Gorge on power food

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Psalm 119:11  – I have hidden your word in my heart in order that I might not sin against You.

This truth stopped by to visit the other night.

It was one of those typical but painful scenes that happen from time to time.

You know those kind – when one person has spun himself into such an annoyed, touchy, tither that he can’t get out of it gracefully.  And you find your interactions adding fuel to the fire.  Furthermore, you feel justified in your self-righteous response as ‘victim’ to the high emotional detritus from the other.

We had eased into the evening routine gracefully AND gratefully, happy to be together after a day at work.  But something little set him off while we were fixing dinner.  The irony is that it occurred while we shared what God had revealed to each of us in our reading and study of the day’s assigned two chapters in Leviticus (Chronological reading plan).

We stepped over that blip and in the course of the next few minutes talked about Noah’s sons and how Shem and Japheth had graciously covered their dad’s nakedness when Ham had sported to them gleefully about the effects of too much wine.  Through our remarking about the grace given, God moved that scene into my active memory drawer.

Then came the blow-up.  Over something minor.  But anger and some internal self-recriminations took over his emotions/thoughts.  I catalogued his reactions to the file of ‘jerk-like’ behavior.

In silence we finished dinner.  I cleaned up and he headed downstairs to the ‘man-cave’ to smoke his post-prandial cigar.

While feeling self-righteous, though lamenting what had just transpired, the Holy Spirit reminded me of this fact:  He loves Mike just as much as He loves me!  My heart softened, climbing down off my high horse.  Two feet back on earth, the quick divine jab brought me to repentance.   How so?  God used the Genesis Bible passage recently moved to the easy-access memory drawer.

Shem had shown his father grace by covering his sin (sprawled-out drunken naked body) with a blanket. (Genesis 9:23)  “Can’t you do the same for your husband?” came the Holy Spirit question.

It was gentle but forceful and it caused tender love to well up.  No condemnation from God, just a sweet push forward toward my husband.  I texted him downstairs, writing how much I loved him cum ’emoticon’.   No response. But when the tired thud of reluctant steps mounted toward the living room, I was ready to enfold him in light and love.  He started to explain that he didn’t know what had come over him.  That he didn’t know how to get OUT of the pit.  I stood up, moved toward him and embraced him in my arms, soothing my wounded, now-softened best friend and husband.

“It doesn’t matter why or how it happened.  Just rest.  I love you.  It’s okay.  We all get ourselves in messes.  Let’s put it behind us and enjoy the rest of the evening.  Whatever ‘it’ was about, our fleeting time together is more precious to us.”

Just like that, we dropped it, relieved.

Score another victory for God’s Word – sovereignly pointing out my sin and enabling me to counter Satan’s false murmurings. My gratitude to the dear Spirit of God deepened, as did my desire to offer this grace covering more widely and more frequently.  It felt good!

Fighting discontent with prayer

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Father, you who SHOULD be enough, forgive my discontent!

You specifically command us NOT to covet. And I continue to disobey you. Coveting, wanting what I don’t have, is the very opposite of loving you with 100% of my mind. As the sun of summer passes over the yardarm, I find myself internally grumbling and focusing on the countdown to the end of my quiet mornings and longer evenings. As though Jesus’ purchase of eternal life were not enough, my disquieted heart is MORE focused on my dread of going back to school. To the point that:

  • not only am I not reveling in these pristine mountain mornings,
  • but I’m deliberately avoiding your will for me that I rejoice, pray and thank you in every thing.

But you have not left me to fight this by myself. If so, then as Martin Luther so rousingly portrayed:

a mighty fortress

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing

So just how do you propose to help me, Father?  Your word to me in fear and anxiety has always been –  Armor-up, Maria!  Dread, that wicked picturing of a scary future, is simply a different flavor.  (And just as much a violation of your command to count ALL things as joy – whether trial or trove, since they come from You, for my good.)

I thank you, that your word in Ephesians 6 has taught me the following tactic:

  •  we’re to pick a weapon from the arsenal of your Word and fight the fear with spirit-indwelt force.

Here is what you gave me this morning during church and I’m going to make it mine in this battle with discontent:

James 5: 11-12 Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You’ve heard, of course, of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.

