November 30 - Advent

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Do you think about Advent much if you're not in church on Sunday morning?

What about the people you encounter during the day outside of your church.  Do you think they even realize that we are in this season?  

It's not a big deal like Lent - everyone seems to know when Lent begins.  Remember, it's got that great big party that kicks it off in New Orleans.  Advent starts up pretty quietly - generally the Sunday after Thanksgiving when everyone still has excess turkey on their minds.

We allow this season to prepare us for the coming of the Christ-child, but it is more than that ... it is a season meant to prepare us for the second coming of Christ.  We are to spend as much time in introspection during this season as we do during Lent.  Preparing our hearts to meet the coming Christ as He returns.

During Lent, many of us 'give up' something as a means of fasting ... trying to focus our hearts on God.  What can you do during Advent to focus your heart on the Messiah ... the coming King ... the Lord who reigns and who will reign over everything!

April 19, 2010 – I Am Coming Soon
Revelation 22:17-21

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.  He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”  Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.  The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.
Look closely at that first sentence.  Who are the Spirit and the Bride (the church) calling to when they say, “Come?” And then, the ones who hear also call, “Come.”  Who is it they are speaking to?  They / we are calling to Jesus.  Please Jesus … Come.  Make the time of Your return today.

The second half of this verse is an offering to the thirsty.  If you are thirsty, come and take the free gift of the water of life.  Don’t be afraid to admit to this thirst.  We are desperate for the water of life.

The water of life flows through the center of the great street of the New Jerusalem. It flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb.  It is clear as crystal.

Our physical needs will be met and our spiritual needs will be filled by God and the Lamb.  All of the things which are troubling to us, either physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually will no longer be important to us as we walk the streets of the New Jerusalem.  All will be healed.

Then comes the warning which is taken from the Old Testament.

Deuteronomy 4:2 says “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I gave you.” This is in reference to the decrees and laws that the Lord God was giving to Israel through Moses.

John is letting us know that the Apocalypse is as important as the Pentateuch – the books of the Law.  Anyone who adds or subtracts from this book operates outside of the will of God.  God will then take away his share in the tree of life and the holy city.

Then the warning is followed by the final words of Christ in our Bible, who promises, “Yes, I am coming soon.”

Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.

December Blogposts - John looks at Jesus

Monday, November 29, 2010

Throughout the month of December, I am going to look at the Gospel of John and the way that each chapter views Jesus.  John gives us quite a detailed look at the character and personality of Jesus Christ and we'll see that come into focus as we move throughout his Gospel.

Since there are only twenty-one chapters, I will move on to Paul's characterization in his letters of Jesus.  It's amazing to realize that we take for granted who Jesus Christ really is!  For many of us, He just is who He is.  We count on Him being whatever it is that we need ... and He never fails us.

We'll look a little more closely at the one man who is the Son of God and the Son of Man.  He achieved perfection in a way that none of us can fathom.

If you'd like to invite someone to join us on, please point them to the blog or have them send an email to nammynools @ cox . net.  I'll put them on the list to receive a daily update.

If you are receiving this daily update and would like to stop, please let me know ... I understand that sometimes there is just too much information that comes into your inboxes. 

I'm looking forward to digging through John's Gospel this month! 

November 29 - The Coming Messiah

These early days of the Christmas season tend to be very focused on the external things of Christmas - holiday decor, shopping for gifts, making plans for parties and gatherings.  We might talk about preparing for a celebration of Jesus' birth, but most of our focus is on those extraneous things and we fit a little bit of Jesus in ... just like we fit a creche or two in among our Santas, snowmen and Christmas trees.

Don't get me wrong - I love all of the craziness of the Christmas season.  I love every one of the traditions, both secular and sacred.  I spend an enormous amount of time thinking about my friends and family, deciding on the gifts that I want to share with them.  Christmas music and lights, parties and gatherings are great fun and I have a blast planning and playing.

Today, I sit in the quiet after a glorious morning of worship with new friends.  Thanksgiving is behind me, much of the year is nothing but a memory.  The weather is still really nice, but the wind reminds me that winter is coming.  A little boy told my sister this morning that he would turn 5 years old when the snow came.  I've always associated Christmas and the coming of Jesus with snow, even though I know the truth of his birth in Israel.  However, with all that is behind me, much stands before me. The anticipation of the celebration of Christ's birth and the increasing anticipation of His return to earth is something we should be able to make part of our very existence ... our breath and our life.

October 23, 2008 - Psalm 110:1-7

Meet Jesus.

This Psalm has always been considered to be Messianic prophecy. Jesus used it in Matthew 22:41-45 to prove his deity (also Mark 12:35-37).

But, much of this moves beyond the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy to the second coming of the Messiah.

In Acts 2:33-34, we hear Peter as he preaches to the people. The Holy Spirit has just blown into the room and tongues of fire rested on each of them (Acts 2:2-3). Peter reminds his listeners that Jesus has ascended and is sitting at the right hand of the Father. If you look at Revelation 5:7, the Lamb (Jesus) takes the scroll (THE scroll) from the right hand of God.

Psalm 110:2 speaks of the scepter. Revelation 12:5 reminds us that the male child (Jesus) will rule with an iron scepter and in Revelation 19:15 we see this come to fruition as the rider on the white horse (Jesus) prepares for battle.

Psalm 110:3 continues with preparation for battle, the same battle that is found in Revelation 19:14 the armies of heaven are willing troops, dressed in white linen or arrayed in holy majesty.

We have seen words over and over that remind us of God's eternal faithfulness. In Psalm 110:4, we are told again that the Lord will not change His mind. The Levitical priests during the time of David had no hope of succession to the throne. Their position was that of priest ... not King.

Melchizedek came onto the scene rather suddenly in Genesis 14:18. He was the King of Salem and we are told, a priest of the Most High God. Abram gave him a tithe and this is the last we see of him. Paul says in Hebrews 6:20 that Jesus did exactly this, he became a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. He goes on in Hebrews 7 to discuss this aspect of Jesus' ministry, but in Hebrews 7:24-25, we are told that because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood and can thus save us completely.

Psalm 110:5-6 returns us to the battle scene and this is played out in Revelation 19:19-21. While David may have seen a brook in Psalm 110:7, the Hebrew word is 'nachlah,' which means torrent, river, stream, valley or flood as well. This takes me to the River of Life in Revelation 22:1-3. The River of Living Water flowing down from the throne of God and the Lamb.

The Lord has been lifted it up and now reigns over all. Praise the Lord.

November 28 - Worship

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I know that I'm supposed to worship anytime, any place, but I love worshiping as a community on Sunday mornings.  I love that I can sing and praise God.  I love that sometimes I can dance a little, sometimes I can sing old hymns, sometimes I bow my head, sometimes I lift my hands.  Worship is all about bringing what little I have before the throne of God - simply to adore and honor Him.

I'm glad to do it alone, but I love to do it with my friends.

November 20, 2009 - The Holy Spirit

God revealed Himself to the world as the Holy Spirit several times.

In Matthew 3:16, we read, "As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him."

John the Baptist told others about this event in John 1:32, "Then John gave this testimony: 'I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.'"

In Acts 2:3, the Spirit doesn't come down as a dove, He shows up as tongues of fire. "They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them."

I don't know about you, but I love the fact that God reveals Himself to us in so many different ways. We see Him in the form of Jesus, in varying forms of the Holy Spirit and in many different forms as God Almighty.

During both of the Comparative Religion courses, there seemed to be a point where everyone in the class was questioning the need and appropriateness of the various denominations, feeling as if this was more of a dividing issue than it needed to be. However, there was no one that could offer anything that each of us could actually fully accept. No one doctrine, no one form of worship. They varied in how people should dress when attending church, what the building should look like, on and on. Yet, even through all of that, they could not see how diversity was healthy.

I'm grateful for a God who presents Himself to me in many forms. I still know that He is one God, the same God. But, when I need to be prodded and pushed, I don't need a gentle dove. I probably need tongues of fire under my butt! Sometimes I need to see God as the mighty King, ruler of everything, because I need to understand that even in my weakness, He is strong.

Our God chooses to continually be creative in the ways that He reveals Himself to mankind. For this, I can only offer praise and thanksgiving.

November 27 - Anticipation

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Today is a wonderful day.  Thanksgiving Day (and dinner) is finished, Black Friday is over, Christmas lights and decoration are being hung ... tomorrow begins the period of Advent.  Today we just breathe, rest, prepare and enjoy.

One of the best things about this time of year is the sense of something bigger than ourselves.  Gratitude is bigger than ourselves, giving is bigger than ourselves, celebrating is bigger than ourselves, joy is bigger than ourselves and the coming birth of our Savior is bigger than the world!  Hope comes to earth with the birth of one small child over two thousand years ago.

This day is that quiet point of transition.  I look back and realize how grateful I am, I look forward and recognize how excited I am to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and how I look forward to a New Year in which I can walk within the will of God.

