Verse Mapping – II Corinthians 10:5 – Walk In Faith

I am reading the book “What Happens When Women Walk in Faith”, by Lysa TerKeurst, as part of an online Bible study with Proverbs 31 Ministries.  Each week we have a key verse to ponder.  The verse for week 4 of our study is II Corinthians 10:5.

First I will read the verse in a few different versions.

“We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ”
New American Standard Bible

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
New International Version

“We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ”
Revised Standard Version

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” King James Version

As I read the verse I see the contrast between the first part and the second part.  On one hand is rebellion against God, pride and arrogance that ignores or denigrates the knowledge of God.  On the other hand, is a spirit of humility that takes every thought captive in obedience to Christ.

On which side am I?  As a follower of Christ I must be humble and obey Him.  I must not exalt myself but give God the glory.  I am to learn more and more about God and His word so I can apply it to my life.  I must evaluate my thoughts and see if they are aligned with God.  Reading the Bible, prayer, worshipping God and Christian fellowship can help me as I walk in faith.

Here is a beautiful verse from the Old Testament about the Branch of Jesse, Jesus Christ.

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and of might,
    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.  Isaiah 11:1-3 NIV

As a follower of Christ, I should seek wisdom and understanding, knowledge and the fear of Lord.  The closer I walk with Jesus, the more He can give me these things through the Holy Spirit that He promised to His disciples.

“These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”  John 14:25-26  NASB

I need to be open to the Holy Spirit so that I can learn from Him. I am reminded of other passages that speak to me today about my mind and my thoughts.

“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Romans 12:2 RSV

“Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”   Philippians 4:8 RSV

This verse teaches me to be humble and obedient as I walk in faith.

He has showed you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?  Micah 6:8  RSV

I end with the refrain from an old hymn, “Open My Eyes, That I May See” by Clara H. Scott.

Silently now I wait for Thee, Ready my God, Thy will to see, Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Posted in Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Studies, Walk In Faith | 2 Comments

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 290 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Map It – Colossians 3:23 – Work Heartily

The Bible verse for this week’s class at Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Study is Colossians 3:23 which is related to the topic of work in the book, “Limitless Life” by Derwin Gray.

Here is Colossians 3:23 from various Bible translations.

Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters.  New Revised Standard Version

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for people.   Good New Translation

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.                                      New King James Version

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.    New Living Translation

Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men.                             Revised Standard Version

It is always interesting to me to compare different versions.   I get a clearer picture of the meaning of the passage by pondering different translations.

They all begin with “whatever you do” or “whatever your task”.  There is a saying in my family that all honest work is valuable.  I wonder if that folk wisdom was derived from this Bible verse.  Whatever a person’s profession, career or job, it is valuable to God.  In my family, we have had a variety of occupations, such as:  accountant, seamstress, factory worker, cook, secretary, firefighter, custodian, programmer/analyst, National Park ranger, assistant post mistress, nurse, teacher, pastor and stay-at-home mom.  Whether a person has a blue collar job or a white color job, that work gives a person dignity before the Lord.  A person may work outside the home or inside the home or juggle both, but each job is valued by God, no matter what the task or how insignificant it may appear to other people.

Some people work in churches in an official capacity such as pastors, secretaries and custodians.  Each one is important to the running of the church and in God’s eyes.  However, there are many volunteer jobs that are also worthy before the Lord.  There are people who are visible on Sunday mornings such as the greeters, ushers, musicians, scripture readers and communion assistants during a worship service.  However, there are also more invisible roles to play.  The ladies of the Altar Guild prepare the communion table and make sure that the sanctuary is ready for the worship services in many ways.    There are volunteers who work in the office folding and assembling bulletins and newsletters and counting the offering after Sunday services.  There are the parishioners who take care of the property, the landscaping and watering the plants.  There are the teachers who teach people of all ages.  There are those who work in the kitchen and prepare for the fellowship and coffee time after the services.  There are volunteers who work on committees and the church council.  My list could go on and on.  In God’s eyes each one of us is important.  He values the work of each.  Each one of us, in our own way, contributes to the good of the community to which we belong.  And God is pleased.