When I personalize your encouragement I find it easier to remember your promise. But I need your Holy Spirit to prompt me, to remind me of your sure pledge each time I’m attacked by those Satan-suggested gloomy pictures of the coming school year.  Then I can substitute your word to me for the fear scenario I’ve assembled.

Just like Job’s assignment was not what he chose, but he stayed under your heavy hand, honoring your name, with your strength I will stay in the seat you have seen fit to assign me this day, this season. In return for his loyalty, you blessed Job more richly than he ever could have pictured. So I will look to my future blessings.  You’re more kind than I can imagine, so just maybe you have woven treasure into what I’m dreading.  But if nothing else, may my sure inheritance in the next life fill me with enduring energy to be faithful to your will.  Help me to savor and daydream about what full fellowship with you, and overflowing joy may be like.   

God, you KNOW that I can’t successful win the battle against fear and dread without your supernatural help. But woe is me if I don’t daily take up the spiritual weapons you’ve handed me and use them throughout the day and night as the enemy lobs in artillery shells of discontent.

In Jesus’ name, whose intercessions I’m counting on, I pray.  Amen!

One verse is enough!

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index card

I recently changed my workout system so that I no longer walk in the mornings. For years I had used that time to review/rehearse scripture from memory. Walking and talking come naturally to me. But concentrated breathing and floor exercises have prevented me from doing any more than focused movements and counting of reps!

So I had to come up with another way to chew on God’s word.

Thinking of my two busy daughters-in-law who don’t have the luxury of choosing how they want to meditate on passages of the Bible reminded me of the power of one single verse. With little children demanding mom’s immediate attention, these young parents need to be able to grab one verse, write it on a card and put it front and center so they can quickly return to this source of life after the interruption ceases.

So I decided to pick a verse a day, write it down and carry it with me wherever I go – at first on the 3×5 card and then quickly in my immediate memory. And when I arose the next day, I would select another spiritual morsel to munch on and not feel obligated to hold on to any previous ones by rehearsing them. Packing and carrying with me one verse a day would guarantee I’d have something the Holy Spirit could use to correct, encourage and guide me.

Lest you think that one verse is not very much, come with me and see for yourself how much one can squeeze out of a few living words. Here is one of my favorite promises and exhortations:

Romans 15:13 – May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him so you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

First – let’s look at the description of God as the ‘God of Hope’. What alternatives could there be, if our God were NOT a god of hope?   ‘Elpis’ or hope (Strong’s Greek 1680) means ‘joyful, confident expectation of never-ending safety with God’

Well – he could be a god of vengeance, a mean god, a god that is picky or incomprehensible or impersonal or …..you get the idea.

Second – Paul doesn’t just pray that we receive a bit of joy, or a taste of joy, but ALL joy. This term ‘all’ or ‘pas/3956’ means the highest degree or maximum amount.

Third – what kind of peace is this? Is it connected to our temporal (literally ‘secular’) earthly circumstances? No! The Blue Letter Bible website describes Christian peace (Greek ‘eirine’/1515) as the “tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ and so fearing nothing from God (is) content with its earthly lot…,”

Fourth – How do we actually receive this joy and peace? Instrumentally through/as we take God at His word, as we rely on Him, as we ‘put all our eggs in the God-basket’, so to speak. And what exactly are we relying on God for? For everything. For whatever we do or say in our daily life is only considered ‘good’ by God if it is done and said in faith, in dependence on Him. God does not want self-reliant children. Then He would get NO credit and we would implode. Humans are created to reflect God’s glory, not absorb glory. Lest we are tempted to think that relying on God is an action that we DO, to our credit, it really is just a matter of resting, of ceasing to strive via our own efforts. We get to rest and receive all we need from our Daddy just as a weaned baby snuggles safely next to mom.

Psalm 131:2 – But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.

Fifth – what is the outcome of trusting God in everything? We will overflow with cheerful expectation of a happy and good God-infused future. And that spill-over hope will refresh, entice, intrigue, annoy?, stimulate, confuse others so that some will be drawn to God.

