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!

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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.

What A Difference An Apostrophe Makes!

Pure Light

Love’s Pure Light

How many times in my life have I sung Silent Night? How many times have I read the lyrics as I sang this carol. And yet today, an apostrophe gave me pause. What a difference it makes!

In the third verse, the words start:

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light

Not “loves” the verb, but “love’s” the noun. So, I always thought, Jesus, the Son of God, loves the purity of the light of God. But that’s not what it means with an apostrophe.

“Love’s” is a possessive noun. In grammar, we use the apostrophe a few ways: omission of letter, possession and for some plurals. In this case, you have to ask whose love possesses pure light. So I go to math.

Son of God = Jesus
God = Love

Love’s pure light becomes God’s pure light.

So, Jesus is God’s Pure Light. Or Jesus is Pure Light.

Quite a bit of a difference from Jesus loving pure light.

Wholly, Holey, Holy

I love words. I like to know where they came from, what they mean, how they’re used, what language they’re derived from. In other words, I like to know their etymology.

The English language in America is so interesting because we’ve taken words from so many languages and made them a part of our own language. Sometimes the words retain their original meanings, and sometimes they take on an entirely new meaning. Phrases we use every day can go back to the Middle Ages and be based on a very literal meaning of the words. All of this really means that I love words, puns included.

When I do a Bible study, I get into the words. I look at different translations and the words they choose to use as a translation for the Hebrew and Greek words. I use a dictionary and look up the meaning of a word, because sometimes we assume we know what a word means, but we only know one definition, and there is a greater depth of understanding when we know more about what the words mean.

So what does this all have to do I with the title of title of this blog entry?

Wholly, Holey, Holy.

Words that sound that same but have different spelling and different meanings are called homonyms. Remember studying those in grade school? So imagine singing that great hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty” and wondering about the word “holy”. Without going to the dictionary, we can say that roughly speaking, it means set apart for God when it applies to us. When applied to God it speaks of holiness, righteousness, perfection, power and might.

Now imagine singing that hymn and thinking about the song, “Wholly devoted to you”. Again, without a dictionary, wholly means totally, completely, without reservation, undivided. But it sounds like Holy. Wholly devoted to being Holy.

Now make the jump to the Bible verse about being a jar full of holes.
“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” (2 Corinthians 4:7 NLT)

I know it doesn’t say holes, but I’ve often heard the visual of being a jar broken, cracked, full of holes, that God puts back together and uses as a vessel to hold His glory and that in fact these holes let His glory shine out through our earthen vessels for the world to see. So, we are holey.

Webster’s Dictionary gives the origin of many words. Whole, or wholly, comes from the Old English hal, which means healthy or unhurt. Holy is related to the same Old English word for whole. Hole, or holey, on the other hand, derives from the Old English hol which means to conceal or hollow. Interestingly, the word hell comes from the same Old English word! Maybe it is the “holes” in my armor that allow the enemy to attack me?

Remember I love words. So I can use these three homonyms to make a statement that sounds confusing, but is totally meaningful to me:

God is wholly devoted to making me holy and using this imperfect, holey vessel for His glorious purposes!

OR:

I wholly serve a Holy God who loves me despite my holey imperfections!

Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty
Heaven and earth are full of Your glory!

Awesome God c Becky Jane Davis

Awesome God
c Becky Jane Davis

Joy! To the World!

Joy! To the World! The Lord is Come!

This is the carol I focused on this Christmas season. The devotion on YouVersion that I did from Just Joy Ministries certainly kept my focus on the carol, but it was more than that. The words from various verses kept coming up in my thoughts.

The wonders of his love…
Let earth receive her King…
Repeat the sounding joy…
He rules the world with truth and grace…

And the punctuation in my mind was always, Joy! To the World!
Speak Joy. Shout Joy. Sing Joy.

Paul Baloche sang a version this year with these added lyrics:

Shout for joy
See what love has done
He has come for us
He’s the saving one.

A few years ago, Chris Tomlin added these lyrics to the carol:

Joy, unspeakable joy
And overflowing where no tongue can tell
Joy, unspeakable joy
Rises in my soul, never lets me go

Jeremy Camp adds a chorus of :

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Christ is born!

Then one Sunday at church this year, the Worship Team led us in a free form singing of the carol, where we each sang lines as they came to our hearts, in what ever order the Spirit was leading us to sing. (If you’ve never sung in a free form, singing words as they come into your heart, I urge you to do this. Start in the privacy of your own home with a song you know well, then add your own words, or take the words and meditate on them as you sing and offer them up to the Lord as a sacrifice of praise.) That is what we did that morning. And it sounded something like this:

Joy! To the World! He rules the world with the wonders of His love!

Let heaven and nature sing of the wonders of His love as open hearts receive him.

The Savior reigns! The glories of his righteousness will rule the world with truth and grace!

The melody was there, the words were there, but moved around, I got all new meanings and understandings to the words of this carol. And each of us present heard and sang something different, yet the angelic choir of voices singing brought a sweet sound to the altar of the Holy One.

Every time I sang the carol this year, my heart was touched. Every time I heard it played, my heart was touched. He indeed comes to make his blessings flow! He does indeed rule with truth and grace! His love is indeed wonderful! And heaven and nature is constantly singing praises to God.

JOY TO THE WORLD- “Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” (Luke 2:9-11 NLT)

THE WONDERS OF HIS LOVE- “Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways. By your mighty power you rescue those who seek refuge from their enemies.” (Psalms 17:7 NLT)

HE RULES THE WORLD WITH TRUTH AND GRACE: “Let the rivers clap their hands, the mountains shout with them for joy, Before the Lord who comes, who comes to govern the earth, To govern the world with justice and the peoples with fairness.” (Psalms 98:8, 9 NABRE)

AND HEAVEN AND NATURE SING- “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.” (Psalms 19:1 NLT)

Golden Sunset, California

Golden Sunset, California

Joy to the World by Isaac Watts

Joy to the World , the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

The Battle of My Will and God’s Will in Those Private Moments

From “Where the Battle is Won or Lost” by Oswald Chambers

“Our battles are first won or lost in the secret places of our will in God’s presence, never in full view of the world. The Spirit of God seizes me and I am compelled to get alone with God and fight the battle before Him. Until I do this, I will lose every time. The battle may take one minute or one year, but that will depend on me, not God. However long it takes, I must wrestle with it alone before God, and I must resolve to go through the hell of renunciation or rejection before Him. Nothing has any power over someone who has fought the battle before God and won there.”

The inner conversations I have with God are very private, between Him and me. Sometimes they are friendly, open discussions. Sometimes I cry out and ask why things are the way they are. It might take time, tears and anguish, but He will get me to the point where I recognize His will and submit my will to His ways. It often requires me to repent, ask forgiveness, and ask to be changed, but more often than not, I must forgive someone.

I am often comforted by the verse that says “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” (Psalms 56:8 NLT) Many times my discussions with God are me crying in sorrow or pain because I’ve been hurt, or I’ve been disappointed or let down, or because my dreams seem so unlikely to ever come true. Yet He collects my tears and brings me comfort. In those private, intimate times, He speaks to me of His plans and purposes.

Even in the midst of public worship, I can be alone with my God, listening to his voice speaking to me through His Word, the sermon, the words of the songs, or an image in my mind. While all around me may be focused on the service, I am having an intimate, private conversation with God, usually in some battle of will where He is molding me, convicting me, changing me,

I confess that often, if I have avoided daily Bible study and prayer, it is likely because I know there is something I’m supposed to talk about with Him and I’m avoiding it. I’m not yet ready to bend my knee to His will. For those times, I need to use those arrow prayers, “Lord soften my heart!” and wait for Him to work in me that strong desire to be close, to repair our relationship, to spend time with Him, that overrides my avoidance of whatever issue I’m dealing with at the time.

Right now I’m arguing with Him about family dynamics, holidays, my expectations and the reality I’m dealing with right now. Is it a season of my life or the way life is from now on? The battle is still going on, meaning, I have not yet bent my will to His. I know I will, because I treasure my relationship with him. But my will is strong, and my emotions high. My God is faithful and He loves me. He will find a way to get to my heart.