A point that Derwin Gray makes in his book, “Limitless Life”, is that all work is sacred not just work related to church and church activities.   We may think that sacred work is only church related.  However, the truth is all work is sacred.  We are all contributing something positive to our families, friends and the communities in which we live.

The next thought in Colossians 3:23 is to work heartily, do it heartily, work willingly, put yourself into it, work at it with all your heart.  I have experienced and witnessed hard work, diligence and dedication to work in my family and in my life.  There is a great feeling of satisfaction in doing one’s best.   I think God knows this about us and that is why He directs us to work and do it with all our hearts.

Sometimes in our work, whether on the job or at home, we encounter difficulties, sometimes related to people sometimes related to circumstances, and we are disheartened.   The words of Colossians 3:23 encourage us to believe that God cares and wants us to persevere in our tasks even when the way is rough.   We are to work as though we were working for God.   When times are bad, we are to look to Him for strength and courage to persevere despite setbacks and roadblocks.  We look to Him for guidance and with the hope that He will provide a resolution to our difficulties in time.  When times are good, we are not to rest on our laurels but still continue working hard giving thanks to God for all our blessings.  Always He wants us to remember that, ultimately, we work for Him.

The conclusion of this passage is found in Colossians 3:24.

Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.  NLT

Remember that the Lord will give you as a reward what he has kept for his people. For Christ is the real Master you serve.  GNT

Yes, God promises us a reward.  Perhaps we will be rewarded with advancement or a new career opportunity or perhaps we will stay in the same job until retirement.  Whether we receive earthly reward and recognition or not, God promises us an inheritance as a reward.  That means we are His heirs and heiresses through Christ our Savior.  This is an all surpassing reward that no earthly reward can match.  Let us continue to serve our master, Jesus Christ, with all our hearts, everyday of our lives.

 

Posted in Limitless Life, Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Studies | 7 Comments

Map It – Zephaniah 3:17 – God rejoices over me

I was not familiar with Zephaniah 3:17 until recently and now it is one of my favorite Bible verses because it shows the heart of God toward me.

The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
    he will renew you[a] in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing   Revised Standard Version

The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.  English Standard Version

For the Lord your God is living among you.
    He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
    With his love, he will calm all your fears.[a]
    He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.  New Living Translation

First this passage assures us that God is in our midst or living among us.   God is not a distant God who created the world and withdrew into the heavens never to be heard from again.  He is a God who is in our midst and yearns for relationship with His creation, as attested to by the Old and New Testaments.

Zephaniah 3:17 depicts God as a might warrior who gives victory or a mighty one who will save.  In the book a “Limitless Life”, by Derwin Gray, we learn of God wanting to give us a victorious life.  For example,  God wants to take us from being afraid to being courageous, from being a mess to being a masterpiece, from being damaged goods to being a trophy of grace, from being purposeless to being purposeful.   Whatever negative labels we have given ourselves or others have given us, God wants to remove the negative labels and replace them with positive labels, if we let Him.  He wants to transform our lives.

Zephaniah 3:17 not only tells of God’s strength but of His tenderness.  The next portion of this verse makes me think of a proud father delighting in, rejoicing over and singing over his child.  Not only that but the father quiets his child or calms his child with his love.   These words describe a warm and tender scene of a father and his child.  God, the Father, loves us this way and this much and He wants us to know it.

During our Bible study, we have thought about the significance of Jesus calling God, “Abba”.  It is Aramaic for “Daddy” or “Papa”.  (Limitless Life, p. 139)  Jesus called His Father “Daddy” or  “Papa”, an affectionate term, a word that indicates the closeness of their relationship.  Jesus taught His disciples and us to pray, “Our Father or Daddy or Papa who art in heaven…”  Jesus wants us to have a close relationship with the Father, too.

In the Gospel of John, we can read one of the last prayers of Christ for His disciples and for us.

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  (John 17:20-21  New International Version)

Jesus taught us to call God “Papa” or “Daddy”, but it really was not a new thought was it?  The imagery of Zephaniah 3:17 is that of a loving father or daddy or papa.  This verse teaches us about the heart of God.  However, God had more in store for us than speaking through His prophets.  God showed the depth of His love for us by sending His Son to earth for us.   We can look to Jesus and His life, death and resurrection and know the depth of God’s love for us.  The poetry of Zephaniah gave us a glimpse into the heart of God.  Jesus in person showed us the heart of God.  What wondrous love is this, o my soul!