Sixth – just to reinforce or remind us that the joy, peace and hope truly are not linked to anything WE actively do (besides ‘abide’), Paul reminds us that the outcome from reliance is achieved BY the Holy Spirit’s power and strength working in us. Because the HS has lived in each believer since their spiritual birth day, He is always present to strengthen the child of God with Christ’s power to do the daily works the Father has prepared for each of His sons and daughters.

So do you see, that just by taking each bit of God’s word and asking questions about what it means and what it DOESN’T mean we get rich spiritual food, enough to last an entire day?

Which of God’s promises is nourishing you these days?

How do you know if you are ‘saved’?

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Assurance of Salvation

1 Cor 1:18 – For the message about the cross is nonsense to those who are being destroyed, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved.

I understand that it is a very unsettling place to be, not to know for sure if you are going to spend eternity with God or away from Him.

I am writing this post to simplify the issue and to communicate that if you want to know whether you can count on heaven with the Biblical God, there is ample written evidence from God to settle that issue, once and for all.

It seems to me that there are several categories of people:

  • those who give no thought to life after the expected 70+ years (Psalm 90:10 The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years….)
  • those who are adherents of false religions that teach and encourage practitioners to DO THIS or THAT to reach heaven
  • those who are true Biblical Christians but still live with uncertainty about their ultimate destination
  • those who are NOT Christians but think they are and might assume they are headed for heaven
  • those who are Christians and anticipate with growing desire and delight their future in God’s favorable presence in the renewed creation

Marraige Supper of the Lamb

In truth, there are only 2 categories of people: those God has elected and those He has not.  There are no degrees of election or a pathway TO election from non-election. You’re either ALL in or ALL out.

If God doesn’t plant within us new, unnatural desires, we will never understand Him or see Him as beautiful and valuable.

Here’s the simplest way to know if you are a true Christian (and it has nothing to do with how ‘good’ you are or what you do):

Do you see the Biblical Jesus and how one is saved from God’s wrath as an amazing gift? as treasure beyond imagination?

Or do you see Jesus and His teachings as stupid and boring, even to the point of being non-sensical? 

The key, though, is to know and understand the REAL Jesus, as the Bible presents.  Be warned!  Many self-proclaimed Christians, as well as atheists, share a mythical, made-up idea of God.  They invent a Father God and a God-Man Jesus to their liking, for whatever reasons.  I suppose it follows that if you INVENT God, then you can CREATE the pathway to heaven.

John 8:31-32   He said to the Jews who believed, “If you keep and obey My Word, then you are My followers for sure. You will know the truth and the truth will make you free.

Stay within the boundaries of God’s Word; understand the text, given its style (poetry, narrative, history, parables, advice for living)  and context.  The Bible is written so that even uneducated people can be taught Truth.

And if what the text says and means doesn’t make sense to you, then pray to God and ask for His help.  He promises to give light and understanding to all who seek Him earnestly, sincerely. Pray also for those around you, that God would kindly open their eyes to His nature, what is at stake and His offer of forgiveness.

ASK

Holy Work-outs in God’s Gym

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Yesterday I found out that I get to practice patience for 2 more weeks.

A month has crept by since I interviewed for a French-teaching job in Asheville.  As the first candidate, I was prepared to wait a few weeks.  But after 30 days, and with the blessing of my husband, I emailed the head of the middle school. Result? She has one more teacher to evaluate and then will make her decision.

Imposed waiting has given me time and motivation to study the biblical context of God’s commands to endure, trust, wait, hope, pray, and expect as well as to inspect the quality of my attitude that surrounds these actions.  Am I obeying God in a peaceful manner or anxiously, with quiet confidence or desperate frenzy?

What I have realized is that this waiting period is God’s gift to me.  It’s a personal, tailor-made course in how to take the long view of God at work. God is actually offering me the opportunity to try Him, to take Him at His word and see if I come up short.  And God is SO confident of His own character, that He is risking nothing.  It’s as though He boasts, “Go ahead, try me, see for yourself if I am sufficient for you this day and each successive day when you DON’T see any way forward, when you DON’T see any results, when there ARE NO OFFERS on your house and NO JOB OFFERS yet or Mike’s FIRST CLIENT has yet to show himself.  And I think He actually trusts ME to accept the challenge to lean on Him and prove to myself and to my watching friends that He is reliable.  As G.K. Chesterton quipped:

      “The problem with Christianity is not that it has been tried & found wanting……… but that it has not been tried!”

When the early church was facing her own trials, James encouraged those young believers to trust his older half-brother Jesus and what He had promised, waiting patiently while relying on God’s characteristics: (James 5: 7-11)

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

As Mike and I round the corner of our last 6 weeks in Virginia, my take-away TODAY from this experiment with God’s faithfulness is this:

HYPOMONE – the Greek word (Strongs # 5281) for endurance. HYPO means under and MONE means stay.

I am to STAY UNDER God’s provision this day.  He gives both MANNA for the day and MERCIES for the day.  Both fall under His day-tight, measured-out provisions of grace, long ago stockpiled for each of my days.

If I run ahead of Him in my mind to the ‘what-if’ tomorrows, I run out from under and away from His provision.

Isaiah knew whereof he spoke when he counseled in 26:3,

“God will keep you in perfect peace, if you keep your mind fixed on HIM.”(my paraphrase)

It’s a choice – fix my thoughts and mental energy on my worries/circumstances?  Or fix my thoughts & mental energy on God’s character, God’s promises, and God’s past dealings with and provisions to both those in the Bible and me.

So thank you, Father, for this good gift of a trial. You’re training me to be a stronger & more effective spiritual athlete.  I’m a runner in Your race, chasing hard after the prize.  Jesus, my champion and coach, dances enthusiastically at my side, all along encouraging me.  This is the hilly part and I’m running hard.  If I take my eyes off of You, I’ll look at that incline and grow tired.  So help me!  Remind me to thank You for how You’ve already provided.  Remind me to take comfort in Your guarantee that Mark records in 11:24 –

            Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you are receiving it, and it will be yours.

So THANK YOU for:

·         My future job

·         The right buyer for our house

·         Those clients for Mike’s business

·         The provision of our future house

·         Our new church family

Greek Grammar – insight and rest

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Grammar is often bypassed these days, whereas in the past, it was presented much more explicitly.  I teach French using a methodology that focuses on helping students naturally acquire a second language through lots of meaningful and comprehensible input. We converse (in French that they can understand) about what is going on in the world and in THEIR lives, just as I do with my friends.  We also create oral stories together and we read, savoring and teasing out information we glean from the content.  Language flows into their brains and out of their mouths almost effortlessly.

I view grammar in my classroom as a condiment, to be used sparingly.  Meaning is what drives the communication.  Grammar is used to clarify and clear up confusion (“the –ent on the end of the word means more than one person is doing the action”)

Yet in my personal life, I LOVE grammar.  My daily Bible study recently got a boost, thanks to some grammar observations.

My Bible is the Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible (NASB translation, published by AMG, edited by Spiros Zodhiates).  I supplement that with The English-Greek Reverse Interlinear NT, ESV version.

Here is one recent observation:

Galatians 2:20 – in the NIV reads:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

But the KJV translates the underlined part as by the faith of the Son of God

There’s a huge difference between IN and OF.  So I looked at the Greek.  Sure enough – it’s ‘of’ – and the case of the Greek word is annotated ‘GENETIVE’.  That indicates possession.  It’s not MY faith that I have to ramp up and put in the Son of God.  It’s HIS faith given to me by the virtue of my new nature.

{When someone is regenerated, she/he gets a new nature. For example, I am no longer Maria – I am Christ-in-Maria.  Here is a poor analogy, but you can catch the drift: As a human born into sin, I was dying as just Maria…think carbon-monoxide…and then Christ infused His super-natural life into me (added another oxygen atom to make carbon-DI-oxide) and now I am completely different – alive.}

Back to looking at WHOSE faith it is. Since the faith in me is not MINE, but HIS, I don’t have to worry about FEELING strong.  It’s no longer a matter of strong or weak, but possession.

Here’s another place where we are led to think the effort and responsibility for sanctification depend on us, despite consistently translating the preposition ‘of’ to indicate possession.

Consider the famous ‘fruit of the spirit’ passage further on in Galatians 5:22-23a:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control…

Implications?