December 1, 2008 - The Word Became Flesh - John 1:1-5, 9-14, 16-18

Neither Mark nor John began their Gospel stories with the birth of Jesus Christ. John's preparation for the introduction of Jesus takes us back as far as possible ... to the Creation of the World. Before Jesus came to earth as an infant, John wants us to see the power of Who He is.

The Greek word 'logos' which is translated here as 'the Word' is a word that in Greek offers a double sense - that of 'reason and speech.' John teaches us through these verses (John 1:1-18) that Christ is the idea of God and the manifestation of God.

While Matthew and Luke unveil the child and emphasize the fact that Jesus was fully human, John insists that we be made aware the Jesus Christ was divine. In fact, in John 20:31, he tells us that he has written this Gospel so that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God. Jesus is our link to eternity - to the divine.

John wants us to see Jesus, not as a child, but as the eternal God. From the very beginning, Jesus has expressed God to mankind (John 1:3) (Teacher's Commentary).

By declaring that Jesus was in existence from the beginning, he teaches that Jesus was not created. This aligns with Isaiah 43:10-11. Jewish teaching was that God's wisdom/word/law was in existence before creation. Psalm 33:6 then goes on to say that God's Word was how creation came to be.

For many of us, we have always known and understood the truth of God's Word ... Jesus. But, this information is not quite so obvious to the world and was even less obvious to the world in the period of time that John wrote this Gospel. He was writing to dispel the teaching of the Gnostics, who taught against the deity of Jesus.

When I read these words from the opening verses of John, I find myself taken with the simplicity of truth. Jesus was there in the beginning. He was with God. he was God. Through Jesus, all things were made. In him was life and that life was the light of men (Psalm 119:105). That light shines in the darkness and the darkness can not overcome it.

It is difficult to balance the images we have of Jesus. We see him as the Creator - the Word of God. And we see Him as an infant child ... helpless in His mother's arms. Then, we see Him offered as a sacrifice, His power seemingly set aside so that He can endure intense suffering. How do we justify all of these varying images?

Scholars spend a lot of time emphasizing one or more of these images to the exclusion of another. Yet John 1:14 brings all of these together. "The Word became flesh and lived for awhile among us. We have seen his glory."

Why did He do this? J. Ellsworth Kalas says that it is because of the Christmas Scandal. When Adam & Eve chose to sin against the Lord, Christmas eve was set into place. John 1:12-13 tells us that Jesus came to give us the right to become children of God.

It's because of us. It's because of you and me. The Word became Flesh.

November 26 - Shopping in Heaven?

Friday, November 26, 2010

I was thinking about 'Black Friday' and giggling a bit as I processed on this blog.  So, I did a search for the word 'shopping' across my old blog posts and came upon this post.  I continued to giggle.  You see, I think that shopping on Black Friday is just a small foretaste of what hell could be like.  There are a few days that I would give nearly anything to avoid high traffic shopping areas.  This is one of them, the day after Christmas is another.  But, then I prefer to avoid crowds most any time.

Whether or not you love shopping or love spending a few hours with thousands of your closest friends grabbing for items that might be a great deal, now is the only time that you will get to do that.  Shopping just isn't on the list of things that we are going to get to do (have to do) in heaven.

Alright, while I was writing that paragraph, I ran across a short story in my mind.  There are a lot of them tucked away up there.

Carol and I were pretty young when Mom decided that it would be great fun to take us to Filene's in Boston while we were all visiting her mother out there.  Filene's Basement was an extraordinary experience.  All of their seconds, damaged, off-season pieces were slashed down in price and it was first-come, first-serve. And yes, it existed in the basement of the high-end east-coast department store.  If you could grab it, good for you.  There we were - I had to have been ten or eleven, which put Carol around seven or eight - three midwesterners (Mom had lived in Iowa for more than 10 years, she qualified) among some of the craziest women we'd ever seen.  I watched with my mouth wide open while a woman stood in the middle of tables of bras, pulled off her shirt and bra, and tried one on.  Other women were tossing clothes everywhere - across aisles, up in the air.  Clothes went on and off their bodies as they tried everything on.  Women shoved themselves into all sorts of sizes because of the great prices.  We did our best to not get trampled as clerks brought out more stock to refill the tables and racks.  Women were shoving and pushing to get what they desired.  Mom finally remembered some of her east-coast upbringing and got physical right along with the rest of them.  I do remember the outfit that I took home from that experience.  It was one of my favorites, maybe because we had worked so hard to claim it!

The best part of the story, though, was at the check-out register.  Mom asked the clerk if she could write an out of state check.  The clerk asked where Mom was from and she responded, "Iowa."  The clerk raised her noise at Mom and arrogantly announced, "Out here, we pronounce that O-hi-o."  Mom shook her head and wrote the check.

Well ... anyway ... a day will come when beating up on each other to get to the best deals in the store won't seem quite so important.

August 23, 2010 – Isaiah 65:13-16

Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “My servants will eat, but you will go hungry; my servants will drink, but you will go thirsty; my servants will rejoice, but you will be put to shame. My servants will sing out of the joy of their hearts, but you will cry out from anguish of heart and wail in brokenness of spirit. You will leave your name to my chosen ones as a curse; the Sovereign LORD will put you to death, but to his servants he will give another name. Whoever invokes a blessing in the land will do so by the God of truth; he who takes an oath in the land will swear by the God of truth. For the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes.

Do you spend much time imagining living in the New Jerusalem?  While many might read this passage and think of the punishment of the wicked – those who forsake the Lord, read this from the other side.  Think about what comes to those who are God’s servants!

When I was growing up, I’m sure that I was like many of you when I thought about going to heaven.  All I could think was that it was going to be extremely boring.  Who wanted to stand around in a white robe all the time, singing!  I mean, yes, we should be thrilled to stand in the throne room of God and I would come up with reasons why He would make it so that we’d like that, but it seemed like an awful lot of work on His part to create zombie worshipers out of all of us just because we were finally dead.

Now, on the other side, I get weary of listening to people talk about their favorite golf course or finding their fishing buddies around a hole filled with walleye or the best shopping ever known, on and on … as if God was going to create a personal pleasure palace for each of us where we could be kings and queens of our space.

I really don’t believe that either of those extremes is true.  There are plenty of hints, such as in this passage.  We will eat, we will drink, we will rejoice, we will sing from the joy in our hearts.  When we look at Revelation 21 and 22, we find the majesty of the architecture, the beauty of the gems, the glory of nature and the pageantry of the kings of nations entering the city.

If we peek into the throne room with John in Revelation 4, we see astounding colors and images, filled with sights, sounds and great glory.

God looks forward to sharing His Kingdom with us.  He invites us to join Him there.  It’s an invitation to accept.

November 25 - Happy Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 25, 2010

There are so many things to be thankful for.  Health, family, warm sunshine, doggie noses and licks, love, friends, our talents, a gentle touch, words that lift us up, the gift of a smile.  There really is no end to the list of these things.

Today we do our best to set aside the stresses of life, those things that take us from being thankful to screaming in pain.  Some of you will have to adjust your attitude to put up with family that you only see once a year.  We place all of this on hold today to remember to be grateful ... thankful for the things we have, the blessings that surround us.

Paul tells us that 'thanksgiving' brings peace.  Thanksgiving reminds us that there is someone to be thankful to.  We're not in this alone ... ever.  No matter what we face, no matter what worries us, no matter what seems to be wounding our bodies, hearts or souls ... we've got a God that walks with us and when we're thankful to Him for His blessings, we know that we're never alone.  Being thankful brings peace.

May 14, 2010 – Philippians 4:6-7
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Don’t worry about anything.  Hah.  Paul knows his readers quite well, but telling us NOT to worry seems a little like telling a swimmer in shark-infested waters that it will be ok.  We are surrounded by things to worry about.  If there aren’t enough actual things to worry about, we make extras up.  Night time is the worst of all … if you’re lying in bed trying to fall asleep, you can’t manage and handle all of the things that worry you, so the worries increase.

This sweeping generalization by Paul, as absurd as it may sound, is followed up by a practical resolution: Here’s how you can alleviate worry – present your requests to God.  Notice one more point, though in this directive – do it with thanksgiving.

These words show us Paul’s insight into the human psyche.  When we are overcome with worry, thanksgiving is one of those things that we can’t (or don’t want to) incorporate into our thinking process.  We become so focused on the problems, the issues, the details of the situation, that we can’t be thankful about anything.  Paul knows that the moment we turn to thankfulness, we release the power that worry has on us.

Worry is a lie.  Worry tells us that we can handle everything on our own.  Worry tells us that we don’t need anyone else.  Worry tells us that not even God can help us.

Thanksgiving reminds us that we aren’t alone.  It breaks through the morass of fear with a sense of calm.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Read that sentence again.  Do you see what happens?  The peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Worry tears at you, exposing your heart and mind to many negative emotions.  Anxiety and stress destroy your heart, your mind and your body.  I could point to research that proves how anxiety tears us apart physically, but it is obvious to each one of us.