Posted in Limitless Life, Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Studies | Tagged | 2 Comments

Map I – John 1:12 – Children of the Heavenly Father

The key verse for this week in our Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Study, Limitless Life, is John 1:12.  I like to compare different Bible translations so I will start there.

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God…    Revised Standard Version

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…   New International Version

But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God…    New Living Translation

My first observation is that the invitation to become a child of God is open to all, everyone of us.  It does not say that we deserve the invitation or that we must earn the invitation or that we must be good enough to be invited.   It says that the invitation is open to all who believe.   We must believe in Him.  Who is He?

He is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the “Word” mentioned earlier in the Gospel of John.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  John 1:1-5  Revised Standard Version

The Word who was at creation came to earth as a human being.  John says it so eloquently.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.”   John 1:14   Revised Standard Version

Jesus Christ came to make us a new creation in Him, children of God.  He gives us the right or the power to become children of God.  We are totally dependent on Christ for this transformation.

The verse John 1:12 comes from the heart of God.  He wants to have fellowship with us, a personal relationship with us, the people He created.  However, we are not perfect and holy as He is so the relationship is broken.  In order to restore the relationship, God the Son came to earth to redeem us, reconcile us to God and make us children of God.

This week in the book, Limitless Life, the focus was on grace with the concepts of being a “trophy of grace” and being “grace covered”.  The key verse for this week was not chosen at random for John 1:12, without actually using the word “grace”, tells of God’s grace to us through Jesus Christ.  What more gracious thing could God the Father do than to make us His children?  What more gracious thing could Jesus do than to make this possible?  If we believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, He makes us children of the heavenly Father.

As Jesus preached, taught, healed and performed miracles, during His ministry here on earth, He called people to follow Him.  He has called people through the centuries and He still calls people today.  He called the fishermen, Peter and Andrew, with the words, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men”.   He also called the fishermen James and John.  All four of them followed Him.   (Matthew 4:18-22)  He calls those who are weary and feel overwhelmed with the cares of life to “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden for I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28)  He said that He is “the Way, the Truth and the Life”.  (John 14:6)  He said that He is the door of the sheep and that His sheep would go in and out and find pasture.  (John 10:7, 9)  He said He is the Good Shepherd (John 10:14) and that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him.  (John 10:27)  He asks people who are curious about Him to “Come and see”.  (John 1:39)  Always, He calls us to Himself for He came for you and He came for me.  He left His glory above to come to earth to make us children of the heavenly Father.

John, in his first letter to the early churches, says the following, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”    I John 3:1    New International Version

Paul, in his letter to the church in Galatia, says the following, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith”.  Galatians 3:26   New International Version

What does the Bible have to say about God being our Father?

The first thing that comes to my mind is the Lord’s Prayer.  When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He taught them to pray, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…”  (Matthew 6:9)

Jesus told a story called the parable of the Prodigal Son.  (Luke 15:11-32)  It has become a very familiar story to me over the years.  I have heard it said that the story is really more about the father and his extravagant love than about the son and his wasteful extravagance.  The story goes like this.  A father has two sons.  One of the sons asks for his inheritance and his father gives it to him.  The son leaves home and squanders all his money.  When he falls on hard times, all his friends turn out to be fair weather friends and abandon him.  He ends up getting a job feeding pigs.  He realizes that he would be better off going home and asking his father for a job working for him.  So he goes home.  His father has been waiting anxiously for his son to come home and when he sees him down the road, the father runs to him and hugs him.  The son apologizes and asks for forgiveness.  He does not even get a chance to ask to be a servant in his father’s household for his father already has bigger plans for him.  His father gives him the best robe, a ring and sandals, restores him into the family as his son, into the family business and asks his servants to prepare a feast to celebrate the return of his son.  His other son is jealous, resentful and judgmental of his brother.  The father tells his hard hearted son that celebrating his brother’s return is the right thing to do because he was lost and now he is found.

