Tag Archive | Gratitude

God’s Unfailing Love

For many years, Bible reading and study has been a major priority in my daily life. The primary way God speaks to us is through His written Word, and in the weakness of my flesh I need to hear from God daily to know how to walk victoriously through the many challenges of this life.

This past week was not an exception to my habit of beginning my days with time in God’s Word. But it was an exceptional week of hearing from God. It was a week where God’s message to me was coming through loud and clear. It was a week of hearing over and over again: “Trust in My unfailing love.

Unfailing love is how the New International Version of the Bible translates the Hebrew word checed. Other versions translate it steadfast love, lovingkindness, mercies, faithfulness, kindness, mercy, and love. Why so many different translations for one Hebrew word? Simply because there is no single English word that fully expresses the meaning of checed.

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words says there are three basic meanings of the word, which always interact: strength, steadfastness, and love. This word is used 240 times in the Old Testament, most often in the Psalms. Vine’s says, “The term is one of the most important in the vocabulary of Old Testament theology and ethics.”

This single Hebrew word also includes the concepts of generosity and favor, of loyalty and mercy, of grace and faithfulness, of goodness and devotion, of protection and blessing. When used to describe our God, it applies primarily to God’s particular love relationship with those who are His chosen, those who have entered into a covenant relationship with Him. That includes you, if you have placed your faith in Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins on the cross.

As I did my regularly scheduled Bible reading last week, each day it included this concept. God was obviously trying to show me something important about His character. Then the day after this began, we learned that we need around $40,000 in repairs on our home, due to damage from Hurricanes Ike and Harvey that was not covered by our insurance. I was feeling overwhelmed.

The next morning, one verse about God’s unfailing love especially stood out to me. It was Isaiah 54:10.

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”

‭‭As I read these words, I realized God had given me a promise to hold onto. What we are facing feels huge, but it isn’t bigger than our God. No matter what lies ahead, we can walk through it in confidence that His unfailing love for us will not be shaken and that His peace won’t be removed.

This week, I’m especially grateful for the special words God brings to life from His written word, when a verse or concept in the logos, the written Word, becomes a rhema word that we personally hear and receive as we spend time in His presence. For that to happen requires a commitment to open your Bible (or a Bible app) every day with expectancy that God will speak to you.

Is there a verse of Scripture or a concept taught in the Bible that God has used to encourage you recently? Give thanks to the Lord for being a God who speaks to His people. If God has spoken a special verse or passage to your heart that has encouraged you, don’t keep the good news to yourself. Share it with someone else. It may be just what they are needing to get through a difficult day.

Beware of the Counterfeits, Embrace the True

In my walk with Christ, I’ve noticed that the world often presents us with alternatives, counterfeit versions of the spiritual disciplines we are taught in God’s Word.

For example, God’s Word clearly teaches the key to success in life is to meditate on and then obey God’s Word. Joshua 18 says, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” The world promotes other types of meditation that have nothing to do with God or His Word.

The Bible also calls us to the discipline of giving thanks in all situations. One well known Scripture that teaches this is 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” The world likewise acknowledges the value of giving thanks.

Earlier this week, I received a video on a secular app I use to help me in my weight management entitled “Gratitude Meditation.” It basically combined the two spiritual disciplines of meditation and giving thanks, but in a strongly distorted way. And it opened my eyes to the truth that while the world sees value in the practicing gratitude, it isn’t the kind of gratitude we as Christians are called to express.

The world’s idea of gratitude often begins with looking inward and is little more than a form of positive thinking. It looks at blessings, but fails to see their true source.

Christ-centered gratitude begins with looking upward. It is centered in the unchanging character of our God and the promises of His Word. A life of gratitude without Christ misses the mark – it is still empty and purposeless, because it leaves God out of the picture.

It’s much healthier spiritually to turn our focus on Christ-centered gratitude. The best description I’ve found of Christ-centered gratitude comes from Bible teacher Kay Arthur.

“God is in control, and therefore in EVERYTHING I can give thanks – not because of the situation but because of the One who directs and rules over it.”

Therefore today I am grateful for…

☆ 1. Christ’s provision for today’s needs, even when I’m not sure how the overwhelming needs ahead of me will be met.

☆ 2. The strength I have in Christ to do the things He has called me to accomplish today, even in the midst of my physical weakness.

☆ 3. His grace and loving care, even in the midst of a day of physical and emotional pain.

Christ-centered gratitude acknowledges the reality of what we are walking through, but it also acknowledges and gives thanks to the Lord as our help in the midst of the storm.

Remember, Christ-centered gratitude is possible because no matter what you are going through, Philippians 2:13 reminds us we are not left to our own resources, “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”

 

A New Month, A New Topical Bible Reading Plan

For a couple years, I have been using the monthly topical Bible reading plans published by Rachel Wojo, and this month’s plan Perfect Peace: Planting My Eyes on Jesus is especially appropriate to where I’ve been walking in recent months. My desire is to do at least one blog post per week during June sharing some of the things I’m learning from this study. If anyone is interested in doing this study with me, here is Rachel’s June Bible reading plan.

In the midst of a time of trying to find answers to explain recent irregularities in my blood tests, walking in God’s peace has been a challenge. It’s been a daily battle not to give in to fear. Last July and again in February of this year, my alkaline phosphatase levels have been elevated. My doctor suspected this was due to a new bone problem, so she ordered a full body bone scan with contrast. The test revealed no new bone disease that would explain the lab results.

Then, she felt the next most probable problem was disease or obstruction in the liver or pancreas. So I had a barium and IV contrast CT-scan done of my liver and pancreas done last Friday. This was especially scary, because my doctor had mentioned the possibility of cancer. But again, I was given a clear report of health from this test. This was a huge relief, but at this point we still do not know what is behind the elevated levels.

Next Friday, I’ll be taking the next step in the diagnostic process, an appointment with my gastroenterologist to discuss the results of the CT-scan in more detail and to schedule a colonoscopy. And the following Friday, I’m scheduled for a bone density test, which my doctor said is due and should be done to rule out the one other possible area of trouble with my bones.

Unlike most of the health issues I’ve faced in the past, this new one isn’t causing any outward problems. But there has been a battle – a spiritual battle in my mind against fear. So this month’s topical study on the peace we find in God’s presence is especially fitting.

Day 1: Psalm 29:1-11 (I’m using ESV throughout this study unless otherwise noted)

“The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.” Psalms‬ ‭29:3-4

‭‭The voice of the Lord – and His very presence – is above the waters that threaten our lives. This reminds me of the first part of Isaiah 43:2.

“When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you…”

Psalm 29 ends with these words. They are a great reminder that God is still on His throne, that He has been and continues to be in charge.

“The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever. May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!” Psalm ‭29:10-11‬ ‭

Father, today I remind myself that these latest health problems I’m facing haven’t taken You by surprise. You are above these choppy waters I’m going through, still reigning on Your throne of grace and love. Thank You for a doctor who won’t let this go until she rules out all of the major issues that could be causing this irregularity in my blood work. Thank You that the two most likely and most serious problems have now been ruled out. Continue to teach me how to take hold of Your peace and rest in You as I walk through this storm in my life. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Learning to RALLY

Life with chronic illness – or any of a variety of the many trials we face as a part of life on this fallen earth – can be difficult. And poor choices that open a door to the enemy make it even harder.

I’m currently doing a study of Rally: A Personal Growth Bible Study, written by Barb Raveling, with a Facebook group I’m a part of. I highly recommend this book.

“Do you ever wish you could escape your problems? Just jump on a ship and sail across the ocean?” If your answer to this question is yes, this study may be just what you’re looking for.

From the back cover of the book:

“The Bible tells us to count it all joy when we encounter trials, but that’s hard to do. It’s easier when we remember that trials have the potential to help us grow. Unfortunately, we’re often so busy stressing and obsessing that we miss out on growing.”

The focus of this Scripture based study is on learning to “slow down, take a deep breath, and spend some time visiting with God about your current struggles.” Barb gives five steps God’s Word teaches us, which form the acronym RALLY.

R – Renew your mind.

A – Ask Him for help and accept what you need to accept.

L – Let go of your have-to-haves.

L – Let go of “if only” and make a plan.

Y – Yay God! Thank Him in all situations.

Jesus Christ, Our Advocate with the Father

The Greek word paraklētos, translated Advocate in today’s Scripture passage, is used five times in the New Testament, once by the apostle John to refer to Jesus Christ, and four times by Jesus Himself of “another Advocate,” the Holy Spirit.

Advocate is another title for a lawyer, someone who pleads your case before the bar of justice. In modern terms, an advocate is like a defense attorney who pleads the case for a defendant before a judge. The Greek word literally means called to one’s side, especially called to one’s aid.

When John calls Jesus our Advocate,” it means that our Savior is standing before the heavenly throne of God, pleading our case before the Father. He is interceding on our behalf because we belong to Him.

It’s important to point out one important distinction between Jesus Christ our heavenly Advocate and an earthly advocate for someone accused of a crime. Jesus’ case as He represents us before the Father isn’t based on our righteousness or good works. His case for us is grounded in the work He has already done to secure God’s favorable verdict.

Even though we are guilty of sin and unable to meet the righteous standards God has set, Jesus has already paid the price for our sin. Or as 1 John 2:2 says,

“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John‬ ‭2:2‬ ‭NIV‬

But we still have a part in the process. We have to accept this atoning sacrifice as our own through faith in the work Jesus has done. When we do this, the perfect righteousness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is imputed to us. This means Christ’s righteousness is attributed to us by faith and counted as our own. As Matthew Henry wrote:

“The clients are guilty; their innocence and legal righteousness cannot be pleaded. It is the advocate’s own righteousness that he must plead for the criminals.”

I am grateful that, even now, Jesus is pleading with the Father on my behalf, interceding for me to be forgiven. Because I am in Christ, God is no longer the judge who condemns me but rather the Father who has adopted me into His family.

Jesus: The Lamb of God

The whole idea behind the complex sacrificial system of the Old Testament is foreign to our modern western society, but at least a general understanding of its significance is essential if we want to understand what Scripture means when Jesus is identified by John the Baptist as the Lamb of God.

In Genesis 4, we learn of the first offerings mentioned in Scripture, those of Cain and Abel. By the time of Abraham, the people God had set aside as His own were very familiar with the idea of sacrifice. When God delivered the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, the Passover celebration included the sacrifice of a lamb.

Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats…” Exodus‬ ‭12:3-5‬ ‭ESV‬

Once the tabernacle was made according to God’s detailed instructions and the priests were consecrated, a daily system of sacrifices began.

“”Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs a year old day by day regularly. One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight.” Exodus‬ ‭29:38-39‬ ‭ESV‬

Hebrews 10:11 tells us that these daily sacrifices lacked the power to take away sins. So why did God give such detailed instructions concerning the sacrificial system? I believe there were two reasons: First, God wanted His people to understand that sin separates us from God and that the penalty of sin needed to be paid. And second, the symbolic offering of lambs was a picture of the single sacrifice for all sins that would be offered by Christ.

“And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Hebrews‬ ‭10:11-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Christ Jesus as the Lamb of God is the fulfillment of the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. He also is our Passover Lamb, sacrificed during the time of the Passover memorial. By shedding His blood on the Cross, Jesus once of all time made atonement for our sin and restored us to relationship with God. 1 Peter 1 tells us this was God’s plan all along. And the following verses remind us of the difference these truths are to make in how we live our lives.

“And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” 1 Peter 1:17-21 ESV

Lord Jesus, I am eternally grateful that You are the Lamb of God, an acceptable sacrifice because You are without blemish or spot. Thank You for paying the penalty for my sins and making a way for my relationship with God to be restored.

I Am the Light of the World

Lights are one of my favorite Christmas decorations, from the lights on the Christmas tree to the lighted star on the top of the tree to the festive candles sitting around our living room. One tradition our family has as part of our Christmas Eve celebration is to attend the Candlelight service at our church, then come home, light the tree and candles, and sit around and eat snacks and open gifts while we listen to Christmas carols. A very appropriate way to remember the birthday of the Light of the world!

When Jesus said He is the Light of the world, He was identifying Himself as the fulfillment of the promise in Isaiah 9:2,  “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” As with the last two “I am” statements, Jesus was claiming to be the promised Messiah of the Old Testament Scriptures.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭2:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

Thank You, Jesus for calling me out of darkness and into Your marvelous light when I was a young adult. Until then, I knew about You but I didn’t know You personally. Now my desire is to proclaim Your excellencies to all who will listen.

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