The peace of God, which comes when we go before Him with thanksgiving … which comes when we go before Him with thanksgiving … will guard our hearts and minds.

Think about that today.

November 24 - Gratitude

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Throughout this season of the year we are reminded to give thanks, to be grateful, to remember our blessings.  I can only imagine God's pleasure in seeing us be so happy.  Because gratefulness changes our entire psyche - every time.

As I've gone through Dad's stuff, one of the letters I found was from his friend who had been on the verge of suicide until he talked to Dad who asked him to write down ten things that he was thankful for.  The next day, when he and Dad talked, Dad asked for ten more until the man returned home - changed forever.  This letter reminded Dad of the gift that he had given.  Gratitude.

How easy it is to forget to be thankful ... out loud.  

April 15, 2009 - Bread for Everyone - Mark 8:1-21

How well do you remember the blessings that God has given to you? Sometimes within a microsecond, I've forgotten because I'm on to the next crisis. When I'm in the middle of a problem, sometimes I even forget why I am a Christian. It makes no sense oto me because I'm so wrapped up in my problems that I can't see beyond myself to the ultimate power of God in my life.

Jesus had 12 men with Him that were just like you and me. Even though they had participated in the miracle of the loaves and fishes, when they saw the large crowd, they were perplexed as to how they might feed them. You know ... I've managed people before and gotten frustrated when they couldn't learn simple tasks, but I can't imagine the frustration the Jesus held at bay as He trained these men who were to carry the most important message the world had ever known forth.

After multiplying the bread and fish again until the people were satisfied, Jesus sent them on their way and left the area. He didn't get far, though. The Pharisees showed up pretty quickly thinking they could continue to test Him. They asked for a sign from heaven.

He had been performing miracles, casting out demons, healing the sick, raising people from the dead and they wanted a sign from heaven. He didn't put up with it, returned to the boat and left them on the beach.

You can tell how annoyed Jesus was by his sarcastic comment in Mark 8:15. I think it's funny that after collecting all of that bread and fish, the disciples hadn't thought to feed themselves. They had been in such a rush to get out of there that it didn't even occur to them. But, there was no need to worry. Jesus had just multiplied bread for the second time in their presence.

The yeast of the Pharisees. Yeast was a common metaphor for an invisible, pervasive influence. The Pharisees were corrupt and they were leading Israel. Jesus was asking His disciples to believe Him without a sign, even though they were seeing so many different signs.

But, these twelve men had a long ways to go in understanding their Rabbi. Even when He reminded them of the miracles they had seen, they didn't understand.

November 23 - God always hears

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Unlike David ... this evening I'm not frustrated with God, I am, however, just frustrated.  There is so much that I need to know about Greek and simply don't have it as solid in my brain as I would like.  About the time I start working through the exercises, I forget the simplest words.  I'm spending a lot of time this week working through the exercises over and over so that I can somehow plant this language deep in my mind.  One of these days ... one of these days.

The most wondrous thing occurs to me, though.  Even in my frustration, when my mind shuts down and quits processing correctly, God still remains with me!   I'm not generally quiet when I'm frustrated.  It's not necessarily a bad thing for me to hide at the cabin where no one can hear me when I'm spewing fury at my lack of knowledge regarding Greek.  But, God hears me ... no matter what.  He might not respond to my crazy talk or my fury, but He does still hear me.

October 14, 2009 - Psalm 39:1-13

When I read the first verses of this Psalm (Psalm 39:1-2), it seemed as if David was concerned with many of the same things that James preaches against - gossip, slander, etc. But, as I continued reading, I realized that David had something completely different in mind.

He's furious with God and he knows that if he were to speak his fury out loud while the wicked are present, they wouldn't understand that he has a relationship with God that allows him to love and honor the Lord, while being frustrated and angry at the same time.

Do I know when to keep my mouth shut at my fury towards the injustices that I perceive to be coming from God?

In Psalm 39:3, we see that David is spending time with God and he can no longer hold back, "My heart grew hot within me, and as I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue." He has something to say, we'll just hope that no one but God is around to hear it.

Look at Psalm 39:9-10, "I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for you are the one who has done this. Remove your scourge from me; I am overcome by the blow of your hand."

The rest of this Psalm expresses David's acknowledgment that his life is short. He'd like to know just how long God will allow him to live on this earth, because he wants to know how long the pain is going to last!

We all feel that way sometimes. If life's struggles go on much longer than 24 hours, we begin to believe that they will be there forever. "Look away from me, that I may rejoice again before I depart and am no more." (Psalm 39:13) I just want one more day of happiness before I die, Lord!

I love David. He expresses things that I feel - even when we can look in from the outside and see that his life wasn't as awful as he believed it to be. The thing is - neither is ours. But, there are always moments when we feel as if we have been abandoned to a world that will destroy us, with no hope of rescue or salvation. Our spirits sink to the depths and we have no idea how to bring ourselves up out of the pits.

David knew though that there was a way. "But now, what do I look for? My hope is in you." (Psalm 13:7)

November 22 - Rest

Monday, November 22, 2010

This week is Reading Week at school.  That means that though there are no classes, professors are free to assign things to us to read.  There just aren't any assignments due.  Fortunately for me, only one professor assigned reading work.  But, that doesn't mean that I'm setting aside my work.

This week gives me a chance to dig into the Greek. I don't have to quickly learn anything this week, I can concentrate on settling into the stuff that has been going past me so fast I can hardly stand it!  I'm hoping that will help as I prepare for the Final exam.

I also have plans to get some of the work that will be due next week started and maybe even finished so that as I move through the last three weeks of classes, I have time to complete my Final papers early.  

Yesterday I wrote out all of the items I needed to complete this week, put together a schedule (with checkmarks) so that I wouldn't allow myself to slack off.  I would hate to come to the end of this week and not have things finished.

I was smart enough to schedule nothing for Thursday and very little for Friday and Saturday.  I began to feel as if I weren't getting a holiday at all because I was so worried about accomplishing so much.  I needed a sense of the Sabbath ... rest.  

One of the books I was reading yesterday for a class talked about retirement and how that is not found anywhere in scripture.  God intends for us to work.  He intends for us to work six days a week.  There really is no stopping point.  And before you get all up in a huff ... most of you do, whether it is for a boss or for your family.  I know that most of you work until you collapse.  On Saturdays and Sundays you find yourselves working for your house, your laundry, your lawns, your cars, your kids, your classes ... God wanted us to work for six days - and then cease working so that we could focus on Him and on the rest we so badly need. 

July 7 - Hebrews 4:1-11 - Enter His Rest

I've spent enough time around philosophy-lovers that my brain starts reeling sometimes as I listen to them bat ideas back and forth. When I read these verses, that happens to me again.

The author of Hebrews wants us to completely understand that resting in God is so much more than what our bodies need to restore us to face another day.

When God rested on the seventh day, the Sabbath, it was after he had fully and perfectly completed His Creation.

As we come to know God's rest, we not only rest from our work, but we are putting our faith completely and totally in Him. This is about faith. Faith in the Creative power of God, faith in the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

Lack of faith kept the Israelites from God's rest. Lack of faith can keep Christians from God's rest. The only barrier to resting in God is if we back away in disbelief ... if we harden our hearts.

Entering into God's rest comes from not only hearing the Gospel, but believing it as well. It brings forgiveness of sins and peace to our hearts.

Ever since I have been an adult, I seemed to search for peace. I knew that it would be found in God, but it seemed as if the world constantly battered me until I was exhausted. We are all exhausted. But, this is because we try so hard to do this all alone. Sabbath rest is not about a decision that we make to cease working one day a week, it is about being obedient to God's call and deliberately setting ourselves aside so that we can enter His rest.

November 21 - James 4:13-5:6

Sunday, November 21, 2010

For several of my New Testament assignments, I have to do a 'close reading' of a passage, then with a team of 3-4 others, we combine all of our work together into one single observation of that scripture.  Since I have some time this week and have two of these coming up, I decided to finish them yesterday so that I can be a little ahead of the game - especially since I have a lot of end of term work about to hit me.

Here is the close reading of James 4:13-5:6 that I did.  One word you may not recognize is 'pericope.'  When you are reading along in your Bible and you see a subheading ... that begins a pericope.  It is simply a portion of scripture that has been sectioned off.  These have been pretty arbitrary throughout the centuries, as have verse numbering and chapter sectioning.  But the pericope is the most flexible by translators.  

James 4:13-5:6

This passage immediately follows James’ teaching on submission to God and seems to expand the thought as he points out instances in which we submit to no one but ourselves.

We all make plans without consulting God.  James rightly knows that these plans include everything from travel, to where we will live, what business we will participate in and how we hope to make money.  And then he reminds us that we can’t even be certain of our existence tomorrow.  Is it possible that James is drawing on OT ideas of the brevity of life? (Job 7:6; 9:25, Psalm 39:5; Isa 38:12; 40:6-8)

Does the verse about being mist and then vanishing after appearing for a little while sound like the question a lot of people ask when they say, “Will this even matter in one hundred years?”  If we are doing things for ourselves, they will fade like that mist.  But, doing those things that exist within the Lord’s will and living in that will is the better way to live.  Boasting of our own plans and our own accomplishments is evil.