Perhaps a father, better than anyone, can understand the heartache of the father in the story due to the estrangement with his son and the joy the father felt when his son came home and their relationship was restored.   Of course, there is a deeper meaning to this story.  This story tells us about the heart of God.  He is like the father in the story.  He wants a relationship with each one of us.  He wants us to be in His family.   Whether we think we are near to God or far from God or somewhere in between, whether we can relate to the characters in this story or not, God wants a relationship with us.  And He wants those of us who are in His family to rejoice with Him when someone returns home or someone new joins the family of God.  Those of us in His family call each other brothers and sisters in Christ.  The Apostle John talks about Christian fellowship in this way:

“We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.  We write this to make our joy complete.”    I John 1:3-4     New International Version

John wrote to the early church, but he also wrote across the centuries to you and to me.   Having us be part of the family of God and join in Christian fellowship, with each other and the Father and the Son, makes his joy complete.  I think that the letter of I John, tucked away toward the end of the Bible, is a little gem.

As Father’s Day approaches, I remember my father who has gone to be with the Lord.  As a child, having a wonderful earthly father helped me understand the concept of God being my heavenly Father.  My father loved me, cared for me, provided for me, spent time with me and cherished me.   He was honest, hard-working, kind, helpful, strong, dependable and reliable.  He was there for me through thick and through thin.  He was a man of integrity.  He taught me so much.  God has all the attributes of a good father, far surpassing the best of earthly fathers.  The Bible teaches us that God is like a father to us, if we let Him.  Psalm 103:13 says that God is like a Father who has compassion on His children.  In John 3:16, Jesus said that God so loved us that He sent His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should have everlasting life.  What wondrous love is this!

I end with words from a Swedish hymn called “Children of the Heavenly Father”, by Sandell-Berg.

Children of the heav’nly Father
Safely in His bosom gather;
Nestling bird nor star in Heaven
Such a refuge e’er was given.

 

 

Posted in Limitless Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Map It – Ephesians 2:10 – A Masterpiece

This week, in our Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Study, Limitless Life, we are learning that we are God’s masterpiece.  What a beautiful thought.  This concept is based on a verse from the letter of Paul to the church in Ephesus.  As I ponder Ephesians 2:10, first I am going to compare different Bible translations to see if I can gain any insights from them.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.  New Living Translation

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  New International Version

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.  New American Standard Bible

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  Revised Standard Version

The first thing I notice is that the word masterpiece is translated as handiwork or workmanship in other translations.  These words tell me that God gives a lot of time, attention and skill in order to make me into the person He wants me to be.  This verse tells me that to God, I am a person of beauty and worth, like a beautiful work of art, a great musical composition, a great literary work or an impressive feat of engineering.  These words also tell me that He is the master worker and that I am dependent on Him.

In scripture, Jesus tells His followers that He is the Master and we, His followers, are His servants (John 13:5-20), that He is the Vine and we are the branches (John 15:1-17), that He is the Shepherd and we are His sheep (John 10:1-18).  Always, I am dependent on Him.

The Bible also says that God is the potter and we are the clay such as in the book of Isaiah.

Yet, O Lord, thou art our Father;
    we are the clay, and thou art our potter;
    we are all the work of thy hand.                  Isaiah 64:8 (Revised Standard Version)

We are also called earthen vessels or clay jars in II Corinthians 4:7.

Sometimes we compare ourselves to others and think we are inferior to them and that God cannot use us.  Paul teaches us something else, that God can use all vessels dedicated to Him.  Just as there are different kinds of vessels in a household, there are different kinds of people with different gifts in the body of Christ.  All household vessels are useful and have a purpose whether they are made of gold, silver, wood or clay.   In the same way, those of us who are in Christ can be used by Christ in service to Him.   Each one of us has a purpose.  II Timothy 2:20-21

The next thing I see in Ephesians 2:10 is that God created me in Christ Jesus so that I could do good deeds.  Jesus is my Lord and Savior.  I believe in Him and I am His.  My sins are forgiven and I will have eternal life with Him.  I am saved by faith and by grace not by works.  Paul talks about this in the previous verses.  Here are the verses in context according to the Revised Standard Version.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God— not because of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

In Christ I am a new creation.  The outcome is that, as a follower of Christ, I am to walk with Him and do good things as God planned beforehand.    Being in Christ leads me to do good works.  I like how in certain translations, the verse says that I should walk in good works.  It indicates to me that I am on a journey through life and doing good things is part of that journey.

