violence that erupted there.

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace. The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him, but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming. The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose way is upright; their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭37:7-15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This should be our posture. Trust in God and know He is in control and is the only one who can deal with the violent attacks that know no border in this world.  I think it used to be easier to be brave when there was a country attacking us. But now, it is an ideology.
So how should we respond to the angry behaviors and rhetoric of our friends and neighbors? They will not be satisfied with ‘trust in God’ because they do not accept that God exists or can be known. I have taken to ignoring certain posts on Facebook and am contemplating hiding some from my feed. Otherwise, my heart gets filled with fear and I struggle to cease doubting and begin trusting again.
It has become too easy to stereotype the ideology that leads to violent attacks, seemingly from nowhere. But only God can see into the hearts and know who is contemplating violence. I can’t. So my call is to love. And this is the verse I’m contemplating:

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  Colossians 3:12-17 ESV

Put on love. Return to the land of the free and the home of the brave. Open our arms to those who have been terrorized. Show love, no matter what. This will take bravery. But it will mostly take trusting in God, no matter what.