The last sentence in this pericope regarding knowing the good to do and not doing it equals sin is both a general statement regarding sin and a very specific statement regarding the previous idea of living within the Lord’s will.

James moves then to the coming trauma for rich people.  He warns them to weep and wail because the things that they count on will not last forever.  Wealth, gold and silver all will fade away, like those things in the previous section that we do only for ourselves. 

By using these two ideas together, is James commenting on the self-centeredness of wealth?  All of humanity’s plans, all of its wealth will be worth nothing in the final days.  The hoarding of wealth is even more offensive if doing so has caused difficulty for those who look for payment and are cheated.  What ideas from Jesus’ teaching on wealth – the rich man entering heaven, for example – have affected James’ teaching in this letter?  The OT is quite explicit about the fleetingness and uncertainty of wealth (Ps. 49:10, Proverbs 23:5, 27:24) and Jeremiah speaks specifically to this point in Jeremiah 17:11.  Is there someone specifically that James is considering as he writes this letter?  How does this thought continue across time to our present circumstances?

James is quite critical of those who live in extreme luxury at great cost to others and not themselves.  When things are falling apart (the day of slaughter), they ate as gluttons (fattening themselves).  With no thought, they condemned innocents to death, even though there was no opposition.  James is making a clear statement with regards to those who step over others to achieve great plans for themselves.

All of this is in great contrast with the man who submits to the will of God.  Self-indulgence, achieving wealth with no thought for others, making plans alone, living as if we alone are in control of our lives is boasting and bragging … sin.  James calls for people to do the live within the Lord’s will and do things in our lives according to that will.

November 20 - Matthew 16:24

Friday, November 19, 2010

Well, that was fun!  Now, I know how to share documents with you.  It seems as if there is a learning curve with every thing I do anymore.  Why is it that I just can't know enough to do everything I want to do?  I guess if I knew it all, I'd be dead, eh?

So ... what I want to do today is offer you my interpretation of Matthew 16:24.  Well, just one phrase.  You can see one of the styles of Inductive Bible Study that I'm doing this semester.  We actually process through quite a few different things before we even get to this point.  It's totally crazy stuff!

Here's the link to the PDF file:  (Matthew 16:24 Interpretation)

But, at this point, we are asked to explore 5 different determinants. The question to be answered is: "What is meant by the statement “take up his cross” (kai aratō ton stauron autou) in Matthew 16:24?"

I look at the definitions of the two main words ('take up' and 'cross'), then I look at the inflection of those words.  In essence, that is looking at the way these words are interpreted from the Greek.  You can look and see all of this information happen.  After this, I look at these words in context.  Context in this case refers to varying ways that Matthew (and only Matthew) uses these words in his Gospel.  I then write a quick summary about what I've discovered and move on.

The next process is Word Usage - how are these words used throughout the rest of the New Testament ... so that we can see how all of this ties together.  It's pretty cool.  Following Word Usage, the next determinant is Scriptural Testimony - what other scriptures have the same type of teaching.  I was lucky this time, the professor took pity on us and gave us the scripture references ... we just had to deal with them.

After Scriptural Testimony, we can finally look at what commentaries have to say.  I used three different commentaries.  They're actually fairly particular about which are appropriate to use - who knew?!

Finally I make a couple of summary statements, build the bibliography and I'm finished.

So ... here is about 9-10 hours of work on my part.  Can you imagine a lifetime spent doing this for the entire Bible.  I certainly can ... wonder how I can turn that into a paying job?  This is the coolest part of the Inductive Bible study - when you finally get to digging into the guts and glory of scripture!

November 19 - Holiness to the World

Ok ... I'm interrupting the Matthew flow.  I'm not ready to post everything I've been working on - it's pretty stilted right now.  I'll get it together after I turn the required stuff in.

However, this morning for my Christian Formation class, I watched two videos of lectures by Gary Haugen, who is the President and CEO of International Justice Mission, an organization that works throughout the world to bring justice (they're lawyers) to those who will never see it.  Children who are enslaved in India, girls in Cambodia who are sold into prostitution ... on and on.  Just an incredible group of people.

He told amazing stories of rescues and life changing work that has been done.  He asked for prayer and he asked us to be good stewards ... not of our money, but of our power in this country, because one of main things that happens to these victims is powerlessness.  In the safety of our homes, in this country with all of our freedom, sometimes we are completely ignorant of the things that happen beyond our borders.  We can exert the power of our government.  It was quite a profound lecture - one that will stick with me as I try to identify ways that I can help to make changes.

We have a responsibility to set aside our own selfishness and look at the world as God sees it.  He says that we take care of ourselves, we care for our families, we might care for those we love and who love us back, but beyond that it really puts us out to exert ourselves on behalf of someone we will never meet.  It's easier to just shut our eyes and ignore that terrible things happen.  That convicted me.

Then, I looked at this post from 2008 - a reading in 1 Peter.  God is speaking to me.  I'm not yet sure what it is he is saying - what about you?

November 13, 2008 - Blessing - 1 Peter 3:8-12

We live in a pagan world. We are simply visitors to this world. And yet, Peter also tells us that we must live together in this world, with each other and with the the residents of this pagan world. How? He gives us five characteristics:

1. Live in harmony with one another. In other words - be of like mind. This is very similar to Paul's teaching to the Philippians in Philippians 1:27-2:4. Both of these men were trying to teach some that seems so simple, yet is so alien to our nature.

2. Be sympathetic. The Greek is 'sympatheis' and means 'feeling with.' Romans 12:15 tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.

3. Love as brothers. Greek - you know this - 'philadelphoi'. 1 Thessalonians 4:9. Paul says that he didn't need to tell us about brotherly love because we had already been taught by God to do this. I guess if we haven't learned the Golden Rule by now - we never will.

4. Be compassionate. This word is found only one other time in the New Testament - in Ephesians 4:32. This is a tender-heart towards someone in need. I guess that I would also associate this with kindness which is in the list from Galatians 5:22-23 of the fruit of the Spirit.

5. Be humble. Putting others before ourselves. I was in Junior High when I first discovered the cycnical implications that no one did anything for anyone else unless there was an ultimate personal payoff. That floored me! Now, yes - I am a "Friends" television show addict, and I distinctly remember Phoebe's crisis of conscience when she realized that it was nearly impossible to do something without getting some kind of benefit for herself. But, how do we consciously put everyone else before ourselves? It's so difficult and yet, Jesus demands it of us.

And now, we've finally reached verse 9 (1 Peter 3:9). I finally read "Tuesdays with Morrie" by Mitch Alborn last night. What a wonderful book. But, one of the things that Morrie said in their last days together was about his reaction to people in traffic. He would raise his hand when he was cut off - the offending driver was expecting to see a rude gesture, but Morrie would smile and wave as if to offer that driver his place in traffic. It changed the face on the other driver quite often.

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. Can we really live that way and not have a heart attack? I believe that to avoid the stress that leads to ill health, we have to live that way.

Peter goes on to say that we must react with blessing, because it is to this we are called. The reason is so that we may inherit a blessing. Jesus speaks of that inheritance in Matthew 5:10-12, while Peter goes on to quote from Psalm 34:12-16.

Holiness must go out from us in our interactions with people.

November 18 - Matthew 16

Thursday, November 18, 2010

These last couple of weeks I have spent time studying Matthew 16:24-28.  This week, I have spent time studying one single phrase found in Matthew 16:24 - "take up your cross."  As soon as I am finished with this event, I'll be sure to post some of my findings and understanding of what this means.  Right now, I can just say that there is a lot about this that is really cool.  

Inductive Bible Study is really amazing in that it forces you to spend time with the specifics of Scripture.  We had a discussion in my Greek course last week about the importance of studying the original language because of the incredible depth that is exposed when the language comes to light.

This is what I posted in response to one of the conversations: 

"The good news is that the more you understand Greek, the differences you'll find in scripture. But ... the best part about all of this is that God doesn't withhold understanding from us because we don't know the language. He finds ways to get it to us. I think of this as an incredible journey with Him. If He leads me to learn the ancient languages, then that is how He wants me to find Him in scripture. If He didn't lead me down this path, I'd still find Him ... in a different way.

I really don't feel as if I have missed anything in my journey to this point. God has opened up avenues of perception that I can't imagine. But, now that I'm here, He is allowing this avenue to open up to me (well, not fully ... good HEAVENS but I have a lot to learn).

I'm just glad this isn't all up to us. I am not learning His scriptures by myself ... I never have."

You don't have to know Greek, you don't have to know how to do Inductive Bible Study.  What you do have to do is be open to God as you spend time in Scripture.

So ... as I looked back through my posts last year, I realized that one of my Favorites was from Matthew 16 - Peter is just one of my favorite characters in the story of Jesus.  I'm going to spend a little more time in this passage the next couple of days.