This verse also tells me that God has plans for me.  This reminds me of a verse written by the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 29:11.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  (New International Version)

Sometimes we think that our lives are a mess and that God cannot use us.  In our Bible study, we are learning that God can take us, despite our mess, and turn us into a masterpiece.  This is a good reminder to take heart and be of good courage.  God specializes in taking people who can be considered to be in a mess and turning their lives around.

Jesus chose ordinary men to be His closest disciples, among them fishermen and a tax collector.  I doubt they would have been considered masterpieces by the society around them.  Matthew, the tax collector, especially, was a mess.  He was a Jew who collected taxes for Rome.  He was not liked by either the Romans or the Jews.  And yet Jesus chose him, pulled him out of his mess and made him a disciple.  He gave him a new identity and a new purpose.  And Matthew embarked on a journey following Christ.  He became the Apostle Matthew and the Gospel according to St. Matthew is attributed to him.  I would say that Jesus turned Matthew into a masterpiece.

After the crucifixion of Jesus, His disciples were bereft, lost, confused and very afraid, in short a mess.  They could not see their way forward.  After they saw the resurrected Lord, they had hope again.  Then they were filled with the Holy Spirit and preached the Gospel boldly.  Peter turned out to be a very powerful preacher.  His first sermon at Pentecost is recorded in the book of Acts.  When Peter preached, people were amazed because he was not a learned man.  Peter wrote two letters to the early Christians and those letters are now part of the New Testament.  Jesus also chose a persecutor of Christians, Saul of Tarsus, renamed Paul, to become a Christian missionary.  Jesus can use the most unlikely persons.  Paul is one of the most influential Christians who ever lived.  He was a missionary, an eloquent writer, and a great theologian and expositor of the Christian faith.  The letters of Peter and Paul in the New Testament are still touching people’s hearts to this day.

Therefore, when I think that I am not good enough for God to use, I must remember that I am because of the master worker who specializes in making masterpieces.  I do not compare myself to Peter or Paul, but I can still tell the story of Jesus and His love.

I end with words from the spiritual, “There is a Balm in Gilead”.

“…If you can’t preach like Peter, if you can’t pray like Paul, just tell the love of Jesus and say He died for all.  There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole.  There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Limitless Life, Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Studies | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

Map It: Ephesians 2:22 – Under construction

As I read Ephesians 2:22 in various versions, I see that the message is that we, followers of Christ, are being built together into a dwelling place for God.  This building is continuous.  God never wants us to stop growing in Him.

“In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”  English Standard Version

“…in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.”        Revised Standard Version

“And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”    New International Version

In the prior verses leading up to verse 22, Paul builds up to the final point beautifully.   We, too, are included in this Christian family, if we want to be.  The foundation of the building is the apostles and the prophets and the corner stone is Jesus Christ Himself.  Through Jesus the entire building is growing into a holy temple to the Lord.  And what is Paul’s main point?  That we, you and I, are being built into this dwelling place, by the power of the Holy Spirit.   Something exciting is happening.  A new building is being built and we are part of it.  We are under construction.  God is doing something new in our lives, preparing us for new opportunities, shaping us, molding us.

In our online Bible study, “Limitless Life”, we are learning about how God can take us where we are and unleash our potential.  We can remove labels that limit us and take on the labels God wants to give us in order to free us so that we can grow in Him and be built into His dwelling place.

God wants us to remember that in Christ we are a new creation. (II Corinthians 5:17)

17 Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation;the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.   Revised Standard Version

I end with words from an old song, “Have Thine Own Way”, by Pollard and Stebbins, verses 1 and 4.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
Fill with Thy Spirit ’till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me.

 

 

Posted in Limitless Life | Tagged , | 4 Comments

What community means to me

In preparation for our next online Bible study, Limitless Life, we are thinking about the meaning of the word, “community”.   When I ponder the meaning of this word, I think about Christian community and what it has meant to me personally.  I think of church as a warm, welcoming place where I have a spiritual home.