1)    The fruit does not come from my labor – I don’t have to ‘woman or man up’.  I RECEIVE God’s love and 8 blessed outcomes of that AGAPE when my eye is on Jesus, when I’m not out earning and working for the fruit.

2)    I used to think I had to work at those 9 qualities, with God’s help of course, because I’m a Christian.

3)    Trees and bushes and branches don’t work, they just stay connected.  I know that branches don’t have a mind of their own, but we human kind of branches do! And our thought life can cut off the life-giving, fruit-providing HOLY SAP.  Eyes on us, focused on our work and our plans, we cut off the conduit to the Holy Spirit flow.  And we wonder why we get so tired, lose our peace and energy and gentleness with others!   The Good News is that we can lift our eyes back to Jesus and rest in His provision.

2 verses to underscore this glorious truth:

Hebrews 3:1 – Therefore, Holy brothers who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus…..

Isaiah 30:15 – In repenting/ returning to Me and in rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength….

So where have you found a new nugget of understanding through studying the words and how they are structured?  Let us DIG ON for God’s gold.

Holding on tightly to what I know to be true

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In faculty prayer time today, my principal mentioned how much of a battle it is every morning and throughout the day to use Biblical truths to fight unbidden thoughts and feelings that arise due to circumstances.  She exhorted us to build and cling to a high-view of God that will carry us through the day.  And since a proper picture of God only comes from soaking in His Word, we must consciously take the time to bring our minds back to the facts that we read in the Bible.  These facts are truths based on who God is, what He has promised, what He has done.

Katecho’ is the Greek word for ‘hold on real tight’ (Strongs # 2722).  The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews exhorts his listeners:

But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on (katecho) to our courage and the hope of which we boast.

Kata means intensive and ‘echo signifies hold down, hold fast or retain.

Confidently and firmly holding on, we look to Him who rescued us and in whom we believers are built up, members of His body, the church.  He calls us to be His ambassadors, stones in His house, witnesses, servants, living for Him.

And if we let go of our confidence in Him (which can happen if we stop INTENSELY HOLDING ON TO what we know to be true of Him and of ourselves), then we fall into evil unbelief.

Do we realize that not to believe is not only a sin, but actual EVIL according to the Bible?  Stoking, nurturing, feeding, i.e. indulging our doubts IS blatant disobedience.  Don’t get me wrong, doubts fly at us all day long from other people and from Satan…but we have to fight them with biblical truth.  We have to ask for help from fellow believers and we in turn must pray for and encourage our brothers and sisters.  This is war. Naiveté is fatal. As the French rallying cry goes, ‘Aux armes, Citoyens!’ We strap on our spiritual weapons of warfare and stand firm, ready to fight!

But we don’t fight alone.  Plenty of passages encourage us to pray for what we need.  Hebrews 4:16 assures us of our privileged access to the throne and source of mercy (i.e.: compassion – He understands the pressures of the battlefield) and grace (i.e.: strength for the battles)

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may    receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

If I apply these principles to my life, it looks like this: I, Maria, need to trust God that He IS providing enough time each day to do the necessary.  It is painful for me to trust Him.  All around I see lack..lack..lack.  I tighten up and get grim.  But our pastor Byron preached a sermon a couple of weeks ago that has helped me.  Psalm 131 is very short – only 3 verses.  But the imagery is powerful.  Consider verse 2:

1 My heart is not proud, LORD,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.

3 Israel, put your hope in the LORD
both now and forevermore.

I had never considered how a weaned child might feel around his mom’s breasts which heretofore had been his only source of food.  Weaned, he now has to trust her to provide for him in different ways.  Miraculously a toddler can and does lean his head, snuggling up against his mom, quietly awaiting her timely provision. He isn’t old enough to secure his own food.  He is totally dependent, but doesn’t fret because his supply (mom’s milk) is no longer available for him.

So now, when I’m tempted to give in to stress as time speeds up and tasks multiply, I affirm, “Lord, I’m resting, imagining my head against your chest, feeling your breathing, steady – in and out, comforted as I wait for you to give me just what I need this day.  Thank you for your sufficiency and faithfulness[.  Keep me close to you.  Keep me from wandering off to tend my needs.”

I’m a slow learner.  But He is patient.

 

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