August 17, 2009 - Matthew 16:13-29 - Oh, Peter ...

I love Peter. I always have. He has such deep passion for the Lord and sometimes he is just plain stupid. But, how like our relationship with God is his with Jesus.

The beginning of this passage is such an amazing look at their relationship. One day, the disciples were walking with Jesus and He decided to challenge them a little bit. "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" (Matt 16:13)

There were many different answer, but Jesus went on to ask "But what about you? Who do you say I am?" (Matt 16:15)

Peter had the answer. "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

In those few words, Peter identified Jesus as the Messiah (Christ), the Savior that had come to save the world. He also identified Him as coming directly from the God of creation, the living God.

Peter knew who this man was that walked beside him. He had seen Jesus do miracles, feed thousands of people, heal the blind and the lame. He had listened as Jesus taught with an authority that no man on earth had ever exhibited. He knew who his Lord was!

That amazing insight and the strength of his faith was obvious to all that were around him and Jesus affirmed that God had revealed this mystery to Peter and went on to assure Peter that all of the power of heaven and earth would be given to him. He transformed Peter from 'Simon' a reed that flowed in the wind, to Peter (Petra) the rock on which the future church would be built.

The strength of Peter's faith would be required to fulfill the work that Jesus began on earth.

This was an amazing spiritual moment for Peter. And oh, the humanity. Several days later, as Jesus was trying to explain to His disciples the near future of suffering and death that He would be facing, Peter took Him aside to stop Him from saying those things. How could the Lord, the Messiah, face such a hideous thing? (Matthew 16:21-22)

The man that Jesus had lifted up was now called 'Satan.'

Was Peter too big for his britches? Maybe. The next thing that Jesus taught to His disciples was the importance of giving up everything, including any selfish ambitions. (Matthew 16:24-29)

Sometimes I have those amazing moments with God. I feel like together we could conquer the world. I sense the power of His hand in my life and I am ready to move forward to do whatever it is that He asks me to do. But, it doesn't take long for my selfish ambitions to set in. I hear and heed the call, but I make my own plans because I know that my creative mind can make these things happen. All of a sudden, I move from allowing God to run the show, to making Him a mere idea man. I can implement His ideas.

"Get thee behind me, Satan?" I wonder how many times the Lord has had to say those words to me as I run off to do His will my way.

November 17 - No matter what ... God loves us.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sometimes I think that we make life way too difficult.  We make it difficult for ourselves ... we set expectation for others that we can't meet.  We ask our family and friends to be perfect.  We don't lay out clear expectation in our relationships, but they're there, hiding underneath our acceptance of them. 

It is difficult to love and receive love.  It is just plain hard.  We don't trust enough, we trust too much.  We don't love enough, we love too much.  We don't offer enough of ourselves, we offer too much. 

This is hard work.

But, the thing of it is ... it isn't all that difficult.  We just can't accept that life is simple, so we have to work to mess it up.

The relationship with God really is that simple, though.  We try our best to mess it up.  But, the best part of this relationship is that we can't.  God loves us.  Nothing stops him from loving us.  We can try to walk away from it, we may think we have messed it up ... but, we can't.  He still loves us.  Moment by moment, day by day, year by year ... no matter what.  He still loves us.

Does that resonate with you at all?  It certainly does with me.

August 22, 2009 - Romans 8:31-39 - Nothing Separates Us

Romans 8:32 just wipes me out. "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?"

I listen as people are very confused when they read about Abraham's near-sacrifice of his son, Isaac. (Genesis 22:1-19) The questions that are asked end up at, "How could God ask a man to sacrifice ... to kill ... his own son?" And then discussion ends up at the point that no one can imagine obeying a God that would ask us to do that. We place a very high value on the lives of our children.

God was testing Abraham's obedience, but He didn't ask Abraham to do anything that He Himself wasn't prepared to do. And He ended up proving just how much He loved this world with the sacrifice of His Son.

This passage in Romans, though, tells us that God did this for us. And as He offered His Son in sacrifice, the ultimate sacrifice as most of us would see it, He proved to us the great love that He has for us. Without this sacrifice, God would only see the charges brought against us. He would only see our sin.

Love is at the center of everything that God has done. He loves His children, He loves this earth, He loves us! And Christ stands before Him interceding on our behalf, so that the sins we commit moment by moment are covered by Him. Christ loves us as God loves us.

What can separate us from that love?

I don't know that any of us can fully understand a love that can't be broken. Our hearts are broken all the time. Friends, family ... they all have the power to wound us. Even best intentions can be destroyed. Death of a loved one breaks our heart, there is no one on earth that can love us without exception. So, how can we comprehend the depth of a love that will never end, will never break, will never be destroyed? It's difficult!

Paul does his best to put into words the fact that there is no limit to Christ's love and his words are beautiful.

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" (Romans 8:35)

No one ... nothing can separate us from that love. Even if we can barely comprehend it, even if we can't accept it, even if we try to reject it ... Christ still loves us enough to have sacrificed everything for us.

"Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:39)

And you know what? That means NOTHING can separate us from that love.

November 16 - To Live in Christ

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I could say a lot about what it means to live in Christ, but it looks like Paul said it already to the Colossians ... and I used that information last year.  

This is what it means to live in Christ:

August 25, 2009 - Colossians 3:12-17 - Who Are You?

Do you know who you are? Do you know Whose you are? Sometimes I think we forget. I know I do.

This passage in Colossians is meant to remind us what it means to live in Christ. Not to live as a Christian, but to live in Christ.

We are God's chosen people. We are holy and dearly loved.

Read that sentence again. You are chosen by God and you are holy and dearly loved. That just means everything to me! I grew up knowing that the safest place in the world was my home. Even when kids at school belittled me and made fun of me, I knew that at home my parents believed in me and expected great things of me. They loved me because I was their daughter, not because I was a pianist or because I learned to read at an early age, or because I got good grades or stayed out of trouble (I was a good girl, I know ... disgusting). But, they loved me because I was their daughter. That's all there was to it! All of the rest of those things came because I lived a life that grew out of that love.

So, since we are God's chosen people and we have been made holy and we are dearly loved, Paul tells us that we are to live a life that grows out of that love.

Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Exercise forgiveness and over all of these things, put on love. That love that was given to you so generously should be shared with everyone. (Colossians 3:12-14)

This is what it means to live in Christ.

Can you imagine coming home each evening from work or from school to a home in which Christ physically lived? Can you imagine the peace that would emanate from that dwelling? Take a moment to shut your eyes. Place the image that you have of Jesus Christ within the rooms of your home. Do you sense His peace? (Colossians 3:15)

This is what it means to live in Christ.

Now, as you leave your home and interact with the world, the only way to do so is to fill yourself with Christ ... the Word. As you do all of these things - teaching, singing, living - it all becomes a form of worship. We are to do these things with gratitude to God. We are to do all these things in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:16-17)

This is what it means to live in Christ.

November 15 - The Lord is Good to Me

Monday, November 15, 2010

I have interesting conversations with friends I haven't heard from in years these days.  Many of these conversations are filled with the pain that comes from facing so much of life alone, even when surrounded by family and friends.  For some, an overwhelming sense of failure pervades their lives as they look back and only focus on those things that didn't go so well.  There's a resignation to their lives and a sense that if they had to do it all over again, they would have made different choices.

I recognize those feelings - I even have them sometimes.  There are so many things I wish that I would have had the courage to do and to say when I was much younger.

But, as I look at Psalm 13 and I think about David crying out in the middle of the night fearful of what was hanging over his head and then recognizing how powerful the Lord was in his life, I realize that God has given me this day just as He has every other day in my life.  Once my life was placed in His hands, He began to redeem each day, each choice, each move that I made.  He still does that for me.  He does it for you ... He does it for my friends.

The Lord is still good to me.  He still redeems my days, my choices, my movement.  I live a life that He provides for me.  That is what I take into the night with me.

October 4, 2009 - Psalm 13:1-6

I imagine that everyone has faced something similar to the feelings that David is crying out in this Psalm.

O Lord, how long will I be alone while I deal with everything that I'm facing?

Psalm 13:2 shows us the pain of having those thoughts flowing through our minds without any temperance from an outside source. I can remember night after night of staying awake worrying about things at my business, worrying about getting jobs out, bills paid, employees, everything. David cries out, "How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?"

Those nights seem endless and when you awaken in the morning and the worries seem to remain and darken your day, you begin to wonder how long it will be until the Lord hears and answers your cries!

It seems as if David knew exactly what I was feeling when he says, "Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death." (Psalm 13:3) There were nights I wished that I could just fall asleep and let death overtake me - I knew that it would be easier than what I was facing because at least I would be with God in person.

But, like David, I somehow managed to come to the point where I realized that the suffering my poor mind was putting me through was something that the Lord saw even when it didn't feel like He was responding.