Toward the end of my mother’s life, I was her caregiver.  For a while, she attended an adult day care center at church one day a week for four hours.  She was always welcomed so warmly by the director, activity leaders and volunteers.  There was a real sense of community there and she enjoyed it very much.  As her health declined, she became completely homebound and we no longer went to church or the adult day care center.

After my mother went to be with the Lord, people from church reached out to her grieving daughter and let me know that they hoped I would go back to church and sing in the choir again.  At one point, one of the choir members called me and asked if I was ready to return to choir.  She offered to give me a ride to choir practice.  I accepted.  She took me to choir practice and I was welcomed back.  I started attending church regularly again and singing in the choir every Sunday.  I was back in my niche.  Participating in worship with a Christian community was very meaningful to me.  Singing was therapeutic for me and helped me heal.  Eventually, I started singing solos again.  I was part of a Christian community that cared about me and drew me back to the church and I became active in church again.

The words of Jesus seem appropriate here.  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  Matthew 5:4

I am also reminded of Paul encouraging Christians to a sense of community in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”

About a year after my mother passed away, I was invited to join the Women’s Bible Study at my church and I accepted.  I began attending our Women’s Bible Study.  Not only did I enjoy studying the Bible, I enjoyed the experience of praying together and sharing our insights.  I enjoyed having fellowship with other Christian women.  Again I am reminded of the words of Paul in his first letter to the church in Thessalonica.

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”  I Thessalonians 5:11

I am still going to church, singing in the choir and attending Women’s Bible Study because I am part of a Christian community where I am spiritually fed, where I can use my talents to minister to others and where I know I belong.

All scriptures are quoted from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

Posted in Limitless Life, Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Studies | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

#Finding Treasure in the Word – Hebrews 4:16

I am attending an Online Bible Study with Proverbs 31 Ministries called “Living So That”, based on the book of the same name, by Wendy Blight.  The memory verse for this week is from the letter to the Hebrews, chapter 4, verse 16 – “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.”    New International Version

My first thought is that God, the King, sits on a throne.  I think of how people approach an earthly king.  It is a special and rare occasion to be allowed to have an audience with a sovereign.  There are protocols in how to approach and address royalty.  The above verse is amazing to me because it tells us that we can approach God’s throne with confidence.  The King James Version speaks of coming to the throne; the Revised Standard version speaks of drawing near to the throne; and The Voice speaks of stepping to the throne.  The words “with confidence” are also translated as “boldly” in the King James Version and as “with boldness” in the New Revised Standard Version.  I cannot imagine coming before an earthly sovereign with boldness and yet that is what God asks us to do with Him.  He wants us to pray to Him with confidence that He cares about us and our concerns and that He will listen to us.  We are welcome to come to Him and speak to Him about what is on our hearts.  We may come just as we are.

When approaching an earthly sovereign, there may be a certain posture that a subject must take when approaching the ruler.  This verse does not say that any particular posture is required.  We may pray seated or standing or kneeling, for example.  We may pray with our hands lifted or folded in prayer or as we feel led.  This verse does not say that we must be eloquent in our prayers.  There is nothing wrong with being eloquent, but it is not required.  This verse does not say that we must only repeat prayers that we have heard, spoken or learned in a church setting.  We may use prayers that we know as they may be very meaningful to us.  However, we are also free to just have an unscripted conversation with God.  Sometimes we do not even know how to pray and we can be comforted by this verse from Paul’s letter to the Romans.  “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.”  (Romans 8:26, Revised Standard Version)

Hebrews 4:16 does not say that we have to be in a special location, like a church, in order to pray to God.  Praying in church is a beautiful thing.  One can prayer silently to God in church or one can pray aloud the congregational prayers or one can do both.  Corporate prayers remind me that I am part of a Christian community, and I like the feeling of Christian fellowship.  However, prayer is not restricted to church.  Prayer can be done anywhere:  inside, outside, when at home, when away from home, any place.  The verse does not say that prayer is limited to a particular time.  We may pray any time: morning, afternoon, evening or the middle of the night.  God’s throne room is always open to us.  We don’t need to have an appointment.  We don’t need to pick a number and wait our turn in the anteroom.  God is never too busy to receive us.   He always has time to give us an audience, always.

