Tag Archives: Bible Study

God’s Word = Beautiful

GodsWordBeautiful copy

Finished a painting I started long ago, then made a little video from the thoughts I found inspiring.  It is symbolic for me.  A painter tries to create visual beauty like a dancer tries to create exquisite lines or a musician works to create pleasing harmonies.  Picturing the Bible in this painting makes me recall many a morning as I searched for answers, saw words of hope for the future and passages that have encouraged me along the way.  Over time this morning practice has become “beautiful” to me.  Hope you enjoy this little “morning devotion” from Psalm 19.

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A Beautiful Life – Psalm 19

GodsWordBeautiful copyQuotes from Psalm 19 – The Message

God‘s glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon. 2 Madame Day holds classes every morning, Professor Night lectures each evening.

Sunrise and sunset are glorious moments with spectacular colors painted across the skies.  God often presents us with masterpieces that I do not even notice.  Yet, they are silent love letters to us, His creation.

3 Their words aren’t heard, their voices aren’t recorded, 4 But their silence fills the earth: unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.

The Great Artist’s handiwork is everywhere and His signature must be the roses.  Every good and beautiful thing God made testifies of His truth – His goodness, His mercy, His justice, His love.

God makes a huge dome for the sun – a superdome! 5 The morning sun’s a new husband leaping from his honeymoon bed, The daybreaking sun an athlete racing to the tape. 6 That’s how God’s Word vaults across the skies from sunrise to sunset, Melting ice, scorching deserts, warming hearts to faith.

God gives us incredible moments that cause us to stand in awe of who He is, and what He has done for us.

7 The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together. The signposts of God are clear and point out the right road. 8 The life-maps of God are right, showing the way to joy. The directions of God are plain and easy on the eyes.

God’s Word is beauty!  He speaks to us, warns us, shapes us, fills us by His mighty Spirit whispered through the words of life.  Oh, that I would fall more in love with His Word that I might know Him better!  How my life is improved by sitting at His feet!  I have so much to learn but it scares me to think of where I would be without the Word of God in my life!

9 God’s reputation is twenty-four-carat gold, with a lifetime guarantee. The decisions of God are accurate down to the nth degree. 10 God’s Word is better than a diamond, better than a diamond set between emeralds.

What God has for us is the best – even when times seem like the worst.  His Word promises that all things work together for those who love God and are called to His purpose.  What precious promises in the Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter of our lives!

You’ll like it better than strawberries in spring, better than red, ripe strawberries.

Some of my favorite things – an old pocket watch, cut crystal, an antique oak table, a treasured old blanket, beautiful flowers point to a love for God’s Word.  His Word is a treasure.  Oh Lord that I would delve into Your Word more deeply that I might know You more and more!

11 There’s more: God’s Word warns us of danger and directs us to hidden treasure. 12 Otherwise how will we find our way? Or know when we play the fool?

Yes!  Decisions based upon Your Word give me peace of heart and mind.  Decisions that I make based on my own way of thinking can get me in trouble!  You tell us straight out what is right and wrong and how to keep our feet on Your road.  Hold me tight Lord – keep me hungry for Your Word!

13 Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh! Keep me from stupid sins, from thinking I can take over your work; Then I can start this day sun-washed, scrubbed clean of the grime of sin.

Thank you for the freedom of forgiveness!  You alone suffered and died in my place so that I might come before you clean – not because of me, for I am a sinner saved by grace.  No, it’s all because of You!

14 These are the words in my mouth; these are what I chew on and pray. Accept them when I place them on the morning altar, O God, my Altar-Rock, God, Priest-of-My-Altar.

Thank You for Your Word, O God.  It points me to You – the God who knows me completely, and still loves me!  Amen and Amen!

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Parable of the Plum Tree

But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God…II Corinthians 1:9b

The mature flowering plum-tree in our front yard, with its dark maroon leaves and divided kid-friendly trunk, stands in high contrast to the white Victorian picket fence and white-barked birch next door.  Driving from either way down the street it is the way to spot our house.  It’s a landmark.  But it wasn’t always so.

Twenty-two years ago we picked out the rather long overgrown twig at Dorothy’s nursery in Carlotta.  We planted it on a mound in the front of our newly constructed home and had to tether it to large wooden poles to keep it from blowing away or being damaged.  On its own it was still fragile.

Decorative blooming of a plum tree

Decorative blooming of a plum tree (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Months passed.  The day came to remove the poles.  The tree had grown to a place where it could stand on its own. and to keep the poles there would mean that the tree would not gain the internal strength it needed to stand against the wind and rain.  For it to continue to mature, the supports needed to be taken away.

Sometimes in life our supports, either willingly or against our will, are taken away.  It may because of a change in health, the loss of someone important in our inner circle, a move, a job change, or a variety of other life circumstance.  We find that the people we leaned on for spiritual strength are no longer available in the same way they once were.

This is a time of decision.

Do we frantically try to find support replacements, or do we allow God to take away those “poles” so that we might fully lean on Him?

While Christianity is lived in community, there are some deep and shadowed passages of the soul that one can only walk with Jesus alone.  In those times we either made daily decisions that will result in either cooling off spiritually or embracing Him more fully.

When we come to a place where God is all we have, we find that God is all we need.

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The Gift of Forgiveness, Part I

We hear often how forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves.  While this is absolutely true, in the bigger picture, the ability to forgive others is a gift given to us from God…because truly “to forgive is divine.”  Within ourselves we human beings just don’t seem to have the capacity to wipe others slate clean in our minds and hearts on our own power.  Our form of forgiveness is convoluted with strings attached, hidden pockets of pain and bitterness that surface at the most inconvenient times – complete with elephant-type memories regarding the deeply painful acts and attitudes toward us.  How we struggle with forgiveness!  Pure forgiveness is indeed a freely-given gift from the only perfect forgiver, Jesus Christ.

The Lord's Prayer (1886-1896) from the series ...

The Lord’s Prayer (1886-1896) from the series The Life of Christ, Brooklyn Museum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We know we are supposed to forgive.  The Lord’s prayer, reads in part:

and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.  Matthew 6:12

Forgiveness

Forgiveness (Photo credit: poportis)

This is clearly not an option, but a command from God who has forgiven us – that we MUST forgive those who have inflicted pain upon us to have a clear relationship with God.  But, oh how we struggle!

In a sense, granting forgiveness is like hitting bottom with a drug or alcohol addiction.  What finally causes one to surrender is unique to each person.  Those who love an addict agonize in prayer over them and keep hoping that each new crisis or even happy “big life moment” will be THAT THING that will cause that one to admit there is a problem, surrender to Christ and submit to a program that will help them overcome their addiction.  But that turning point is indeed different for every person who has made that huge u-turn in life.  And so it is with forgiveness.  For the person who knows they need to forgive and willingly travels that journey toward totally releasing that person or group of people in their lives that has caused pain, the point of letting go mentally and emotionally differs.

But God is faithful.  Forgiveness is for real.  If we are seeking to obey Him in this area, He will provide that necessary ability to forgive fully, but it is a journey.  It is a process.  The gift of forgiveness – the ability from God to forgive others is a sweetness to our soul.  It brings smiles and relief and often times reconciliation and tenderness to a relationship that looked like it was beyond recovery.  Forgiveness is a miracle.

Forgiveness is and isn’t many things.

Forgiveness does not mean that we minimize what that person has done.  Forgiveness most certainly will cost us in some way.  We may have to endure the consequences for the other person’s sin against us, and perhaps for a very long time.  Forgiveness does not mean we necessarily go back to “life as normal.”  The act of forgiveness sometimes means that we are separated from that person, yet our hearts are at peace.  Sometimes, the relationship becomes stronger and more connected with granting forgiveness.  We do not have power over the outcome of granting forgiveness, but obeying God by forgiving is always for our good.  The is greatness and exhilaration in the peace that God provides to our souls when we forgive.

Forgiveness lesson from flowers

Forgiveness lesson from flowers (Photo credit: juliejordanscott)

Forgiveness is freedom.  We give up the notion to desire any punishment or ill will toward that person in our minds.  We can pray that God will bless them and mean it, and go on with our lives.  We find ourselves to be “bigger”, stronger, more generous and sweeter human beings.  The best part of forgiveness is that it opens the doorway to run to God full throttle, leaping up into His arms and experiencing that sweet communion that cannot be described in words.  There is nothing between God and ourselves when we willingly forgive others, and in the process admit our own sins and weaknesses.

Our hearts are softened by granting forgiveness.  This too is a gift from God.

I will given them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them.  I will take away their stony stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, so they will obey my decrees and regulations.  Then they wil truly be my people, and I will be their God.  Ezekiel 11:19-20

 

 

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No Business of Mine

Personality tests come in various shapes, sizes and colors, so I’ve learned.  At a Christian women’s retreat a couple of years back the leadership team decided to use a short, fun, colorful personality test both as an ice breaker and way to divide into teams.  This particular quiz divided the room full of women into “reds,” (outgoing, take charge individuals), “yellows” (conscientious rule-followers and hard workers), “blues,” (tender-hearted harmony seeking people) and a minority of “greens,” (thinkers, learners and problem solvers).  While all these tests are just indications, and it is pointed out that most people have more than one “color,” this quiz indicated a predominance toward these characteristics.  I was a green.  Greens like logical approaches and need to know the “why” behind decisions and like to think of helpful solutions.

This image (when viewed in full size, 1000 pix...

This image (when viewed in full size, 1000 pixels wide) contains 1 million pixels, each of a different color. The human eye can distinguish about 10 million different colors. Judd, Deane B. Wyszecki, Günter (1975). Color in Business, Science and Industry . Wiley Series in Pure and Applied Optics (3rd ed.). New York : Wiley-Interscience. p. 388. ISBN 0471452122. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The life of faith in Christ has a particular challenge for the “greens” among us.  The very essence of faith means we usually don’t know the “why” and we don’t get to create the helpful solution.  We place much in God’s hands and trust that He is indeed working all things together for the good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose (reference:  Romans 8:28).  Then we trust, wait and obey.

In the classic devotional, Streams in the Desert, a verse from Joel is the basis for a great comment by C.H. Spurgeon.  First the verse:

And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered.  (Joel 2:32)

All of us, no matter what personality “color” we lean towards can find ourselves in that “whosoever.”  When we come upon troubles and trials and perplexing situations we can take these words of C.H. Spurgeon to heart:

Charles Spurgeon (C.H. Spurgeon)

Charles Spurgeon (C.H. Spurgeon) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My case is urgent, and I do not see how I am to be delivered;  but this is no business of mine.  He who makes the promise will find ways and means of keeping it.  It is mine to obey His commands;  it is not mine to direct His counsels.  I am His servant, not His solicitor.  I call upon Him, and He will deliver.  C.H. Spurgeon

Even as a “green,” is so comforting to know the final outcome of that which concerns me is not my deal, it’s His business.

 

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The Class You Don’t Want to Take

As I paint in my artist studio I try to listen to uplifting music or messages from preachers and speakers I respect and from whom I am eager to learn.  Today, while I was working on a painting of a wedding portrait with a stained glass background, I took in a session of Beth Moore‘s Jesus the One and Only that was filmed in Israel.  Beth’s messages resonate with me because of her knowledge, the way she connects in a personal way with her audience, her humble nature and sense of humor.  She is a terrific communicator but does not water down the message to try to make it popular.  But popular, she is – and for good reason.

Today Beth talked about losing a following with an important person in her life because she wasn’t as funny as she used to be and did not shrink back from tough issues.  Life is difficult  and a lot of people are hurting.  I caught myself saying “amen” out loud several times as the video rolled on.

We live in a culture that loves to be entertained and we financially reward those who help us escape mentally for awhile be it through sports, films, or with popular music.  Nothing wrong with those things, but those who are hurting still need someone real with a sensitive ear to listen, some hope from the reality of faith in Christ and encouragement from the Scriptures.

Day 442: Precious

Day 442: Precious (Photo credit: amanky)

Jesus with little one

Jesus with little one (Photo credit: freestone)

God equips normal every day people for this task of listening, hope-giving and encouragement and His school for such ministry is called The Academy of Suffering and Sorrow.  Wouldn’t you know it, no one intentionally signs up for one of those classes.  But once they are in the academy something wonderful can happen.  The suffering and sorrow is not the wonderful part.  But those who have been trained by such are able to lend a hand, an ear and a heart to a hurting world and let others know that God is going to get them through this difficult time.  These academy graduates know because God was faithful to them in their time of need.  Their resolve was strengthened, their belief became more than intellectual and their faith made real.   Now their outlook is deeper and they can handle bigger punches from life, their attitude brighter and they are full of hope.  God can mould us by His “thundering velvet hand” and make us sweeter for the encounter.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.  When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.    II Corinthians 1:3-4

 

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Rock Solid Identity

What is your identity?  Who are you?

We wrestle with those questions from Jr. High days on forward.  Our identity colors what we think about ourselves, how we choose to act and with what our hearts resonate.

We often think of a relationship when considering our identity.  A parent of, a child of, a spouse of etc.  Or we think in terms of our vocation, our occupation.  I am a ………..butler, a banker, a candlestick maker.  Or we may identify with our favorite pastime – a fan of a sports team, a “skater,” a “surfer,” a “blogger,” a quilter.”

When we identify ourselves in one of those areas our worlds can be quickly shaken if something goes a rye.  If our pride and joy is being a parent and our kids make choices that break our hearts we wonder if we are good at anything at all.  Or if we are very proud of our parents and they are our stability in life, then when one of them makes a decision that makes us ashamed, our world is rocked.   If we are all about our business ventures and they go south, again, an identity crisis.  If our self-concept has to do with our physical health and that changes then we re-evaluate who we are in this season of life.

The only rock solid identity is that of a child of God.  No one can take that away.  No life change can break the cement of that relationship made available through Jesus Christ.  Hear the words of David, when he was in trouble:

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and He turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire.  He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.  He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see what He has done and be amazed.  They will put their trust in the Lord.

Faith in the One who will never leave us or forsake us provides a strong foundation for our identity.  From Mrs. Charles E. Cowman, author of Streams in the Desert:

Faith rests on the naked Word of God.  When we take Him at His Word the heart is at peace.

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Guarding Your Heart When Making Decisions

Making decisions is a time of increased vulnerability.  We open ourselves up to possibilities or ideas that  we had not considered before.  We search for wisdom and wonder who to listen to and what to believe.  We question.  We pray.

As a self-employed person, once again, everyday I am met with new decisions that are laying the foundation of this new “adventure” in my life.  I need to access each day how to meet my art business commitments, how to do my best work in these circumstances, consider how to build my financial base for the future and at the same time care for my family who deserve my best attention.  Some days go smoothly, and some days I get it wrong!  There is a lot to think about.  Oh how I need the wisdom of God in making everyday decisions!

It may be that the set of circumstances before us are something we did not think could ever happen – to us.  Life might have thrown us a curve ball.  We re-examine our foundations and make a spiritual decision on how our faith colors our current situation.  Here are some wise words from Proverbs:

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.  Avoid all perverse talk;  stay away from corrupt speech.  Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you.  Mark out a straight path.  Don’t get sidetracked;  keep your feet from following evil.”  Proverbs 4:23-27

In her book, Hinds’ Feet on High Places, Hannah Hurnard writes a powerful allegory of a journey.  As a fearful person she finds people along the way that try to tear her down.  Their names are Bitterness, Resentment, Pride, Craven Fear and Self-Pity.  At every juncture the main character must make choices that guard her heart against such influences and keep her fixed on the path ahead, with all its difficulties at times perplexing passages.

Decision making can be one of those perplexing passages.  We may feel somewhat in the dark or that we have been set back on a shelf of inactivity for the things of the Lord.  To take care of immediate needs we embrace the job ahead but may wonder, how is this a part of your plan, Lord?  It is good to remember that God is still working in this time of decision making and we can trust Him and His ways no matter how it may look to us at the time.  As we guard our heart and fix our minds on Jesus, He does use all things together for good.  There is great spiritual purpose ahead for the child of God that steadfastly believes, trusts and obeys in the Lord.

We are not meant to always linger in the dark, or stay in the closet;  presently we shall be summoned to take our place in the rush and storm of life; and when that moment comes, we are to speak and proclaim what we have learned.  – Mrs. Charles E. Cowman, Storms in the Desert

The life of faith in Jesus Christ means everything when faced with decisions.  If we believe that He is worthy of our trust and confidence that submitting to His plan for this juncture of our lives results in peace.  And what a sweet gift as we place our future in His hands.

 

 

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All Embracing Forgiveness and a Clean Slate

Life stories are fascinating.  I especially love hearing the stories of how greatness became possible because of the adversity someone travailed through in order to gather the strength or courage needed to address the difficult circumstance in their life.  It is inspiring.  I’ve never heard of a story of true greatness that started any other way.  There is always a difficult mountain to climb.

Sometimes that difficult mountain to climb is in the area of forgiveness.  We all need God’s forgiveness, for we all do things that hurt the heart of God and hurt others.  No exemptions.  When we are faced with our own sins it can be hard to imagine that we could rise out of the rut we have dug for ourselves.  We may even consider the thought that God could forgive us, but we can’t see ourselves as anything other than someone who did such bad things that we are stuck in that rut forever.  Perhaps, we have not really sensed the complete forgiveness that Christ offers.

Jesus had a life story that shed light on these thoughts:

“A man loaned money to two people – 500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other.  But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts.  Who do you suppose loved him more after that?  Luke 7:41-42

Most obviously the one who loved more was the one who was forgiven of the greater sins.  We run toward the person who offers us complete acceptance and grace after we have blown it really big.  Great forgiveness makes great love possible.

That’s why Easter is the cause for the greatest celebration!  We, no matter what we have done or who we have become can come running to Jesus because He died on the cross to allow complete forgiveness with God.  And it didn’t stop there.  He rose from the dead on Easter morning demonstrating His power over death, over sin, over everything that makes us think that God can’t truly forgive whatever we have done.  He kindly offers all-embracing forgiveness and the complete cancelling of our debt.  He truly offers us a clean slate.

In response, our love for Jesus can give us strength, courage and confidence to face whatever situation causes adversity in our lives.  When we know we are forgiven and loved much, great and amazing life stories are possible!

 

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Accepting Changes in the Seasons of Life

What time is it?  How would you label this season of your life?

When I was on staff at a large church one of the many aspects to my work was to interview people who had taken a “Spiritual Gifts” class to see their best fit for service in ministry.  Spiritual gifts fascinate me and I was continually in awe of how the God of the universe would create such unique individuals each with a one-of-a kind mix of life experiences, gifts, talents and heart for serving others.

One of the questions I would ask had to do with how one approaches life in terms of either being spontaneous or rather structured – consistent and preferring routines.  I would be the latter being a ‘creature of routine’ and having some form of equilibrium in the consistency of how I approach life.  For those of you like me, change is probably especially against our grain.  But I am reminded of this amazing section of Scripture and the profound truth in each statement:

For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under hearven.
A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Are you feeling a bit unsettled by some recent changes?  There is a breath of fresh air in knowing that God designs our life with seasons and they are different – and that is o.k.  We would always prefer the seasons of laughter and dancing to the times of crying and grieving, but they are all components of a healthy life.  I believe that one can laugh with greater veracity and dance joyfully with all out abandonment having traveled through times of heart-rendering grief with tear-stained pillows.  Knowing the depths of sorrow gives release to the times of happiness.

Recently I shared this portion of Scripture as we buried a friend.  Hers was a long good life and she knew the Lord personally – there was peace about her eternal security.  Yet, with the release of everyone we love there is that grief, albeit with hope, until we reach heaven ourselves.  There the seasons will change.  When we reach heaven there is something new in store:

Look, God’s home in now among His people.  God Himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.  All these things are gone forever.

Revelation 21:3b-4

This is a great hope to which we can look forward.  Until then we learn to accept the seasons of change.  Ultimately, as believers we can look forward to that eternal party, where the ebb and flow of seasons melt into rapturous times of joy.  There is hope ahead for the one who has placed his or her faith in Christ.

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