Can you say that you trust in the Lord, even in those dark days? Sometimes it doesn't feel as if He is listening or paying attention to what we are going through, but even through that, David says, "But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord for he has been good to me." (Psalm 13:6)

The Lord has been good to me, He has rescued and saved me more times than I can count. And when the darkness presses in on me, though it seems as if I am alone, I know that He has been there in the past, He will be there in the future, and He is with me in the present.

November 14 - Remember not ...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Are you all grown up yet?  I have a couple of friends who remind me regularly that they are nothing more than great big kids.

When you find yourself all grown up, do you make the same mistakes as when you were a child?  Do you even remember those mistakes?

Do you remember the bad things you did last year or last month or last week?

Sin can bind us up ... sometimes just because we refuse to let it go in our own lives.  We keep punishing ourselves for those things we did wrong ... for those things we laid before God.  His mercy is great.  He remembers our sins no more.  Maybe it is time that we released them as well.

October 9, 2009 - Psalm 25:1-22

Psalm 25:7 "Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O Lord."

Oh my goodness, I barely remember the sins of my youth. I'm much more aware of the sins I committed as I grew older. I do, however, remember being concerned that I might forget a specific sin as a teenager. I was so worried that I might forget some sin and that would really make God angry. So, I began to keep a notebook. Every time a sin would come into my mind, I would write it down and pray for forgiveness. I thought it might be prudent for God to actually help me out with the entire project, so I asked Him to remind me of sins that I might have forgotten. I was really trying to clean up my act.

Well, several months passed and I was filling page after page of this notebook with sins. I discovered that I was pretty awful. Mostly petty little things and thoughts. But, finally God got through to me. I was spending so much time dealing with my personal sins that I wasn't spending much time loving my friends and loving God. I was focused purely on myself. What a selfish exercise that had turned out to be.

Now, I think that it's terribly important for us to confess our sin and present it before God asking for forgiveness and then actively repenting, but that stuff isn't to consume us. We spend much too much time focusing on the negative in this world anyway.

If you continue to read through this Psalm regarding sin, you will notice that David doesn't spend too much time on the negative aspect of it. In Psalm 25:8-11, we see that the Lord is loving and he instructs the sinner and guides the humble, teaching them His way.

This Psalm is a beautiful plea for deliverance and forgiveness. Many of the words are familiar. Take some time to read through this - pray these words as you confess your sins before God. He is loving and faithful (Psalm 25:10).

November 13 - Praise the Lord, O My Soul

Saturday, November 13, 2010

In my Christian Formation class, we've are in small groups that actually converse throughout the week.  Each Wednesday we begin a new conversation and it always starts with us responding to the question: How is it with your soul this week?  That's a very Wesleyan question.

It is interesting to think about your soul on a regular basis.  And though I'd like to tell you that everything is always fine with my soul, sometimes when I think about it, I realize that my soul experiences a lot of different types of things.  Contentment, peace, weariness, sorrow.  The Greek word for soul is actually - psyche.  That part of us that makes us who we are.  

How is it with your soul?  In today's post from a year ago - David sings out, "Praise the Lord, O My Soul!"  I want my soul to be continually singing those words ... "Praise the Lord!"

October 25, 2009 - Psalm 103:1-22

Praise the Lord, O my soul.

Let everything within me praise the Lord!

David knew that he had many things for which to praise God
Love and compassion
Satisfaction of desire
Renewal of life
Righteousness and justice for the oppressed
Slow to anger - abounding in love
He will not always accuse, nor harbor anger forever
He treats us better than we deserve
His love is great
He has removed our sins from us

As I read through those things and through that portion of the Psalm (Psalm 103:3-12), I am reminded of the Love Chapter in I Corinthians 13.

God is all of those things and He calls us to be the same for the people around us. How can we be anything less. Yet, day to day we are judgmental, gossipy, cruel, angry, we show lack of forgiveness, we are self-centered and arrogant, we find it easier to yell and throw a tantrum if we don't get our way, we forget the incredible grace that has been shown to us and refuse to show that same grace to anyone else. Our anger controls us and we expect others to treat us better than we treat them.

But, the Lord is all of those things. He is perfection. He expects us to constantly strive to achieve these qualities, but to Him we give praise.

To Him who has established his throne in heaven and his kingdom rules over all.

Praise the Lord, O my soul.

November 12 - God is Our Guide

Friday, November 12, 2010

After I registered for my courses yesterday, I went into a full-blown emotional meltdown.  Can I do what I just signed up to do?  Is it going to be so difficult that I finally toss everything into the fire and fail?  What am I even thinking - trying to do this work?  

I do NOT know how people get through their lives without taking comfort in the Lord.  Every day that I question myself, I discover a new way to be loved by God.  If He assures me that all will be well, I move forward in His confidence, not my own.

God is our guide.

October 16, 2009 - Psalm 48:1-14

Psalm 48:1-3 is a hymn of praise to Jerusalem which sits atop Mount Zion. It is beautiful, the joy of the earth. But, the greatest thing? God is there.

I have worshiped in many different types and styles of church buildings. Some are gorgeous, an architect's dream, others are simple. Some were built by the men of the church and finished by the families within that church, others were built amid stress and divisiveness. I have worshiped in the beauty of nature, surrounded by lakes and trees, hills and mountains. I have worshiped in the home of Kentucky mountain folk, and in the homes of very wealthy friends. The location has never mattered. All that is important is that God is there.

Nations joined together to bring battle to Jerusalem, but when they saw the city, they were terrified.

"As we have heard so have we seen in the city of the Lord Almighty, in the city of our God: God makes her secure forever." (Psalm 48:8)

God's presence brings security. You know, the Israelites dealt with battles and wars throughout their history. God always promised that if they would submit to being His people alone, He would protect them and bring victory to them. It was when they struck out on their own, rejecting Him that they began to lose those battles to the point of losing all He had ever given them.

I love this Psalm, but read the last verses with me.

"Walk about Zion, go around her, count her towers, consider well her ramparts, view her citadels, that you may tell of them to the next generation. For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end." (Psalm 48:12-14)

Look at yourself, count the fingers on your hands and toes, consider well your life, view yourself. You are the temple of God. You are the representation of Him to the next generation. He is your God forever and ever and will be your guide even to the end.

November 11 - My Confidence is in the Lord

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I just finished registering for Spring semester classes.  Greek 2, Hebrew 1, Church History 1 and Basic Church Doctrine.  Yikes!!! 

Since my brain is working so hard, I appreciate the fact that there are two years worth of blog entries for me to recycle right now.  I promise to do more original writing during the last half of December and all of January, but wow ... it is absolutely incredible how much of a hit my brain has taken these last few months.  I'm learning a lot, but more often than not it is long-term information that will get spread across my life rather than immediate application stuff.  

This post spoke to my heart this morning as does the Psalm.  I am thankful for the Lord who inspires my confidence!

October 10, 2009 - Psalm 27:1-14

There are so many verses in this Psalm that are not only familiar to me but I treasure because of their impact.

"The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1)

I am not often fearful and afraid, but when I am, those emotions consume me to the point that I find it difficult to function. The words of this verse are so comforting when I actually apply them to my life. If I profess to believe in God, the Creator, why should I fear? He is the light the fills the darkest room, He is my salvation, He is the strength of my heart. I have nothing to fear.

"One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and seek him in his temple." (Psalm 27:4)

Wow! I actually ask a lot more of the Lord, but nearly everything I ask is extremely self-centered and self-serving. And so filled with my daily needs. When my mother was dying, I remember the absolute peace that she had because she knew that she was transitioning to this state ... to dwell in the house of the Lord. That was all she had left to desire. I look forward to the day I can rid myself of earthly desires and want nothing more than to seek him in his temple.

"Hear my voice when I call, O Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, "Seek his face!" Your face, Lord, I will seek." (Psalm 27:7-8)

Do you listen to your heart? My heart tells me to seek the face of the Lord. What a wondrous statement of faith.

"I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." (Psalm 27:13-14)

Are you confident that you will see the goodness of the Lord in your life while on earth? I am so thankful to have this confidence. When I talk to friends that don't actually have a strong relationship with God, I hear disappointment in life, fears that things will never turn around for them, frustration at the immediacy of their problems. All I can do is encourage them, pray for them and let them know that God really is watching. Sometimes it takes awhile, but "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."

November 10 - In all things, Praise the Lord

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I know that it's easy to praise God when skies are blue, when everyone is healthy and when things are going well at work.  We're so relaxed and content that it seems natural to thank God for life at those moments.  

It's interesting to consider, though, that when things are at their worst, God remains there with us.  In the midst of storms, sickness and stress ... we aren't alone.  

After last winter, I don't know that I'm quite as excited to see snow this year.  I feel a little hesitant to embrace this impending season change.  But, it will come and God will be here through it!  I thought about that as I read this Psalm this morning ... the Word ... Jesus Christ is the active creation that takes us through the season.  Pretty incredible.

Praise the Lord!

October 31, 2009 - Psalm 147:1-20

Do you ever get over the wonder of a God who cares for one single broken hearted person and knows the number and the names of the stars in heaven?