I am also struck by the name given the throne of God.  It is called the throne of grace.  What is grace?  According to Webster’s Dictionary, there are several definitions.  However, the definition that seems the most fitting in this context is the definition of grace as the unmerited love and favor of God toward mankind.  Therefore, the verse above tells me that I can approach the throne of God not because I deserve to but because God loves me and has shown me His favor.  It is like He has reached out his scepter to me to allow me to draw near to Him.  What amazing grace!

Now for the “so that” clause of the Bible verse.  Why does God want us to come to Him in prayer?  So that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  God wants to give us mercy and grace.  Mercy has several definitions including this one: “kindness in excess of what may be expected or demanded by fairness; forbearance and compassion”.  For the word grace in this context, there are several possible definitions that are all meaningful; however, I will use the following definition for this verse: “a special virtue, gift or help given to a person by God”.  God wants to treat us with unexpected kindness and compassion and give us the gift of grace to help us in our time of need.

God wants to help us in our time of need.  He is not a distant God who is uninterested in His creation.  He is a personal God who wants a relationship with us.  He is very interested in us and our needs and troubles, our doubts and our fears.  We can come to him with our problems and concerns.  He does not slumber or sleep (Psalm 121:4) so He is available 24/7.

There are other verses in the Bible that convey a message similar to the one found in Hebrews 4:16 and emphasize the same themes of having been given access to God and of boldness and confidence that we can go to God in prayer.

In Ephesians 2:17-18, Paul wrote:  “He (Jesus Christ) came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.  For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit”.   (New International Version)


In Ephesians 3:11-12, Paul wrote:  “This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him”.  (New American Standard Version)

In Romans 5:2, Paul wrote, “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God”.  (English Standard Version)

I remember a story that happened after Jesus was baptized.  John the Baptist told Andrew and John that Jesus was the Lamb of God.  Andrew and John went to Jesus and asked Him where He was staying.  He said, “Come and see”.  And they followed Him.   (See John 1:35-39)  Now, Jesus is in the throne room with the Father and I can just imagine Jesus telling us, “Come and see”.  So let us come to God in prayer and see how God meets us there.

 

Posted in Living So That | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

#Courageous – There are different types of courage

There are different kinds of courage.  There are heroes who are recognized as such by many because of their courage and valor in dangerous situations.  Some of these receive medals from their country or recognition from their community.  There are some lesser known heroes in my family.  In addition, there are many people who are courageous in everyday life.   They may never be famous, but they still display courage.

Today, I think about women in my family tree.  There were women who left their homeland in Europe to come to America to make a new life.  There were others who left their homes in this country and crossed the prairies on the Oregon Trail to settle in the west.  There were mothers who had very sick children and took tender loving care of them.  Some saw their children recover.  Others lost their children at a young age.  Some were young wives who lost their husbands way too young and continued raising their children by themselves.  Some were girls when they lost their father or their mother.  There is the grandmother who lost two of her daughters to an influenza epidemic and raised her grandchildren.  Some women saw their husband, brother or son go to war and wondered if they would return safely.  There is the elderly woman who fell and broke her hip and was told that she would never walk again.  However, she would not give up and she did walk again to everyone’s surprise.

These women from my family tree were courageous.  They faced sacrifices, illnesses, hardships, trials, tribulations and loss with courage.  They may not be famous, but they were courageous in my book.  Their example is inspiring to me.  They were overcomers.

The Bible passage for this week, in our online Bible study, is I Corinthians 10:12-13.  These verses are about temptation and how God will help us find the strength to overcome our temptations.   I can apply this verse to not giving into temptations regarding food or not exercising.  However, I learned that the Greek word for temptation can also be translated testing so perhaps this verse is fitting in regards to the testing endured by members of my family as well as to many other people and situations.  We all face testing of some kind or another and with God’s help we can overcome.  Overcomer is a key word for our entire Bible study and I like that word a lot.  It is a very encouraging word and gives me hope.

I have never thought of myself as particularly courageous.  However, in the online Bible study I am taking, I learned that by facing my weaknesses and deciding to become physically fit, I took a courageous step forward.  I hope to continue on this journey, with Jesus at my side, one step at a time, just like my ancestors, men, women and children, who crossed the prairies, one step at a time.

Posted in Made to Crave | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments