Tag Archives: Biblical truth

Be Still and Know!

Be Still !

Be still!

 Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations,

 I will be exalted in the earth. (Psalm 46:10, NKJV)

This is the closing instruction the Psalmist gives in the 46th division of Israel’s song book.  It was to be remembered and recited as they worshipped Jehovah in the Temple.  Perhaps it was read during times when the nation was threatened by foreign nations.  It could even be cited as kings prepared to bring a somber message or bad news to their subjects.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.  Though the waters be therefore roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.  Selah

With the latest mass shooting in Kansas City after the Chief’s Super Bowl parade, we ask ourselves the question, “Lord, when will the madness stop?”  It seems as if evil is on every hand—locally, nationally, and without a doubt internationally.  We may even ask, “is God in control?”

The Answer

Psalm 46 answers those questions in its final verses.  Yes, God is still in control.  And in response to the problems we face, we are to “be still and know” who God is and His ability to address the issue at hand.  To know (yada) means: (1) to know by observing and reflecting, and (2) to know by experiencing.  It is to have an intimate knowledge of Him.

As we reflect on our lives, where have we seen God at work?  When has God come to our rescue or given us the strength to endure trying times?  Have there been situations where we realized that God had gone before us to make a way out of no way (Psa. 50:15)?  God is awesome and available and much, much, more.

A Mighty Refuge

As I process the trauma of the senseless shooting, this time, in “my city”, I recall the words from the powerful hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”, which is said to be a paraphrase of Psalm 46.

A mighty Fortress is our God

A Bulwark never failing

Our Helper He amid the flood

Of mortal ills prevailing

The concept of fortress appears numerous times throughout the Bible, often carrying deep symbolic meaning beyond just a stronghold or place of defense (Psa. 18:2; 62:6-8).  Fortress is most often used metaphorically to represent God as a source of refuge, protection, and salvation for His people.  These verses portray God as an unshakable fortress or tower that provides safety and security for those who trust in Him.

This thought continues with the Psalmist’s use of the word, bulwark.  A bulwark is a wall meant to provide protection.  “Mortal ills” are human sins we must deal with while operating in our “human flesh”.  These often result in negative outcomes in our personal life and in society.

Words to Remember

Jesus in His final moments with His Disciples presented a “sobering expectation” of their future: “In this life you will have tribulations.”  That message is still true for us in the 21st century.  But Jesus adds the “blessed reality and result” of our relationship with Him.  “Be of good cheer (take courage), I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

In other words, Jesus’ victory over death and sin by way of the Cross, would be the same victory we would experience as we encountered life’s trials—individually or collectively.  Victory includes our ability to persevere and to succeed regardless of the circumstances we may experience (Eph. 1: 18-19).

As we navigate tragedies and misfortunes, we must remember that we live in a fallen world.  And while we have been delivered from the penalty and power of sin, we must still expect and deal with the consequences of its presence.  Our knowledge of God assures us that His presence will go with us (Deut. 31:8), His power will protect us (2 Thess. 3:3), and His peace will sustain us (John 14:26-27). Therefore, we can be still (relax).

The Knowledge of God: An Enlightened Conclusion

An Enlightened Conclusion

Knowledge of God: Recap

Knowledge of God is critical.  For believers, it establishes the moral authority and inspiration in our life, which results in purposeful living, and understanding what God has given to us. For non-believers, it can influence their decision to either accept or reject Jesus Christ’s offer of salvation.

Knowledge of God is not only to be intellectually informed, but to be experienced as our personal reality.  With the coming of Christ, this experience is possible as a result of our faith response and acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  (John 14:7; 17:3)

As believers, we are instructed to “grow in the knowledge of God” (2 Pet. 3:18).  The driving force for knowing God is relationship.  Relationship with God requires both commitment to Him and connection with Him.  We abide in Him (Psa. 91:1), we dwell with Him (Psa. 27:4), and we thirst for Him (Psa. 42:1-2).  We grow!

And in doing so, our minds are renewed, and we are transformed:  changed into the image of Jesus (Rom. 8:29; 12:2).  Our knowledge is continually expanded as more about God is revealed through the Holy Spirit.  What we currently know is only a foretaste until we see Him “face-to-face” in eternity future (1 Cor. 13:9-10).

Knowledge of God or spiritual ignorance?

We’ve all heard that “knowledge is power,” often to the point where it seems like a cliche. The idea that “knowledge is power” is used often in the business world, especially in negotiations.  Knowledge of God is also powerful.  In 2 Peter 1:2-3, the apostle encourages Christians to persevere in persecution.  Why?  How?

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue. 

The Apostle Paul concurs with this thought in his letter to the saints in Ephesus who had power through their knowledge of God, yet they were living as beggars.  They had relegated themselves to live in “spiritual poverty” amid God’s abundant grace including adoption, acceptance, redemption, forgiveness, wisdom, inheritance, the seal of the Holy Spirit, life, grace, and citizenship (Eph. 1:3-14).

As believers in Christ, are we exercising the power that has been given to us through our knowledge of God?  Knowing “who we are” and “whose we are” gives us extraordinary advantage and power.  Our relationship with God (as His children) and our position (in Christ) gives us access to unlimited resources to stand firm, immovable, always abounding in the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58).

Knowledge of God and power

Paul prays for “revelation” for the church; that they may see (and know) how to navigate the challenges they face as a new church in a pagan and hostile city.

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,  the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power. (Eph. 1:17-19)

Paul sets out to explain how the wisdom and knowledge of God can address the needs of the church.  In this context, that knowledge is obtained as a result of accepting Jesus Christ’s offer of salvation.

“may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him

Some commentaries interpret spirit (pneuma) as a disposition or attitude one might possess.  Of course, we cannot obtain such a disposition apart from the Holy Spirit.  Wisdom gives insight into the true nature of things.  Revelation is the unveiling of God Himself.  The purpose of both wisdom and revelation is to know God better.

“the eyes of your understanding being enlightened

Paul prayed that they might have true spiritual insight into God as a result of the eyes of their heart being enlightened.  It is the heart where transformation begins.  Paul testifies to the church at Corinth that “God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, had shined in his heart to give the glory of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).

That we might know

Having prayed that the Ephesians might know God personally, Paul gives the reason why knowledge of God is important.  THAT WE MIGHT KNOW.  Know in this context is factual knowledge.

The hope of His calling.  This pertains to the believer’s present hope when he was called to faith (2 Tim. 1:9).  This occurred for the believer in the past. Hope in Scripture is the absolute certainty of a believer’s victory in God (Col. 1:5).

The riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.  “His” in this text pertains to God Himself.  At the time of the resurrection of believers, God will inherit those whom He has purchased at a great price according to the riches of His grace. This will occur in the future. God’s inheritance will be the saints themselves.

The exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power.  This power of God is directed toward believers. This pertains to the present time. Using three different words—power, working, and mighty—Paul underscores the magnitude of God’s great power available to Christians.

I close this series with this quote from Dr. Max Anders, pastor and noted author:

To know God and to find one’s full satisfaction in that knowledge is the ultimate goal of the Christian experience. The Lord’s greatest delight comes when His people discover the ultimate value lies in the knowledge of God. Nothing in the material world can complete the delights that are present in His Person.  

The Knowledge of God: We Shall Know!

 

We Shall Know!

What to know about God?

What does God want us to know about Himself?  What does up close and personal look like?  God wants us to know truth.  About Himself, who He is, and truth concerning His plan for our life.  Knowledge of truth is enlightenment.  That is the reason it is important to practice spiritual disciplines: to draw near to hear the revealed truths of God (2 Cor. 4:6).

Paul’s prayer for the Colossians outlines what knowing God looks like:

So, we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. (Col. 1:9-10, NLT)

What does knowing God look like?  Knowledge of Him, wisdom, understanding, and spiritual growth (maturity).  And armed with these things, what will be the results?  A life that honors and pleases God and produces “good fruit.” We must remember that God has created us for “good works” (Eph. 2:10) and has spiritually invested in our lives.

In addition, through knowledge of Him and His truth, we will be strengthened with power that will increase our spiritual endurance, joy, and perseverance (Col.1:11).    Armed with God’s knowledge, is there anything we cannot do?  Are there any challenges we cannot overcome?

How will we know if we know?

Knowledge of God in the Old Testament was expressed through mediators and agreements that acknowledged what was expected by each party.  Such was the case with the various covenants God entered into with Israel (Isa. 1:2; Deut. 11:1-25).  Included in those covenants were expectations on how those entering into agreement with God were to live.

In the New Testament, knowledge of God became more personal.  No longer would God use mediators or special agreements.  It was Christ who would make God known to man (John 1:18).  Knowing God was no longer an intellectual exercise or contractual agreement, but an individual response of faith and acceptance of Christ as Lord and Savior.  

Biblically to know God is not to know about him in an abstract and impersonal manner, but rather to enter into his saving actions.  To know God is not to “struggle philosophically” with his eternal essence, but rather to recognize and accept his claims. It is not some mystical contemplation, but dutiful obedience.

We shall know fully.

Besides practice of spiritual disciplines, another way to grow in our knowledge of God is to fellowship with other believers who can share their personal experiences with the Lord.  As we grow, we are to reveal our testimonies with others, so they can come to know God as well.

For now, our knowledge of God is limited. “Perfect” knowledge of God is reserved for us in eternity future (1 Cor. 13:12).  God has, however, revealed what we need to know through Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 2:16).

The believer’s knowledge of God in Jesus Christ is only provisional. It is sufficient for recognizing and trusting the object of faith (John 17:3; Rom. 10:9). Without answering all our questions, it provides an adequate light for the journeyer in this darkened world (2 Pet. 1:19). But this knowledge is only a foretaste of knowing God “face to face” in the hereafter, when the day dawns and the morning star arises in our hearts (2 Pet. 1:19)[1].

What has been revealed to date is more than enough to garner our trust and our allegiance.

[1] EDBT, Timothy R. Phillips.

The Knowledge of God: Grow in the Knowledge of God, Part 2

Growing in the Knowledge of God, Part 2

Keep on growing.

Why should we care about knowing God?  As we stated earlier in this series, knowledge of God accomplishes three things in our life as believers: (1) it establishes the moral authority and inspiration in our life, (2) it results in purposeful living, and (3) it enlightens us as to what God has given to us.

More importantly, knowledge of God puts us in position to experience the fullness of God in our lives (Eph. 3:19).  It is found in experiencing a loving and secure relationship that is not dependent on our acceptability but is based on God’s grace and mercy.

This relationship will prepare us for whatever comes our way.  With this knowledge, we will be able to not only persevere during difficult times, but also do it with joy, peace, and hope (Rom. 15:13).

What impacts our ability to grow?

There are many factors that impact our desire to grow in the knowledge of God, but I will share what I’ve heard as reasons.

Some individuals simply do not desire to learn about and experience God.  They have chosen other means to address their “spiritual curiosity”.  Their faith walk is more of a spiritual expedition than a personal connection.

Others feel that to learn more will require too much in the way of commitment.  Growing in knowledge takes time and effort. While they acknowledge regular devotional practices like prayer, scripture study, and reflection cultivate a deeper understanding of God, they feel their time is better spent elsewhere.  Their faith walk will often lack the vitality they desire because it requires a personal commitment.

What does growth feel like?

While pursuing the knowledge of God may involve connection and commitment, the driving force behind it is relationship.  If we want to know…be familiar with…understand how someone is, we spend time with them.  How do we spend our time with God?  How much time do we spend with Him?  Is it a quick “snatch-a-verse”, punctuated with an even quicker prayer?  God said, “Draw near to me and I will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

The writers of Psalms provide wonderful models for what relationship feels like.  In Psalms 91:1, the writer declares that the person who “dwells in the secret place of the Most HIGH will abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”  Abide means to lodge, stop over, pass the night, or remain.

King David exclaimed in Psalms 27:4, that of all that he possessed, one thing he desired and would seek after (seek after) and that was to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life to behold the beauty of the LORD (NLT, delighting in the LORD’s perfections and meditating in His Temple).  To dwell imagines one who remains or “sits down in quiet”.

Last, but not least, is my favorite verse, Psalms 42:1-2.  “As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God.  I thirst for God, the Living God.”  Long is translated in the King James Version as pants, meaning to long for or to cry.

Do we desire to abide and dwell with God? Do we pant for God?  These are just a taste of what knowledge of God offers.

How do we grow?

We grow by reading and meditating on His Word.  It is God’s Word that transforms our hearts and minds.  As we read God’s Word, which is alive and active (Heb. 4:12), our minds are renewed (Rom. 12:2).  This renewal causes us to be receptive and obedient to the things of God.  What God began at the moment of our salvation, God WILL PRODUCE in us (Phil. 1:6).

We grow through cultivating an active and robust prayer life.  Active and robust infers intentionality and priority.  Time should not be an issue when we pray.  It is prayer that will shift both our circumstances and shift us!  Our will, our perspective, and our desires (Ezek. 36:27).

The key to remember in embracing the different spiritual disciplines is to remember that the intent of the disciplines is to draw us closer to God.  That we may know Him (Phil. 3:7-10)!  We practice spiritual disciplines not out of legalism but out of gratitude for the grace that has saved us.  They are “habits of devotion” and a means of intimacy.

It is God’s will that we may know Him—up close and personal. Because of Jesus, we now have an incredible opportunity to experience His presence, and His extraordinary love.  Who would turn that opportunity down?  Not me!

The Knowledge of God: Grow in the Knowledge of God, Part 1

 

Grow in the Knowledge of God, Part 1

Knowledge of God Recapped

To know or knowledge (yada) in the Old Testament means to: (1) know by observing and reflecting (thinking) and (2) to know by experiencing and being acquainted with.  Yada represents both the intellectual and experiential side of knowing.

In the New Testament this same thought is continued with the Greek words, ginosko and oida, which recognizes an increase in knowing or knowledge.  The word epiginosko (epi, “upon”) expands knowing to full knowledge through a special participation and uniting with the object (Col. 1:6).  This is the experiential side of knowledge.

Knowledge of God accomplishes three things in our life as believers: (1) it establishes the moral authority and inspiration in our life, (2) it results in purposeful living, and (3) it enlightens us as to what God has given to us.

Knowing God and knowledge of God are both part of the same coin.  Our knowledge of God paves the way to knowing God AND knowing God creates a desire to increase our knowledge of Him. 

Peter’s blessing

In Peter’s second letter to God’s elect, he expressed concern about false teachers in their cities.  He opened with a special blessing that would offer both favor and protection against the error being communicated at that time.  Peter prayed that grace and peace would increase abundantly to meet the challenges they faced.  How?  By continuing to grow in the knowledge of God AND Jesus their Lord (2 Pet. 1:2, NKJV).

Like the elect receiving Peter’s letter, we too are surrounded by false teachers.  I use this term more generally to describe those who perpetrate disinformation and misinformation.  Their sole purpose is to create false narratives, perpetuate divisiveness, and seed dissension for gain.  Social media continues to invade our thoughts resulting in unhealthy influences, high anxiety, and fear.  AI with its many benefits also brings new threats of abuse and misuse.

Peter contends that through knowledge of God, we have everything we need for living godly and prosperous lives.  This knowledge is made available to us through God’s Word (Psa. 19:7-9) and through His Holy Spirit.  In addition to God’s “exceeding and great promises”, we are also partakers of His “divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:3-4).

Even in the direst of circumstances, we must remember and declare that we have the victory through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior (Rom. 8:35,37; John 16:33).  Our knowledge of God is the filter through which we respond to 21st century challenges and live triumphantly even in a fallen world (2 Cor. 4:14-18).  Next week we will detail how we can grow in our knowledge of God.

Closing Reflection

Truth time.  Do we want to come to a knowledge of God?  Do we want to increase our knowledge of Him?  Or are we satisfied with what we know today?

A.W. Tozer in his book, “The Dangers of a Shallow Faith,” shares his observation of the modern Church in their search for things of “this world” rather than knowing God.  After reading this short excerpt, let’s ask ourselves, “what are we seeking as a substitute for the knowledge of God?”

The Early Church was in wonderment at Christ. He dazzled them and stirred within such feelings of amazement that they could never get over Christ. All they talked about was Christ. All they thought about, from morning to night, was Christ. Christ was their only reason for living, and they were more than willing to die for Him. Now we looked to celebrity to dazzle us. For some reason we assume that carnal entertainment is the appropriate replacement for the sanctified adoration of the Most High. No cheap thrill can ever replace the ecstatic joy of knowing Jesus Christ.

 

The Knowledge of God: Grace and Peace in the Knowledge of God

 

Grace and Peace in the Knowledge of God

Knowledge of God.

In his second letter to God’s elect scattered throughout what is now modern Turkey, the Apostle Peter expressed his concern about false teachers.  The area in which these Christians lived was a hotbed for philosophies and teachings that challenged their belief in Jesus.  Are these concerns still a threat in 2024?

Peter opens his letter with a special blessing, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:2, NKJV).  He knew that knowledge of God was key to truth and protection against error—whether it be religious or secular. And it still is!

What is it?

To know or knowledge in Old Testament Hebrew has a wider meaning than in our English language.   To know is not to be intellectually informed, but to experience it as part of one’s reality.  Divine-human relationships are often expressed in this term.  The Lord knew Moses “by name.” (Exod. 33:11, 12, 17)

In the New Testament, the thought continues that knowing God is not simply an intellectual exercise.  The difference lies in the fact that knowing God is a response of faith and acceptance of Christ (John 14:7; 17:3)

There is more to be said about the difference between knowing God and having a knowledge of God.

Knowing or Knowledge:  What’s the Difference?

The difference between knowing God and knowledge of God is a subtle but deeply important one, touching on the very nature of faith and belief.

    • Knowledge of God refers to intellectual understanding and information about God. It can come from studying religious texts, attending sermons, learning about different doctrines and philosophies. You might possess a vast amount of information about God’s attributes, actions, and teachings.
    • Knowing God goes beyond mere intellectual knowledge. It’s about a personal relationship and experiential understanding of God. It’s about encountering God in your life, feeling his presence, and having a sense of connection with him. This isn’t achieved solely through information but through practices like prayer, meditation, and living a life guided by faith.

Consider this analogy:

    • Knowing about a tree: You might know its species, leaf shape, and how it photosynthesizes. You could even recite poems about trees.
    • Knowing a tree: You’ve spent time under its shade, climbed its branches, felt the wind in its leaves. You have a personal connection and understanding beyond textbook knowledge.

Similarly, knowledge of God is like the textbook, while knowing God is like experiencing the tree itself.

Knowing or Knowledge:  Which is better?

So, is knowing God better than having a knowledge of God?  For me, both are part of the same coin.  Each is important in developing a complete and personal reality of God in our life.

Our knowledge of God paves the way to knowing God.

Knowing God creates a deep desire to increase our knowledge of Him.

 That being the case, we will continue our study to know more.  I leave you with several insights from other notables of the faith who continue their pursuit of the knowledge of God.

“May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord” (2 Pet. 1:2, NLT)

 

The Christian is strong or weak depending upon how closely he has cultivated the knowledge of God.   A.W. Tozer

Intimate knowledge of God is possible if we habitually search His Holy Scriptures and translate what we find into obedience.  George Mueller

 

Too many Christians are fighting graduate school sins with grammar school knowledge of God.  John Piper

 

How can we turn our knowledge about God into knowledge of God? The rule for doing this is simple but demanding. It is that we turn each truth that we learn about God into a matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer, and praise to God.   J.I. Packer

 

 

 

The Knowledge of God: Begin with the Basics

 

Begin with the Basics

Learning from our experiences

In last week’s teaching on “Lessons Learned in 2023”, I shared those things I will take with me as I moved forward into 2024.  The “egg” I will carry includes spiritual growth, eternity, and finally, my knowledge of God.  It is in this last area that I’d like to begin a new series, “The Knowledge of God”.

Knowledge of God has always been one of the foundational tenets that forms the framework for our teachings and programs that support our mission of “Transforming lives through teaching God’s Word.”  The other tenets include knowing our identity in Christ (Gal. 2:20) and in remembering that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20).  We are part of the Kingdom of God.

Why is knowledge of God important?

Our knowledge of God…

    • Establishes the moral authority and inspiration in our life. We look to God to provide us with truth needed to guide us in this fallen world.  God gives us peace, joy, and hope needed during troubling and uncertain times.  He is our strength and deliverance (Ps. 18:1-3).
    • Results in purposeful living. We are God’s workmanship, created to do good works which He identified at the foundations of the world (Eph. 2:10).  To live out the purpose God has for our life, it is critical that we are obedient to God’s directions.  Living purposefully, the goal is spiritual maturity and ultimately, conformity to the image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29).
    • Enlightens us as to what God has given to us. As believers, we have everything we need to live godly in this world (2 Pet. 1:3).   First and most importantly, we have eternal life.   In addition, as children of God, we have access not only to Father God, but also to all the blessings and promises that go with this special relationship (Eph. 1:3-14).

All these things and much more are ours today.  But it requires correct knowledge and understanding of who God is—His goodness and His greatness.

The journey begins.

The rise of humanism in our world, has caused man, incorrectly, to believe he is the most important and knowledgeable creature on the earth.

Humanism primarily focuses on human flourishing in the present world, emphasizing social progress, ethical living, and addressing immediate concerns. This may not automatically lead to a focus on knowledge of God unless individuals actively seek to connect those values with their spirituality.

In his groundbreaking work of faith, Your God is Too Small, J.B. Phillips encourages Christians to redefine their understanding of who God is.  Phillips explains that the trouble facing many of us today is that we have not found God big enough for our modern needs.

Many women and men are living, often with inner dissatisfaction, without any faith in God at all. This is not because they are particularly wicked or selfish or, as the old fashioned would say, godless, but because they have not found with their adult minds a God big enough to account for life, big enough to fit in with the new scientific age, big enough to command their highest admiration and respect, and consequently they’re cooperation.[1]

We invite you to join us as we expand our knowledge of God.  Let’s learn how God is “big enough” to meet us where we are today, even amid the complexities of 21st century living.

[1] Your God is Too Small, J. B. Phillips

Preparing for 2024: God Goes Before Us

Year-end 2022 Throwback Wednesday Wednesda

New Year anxieties

In choosing our year-end WordBytes, it was amazing how quickly the teaching for today came to my attention.

This WordBytes was written in 2019, as we entered the world of COVID.  At that time, we had no idea that our lives would be forever changed.  The world as we knew would never be the same.

This WordBytes was also written to address the anxiety we typically experience as we begin planning for the new year.

Are we ready for 2024?

In our text today, Moses is preparing the Israelites for the changes that lie ahead  as they prepare to enter the Promise Land with 2+million people.  Just imagine the heightened anxiety and fear of the people.  But Moses shares with them a promise they could “hang their hat on”.  God will go before them!

It’s been said, “Hindsight is 20/20.”  As we look back over the past year with new COVID variants, political division, wars around the world, and more,  we might ask this question, “Is God still going  before us?”

Assess where we are.

Take a moment and think about how God has intervened on your behalf during this past year.  It’s true that we have experienced many hardships this year. However, regardless of them, we are now planning for a “new year”.

Do you want to know why?  Because God still (even in the 21st century) goes before us.  Whatever circumstance we may face in 2024, know that God is more than able to sustain you through it.  I pray that today’s WordBytes will increase your confidence and trust in the Lord.  Have a blessed and happy new year.

 

God Goes Before Us

God’s Large Place

God's Large Place

 

Good morning to you!

Have you ever awakened in the morning and instantly felt overwhelmed by the day?  I mean, have you been totally immobilized so that you’re unable to get out of bed?

We can be sure that it is Satan’s effort to get us off God’s plan and purpose for our lives.  Of course, our flesh also plays a part in this conspiracy.  It is in the morning that the battle for our mind and our spirit begins.

This is the time to connect with the Holy Spirit and the truth found in God’s Word.  This is the moment we can declare, “This is the day the Lord has made.  We will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psa. 118:24).

This is the day…

Each day begins with our perception of what lies ahead for us.  Our calendar and day timer contains our commitments.  Our mental and physical state impacts how we receive each new day.  We are mentally challenged with fears, anxiety, depression, attention deficit, even our negative talk.  We may physically “not feel good”.  Seasonal ailments, chronic pain and disease make “jumping out of bed” a real chore.  Getting up in the morning is a complex endeavor.

Read, “Monday Morning Cup” , with Lisa Boone-Reddick

But mornings are simply “a period of time which occurs between sunrise and noon”.  The bigger issue is our ability to manage the stresses, complexities, and demands that arise during our days (and nights).  The challenge is knowing how to successfully navigate the realities of living during these tumultuous and demanding times.

What would happen if we changed our perception of how we operate each day?  How much better would our lives be if we acknowledged the real source of release and contentment?  King David gives us the answer in Psalm 118.

The view from the other side

Psalm 118 is an excellent source of encouragement when we are perplexed with the struggles we face in our lives.  King David probably penned this psalm after he had weathered the battles and challenges to gain full possession of the kingdom to which he had been anointed (1 Sam. 16:13).

In Psalm 118, David acknowledges the struggles but more importantly he witnesses to the presence and favor of God in the midst of those struggles.  David begins and ends this psalm (vv. 1, 29) with praise and recognition of how Israel had made it through its most challenging days.  David’s psalm was a call for all to remember God’s presence, God’s protection, and God’s provision.  It was a time to give thanks for God’s goodness and His mercy.

Oh, give thanks unto the Lord,

for He is good, and

His mercy (lovingkindness) endures forever.

God granted David gracious favor in his distress.  Matthew Henry describes this favor as “vouchsafe”.

God heard his prayer (v. 5): “He answered me with enlargements; he did more for me than I was able to ask; he enlarged my heart in prayer and yet gave more largely than I desired.” He answered me, and set me in a large place, where I had room to bestir myself, room to enjoy myself, and room to thrive; and the large place was the more comfortable because he was brought to it out of distress (Ps. 4:1). [1]

Getting to God’s large place

David’s view “from the other side” (of his rise to power) was the result of his personal relationship and experience with God.  David remembered God’s faithfulness.  He trusted God (vv. 8-9).  This strengthened his belief that God would always be there (vv. 6-7; 17-18). David’s experience of God’s large place would prepare him for what lay ahead as he ruled the great nation of Israel.

We too can enter God’s large place through prayer and receiving His engrafted Word (James 1:21).  We are invited to be intentional in recognizing and accepting God’s providence in our lives.  Whether good or bad, morning or evening, God is always present to see us safely to the other side.  God’s large place can be a place of victory, growth, and freedom.  Let us declare, like David:  Oh, give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy endures forever.

[1] Matthew Henry Commentary, Psalm 118.

Keep Hope Alive: The God of Hope

Keep Hope Alive: The God of Hope

How do we describe hope?

Do we use common metaphors for hope to encourage others to believe “there’s a path to good” even in bad times?   Here are a few we might have used.

  • “There’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
  • “Every cloud has a silver lining.”
  • “The sun is peeking through the clouds.”
  • “Hope is an eternal flame.”

But let’s be honest, when we’re at the “end of our rope” and the “bottom of our world has fallen out”, metaphors about hope will not help us “keep hope alive”. We are looking for something that will ease our troubled souls right now!  We need real hope.

What have we learned about hope?

In our study thus far, we have described hope as a combination of desire for something AND the expectation of receiving it.  And why is hope important?  Because it encourages us to persevere and continue moving forward.  We all agree that hope is what is needed as we navigate through the challenges of life in the 21st century.

But hope has ALWAYS been something we humans have needed whether in ancient times or modern days.  Man’s ability to survive and thrive has been dependent on hope.  The challenge, however, continues to be our ability to identify the BEST SOURCE of HOPE.

Man’s hope

Man’s hope comes from a variety of sources that, when combined and strengthened, provide a foundation for optimism, resilience, and the pursuit of a meaningful and fulfilling life.  These include the following which we most commonly use.

Relationships and connections: human connections and strong relationships provide a sense of belonging, support, and love, fostering hope and resilience in the face of adversity.

Personal strengths and abilities: recognizing and utilizing one’s strengths and abilities instills confidence and a sense of empowerment, nurturing hope for achieving goals and overcoming challenges.

Meaning and purpose: finding meaning and purpose in life, whether personal interest, family, community, or spiritual beliefs, provides a sense of direction and motivation, fueling hope for our fulfillment and meaningful existence.

Spiritual beliefs and faith: for many, spiritual beliefs and faith in a higher power offers a sense of peace, guidance, and unwavering hope, providing strength and solace in time of uncertainty.[1]

For we who are followers of Christ, that Higher Power is the Most High God (Psa. 7:17).

The God of Hope

The writer of Psalm 42 recounts their hopelessness and frustration as they, like us, handle times of distress and sorrow.   In verses 5, 11, and Psalm 43:5, they ask themselves this question.

Why art thou cast down O my soul?  And why art thou disquieted within me?  (NKJV)

Why am I discouraged?   Why is my heart so sad?   (NLT)

We are “cast down” because the things we have tried to do in our human strength is failing to impact our fears.  We are “discouraged and sad” because when we look around there is “no light at the end of the tunnel” nor is the “sun peeking through the clouds.”

The reality we must come to grips with is that we live in a fallen world, where sin will continue to manifest itself in the brokenness and pain we see today.  Injustice, wars, corruption, and much more.  BUT THERE IS HOPE.   True hope is not dependent on our circumstances nor on the world situation.  True hope results in “peace that passes all understanding: (Eph. 4:7), “unspeakable joy” (1 Pet. 1:8), and “salvation from all danger” (Psa. 18:2).

The Psalmist concludes that the answer to his state of distress and hopelessness can be found in God.

 HOPE thou in God…who is the health of my countenance.  (NKJV)

I will put my hope in God!  I will praise Him again.  My Savior and my God.  (NLT)

Our hope is built on the faithfulness and dependability of God.  We rely on the fidelity of God.  God is true, truthful, and trustworthy.  His Word and His promises provide the “blessed assurance” we need to not only survive but also thrive in this world.   He is our sufficiency (2 Cor. 3:5).

How can we cultivate our hope while living in this fallen world during the 21st century?  We must recognize and acknowledge that God alone is the true source of our hope and salvation (Psa. 62:5-12).  Next week, we’ll conclude our study on hope by sharing the role of the Holy Spirit in keeping hope alive.

[1]  Google search