How good it is to sing praises to our God!!

Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving!

This is the God who puts the clouds in the sky, brings rain to the earth and makes the grass grow. This is the God who provides food for not only the cattle, but the ravens.

The Lord is not impressed with strength or with speed, but He waits for those who fear Him, who put their hope in Him. (Psalm 147:10-11) We are cared for by a Lord who has defined love and who exhibits the love we should emulate moment by moment.

Extol the Lord, O Jerusalem, praise your God, O Zion!

This Psalm is written after the exile, when the Jews had returned to Jerusalem and were rebuilding their city and the Temple.

The Lord is the one who has strengthened the city gates, and blessed the people that returned. He brought peace to them for many years under the reign of the Greeks, He provided enough for them to eat. (Psalm 145:12-14)

And then we meet God's Word ... whom we know as Jesus Christ. Nature responds to God's Word. Snow and frost come when He calls, hail rains down. When the time is right, His Word melts the ice and releases summer breezes so the waters flow again. (Psalm 145:15-18)

This same Word revealed the Law to Israel (Jacob) and in doing so, called this nation to be different, to be separate, to be Children of God.

Praise the Lord!

November 9 - Do you love the Lord?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Do you love the Lord, love the Lord?  Yes!  We love the Lord!
Do you love the Lord, love the Lord?  Yes!  We love the Lord!

My friends, Jen and Andrea brought that back from their trip to Africa where they spent time working with scores of kids in the Music for Life camps; singing, dancing and loving the Lord.  What an incredible sight to see ... young faces all around excited to share their love for the Lord!

When I was much younger, much less cynical and much less worried about the impression I was making on people, I covered everything that I owned with messages of how much I loved the Lord.  My notebooks, my bookcovers, my walls at home, pins on my jackets ... everything I owned told the world that I loved the Lord.  I wasn't afraid to live every moment of my life with that as my banner.

As I've grown older, I'm not quite as apt to cover my stuff with stickers or draw all over the things I have.  I don't put wild posters up on my walls.  I'm so much more sedate (no chuckling) and I take other people's feelings into consideration ... I don't want to hit their head against the wall every time they come into contact with me so that they KNOW I love the Lord.

Some days I wish I was more like my young high school self, so excited about loving the Lord that I put those words everywhere.  He loves to have us love Him out loud.

Do you love the Lord, love the Lord?  Yes!  We love the Lord!
Do you love the Lord, love the Lord?  Yes!  We love the Lord!

 October 29, 2009 - Psalm 116:1-19

Do you love the Lord? Do you say it often to Him? One of the things I could always count on with my Dad was that he told me he loved me. At the end of a phone call, before we parted, sometimes for no reason at all, when he was thinking about me. He said the words. We know how important it is to say those words to our family and friends, but do we know how important it is to the Lord! When we praise the Lord, we talk about worshipping Him and how He is worthy. But, do we every just say, "I love you, Lord" because we are thinking about Him?

He does do all these things that the Psalmist speaks of in the first couple of verses. He hears our voice and our cry for mercy. He turns his ear to us.

In Psalm 116:3, the Psalmist tells us that he was near death and this brought him to the point of calling on the Lord to be rescued. The Lord responded and the Psalmist says, "Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you." (Psalm 116:7)

We are so fortunate to be called children of God. Anxiety and worry tend to overwhelm us and we forget who - we forget whose we are. Be at rest, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.

In Psalm 116:12, he asks "How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me?" Now, that's a great question. There is no possible way to repay the Lord for the blessings He has given us, is there?

Obedience, a continued relationship with the Lord, a thank offering, praise in the presence of others. The Lord wants nothing more than for the whole earth to know Him and to be in relationship with Him. Our public praise of His glorious work in our lives - lives lived out in full obedience to Him will draw people into His presence more than any preaching ever will.

He wants us to love Him. Praise the Lord!

November 8 - Patience!

Monday, November 8, 2010

I spent this last week pretty much fully engaged in the Greek language.  People keep asking if I can speak to them in Greek yet.  Funny thing about it is that what I have discovered is that I barely know the English language!  I spend more time trying to wrap my brain around all of the different parts of grammar that I have to understand so as to translate Greek into English than I do actually using that language.  Part of this is because I'm in the first semester and they are trying to jam as much information as possible into my poor brain.  As soon as I make it past these grammatical hurdles, I should be leaping and bounding!!!!  (ok, something like that)

I'm learning vocabulary words.  There are all sorts of exciting words, but every time I think that I have something figured out, they show me that there is yet one more way I should be able to use that word.  Sigh.  I'm going to spend today immersed in that study again.  As much as I complain ... I still love it.

Today I think about the patience it is going to take for me to get through these classes.  I can't wait for the day that I have a greater understanding and can move forward through translation by myself.  

October 15,2009 - Psalm 40:1-17

"I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord." (Psalm 40:1-3)

In Psalm 39, we don't see a lot of patience. We see resignation. Sometimes those two things look pretty similar. It's all in how we look at our life. Are you resigned to living through this season of your life or are you patient, knowing that the Lord has things well in hand and that He will walk beside you whether or not you sense His presence?

"Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods." (Psalm 40:4)

One of the ways past the self-pity that David easily fell into was to remember the blessings that God gave him in the past, the wonders God has done. He spoke of God's righteousness, faithfulness and salvation to people around him.

As soon as David moves past dark introspection and looks towards God, his attitude brightens and his despair lightens. He recognizes again that the Lord God will protect him.

"For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my heard, and my heart fails within me." (Psalm 40:12)

David's troubles haven't changed. His perception has.

"But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, 'The Lord is exalted!'" (Psalm 40:16)

Yes, we are poor and needy and plead with the Lord to spend time thinking of us. We count on Him being our help and deliverance. Please Lord, do not delay.

November 7 - Praise the Lord, O My Soul

Sunday, November 7, 2010

This morning as I let the dog outside on her leash, I felt the touch of the breeze on my cheek and thought to myself that it would be another beautiful day and said, "Thank You!"  On days like today, it is easy to praise God.

When life is going just the way we want it to go and we don't have anything to complain about, it is easy to praise God

When we are stressed, it isn't so easy, but as I read through Psalm 104, I realize that the things the Psalmist offers praise for are always there.  Those things don't change based on my emotional whims.  Neither does God.

October 26, 2009 - Psalm 104:1-35

How great is our God!

One of the easiest things to do is to praise the Lord. The Psalms give us glorious hymns of praise that are ours to recite and ours to take into our souls.

One of the most difficult things to do is to praise the Lord. We forget that He is the author of all that exists and is worthy of all our praise. When we forget or refuse to praise Him, we deny our Lord that which we can offer without reservation.

In this Psalm we see the Creator, clothed in majesty. Psalm 104:2, "He clothes himself in light." I actually see that image in my mind. Can you?

Psalm 104:2b-9 is a recitation of creation as only a poet can pen.

By the time we get to Psalm 104:10-18, we experience the glory of God's continuing creative power. He didn't stop with creation, He continues to bring water forth to quench the thirst of the animals and the birds. His creation feeds the cattle and mankind, gives man vineyards, oil and bread, provides trees for birds to nest in and refuge for animals.

Psalm 104:19-23 perfectly describe the movement of the moon and the sun and then assure man that he is safe during the day and that the animals roam the night. There is a purpose for everything that God has created! His creation is perfect.

We see the culmination of that in Psalm 104:27-28. The sea creatures look to the Lord to give them their food at the proper time. He does so and they are satisfied.

I love Psalm 104:29-30. I feel like this sometimes. "When you hide your face, they are terrified, when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth."

"I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul. Praise the Lord." (Psalm 104:33-34, 35b)

November 6 - Weeping to Renewal

Saturday, November 6, 2010

I was re-reading Psalm 84 and even though I spent time with it a year ago, I looked at one verse and something else caught my eyes today.  

In Psalm 84:6 we read "As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools."  As you read through my post from last year, you will see that the Valley of Baca is the Valley of Weeping.  

It occurred to me today that walking with the Lord through the Valley of Weeping is quite different than facing grief alone.  Not only was there immediate renewal happening because they were with the Lord, but this renewal changed the face of the valley.  When we face grief or tough times or stress or hardship with our face set toward the Lord, we not only change our own lives, but we establish a renewed landscape for the next person to traverse.

When our encounters with the Lord are seen by the world, when we allow God to work in our lives and those around us see the change, we open the eyes of the world and allow them to be able to move forward with faith. Our lives are a testimony to the goodness of the Lord.

October 22, 2009 - Psalm 84:1-12

So many of these Psalms have been made into praise songs that I can barely get through them without singing them. It's actually pretty wonderful!

In 2 Samuel 23, David's last words begin with, "The oracle of David son of Jesse, the oracle of the man exalted by the Most High, the man anointed by the God of Jacob, Israel's singer of songs."

The Psalms were to be sung and when we put them to music we are continuing a tradition that God began in the man He loved very much. Think about that just for a moment. The words that David sang in praise to God, many of us sing over and over - even if it is in a different language ... remember God is the Alpha and Omega ... the first and last letter of the language. Jesus is the Word made flesh. These words of praise have come down through time to fill our hearts, just as they did the heart of King David.

The Psalmist opens this with words of praise for the dwelling place of the Lord. (Psalm 84:1-4). Now the wonderful thing about this is that in Revelation 21:22 we see that the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple in the New Jerusalem. The dwelling place and the Lord are one and the same. The Psalmist is yearning to be in the presence of God. Nothing else matters!

In Psalm 84:6, the Valley of Baca is the Valley of weeping. Those who go through weeping with their hearts set on the Lord make it a place of springs. They go from strength to strength.

What an amazing image! As we walk through turmoil, if we do so with our hearts set on the Lord, rather than tears and weeping, we experience springs that come from our depths. We can move from strength to strength. It's like walking through a desert, but moving from an oasis of strength to the next. God offers us those springs of water in our desert!

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked." (Psalm 84:10)

The Psalmist would rather be in God's presence than anywhere else. So would I. I can't imagine any place better than that - and I can imagine a lot of wonderful places.

"O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you." (Psalm 84:12)

November 5 - A Big God

Friday, November 5, 2010

How big is God?  Yup ... bigger than that.

One of the things that I see can easily happen while studying all things religious in seminary is an attempt to contain God.  We reduce Him to a few words on a page, or an assumption or question the historic reality of His Son.  We tear apart the reality of the Trinity and look at how Scripture has been interpreted over the centuries.  We question those interpretations and search original languages attempting to discern whether God fits in our idea of Him or not.

In a few short weeks I've read authors and listened to professors who make scripture nothing more than a simple letter written to a specific group with no intention for it to move beyond the scope of time and history.  It is one thing to learn all of this and another to internalize it and separate scripture from the One who breathed life into it and into us.

How big is God?  He's big enough that none of this really matters.  Long after all of us are gone, He will still be God and He will still be touching people's lives.

October 11, 2009 - Psalm 29:1-11

What kind of images and thoughts do you have of our God? Are those thoughts and images BIG? David is thrilled with God in this Psalm and his descriptions of the power of the Lord are glorious.

Is this your God? David says we are to ascribe (give) to the Lord the glory due his name and to worship Him in the splendor of his holiness.

This great, big God speaks over the waters - He thunders over the waters! His voice is powerful and majestic,. It breaks the cedars. His voice strikes with flashes of lightning and shakes the desert. The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare.

And all in his temple cry "Glory!"

We continue to get glimpses into the temple of the Lord throughout scripture, but imagine the power of that cry of "Glory!" when those in attendance witness the Lord's power in the sound of His voice! They are already there to worship Him, the temple is filled with His glory. When His voice rings out, every portion of creation responds in awe.

I am in awe of the Lord God who sits enthroned over the flood - the chaos that fills my every day life. He is God. He is enthroned as King forever. The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. (Psalm 29:10-11)

November 4 - God reveals scripture

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I spent today immersed in Matthew 13:1-52.  I ended up with a ten page paper, tearing apart the structures of the seven parables found there, learning the context and finding out a great deal of information regarding each of them.  I'd like to say that I learned all I could, but I was only scratching the surface.

One of the things about these parables is that they had hidden meanings.  We've had generations of insight into the meanings behind each parable, but imagine hearing for the first time that the kingdom of heaven was like a treasure found hidden in a field, or like a mustard seed, or some yeast.  

God reveals the meanings of His teachings in His time.  We are fortunate to live in a time where so much is understood.  The glory of scripture, though, is that we never understand it all.  There has never been a time that I have approached scripture and walked away feeling as if I completely understood everything.

And even after about 13 hours spent over the last couple of days on those seven parables, I recognize that there is so much more I can learn about them and from them.

November 9, 2009 - God Owns the Secrets

Deuteronomy 29:29, "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law."

How much do you really trust the Lord? Do you trust Him with your closest secrets? Are you assured that everything you know - He knows? Do you feel safe with that? These verses are filled with an assurance that I can barely understand.

Psalm 25:2, "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings."

It excites me to realize that God has created mysteries to fill the universe, things that He fully expects us to discover. Does it frighten you to think that man could someday uncover the full depths of knowledge about our mind or our body? God has given us minds that are curious and placed mysteries before us so that we are always searching.

The time of the last days is coming, but this is another of those mysteries that God has sealed up. He told Daniel, "Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end." (Dan. 12:9)

Jesus said, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Mark 13:32)

God has told no one about the day or hour of the end of time. If He can be trusted with that information, He can be trusted with everything you know and everything that worries you.

Revelation 10:4, "And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, 'Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down.'"

The greatest secret - the end of days, the great secrets - those that we hold close. All of these are kep safe with the Lord God Almighty.

November 3 - Take heart in the Lord

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Since I've started back to school, I've faced more fear than I have in a long time.  I seem to always be facing a deadline or waiting for a grade to post.  I feel inadequate most of the time to be quite honest.  Impending doom and failure seems to hang over my head on a regular basis.  When these feelings torment me, I find myself in tears until I realize that God brought me to this place and I can trust in Him.  I don't have to simply trust in myself.  I'm not the one who will get me through this.  Oh, I'm doing the work, but He is giving me the strength and the knowledge, the wisdom and understanding to get things done.

So ... tomorrow I will deal with an interminable amount of work to interpret Matthew 13:1-52.  Seven parables ... deep interpretation.  Yup ... probably gonna cry.  I have a large mid-term paper due Thursday by midnight.  It's actually two papers, but who's counting?  I've already stressed out over that one.  Fortunately my other two courses beat me up last week, so I can focus on these this week.

Pray for me? :)

October 10, 2009 - Psalm 27:1-14
There are so many verses in this Psalm that are not only familiar to me but I treasure because of their impact.

"The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1)

I am not often fearful and afraid, but when I am, those emotions consume me to the point that I find it difficult to function. The words of this verse are so comforting when I actually apply them to my life. If I profess to believe in God, the Creator, why should I fear? He is the light the fills the darkest room, He is my salvation, He is the strength of my heart. I have nothing to fear.

"One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and seek him in his temple." (Psalm 27:4)

Wow! I actually ask a lot more of the Lord, but nearly everything I ask is extremely self-centered and self-serving. And so filled with my daily needs. When my mother was dying, I remember the absolute peace that she had because she knew that she was transitioning to this state ... to dwell in the house of the Lord. That was all she had left to desire. I look forward to the day I can rid myself of earthly desires and want nothing more than to seek him in his temple.

"Hear my voice when I call, O Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, "Seek his face!" Your face, Lord, I will seek." (Psalm 27:7-8)

Do you listen to your heart? My heart tells me to seek the face of the Lord. What a wondrous statement of faith.

"I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." (Psalm 27:13-14)

Are you confident that you will see the goodness of the Lord in your life while on earth? I am so thankful to have this confidence. When I talk to friends that don't actually have a strong relationship with God, I hear disappointment in life, fears that things will never turn around for them, frustration at the immediacy of their problems. All I can do is encourage them, pray for them and let them know that God really is watching. Sometimes it takes awhile, but "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."

November 2 - Praise God

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

As much as I love music, I simply can't have it playing while I'm studying. I become absorbed by it.  But, I also can't imagine living without music in my life. There is always some tune or other chasing around in the neurons of my brain - generally something I've just performed or sung.  One year I spent several months accompanying for a local high school's production of "Beauty and the Beast."  Oh my goodness, I thought I would never get those tunes out of my mind!  

One of the more glorious parts of my life is singing with a worship team that feels free to explore creative styles of worship music.  After a Sunday morning with them, I have amazing music filling my heart and soul.

October 22 - Psalm 100:1-5

One of the most well-known hymns of praise, Psalm 100 was an early text for the tune that we know as the Doxology. William Kethe wrote "All People That On Earth Do Dwell" in 1561 while he was in exile. He was a Scottish pastor and with the Scottish Reformation just beginning, was living in Geneva.

All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Him serve with fear, His praise forth tell;
Come ye before Him and rejoice.

The Psalm is written in a common poetic format: A-B, A-B.

It begins with (A) an invitation in three parts (Psalm 100:1-2). Shout for joy, Serve the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. This is followed by (B) an affirmation in three parts (Psalm 100:3). The Lord is God, He made us, we are his.

Psalm 100:4 (A) offers a second invitation in three parts to enter his gates, his courts, and to give thanks followed by (B) a second affirmation in three parts. The Lord is good, His love endures forever and his faithfulness continues.

This is one of those Psalms that would be fairly simple to memorize using a mnemonic, or the knowledge that there is a pattern to this Psalm should be quite helpful.

The Psalmists were musicians and story tellers. I don't know of any composer that wishes their music to be hidden from the world. Their greatest joy comes from hearing their music reproduced well. These Psalms were well composed so that the people could use them in their prayers and in their worship.

Memorization is difficult for me. I guess my challenge is to know this Psalm intimately.